Whenever I tell anyone what I do for a living I'm often met by oohs and aahs, swiftly followed by a
'I would love to be a writer.'
Interestingly, this wasn't a frequent response when I was a lawyer...
At first I thought that this expression of a fervent desire to write was simply because the majority of folk secretly did want to do it.
After all, hadn't I jumped at the chance?
And indeed, for those of you out there who do want to make a career of writing. I mean really want it. Then my advice is simple. Keep doing what you are already doing, plugging away, chip, chip, chip. Your time for success could be just around the corner. I know it doesn't always feel that way, but take heart from what happened to me, because I'm just an ordinary woman, certainly no genius, and without any inside knowledge or contacts to help me along.
Actually, it makes me furious when I hear this oft bandied piece of rubbish: that you have to be famous or have the right contacts to get an agent or a publishing contract.
Sure, it helps if you happen to be a Hollywood actress, but let's be very clear about this, most of us authors are cheerful nobodies. And we like it that way.
So, if you're using this particular excuse to avoid subbing your work, fine. Just be clear that it is an excuse.
Anyway, back to my point that everyone wants to be a writer.
Well, actually, I have, over time, come to the conclusion that it just aint so. Yes, there are reams of people out there who harbour the dream of walking into Waterstones and seeing their name on the spine of a bestseller.
They can imagine themselves receiving news of their shortlisting for the Booker, maybe they're in their funkily untidy study at the time, replying to fan mail.
This however, is no more a real desire than me wanting to be a size zero. The mind can imagine the little red dress, but is the mouth gonna stop chewing? Don't be daft.
There are unpalatable truths to anything and writing is no different.
First, you're probably going to have to write and do the day job.
The dreamer sees empty months and years before him, allowing his muse to strike. The reality is that no-one gives up proper paying employment until a decent advance comes in.
I wrote my first book while working as a lawyer. I snatched lunchbreaks and evenings when the kids were in bed.
I was lucky to sell that book. Most don't and will have to keep on keeping on for another two, perhaps three unsold books.
Second, you probably won't ever make enough money to give up the day job. Most writers don't. And those of us that do, well that leads me to...
Point three, we have to write a hell of a lot and we have to write to dealines. Not for nothing does a good friend call me 'the word factory'. I write and fully edit a book a year, whilst promoting the previous one. It is graft.
Now, I'm not complaining. I love my life.
But, as the saying goes, it is what it is. Now if you're still along for the ride...get working.