I hope I don’t sound melodramatic or ungrateful: I only mean to be honest. Bringing a book into being is not easy, and sharing it is even harder. What’s so precious to you might be incidental or even ridiculous to other people. Nobody owes you their understanding, much less their adulation. You send it out into the world, this delicate thing, like a kitten into a sawmill.
You are not going to please everybody. I expect most learn that lesson far earlier in life, but at 27, this people-pleasing, hyper-achieving straight-A student has only just stumbled onto it. This is the gig. This is what you sign up for, not just when you publish a book, but when you put any thought or action or expression out from within yourself to be received and critiqued by others.
So why do I do this? There are easier ways to get an ego trip. There are much easier ways to make a living. I’m currently on a bit of a break from writing, as I’m settling into a new ‘day job’, and in plenty of ways it comes as a relief. I’ve got more time for rest, for seeing friends, for doing the things which – outside of writing – make life meaningful. But obviously, obviously, something is missing.
I write because it is the most rewarding job I know of. Because that reward is there long before you hold a physical copy of your book in your hands, before anybody else reads the words you have written. Even, to some degree, before they have been written at all. I do this because these imaginary people, these imaginary places, are where my mind wants to go as soon as I set it free to go there. These people, these places, they are my friends and my home.
I do this because I become unhappy and frustrated when I don’t; because it’s my own little patch of land and I want to grow things there. Because it’s what I’m for. Because every book, beneath its layers of metaphor, is a discovery of things I hardly knew I thought and felt and believed.
C.S Lewis famously said that we read to know we are not alone. And of course we write to know that we are not alone, too; to tap some stranger shyly on the shoulder and say, I have felt this way. Have you felt this way too?