Forgive me that this post has turned out a little emotional, and that it might read a little bit rough as a result, but I wanted to leave the same words that spilled out of me when I started it. What began as a simple article to mark my birthday and the milestones it has signified throughout my writing journey has become more of a soul search than I anticipated. But I hope that anyone’s who’s given up everything to follow their dream gets the happy ending I did. And if you haven’t yet – keep trying!
When I first started writing my novel in September 2009, I promised myself I’d have it finished by my next birthday, April 30, 2010. I eventually missed that deadline, thanks to my first semester of university and my inability to write one word where twenty will do. However by June 17 I had my first draft finished. All 125, 423 words of it.
Instead of celebrating, I read it all through for the first time, realised there was more to tell before the events described in that particular story, and scrapped it to write a new one. But pushing myself so hard quickly began to take its toll. My first semester of graphic design had not been the academic haven I had hoped it would be, and the second was worse. I’m a nerd. I love writing essays, but only when they have a point. And so for every second I spent on a useless bit of homework instead of writing, my stress grew. My only solution was to stay up later, socialise less, and write more. Within five months I had a brand new draft, complete at 120, 125 words… as well as a diagnosis of anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Sometimes, when I skipped food or sleep for writing, I felt certain that coming up with my story idea was the worst thing that could ever have happened to me. But I couldn’t stop, and I never will, because I love it no matter what.
I quit university at the end of the year. Of course I was terrified by the idea of having no degree, while being equally afraid of changing to another course I didn’t like. Seems strange that I didn’t change to studying English, but I was terrified that having so much writing homework would put me off my own work, and I’d never get my book finished. The pressure from my family and friends to study anything just to make something of myself was a constant, battering ram against my publishing dreams. I ignored their ‘advice’, staring instead into a future as an unqualified, university drop-out, but I told myself it was worth it for the relief of being able to get a day job and spend every spare second writing.
Then the very next day I got a letter from the university that shattered everything.
The letter said I’d come top in my faculty. Distinction average. My name was already on the list for honours. The academic recognition my insecure self so desperately sought after had been there all along, delayed in the post, and now I had thrown it away for a job in a call centre. I was only a telemarketer, but I felt like the scum of the earth. I would begin my opening spiel and find myself choking on my words, wondering how the straight A’s English student could have ended up there. I would cry myself to sleep, believing that my book was my only ticket out of my hopelessness and yet telling myself that the chances of getting published were nigh impossible. Fuelled by hope or desperation (I could never tell), I kept writing. I wrote through my lunch breaks. I would write from 7am until the time I left for work each morning, and from the time I got home until 1 am each night. 11 hours a day. Writing. Rewriting. Learning to edit. Editing. Go to step one and repeat.
Over a year has passed since then, although my darkest and loneliest days are far more recent. I’m still obsessive compulsive now but I haven’t had time to go back to the counsellor (oh, the irony). I still take plain bread to work for lunch because making a proper sandwich isn’t worth the time it takes away from me. But I’ve transferred my love of marketing from graphic design into sales coaching, and I’m now the coach and team leader for a fantastic bunch of people. And because I’ve got no more homework, I’m playing in a band again and occasionally my fiancée actually gets to see me instead of the closed door to my study. And on Monday, April 30, I submitted a completed, polished entry to Angry Robot’s open door submissions period. Now I’m ready to start querying, and healing, and becoming a person again. Not just any person, but one who’s done something they can actually be proud of.
And I realise that having the idea for my novel was the best thing ever to happen to me, after all.
P.S. This is a new blog. Anything you could do to spread the word would be much appreciated. Thanks!