a real author?
(the feeling of writing a book)
‘Really lovely to meet you. My daughter couldn’t believe she’d met a real author’.
I have a folder on my phone named (rather unpoetically) ‘happy book stuff’. In it are screenshots of every warm or encouraging message or mention that I have received about my book. Occasionally, I scroll though it in incredulous wonder. An author friend of mine—I think it was Beth Kempton—suggested, back when my first book was still only a document on my laptop, that I should keep a collection of positive feedback to help me through the days when writing felt difficult.
Those days, as it turns out, are frequent. Before I had a book published, I had thought that in the moment I saw my own book on the bookshop shelves I would know myself to be an author, but I am often not so certain. Today, I sit in my tiny writing room, at my messy desk. My hair is unbrushed, my face without makeup, I wear slippers and an old cardigan. I am hoping I will neither see nor speak to another soul until the end of the school day comes around, at which point I will hurry down the road (forgetting my bedraggled state) and stand at the gates, hastily typing notes into my phone so I don’t forget the lines that suddenly came to me as I turned the street corner.
Once, I read a piece of writing advice that said you should allow yourself fifteen minutes of quiet even after you finish writing, because your brain will still be processing, and further ideas will come. A real author would, I imagine, spend those fifteen minutes—or possibly just entire days—engaged in peaceful contemplation. Probably in a woodland cabin or, at the very least an elegantly decorated writing shed. But I am someone who must write around the edges of my life and so for me, those fifteen minutes are the school run.
On the day the reader sent me the sweet message about her daughter, I had brushed my hair. I wore a jacket, a swishy silk skirt the colours of a beech wood in springtime, and on my wrist shone my lucky brass bangle (I am my own muse it reads).
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