It wasn’t exactly a New Years’ Resolution, but I made a vow for 2017 to try and take my writing more seriously, and treat it like a job. I think it’s very difficult to convince anybody else of my desire to write if I don’t devote as much time and energy to the craft as possible. In fact, when I meet new people and they ask what I do for a living I call myself a ‘freelance writer.’ I felt quite embarrassed the first time I did this, I find it comes across as self-indulgent, but it does start some interesting conversations if nothing else.
To what end is it a factual statement, though? Well, to be honest I’m bending the truth a little by saying it. I am only working part-time at the moment and this is as much by design as circumstance. Since returning to this country I’ve been floundering around trying to find work, and it’s been tough. My big problem throughout my life is that I have never really followed a specific career path. I wrote my first novel in my early twenties and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Of course this doesn’t help with paying bills and keeping a roof over my head, so real life has gotten in the way of chasing that dream. I’ve fallen into jobs as they have come along, mostly in the print industry, where I spent nearly a decade, but that career only really begun on a whim and progressed from there. And the writing has stayed in the background, catching the odd hour between shifts, cramming in a couple of hours late at night or first thing in the morning, before the work day begins. Sending off my SASEs and piling up rejection letters, you know the drill. And it was OK. I didn’t really expect anything to come of it, and I was content enough to just be doing it.
But now, I’m approaching it differently. It has all the symptoms of a mid-life crisis, but I’m trying to throw all I have into my writing and see what happens. I have one short story being published in the next few months which is my first success and one that I’m proud of, so maybe the hard work is paying off. I’m writing a novel at the moment that has mushroomed from novella length to a much more complex story. It’s hard graft, and the characters are forever expanding the narrative in their own directions, but it’s good to be in deep with something again. I expect to have the first draft complete by the summer, then I’m going to throw everything I have at getting it published in some form or other. I’m 40 in 2019, and part of me thinks this could be my one last shot at it. It’s scary, and I’m having sleepless nights over it. I’m broke virtually all the time, and I generally think I’m taking a massive risk that could cause me loads of problems down the line. I’m single and childless so I don’t have any financial responsibilities other than to myself.
I’m not completely going off the deep end – I’ve done the odd freelance work through Upwork and as I said earlier, still doing the odd shift of menial work to get some pennies coming in. The struggling writer thing feels like a terrible cliche, but that’s where I am right now. It feels reckless, but enormously exciting.