“How do you feel, now that it’s nearly over?”
Fraudulent, I think, but I don’t say that. I smile sheepishly and go with something vague like “oh, I haven’t really got that far yet… Ask me in January.”
Eagle-eyed readers might have noticed that it’s January now, so I suppose I’ll have a go at answering that question from the perspective of four days hindsight.
I still feel a little bit fraudulent.
This is not because I didn’t write as many words as I set out to in January 2011. 50,000 every month was wildly ambitious on top of the other stuff I do and it’s neither surprising nor embarrassing that I fell short ten months out of twelve.
It’s not that I feel I have nothing to show for it either – almost all the books have the beginnings of something good nestled in the dross. It’ll take me a while to coax them out and it may not be worth it in all cases, but at the very least there are lessons to be learned when I read them again.
No, I actually think the feeling of mild embarrassment I have when talking about it all might stem from the fact it didn’t feel enough like hard work.
Writers write because they enjoy it, of course, but they are also supposed to spend a lot of time weeping into their typewriters because nothing seems to be working. They struggle to discipline themselves, battle with writer’s block and the inner critic, and suffer greatly over the expectations of other people. Every time they read something wonderful they die a little bit inside because they wish they had written that book rather than the crap they’re working on right now.
I’m paraphrasing, here, from screeds of stuff I’ve read on the Internet over the past twelve months. Writing is hard, or it’s supposed to be. When I spoke to the editor of Mslexia about guest blogging for the magazine at the start of the year, she said she could do a fortnight maximum of concentrated writing before she had to give herself a mental break. In the nicest possible way, she didn’t think I would pull it off. And whilst I pulled off what I set out to do, I wonder whether I didn’t lead people on a bit in terms of what that was.
My intention was to have a first draft done every month, but I never really meant first draft as in a complete piece laid out for people to read. I meant the outlines and shapes of the story, the very beginning, notes from which a cogent first draft would one day come. Realistically what more are you going to get down in thirty days? I also work four days a week in an office so it’s not like I was able to dedicate all my time to it.
I’ve said all this before, but of course people were still tripping over me on the internet (and indeed the human world) for the first time in December, when I’d gone quite far past the point of 50k first drafts and reached the point of drawing needlessly complex head shots of falcons. These new people didn’t have the time or the inclination to wade through all my explanations and protestations of how editing is the real hard work and really I was still on the fun part, they just saw a title. The title 12 books in 12 months, not 12 very rough outlines in 12 months. When people see that they tend to come over quite impressed, and that’s where the feelings of being a fraud come in.
Essentially I feel like I’ve conned people a bit because they think I’ve done something really good, whereas I’ve read some of the crap I’ve written and I know how much is still left to do – especially on the books I was working on from July – September when I was a bit burnt out.
It’s not that I’m not proud of myself, because I am. But I’m also trying to be realistic. It’s a bit hard hard to be jubilant when what I’ve essentially done is give myself about twenty years researching and rewriting and editing to do.
So, how do I feel now that I’m nearly done?
Ask me again in January 2032…