Just so you know, I am a successful writer. OK, I haven't actually had anything published yet (apart from some of my blog comments in Mslexia magazxine, and a letter in the Guardian), but this does not make me a failure. In fact, after the couple of weeks I have had, the very fact that I have written this post is enough to make me feel proud. Oh and I have been over a paragraph or two of my novel and made the odd prodding tweaking change. You see? A roaring success. Pass the award!
I have read a couple of excellent posts recently about the importance of viewing each small step along the way to achieving your writing goals as a success in itself. Otherwise you focus on some pie-in-the-sky dream of being a successful writer, and continually berate yourself for not reaching it, or worse, give up altogether. I think this wise advice has helped me more than any of the great writing tips I find in writer's blogs.
I believe I have unconsciously avoided reading any Hilary Mantel before, perhaps because I am childishly resentful of writers who win prizes, but recently I picked up Eight Months on Ghazzah Street in a charity sale, and loved its brooding atmosphere of danger and secrecy and its brilliantly drawn heroine, who finds herself a fish out of water among both expats and locals in Jeddah. Reading a bit about the author at the back, I was struck by how many setbacks, disappointments and downright disasters dogged her steps before she eventually found the success I was churlish enough to resent. It was also clear that the novel grew out of a difficult time in Mantel's own life; she answered the cheery question, 'What has been your happiest moment?' with the curt answer: 'Leaving Jeddah'.
So you find me this week
1) determined to count it as a success that I have managed to post this despite feeling exhausted and beleaguered, and
2) hopeful that good things will come out of a difficult time.
What's difficult about it? you ask. To summarise, my husband continues to suffer the effects of stress-induced depressive illness. In the meantime, life has been incredibly busy. My older son recently came back from Uganda, and we had a day or two's chaotic turnaround with him at home, then spent last weekend making the 12-hour round trip to Falmouth to dro him off at his new shared house for his 2nd year at university. It was a pleasure to see him happily settled, and when we rang to see how things were going (meaning, had they got the cooker working and been to that nice greengrocer's we saw nearby?) we were reassured that things were awesome: 'We've got Grand Theft Auto 5 and I've found room for all my DVDs'.
The trip was exhausting and left us with very little time to organise our younger son's 18th birthday this week. This also went off well, however, and even though ten of his friends spent a day and a night here, I have found nothing more sinister than a few cider cans in unexpected places and evidence that someone has rolled a cigarette (at the very least) on my copy of Mslexia.
All this has been tiring, as I struggle to cope with my husband being ill, and try to be part of the solution rather than making things worse with my own emotional cocktail of sadness, worry and at times sudden bursts of anger. Add to this a busy time at work, some evenings out that we were too tired for but couldn't get out of, and some nights with hardly any sleep, and you will see why I am cheering myself on for writing this at all. As with today's housework, I have told myself, it doesn't have to be perfect; just good enough. I'm a writer, I have written this - there you have it - success!