I’ve been looking back over the last decade, as so many people are doing. For me it has been the best so far. Even with an extended ordeal by hospital and the recovery time, and gaining another couple of autoimmune diagnoses…
In 2009 I finally completed my honours degree – just thirty years later than originally expected.
My last assignment grew over the next couple of years and became my first published novel, A Savage Art, in October 2016… a long journey from my teenage dream of being a published writer, but I got there.
Before that, I had a story shortlisted for the Asham Award, and since I’ve been longlisted and shortlisted for Fish prizes. Somewhere along the way I became convinced that I couldn’t write short pieces, and yet just this year I had my first short story published in an anthology Me Too : Short Stories and my first short memoir piece published in Stories about Penises.
I’ve also written dozens of stories that sank, deservedly, without a trace. Two half-novels I discarded because they were duller than ditchwater. Another novel which…well…who knows? A memoir which needs more work but was worth the writing whether I do more with it, or not.
Of course, I’m stuck here now, avoiding getting on with writing the next novel. Some things never change. A procrastinator procrastinates…
I’m tempted to say if I can do it anyone can, but that’s not quite true. It takes a lot of luck too, and I’ve had lots of lovely people supporting me and helping me. I hope I’ve also been of some help to people in return.
I do think the online community of writers is one of the things which made a difference to me. When I was young there was so much I didn’t understand about writing. I thought you just wrote a story and either it worked or didn’t. I had no idea about revising. I had no idea about persistence. Now it’s not so lonely. There’s no excuse for ignorance any more, with a multitude of online courses – some of the best are free – and there’s lots of places to find other writers for mutual support, even if you’re not well enough to get out to your nearest writing group. Sadly you still have to do it yourself and it is bloody hard work, but you’re not alone and that makes a world of difference.
What else has happened?
Ryan and I sold up the company. Unfortunately it was to people who were more than a little economical with the truth, and even more economical with their contractually obliged investment. We’ve discovered who our friends are. We’ve reason to be grateful to so many people who helped us through that disaster.
That particular story is still unfolding…there’s a slight possibility it might turn out for the best. Even if it doesn’t, it’s all material… And it has produced some gloriously hilarious moments to offset the depths of despair at the loss of our hard-earned intellectual property.
I’ve read a LOT. I’ve done lots of arguing on Facebook, and in the Guardian comments. I’ve done plenty of walking. I’ve made some textile art pieces I’m really proud of – most recently a Bowie doll, and a wedding quilt. I’ve just started to learn tapestry weaving. I learned to make the most delicious sourdough bagels (with gluten) and then this year I learned to make good gluten free sandwich bread, focaccia, crumpets and flatbreads.
Even with all that hospital stuff in the middle I have certainly laughed a lot more than I’ve cried. It’s sometimes frustrating – having so many choices constrained by being ill. I’d have loved to be well enough to travel more, for instance. That, I just have to enjoy vicariously.
The highlight of the decade was a totally unexpected joy. Amazingly, I was actually well enough to see Kate Bush. Before the Dawn was magical. Had she done it a year earlier I wouldn’t have been well enough, and in the time since, I haven’t been. It was simply the most amazing piece of good luck.
But still, if the next decade is half as kind to me as the last one has been, bring it on!
As for those who insist (pedantically, correctly) the decade still has a year to run, I reckon we need to make sure to see it off. If we fail to close it down properly this year, we can have another go next year.