Like everyone else out there in internetland, I wanted to write a best of 2012 list. But when I sat down to write it, I realised it would be so sickeningly smug, so saccharin-soaked, that you’d switch off after the first paragraph. That’s because 2012 has been, without a doubt, my best year yet. From book deals to flying lessons, it’s been a year of literal and metaphorical highs.
So, instead of boring you all with how brilliant it’s all been (and it’s been beyond brilliant) I thought I’d write a list of all the great bits of advice I’ve been given in 2012.
It’s worth it
I know there were times when I felt writing was impossible – when nothing was going right and I was being bombarded with agent rejections – that I wondered if the struggle would ever be worth it. Friends who had made it told me it was. They encouraged me too keep going and said, ‘just wait, you’ll see’.
And I can tell you now; they were right. It really is worth it. Getting The Call to tell you you’ve got a book deal is as awesome as you imagine it. Holding your book in your hands makes all the pain vanish. And actually seeing your book in a real live shop, well, that never gets old.
So, if 2012 has been a year of struggle for you, don’t give up. The only difference between those who make it and those who don’t is tenacity and an ability to learn from your mistakes. So make your New Year resolution to work even harder, push yourself even further. Leave any bitterness or anger at the vagaries of the industry behind you and just hold on to the knowledge that it is, I promise you, worth it.
Suck it up
I thought that getting an deal was the tough bit. That once I scribbled my signature on that contract it would be plain sailing. Boy, was I wrong. It actually, in many was, gets tougher. Because now you have people relying on you, people expecting things of you. You also have new books to write which are now ‘under contract’. Mix in that oh-so-special roller-coaster of reviews and the pressure can become almost crushing. The week before my book came out in the shops, I emailed my agent saying it was all too much and could we just stop it all from happening. He told me to just suck it up.
And he was right. Having a deal is a huge privilege and no one should ever forget that. And sure, it comes with a bag load of crazy. But you just have to suck it up and focus on what matters (see point 4). I was also told this year that 90% of being a writer is holding your nerve. Which is so very true. When all the madness is going on around you, you just have to get your butt in a chair, hold your nerve, and write.
My good friend Miranda Dickinson, once told me, when I was bemoaning my lack of success and complaining about the world, to enjoy it. To enjoy the writing while it was just for me. Because time would come when it wasn’t just for me anymore. And I thought, yeah, right easy for you to say with your bestselling books and your million fans. But, as always, she was right.
When you’re writing just for you, when the story is yours and yours alone, that’s as good as it gets. It’s pure and perfect and untouched. And it’s so important to hold on to that. To hold on to the joy of making stuff up and getting it down. And I’ve forgotten her advice a lot this year, but 2013, I’m going to make sure I enjoy every last second.
Make friends with writers.
Now, I don’t know if writing makes you crazy, or if you need to be crazy to write. Either way, writers tend to be a little unhinged, each in their own unique way. Probably because we all spend far too much time on our own, listening to the voices in our heads. But one thing’s for sure, if you’re a writer, you need to have friends who are writers.
Because only other writers ‘get it’. Only they understand the agony and ecstasy of writing, freaking out about deadlines, worrying about tax returns, being unable to leave your house because you’re expecting to hear back from an agent/editor about something you sent them 30 mins before. Only they can share their stories of insanity, give you advice on how to make it through unscathed, point out the pitfalls and give you a helping hand over the stumbling blocks.
The highlight for 2012 for me has been all the amazing people I’ve met and become friends with, many of them other authors. Almost everything I’ve learned about the business of being a writer has come from them. And without them and their words of wisdom, their good humour and their kindness, I’d have become even crazier.
All that matters is the work
It’s all too easy to get caught up in all the ‘noise’ of being a writer. The reviews, the sales figures, the expectations and judgments of others. And amid all that fuss the one and only thing that really matters gets lost. And that’s the work.
So, I wanted to leave you with the advice Neil Gaiman gave to The University Of The Arts this year, as it’s the best advice anyone creating anything could listen to: Make Good Art.