I don’t see life as a mountain to climb, but rather, a series of mountains. After each mountain is climbed, there is a choice: do we climb the next mountain? Or, do we decide that one mountain is quite enough, thank you very much, and quit while we’re ahead?
There’s no shame in quitting. Maybe the next mountain just wasn’t the right one for us, maybe it just wasn’t the right time to tackle that particular mountain – or perhaps all we can handle at the time is a nice, easy hill (or a cup of tea and a roaring fire).
I started writing just over two years ago. Before that, I started (and dropped out of) a Visual Arts degree, started (and completed) a degree in Education, then quit my classroom teaching career after a couple of years. By that point, I’m pretty sure my parents were wondering if there was anything I would actually stick with. I was wondering the same thing.
Enter writing. I started a book, scratched it and started again. I started a blog, which went through several changes and has ended up here. Over the two years, I’ve climbed a few modest mountains, and after each of them have questioned whether I should carry on.
The first was when I finished the first draft of The Caretaker of Imagination. I’d written a book! And it was CRAP. Seriously, only my beta readers know the full truth of that statement. It was still super early in the game – most people thought I was just writing a book, not aiming to become a writer. I was ready to quit, knowing I had achieved what many people haven’t: actually finishing a book.
Enter Amanda. We’d connected through online writing groups, and are now connected through pretty much every social platform under the sun. I hadn’t blogged for a while (cause I was giving up, remember?) and she noticed. A quick email from her and I was left with a new resolve to carry on (and she wrote about that here).
Cue next mountain. I was going to get this book to a professional standard, and I was going to publish it by the end of the following year (which would’ve been 2014). It went through SIXTEEN beta readers (who test read and give feedback for revisions) before I was happy with it. It then went through two rounds of proofreading. Whew!
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to meet my goal of publishing by the end of 2014. It was pushed out to March 2015, and I felt like a failure. It was out of my control, however, as it had to be illustrated and printed and I couldn’t do anything about those timelines. To remedy this, I created a wordless picture book, and that became my project while my friends were doing NaNoWriMo.
I had climbed the mountain: It was still 2014, and I had a book ready to publish. The next mountain was to actually publish it, and it was this mountain that I was more scared of. Who did I think I was? Why would anyone buy my book? Even if they did buy it, they certainly wouldn’t like it. Why did I ever think I could do this?
This was the second time I was seriously close to giving up. I didn’t, obviously. I realised I’d come too far to give up now. If everyone hated it, then I would have reason to put down the pen and return to teaching. Incidentally, I have only received five star ratings on both Amazon and Goodreads for this book, so clearly my fears were misplaced!
The third time was just a couple of weeks ago. Some of you know I’ve had issues with depression and anxiety, and I’ve been experiencing a particularly low period over the last month or so. I was suffering from a bad case of comparison-itis. All around me, people were working their lives away 40+ hours a week, and here was I, following my dreams. How dare I? I thought. These guys are doing their part for society, and what am I contributing? I felt like a burden.
But that wasn’t the real reason. Enter Cassie. She helped me explore these feelings a bit more and I came to realise that it was simply because I am doing something that isn’t the straight-and-narrow norm. I felt that I was going against the grain; it’s difficult to keep justifying your choices when those choices are different to the people around you.
And so I am keeping calm and carrying on. I’m climbing the next mountain, and will be publishing my third book next month: I am a writer.