If someone had ever asked me what my dream job would be, I would have said sitting in a peaceful place making up stories. And that is exactly what my writing life was like when I took my first tentative steps ten years ago. I had this elderly laptop that didn't do the internet: no interruptions (you've got mail!); no temptations to google, youtube, pinterest, facebook, twitter or any other irresistible time-waster. I dazzled myself with the number of words I could write. I marvelled at how characters developed and drove the dialogue and plot. I spontaneously woke up every morning, bright as a button, at about 5.00 am, made myself a huge mug of coffee and settled down to write, write, write. It was bliss. I wrote two novels in two years, sent them off to some publishers and waited for global recognition.
It may have been bliss but it was also a fool's paradise. Global recognition played remarkably coy and hard-to-get. I carried on writing because it had become a part of my identity but I gradually realised that, if I ever wanted anyone other than my close friends to read my books, I was going to have to take on another job. One that was very definitely NOT my dream: self-promotion. In fact, this turned out to be several jobs, none of them dream-like: working the social media circuit; creating an internet persona; writing boastful blurb about myself; accosting anyone who might be a 'useful' contact; weighing up old friends for their usefulness; struggling with Blogger, Mailchimp, Instagram, Bookbuzz and old uncle Tom Cobley.
I frequently feel like a cross between a stranger without a map or phrase book in a foreign country and a convicted con-man expecting the heavy hand on the shoulder at any moment. I heard a talk recently on 'Impostership Theory' - the idea that we all feel that we are not good enough and are basically just impersonating someone who is - and nodded my head ruefully throughout. Yep! That's me.
I look back on those early, innocent days of just-writing with pitiful nostalgia.
My fourth novel, The Ghost of Erraid, has just come out. I already have ideas for number five and am longing to get down to it. But my New Year resolution was to concentrate on marketing this year. Four months in, I am flogging away at it. I am known for my stickability. But, oh, dear Lord, it's such a slog. I can feel my creativity shrivelling. I can't wait for 2018 when I can go back to being an author and stop pretending that I'm some kind of IT whizz kid and brazen self promoter.
Mind you, I am not above getting a wee thrill when a ploy pays off and results in some sales and some positive reviews. It's like gambling: I am just about to give up after a whole lot of unfruitful attempts when: Bingo! I've won something! It may be just enough to tempt/motivate me to try again.
Coming to a computer near you . . . you have been warned . . .