No, I’m still not a writer… not yet. I write, yes, but is anything ready? No, definitely not. “Coming soon” is a fiction in itself. Half the time I think I should just put my novel in the bin. The other half, I convince myself to keep on polishing, in the hope that one day it might be good.
The first draft in 1996, which has informed all that followed, was just rotten. That particular draft and the version that followed literally ended up in the dustbin c.2003 — a public waste bin outside Waitrose in West Ealing, from which I knew I’d never be able to retrieve it if I had a change of heart. When eventually I came to wonder what I had done, I had to procure specialist file recovery tools to retrieve what I could from the un-overwritten segments of my hard disk.
A decade ago, I thought I had reconciled myself with my writing and set out to give that novel a new lease of life. Yes, but I quickly realised that self-publishing a novel, most of which I had written in 1997 when I was 20, was a huge mistake. Even before I had received the stinging reviews from critics, I had realised the error of my ways. That draft was especially bad and those biting reviews were well-deserved.
It was a mistake to publish then, but perhaps the near decade-long hiatus it provoked was good for me. I gave up dreaming of being a writer then. I decided to just witter away to myself on my blog and be content with that, withdrawing back into myself. On the positive side, my daily writing habit has been good practice. I feel my writing has improved since my last outing. My worldview has also matured with a decade of solid work, parenthood and reflection.
I hope my draft novel now is a better book than it was then. Well, it couldn’t possibly be any worse. But being better than it was (a very low bar) doesn’t mean it is ready. I realise now that a lot of my assumptions, presuppositions, opinions and viewpoints were completely off. Those early drafts which fed so much of my later writing were informed too much by my youthful anxiety and paranoia. My view of the world was warped.
I am not even sure that I will ever publish this novel at all. In the months it was with my editor, I drafted a whole new novel, far more optimistic and satisfying than anything I have written before. Perhaps that’s where my focus should lie. Or perhaps I will just content myself with being a hobbyist, akin to those who paint landscapes for pleasure.
Yes, today, a hesitation. If I do publish one day, it will only be when the time is right. No, not yet. Not now.