An author, 20 years in the making. Trust me, there’s still time for you.

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Dear (as yet) unpublished writers,

I realised recently that this year it is has been 20 years since I declared I wanted to be a full-time career author. Twenty years! That might have made me feel the teensiest bit old.

(Do you know what else made me feel old recently? My six-year-old came home from school and told me he’d joined the junior choir and they were learning John Mayer’s song, Waiting on the the World to Change. I was thrilled. When I was six years old, I also joined the junior choir and do you know what was the first song I was taught? God Save the Queen!!! I’m not even joking. The second song was Advance Australia Fair. Yep.)

Anyway, back to the writing thing…

I still remember that moment well. It was 1999 and I was in my first year teaching. I had gone to a weekend workshop with the Queensland Writers Centre. I was so inspired that I had a ‘full body moment’ where I decided this is it. This was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wish I could remember who the teacher was that day. Clearly, she was so inspirational that she changed my life.

I’ve been writing ever since, short stories, poetry, flash fiction, contemporary novels, kids books, non-fiction, newspaper and magazine articles, online articles. Not all of it has been published. Not all of it is good. Most of it didn’t make any money. Sometimes it was exhilarating and sometimes heartbreaking. I made friends, a community. I won some prizes, was shortlisted for some, and on one memorable occasion was ranked in the last (i.e. considered ‘worst’) twenty-five per cent of entries.

It all changed in 2012 when I was signed by an agent. My first book, The Tea Chest, was published in 2014, but it was actually the tenth full-length manuscript I had written.

Sometimes, you’ll hear about a writer who just decided to write a book and it got published. If you’ve been slogging away for years and years at your craft, this can be deflating. But everyone’s journey is so different. A writer might publish one book and never publish another ever again. Another writer might publish a book and it’s a runaway hit, only to never have another book live up to the first one’s sale ever again. Another writer might write twenty books and make the same amount of money as the one with the mega hit, just over a longer time period. Another writer will start with modest sales and then build, and build and build.

There’s still time and space for you too. Perhaps you just haven’t truly found ‘your voice’ yet–that important but difficult to describe quality to your work. Perhaps you’re just not writing in the genre that’s right for you yet. Perhaps the timing of the market just isn’t there to support your work yet. Yet. Most writers I know slogged it out for years before they were published. You’re definitely not alone.

This year, I am blessed to have two books hitting the shelves (fiction, with The Gift of Life in April, and non-fiction with Buddhism for Meat Eaters in July), bringing my list of published books to seven. Seven doesn’t sound like a lot, I know. But writing is a slow game, a long game, and you’re going to need stamina to turn it into a career. There’s no one path to publication and no guarantees of outcomes after publication. It’s a game of luck as much as skill. The thing that keeps you going, the thing that must be there to keep you going, is passion. You write because you have to. You write for love. You write for the bliss moment, the moment when the real world falls away and it’s just you racing to keep up with the story your characters are telling. There is no other way.

Write on!

p.s. the story of my little red typewriter is here

A Writer’s New Year’s Resolutions

Happy new year! Have you made any resolutions yet? I’ve set my three writer’s resolutions. But before I get onto that, let’s check out how I went with 2013’s writing resolutions.

2013 Resolutions: How did I go?

  1. I’m not going to read anything I’m not loving. Okay, I give myself points for thinking about this a lot. Alas, I did read quite a few things that I didn’t absolutely love. This is still a work in progress for me.
  2. I’m going to put my writing first. I think I did a pretty good job at this. It didn’t work every day but on the whole I set boundaries and was pretty strong about keeping them. Well done me!
  3. I’m going to decorate my writing room. Sigh. We moved house in September so (a) I didn’t see any point in putting lots of effort into my last writing room, and (b) I’ve been so flat out since we moved that not a lot of prettying has gone into my new room. I’m calling this a ‘let’s try again’ for 2014.

So, okay, not perfect, but not too bad. Now, to 2014.

  1. Stay calm, and have a cup of tea. I’m a bit of a Nervous Nelly at the best of times, but with my first book coming out in April, there’s a lot going on to push my buttons. Last weekend, The Courier-Mail published a very lovely article, ‘Pick of Books with Success Written All Over Them’, about upcoming books and included little-old-me in their picks for 2014. Whoa, Nelly! Some people would get a lot of confidence from an article like that. Me? I think, Holy Cats, What if I Fail?!?!? So, that brings me back to the staying calm and drinking tea–breathe, Joey, breathe. I need to remember that it’s not just me out there. I have an exceptional, proven publishing team behind me that have made countless good choices in their careers so I need to trust, trust, trust. 1533928_256008861229448_473962003_n1545544_256008901229444_56344808_n
  2. Turn guilt to gratitude. Like most mums out there, I want to believe that I can do it all. Of course, I can’t. I need to ask for help and be grateful when it arrives. When the nanny turns up to look after Flynn for four hours so I can do some work, I’m going to practise being excited about that and not guilty. When the invoice comes to pay that nanny, I’m going to practise feeling blessed, not guilty. And when the cleaner turns up to organise the house back to a level of workable sanity, I’m going to practise feeling thankful that I get to prioritise quality time with my toddler rather than the vacuuming. 1528547_256008884562779_1775505474_n
  3. Protect the creative process. There’s a lot of advice out there to tell aspiring writers to treat your job like any other day job. And there’s something to be said for that. Hours at the keyboard count. It is the only way a book will be written. But, at the same time, writing isn’t a normal job. And as Julia Cameron constantly tells us, we need to stock the well before we can take from it to create something new. I am a workhorse. I am built to work. What I find hard to do is play. But it is only by playing that I can stock the well in order to produce fresh, inspiring content. I might be naturally a Clydesdale in nature, but I need to let my unicorn out to play much more than I do if I want to find the magical moments.

So there are my three resolutions for this year. (Plus, I’ll throw in some room decorating too.) Help keep me honest, please! What are your resolutions for the year? I’d love to hear them 🙂