Team Building Exercise

     It would probably be a fair comment to say that perhaps I don’t make the best of this blog by talking more about my books and so on. I’m not sure why that is, but if I were to put some thought into it, I would probably say that it’s down to me.
     I never succeeded enough for any trumpet-blowing before, probably because I was never really much good at anything of note when I was growing up except for drawing and writing. But it was always as an aside, a hobby, because the teachers and my family and stuff didn’t ever assume that it was a valid career path, considering the low probability of actually making enough money to be able to eat on a regular basis. Art (in all its forms), performance and dancing (in all its forms) and writing (in all its forms) and possibly music too are very different aspects of ‘the Arts’, and not all have the ability to found a career on – which is clearly why the Arts are generally promoted in schools (at least in my personal experience) as a kind of break from ‘real lessons’. Well, art lessons for me at school were serious – as serious as my English language lessons – mostly because Art and English were the only subjects that I was any good at.

     I do find it funny that as I rapidly approach 40 I find myself not only still getting joy out of writing and drawing, but as destiny has foretold, I have also turned it into something resembling the formative embryo of a career. Yes, that’s right I am not a full-time author. I know loads and loads of authors (mostly thanks to twitter!) and I don’t think I know a single one of them who writes full-time. As has been drummed into me many times, very few authors succeed enough to be able to support themselves by their writing. We can’t all be Rowlings or Meyers. I can’t speak for Ms Meyer, but I do know enough about JKR to know that Harry Potter was a labour of love and something that she actively championed with every fibre of her being. You can say what you like about her success (and a lot of people do –  jealously, I might add) but you cannot deny that she’s earned it. She faced rejection many times, uncertainty a lot, cried and bled for her art and success came as a by-product of that hard work. Things probably changed for JKR a bit over the past 10 years, but she is still fiercely protective of her legacy and her creations, and that amount of love can only come from someone who achieved and then eclipsed her life’s dreams.

     So it is with somewhat of a sheltered existence that I do what I do. In some ways, nothing has changed since I was 8 years-old. Writing and drawing is still a hobby of mine, a career not yet given the official stamp of approval, yet one that earns enough to pay for a lovely holiday with the brood every once in a while. So essentially, I am still me. Nothing even remotely resembling fame has gone to my head. I think there is a vast difference between fame and recognition. Artists (of ALL kinds) are often typified by the love of their craft, tortured souls sometimes, yet ones beholden to a higher purpose in life and the ‘real’ ones amongst them do this because they want their work to be heard, be it a three-chord strum, a heart-melting lyric, an awe-inspiring piece of art, or whatever. They don’t do it for the cash. Don’t get me wrong: I would love to be able to earn enough money to focus on my craft full-time and who knows, it might happen in time…but I am very thankful for what I’ve got. Positive recognition is far more important to me. To have people (of any age) reading your book and taking the time to let you know that they loved it is all I wanted to achieve. 

     But I have ALREADY achieved something, you might say. Getting published is a cause for celebration, and was something that I worked hard to achieve for many years and suffered many a rejection or two myself, to be sure. I did end up with what I wanted (didnt I?) but just like on a game show where the questions get harder the more money you win, I knew I had more in me. You can’t really complain when your life is full of so many achievements –  even if there is a brand new one waiting in the wings – but being an isolated writer, sometimes with a lot of time on your hands – you can’t help but think about what you do and come out of it lacking something, that missing one per cent. Coming from a comic book background, I am used to focusing on ‘the next issue’…and that is still with me. When my 1st book (The Equivoque Principle) was released I was high on the emotion of the culmination of a dream that I had held tentatively for so long. But….what do you do once you have achieved your dream? Where do you go? In my case…I looked for another one.

The Equivoque Principle‘ was first released in limited edition hardback in 2008. Only 1000 copies were ever made and plenty sold, and this was a strong act of faith on the part of my publishers as the book wasn’t promoted anywhere and only (Ha! He says ‘only’!) reviewed in The Times. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that not all of them sold, but so what? I had made it. I had achieved a (not THE) dream and accomplished a feat that millions of people strive for all over the world. As I’ve always wanted to use the word ‘churlish’ in a sentence but have never really had the opportunity, let me just say that I think it would be churlish of me to have achieved such a splendid feat and not consider it a triumph. Just take some time to stand back and be proud of something.

     In the interim between the hardback and the paperback  release of Equivoque I had written not one but two more sequels (and as you read this, the fourth as been gathering virtual dust on my hard drive for a year or more). I had the pleasure of seeing Equivoque do well in paperback, promoted in Waterstones’ 3 for 2 – which for a writer is the equivalent of being a popstar and getting Radio 1 airplay. And then in March of this year, along came The Eleventh Plague, the direct sequel to Equivoque (as those of you who have read it will know) picks up not long after the last word on the last page of The Equivoque Principle just before the full-stop. 

I was (and still am) excited about The Eleventh Plague in many ways. It’s better written, more surprising, more of a solid plot, more intriguing, more tantalising, more boisterous, more funny, more violent (Spoiler Alert: PEOPLE DIE IN IT!!!). It is a worthy (and in my view a better) sequel and I really want people to buy it, read it –  and then tell me (and others, of course!) their feedback. I always take time to reply (even to the helpful freelance ‘editor’ that laid into me in an email once, the likes of which made me seriously question myself as a writer because it was SO hurtful) because to me the response is part of the deal. As a kid growing up (and even an adult) I would have loved the opportunity to voice my opinion to some of my writer heroes. Some are dead, others still live, and it’s sometimes very disarming reading a tweet from someone like Neil Gaiman (who I revere) because that wall has been taken down that used to separate the artist from the masses, and he is (relatively speaking) almost close enough to touch. Imagine if Van Gogh had been on twitter back in the old days. He would have been able to see what trending hashtags were attached to his work (#ilovesunflowers), he could blog to his heart’s content and maybe he might feel a bit better about life. 
     But the door swings both ways. You can’t present yourself as an open persona willing people to give you feedback on your work without inviting the more negative of nay-sayers to spit their venom at you – so it’s a balance. Come to think of it, perhaps poor old Vincent was better off not knowing what people thought of his art, but it might have done him the world of good to hear something positive. It’s like someone famous bleating about their lack of privacy after they’d built a career out of doing reality TV shows – if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime -and yes, Katie, Kerry and Peter – I’m talking to you.

So, because I rarely do this on this blog I thought what the hell, today is about ME. I will openly and unashamedly talk about myself and see how it feels. A bit liberating, a bit egotistical ifs the answer if I am honest. I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, I don’t even know how to purse my lips properly to make the sound. I’m not used to it. I’m still that 8 year-old boy being told that Art is for kids who are no good at football at heart. But I need to grab myself firmly by the shoulders and give myself a damn good shake. Especially in this facebook-blog-twitter-verse that we live in nowadays, being social is how you do things. It’s all about the networking. In this age it isn’t enough to just do what you do –  you need to tell people that you are doing it too.

That’s the point of this blog today. To look back and be proud of what I have achieved and then use it as a platform to look forward to what other dreams I can achieve – and there are so many more. Good stuff, very good, is on the horizon, but I can’t disclose it just yet – top secret and all that – but when I can talk about it, you’ll be the first to know – assuming that anyone apart from me and my friends actually READS this blog?

Do you?
Do you really?

I don’t know, I’m trying to sound confident but I think I might just be coming off as a bit needy…


2 thoughts on “Team Building Exercise

  1. “more violent (Spoiler Alert: PEOPLE DIE IN IT!!!)”
    Well, I imagine Twinkle would consider her death rather violent in the Equivoque Principle 😉

    As to being needy, isn't everyone that creates something needy at some time or other, maybe needy isn't right, it could just be a desire to get a little validation for the work.

  2. Hi Graeme! Thanks for coming along. I'm never sure WHO reads the blog 🙂 Yes, you are right. poor old Twinkle did suffer badly. Bless her. My neediness stems from the whole reason for writing books is for people to read them, so validation is entirely the right word.

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