Since it’s World Book Day and I’m a writer, I do feel like I should have something wise to offer the world today. Maybe some speech about the importance of books in my life and the life of my child. Perhaps I should be talking about how incredibly fortunate we all are to live in a time and a society when we take education for granted, so the majority of us can pick up a book and read it with ease. Or maybe, since I’m in the business of writing, editing, formatting, publishing and marketing books, I should have something to offer on the world of self-publishing. Instead, I’m going to address those who want to write a book but don’t have the confidence.
I have lost count of the number of people I have disappointed just by living my life and doing my own thing. There’s always someone telling me I should be this or that. This starts in childhood, when your parents have ideas about what you could become. I know my Dad‘s ultimate dream for me was to work in coding in some way while I’m 99% sure my Mum’s only dream for me was to be ladylike. Sorry on both counts. In recent years, people have been suggesting I should work with children with special needs, because I have one. I also have skin. That doesn’t mean I’d make a good dermatologist. Only one person in my entire life (my real life, not my online one) has told me I should be a writer and that was almost 30 years ago. So, when you think of all the thousands of people I have encountered, the number of people who believed in me is negligible.
Now, take the number of people who have not believed in me. I’m counting all the one star reviewers, the people who made faces when they heard I had released books, the “friend” who sarcastically said, “Yes Shaz, of course you should be a writer. Your emails are the best I’ve ever received,” and the people who would try to direct me to other pursuits or careers. Let’s even count the smart-arses who proofread my work and told me it wasn’t of publishable standard, even though they aren’t writers or publishers themselves. Doubters can come in many shapes and forms and sometimes they tell you straight out that you shouldn’t or can’t do what you want to do. Sometimes, it’s very subtle, like the face-pulling. Watch out for that.
So, to that person who wants to write a book but thinks they can’t because they’re not smart enough or skilled enough, let me tell you this. You can. You should. And anyone who says otherwise is probably too afraid to follow their own dream, so they’ll pour
cold water acid on yours. We live in a time when people don’t have to wait around for others to make their dreams come true. You don’t need to wait for someone to employ you, or accept you into university, or accept your manuscript for publication. You can start your own business and be the boss. That education you want is available from other places, not just universities. And as for the manuscript, write it. Even if you never do anything else with it and nobody ever reads it. Just put your fingers to the keys and start writing. You might one day decide to make it public.
This week, I checked my UK reviews for the first time in months and saw someone telling the world, in a very public and brutal way, that I shouldn’t have thought I could write. If I had received that kind of review during the first couple of years of being a writer, which is now a long time ago, I would have given up, because I wasn’t mature enough or experienced enough to see opinions, not as facts, but as someone else’s thoughts.
But I am terrified at the thought of that happening to someone starting out, who has a lot of potential to write great stories that people will enjoy and find comfort in and that will bring untold fulfilment to the writer, but they’ll be put off by the careless words of people who just don’t get it – whatever “it” might be. With this post, I am hoping to reach that one writer who is about to give up because they think they’re not smart enough or skilled enough.
Spoiler alert: You are. You can be. We all start somewhere. Nobody emerges from the womb with a fully written masterpiece on their hands. We get there through hard work, determination and learning from our mistakes. And on a future World Book Day, someone might be celebrating YOUR book’s existence.