Last spring my first book was published by Harlequin Mills&Boon. This month my third book, The Duke’s Unexpected Bride, has hit the shelves and I still can’t quite believe it. Becoming a published writer has changed my life in quite a few ways, mostly for the better.
First off, I’ve cut back (drastically) on my other career and now spend an obscene number of hours at the kitchen table, writing. I have a work study but in my mind that is associated with my other job and doesn’t do much for my creative juices. My kitchen overlooks the garden and the fruit trees and the green and quiet are perfect for writing.
Then there’s the internal/external image change. When people ask me what I do, I no longer tell them about my ‘other’ job. I actually say – I write books. Would you hazard a guess if that evokes a different response than ‘business consultant’? Whether the response is positive or negative (yes, there are those, of course), it’s never neutral.
But those are just surface changes. The real changes are internal. I’ve had a few careers in my life but only one vocation – I’ve always known I love writing stories, but I never really believed I would be published or do it for a living (the latter part is still pending – writing, like many creative professions, is financially challenging).
There is always a danger in dreams coming true - they lose the shiny haze of the Potential and take on the hard, elbow grease glaze of the Actual. Writing is just like any profession – it is very hard work, a chunk of which has nothing to do with the creative process. The joys of creation far outweigh the slog, but it is a constant balancing act. Even once you are published you can obviously still fail at any point. Now the stakes are higher than they ever were – if the dream is no longer a potential but an actual, failure would be actual too.
But being a business consultant, I was at least prepared for that part of The Change. What I wasn’t prepared for was a completely different loss – my daydreams.
Until I became a published author a large part of my creative process was daydreaming dreaming. Some people need to read a book before they go to sleep, I needed to write one – or at least imagine one.
Sometimes when I was stuck on a hard project at work I would take a few minutes, make a cup of tea, and daydream away. My mind would slip into an alternate world and all my worries and woes and tensions would melt and fade and so would I. Every night I could sail off in the arms of another of my wonderful heroes into a new adventure, commitment free.
Here is a quote on dreams from the English Patient I knew was ‘written about me’ when I read it: “Moments before sleep are when she feels most alive, leaping across fragments of the day, bringing each moment into the bed with her like a child with schoolbooks and pencils. The day seems to have no order until these times, which are like a ledger for her, her body full of stories and situations.”
But now everything is different – every ounce of my creative juice is conserved for my writing. I don’t intend it to be that way, but I am living and breathing my novels and the moment I close my eyes I am deep in them, tangling with tales, wrestling with plot twists, and milking every second of creative time to refine and deepen my writing. There is a different kind of beauty in these moments – the characters in my novels become dear to me, or frustrating, but always important, and I can’t treat them casually like I used to once indulge in my day-dreams. I miss my no-strings-attached daydreams but accept that they will never be quite the same again.
Maybe it is part of growing up as an author – our dreams mutate with us.
So I will end on another quote, this time from Neil Gaiman: “A book is a dream that you hold in your hands”. I’m holding three dreams in my hands now, all mine, and my head is filled with many more, simmering on the boil and waiting their turn with varying degrees of impatience. So even if my daydreams have been overtaken, it is a small price to pay for living my dream.