Attending the Geneva Writers Conference (2-4 March 2018) coincided with a personal anniversary of mine: a year ago, the last day of February marked the last day at my science job before quitting to devote myself to writing. I couldn’t have celebrated this small milestone in a better way than going to Geneva: I met lovely people and encountered opportunities that might bring my writing further. I want to now take a little time to look back at what happened in the last 14 months and take stock of where I’m now.
On 24 December 2016, I finished the rough draft of my (entire) trilogy Illumination. It so happened that this coincided with me finally having the guts and opportunity to quit my day job as a researcher, which I promptly did as soon as the holidays were over.
What followed were two months of having to go to work (because I had a two month’s notice) though, in my head, I had already moved on. This felt awful and when 28 February 2017 arrived, I was beyond done. I actually needed a couple of months to recover from the stress of working a job I hated, then making the decision to quit it (almost as equally stressful), and then still continuing with the same job. When it was all over, I had only a couple of days of exhilarated happiness before the aftershock hit me. I had never expected my new-won freedom to start with days and days of feeling so down, but that’s what happened. I guess I finally had the peace of mind to realize how awful I had been feeling before.
But then, the darkness lifted, and I was ready to start on my writing journey. I embarked on revising Book 1 of Illumination, but it took me almost until now to find my writing feet. What do I mean by that? Working from home was a huge change from having always had a boss or a supervisor to answer to and an office to go to. But suddenly, at home, I had a quadrillion distractions to resist. Thankfully, I’m pretty driven when it comes to writing, so motivating myself to write was not a problem. Staying focused, on the other hand, was. Now that I worked from home, the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink were constantly calling to me to end their suffering, and the myriad of toys strewn across the floor were each one a painful prick to my need for neatness. So, I went through cycles and cycles of refining to-do lists, best practices, and schedules until I learned to accept entropy.
Hence, the past year was a year of extreme learning: learning about my inner workings as a writer and generally about the ropes of working for one’s own. At times, it was grueling—it’s amazing how much pressure I can put on myself even without external stressors. But then, in autumn last year, a trickle of positive feedback started coming in: my short story Clara was published in Electric Spec and another story was accepted elsewhere. Also, the first 10 000 words of Illumination were longlisted in this year’s IWC Novel Fair competition. And the Geneva Writers Conference capped this amazing year when it set the stage for getting out the first word about Illumination, which resulted in some interest in the novel. Fingers crossed!
So, to sum up Bridget Jones’ style:
Polished novels: 1
Published short stories: 1
Competitions: longlisted for one
Interest in novel: some
Looking back, this has been one of the most gratifying years of my life. I started out thinking that I must be crazy wanting to do this. Now, I’m starting to think that it would have been madness not to and deny myself a much happier life (I still think so even in the face of unappetizing average writers’ earnings).
This year wouldn’t have been possible without my husband who made space in our lives for the writer in me. If you have such a person at your side, cherish them! And, of course, my novel wouldn’t have gotten as far as it is now without my generous and sharp-eyed beta readers and without my fellow writer friends whose support and advice at crucial moments was invaluable. Thank you!
Next, I’ll start revising Book 2 of Illumination. Now, let’s see what the next year of writing will bring…