I have always enjoyed reading books. Mostly for the sense of escapism involved. Somewhere you can forget all about your own life and live someone else’s, albeit vicariously.
It has been a blessing, sometimes more than at other times, depending on how my own life was going at that moment.
I honestly believe that reading books has kept me sane. They have taught me practically everything I know, for if I need or want to know how to do something, I turn to books to find out. Nowadays of course, we have the internet, but in my youth all we had were books.
These days, something else has been added to my enduring love affair with the printed word. Putting it quite simply, they have inspired me to write. You could say that the art of reading could do this anyway, to anyone. But up until recently, I was not aware of this. They were my retreat, my sanctuary. Nothing else.
But everything has changed.
I was a compulsive reader, consuming anything I could get my hands on. I didn’t discriminate and read everything. Asked to list my favourite authors, I would have been hard pushed, for I loved them all.
Somewhere along the way, I seem to have developed a ‘criterion’. I no longer just read a book. My brain seems intent on sifting the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. Who knew it could have that kind of opinion?
Two pages into a book, and if it is not talking to me by then, I discard it and try another. These days I love the kind of books that inspire me and make my fingers want to pick up a pen. Not to copy or emulate, but to write down the way the author has made me feel. Sometimes I find myself with a book in one hand and a notebook in the other.
It’s as if a doorway has been opened in my mind. Artists say colours work for them, for me it’s the power of the words and the way they are used.
Something else has changed in me. I have always considered myself reasonably adept with the English language. It was my favourite lesson at school and over the years as I have said before, it has saved my sanity on many an occasion.
For the first time in my life, I have doubts, and they are growing all the time. I have helped other people edit and proofread their books and been totally convinced I was good at it. Many people (including an agent) said that I was. I have also reviewed dozens of books along the way.
But then I picked up a pen and wrote a story of my own. I never expected it to be as hard as it turned out to be, as words usually came easily to me. But I discovered a very important fact about writing a book. Not only must it have a beginning, middle and end, it must flow, make perfect sense and be interesting to read.
It also had to have a structure and sub plots; the list was endless. I discovered to my horror that I was not as clever as I thought when the pen was in my own hand! Words tend to come at me in a rush, short spasms of prose that seem quite eloquent at the time but appear quite truncated when you attempt to join them all together. So much so, I nearly gave up on Nine Lives several times.
I began to seriously doubt I could ever be a writer, that this wasn’t something I could simply learn how to do.
But I persevered, did my absolute best, and after my edits and even more soul searching, I uploaded it onto Amazon, thinking my work was done.
But I was wrong.
In my haste to achieve something that will hopefully out last me, I forgot the most important step of all. Someone else should have read it first. Someone objective, who would come to it afresh, with no desire or agenda to bin it at the first error.
I learned that it is impossible for me to see my manuscript with a subjective eye. You cannot possibly hope to really because you have lived with it for so long. I wrongly assumed the reverse would be true, that the fact you created every word would make you more than qualified.
This was so long ago and I have learned so much more since then…