We all fall into this trap. We’re going to write a book. Not only is it going to be published but it’s going to be a bestseller.
If I decided to learn the violin I not would expect to be performing at Carnegie Hall or The Proms.
If I decided to start making my own clothes, I wouldn’t have an expectation that they would be strutting down the runway at New York Fashion week any time soon.
So why, when we start to write, do we think that we will be able to make it straight to the top of the pile?
It’s not just us. Everyone around you, on hearing that you are writing a book, will immediately say something like “That’s exciting. When you are going to publish it?”
A few months later they will be wondering why you haven’t made enough money to give up your day job.
When I started to write I was full of this crazy expectation
I was determined to stay positive about the whole thing, that I was going to succeed and have that best seller.
Even now, nineteen years later, I still secretly harbour this dream. I know the chances of it happening are extremely unlikely. Over time I have become motivated to write for the joy of the creative process and the compulsion to speak my truth. But why is that dream still there?
I have learned over the years that it takes more than a fucked up imagination and a reasonable grasp of grammar to craft a novel.
So why do people have this expectation that it is easy?
Why are we beating ourselves up with this expectation and then getting extremely upset because it isn’t happening?
Why do we think we can write a novel without years of training when we wouldn’t expect to be able play a piano concerto or perform a ballet solo from Swan Lake in the same timeframe?
I once saw this great anecdote on Twitter from an acclaimed novelist
She was at a party, having the ‘what do you do’ conversation with a neurologist. On finding out she wrote he said, “Oh, I’m going to write a book when I retire.”
Her reply was, “Are you really? When I retire I’m going to take up brain surgery.”
That shows how absurd our writing expectations can be.