If you could go back in time, say five years, and give yourself advice, what would you say? What edge would the knowledge of foresight give you? What words of comfort would you give? This is the intriguing idea Linda, of Linda’s Book Bag, planted when she asked me to write a letter to myself as part of my blog tour during the publication of Her Last Secret. I’m reposting it here (with a couple of tweaks) in case you missed it.
Dear Barbara (aka ‘Me’),
So, here I am in 2017, about to publish my fourth book, Her Last Secret. What are you up to? Oh, I remember: you’re in 2012, working as a Special Projects Editor for a magazine company. You’ve got an idea for a book you’ve been working on for a few months now, snatching time on the train commute into London, and although it’s growing slowly you’re starting to feel quite fond of it. You’re even starting to wonder if it has potential to be more than a hobby, and you’ve tentatively mentioned the plot to a couple of mates who haven’t fallen on the floor laughing at the idea. Which is a good start.
The job is taking up a lot of time, though. It’s all-consuming, which is why you’re on pretty decent money. You work longer hours than one of Santa’s Little Helpers, and you’re left feeling exhausted. Being up at 5.30am to catch the train from Colchester to London, and not getting home until 7pm, means that after you’ve eaten you’re ready for bed. You’re loving the creativity of the job, but are already aware you’re simply not getting the buzz from your work that you used to.
Photo by Dan Roizer on Unsplash
I’ve got bad news for you, Barbara. It’s going to get worse. You’ll work through most evenings and weekends, and you’ll become more tired, and more miserable, and live more for those snatched minutes on the train when you lose yourself in writing. The need to write will burn brightly in you, reminding you of what you used to love about your job so much. You’ll wonder why rising through the ranks means having to leave behind the very reason you became a journalist in the first place.
Sounds awful, doesn’t it?
Actually, it’s brilliant. It makes you reassess your whole life, and you realise you want to take a leap of faith and go back to writing for a living again. Bye bye, career ladder. I’m not going to deny it’s a terrifying thought, and you’ll have loads of doubts. How will you manage? Is it a midlife crisis? Are you going to lose everything you’ve worked so hard for? Don’t listen to them, listen to the conviction that it’s time to shake up your life. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about because I’m now writing my fifth book.
There’s going to be a hell of a steep learning curve ahead of you, though. But it will be FUN!
When you finish your book, Invisible, it will be rejected by innumerable agents – but they’ll all have such INCREDIBLE things to say about it that, instead of feeling down, you’ll feel invigorated. The story has great potential, the experts all agree, so why not publish it yourself?
Of course, that’s when the real fun begins because you know nothing about the book publishing world, publicity, cover design (luckily, you live with a talented artist who has that covered)… You’ll rediscover the joy of learning new skills, though. Right now, you think social media is full of saddos posting about what they had for breakfast. Yeah, about that – you couldn’t be more wrong. Facebook and Twitter will be two of the most useful tools you’ll learn to use. Thanks to them, Invisible, becomes a bestseller on Amazon. You’ll learn to blog, too, and even create your own website. Even better, you’ll make incredible connections with readers, book bloggers, agents, publishers. Not bad for a someone who barely knew what a tweet was in 2012.
Thanks to social media, you’ll find the confidence to write your second book, Flowers For The Dead. You’ll be terrified again, scared that you can’t repeat the success of your first book. Sadly, that fear never gets any better – and I speak as someone who has been a USA Today bestseller, and Amazon bestseller in the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia. Even landing a deal with your dream publisher, Bookouture, on the strength of your third novel, The Darkest Lies, won’t rid you of your fears. But by the time the fourth book, Her Last Secret, publishes, you’ve learned to accept insecurity as a part of the creative process. The biggest change probably sounds the smallest, though: when people ask you what you do for a living, in five years’ time you’ll no longer consider yourself a journalist; instead your answer will be ‘author’. Eek!
See, there are so many exciting things ahead of you over the next five years. And look at you, hunched over your desk, in your London office, beavering away and wondering what on earth you can do to get the buzz back in your career. You’ve no idea of how much your life is going to change. My advice? Have the courage of your convictions, and break free from the office. Have confidence in your ideas, no matter how crazy. But most of all, have fun – enjoy every single second of the years ahead of you, because they’re brilliant.
Lots of love,