Today, I’m trying to work. But I’m hungover. I’m tired. The baby was up at 5. (Why? Why?) The fridge is empty. I haven’t got any dinner in. I have a deadline looming for the first draft of my next novel, and every time I look at the half-done manuscript the words swim. All I can see is clichés waving their smug arses at me in a collective moony.
But the real reason I can’t work, can’t put aside the usual reasons for procrastination, for there are always some, is this: my second novel is out tomorrow.
It’s a weird, weird feeling. All that work. All that planning and thinking and overcoming of the Procratinator Gene which features heavily in my DNA. All that hope and faith and love, sitting in a bookshop at last.
Someone will walk past. Pause. Pick it up. Scan the back, the inside cover. Then think, Nah. Not for me. Where’s the Bernard Cornwall section?
There should be fireworks. There should be dancing girls. There should be me tap-dancing through a rapturous world. Great book, Senior. Well done, Senior.
Instead, there will be me, punting out a few hopeful words on Twitter. Ringing my Mum. Going for coffee and cake with some lovely local friends who will be Very Nice about my book for about 3 minutes, before moving on to the latest box-set, or school-gate gossip.
There will be moments of angst. What if people hate it? What if it’s actually crap? What if nobody buys it and everybody loses faith in me, and I’ll have no career and I’ll actually have to volunteer to be bloody class-rep and spend the rest of my middle-ages organising coffee-mornings for SAHMs who used be Really Important at Deutsche Bank.
Anyway, what does success look like? How many sales; how much acclaim? There is no winner's podium, no absolute endpoint at which you can say - YES, this book is a gold-medal winner.
A deep breath, a cup of tea. Then, I will give myself a pep-talk. Find somewhere quiet, and look inwards for a delicious, quiet satisfaction. For if writing is a solitary, inward-looking thing, so are the rewards. Unless you are a superstar – a Mantel or a Rowling – and perhaps even then, the thing that matters is a small personal triumph.
This is what will count: the joy of writing something that makes you proud. Your name on an actual book. The small, childish you who loved books more than life, rearing out of the shadows to clap you on the back. Well done, Senior. Great book, Senior.