Writing tricks

What’s the cost of writing a novel?

Have you heard of This Jungian Life? It’s a brilliant podcast made by three Jungian psychotherapists, covering archetypes and dreams and creativity and life’s big and small questions. Last week’s episode was on goals, and one point that stood out for me was the cost of achieving your goals.

Everything has a cost. Losing weight, getting a promotion, buying a house – all take sacrifices, all will cost you something. Not only to achieve, but also to take care of whatever it is once you have it.

Writing a book has a cost – time and energy and creativity, for a start, and there’s no end to the potential financial cost, of courses and coaching and how-to books (although you can also learn to write with nothing more than a library card).

You have to make a significant time sacrifice to get a 70,000 word manuscript out of your head and onto the page. And then you need to keep the faith as you polish it, send it off into the world and deal with the rejections that are almost always part of the deal.

And that’s before it’s published. I know from listening to other authors and reading their blogs that publishing your book is an experience that is both wonderful and overwhelming. It’s a bit like that scene in the Wedding Crashers when Vince Vaughn says, ‘I’m telling my shrink we’re done with Mum for a while, we’ve got a whole lot of new stuff to talk about.’

The podcasters made a great point about all this: if you are having trouble achieving your goals, it’s worth considering the perceived cost. You might not even be aware of it, but your unconscious will, and will hold you back if some hidden part of you feels it’s too high.

As they phrased it, you need to lift up these fears into your conscious mind so you can address them head on. After that, your hidden reservations won’t hold back the writing, or marriage, or career change, or whatever. Fears don’t tend to look as bad in the plain light of day. And having weighed up the costs, you are also less likely to sabotage yourself when you go on to achieve your goals, because that is the other thing about goals – it’s not enough to attain them, you also need to look after them.

The cost of publishing a novel for me is putting myself into the world. Even though this is a work of fiction, there’s a lot of me in it. Writers are mostly introverts, that’s why we write rather than talk. We like to communicate, but we prefer to do it in on our own terms, editing and fine-tuning our message before quietly sending it out, and we don’t necessarily want to be there when people receive them.

The time spent writing, reading, editing, working with words – all of that comes readily to me, it is how I would happily spend the rest of my life and it rarely feels like work. The cost for me is discovering that people don’t like it, and having to hear about it on Goodreads or in person. Or being met with radio silence, which is possibly even worse.

So, having lifted up my fears out of my unconscious as the lovely Jungians put it, I can now deal with them. To start, I left the country and moved to a quiet corner of Berlin where I don’t know anyone or even speak the language. Haha joking! Sort of.

I’ve told myself that writers publish their work all the time, some get lukewarm reviews, others end up roasted to a crisp on Twitter, and it’s OK to feel terrible if that happens, but it won’t actually kill me. And life is short, readers are mostly lovely and open to something new and many will, I hope, enjoy it. Also, this whole thing is exciting and something that I have wanted my whole life so enough of the angst, why not enjoy it?

Finally, I’ve reminded myself that it’s one book, there will hopefully be others and while it all happens (ideally before it all happens) I am going to occupy my time and energy with new stories and, as poet Maggie Smith always says, keep moving.