I saw one of those posts on Twitter a while back. It was two pictures, the first captioned ‘drafting my debut novel’ was of a beautifully iced and decorated cake, gleaming white and sparkling with edible glitz, resplendent in its sweet perfection.
The second was captioned ‘drafting my second novel’ and depicted a cake-shaped inferno.
I was experiencing the very same phenomenon at that precise moment. My second novel was rapidly turning into my own version of the difficult second album.
Somehow I was struggling more than ever to connect with the work, to really lose myself in the story I was trying to tell. The plot and characters felt vague and undefined, and I wrote myself round in circles, always coming back to the same point and deciding to begin again with a different premise, a slightly different treatment, hoping this time it would stick.
It did not.
Somewhere along the line I’d stopped writing the best book I could. The task at hand became more effort than enjoyment and this is always a very bad sign.
If I don’t enjoy and immerse myself writing a book I can hardly expect anybody else to enjoy and immerse themselves reading it.
I know that my creativity is fuelled by me doing other things, by periods of me not actively working on a novel. I know that scheduling does not work for me. But I was increasingly forcing myself to sit down with my laptop and write to a schedule.
And so I asked myself, if I know what I need to do to create, when did I stop doing it?
I stopped the exact moment I began to pressure myself that this book ‘had to be’. It had to be written as quickly as possible so I had a follow-up in the bag once Summer At Hollyhock House was published! It had to be every bit as enchanting and magical to me as that first novel, but better! It had to be finished as soon as possible so I could begin to churn out books and establish an income stream and eventually, a career! It had to be created and put out in the world before everybody read my debut then promptly went away and forgot all about me….
In amongst all that pressure I was putting on myself, and on this poor book which is still yet to be brought into the world, I had totally forgotten the reasons why I write in the first place.
I don’t write for money, or fame, or to please anybody or so my mum and dad will be proud of me or so I can boast on social.
I write because I love and need to write. I tell stories because storytelling is a fundamental part of the human condition and it’s one that’s particularly pronounced within me. I write because the words form in my brain and press physically against the inside of my skull until I release them via the channels of my arms and hands.
I write because I love and need it, and therefore I only want to write books that I love and need to write.
It really is as simple as that.
So write the book that you love. Write the book you wish somebody else had written, so that you could read it. That’s the book you were born to write. That’s the book you need to write.
Not the book that ‘is bound to sell’ or ‘the market is crying out for’ or ‘is just like (famous author’s) book that sold really well’ or ‘that will establish me as….’ All of these are great to have, but they’re unreliable. The market will shift and change, demands rise and fall, trends come and go, fashions change like the seasons and pass by like the wind.
By the time you’re halfway through the book that’s ‘totally right for the market’, the market will have moved on.
Write the book that is pressing insistently into the inside of your skull. Write it because you can’t not. Trust that the process will be enough, that the journey will be reward, and that if it’s meant to be, the market will make itself known when the time comes.
If you've enjoyed this post, I'd love you to sign up to my newsletter to be the first to get exciting book news, writing tips and advice, outdoorsy whimsical musings, and the odd exclusive offer or freebie! Just click here to sign up.