A composite picture, not autobiography, with many apologies to Rudyard Kipling. And if you're wondering how the first line of this ditty could possibly lead to the situation in the last line, you might find my more recent series on Being Published helps.
The Author's Lament
I wished I were an author and could write the whole day through;
I wrote and worked and subbed and wept, and followed every clue
to find myself a publisher who’d offer an advance,
so I could bin my office suit, and live and write in France.
I longed to be a writer who could see her books on shelves,
in newspapers and library stacks and Waterstones as well.
I dreamt of readers emailing ’cos they just had to say,
my book had made them cry or laugh while on the bus today.
I joined a writers’ circle and I found an online friend;
I started to fail better and got strength to try again.
I learnt my craft and lost my shame and thereby found my art;
I practised sentence structure and I plumbed the human heart.
I wrote another novel and I took another class,
and some of those rejection slips regretted saying ‘Pass’.
And then one day an agent rang and said he loved my book:
he thought that he could sell it, if I’d please have one more look
at Chapter Three and Chapter Ten and one quite awkward bit:
it’s where my finest writing is, but doesn’t really fit.
And then he waved his fairy dust and got a two-book deal;
I signed the line for both books at the poshest restaurant meal.
And now I am an author, and could write the whole day through,
except that I can’t find the words to write down for Book Two.
And then there’s all the manuscripts I work on to survive,
and all the students that I teach: their homework’s just arrived.
I’ve binned my office suit it’s true, and prob’ly just as well;
The house is ice, the heating bills seem forwarded from Hell.
Book Two is due tomorrow for I said a year was fine,
though One took half a decade… but my writing’s not just mine:
these days I write for editors and other paying folk,
and sometimes when I lie awake I wonder at the joke.
For readers write, and journos write, and bloggers comment too,
and I write cheques and long reports, ’cos writing’s what I do:
my job is bending words to serve their purpose and their will.
But only bad days make me wish I dreamt the old dream still;
On good days now my dreams are new, of stories yet untold,
of characters so strange or good, of wickedness, of gold,
of treachery and comedy and love in all its glories,
and those are what will bend my words so I can tell new stories.
And it’s these dreams that tax-demands and paycuts cannot steal,
for they're the only dreams that I’ve full power to make real.