It’s been more than three years since that fateful dark day in December when I screwed my courage to the sticking place and pressed “Publish” on Chocolates in the Ocean. The first copy was quickly downloaded by the man I was dating at the time, and even though I haven’t spoken to him since the day, seven months later, when I told him he could go to hell for all I cared, I’ll always remember him with fondness for that.
But since that day I haven’t read it. Partly because I got so tired of it during the editing process and partly because I’m scared. What if I don’t like it? What I read what I wrote and cringe inside because I think it’s complete trash? I keep saying I will, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.
I know people have enjoyed it. I love seeing someone borrowing it on their Kindle and finishing it in one sitting. Thank you, Amazon, for telling me the Kindle page count. I’m so grateful to all those wonderful friends and former colleagues who have been kind enough to leave reviews, and humbled even more by those left by people I don’t know. But the thing is … it’s not what I expected to write. When one of my friends called it ‘variation on the chick-lit genre’ I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. I’m not being snobby, it’s just that:
1) I never enjoyed reading chick-lit
2) I only ever knew one person who did – and just between us, I don’t like her
Deep down I think we all want to write something that will last through the ages. A Ulysses, a Wuthering Heights, a Women in Love. Although … I still haven’t managed to struggle through Ulysses. Any novel that needs to be explained to you before you read it leaves something to be desired on the enjoyment scale, but I really should get round to it one day. I don’t like the structure of Wuthering Heights and I spend half the time going back and forth to the footnotes just to understand the dialogue. Women in Love I read twice and still couldn’t remember a single thing that happened in it.
Thinking about it, a lot of the works that join the canon are … to put it bluntly … downright boring. Why desire to emulate that? What does it matter if nothing I write outlives me? Do I really want to spend the afterlife checking my Amazon stats? I get enough of that in this one.
Writing should be about telling stories. Giving life to the characters who come to us during the strange moments of inspiration. Chasing the dreams we cannot have through the rooms of our imaginations. Not trying to write lofty manuscripts that will be forced down the throats of poor university students in a hundred years time. I may not write literature, but nobody loses themselves in Ulysses on a long-haul flight.
Maybe nothing I ever write will be remembered through the ages, but as long as someone finishes it and thinks, ‘I really enjoyed that,’ that would be enough.
Even if they think it’s a chick-lit variant.