Launch day looms. The invites are out, the registrations are in and the champagne is on ice and I begin to allow myself to really think about just what I have done.
I haven’t written the next Orange Prize novel nor am I likely to bump anyone off Amazon’s best seller list. But I have finished what I set out to do seven years ago. (I always remember the date because the idea for it began forming at about the same time as I found out I was to be a grandmother for the first time.)
I have developed my skills, committed my time, buried myself in research and, finally, I have produced something. Something that will be sitting on a dusty on shelf (or on-line catalogue- much less intriguing) long after I am gone. Something that some great grandchild might pick up with curiosity as she or he wonders who this Jennifer woman was, just as I did with my great-great-grandfather’s book.
But it is not posterity that has motivated me but the need to create. An urge to build worlds and form characters; to get lost in the “other”. That is where the joy lies.
It is not however the creative process I want to write about today but one of the unexpected consequences of my endeavours - the community of writers I have met and joined along the way.
We come in many forms – from the serious young women and men who have forgone, or at least de-prioiritised another career to devote themselves to their writing, to the (almost) retired, like myself, who have been lucky enough to have paid off the mortgage and saved just enough to keep paying the bills. We may live in the same neighbourhood or on the opposite side of the world. I have a new writer friend in Edinburgh who writes about remote (and haunted) places I have lived near and just this week had contact from an American author- an expert on all things Icelandic - whose book , Ivory Kings, inspired my second novel. Take a peak here: https://www.nasw.org/users/nmb/books.html
I have had email encouragement from the young man, now living in Portugal, who in 2010, discovered Vivaldi's lost concerto in the archives of Newbattle Abbey, and met a young woman recently arrived in the city from country SA (just as I did all those years ago) forging her way in her new environment.
You see the writer community is not just a collection of people but a true community working towards shared goals. We celebrate each other’s wins and are around to soften the blow when times are tough. We help each other sort out the good writing from the not so good and are always ready to give each other the time to discuss a messy plot point or a character inconsistency. We understand the need to cut off from the world occasionally and even provide each other with the physical space to do that. We are there with encouraging words when the reject letters come in and genuinely rejoice when a publication offer is made or the self-published book arrives in the post.
I teach my Social Work students that communities came in many different forms. Some are geographical but in these days of the global village many are not. So tell me, what and where is your community?
Jennifer is a writer of short stories, novels and a family history.