Last week was a glorious one, because something happened that I’ve been waiting for for a long time. Bound proofs arrived! I’d known they would be coming, had seen them looking pretty on Twitter even before I got them. But when the package finally did come — very prosaically carried up the stairs by the postman — something else happened that I hadn’t anticipated.
All the time working on The Book (as it is affectionately known in my family, kind of like a cranky but lovable family member one puts up with), I was waiting for that Aha-Moment, the one where I finally believed it, when I would start to unequivocally feel like an author, true and legitimate and completely bona fide.
It is slightly disconcerting to work on something that no one can actually see, because in a strange way it doesn’t ever feel real. People ask what exactly it is that you do (and that so inconsiderately keeps you from chaperoning a school trip/baking for the charity sale/being a driver for the weekend game) and when they learn that you are working on a novel, they inevitably respond with ‘ooh, how exciting, do let me know when it’s available in insert bookstore of your choice and I’ll buy it.’ A lovely sentiment and much appreciated, of course, but it does underline that sensation already niggling at the back of your mind. That what you do all day isn’t actually real and that by extension the bona fide writerly you isn’t real until there is something for people to touch.
So I was ready for it when the proofs came, because here it finally was, physical proof of my writerly ‘me.’ And it was an exhilarating moment, to be sure. It made me choke up and do a dance and crack open the bubbly and all those other things that mind-blowing moments tend to bring with them.
But what I also realised in that very moment was that, actually, I didn’t need tangible proof to call myself a writer. That I had already become one a long time ago, during all those early morning writing sessions, with every book on obscure subjects read, all the times opting out of a bake sale to sneak off to the library for another furtive 1500 words, every walk spent talking about a particularly knotty plot development at my husband for 90 minutes straight, until he’d request, quite kindly, that maybe we enjoy the viewpoint we’d hiked out to see.
Being a writer is both the endless daily grind and those rare exhilarating moments when you do a happy dance around your writing space holding your very first words in print. So yes, I’m utterly thrilled with my bound proof and I’m excited for what lies ahead. And tomorrow I’ll go back to the small moments that will eventually be Book Two — and that continue to make me my writerly ‘me.’