Writing takes a measure of sacrifice. In August I said I would document the process of writing - the ups and the downs - and this is, if not one of the downs, then a more reflective post, to see the new year in.
I've been with family for a month or so, haven't written, let the novel breathe. I did dabble a little in other forms - a piece of flash fiction (not my forte) and a poem (slightly better) - but as a rule I've taken time out. I went on some walks, saw a rainbow on one which in whimsy I hoped denoted luck. On these walks I contemplated my decision to do this, to continually try for something that may never take off, praying that it would. I started officially planning the novel in January 2014. So as of this month, it will be four years. Four. Years. I feel sick when I think about it. When I think of all the times over those four years I have been asked "How's the novel going" and I've had to force a smile and say "it's going", then watch the amusement/pity creep in. I know what they're thinking. They doubt me. It's child's play. One day she'll give up and actually do something meaningful with her life.
Not all of them think that of course. At least I like to believe so. But very few of them know me, really know me, and as such it's easy for them to judge. Here's an example. I was at a conference last year. A conference I go to every year since its commencement. And because I've been there since it began, anything I can do to help, I will - big or small. I was asked if I would help out with the afternoon teas and coffees because the person who usually did them had to be elsewhere. Of course, I said yes. What I hadn't anticipated however was the way I would be treated. Many people who came to the table were nice as they knew me, but some were new attendees who had no idea I was a familiar face and barely acknowledged me at all. One particular woman came to the table, and without so much as a word or a look, simply held her cup out to me at arms length. I was taken aback, but politely asked if she wanted tea or coffee, milk, sugar, etc. She ignored me. Actually ignored me. I had to ask twice more before she turned her head, swept a derogatory glance up and down, and told me in a snooty voice "black coffee is fine." No please. No thank you. I think I actually hated her a moment. Who, I thought, do you think you are? You think because you're a scholar but I'm 'the tea lady' that I'm nothing? That I'm somehow less than you? You don't know me. You don't know me at all. You have no idea what I've been through, what I've done, and what it takes for me to attend this conference every year knowing I'm still unagented, still unpublished, and try to keep my head high anyway, to justify even to myself my presence there. And this is the thing, isn't it? This whole process is a form of justification, not just for yourself, but your writing too.