Don’t be alarmed, but it’s me… Meaghan. As in, yourself. And I’m writing to you from the future (insert eerie ‘breaking-the-time-space-continuum-music’ soundtrack here).
To prove my bona fides, I bring you news from 2019. Donald Trump… you know, the guy from The Apprentice…? “You’re fired”…? The one with the smoked-salmon-coloured spray tan and combover to match…? Yeah. That’s him. Well, he’s President of the US of A. …Hello? You still there? It’s not a joke! Though I can see how you’d think it might be.
Anyway. Putting all that to one side, we need to have a chat.
You’re the sort of person who generally just wants to be left alone to get on with it, so I’m sorry for the interruption. Those stolen moments to write on your laptop are precious – rugged up against Melbourne’s wintery chill in the back seat of the car as you wait for your son to finish footy training, or sitting by the fire nursing a latté in the café near your daughter’s taekwondo school. Thing is, you’ll need every spare second you have to complete the mammoth task you’ve embarked upon. But I think you need to stop for a moment and hear what I’ve got to say.
The books that line the walls of your home have always been your companions and, when times were tough, your salvation and your refuge.
Somewhere along the way, you overcame the crippling sense of self-doubt that made you want to hide from the world and stay in bed all day when you were a young thing who should, by rights, have been out discovering the world. A health scare and the stark realisation that (spoiler alert) you’re not going to live forever shocked you out of what was, in retrospect, deep depression, and since then, it’s all been about carpe diem’ing in earnest. You’ve been truly blessed in life, and have been fortunate enough to see yourself through the eyes of people who love you unconditionally. Thanks to them, you’ve rediscovered the positive and confident person you were before circumstances in your childhood and adolescence smashed it out of you.
You’ve been told you’re what’s defined as an extroverted introvert. So, yes. A bundle of contradictions. I like to think of you as a pragmatic optimist – while you’re aware of all the potential pitfalls, you like to believe that everything will work out for the best. How else to explain the foolhardy decision to become a novelist? You’ll need the optimistic corner of your soul during those moments when you question the wisdom of what you’ve decided to do. Sure, you’re still hedging your bets by keeping up the lecturing at Melbourne University. But the day will come when you realise it’s eating up too much of your time and attention, and that if you’re serious about writing, you’ll have to step away from the financial security blanket it offers and dedicate yourself to your writing.
The chance to write and research for film and television will be a surprisingly rewarding and very worthwhile alternate career path that also gives you the flexibility to work on your novels. Not only will it give you the chance to stretch your creative abilities and hone your writing skills, but you’ll have great fun, you’ll go to some amazing places, and meet some gifted and inspirational people. You’ll also meet your fair share of complete tossers. But that will be hilarious in itself, and will always ensure you never fall into the trap of taking yourself too seriously. And you’ll end up with some damned entertaining stories to tell.
The most important thing to remember is that the act of bringing your imagined worlds and characters to life on the page will give you more joy than you can imagine.
You’ll find it so spiritually uplifting that you’ll wonder why you’ve waited till now to try it in earnest. But don’t forget that the bottomless well of memories and knowledge you have to draw from has been created by the life you’ve lived, and it would be empty without the experiences you’ve accumulated during what continues to be a very colourful – or, if you’re feeling uncharitable, unfocussed – career path. You will eventually realise that everything you’ve done till now has been leading to this point.
Then the day will come. You’ll look down at your manuscript and think, ‘that’s it. I’m done.’ It’s only the beginning, though. Hold steady. The hours become days that will stretch out to weeks and, then, months as you wait to hear from the people who will decide whether or not the words you’ve committed to paper will ever be anything more than a dog-eared bundle of pages rammed into your ‘Work In Progress’ file.
Your stories are like your children in that way. Not because you ram your children into a ‘Work In Progress’ file; because you do all you can to prepare them for the world, and after that, they’re on their own. Worrying about them too much leads only to premature greying and sleep loss. So, rest easy. Because you will get that email, and you will feel that explosive rush of euphoria when you learn that your manuscript will become a book. You’ll be fortunate enough to meet brilliant and supportive mentors who have committed their lives to bringing books to the world, and you’ll welcome the editing process because you know that it will only make your work better. And when, at long last, you see the cover art for your first novel, you’ll shriek out loud with delight and jump up and down in a most age-inappropriate manner because that’s when it truly feels real.
Best of all, the time will come when there will be books on your shelves with your name on the spine. Just wait. You’ll become a little bit addicted to that feeling.
Stay the course, Meaghan. It’ll be worth it.
And take that outside bet on Donald Trump becoming President. Trust me.
Meaghan Wilson Anastasios spent her formative years in Melbourne before travelling and working as an archaeologist in the Mediterranean and Middle East. She holds a PhD in art history and cultural economics, has been a lecturer at the University of Melbourne and was a fine art auctioneer. More recently, Meaghan has been seduced by the dark side and now uses her expertise to write and research for film and TV. She lives in inner-city Melbourne with her husband and their two children. The Water Diviner was her first novel, which she co-wrote with her husband Andrew. The Honourable Thief was her first solo novel.