Dear Unpublished Natasha,
Okay, let’s knock one thing on the head up front. Your first book will not win the Booker Prize. In fact, you probably won’t ever win the Booker Prize. But that’s okay. There is more to life than the Booker Prize, although when you’re studying a Master of Creative Writing at university and everyone is so very serious and so very literary it can seem like nothing in the world matters more than that kind of validation.
But there are other kinds of validation that mean so much more. Messages from readers that pop up on Facebook or Instagram each day. Emails from readers. Even the occasional letter. You might not understand this now but you will, at some point in the future, realise that the reason you write is to touch the lives of those readers and to sweep them away to other worlds. You’ll also realise that you wouldn’t trade those messages and emails and letters for all the Booker Prizes in the world.
Your writing journey will consist of rejection and failure and throwing an entire manuscript in the bin.
After you throw that book out, you will sit in a chair for a month, refusing to write, and finding solace in re-reading all of your favourite books. You will not understand, when it happens, that this is actually the best possible use of your time. Because out of that month of reading, out of the sadness of thinking you’ve failed, will come a new idea, a fresh idea, an idea that you very much want to write. This idea will become a book called A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald – a historical novel, of all things. The whole time you are writing this book you will be torn between the joy of writing and the voice in your head telling you that you are crazy to be writing a book so very different to your first two books. Ignore that voice. Keep writing. You will NEVER regret writing A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald.
Then will come the year 2017 when you will have to make some tough decisions about your writing business. You will have to make a major change to the way your rights are managed. You will hate doing it. It will be extremely stressful. But you know in your heart that it is the right thing to do.
And, guess what? It turns out that your heart knows more than you do. The decision you fret over in 2017 will mean that your books are published in the UK, several different European territories and also, the icing on the cake, in the US. And even though you think only two copies of The Paris Seamstress will sell in America, it will end up being a USA Today bestseller and will still be in the Publishers Weekly Top 25 Trade Paperbacks six months after publication.
Of course, you’ll then shift the goalposts again and decide that now you want to be a New York Times bestseller too but I guess if you don’t keep setting new goals, then you have nothing to strive for. And you like to strive.
In short, you’ve ALWAYS loved reading and writing. There will be many, many, many times in those first few years when you think that you should quit writing and go back to marketing, where you would be paid more and perhaps taken more seriously and the time you invest in the job will be rewarded.
DON’T DO IT!
Thirteen years after you first sit down to write your very first book, you will be making enough money out of writing that you can call it your job and never again have to consider returning to marketing. It might sound completely unreal to you now, but I promise you it happens. And how lucky are you to be doing what you love, and having it pay?
One last thing – writing is bad for your back. Get up and move around more. Remember to recharge your creative well. Look after yourself. You’re a hard worker but sometimes you can work too hard and it’s okay to have a break. Spend every December and January with the kids and don’t think about writing. You’ll be all the better for it come February when the kids are back at school, and so will your books.
Natasha’s latest book, The French Photographer, was released this week. Click the image for more info.
Natasha worked as a marketing executive before returning to university to study creative writing. She completed a Master of Creative Arts as well as her first novel, What Is Left Over, After, which won the T.A.G. Hungerford Award for Fiction. Her second novel, If I Should Lose You, was published in 2012, followed by A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald in 2016, Her Mother’s Secret in 2017 and the Top 10 Australian bestseller The Paris Seamstress in 2018. The Age described Natasha as ‘a remarkable Australian talent’ and her work has been published in numerous anthologies and journals.
In her spare time Natasha loves to teach writing, is a sought after public speaker and can often be found playing dress-ups with her three children. She lives in Perth. For all the latest news from Natasha, visit www.natashalester.com.au, follow her on Twitter @Natasha_Lester, or Instagram (@natashalesterauthor), or join the readers who have become Natasha’s friend on Facebook.
That was a great read. 🙂
Thanks, Raphael. The whole A Letter to my Unpublished Self series makes for great reading.
This is such fabulous advice for all of us—to write what we want to write and ignore the voice telling us to write what we ‘should’ write. To never give up, and that it’s okay to take a writing holiday! 🙂
Absolutely loved this post. Perfect timing for me. It’s always wonderful to hear how other writers feel at different stages of their careers.
Thanks for sharing 🙂
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