My dream of writing a novel began in childhood. That magical time when we are allowed to believe that we can do or be anything we want, and when we are naïve enough to believe that our dreams can come true just like that! I carried some of my naivety into the first attempts at writing my novel. After numerous false-starts I realised that it wasn’t going to happen without some help.
So I decided to revisit the wise 124 year old Catherine on her deathbed.
‘I’ve decided to do you a favour. I’m going to write that novel, so that you don’t have any regrets when you finally kick the bucket. Please tell me, oh wise one, where do I begin?’ asks the present me.
‘Oh, just get on with it, for fuck’s sake’, replies the tetchy, 124 year old me.
‘But I can’t. I can’t just write a novel! I don’t know how!’
The 124 year old me rolls her eyes at present me:
‘Stop making excuses, you gobshite. You’re a great one for the excuses, you are’.
‘You’re really mean, future me!’ present me replies petulantly ‘and incredibly foul-mouthed’.
‘I’m old, decrepit and dying, I can be as fucking mean and foul-mouthed as I like. You’ve never written a book before, what do people do when they’re trying something for the first time?’
Present me looks at 124 year old me blankly.
‘Use your noggin, you eejit. Learn from those that went before you, like everything else. Now while you’re here, you can empty my colostomy bag’.
Angry, I go over to the life support machine beside her and pull the plug instead. As I walk away my anger subsides and I realise:
By jove, she’s right! I must to learn from those that went before me!
Pathways to success had been pre-lain for everything else I had succeeded at in life. Those pathways were nice and straight. They were clearly marked, if you put in the work, and had enough determination and grit you were certain to get you to your destination. Want to get good marks? Study. Want to become a lawyer? You get an apprenticeship and pass your law exams.
It’s hard to believe that pathways have been mapped out for writing novels, but they have. I say pathways, plural, as from what I can see, there are multiple ways you can approach writing your novel at the outset. The pathways appear to be meandering and confusing and lonely, and I have a feeling that I’ll reach a number of crossroads, and it won’t be clear which way I need to go, but the most important thing is that pathways exist. I just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving.