I’ve got a lump in my breast. It’s probably just a cyst and nothing to worry about. Oddly, I’m genuinely not worried, despite my anxiety over everything else. I always said I wouldn’t worry about a potential cancer, and here we are and I’m not worried at all. A lump in your breast is serious enough you don’t have to worry about it, at least not here in the UK at present. Something will be done by someone and it will probably all be ok. And if it’s not, well, I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it.
It does make you think about life though. How short it really is and how much or how little you’ve achieved. There’s nothing like going to school with a Ted Hughes Award winner to make you contemplate what you’ve done, and while I’m beyond proud to say I sat in the same classroom as one of Britain’s top young poets, there’d be more pleasure in being a successful poet too.
I often look at other writers and think they’re living my best life but I think this is the most acutely I’ve ever felt it. And that’s not professional jealousy. I’ve never been jealous of another writer—writing is so personal it’s pointless to compare yourself to anyone else—but I have been inspired by the achievements of others on many an occasion. I suppose what I feel is that I should have grasped all the opportunities when I was younger, as Hollie must have done, instead of finding myself at thirty-five thinking, I wish I was on Radio Four talking about my poems. I haven’t even written any poems! Well, I’ve tossed off the odd dirty limerick but I’m not sure that’s enough to get me on Woman’s Hour.
But no schoolgirl or boy will ever know what their peers will grow up to be, or how treading water for too long leaves you with no energy to swim to the shore. I’m stuck treading water right now, mostly on the grounds of parental advice. I am deemed to need a period of mental stability before I tackle anything stressful. My father is keen for me to take up writing again, in a different genre this time, but he’d prefer I didn’t go mad. My mental illness is as hard for my family as it is for me.
But he is nudging me onwards. I come from a family of wannabe writers and as I managed to sign four publishing contracts in my short time doing it, I’m deemed a success, of sorts, by him. I’m supposed to start writing my next novel in September and I’ve been discussing a WLW high fantasy novel with my dad, while my mum suggested I write a book about Rupert Brooke (probably so that I would shut up talking about him and write it down instead).
Whatever I end up writing I’m going to need bigger bollocks than I’ve had. I’ll never go back to social media so I don’t know how I’ll promote anything. I might ask my mum to run it for me as she’s obsessed with twitter and made of sterner stuff that me.
It’s not just the promotional aspects. I need to be less afraid of writing and put more of myself into it, and I need to focus on techniques because one of the things I worried about most was that I didn’t have enough grip on the craft, despite having done a module of creative writing at university level and topped my knowledge up later with books about it. I have this intense, and frankly ridiculous, fear of appearing thoughtless and stupid. I’ve no idea why. I behave thoughtlessly and stupidly all the time and should have learned to live with it by now but all the time I’m beating myself up thinking, why didn’t I do better? Why am I not good enough?
And the guilt! Oh God, the guilt. Catholicism has so much to answer for in my mental illness.
The point of all this navel gazing is that I am tired of wishing I’d grasped the opportunities before when I should just bloody well grab them now. But what’s there to grab for? All I ever wanted to be was a published writer and I achieved that goal. I can’t spend the rest of my life sat on the sofa watching Judge Rinder.
So, I’m going to be a bit more brave. I’ve always been amazed at the stuff others are able to brazen out and I think that’s a skill I’d like to acquire. I might study something, I don’t know. It’s time to have a good think about my future.
And to make a doctors appointment.