Recently when I have started telling people that I am writing a book, they seem to somehow think that my life has suddenly changed and become incredibly glamorous. They also appear to be under the misapprehension that I am going to be fabulously wealthy once my book is published and I shall consider myself far too grand to associate with anyone who is not a celebrity. “I bet it’s all literary luncheons.” Someone recently said to me. “It’s all mixing with the stars.” Or “Soon you’ll be so rich you’ll be driving a flash car and living in a mansion.”
Whilst I have to admit that I wouldn’t mind a bigger house, if only to store my books, or a nice villa in the South of France, the truth is that I’ll be lucky to break even on my book and whilst I must admit that the journey of this biography has been immensely rewarding and I have met some marvellous people, I’m not quite slipping into the A List Celebrity realm just yet.
In terms of having a glamorous life. Well, for much of it I sit at my kitchen table, on my own, for hours at a time. I do have a study and a desk. However, as I am writing non-fiction, then I frequently need to be able to spread all my research out over the table. As I write, I frequently find myself agonising over the same three questions of self-doubt. When will I finish this book? Will someone ever read it? And the one that seems to crop up all the time – isn’t it just a heap of rubbish?
Like anyone, I have good and bad days. Bad days are when I spend ages agonising over one sentence, which still looks rubbish after a million rewrites. Or when I read back my writing and think it sounds like something a five-year old would write. Good days are like today, when I find out something new about my subject with the evidence to support my ideas and also manage to smash my two-thousand word target for the day.
In terms of material benefits, writing doesn’t give you that much, unless you happen to be in the J K Rowling or E L James school of luck. Most books are pretty much the property of the publisher – after all they take the risk on publishing it. But I never set out to make money from my writing and in all honesty that’s probably a good thing. I still have to work as a teacher and an examiner, and I still have to look after my family and my home.
In terms of non-material benefits though, then the rewards are immense. The reason I originally chose to do some writing courses was not just to learn how to write, but also to learn the writing process that worked best for me. By doing courses I learned that self-discipline is one of the greatest tools a writer needs and more than anything else, that in order to be a writer, then you must write.
The role of the biographer is tough because not only do you need to know what to include in terms of subject matter, but it is also vital to back your findings with evidence. Not all sources are reliable, and thus it is imperative to know what is and what is not relevant. Furthermore, part of the biographical process involves developing your own style of writing that manages to convey your enthusiasm for a subject. I find the research side of my writing incredibly rewarding. I love the satisfaction that comes when I am able to discover something that no one has ever thought of before now and back up my arguments with substantial proof.
I have met many generous people in my research, who have given their time and advice freely with no desire for reward. However, I have also met those who are not so magnanimous, and it has meant that I have had to develop a harder skin and accept that it reflects someone else’s character, rather than indicates my own value as a writer. I have definitely learned to manage my time much better and I now accept the importance of delegation and cutting back on a lot of unnecessary jobs in the house. Learning that I do not need to do everything now, has been a steep learning curve for me.
Yet more than anything else, writing is a passion for me rather than a job. I am also writing about a subject which I have always found fascinating, namely Royal History. It may not pay me a lot of cash, and it may not afford me access to a life of celebrity, but in all honesty, I really don’t care. I am doing something which I love and surely that has to be worth more than any brand-new BMW or holiday to the Maldives?
Anyway, my two-thousand-word daily target is summoning me…. I had better go.