A Cunning Plan
The sublimely brilliant ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’ TV series included one particular episode that recent events have brought to mind. In the episode, entitled ‘Captain Cook’, Captain Blackadder and his men are invited to submit paintings to a competition. The winner will be rewarded with freedom from the trenches and a trip to Paris. In the following scene set in the officers’ dugout George shows Blackadder examples of his own artwork:
[George] takes out a stack of drawings from under his bed. They’re very good.
These are brilliant, George. Why didn’t you mention these before?
Well, you know, one doesn’t like to blow one’s own trumpet.
No, but you might at least have told us you had a trumpet …
The reason this scene crossed my mind now is that today, two days before my fifty-eighth birthday, I’m about to publish my first novel forty years after first deciding that I wanted to be a writer. So, what’s held me back? Well, it’s my guess that those things that have delayed my own dream for so long will be the same for many other aspiring writers out there. The first is self-doubt as, irrespective of our abilities, many of us harbour doubts concerning the quality of our writing. This leads to so much fine work being pushed into drawers, left on hard-drives and never seeing the light of day. The other cause (and probably one that goes hand-in-hand with the first) is the mock word ‘wannabee’.
We all work hard at learning the writer’s craft. I know I have since 1994, both at home and through night-school classes run by my local college. In all that time I’ve used the term ‘wannabee writer’ for myself. I’ve also seen that same expression used by many others in forums, blog-posts and twitter-feeds. What I’ve failed to consider until relatively recently is that by demeaning ourselves with such a handle we’re failing to acknowledge that we have a trumpet – and one that is worth blowing. For too long I’ve produced work that I’ve been pleased with and then gone on to read material by such as Stephen King or Bernard Cornwell. This has led to comparisons being made with my own stuff, which then seemed shoddy and amateurish. These (mis)conceptions have provided an inroad for doubts to creep in and gnaw away at what little confidence in my abilities I may have possessed. I’m sure that I’m in no way unique here, and many other writers out there will see similarities with their own experiences.
Thankfully, helped by a supportive family, I’ve been able to resurrect a dying hobby, pull one of my own writing projects from the back of the drawer and breathe life into it. The result is ‘The Door to Caellfyon’ which I’ll be publishing on CreateSpace and Kindle in the next couple of days. So, as I begin 2016 with a sense of achievement and a feeling of excitement for the coming year I urge every aspiring writer who reads this to revisit their social media profiles and remove any trace of the word ‘wannabee’ or ‘aspiring’ and simply declare themselves as writers. Make no mistake, this simple yet certain acknowledgement will serve as a powerful self-fulfilling prophecy and, in recognising yourselves as writers, writers you will be.