Owning (and Blowing) a Trumpet

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 …

Rowan Atkinson and Hugh Laurie in ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’


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’.

Unfair Comparisons

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.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Now available via Amazon

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.

Have a happy and successful new year!

7 thoughts on “Owning (and Blowing) a Trumpet

  1. Ronaldo Buitoni

    Ah, Mr.Wand, sir! The self-doubt. Till I read your piece just minutes into 2016 I had not sufficiently analysed my personal liking for the word ‘erstwhile’ in my profiles and you have encouraged me to expunge it. I don’t presume on your own experiences when I say that I found as I grew up that I encountered a local cynicism which meant that it was excellent to be ‘good at something’, but to be at the start of the journey and not instantly polished was just ‘messing around with stuff’. They say every child is an artist till he is told he isn’t.
    By the by, someone the other day, on learning that I am a bit of a guitarist (note, no glib ‘erstwhile’ – I have after 40 years mastered all the Major chords and scores of variants), actually said ‘some people should never pick up an instrument’. I didn’t see this as a personal comment, more a world view if you like, but what a mindset? Which, I suppose, illustrates the importance of ‘keeping good company’ and/or a thick skin.

    All the very best for you and your lovely family in 2016

    Good luck with the new book.



    1. Hi Roy, thanks for visiting my humble blog. It’s safe to say we’re all good at something to varying degrees. I think the secret to success is to accept our own work for what it is rather than indulge in unfair comparison with others. Have a great 2016 and keep in touch.


  2. Huzzah to your imminent transition into butterflydom, Steve! Good things come to those who wait, eh? Myself, I know that anything I might have written a score and more years ago wouldn’t have been a patch on what I’d be capable of now.

    If I only got my finger out!


  3. Pingback: One Writer’s Journey | Sally Jenkins

  4. Many congratulations, Steve! What an inspirational post. I too have decided to make things happen for myself after three years of trying to get my work noticed by agents and magazines. Reading your story has given me that extra ‘I can do it’ boost. Thank you for sharing your experience. I wish you every success throughout the year and beyond.


    1. Thanks, Nicola. If my post has inspired you alone then it was worth the writing. I, too, decided to give up on trying to join the elitist club of traditionally published writers and publishers. Striking out alone is fun, exciting and immensely rewarding. The ‘indie’ publisher has the luxury of deciding on every element of the book – the cover, rear blurb and promotional material. It is, however, a steep learning curve. For that I do recommend you purchase the book ‘Createspace and Kindle Self Publishing Masterclass 2015’ by Rick Smith. And once you have that in your hands – go for it. The very best of luck to you. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go and have a look at your blog.


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