Today, I wonder if I am capable of writing well.
I’ve spent two days clearing the last of the Short Story Day Africa admin off my plate and filing a years worth of desk detritus so that, today, I could begin working on the rewrites of my manuscript, the final draft before it goes to the editor. Since meeting with my publishers last week and discussing their changes, I have been elated. For years I have struggled to find an ending for this story, and finally, thanks to their invaluable feedback, I have one.
Today, my writing looks dire.
Part of me does not want this book out in the world. I am afraid. Someone asked me this morning if I felt this way when my first novel was published. I didn’t. In London, the writers that surrounded me were, on the whole, average Joes. Their work was outstanding, their writing beautiful, but they were not girded to the hilt with academic qualifications. They did not have a PHD in English Lit or an MA in Creative Writing. They were like me. They loved books and were compelled to write. I realize that I was bound to meet these sorts of people on the courses I enrolled in, working Joes with aspirations, but at least they were there. Don’t get me wrong, they were not an uneducated bunch of yobs (there was a psychiatrist and a bike delivery guy and an IT guy and a woman who worked for the national trust) but, for the most part, they had not studied to become writers.
London is a big pond with space for frogs and fish and bacteria and, sometimes, Cape Town feels like a tiny pond with just enough water for pedigree Koi. Just about every writer I meet is connected to UCT. They’ve been through the masters programme or are professors there or fellows or have completed a doctorate in something impressive.
Today, when I look at the pages of my manuscript, I can see the difference between them and me. And part of me wants to hide under the duvet and not answer the phone until my lovely new publishers forget about me and stop calling.
The other part, the stubborn part, picks up the pen and begins to rewrite. There may not be a lot of water, but bacteria thrive in close, soupy conditions.