Away with the Fairies

On Saturday 12th January, I went to the launch of the Golden Egg Academy in Bath. I expected that I would meet at least a couple of people I knew – and I could now tell them about my latest success. I had known since before Christmas that The Selkies of Scoresby Nab had been long-listed for the Times/Chicken House Competition. You would think I’d be bursting to tell anyone and everyone – but I felt oddly reticent. Shy even.

I found myself lost deep in La-la land: talking with the Barry Cunningham, finding that Beverley Birch had read a  previous blogpost and remembered it, welcomed by Imogen Cooper as an equal. I had slid into a world of my imagination.

But in my daydreams, it had been easy, I had confidence – not this edgy feeling I have now. I feel I’m tiptoeing on the borders of Fairyland, nervous and full of hope and fear.

Joanne Harris by kind permission of Kyte Photography

I’ve had lovely little glimpses and excursions: a workshop with the much-admired David Almond; twitter conversations with the wonderfully accessible Joanne Harris; and even Susan Hill. There was astonishing interview with Greg Mosse on the MA at West Dean where for a moment he helped me soar, to feel like a proper writer.

But I’m scared. I’m frightened to succeed.

I’ve grown accustomed to being second-rate, an also-ran. Grade B ‘O’ & ‘A’levels, a II:I English degree at Loughborough, not Oxford, a minor teaching post. It’s all been quite comfortable – and I bitterly resent it. It’s also painfully true that I envied Susie Wilde her well-deserved First in her MA at West Dean.

There are times I really don’t like myself.

I wonder, am I bringing my own danger into the Perilous Realm? I really don’t mean to be smug or condescending or self-satisfied – but I hear those thin, superior voices in my head. They distract me from paying proper attention, they tell me I know that or this already.

On one hand, I am so wary of pride that I find it hard to rejoice.On the other, I so desire recognition from authors I wish were my peers that I fear I must be insufferable. I look to see who has congratulated me far too often – yet I am genuinely moved when anybody does wish me well.

Am I hunting for fairy gold?


10 thoughts on “Away with the Fairies

  1. ‘Fake it till you make it.’ Maybe the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given. Act as though you have confidence and believe in yourself, and eventually your brain will forget that you’re faking it. It works, and you deserve to believe in yourself.

    • I would add ‘fake it till you make it … and then carry on faking it’. Self-doubt won’t go away even when you’re published. It stalks you every day, but sometimes you can pretend it isn’t there, and , even if it is, you can learn to enjoy the surprising, astonishing and, frankly, lovely things that come your way. Big congratulations on the longlisting. Hope this is the start of good things for you.

  2. A lovely post, and something everyone will identify with – the gremlin on one shoulder taunting our every move towards success, and the defiant angel on the other, urging us forward. Us in the middle, strung between the two. The way to give the gremlin of self doubt a kicking is to pretend you can’t hear him. He’s lost out this time – you’re well on your way! There’s nothing more satisfying than being respected by those you respect.

  3. I’m chuffed to bits to hear about your long-listing for the Chicken House! I’m sure you deserve it. I like you too! :)) (Incidentally we have all felt the way you describe, and sometimes we still do.) Susan Price’s characters often say, when going on a journey, pack courage and leave fear at home. May the fairy gold turn into gold indeed.

  4. You’ve earned it so enjoy it Phillippa!
    Don’t think about others. A writing life, like any creative pursuit, is a journey; its particular twists and turns unique to yourself.
    And keep on writing–this strange thing that we all do for the love of it.

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