Honesty is the best policy?


I don’t like the word ‘policy’ in there. It reeks of stratagems and pre-consideration and artifice. Any reader who knows me in 3D will probably acknowledge that’s not very me. I am on some spectrum somewhere that means I haven’t got the intelligence to lie much. The only-opens-mouth-to-change-feet sliding scale seems particularly appropriate.

However I do have enough nous – or possibly self-deception to think that anyone notices – to reckon that being anything other than relentlessly cheery in the children’s book is likely to get a smudge by your name. You know the sort – where you try to erase it but the mistake only becomes ingrained, dark and tinged with pink rubber.

Still. I want to say how I feel at the moment – and perhaps someone else might feel a little cheered to know they are not alone. So here we go:

I can’t be doing with praise.


a person looks shocked

I know – what an odd statement. But the truth is, receiving approval about my work recently from people who know what they are talking about has floored me. I don’t know how to deal with it. I find it difficult to write creatively or even edit right now.

Both alarm and you-can’t-mean-my-stuff slosh round inside me like storm-driven breakers in a fjord. I’m rationalising if I say it’s disbelief or even fishing for compliments – the panicky sensation is far too incoherent. I wanted this feedback so much – and now I’ve got a taste, it’s all grit and bitter herbs in my sandwiches.

the word grim spray-painted on a bridge

Now it may be my miserablist Unlucky Alf northern genes, but I won’t be doing any chicken-counting. I seem to have been here before with ‘Selkies’ – and I cannot allow myself to tempt Fate. Fine words butter no parsnips and all that.

On the other hand, it may even be fear of success. What if I did have a book to promote and another to write, and also deal with contracts and  tax returns and sundry other forms of  jollity?  Could I cope?

[Calm down dear – it’s only your imagination.]

Finally, the only thing that matters is whether I understand what I am doing better. That I grasp those tiny spangles of improvement and stash them in my storytelling chest. I have to pick through any feedback like my Nana at a jumble sale, and find the silks and satins I can adapt.

Then shut the door of The Garret – and carry on writing.

an ancient door