I used to think that the biggest fear you could experience was in a birth room with the lives of two people in your hands. I still think that’s objectively a much bigger deal than getting a book out. So the emotion that’s possessed me over the last few weeks has confused and, at times, exasperated me. There are much bigger problems in the world (staffing crisis in the NHS, Brexit or Trump, anyone?) ??
Other writers warned me the run-up is intense but this was when back when my book hadn’t been accepted for publication yet. I wasn’t impressed. I thought: pull your socks up. When you get a book published you’re not entitled to feel anything other than ecstatic.??
Cut to three weeks before it’s out and sometimes I’m a bit of a mess.??
For a long time I couldn’t even put a name to the feelings. They're bigger than anything I’ve ever felt before, a whirling, circling, complex mass of emotions that take over without warning. The best way I can describe it is it’s like the sharp edge of falling in love. ??
I’m doing a lot of writing of book two, which is calming. I’m also doing a lot of cycling. I rode to Leicester and camped out in my bivi under the stars the other day. Being out in nature helps me remember that this is just a book and it doesn’t matter. No-one is going to lose their life based on a novel. I’ve also ridden to Norwich and back with my brother this weekend. As a social worker, he’s a talented panic absorber.??
I did some psychology in the saddle and realised a bit more of what was going on.??
I want to do right by midwives and the women who’ve experienced the events in the book – drug addiction, abortion, birth. There’s an anxiety about what people will think. ??
But there’s also joy at having got the book done at all (something I’ve wanted to do since I was little). ??
Brene Brown the sociologist talks about ‘foreboding joy’. It’s the sensation we all have when something really good is happening. Like if you’re a parent and you poke your head around the door to see your child asleep you feel such overwhelming love that you instantly think about all the awful things that could happen to them.??
It’s easy to get so caught up in foreboding joy that you forget to enjoy what’s going on. That’s dangerous because you risk never enjoying the best events of your life.??
Focusing on delight is just as important as being aware of the terrible furnace of the world, to paraphrase the poet Jack Gilbert. ??
I’ve found that focusing on gratitude often sorts my feelings out, or makes them bearable. Just being grateful that it’s done and someone liked it enough to make it into a real book. A novel that will be in someone’s hands soon.??
I also realise that when you feel that deeply about something, you’re probably on the right track.??
New Walk is out on 18th October 2018. Wish me luck.??