Perhaps The Most Valuable £80 I’ve Earned

It’s just struck me that it was almost eight years ago, to the day, when I was first paid for my writing.

I’d been taking writing seriously for a couple of years before that, and I’d had some success, but I’d never been paid and I’d been wondering if I was good to enough to do it properly. So, I’d written a feature for a county magazine. It was about a local beauty spot which was supposed to be where King Arthur and his knights lay in a slumber, waiting for Britain’s hour of need before they’d wake up and, yannow, kick ass. I did a lot of research. I found out other interesting bits about the surrounding areas – the one that comes to mind is how a reputable university paid people to dig up bodies from a churchyard so they could be used by medical students.

So, I wrote it. I worked hard writing it, and it was good. And I pitched it. And I crapped myself when the editor rang me and I made a fool of myself by trying to be funny (‘How long have you been writing?’ he asked. ‘Since I was about five,’ I said. He didn’t laugh). But despite that, in November 2003, he told me he’d like to buy the article from me. I punched the air but there was a huge part of me that didn’t quite believe it’d actually happen.

But it did. In April 2004 it was printed. I think I was 22. And that’s when everything changed. That’s when I knew, when I had actual evidence, that I could be good enough. And if I worked hard and if I was lucky then, I knew, there was no reason why I couldn’t be good enough again.

And I have been lucky since. And I have worked really bloody hard. I’ve had books published (and liked!) and I’ve had short stories published and I had, for a time, other features and bits published too.

And I’m not quite sure what the point of telling you this is. Maybe I’m trying to encourage you to take your writing seriously and to work hard and to know that it only takes one moment, one story, one feature, to give you the confidence to know that you’re good enough. Maybe it’s a lesson in hard work or tenacity. Maybe I’m saying that if I (Mr no English Lit degree, no A levels, no writing courses, no contact with other writers) can do it, then there’s no reason why you can’t either. Maybe I’m wondering where those eight years went. Maybe I’m feeling old. Maybe I’m acknowledging that you can’t stop at just one success – that you have to continue to work hard because you’re only as good as your last work and that it doesn’t get any easier; we just get used to it not being easy.

Or maybe I’m saying – just do it. Because you never know.

(I’m wondering now if I still have the original document on my computer. I think I’d better have a look…)

10 Comments on “Perhaps The Most Valuable £80 I’ve Earned

  1.  by  callytaylor

    Great post. For me the moment I realised that, y’know, maybe I wasn’t a terrible writer was when I was awarded the runner up prize (a printer/scanner/photocopier that I still use) in a Woman’s Own short story competition and published in the magazine. The first money I earned from writing was £40 in a competition and I used it to buy a silver bracelet so I’d have something tangible to prove I could ‘do it’. That was about seven years ago and i’ve had 2 novels and countless short stories published since then but I still have moments when I doubt my ability as a writer. Maybe I should wear the bracelet more often…

    •  by  Cathy

      Oh, I love your idea of buying a bracelet! That’s what I’m going to do when I get my first payment for something I wrote (have had prizes and complimentary copies of publications but no actual hard cash yet).

      •  by  nikperring

        You so should, Cathy! Prizes and complimentary copies show that you’re definitely on the right path…!

    •  by  nikperring

      I love that idea too, Cally! I think it’s important to mark those moments – they really don’t come around all that often. That £80 cheque is framed (somewhere) and I bought myself a lightsaber model with some of the advance for the first book, and a new fountain pen with the advance from the second – they’re both in my office and very much in view. Important reminders!

  2.  by  Sam Wyld

    This made me :o) because I am one, big, fat, ass-dragging bag of ‘not good enough’ at the mo xxx

    •  by  nikperring

      Good, Sam. Keep at it and aim to be brilliant is the best advice I think I can give. So, keep at it and aim to be brilliant!

  3. Pingback: My first writing cheque (and what I bought with it) | Cathy White

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