I know you’ve arrived here thinking, “Why on earth would she unpublish her books?”
When I published my first book in 2013, I didn’t care for the quality of the writing. I had a half-arsed attempt at editing it, but the truth is that my grammar wasn’t great. The idea of sending my book to an editor didn’t even enter my mind.
I just wanted the book, Shattered Dreams, out there. I wanted it published, to prove to myself that I’d finally achieved a life goal. It took me a total of four years to write it, from start to finish. I’d given up and lost faith, I’d left it alone for 6 months, convinced I’d never finish it. So, when I finally typed the final chapter and looked at it in all its glory, I was overcome with emotion.
I had done the impossible and I wanted to share it with the world.
My first book, Shattered Dreams, was definitely planned, but everything that came after wasn’t. I’d caught the glory bug, the recognition that having published a book earned me was addictive. I enjoyed the attention, the respect among my peers and how special it made me feel. I’d spent a long time being overlooked, having the opportunity to be seen, heard and valued was something I embraced.
Over time, I wrote and published more books, deciding that it was my calling. I loved it, threw myself into my craft heart-first and let my thoughts pour out onto paper. When I began my degree, I felt like I had finally arrived, that all my hard work over the years had paid off. But I totally underestimated how much my studies would shape my writing, knowledge and confidence.
It’s 2019 as I type this, and two weeks ago I finished writing a new book. I don’t know if it is finished finished, but it’s probably the most honest thing I’ve written. It’s possibly my best piece of work to date. But instead of my impatience in 2013, I’ve decided to forget about the book for a while until I figure out what to do next.
And this is what it’s all about, having a plan and a focus. Whereas before I would have concentrated on the story, now the quality of writing matters to me. My early books are a representation of my journey and the development of my skill, but is not a representation of my writing now.
I know I shouldn’t, but I still cringe at the idea of promoting my first book and often disuade people from buying it. Not because the story is rubbish, but because it’s badly written. I don’t mind saying that, I didn’t know then what I know now.
I’ve dealt with not loving my previous work by being pretty open about it, but also by ignoring it. Almost like sticking my head in the sand, pretending it doesn’t exist unless I absolutely have to talk about it. Is that any way for a author to feel about her work?
I’ve felt uneasy and a heaviness over the last few weeks, like a need for a new start and a change.
I was recently selected to join the Writing West Midlands Room 204 Writer Development programme, and it’s prompted me to think about my approach to writing overall. While I’m aware there’s a writing community in Birmingham, this is my first experience of being a part of it. And it’s awesome, it’s exactly where I want to be, with professional writers who love the craft more than they love the product. I know not everyone will get this, but there is a big difference between those who want to write a book and those who want to write well. Anybody can write but good writing takes years of practice and refining your skill, and this is something I learned while studying Creative and Professional Writing.
I’ve had three years of being around other writers, discussing plots and tones and genres. I’ve shared my ideas and had feedback, and shaped my writing to suit assignment briefs and to reflect creative writing theory (it exists). When I finished uni last year, I felt lost and I couldn’t place it. Now I know I’d lost my identity as a writer and outside of that environment, there was nowhere else for me to go.
It was during a conversation with the director of Writing West Midlands, where I expressed my feelings about my early work. He asked me why I still had it available to the public if I wasn’t happy with the writing. I said it was important to be honest about my writing development and my journey, a view that I’ve maintained all these years. But he said that only my friends and family would know that, and that the rest of the public would be none the wiser.
I’ve been thinking about it ever since and the decision I’ve made is not an entirely new one, it’s just now I have the courage to do it.
I’ve unpublished my first five books, “Shattered Dreams”, “The Soaring Butterly”, “Reflections”, “Shine” and “Get Back on Track with Self-Love.” I feel good about, I feel a bit relieved actually.
I’ve left my most recent book, “What’s your story?” because I don’t cringe at the content. I feel like if a reader was to discover my work for the first time, that is the book I’d like them to read first.
I’m not sure what, if any, response I will get from this. This wasn’t a difficult decision for me to make and I didn’t need to talk it over with a group of friends to make it.
From this point onwards, I want to focus on getting recognition for writing that I’m proud of. I want to write new pieces, explore different genres and completely get lost in my craft. I want to be more than an Instagram personality, although I still rate that. I want to be recognised in the writing industry, my writing to have won prices and to create work I can be proud of.
And now that I’ve cleared away the parts of my creative past that don’t represent me now, I finally have room for the new creativity to come in.
So, if you’re reading this, wondering if you should give yourself a fresh start and a blank canvas, take this as a sign from the Universe.
Be brave. Be bold. Be you.
Lots of love,