This is my first blog post here in The Green Room. I thought initially that this wasn't something I could sign up to. Not because I didn't think it was a good idea - it is a fabulous one and I have already enjoyed reading some of the posts published in recent days. No - it was about my ability to commit to writing for another blog, in addition to my own and at a time when I am getting ready for the October publication of my book Shell Shocked Britain: The First World War's legacy for Britain's mental health. But then I thought about the opportunity it offers to get things off my writing chest and perhaps learn a little more about what it really means to be a writer from those who have been there, done that, bought the paperback.
I posted on my book's Facebook page recently that I am worried about putting my head above the proverbial parapet and really getting Shell Shocked in front of those who will stock the title or offer me the opportunity to have a signing or do a talk for their organisation. The publisher (Pen & Sword) help a lot but still, the social media and talk booking side is largely down to me. For all of my adult life I have disliked that feeling of imposing on someone's goodwill - selling raffle tickets, asking for a donation to charity, marketing a business event. Even pitching for work has proved a challenge. Why would anyone want to read what I have to say, over and above all those other writers out there? How do I make my work stand out from the rest of the slush pile? Why bother?
It has taken three years of counselling to deal with that last one. I know I bother because I love writing, and thus far people seem to have enjoyed reading what I have to say. I look at other writers with admiration now, rather than awe. I have met and spoken to enough new writing friends (virtual and physically present) to know that I am not unique in my lack of confidence and that a certain humility is preferable to insufferable arrogance. But the selling thing is still a sticky one, and talks and signings even more gluey. What if I fall flat on my face? Look an utter pillock? See people fall asleep and hear snoring in the back row (if sufficient attend for there to be anything other than a back row.....)
When I wrote of my fears, I was wrong if I expected any sympathy for my own feelings in the matter. I was forced to consider whether this self-consciousness is itself a form of vanity. I am writing non-fiction, therefore it is not about ME at all. It is about all those who find their stories within the covers of my book; all those people whose struggles with the lasting trauma of a war experience and enduring mental illness I felt needed to be heard; about a view of our nation that, two or three generations ago, some assume to have been unaffected by a devastating loss that would leave society utterly devastated should a similar conflict happen today. It is them I will be talking about, not me. Stop thinking about yourself, I was told, very politely (for most writers are very polite). The audience (who more than likely will turn up,) won't be there to hear about you, or your own worries, so think about the stories and how important they are. Get over yourself woman!! (OK, that last one was me...)
So I am trying to lose a little weight and get fit, just to ensure I can stay resilient over the initial weeks after publication (and not to look too hideous in the photos) and I will buy a new outfit, keep clear of the dog (so I don't look down and spot hairs and dribble on my crotch at a vital point in the talk) and take the writer Gill Hoff's sage advice and resist eating before talking; burping is never a good way to show respect for your subject. I know there are writers on here with a lot more experience than me so any more tips will be gratefully received.
And hopefully it won't be 'me me me' on here from now on....