timey-wimey: a letter to my (former) self

Dear Shelley-from-the-past,

Put down that Crème Egg and listen to me: this is important.

I’m writing to you from 2015, via an ingenious time-travel mechanism, the specifics of which I can’t be bothered to concoct. I won’t tell you anything about 2015 because if I did it would irrevocably alter the history / future of human life as we know it / are likely to know it.

On reflection, I think it’s a really good thing I / we don’t write speculative fiction.

Right about now, you are embarking on the first draft of Vigilante with a song in your heart. You have been told – by those who know more than you – that a second novel is a difficult thing. Nevertheless, you have chosen to believe that this does not apply in your case. You’re already in love with the concept of Vigilante and have spent considerable time researching and planning, so now it’s merely a matter of execution. And you know all about execution, don’t you? Because you’ve already written one novel, and that got published, so it’s easy from here.

Are you out of your bloody mind?

Unable as I am to comment on the wisdom or otherwise of your thoughts at this time, may I instead offer you a little advice to take you through the writing of your second novel?

Creme egg
Yes, of course it’s difficult
All those writers on Twitter who trill about how joyful their process is? Ignore them. Don’t you remember how many drafts you had to put Jubilee through? What on earth makes you think it’ll be any different this time? Writing a novel is hard. I can’t believe I’ve just had to remind you of that. You berk.

Feelings Schmeelings
Your feelings are a pretty poor guide to how well you’re actually doing. Try not to confuse feeling bad with writing badly – however strong those feelings are. I’m not suggesting you disregard perfectly justified Quality Control impulses, but if it’s just your inner critic making you feel like crap in that horrendous, catastrophising way she has, ignore her and keep on going. To quote Dory: Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

Stop caring
Art requires freedom and risk-taking. Commerce requires deadlines and responsibility. When you landed your publishing contract, you signed up for both, and they’re largely incompatible. So from time to time, you inveterate Good Girl, might I suggest you just try … not caring. Try not being reliable. Try not worrying about whether it’s good enough. Try … just doing it because you feel like it.

Life events will occur
They will occur because you are alive. You will have mess and interruption. You will have sick kids and meetings with teachers, and a car which goes kaput. You are bloody lucky to have all these things, and they will slow down your writing. Roll with it. Besides (repeat after me): material, material, material.


There will be a day – there really will – when Vigilante is actually published. Without giving anything away (irrevocably altering history &c) I think when you get to that day you might feel really proud. Between now and then there will be many times when you fantasise about publication, and many others when you seriously believe it will never happen. Hang in there, and keep swimming.

Finally, remember: keep your powder dry, meditation helps with everything – and don’t waste time trying to do flicky eyeliner. It will never work on you.

OK, you can eat that Crème Egg now.

timey-wimey: a letter to my (former) self

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