Turns Out, It Takes More than Dreaming
by Lucy Moffatt, author
April is for growth!
When I was six years old, I watched the Nickelodeon classic adaptation of Harriet the Spy for the first time and from that moment on, I wanted to be a writer.
My love affair with books actually predates Harriet: before I learned to read, I used to hound my parents and siblings to read the same books to me over and over again, until I had memorized every word on every page and could pretend to “read” for myself. And so began a lifelong love-affair with words.
I have started and abandoned more stories than I can count, and I have finished and had rejected probably even more, but this year, at the age of twenty-six, I made my dream come true: I published my debut book, a memoir about female friendship, cancer and loss.
Nothing about the process of writing and publishing my book Some Days was easy, but it was also a pleasure and a delight. Even revisiting my darkest moments during the writing (and subsequent reading, and re-reading, and re-reading again) was a joyful experience (though not without tears shed) because writing to me is a joy. I believe that we all have something that for us is a pleasure and a joy to make: it might be sewing, or writing, or photography or mathematics. It might be soccer, or ballet or surfing. Or perhaps it’s cross-stitch. For me, it’s stories.
It took me about a year to write my memoir, and in that time I wrote the entire thing three times over. I wrote without any real expectations of what would become of my story, which is highly unusual for me. I am a naturally very ambitious person, and have always imposed incredibly high expectations on myself and my creativity. But I have been burned by those expectations more than once, and after it caused me several years of depression and crippling writer’s block, I have learned my lesson. The only thing I allowed myself to expect from writing the first and second drafts of my manuscript was to express my emotions while they were raw and real, to process the grief I was feeling after the passing of my best friend, and to record our memories together so that I can never forget. I wrote the third draft only because I’d had a new, better idea for how I wanted the narrative voice to sound for my story, and more than any other superficial or external ambitions, all I’ve ever really wanted is to produce writing of the highest quality I can. I still didn’t allow myself to think too far ahead about what I would do with the manuscript, apart from showing it to a few friends and family.
I wrote my manuscript in snatched time after work and would close my laptop when my partner came home, to fully enjoy his company and some free time. I am an ESL teacher at a university, and I would recommend to anyone who wants to be an artist to find a day job that can support their creativity. We all need a base level of financial freedom to survive – we have to eat, after all – but I believe firmly that beyond that, we deserve to be able to go out for a meal with friends, or to buy those cute ethical clothes we scroll past every day on Instagram. Financial stress, in my experience, can kill creativity dead faster than almost anything else. Of course, you also need time to make your work, but how you structure that schedule is up to you. There are people like me who are enriched by their day jobs, and can come home and smash out a thousand words when they come home. But I also know people who hate their day jobs, so they rise at five in the morning to work on their art when the day is fresh, then they zone out and snooze through their shift. They figure that their art deserves the very best of them, and their job only gets their baseline.
When the third draft of my memoir was finished, I stepped away from it. I took a Working Holiday visa and moved to Japan with my partner to work for six months. The distance and independence I gained from my new life in Tokyo gave me the confidence I needed to begin pitching my manuscript to publishers. I spent hours upon hours researching publishing houses that take cold pitches, perfecting my exegesis and sending what I felt were Professional, Grown-up emails.
All my pitches were ignored, except for one rejection. When I was younger, I hated rejection so much that it caused me all but physical pain. I’d take any rejection as a sign that I was kidding myself, that my efforts were pathetic and that I had no right to even try. What was different this time was that I absolutely, genuinely believed in the value of my story. I knew that what I had experienced was unique in some ways, but universal in others; I believed that my vulnerability would help people in a similar situation to feel less alone. I believed (still do) that it’s time for Millennial storytellers to show our strength and I wanted to be a part of that.
So I kept on pitching.
I ended up finding my publisher in a Facebook group for Australian writers. She was just starting out too, having only just opened her independent press. We clicked straight away, and I stopped trying to write emails that I thought sounded Properly Adult and just started writing like myself. It took another year of rewriting, editing and proofreading, but on March 30th, 2019, I held my beautiful book in my hands and read from it to a huge cohort of friends, family and strangers at my launch.
My cheeks ached from smiling so much throughout the afternoon – I’d really done it! I’d managed my depression, anxiety and fear that I would never be good enough. I’d worked my big, juicy butt off to give myself financial freedom and to find time to work on my book. I’d prioritised my work above almost everything else (not my relationship, that will always come first), but I’d also recognised the need for balance and allowed myself plenty of time to let off steam. I had no contacts in the industry, I had no relevant experience on my resume; I was armed only with a story worth telling and an absolute determination to tell it.
Now, all my wildest dreams have come true. All that’s left is to figure out what comes next!
About the author: Lucy Moffatt is an author, adventurer and ESL teacher based in Adelaide, Australia. Her memoir of female friendship, cancer and Margherita pizza, Some Days, is available in all the bookish places including Booktopia and Amazon, and she is on Instagram @lucymoffattwriter
April’s theme is growth! Please share your stories of growth and evolution using our contact page or via email to hello (@) missheardmedia (dot) com.