Once upon a time, at about the age of 9, I wanted to be an author (and a ballerina; I saw no problem in multitasking). I dreamed of writing a book that a real live reader would select and take home from the library and spend a whole week browsing through and thinking about, before taking it back for someone else to discover.
In my teens, I grew realistic. I probably wasn’t going to be a ballerina. I would settle for just being a writer. I fantasized about the parcel arriving from my publisher, the parcel that contained six pristine free preview copies of my shiny new book with a picture on the cover.
I dreamed about going on to write more novels, stories, poetry, that hundreds, maybe thousands, of readers would like so much that they would cheerfully surrender their library ticket in exchange for one of them, week after week.
Becoming rich on the proceeds never figured in any dream. Nor did rave reviews from critics, appearing on TV or becoming a celebrity. I wanted to write for people who, like me, found in books a gateway to another world, who would get lost in the story and keep thinking about the characters even after they’d reached the last page.
Recently, it occurred to me that somewhere along the line the dream got swamped. Not lost – it did become a reality. 11 books were commercially published, a 12th online, I won a literary award, there were foreign editions, press reviews, radio and magazine serialisations, articles and stories published …. but what happened to the joy of writing? For The Reader With The Library Ticket, and for me?
The phrase that keeps coming to mind, over the last few days, is ‘giving it all away.’ The copyrights have now reverted to me and e-book publishing enables authors to publish their own work online these days. So, in however long it may take to retype or convert the print formats to ebook-friendly copy, I can put all my stuff online.
For people to read. For free. For the joy. Just like at the very beginning.
End of story.