36. Why you need a deadline

THE neighbours were having great fun.

I reckon they had bought a job-lot of fireworks well past their sell-by date.

As I watched the various rockets flying off left, right and centre – but seldom up – I felt a great deal of sympathy for the eight felines belonging to the mad Cat Lady across the other side of the green.

Not only that but I worried for the safety of travellers on the A12, who were going nonchalantly about their business before a rogue streak of fire shot across their windscreens.

From behind the safety of the bedroom curtains I saw one stray missile land on the roof of the house opposite, missing by feet the open bedroom window. I said a silent prayer that this would all be OK.

While the government warned of the possibility of a Jihadi terrorist attack on the New Year festivities, I realised that with neighbours like mine we were quite capable of causing plenty of damage ourselves. An own goal, in football terms.

Slinking back to bed I wondered why people got so excited about New Year’s Eve. To my mind it is the most over-rated and over-hyped of all the 365 days in the calendar (or 366 if you include a leap year like this one).

Once, I spent the entire New Year festivities in a pub in Sydney, Australia, refusing to follow the departing lemmings throwing themselves out in the street to watch the pyrotechnic spectacular, knowing full well they would be locked out when they tried to return to finish their drinks.

Bah, humbug.

Last night, I was tucked up in bed at just gone 11pm. I still had to attend the day job today and wanted to make sure I was fully refreshed for the thankless task.

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The whizz-bangs, oohs and aahs prevented sleep, though, so I started thinking about what I had achieved this year.

In all honesty, I was struggling. I’d held on to my job in a dying industry, managed to negotiate the pitfalls of the school run, failed to keep up my promise of going swimming every week, stayed out of hospital…

Then it struck me. I published my first novel. And I did my best to market it. And I got 14 five-star reviews and 22 in all. And I met lots of other authors. And I went to the London Book Fair. And I started to learn about the tricky business of marketing, while also exhibiting at a book fair and conducting a book signing.

In 2015 I became an author.

And it all came about because last January 1 I made a public declaration that I would publish a novel.  I set up a Facebook page to that effect, and started this blog to map the journey.

After that, I couldn’t look back. People kept asking me: “When is the book coming out?” I could hardly say: “Sorry, I’ve changed my mind.” I had too many people following my progress. People who had invested in me, and opted to follow my progress.

That’s why if there is one piece of advice I have for potential authors it’s this: Today is the day. Make a declaration. Tell people what you are going to do, then do it. Say to yourself and the world: I am an author. Then become one.

The single biggest step I took on my journey last year was to tell people what I was going to do. The rest, while not plain sailing, has made this one of the most exciting and challenging years of my life.

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