I called my new free fortnightly e-zine ‘Creative Hope’ because I think hope is the one thing we all need to keep creating (and maybe even living). It took over a decade from the time I began writing my first novel, Welcome to Sharonville, to it getting published, a period filled with personal dramas such as chronic illness and divorce, as well as multiple rejections, which included prominent people in the publishing industry telling me that this was not going to be my ‘breakout’ novel (it later was longlisted for The Guardian First Book Award, so it doesn’t always pay to listen to experts – even me!). I can’t tell you how many times I cried and doubted myself over the course of that time – in fact, I lost so much confidence that I even put the manuscript in a cyber drawer for two years!
It would have stayed there had I not had the epiphany that I wasn’t doing so great at this writing game by myself and that I needed a coach. After I found one and she forced me to show her the manuscript and she loved it, I made some final changes and we set about approaching agents and publishers and I finally got the big fat ‘yes’ I’d been waiting for all those years.
This is the long way of saying that a writing coach gave me back my creative hope and now I want to ‘pay it forward’ by doing the same for you. I was lucky that deep down something in me was stubborn enough to not give up completely and had the survival instinct to seek out someone who’d already gone down the road I was finding so rocky and it’s my wish that I can shout some sage advice (and bad jokes) back along the path, so that, even if I am only a foot ahead of you, whenever you stumble, you will find the strength to go forward again, knowing that there’s someone out there who believes not only in the importance of the creative life, but that you have it in you to succeed.
In ancient Greek mythology, hope was the only thing left inside Pandora’s Box when the lid came off and the evils inside poured into the world – you could say that this a bleak view of human life, of how we are left here with all the crazy stuff and no hope for the future (it has certainly felt like that lately, right?). But what if it’s the other way around and that hope stays in Pandora’s box precisely because it’s the one thing that always remains, no matter what? What if it’s the one thing which all the evils of the world cannot move or flatten?
It’s that side of yourself, your inner hope, which I hope these little letters of mine will nurture. Creativity not only brings us great art and writing and beauty, but it is also the source invention, of science, and, as such, I believe it is what will ultimately save our world, no matter how dark it might seem at times. Due to this, I feel there’s never been a better time or reason to treasure both our creativity and our hope.
In ancient Greek, hope (elpis) was represented as a young woman holding flowers or a cornucopia in her hands because hope holds the possibility of blooming, of fruition. But the word, elpis, also came from elpo (‘to anticipate, welcome’), so it is my heartfelt intention that Creative Hope will remind you of your own potential each time it arrives in your inbox, so you can anticipate good things in your writing life, even when things get tough, and that it will also be a space you not only feel welcome, but one which encourages you to welcome the creative part of you in all its glory, whether excited or scared or inspired or discouraged. Because how do we get to embrace the beautiful girl holding the flowers if we don’t have open arms?
Wishing you all good things in 2017!