Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Or: you win some, you lose some. With a dash of: what does not kill you makes you stronger. And a side order of: careful what you wish for, little girl, for you will surely get it. (Actually, I never really know precisely what that means, but I always loved Tom Berenger and William Hurt saying it in unison in The Big Chill, possibly the favourite film of my twenties.)
I am trying very hard not to stitch my entire sense of self into the fortunes of our book. Sarah is much better at this than I, having a practical, get the hell on with it streak in her. I, on the other hand, spend my time dreaming and pondering and fretting.
My current frets exist on three levels. The first and most dominant is that the book we are working on at the moment will be no bloody good and however many words I write each day (eight hundred this morning) they shall surely be the wrong ones. This is an occupational hazard. It is like rowers knowing that going out on the water each morning will cause them physical pain. (I used to have a bit of a thing for some of the rowers at university; how I loved watching them run down to the river each morning in their little shorts; I used to channel Anthony Blanche and think 'They are all Grace Darlings to me'. One of them, who competed in the Olympics, once told me that rowing induced the worst agony he could ever imagine.) Anyway, the point is I can't complain about the stalking self-doubt, because that is part of what I signed up for.
The second fret is that however old I get and however much I work at thickening my skin, I can never get over the fact that some people simply will not like the book. This is boilerplate law of averages stuff. Each to each is what we teach, and all that. Today I am stupidly upset because two British Amazon reviewers have accused Sarah and I of being anti-feminist. It is a knife to the heart. I have spent half my life annoying people by banging my feminist drum. I keenly subscribe to the sisterhood, and believe in it fervently. I have put up with stupidity and insults in defence of it. Possibly the best one was when a middle-aged gentleman told me: 'You will grow out of feminism when you meet the right man.' He was not being ironic.
The third fret should not really be a fret at all. Last week, Backwards was published in America. This is iconically huge for me. I have never come close to being published in America before (although there were the heady days when I was big in Cologne). It is a small release, but our publishers are very enthusiastic and charming, and on the US Amazon site the reviewers have been unbelievably kind. It feels almost impossible that someone in sunny Florida should be reading words I wrote in snowy Scotland. I do, of course, understand the concept of globalisation, and that the world is now a village, but even so, it feels like a miracle. It is all happy and good and I should be allowing myself unconfined celebration. That is much too straightforward. Instead, I am harbouring dark fears that our tiny little book shall sink like a stone into the unfathomable pool that is the United States. It is too big, and we are too small, and that's all she wrote. I shall undoubtedly be reprimanded, quite soon, for having ideas above my station.
Against all that nonsense comes the really enchanting thing about the internet, and the laws of serendipity that it seems to promote. Just as I was having my little festival of self-doubt, I wandered onto Twitter. I have not been there for a week or so, and was feeling that I was guilty of neglect. Just as I logged in, a tweet came up with my name on it. A charming woman I had never met in my life before, with the screen name workingorder, put up a link to the book and a recommendation that it is where people should go for common sense. Common sense. (If only she knew.) It felt like an unexpected present, flying out of the ether, to soothe my battered sensibilities.
The comments that come to this blog serve the same marvellous purpose. The loneliness of writing comes not from the physical fact of sitting alone in a room. I love solitude and regard it as a tremendous privilege. I have time to think and read and be still. The loneliness exists in the gap between my hope and my limitations, made real every morning as I stare at the empty screen, knowing it must be filled. The joy of the blog is that all that angst is mitigated each time an encouraging message arrives, as if there is a little army out there, cheering me on. It sounds slightly sentimental, but I feel it to be true. The old school media still likes to sneer and snarl about the solipsistic self-indulgence of the blogosphere, but, for me, it is like a grand public service. It should have a government grant, because it turns out to be a community in the best sense of the word, and I don't take it for granted for a single moment.
Here, for my cousins across the pond, is the American edition:
You can buy it here, for the slightly peculiar but undeniably bargain basement price of $15.61. It is a perfect present for Easter, even if I do say so myself. And we are feminists. We are, we are, we are. *stamps foot and pouts* Even better, we are feminists with DOGS:
Take that, patriarchal conspiracy.