A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
1. Writer’s block: Perhaps you’re in need of the next brilliant picture book idea, or perhaps you and one of your beloved characters have reached an impasse, and you’re just not sure how to move forward. Either way, the logical side of your brain will be saying: ‘It’s fine. Just give yourself time. Be still. Free your mind of intrusive thoughts. Sit here, be calm and it will come…’ The creative side of your brain will be saying: ‘Cheese! Scorpion feet! Angle grinder! Fridge! Donkey! Dust! Fridge! Ludo! Scandinavia! Fridge…!’
2. Missed opportunities for certain brilliance: When you do have a brilliant idea, sod’s law dictates it will come at the most inopportune moment – for example, at 3am after a night out, or when your small child is requiring some urgent assistance on the loo. And you just know that if you don’t write it down at that precise moment, it will be gone, lost forever like a leaf on the breeze. It’s really very stressful.
3. The ‘oh, balls’ moments: There will be those superb occasions when you do manage to get to your notepad in time! Yessss! Of course, as a writer, people generally find you rather rude, what with all the running out rooms to find your notepad when they are mid sentence. But, whatevs. You’ll furiously scribble everything down, the ideas will pour out of you like liquid gold! Safe in the knowledge you’ve totally nailed it, you’ll give a huge sigh of relief, and return to your conversation (if the other person hasn’t walked off). BUT… when you pick up your pad later to read those glorious notes, you’ll either realise they’re actually a bit crap, or they will be totally illegible and make absolutely no sense WHATSOEVER. Oh, balls.
4. Author’s Rear-end Syndrome: Sooner or later you’ll begin to suffer from Author’s Rear-end Syndrome (ARS). It begins with losing feeling in the posterior (numbness from sitting on it most of the time). But, in its later stages, ARS actually manifests itself physically and you’ll have to accept that, as a writer, your bum is considerably larger and wider than everyone else’s.
5. The writers’ uniform: When you’re a writer, everyone assumes you spend all day in your pyjamas (which is a little bit true, actually, if we have no need to exit the house. No, we’re not proud of it, it just happens). What they don’t know is, in the UK at least, between the months of October and June, you also have to wear a sleeping bag with arms and legs to minimise the risk of losing digits (caused by lack of circulation, exacerbated by lack of physical motion).
6. The turbulent relationship with your fridge: Okay, as a writer, you do occasionally get up and move. Rather inexplicably, you will shuffle to your fridge approximately six times a day, and quietly stare at the contents… seeking the answers to all your writing dilemmas. Then you will swear at your fridge, because it did NOT have the answers, it only had JAM. And you suspect the jam is definitely contributing to your increasingly worrying ARS.
7. Professional envy: No writer likes to admit it, but professional envy is a thing. A private thing. See, being a writer means completely accepting that you will never be the next JK Rowling. That’s hard, but doable. Harder is the occasional professional envy you feel towards the other writers who will also never be the next JK Rowling, but who are doing all your ideas better than you are, or would, or probably ever could. You have to carry an air of a person who’s 100% delighted for everyone who’s doing it better than you – even if you’re actually only 10% delighted, plus 25% green, and 65% fantasising about stealing their no doubt supremely creative and fantastically legible notebooks and running off with them.
8. The burden of weal… no, wait. Scrub that.
8. The juxtapositional existence: So, as a writer, you do: writing, not writing, staring/swearing at the fridge, frightening the postman when you open the door in your wearable sleeping bag, and being rude to people – but only when you see them, because, as a writer, you will spend a great deal of your time alone. Even if you were a hugely sociable person before becoming a writer, you’ll eventually become accustomed to this solitude. You’ll become very comfortable with being alone, thank you very much. You’ll enjoy the quiet………… And then your publisher will send you along to a hall filled with 270 ‘spirited’ children (and nine teachers), whereupon you shall be expected to get on a stage and Be Entertaining. Like an entertainer, if you will. One minute, silence. Next minute, MADNESS. Even if you come to enjoy these events (and you will, you loon), you might never quite get used to the shock of them, and it’s likely you’ll always make your way home feeling like you’ve been a little bit run over.
9. Write, goddamit! Write something!: When you’re not writing, you will be hounded by a nagging internal voice telling you that you most definitely SHOULD be writing (‘write something, write something…’) – even if you’ve already been sitting there for five hours, and writer’s sodding block means it just ain’t happening. The best cure for this is to give your brain something else to think about, just for a little while. So you’ll decide to spend an hour or six on Facebook. You’ll feel certain that chatting with fellow writers on a forum will be relaxing, perhaps even inspiring! And at least it’ll shut up the internal nagging voice for a while. So, you log in to your Facebook writing group, and…
Great. THANKS A LOT, FACEBOOK.
10. “I have a dream…”: Not any more you don’t, love. Being a writer means you can no longer dream about being a writer. Don’t get me wrong – even with all of the above, even with ARS, being a writer is good, and, well, I love it of course. But the dream… the dream is sooooo good. In the dream, you never run out of ideas, you always know how to write the first line, you win all of the prizes and you DO become the next JK Rowling. Sigh!
Pip Jones is author of the Squishy McFluff series, which is published by Faber Children’s. The first book, Squishy McFluff: The Invisible Cat! won the inaugural Greenhouse Funny Prize in 2012, and was recommended by The Booktrust in its Best Books Guide 2014. The fifth in the series, Squishy McFluff: Seaside Rescue! is due to publish on June 2, 2016. Pip’s first picture book, Daddy’s Sandwich, was published by Faber Children’s in May 2015, and was shortlisted in the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Awards 2015, picture book category. Pip lives in East London where she continues to search for a cure for ARS.