Cathy’s books are always hard to put down. They include The Last Act of Love, a Sunday Times bestseller and her latest work, Write It All Down, the searingly honest must read about writing, creative doubt and how to get those words onto a blank page. Whether you write short or long fiction, poetry or memoir, this is written from the heart. It is unmissable and unbelievably good.
Read this exclusive extract (and be inspired)
But Am I Any Good?
It is pointless to worry whether the work is any good or whether you are any good. It’s all about learning to tolerate the gap between our aspiration for the finished thing and the current dog’s breakfast that we see before us. With each of my five books I wasted aeons of time fretting about whether it was rubbish and I was useless and would everyone laugh at me and had I bitten off more than I could chew, and why did I not have a proper job with holidays and a pension where I would have colleagues and could enjoy water cooler moments and wouldn’t feel so terribly and horrendously alone.
It is truly futile to let your mind dwell on these matters. And here is why. Almost all writers exist in a continual vortex of despair and doubt. There is a tendency – I certainly did this – to imagine that published and successful writers feel differently about themselves because they have been blessed with approval. Surely, once rubber-stamped as an official writer, there would no longer be anything to worry about! In my experience, this is far from true. Most writers worry all the time. Before publication we worry about being untalented and that we are wasting our time on something no one will want to read. After publication we worry that we only had one book in us and it is used up and that, really, we are untalented and are wasting our time on something no one will want to read.
The only thing you can do with this worry is know that you are not alone in experiencing it and give it less airtime. I spent years giving up because I thought I could never be good enough. I couldn’t trust that the ideas and scraps of paper would ever grow into anything solid.
A sea change came when I had a talk about it with my agent, Jo. We were sitting on a wall outside the London Book Fair, and I was crying because I felt so adrift and miserable and unable to finish the next draft of what would become The Last Act of Love. I told her that I just didn’t think I was good enough. ‘Look,’ she said kindly, ‘self-doubt is intertwined with creativity. I don’t understand why, but all the creative people I know spend a lot of time believing they are useless. You just need to not listen to it.
That was a life-changing moment for me. Jo gave me a cuddle, I dried my tears and I cracked on. And now I know that most writers think they are rubbish a lot of the time. That’s just part of the process. I haven’t got rid of my self- doubt, but I do now know that it is not objective and that the best thing I can do is bring myself back to the page.