The Colours of Guilt is not my first attempt at writing a novel. It is my third. I’ve written a novel called Prelude and another titled Dark Dreams. Both novels, I tried for months to find a literary agent. I emailed over one hundred literary agents in my search for representation and received some polite, and some bordering on rude, rejections. I’ve personalised emails, found literary agents that are *looking* for books of that particular genre, even paid someone to help craft the perfect query letter. But nothing. No emails saying that they loved the premise, wanted to read the whole manuscript. No phone calls begging to re-present my work. Just the horrific chasm of no response.
There was two ways of thinking about it. One – that I was a terrible writer, doomed, would never get published, and should give up now. Or two – that my writing wasn’t currently *good enough* and I still needed to work on my craft, and that one day I would achieve my dreams. This is the hardest thing about being a wanna-be novelist; that you write in ignorance. You don’t know if you will finish writing the novel, or give up. You don’t know if it is any good. You don’t know if anyone will want to re-present it or publish it. You don’t know if anyone will want to read it. You have to work on faith. And faith is a precarious, mutable substance. One day of great writing and you dream of your noble prize winning speech, and then the next day you re-read your work, and the specter of failure breathes hot and stinky over the words, and you begin to doubt.
Doubt is a killer. It is one of the most destructive poison of the mind and is the biggest battle one most constantly defeat to achieve success.
When doubt strikes, I think of the Bene Gesserit Litany against fear from Dune:
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
So when I doubt that I will one day be a novelist, published and celebrated, I face that fear. And I remember that it doesn’t matter if it happens or not. My love is the act of writing, and I wish to create a life were I write, and write, and write. External success is not the why. It would be appreciated and make my life easier, but it is not what drives my writing. Writing is my communion with the creative and spiritual forces. I love getting lost in the horizons of the imagination, I always have. Writing is my act of love, self and worldly. It is my contribution to society and my joy. So when I doubt, I come back to why I write and the feelings it produces. And I am home, re-connected to my desire to write. And once again, I pick up the pen …
Penelope Jane Jones.