For years I worked on my book, scratching away in the back room of my house like a mad hermit, telling no-one, battling the sweet little voices that kept telling me I was fantasising to think I could be a writer.
But the words kept flowing and after thousands of hours of crafting, with much of that time joyously lost in intense blurs, it dawned on me that I loved this act of writing, that it was more than a hobby. I had to finish the story and get my message out, but the manuscript was rough, irreverent and wordy; it simply wasn’t good enough.
Searching for inspiration I studied Hemingway, and after reading of his extraordinary path to publishing, decided to copy his success secrets; I would move to Paris, get drunk regularly, hang with reprobates and have multiple affairs. But I couldn’t; I had to do the shopping and my wife would kill me if I was late picking up the kids.
Instead, in sports analogy terms, I turned ‘Pro’ … in my own head anyway. I figured that if I was ever going to be an author, I better start acting like one. Fake it to make it. It was like a light switch coming on in my head; for the first time I took my writing seriously. I joined writer’s centres and the Australian Society of Authors; listened to author podcasts and TED talks; stalked bookshops and attended classes, workshops, and lectures, often way out of my comfort zone. Generally, for me to discuss feelings was about as natural as a cat barking, but in many writing sessions I was the only male and exposing feelings was the curriculum. At first excruciating, these workshops became my favourite development activity, sharing the dream with other wannabe authors.
I kept writing, editing, slashing, showing not telling, and killing precious words while uncovering others, just like real writers do, till eventually, continuing on my pro-sports theme, I went to a ‘super coach.’ This manuscript assessor, in the legendary term from the movie The Castle, did not teach core skills, but rather, helped me with the ‘vibe.’
My book was published within a year of my turning ‘pro.’ It won Queensland’s People’s Choice Book of the year. After its release, I was in the Channel Nine TV studios, headset on and staring into a camera, waiting nervously for the cross to presenters David Campbell and Sonia Kruger. In those few seconds, I sat there thinking, ‘Wow, this is it. No more faking it, I’ve made it; prime time and national TV. My genius is finally recognised; there’s no going back to that doubt-ridden scrawling hermit,’ when suddenly a static-riddled voice came through my earpiece. ‘Hey John, sorry mate, we’ll have to cut you short. The vacuum cleaner ad is going really well!’
John Ahern is a Gold-Coast based author. His travel memoir, ‘On The Road With Kids’ won the Queensland People’s Choice Book of the Year 2015 and was released in the UK in May 2016. www.johnahern.co