How can I possibly spend so much money on myself?' she wailed. 'It feels so self indulgent.'
I sighed, putting my hand over the receiver so that she couldn't hear. I'd heard this line of thinking many times before and I knew what was coming next.
'I mean, it's not as if we don't have it,' she said hurriedly. 'Our savings account is very healthy.'
I nodded, forgetting for a moment that she couldn't see me and then hoping that she'd sense my understanding. I felt saddened that like so many others, she felt that the love affair she was having with writing wasn't worthy of her time and money. That she didn't deserve to have this passion in her life.
I wanted her to come and stay. Both from a business point of view and also because I knew that this woman needed to write her novel. I took a breath, planning to say something reassuring but she beat me to it.
'It feels so wrong,' she continued. 'I mean it's ok to spend money on the children - or a new boiler. A family holiday even. You know - really necessary stuff. But my writing's just a hobby. How can I justify it?'
We'd been talking for ten minutes. She'd described her book to me and her enthusiasm sizzled at me. I was convinced she was a talented writer and I couldn't wait to see her work. I started to say that she needed to value her writing but she interrupted me.
'I suppose it's about identifying what's important,' she said thoughtfully. 'About valuing my writing - giving it the respect it deserves.'
I pricked up my ears. This writer obviously had an inner voice which had finally triumphed. Things were going better than I could have dared hope. I nodded again. I couldn't have put it better myself.
She stayed for a week. She wrote several thousand excellent words. One evening she read some of them aloud and when she'd finished, we all wore those slightly foolish half smiles that slide onto your face without you really knowing, when you hear something really good. The kind of writing that has a quality which can't be argued with.
When she left, she was smiling too. I hugged her goodbye, knowing that this wasn't the last I'd hear of her. Then, six months later, she came back. This time, there was no hesitation in her voice when she phoned to book her stay. And no mention of self indulgence.
'I've managed to carve out regular writing time,' she told me excitedly. 'I'm at the editing stage now.'
As soon as she arrived, I noticed her aura of calm determination. But she didn't read to us. Every evening after dinner she went back to her desk. There was an intensity about her which gave out a strong message of success.
'Keep going,' I told her, as we said goodbye at the end of her stay. 'Oh, I will,' she said firmly.
In another six months, I got an email from her. She'd signed a book deal. A good one.
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