I didn't have a bucket list aged 5, I'm pretty sure it wasn't even a thing in the mid eighties, but if I had 'publish a book' would have been right at the top - it is my most enduring ambition. My desire to be a Vet/Astronaut and/or International Humanitarian waned over time (mainly due to lack of talent on my part and a fear of flying) however, I have never wavered in my desire to be a writer, it was everything I ever wanted careerwise.
By the time the term BucketList actually was a thing (2007, apparently, if you're interested), I got quite into the concept of ticking off goals and planning bigger dreams. something I've written about before here and here.
In the last few years two things have topped my New Year's list time and time again, carrying them forward to each fresh year, unsure of how I would ever actually tick them off, though completely unwilling to let them go.
- Write a book.
- Move abroad for a year or two.
Now, I'm no gap year student wanting to go travelling. We have two children, a mortgage, a puppy, a business and wider commitments to consider yet after lurking on my bucket list for years we finally did move abroad. I'm writing this from our apartment, by the beach, in San Pedro, Marbella. You can read all about our decision to finally make this happen here.
Achieving such a major goal does feel great, where we're living is beautiful, the girls are happy and thriving being outside so much more. We both feel healthier and the way we have structured the business in order to be here is paying off (so far so good!).
However, it is not a picture perfect postcard version of our dream - my husband remarked the other day that he thought we would somehow be different. That we would do things differently and feel differently about life's day to day stresses. Shockingly my eldest still doesn't like getting up and ready for school now we're in a different country, our youngest hasn't taken to nursery here and the puppy is still not fully house trained (though we now have tiled floors so we are marginally calmer).
I love living right by the beach but I'm probably no less an anxious person for all the calm of the sea. My husband is probably working more not less and we're finding the same issues crop up whatever the location.
The other perennial on my list was 'write a book'. It wasn't that I didn't try to write a book over the years, I have lots of unfinished synopsis's lurking around. I wanted to write a something meaningful, thrilling and captivating. My stories were complicated and interesting (or at least that was the intention). Unfortunately I could never interest myself in them long enough persist past the third chapter - not a great sign, I'm sure you'll agree!
Last year I decided to stop trying to be the writer that I thought I should be (you know, serious and overly meaningful) and instead of throwing out my latest synopsis because I thought it was turning out too 'cheesy', I decided to embrace the cheese and just write.
It was great, I actually started having fun instead of feeling like a failure. I surprised myself by finishing the manuscript, editing and submitting it to publishers last Winter. I held out zero hope of finding a publisher to take it on and fully intended to self publish, but I wanted to submit it in order to get some proper feedback.
That's what I told myself but obviously deep down the 5 year old in me wanted a book deal, huge advance and international acclaim. The more realistic 34 year old in me said be grateful if they reply at all, take any constructive criticism and self publish. Having written a slightly smutty cheesy romance, self publishing is the tried and tested route for this genre.
I did indeed get rejected by all the major publishers and I was OK - considering it was the first manuscript I had ever finished and being slightly more realistic than a 5 year old I decided to get on with self publishing.
Only weeks away from launching on Amazon and I have been offered a book deal.
An actual book deal...!
The publisher is small, there is no advance, there are few promises and I had to negotiate to get anywhere near to a decent deal, but someone read my cheesy book and liked it enough to publish.
I am aware that this is a big friggin deal. I got rejected by a small number of publishers before being accepted, I know many (much better) writers never get accepted at all and I am feeling so grateful.
But I thought I'd feel more...
2016 has seen me move abroad and finally get a book deal - I have basically got everything I ever wanted. I should be bouncing off the walls and cartwheeling down the street. don't get me wrong I do feel happy, I'm grateful for these opportunities but I thought I'd feel so much more.
I realise that I have walked right into that trap of thinking I'll be happy when...
Ever since I was a child I've been thinking I'll feel successful and proud when I've written a book, then I wanted it published and now I'm thinking it only means anything if I sell lots of copies. I'll be happy when...
In England we didn't feel settled for years because we looked for ways to move abroad. Living here is great, the sunshine is beautiful and the girls are happy but I still see the same problems within myself, I have to face up to the fact they have nothing to do with geography. I'll be happy when....
I'm not entirely sure what the answer is, I can see this behaviour is pretty ingrained. If I wanted to be dramatic I may question whether it's even possible for me to be entirely happy with my situation, will I always look to the next thing?
I'm trying to sit back and appreciate what I have achieved. It will take a few more weeks for my book to be launched but then I know we should celebrate, just as we should celebrate that we're sharing this amazing life experience of living abroad with our children.
There are actually very few things on my bucket list right now - maybe it should stay that way for a while.