It’s a strange life as a writer – you cast your literary bottle out into the vast ocean of potential readers, and you wait… you are never sure whether your bottle will be fished out of the water among all those other bottles bobbing about hopeful of catching someone’s eye. As a therapist I derived reward through being part of a client’s journey, watching them grow into the strength of who they were always meant to be. As a writer the reward is similarly embedded in the process, and when a book is finished it leaves me, much as most of my clients left – complete in a way that was only half realised at the start.
I never expected to be thanked as a therapist. It was enough to see someone standing so confidently in their own truth at the close of their final session. It’s a little different as a writer. It’s not thanks I want, but I suppose what my clients needed from me – to be seen, to be understood, to know that the connection I yearned for was there in the reader, that they knew me in that special place beneath the words and in the heart.
Among the indie writers I know there is a lot of generous support and encouragement, and the majority of us accept that sales are likely to be thin on the ground without strenuous efforts at marketing. That means the external reward has to be anchored elsewhere – and that is often in the genuine feedback we get from readers, whether as a personal message or in the form of a review. I am always deeply touched when I read a review that shows me someone really loved one of my books, and that it resonated or told them something they didn’t know about themselves.
There are times as a writer, especially now that I’m older and I often struggle with failing health, when I wonder how many more books I have left in me, and whether any of them will be part of the legacy by which I am remembered. Every time I get a heartfelt review I treasure it, just as I treasure those books I’ve read that have left an indelible mark in me. For most of my life I have been an avid reader and writer, penning my first short stories when I was still at primary school. One quotation from a book I read many years ago sums up how I feel about my own life, as a therapist, a mother, a friend, a lover, and a writer. It’s in Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh: “I should like to bury something precious in every place where I’ve been happy and then, when I’m old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.”
That ‘something precious’ is what gives life meaning, and for me it encapsulates love, beauty and truth. I hope I’ve buried something precious in everyone I’ve known, whether they’ve met me in my books or in the often implausibly real world. Keep the faith with literature, dear reader. Whether or not you leave a review, for my books or those of other writers, know that our connection matters and everything that makes us human is reflected in our work.
You can read more about my life as a writer and my books at Lesley Hayes