Success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hours and hours of work and dedication. It takes practice. It takes mistakes. It takes belief in yourself.
I’ve had two dreams for my life. To be a mother and to be a writer. Obviously I’ve achieved both and believe me, not one bit of myself is not proud of that. I’m incredibly proud. I have two incredible daughters, Miss Rose and Baby B, a step son I see every single day, Z, and this lovely little family life that fills me with joy. I also have my career. Two novels currently out, two in process, a blog, and several podcasts that I’m part of. It’s huge. It’s none stop.
However, as much as I love my work (which believe me I do) I sometimes waver in my faith. Right now I’m very much the struggling artist. The dedicated writer working all day for the dream to come true that might never happen. I chase it, I work hard, but I’m not there yet.
My books have been really well received, I’m really proud of how much positivity I’ve received about my work and it drives me more to keep writing in this world. The fact people pay money to buy novels I’ve written is something for a long time I didn’t dare believe could actually happen. I spent my teens and twenties writing, writing, writing. Re-writing. Scrapping and starting again. Writing more. The idea it could actually lead to not one but two finished novels and an actual fan base seemed too far fetched to me. But I got there.
My blog, this blog, is also better received than I could have anticipated. I started it in 2012 when my first daughter was born. It was more of an online journal. A record of my experiences that I thought MAYBE someone might read one day. Probably just my family (if they bothered). Turned out that gradually more and more people got interested. More and more people responded. Posts started getting shared by people I didn’t know.
Then the podcasts. I do a daily one of my own (The Writer Mum Podcast), very similar to this blog but audio rather than visual. Plus weekly ones for 20th Century Flicks, Winos On Whedon, Siren Stories: The Podcast, and the Patreon exclusive The Earth Is Definitely Doomed. I started working on them and wondered if anyone would actually listen. Podcasts are big business, there are thousands of podcasts out there listened to by millions of people. But people started listening to mine, to ours. People started responding. Subscribing. Caring about the words I was using, wanting to listen. I’ve been told some have made people laugh, some cry.
All of this adds up to hours and hours and hours AND HOURS of work a week. All fitted around being a stay at home mother, a breast feeding mother to a three month old baby. It requires working from the moment I get up at 5 or 6 in the morning for as long as I can until one or more children need me to stop. Then working during the nursery hours in the afternoon for as long as I am able. Then working from the moment the children go to bed until I practically pass out with exhaustion and stagger to bed. And around this I try and fit in housework, laundry, arts and crafts, reading, cooking, a relationship and (very occasionally) a social life.
I do not begrudge this for a second. This slightly manic life that, together with The Boy, I have set up. In fact I love it. I wonder what we did before this cartwheel began when my first novel came out in January.
But it’s not easy. Most of our content is available for free, we do it for the love of it, and because it builds an audience. As we aren’t “big names” in the writing world, our books and writings in general do not get the same promotion and celebration as the established writers of the world. We are very much the small fish in a big pond, swimming our asses off all day every day just to try and make a path for ourselves.
And sometimes I lose faith. Sometimes I get so, so tired from breast feeding all night and working all day, and not being able to financially support my little family in the way I want. Struggling at the end of the month to buy bread and milk. I lose faith. I cry that we will never get there. We will never be the established writers. Our hard work will never pay off. And I cry. I let my tiredness and my desperate desire to accomplish this life take over me. When your dream is so close to coming true it feels even further away in some ways. Back in the years when I was just writing, writing, writing with no real belief that anybody would actually want to read, read, read, it was easy to get on with day to day life and not let that dream way me down. Now? Now it’s actually close enough to touch. Now it’s right there and I can’t quite grip it.
But then I remind myself. My first book, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, only came out in January. That was the launch pad for the rest of the work we do. It has been less than a year and between us we have 3 full length novels available, two short stories, twelve podcasts a week and a blog. And slowly our readership and listener numbers are going up.
Plus, I remind myself this; even the biggest and most well known writers had to start somewhere. It all starts somewhere. For me it started as a child who couldn’t yet write so drew my own comic books instead. A teen who wrote maudlin poetry, fan fiction, and gothic horror short stories. A woman in her twenties who spent hours and hours snuggled up with a laptop developing the characters, world and story that would eventually morph into Lilly Prospero and her adventures, rather than going out partying every night.
Maybe it feels like it’s taking so painfully long because it’s something I’ve been working towards since before I could really use the language I now rely on. Perhaps of my 30 years of life, 25 of them have been spent in some way working towards this moment. This time. This life where maybe, just maybe, one day I will be a successful writer who’s books touch the hearts of readers around the world every day.
Dare I dream it? I do. I don’t only dream it but I chase it. I work for it every day and every night. Will I get there? Time will tell. But the only way I will get there is working like this now. If I give up or get lazy it will never happen. So here I am. Working with a baby on the boob, Peter Rabbit on the TV, two toddlers playing with Star Monsters on the floor at my feet, and an increasingly cold cup of coffee at 7 in the morning.
Reckon I’ll do it? I hope so. Let me know what you think.
You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and The Boy (Jonathan McKinney) and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.
Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!