Being a writer: the biggest danger is self-obsession
My book is being released this week. Google alerts are coming in like mad. Amazon rankings are worth checking. People are interviewing me: “Tell me, Helen, where do you get your ideas?” Soon, articles will appear in newspapers and magazines. Please God, I am thinking, may the lighting in the photograph take the stress and at least five years away. Please God, let me get more than three stars. At night in bed, I am imagining the best: 50,000 copies sold one week. Colonial mansion purchased in Queenscliff, Australia, the next.
My book. My book. My book.
Me. Me. Me.
It’s dangerous. I don’t like it. As an attempt to re-ground, I have been reading As I Lay Me Down to Sleep an autobiography by Eileen Munro. Elaine was adopted as a baby, abused, take into care, abused. The book takes me back to my former self, and I liked my former self much better. This self did not worry about photographs in newspapers, but about other people.
I was a social worker for ten years. When I started, I “looked after” 30 cases involving children in similar situations to Eileen. It was the most difficult job in the world. I got it wrong most of the time, because it is almost impossible to get this job right. What Eileen’s book shows so well is how much power social workers have – not only to make decisions about other people’s lives, but to enter and leave children’s lives as they please. I found the job too hard in the end, too sad. But I miss it. I miss other people’s stories. I am sick of talking about my own.