How to earn a gold star, or two


About a month ago I was working hard on my book, hit my daily word count goal at about 4pm, and gave myself a pat on the back.

After putting a little gold star sticker on my chart I cracked a beer and thought: If I keep up with this level of productivity I’ll have my book done and dusted well before deadline!

And then I spent about 20 minutes with my head between my knees having a mild panic attack. I’ll never forget that moment. Somehow it hadn’t occurred to me that this book was the first thing I’d ever really done in my life that might never be “done”. I could spend one thousand hours or one millions hours on this book and still not really know if it was finished or not. 

How could I spreadsheet for that? How could I know if I had worked on it enough over the coming twelve months until the manuscript was due? Would it need three redrafts or thirty? I couldn’t just punch an eight-hour-working-day and then enjoy a glass of wine, thinking I’d done enough.

I stopped writing for a couple of weeks after that.

I didn’t know how to reconcile myself with the knowledge that I could bleed every single waking moment of my life into the manuscript, and just have to go on faith that it was done. I could drive away into the outback to finish it, sacrifice relationships, let my body waste away, and still only have faith that it was done.  

Then slowly but surely, I remembered why I sacrificed job security and fancy things for this path. Because I love writing. I remembered that I wanted write.

It’s not really my job. I know what shitty jobs feel like – the minimum wage ones and the decent-but-demoralising ones too. The glass half full is delightful to consider here: that I will spend the rest of my life not knowing if I’m writing enough. Every day from now until I die, I will want to write more, and so I will wake each following day and continue to write.

Writing isn’t my job – it’s my life. 

Eggshell Skull will be my first book of many. If I’m lucky, I’ll look back on it in a decade or so and see all the mistakes I made and all the things I’d do differently. I’ll think: If only I’d had another month to fix these things!

But only because, if I’m lucky, with each month and each year and each decade I’ll become a better writer – and that’s something deserving of a cold beer and a gold star.

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