call centre

Image credit: The Poss

I had my first novel accepted by Sleepers Publishing about three months ago, just after my twenty-seventh birthday. The age I do things doesn’t really matter to me that much, but I’m quite certain I would have finished a successful novel quite a bit earlier had I not placed so much pressure on myself to get published.

I was that weird kid who sat up the back of class writing poems about dragons instead of listening to their maths teacher. All throughout my teens I moped about, convincing myself that nobody understood me–a belief I kept up well into my twenties.

Until recently, being published was more than getting a story in print. I saw it as something that would validate this ‘tortured genius’ image I had of myself. This was a lot of unnatural pressure to place on my writing and as a result, my stories came out forced.

As I got older, I became slightly less pretentious and decided to treat my writing as something I did just for fun. I already had a Bachelors degree in Creative Arts and I went back to do my Honours. Even though I was majoring in creative writing, I never let myself indulge in the fantasy of being an author. I figured I did any number of things for no other reason than I enjoyed it. So, why not write?

After my Honours year, I made a plan to work for a bit, save, quit, write until I was broke, and repeat until I got published, or died. I got a full time job in a bank doing work I was greatly unqualified for and wrote my novel after hours and on the weekends as best I could. I didn’t socialise much, or spend my money on anything.

When I quit my job, I felt great for about two days, before I became stressed about my dwindling funds. I never felt like I was writing enough and became lonely and bored pretty quickly. By this time, I straight out hated my book and finished it just for the sake of it.

Naturally, it didn’t work out.

I still had a lot more I wanted to write about but I was over trying to be a ‘writer’. So, I decided to take the pressure off myself further. I told myself that I’d write another novel because I wanted to, but if this one didn’t work out, I’d do a Masters of Teaching. I then got a part-time job in a call centre and got started on my next book.

Having a part-time job to keep me distracted, yet one that still allowed me the time to write, turned out to be the missing ingredient to writing a successful novel. It forced me to take time away from the book and get some perspective on it. I started to socialise a lot more and made sure to relax and always enjoy the writing process. Not having to worry about money was also pretty handy.

I immediately fell in love with the book. I thought about it all the time and looked forward to coming home to it every afternoon. I wrote more publishable stuff with just writing a few hours in the afternoons, than I did with months of full days of writing. I realised that this was what writing a novel was meant to feel like.

The final product, which is a story about a homosexual boy in Melbourne’s orthodox Jewish community, is a novel I’ll be happy to stand by for the rest of my life.

Now that I no longer feel the pressure to get published, I’ve been looking back on all the stories I’ve had rejected over the years and feel nothing but gratitude towards the publishers who knocked me back. Although I learnt a lot from writing them, none of them were that great.

These days, I place no greater pressure on the writing process than to enjoy myself. And I know all that getting published business will just fall into place.

Eli Glasman’s first novel, as yet untitled, will be released through Sleepers Publishing in 2014. You can read more about him at Follow him on Twitter @eliglasman.