We’re delighted to welcome Mark Green, author of The Travel Auction. Mark joins us to share his writing journey to finding his creative voice.
The Journey to Find a Creative Voice and Be Proud to Say: I am a Writer – Mark Green
I can still remember the phone call to my parents. It was the Summer of 2003, sometime around my thirty-third birthday. I was nearing the end of a two hour drive home from work and I’d had some fantastic news that morning. I grinned with pride as my mum’s voice answered over the hands free car-phone.
“I’ve got a place on a Master of Arts degree course studying screenwriting!” I blurted out, finally able to reveal my secret application from a few months before. A long silence greeted me before the negativity kicked in.
“What on earth for? What about your job? How are you going to pay the bills?”
Despite feeling the wind knocked out of my enthusiasm, I tried to battle on. I explained how soulless my electrical engineering job was, how I was one of the few people who’d got onto the course based purely on the merit of their application submission. But it fell on deaf ears.
I hung up feeling low, despite having expected such a reaction. Why else would I conceal my application until I knew I’d got a place? Ironically I’d been turned down for a place on the three year BA television and film studies degree at the same university. I’d been devastated at the time, but had been determined to keep trying and had been rewarded for my tenacity by an acceptance on the two year part time MA course. The only family member I’d told right from the start was my ever supportive sister, Lucy, who was elated for me.
“Well done Bro, you’re following your dreams!” she congratulated me, raising my spirits after such a cruel knock back. Lucy was amongst the minority of supporters however. Some of my friends, I soon realised, were no more than friendly acquaintances. Their lack of support and confused frowns did little to encourage me.
“Why throw away a decent career?” they’d ask.
I soon gave up replying that I was bored attending endless meetings to argue about final accounts, explaining that making money for greedy clients didn’t fulfil me or give me much satisfaction.
Lots of acquaintances doubted that a practically minded, hands-on, overall-clad electrician could magically reinvent himself into a writer. It just didn’t happen. And so their doubts became self doubt, beginning the toughest part of my writing journey: the quest to realise my creativity and truly discover myself.
My uncertainty that I could be a writer was also fuelled by the lack of understanding from my overly practical-minded parents. In the early days there was an undercurrent of disbelief and scorn in their “what on earth are you doing with your life” lectures. My decision to put my ‘normal’ life on hold to explore my creativity could be likened to sexual self-discovery. My thirst for creativity, finding my writers voice was often viewed with contempt and sometimes a little hostility. It was tough, trying to work out who I was, wanting to call myself a writer but doubting I could be.
It would take many years of sporadic small victories to start chipping away at the prejudicial parental barriers thrown in my path. The first big realisation that their son wasn’t quite as mad as they’d thought came at my graduation, at the grand old age of thirty-five. I made sure I hired the gown and square mortarboard hat so the significance of the occasion made as big an impact as possible. The pomp and formality of the ceremony helped too, although my mum still wasn’t quite convinced.
“So is a BA higher than an MA?” she asked my girlfriend during the ceremony.
“A Master of arts Degree is second only to a PhD! You should be very proud of your son,” replied my flabbergasted girlfriend.
With my confidence boosted from the degree, I started to believe I was heading down the right path. There were lapses of course, back into the ‘real world’ of my career, paying the mortgage, breaking up with my girlfriend, losing my way with my writing by allowing myself to doubt I could succeed. But a couple of years after graduating and with the support of Nicky, my new girlfriend, we made plans to unplug from the system for a while. I wound down my freelance work, packed a rucksack and we set off back-packing around South America for three months.
I had an idea for a story before we left, but it was a friend’s mum who inspired me to write with her kind gift of a leather bound travel journal. I logged our journey, adventures and people we met every few days, subconsciously feeding my creativity, allowing the embryo of my story idea to develop and grow.
Many long days writing, rewriting and more rewriting followed when we returned home. By then my need to be creative was beginning to be tolerated by my folks, helped in no small part by the lifesaving vocal support from Lucy and Nicky. They at least believed in me. Or perhaps they just believed that it was my choice to live my life in a creative dream bubble, if I wanted to.
It took five years of hard work, countless rewrites and an encouraging review from the British Romantic Novelists Association. I took their feedback on board and began the last big rewrite, losing twenty thousand insignificant words and replacing them with ten thousand important new ones. I killed off of an unnecessary character and with the unconditional support of my Nicky, who read and edited my book several times, I finally sat back late last year and thought: ‘that’s it, I’ve finished.’
What followed, of course, was yet more rejection letters from publishers and agents. Initially I reacted positively. But many of the letters had been photocopied so many times that the text was blurred and distorted, only the handwritten “Dear Mark” personalised the letters. I got fed up hearing “have you had any interest in your book yet?” from the family and I would mutter a standard unenthusiastic “it takes time” reply.
A little more time went by during which I worked on other projects. Then six months ago I was placed as a runner up in a competition for the best ‘big opening’ for a feature film screenplay. During the post prize-giving socialising I was fortunate to have the opportunity to pitch my idea for a screen version of my book to a production company. I was told my idea was a “highly pitchable” as a romantic comedy film script, which got me thinking. Even if I wrote the script and carried on pitching it, I was a new writer, my idea was vulnerable. So why didn’t I self publish it as an eBook to copyright the idea?
My self esteem began to lift again. I had the word document file converted to make the book Amazon and Smashwords friendly and paid a colleague to produce a cover page. From the moment I realised that a stranger had bought the first copy of my eBook, my confidence soared and I went into full eBook marketing mode.
I’d read it was a good idea to have a business card produced with the cover page of my eBook on one side and a brief synopsis and where to download the book on the reverse. Genius! It was the last piece of the creative jigsaw slotting into place. My inner struggle to recognise and be proud of my writing credentials was now represented visually on the miniature book business card.
I was recently asked that question at a party: ‘What do you do for a living?’
I could have given many examples of how I’ve earned a crust over the years, yet now I had the confidence to smile and after only the slightest hesitation, I reached in my pocket and offered my eBook business card, saying proudly: “I’m a published writer!”