When I met Llew at the jetty bar down at the wharf last night, the very first thing he said was “Congratulations.” I made a face, and he reminded me that my manuscript was just shortlisted in a national competition. He pointed out that the shortlist placing is an accomplishment in its own right, and it represents the significant progress I’ve made in the past year. He’s right, but that’s not what struck me most about what he was saying. What really bowled me over was the unstinting support inherent in everything he said, and everything he continues to say about this fraught endeavour of mine. He is, quite simply, a champion. I think all writers, and other people hurtling down creative or unconventional paths, require at least one champion, but I am ridiculously fortunate: I have many. I have family, friends, colleagues, Darklings, fellow bloggers, neighbours and even total strangers encouraging me to an extent that is constantly overwhelming. It is also fundamentally enabling; without it, I don’t know that I could keep on going. But without Llew standing there telling me how proud he is of me – when I’ve just gone and lost the damn thing – I’m sure I couldn’t. I need him to believe. I am utterly humbled that he does.
I actually feel worse for Llew, and everyone else who believes in and encourages me. It would have been so wonderful vindicating all their love and faith by making it through. It’s a shared disappointment; some people won’t know what to say to me, and worse: I know there will be some wondering if I should just call time on what is to them a madcap and frivolous escapade. Well, I can’t do very much about their opinion, and they’re absolutely entitled to it. But I can tell you what I told the Darklings down at AI, which is that when life threw the uncomfortable, irrefutable and irreversible fact of death in my path, several years ago now, it forced me to ask myself this question: what would I regret if my time were suddenly up? The answer was not writing a book. It came ringing out of the dark night as clear as any siren: I would regret not writing a book. I have always, always, always wanted to do this – I know it sounds wanky, but writing is my raison d’etre – and now that I’m finally doing it, not making it the very best book I’m capable of producing would be my one true regret.
That’s at least as far as my creative heart goes, because obviously there are other dreams in my sentimental heart, including having a child with Llew. But that hasn’t been a constant in my life. For a long time I believed I would never marry and never have children, and the maternal urge has come late. For me, a desire to have children is something that becomes more potent as time goes on. I didn’t always know I’d be so lucky as to meet Llew, but I did always know I wanted to write books. Now I’d like us to grow our family, and I’d like to write books. Is that getting greedy? Perhaps it is, especially for one who is already so fortunate. But there it is. The heart wants.
I licked my wounds last night by toasting the winning writers. Then I toasted my fellow Darkling, who also missed out. Llew and I clinked glasses again and again, and with every clink I felt better, because toasting their success made me the champion of those five strangers, and every writer needs at least one of those (thank you, my dearest Llewie, for always being mine).