A couple of years ago I wrote a book. My publisher said they wanted it and then they changed their mind. My agent at the time told me if my publisher didn’t want it then no one else would, she couldn’t sell it.
‘Write me something I can sell,’ she said.
‘What’s that?’ I asked.
Up until that time I’d written a novel about a sixty-something woman who was actually an energy being from another galaxy and two memoirs. I knew nothing about writing women’s fiction.
Shortly afterwards I interviewed a best-selling author. I’d interviewed her before, more than once. She’s a prolific writer. After the interview she asked me how my writing was going.
‘Hmm,’ I said. ‘My agent wants me to write women’s fiction and I’m not sure that I can.’
‘Of course you can,’ she said. ‘Come to my masterclass and I will teach you how.’
That’s how I found out about Fiona McIntosh’s commercial fiction masterclass, the masterclass that changed my writing life. I paid the money (it’s not cheap but it’s worth it), flew to Adelaide and spent five days having my world turned upside down. Imagine this; you’ve spent a lot of money to be at a masterclass, you arrive on the first day and are surrounded by other keen writers, you await the pearls of wisdom that are going to drop from your teacher’s mouth and the first thing she says is this:
‘Nobody cares. Nobody cares about your writing. Nobody cares about your book. The world does not need your book.’
I felt as though I’d been slapped. I was a writer. I was special. I was a published writer. I was even more special. Of course the world cared. Of course the world needed my books.
I cried, I fought, I struggled and eventually I got over myself and remembered the rest of Fiona’s opening speech. She said, ‘The less I care the better I write.’
At the time I thought, Well that’s certainly not true, she researches her books impeccably, she’s written thirty best-sellers, she cares .
It wasn’t until I was deep into my next novel and struggling with a worrisome chapter that her words made sense. This chapter had to be in the book but I didn’t know how to approach it or how to make it work. Hell, I didn’t even know where to start. Then I remembered, ‘Nobody cares.’
It was if a weight lifted from my shoulders. Nobody cares. It doesn’t matter. This book doesn’t matter. This chapter certainly doesn’t matter. The world doesn’t need this book. Nobody cares. All the stress and worry of the tricky chapter disappeared. I began to write. The words flowed. The chapter sang. And all because nobody cares, not even me. Hooray!
Fiona McIntosh’s latest book, The Chocolate Tin, has just been released and she’s touring the country to talk about it. (You might have seen her in the latest edition of the Women’s Weekly.) She and I will be having a chat at a literary lunch in Noosa on the 25th of November. You can find the details here. And yes, there will be chocolate.
If you can’t make it to Noosa details of her other events are here.
And if you want to change your writing life then you can find out about Fiona’s masterclasses here.
But no matter what you do, whether you’re a writer or not, that simple lesson of ‘nobody cares’ may change your life.