Starting a blog shouldn’t be this difficult.
At least, for someone who’s been writing for as long as they can remember, it shouldn’t be this difficult.Yet, somehow, I can grow up with an overactive imagination, writing story after story, and still struggle to find the inspiration to create my own non-fictional content. Content that isn’t imaginary, but personal. Content that I don’t have to plan out to avoid plot holes, but that is real.
It feels more vulnerable in a way, which doesn’t make an awful lot of sense considering the exposure that other writing of mine has had. Then again, there’s something very different about writing about your real life, under your real name, and then writing fiction about non-existent characters, using a pseudonym. It acts as a virtual barrier, an alter-ego, another type of fictional character who you can keep separate from your real life. It’s a safety blanket.
Only, over the years, that side of me has grown and grown. More and more people have discovered my writing, my readership has increased to nearly 20,000 followers, and four of my stories have been read over 2 million times each. I’ve had the honour of working with huge US brands such as Sour Patch Kids. I’ve won awards and had stories reach #1 in the charts. I’ve been accepted onto a Stars Program, an exclusive group of the most successful writers on Wattpad—fewer than 100 out of 40 million users—who get offered unique opportunities to enhance their writing careers. Just last week I received a cheque for a decent amount of money—earnt through participating in a video advertising scheme, where companies have paid to have their adverts shown within my stories.
I’ve even been approached by several publishers.
And yet I’m sat here, altering my font and line spacing in an attempt to create the most aesthetically-pleasing writing experience as I struggle for inspiration on what to write. Needless to say, my writing career hasn’t taken off just yet.
So at what point do I allow the two lives to intertwine? As I think about my future, all I can see is writing. If not writing my own content, then proofreading or editing. Of course, with all jobs nowadays, you need experience.
I don’t have experience.
The online, secret version of me has experience, but the offline, public version of me doesn’t. Not really. And there’s something incredibly terrifying about letting those two people come together and admitting that they’re one person.
It’s a huge step to take when you’ve spent the last few years hiding apps on your phone, creating a separate email account that you keep away from inquisitive eyes, and worrying about whether you accidentally signed your pseudonym on someone’s birthday card.
At first, I was scared about my followers finding out about the real me; I worked hard to keep my privacy. Everything was done under a pseudonym: my writing social media accounts, my emails, my stories. As time went on, I started to reveal more of my own life. I’d talk about my partner—although, to protect his privacy, I wouldn’t name him. I’d talk about my experiences with dating, with uni and with work. I never gave specific details but it was enough to build a brand for myself on the site. Young girls would approach me, asking for advice. Others would say that it was refreshing to see a role model in such a stable, loving relationship. A few would say that they’d gone through similar experiences and it was reassuring to know they weren’t alone.
I was becoming more personally involved with my writing life. Being paid to work with Sour Patch Kids, receiving messages from literary agents, signing a contract with Wattpad for their Stars Program and then receiving a load of merchandise in the post—sent to my flat in Surrey—meant that I was no longer just an anonymous writer. I was a real person who chose to write anonymously without sharing their achievements with their loved ones.
It started to feel like I was living a secret life. My partner knew, but every day I imagined telling my family and worried about how they’d react. Of course, I know that they’d be proud—listing everything I’ve achieved feels like some kind of self-help therapy aimed at improving your confidence by reminding you of your successes, but it does make it seem more real. Despite the fact they’d be proud, though, I’d worry that they’d also be hurt or angry that I haven’t shared this with them previously.
Writing is such a personal activity. You’re allowing someone to see into your mind, to read the words that your imagination has conjured up, to visualise the scenes that you’ve created in your head. There’s a huge element of vulnerability involved, a fear of being judged.
When I confided in my partner about the fear of someone discovering my writing on the site, his response was swift.
“If they discover your writing, then it means they’re on the site themselves,” he said. “And if they find out it’s you, then that’s because they’ve read your stories and wanted to learn more about the author. Why would they judge you for something they enjoy themselves?”
He made perfect sense, but then he always does.
Next week, my parents are coming to visit me, and I’ve told myself that this will be the time I admit my secret writing habit. Starting this blog was difficult, but it was the first step towards allowing my two separate lives to mix.