'Clancy of the Undertow' will be released by Text Publishing on December 9, 2015.

‘Clancy of the Undertow’ will be released by Text Publishing on December 9, 2015.

Pre-order your copy from these fine retailers:

Abbey’s Bookshop

Angus & Robertson

Avid Reader

Better Read Than Dead



Brunswick Street Bookstore

Mary Ryan’s


Text Publishing

Where the Wild Things Are

If your local/preferred bookshop or online retailer isn’t on the list above, please let them know about Clancy! Search for your nearest bookshop/online retailer right here!

For New Zealand readers, Clancy is distributed by Penguin Books New Zealand. Contact your local bookshop or online book site to order a copy!

For overseas readers, drop me a line and we’ll work something out!


It’s nearly time to start buying those Christmas presents, and you know what that means: COOKBOOKS! Because we only eat gruel and clear soup between January and September, publishers wisely save up all their cookbooks and publish them all at once in the mouthwatering two-month period leading up to December 25! Here is a list of 18 of the very best titles coming up in the next few months. Hope one of them ends up in your stocking, or someone else’s stocking, or in your oven or something!

No, We Don’t Stock Medjoul Dates
The Official Woolworths Cookbook, with over 100 recipes with ingredients that we’ve actually heard of. $5 rebate upon presentation of any title by Yotam Ottlenghi.

Put Anything in a Pot and Just Walk Away
The 100% responsibility-free cookbook for the home chef who doesn’t even want to know how their meal turns out.

Can you not just use red Skittles instead of Pomegranate seeds, maybe?

Could you not just use red Skittles instead of Pomegranate seeds, maybe?


Kochie’s Family Home Time Meals
David Koch, TV’s favourite vaguely egg-shaped morning presenter and also something to do with finance, has long loved to cook for his family and at long last has been persuaded to put his name on the cover of a collection of all his favourite recipes that he definitely cooks all the time. All relevant proceeds will most likely go to a charity, so that’s all good. Kochie!

Gary Mehigan’s Garden to Table Natural Green Kitchen
Masterchef Judge and successful restauranteur knows the best food definitely comes from a garden, which is where food comes from. He will teach you to eat with the seasons such as Autumn and Summer and enjoy writing on little stakes you can put next to your food plants so you know what they are.

You can't say this isn't food, and that Kochie wouldn't cook it for his family regularly because we can assure you he does.

You can’t say this isn’t food, and that Kochie wouldn’t cook it for his family regularly because he does and why would we make up something like that?


Maggie Beer’s Big Book of Fucking Verjuice
We tried to stop her, we really did.

Jamie’s Crowdsourced Meals
Everyone’s favourite nonthreatening chef, Jamie Oliver, returns with an exciting new cookbook just in time for Christmas! Jamie shows you how to create a variety of nutritious and tasty meals just from ingredients you can get other people to give you in exchange for badges and totebags.

A peach sitting a shitload of verjuice, as if that's a recipe.

A peach sitting a shitload of sour grape water, as if that’s even a recipe.


Big Bloke BBQ Book for Men
No girly shit. Just meat. Page 43 is a sirloin steak.

Rockabilly Chix Vegan Wonderland
Nearly 200 pages of bluebird tattoos, funky eyewear, polkadot dresses and one Rockin’ hummous on toast recipe!


Look out for the ‘Big Bloke BBQ Book for Men’ promotional bookmarks.


Burrito Tractor
From the inexplicably successful “Food Truck” of the same name comes a cookbook like no other! Finally you can recreate the taste of Mexican food cooked on a diesel engine right in your own home.

The Monsanto Family Cookbook
America’s Favourite Family Company™ is proud to release their first cookbook, chock-full of great recipes featuring licensed Monsanto ingredients such as Delay-Ripened™ Tomato Ragout, Roundup-Ready™ Rissoles and Antiglyphosato™ Salad™. After trying these recipies, you’ll think GMO stands for Good Munchin, Ohboy!™


Injecting testosterone into delicious Crookneck Squashes just means there’s more to love!


Ferment, Rot and Decompose
Making food by letting fresh ingredients just sit there in a container for months at a time is now more than just a fad: it’s a way of life! Let Worston Criblock, author of 2012’s Wild Fermentation classic Stankbottles and Crusticles: 400 Ways to Degrade American Flavors tickle your tastebuds and challenge your gag reflex with more than 60 new recipes. All you need is something totally edible, an old bathtub and an inordinate amount of time!

Step Away From the Sugar
Everything has sugar in it. Everything. Don’t even think about sugar. Seal your windows. To be safe, burn down your kitchen. What’s that in your pocket? Keep your hands where we can see them! Do not move! GET ON THE GROUND! ON THE GROUND! NOW!

Don't even think about it.

Just looking at this could literally kill you.


101 Wines You Don’t Even Have to Drink
Young sommelier/street artist Mmat Gurnsen gives you the skinny on the best wine bottles of 2014, including some that actually contain beer!

Nona’s Treasure Box
When Rosa Fornetti’s Nonna died, she failed to bequeath her anything of actual value, except for some wooden box with handwritten Italian recipes in it, just because she said she liked it once. Anyway, hopefully the book will make some money. It’s got, like, a handwriting font on the cover and a ribbon.


Hopefully exactly the type of emotionally manipulative image that will make you part with $69.95.


Recipes and stories from Krada, the world’s best restaurant, home to reclusive Finnish chef Armo Oivio, who creates stunning meals using only ingredients he finds in his dreams. Perfect for true gourmands who believe that just because something doesn’t actually exist doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat it. Also available in a limited edition invisible slipcase for only $200 more.

Ever since [NAME] won a hard-fought Masterchef finale with their now-famous [RECIPE], Australia has waited to see what they would do next. We all we shared the journey of [NAME], marvelling how they overcame [PERSONAL TRAGEDY] and near-disaster with a certain [DIFFICULT DESERT]. Now join [NAME] as they show us with this cookbook why they’re more than just [SHORTSIGHTED CHARACTER ASSESSMENT BASED ON LOOKS]. Featuring their much talked-about [RECIPE] that won the now-famous cookoff with well-known chef [SHORT WHITE MAN].

A picture of the happy Masterchef winner.

A picture of the happy Masterchef winner.


Donna Hay: Entertaining Made So Easy Even You Could Do It
Let Australia’s Queen of Simple Entertaining share over 100 new recipes that even an idiot like you couldn’t screw it up. Printed in large lettering with numerous warnings not to attempt to eat the pictures of food and featuring pages with rounded corners, this wonderful cookbook that is frankly more than you deserve includes a special section on getting sauce stains out of those rags you call clothes.

Whoopie Pops!
We 100% guarantee that Whoopie Pops are the next big thing! Look at them! Aren’t they great? We paid a lot of money for the rights to publish this so please make it happen. We need to recoup about $150,000 from our gamble on the 2013 Croissantaroon trend.

All you have to do it cut up fruit and put it in a bowl. Reckon you can manage that, numbskull?

All you have to do it cut up fruit and put it in a bowl. Reckon you can manage that? *Do not eat the bowl*


This Sunday there is a veritable cornucopia of literary-themed diversions to ward off the impending doom of another week’s existence, and here they are!

This week saw Penguin Modern Classics release the frankly horrifying cover of a new edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’m sure Penguin’s marketing team was not at all expecting the internet’s shocked reaction and easy access to the news cycle and all that free publicity. Indeed, The Guardian nominated their Five Worst Book Covers Ever in celebration.

Caption here.

Unfortunately, the demographic Penguin is trying to capture would be legally required to stay at least 200 metres from this book cover, making a purchase quite difficult.


Still at The Guardian, they named the worst dinner parties in fiction.

As part of if:book Australia’s fascinating literary remix experiment Lost in Track Changes, Ryan O’Neill has written a brilliantly subversive short story called Welcome to AusStories v2.6.

If you haven’t had enough bad book covers (as if there was any such thing), the ever-reliable Caustic Cover Critic has uncovered another in a long series of so-called publishers serving up Public Domain works with wildly incongruous jacket images.


Not entirely how I remember it.


And last, but certainly not least, online behemoth and Quaint Internet Book Vendor who Came Out To Have a Good Time and is Honestly Feeling So Attacked Right Now Amazon dot com this week finally jumped the shark in their ongoing battle with publisher Hachette, first sending out a bizarre email to all authors in their Kindle Publishing Direct programme, and then directly reacting to writer-led movement Authors United by publishing the same text as an open letter under the snazzy title Readers United. The contents of this screed is part crazy guy at train station and part last minute media studies essay, and encourages like-minded writers and readers to spam Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch by publishing his email address. If you want a full breakdown of what’s going on, then head over to John Scalzi’s blog.

Enjoy your week!


I know it’s only August, but already we’re in the swing of the Boutique Magazine Revolution. The modern appetite for large format reading material has gone far beyond faded and out-of-date copies of National Geographic and Women’s Day strewn about a doctor’s office; modern readers long for more depth than a Cleo sex quiz, they crave the narrative and visual nourishment that neither an advertorial-drenched fashion spread nor a mindless airbrushed lad’s mag can deliver. Today’s intelligent magazine connoisseur wants a more detailed, nuanced and well-designed exploration of who we are and where and why we live, and boy has this year delivered! Here is my pick of 2014’s Best Boutique Magazines:


A Quarterly Collection of Interviews with People who Have Interviewed Cate Blanchett

The Architecture Journal That Is Anything You Want It to Be As Long As That Is Pictures of Concrete

The Only Magazine Designed and Printed Underneath the Sea

64 Thick, Creamy Pages You Can’t Eat But Really Want To



From STRUT’s exciting full-colour Winter edition.


Where Narrative, Art and Huge Butts Meet

Celebrating The Home as A Space You Should Never Touch

Generously Spaced Photos of Craft Beers for the Modern Gentleman

Ethical Parkour For Today’s Dog Owner



A photo from STÅRK’s “Shabby Chic” feature.


The Magazine for the Skeptical Business Leader Willing to be Won Over

Bear Attack/Localvore Narratives

Modern, Empowering and Worryingly Erotic Flipbooks

The Only Bike Design Quarterly Where Every Second Word is German



From I’M LISTENING’s thoughtful photo-essay “Best Poses to Turn Around From When You’re Finally Convinced”.


The Refreshing Modern Biannual for Smart Independent Chicks Who Are Always Whining About Something

851 x 315
Facebook Banners to Cut and Keep

Just Podcast Recommendations

Gentle Cardigan Patterns and Light Pencil Sketches of Fanciful Woodland Creatures



Mild, ethereal controversy arose when TAWNY’s February cover, featuring a non-white doily, was leaked to several Joanna Newsom fansites.


Journalism So Slow Each Story is Necessarily Completed by The Writer’s Grandchildren

Photos of Deconstructed 80s Computers on White Tables, Guaranteed

The Only Magazine Made From and Inspired By Foraged Danish Marsh Plants

We’re Not Even Sure, But It’s $94 An Issue



??? (photo courtesty FÜ®∫y)


 I’ll see you at the magazine racks!


Another Sunday, another cry to dampen the dripping tap of existential dread that keeps you from sleeping. Or: more coffee!

Publisher’s Weekly pick their Most Anticipated books of Fall, including many I’m dying to read.

Adam Johnson, author of the brilliant The Orphan Master’s Son, reads his amazing story Dark Meadow, from this month’s Tin House.

And, in case you need hours of diversion, The Awl has a complete roundup of the roundups of the best reads in The New Yorker‘s freshly opened archives.

For some reason, though, they forgot to include The Only New Yorker Longreads Guide That Still Matters, a deeply insightful and intelligent piece by one of Australia’s most important and under-appreciated writers.

Have a great week!




I wasn’t planning on posting today, but, any time I read the phrase “George Saunders has written a new…” I simply have to act. Saunders is one of my very favourite writers, and one of the few I once had to actively stop reading because every piece of writing I attempted was a pale imitation of his unique voice.

Now, thanks to the perenially well-informed The Millions, I have learned some important new Saunders news.

He has written, in O (The Oprah Magazine),  a guide to the human condition, as explained to aliens, using short stories. It’s like a riddle wrapped in a dream shaken with a rainbow. Read it here, now.


If you’re writing a book (and, statistically, you are), the first thing you need to sort out is how to cover yourself from possible litigation. Ever since a Small Tree Finch took Charles Darwin to court for false representation in 1839 (and won!), authors have had to place careful disclaimers at the beginning their books in order to avoid costly and embarrassing payouts. And it’s not just nonfiction writers who need to be careful. Indeed, who can forget 1957’s most famous literary scandal, when Ayn Rand was sued by her own bank account after the publication of Atlas Shrugged? In short, if you want to write a book and keep all the filthy lucre you’re owed for your genius, you’ve got to know how to write a Publishing Disclaimer.

Because I care about you, I asked an expert publishing lawyer (who, due to a pending lawsuit, I cannot name) to provide five common examples of disclaimers you can use in your own work. They refused to do so, and so I have been forced to do it. Both you and your piggy banks can thank me later!

Not where you want to end up as a writer. Unless you're writing a courtroom drama, but even then, be careful! (Photo courtesy Orange County Archives).

A bailiff presents evidence to Judge Lamoreaux in the famous ‘People vs Italo Calvino’ trial, in which the Italian novelist was accused of causing American readers undue existential duress with his novel “If On A Winter’s Night a Traveller” (photo courtesy Orange County Archives).



“This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.”

Simple, understandable and to the point. For authors of fiction books containing less than, say, 50 words, this is fine.

Sure, this judicial bench looks comfy, but imagine having to defend the veracity of your anti-vaccination children’s book “Mr Needles Wants to do 9/11 to Your Arm” while sitting in it!



“I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity in some instances I have changed the names of individuals and places, I may have changed some identifying characteristics and details such as physical properties, occupations and places of residence.”

Perfect for memoirs, autobiographies and just about any published work that lets you hang gnarly shit on people you know and totally get away with it.

All these attributes are common to writers, but will they save you from lawsuits? Think again!

All these attributes are common to writers, but will they alone save you from lawsuits? Think again, stinky!



“Although the author, editor and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this book was correct at press time, the author, editor and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.”

This one is gold for self-published authors. Pretending you have an actual editor and publisher shifts two-thirds of the blame to non-existent entities, and as all those episodes of Scooby Doo have taught us, you can’t legally prosecute a ghost.

The estate of Hanna Barbera forbids me from posting a picture of a certain lovable canine cartoon crimefighter and questionable substance abuse metaphor, so here is visual approximation.

The estate of Hanna-Barbera forbids me from posting an actual picture of a certain lovable canine cartoon crimefighter/questionable substance abuse metaphor, so here is a very artistic visual approximation. Rut-roh Raggy!™



“This book is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. The reader should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to his/her health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.”

Perfect for those of you who wish to publish your perfectly legitimate but medically distant opinions on why hundreds of years of scientific research and practice is dead wrong. This disclaimer covers all lawsuits arising from your work in such truth-adjacent subjects as homeopathy, reiki, and psychic healing. If your claim that removing sugar from your diet can cure terminal illness turns out to be false, then point those lawyers to the get-out clause above straight away and laugh all the way to the bank/ building society/aura-based feudal barter system!

Legal repudiation makes writing whatever you want as simple and unambiguous as this image!



“What you are holding in your hands, herein referred to as The Artifact, resembles a book only insomuch as you, hereafter referred to as The Reader, deems it so due to varying external factors such as visual and textual conditioning but does not constitute a legally-binding reality outside of being a pulp-based product impressed with ink markings and bound with a gum-based adhesive to which any meaning will be deemed to have been the sole responsibility of The Reader and as such The Reader is liable for any injury—physical or psychological—that may arise from the content of The Artifact (including—but not limited to—personal emotional variance based on a meaning taken from the ink markings or strain caused to the eye, wrist or any other part of the body due to use of The Artifact) and The Artifact and its producers (from whom The Reader dissolves any knowledge of by coming into contact with The Artifact) are hence exempt from any prosecution including subpoenas, writs and libel suits.”

This little beauty lets you write whatever you want without fear of any reprisal. In fact, if you put this at the start of your book, your readers legally have to pay you damages if they get a paper cut.

Here be

Reading this sentence absolves the author of this blog post from any misspellings you may find in it as he wrote it quite late at night.


So get those creative juices flowing without having to worry about the long arm of the law slamming a typewriter down on your legs when you least expect it. Of course, if none of these examples work and you’re somehow upset by this, then I’ll see you in court! Seriously.

"Suck it, Darwin."

“Suck it, Darwin.”


If you’re anything like me, you start your morning with some low-fat yoghurt, green tea and light philosophy.

If you’re actually me, you start your morning with desperate gulps of coffee, a pastry that hits the sweet spot between most butter legally allowed in a morning treat and the distance needed to obtain it, and frantic inhalation of All The Internet I’ve Missed.

To save you from a similar fate, and to give you a little more time in that short window where caffeine and calorific intake allow you to process information before the damp blanket of ennui that is An Impending Monday descends upon your shoulders (historically occurring between approximately 1.35pm and 5.19pm), I present to you a selection of my favourite things from the week.

The first chapter of Emily St. John Mandel’s heavily hyped novel Station Eleven is now available for your perusal at Scribd.

Nicole Cliffe brings us Every Canadian Novel Ever.

The brave patriot who began a curiously detailed Kickstarter campaign to fund a sequel to Breaking Bad almost definitely starring Val Kilmer, Slash and an array of secret guest stars has had to cancel the project, because Val Kilmer called him a goofball.

You have two options: someone eating probably German food, or waxwork Sea Captain.

Just one of the many highlights from the Kickstarter page.

Elmo Keep has a really great piece up on The Awl about the book she didn’t write.

Poet Jenni B. Baker is creating “erasure poetry” from every single page of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, and the results are pretty great.

If you haven’t listened to Bring a Plate, the hilarious pop culture podcast from Brisbane-based writers, bons-vivants and Twitter superstars Rebecca Shaw and Peter Taggart, then you’re missing out. Never fear, their first anniversary episode dropped this week, and it’s a great place to get started.

And finally, Buzzfeed has an exclusive clip from an upcoming episode of Nathan for You, the criminally underrated semi-reality show created by and starring comedian Nathan Fielder, reflective Instagram star, expert in unhaunted houses and purveyor of protected-under-parody-law fine coffee. If you’ve never seen the show, you can start on the first season right here.


Delicious Dumb Coffee.

Right, I’m going back to bed. Enjoy your Sunday.


Think you’re a writer, do you?


Okay, hotshot. Three quick questions:

1) When I say the word “headshot” do you think only of US Marine and expert marksman Tom Beckett, as played by Tom Berenger in the movies Sniper, Sniper 2 and Sniper 3 (and, to a lesser extent Chad Michael Collins as Beckett’s son Brandon in Sniper: Reloaded)?

2) Do you believe the contents of a novel is the only thing that sells a book to a prospective reader?

3) Do you not own a single jacket with leather patches on the elbows?

If you are a writer who answered YES to any of these questions, then boy, I am glad you decided to keep reading and not go and rent all four movies in the Sniper series. The most common mistake any first time author can make is to underestimate the power of The Author Photo (TAP). Before even thinking about outlining your novel (even if the outline begins “He’s the best sharpshooter the army’s got…”) you need to get that author photo right. I’ve seen too many book sales lost to poorly composed, underdone or just plain bad headshots. It’s time you got educated.

Here are the most effective types of TAPs (The Author Photo[s]), as used by some of the world’s most successful writers, as well as the secrets behind how to achieve them:


Consume a packet of expired convenience store hotdogs 20 minutes before the camera rolls, and let the churning mystery in your stomach express itself through your eyes.

Consume a packet of expired convenience store hotdogs 20 minutes before the camera rolls, and let the churning mystery in your stomach express itself through your eyes.



Douse your hair in seawater and run into an old lady's front garden, stomping any nice looking flowers. As you are avoiding her disappointed gaze, let the camera capture you.

Douse your hair in seawater and run into an old lady’s front garden, stomping her freshly-planted nasturtiums. As you avoid her disappointed gaze, let the camera capture you.




Are you wearing sunglasses? Are you on a boat? Is the photographer halfway through falling over? Uncertainty + intrigue = book sales.



Show your readership you can go the extra mile, using just a little boot polish, a bottle of talc and a character from a Public Domain children's classic.

Show your readership you’re willing to go the extra mile, just by using boot polish, a bottle of talc and a character from a Public Domain children’s classic.



Never underestimate the unique look achieved by locking yourself in an industrial freezer for a week prior to your photoshoot.

Never underestimate the unique look you can achieve just by locking yourself in an industrial freezer for a week prior to your photoshoot.



Nothing says narrative gravitas like the confidence of a middle-aged connoisseur of jacket origami.

Nothing says narrative gravitas like the confidence of a middle-aged exponent of jacket origami. Youtube tutorials are easily available.




Do you think people respect writers who sit on a chair in the normal, comfortable way? Think again, homeslice.



Readers are interested in more than just your face. They also want to know what your mirrors are like and how you would hold a stone gargoyle, if given the chance.

Remember: readers are interested in more than just your face. They also want to know what your mirrors look like and how you would hold a stone gargoyle if given the chance.



Only for advanced experts. The uncomfortable lean, the turtleneck, the sports jacket AND a copy of one of your books all in the one photo.

Only for authorised experts. The uncomfortable lean, the turtleneck, the sports jacket AND a copy of one of your books, all in one photo. Do not attempt unless you have undertaken at least eight days’ training.



Seriously, it's impossible.



There you have it. Follow these simple TAP examples, and publishers will be scrambling to sign you up, even if you can’t write at all!

There's that trademark lean!

Lean your way to a bestseller!


*This post was sponsored by Sniper 5: Back in the Habit, screening soon behind selected motel TV menu screens.


When I was starting out as a writer, there were certain things I was convinced happened once you had a book contract. Most of those things involved movie adaptations, swags of literary awards, royalties, festivals and fame. In my heart of hearts, beneath my outward appearance of a fairly calm and rational individual was the same hunger that anyone in any creative field craves: recognition. I write for myself—or so I say when asked—but really, really, I want some validation that this pursuit I’ve ploughed so much time and effort into has not been a waste of time. My first book, The Ottoman Motel came out in May 2011, was widely reviewed, shortlisted for awards and is still selling. It gained me invitations to writers’ festivals, got me and my book discussed on TV, radio and in print. But the questions remains: was it everything I ever wanted?

Yes and no. Nothing can really prepare you for what it’s like. Here, then, is the distilled wisdom* of a published author.

1) Everything takes a long time.

I was signed to Text Publishing in 2009, but it wasn’t until 2011 that I saw my book released. While my manuscript underwent probably an unusual level of structural editing, I’ve since learned for a number of authors that the #1 thing that surprises them is how long a book can take to hit the shelves. Your book might be sitting, finished for 6 months before it gets a release date. It all has to do with publishing schedules, budgets, and unseen market pressures, a complex dance that involves Christmas sales, retail figures and whichever publishing trend happens to be sucking money from the publicity department at any particular moment (if your book is about the erotic escapades of an S&M novice, for instance, your book will be released tomorrow).

2) The media doesn’t really care about your book.

A month before my book was released, my acknowledgements page (in which I proposed to my then-girlfriend-and-now-wife) somehow became global news. By the time actual interviews started for my book, I felt an old hand. The realities are these: There will always be a factual inaccuracy in every interview or review (Whether it’s a linguistic barrier or psychological tic I’m not sure, but people always call my novel The Ottoman Hotel, with an H. I even did it in one interview). Secondly, you will have to contort yourself into a ridiculous position for newspaper photos (“Bend your elbow sideways! Put your leg behind your shoulder!”) and this will go on for approximately an hour, after which they don’t even use the photo, and instead use one of Nick Earls.

3) It will be over really quickly.

As my day job is working in a bookstore, I’m acutely aware of how little time any new book has to make an impression. Hundreds of new titles are published every single month, and there are only so many that will be reviewed in Australia’s rapidly diminishing review pages. While you may have slaved over a hot typewriter for decades on your masterwork, it might only be on a bookstore’s shelves for a few weeks. Don’t be shocked or outraged if your book isn’t in the New Release section of your local bookshop after a fortnight. While it is up to the bookshop’s discretion as to how long they stock your book, nothing is stopping you from placing the remaining copies at #1 in the Top Ten or calling up using various accents to enquire about the wonderful book you’ve just heard of.

4) Published life is not necessarily a better life

This might seem a galling claim, but I miss being unpublished. It’s that certain type of camaraderie you get from being the up-and-comer, and in the case of the literary world, the easy majority. Back then, you could have promise but needed nothing to back it up. You could have beers with writing friends and agree that you could do so much better than what was being currently published without the pressure of actually having to validate this claim. One of my friends once compared this time in your literary life with being “in the trenches”. As in, you can’t be seen, but you also can’t be shot at. In the trenches, I felt part of a community that practiced a solitary pursuit, but at least was all in it together. Once you’ve signed a contract, people will assume you have an “in” with a publisher. In the first months after I signed with Text, I was asked by dozens of people to pass on a manuscript or to “put in a good word” with my publisher. At that stage I didn’t have the vocabulary to explain how little sense this made. All I’d done was sign my name. I was not on the same level as the authors we’d made fun of, been jealous of, for years. In my head, I was still in the trenches, but in everyone else’s, I’d already gone over the top.

Now to any unpublished authors reading this, I’m sure I’m coming across as an infuriating dick. I don’t want it to sound like I’m complaining about where I find myself (even though I probably am). I’m just trying to explain how something like a book contract can seem so unbearably important to you before you get it, but can turn out to be ultimately inconsequential in the greater scheme of a writing career. What’s great are those milestone moments when you sign on the dotted line, when you see your book cover for the first time, when you finally hold that book in your hands. What’s not great is the realities of the dream you’ve spent so long creating not matching up to your expectations. Your life won’t change the moment your book goes on sale. But that, I suppose, is the life of a writer in a nutshell.

All our writing lives there’s this cognitive dissonance between what we know we’re meant to do and the weight of evidence telling us otherwise. Writing is often horrible and boring and soul-destroying but we still do it. Whenever I complain for the umpteenth time about having to go to my desk to write, my wife simply asks me why I do it, if I hate it so much? It’s a good question, but one I can never answer. I just have to. The trick, I think, is not to think to much about it. No matter where you are in your career, the same insecurities arise. For me, it’s What if I can’t write that second book? What if my publisher doesn’t like what I’ve written? What if someone younger and more talented comes along? For any writer, at any stage of their career these insecurities are always there, just variations on a theme.

The writing world has a certain type of failure fetish that tells you to stick your rejection letters above your desk and revel in tales of famous authors who were turned down by publishers for twenty years. It’s the same logic as buying a lottery ticket every week just because you read about someone who once won it. The lesson we tell ourselves is that we shouldn’t bother, but we still do. The chances of succeeding as a writer are so infinitesimally small that it’s lucky so many of us chose this career path because we’re so terrible at arithmetic.

And that’s what it comes down to, this so-called collection of wisdom**. We do it because we love it. And whether we’ve never been published or whether we’re ten books in and can sustain a living through the written word, the same insecurities nag at us. Whatever goal you want to achieve in this impossible pursuit called writing, just know that we’re all going through it together.

* The word wisdom here, should not be considered the classical dictionary sense of the word. Here it denotes “what one questionably talented writer has taken from a particular portion of his life”.

** By now, you’ll realise that even the previous definition is tenuous at best.

N.B. An earlier version of this post appeared on the blog of the excellent writer Azra Alagic back in October.