She wrote a novel a few years back but doesn’t think it’s any good. Put it under the bed and thinks about it sometimes, but not often. It was a story she wanted to write, a tale she wanted to tell but then felt it didn’t hit the mark. Lacking truth somehow. Her influences were Dostoyevsky, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, John Boyne, Martin Amis and sometimes Ian McKeown. All technical writers of world class depth. She aspired to the best, the greatest, the only ones she felt worth reading and was disappointed when she fell short. So she left the novel there and forgot about those lines she wrote, on those exciting mornings, when she seemed to enter the story itself and live it vividly. When she cried because the character cried and laughed out loud when they did something unexpected. She got near the end and got afraid. Because the ending felt off, somehow cliched, somehow not brilliant enough to be compared to Amis, or spiritual enough for Dostoyevsky, or classical enough to be compared to Jane Eyre. And there was another thing too. What would people think? She never thought about who these people might be – they were just a vague concept that went under the umbrella of the nearby public. It wasn’t exactly her family, although they counted, but she’d conquered that fear at the beginning when she realised they rarely read her work anyway. It was something else. Someone else. And as she dug deeper she tried to identify what the fear was – of who she was afraid. Because it occurred to her that there are 7 billion people in the world. And she doesn’t know them all and they don’t know her. So when she picked up the manuscript again, and let the weight lend confidence to her hands, she wondered if maybe, maybe now it was time to try again. But again that nagging doubt, that odd vulnerability, gnawed at her. Wouldn’t let her write. Danced on the keyboard where she tried to assemble the words. She thought more, at night, it occupied her mind to a distracting degree. It formed a narrative – a sense of history – how did she get to here? Where was the turn that led her to this point in her life? What moment launched the ship to this destination? Her partner wants affection but she can’t – she’s trapped in this historic loop because the answer is coming. Fermenting. Distilling. But that’s not what’s stopping her now. She flicks through the pages. Reads some paragraphs. Is surprised at the quality – wonders was it really her that wrote it? Maybe it’s not that bad. Maybe it’s the faith in her own ability she’s afraid of. That she’s not perfect. That she wasn’t a genius on her first novel. But neither was Dostoyevsky. Nobody was. And maybe the ending won’t blow anyone away. But that’s ok. It’s ok. That’s ok. Because the story itself holds. And breaks new ground and holds some original thoughts and lines. And that’s the best a writer can hope for. She just needs a little more….truth. And that person she’s worried about is a stranger now. Some fool from school. Some clown from college. Some kid that hurt her once but she sees him on social media all the time and feels like he’s watching. Is sneering. Is rolling his eyes when he sees her picture. This has been growing on her. There may be more than one. Some girl that bullied her once when bullying was ok. Who knows. And maybe that’s how she got here. Those crucial moments that define everything for years to come. But now she’s thinking about the billions more people in the world and knows she needs to stop thinking about the one or two that haunt her in the background. And if all else fails, write about them. Yes, she thinks, as the round world dawns, write about them. Her heartbreak, her pain, her past, everything that defines her, is the material that defines everybody. Everybody. And now she has found her truth.