For decades now, I’ve been sitting on an idea for a novel and the other day I read a review of a new book that is exactly what I should have written. In fact, for a mad moment I thought I’d actually done it and was reading a review all about me. It’s exactly my idea, down to the letter. And worse (sorry to admit it) it looks fantastic. I think I would’ve preferred it to be a terrible read, so that I could be pushed into completing my own version of the thing.
I started pondering a novel based on Thomas Hardy when I was at college. I gathered lots of secondhand books on his life – biographies, poetry collections, even rare editions written by his wife, Emma, and others who met him. I worked in various full-time jobs after college and tried to write on days off, but it was difficult. Nonetheless, I produced a first draft (it’s not good) and it’s still sitting on my shelf, frequently shaking its head in disappointment that I never got round to fixing it.
I suppose I always thought there’d be time in the future. I’d glance at my ‘Hardy shelf’ of books and know that some day I would produce my masterpiece. And now it’s too late. Someone else, someone with more time (and more talent) has done it.
‘The Trouble is, you think you’ve time.’
But is it really too late? I’ll read the book, no doubt, knowing all the references to Hardy’s life and works, recognising poetic parallels, trying hard to swallow envy when it appears. But surely there’s room for us all? And I still want to tell the story of Emma and Florence Hardy – the two women who happened to marry a famous writer but who were overshadowed in their time. They deserve a voice.
Maybe soon I’ll dust off the manuscript and grapple with an edit. This impressive review of another book might be just the push I needed. If you’ve got your own version of ‘some day’, maybe it’s closer than you think. Time waits for no-one.