A while back my 50th book was published. Of course, the world knew nothing of this but it was a pretty special moment for me.
My first book was a picture book and it was published 15 years ago. I had made up the story to entertain my small son. The joy on his face when I narrated the story to him had been reward enough. And then, I had sent it to a publishing house on a whim. When it was accepted and published, it was a pretty special moment for me. My name on a book was something I had dreamt of, but never really imagined happening. Every book that came after this was a bonus, because my dream had been small and manageable – I had only wanted to have one book published. After the fifth or sixth book I stopped counting. Not because I was tired or had grown so certain of my publishing career but because of something more important.
Publishing my books took a back seat to my desire to write. Of course, I did want the world to read my books but when I was writing and working on polishing my story, that was all that mattered. I dreamt, not of seeing the book in print with my name on it, but of writing a story that would create magic with its combination of believable characters, an interesting plot and a unique setting. And so I glued myself to my chair and thought up worlds and stories, characters and twists. There were years when nothing I wrote was accepted, there were years when I had a sudden rash of releases. There were rejections and long waits for editors to get back to me. There were huge moments of self-doubt, long periods when it seemed futile to write another word.
And then, a new idea would grip me and hold me in its thrall. It would occupy my every waking moment, allowing me no time at all to think of anything else. And that’s how I wrote and wrote and wrote. Why I persevered and sent out sample chapters to editors, and waited patiently to hear from them.
And so, when my 50th book was published it was a pretty special moment for me for several reasons. From dreaming of publishing one book I had come to having my 50th book out. I had risen from the depths of despair where it had seemed logical to never write again and written more. And with every story I plotted, every word I wrote, my voice had become stronger and surer.
It was incredible that something as abstract and insubstantial as an idea, something born in the humble corners of my brain, could have resulted in so many publications. It seemed even more incredible that people were reading the stories I wrote, that I was being paid to do what I would have done for free, that I was recognised for the worlds I had created and peopled.
And then, when I looked at the number of books I had published, 50 acquired sudden significance. It was proof that words can create magic, that they can influence people and create an identity for you that has nothing to do with all the roles you play in your life.
And for that, yes, numbers are important. Every single book you notch up is yet another validation of yourself, and the magic of your words and your stories.