What a privilege it is to think that I might have touched other peoples lives in some small way

I celebrated my 31st birthday last week (I know! I think I’m freakishly young looking too) and I was reminded of a birthday from some years ago.

What a privilege it is to think that I might have touched other peoples lives in some small way

It was 2012, I had arrived home from New York six months previously full of ambitions to write my first novel, but had spent every day since in my pyjamas watching One Direction interviews.

Crucial work, I’m sure you’ll agree, but not exactly something that I was likely to forge a meaningful career out of.

But on that fateful morning of my 27th birthday, I opened the large box at the foot of my bed to find a laptop inside.

“Do you like it?” my mother asked hopefully, my father standing behind her with a smile on his face.

“It’s for your novel.”

Shit, I thought to myself. They actually expect me to write this thing.

A week later, I started work on what would become my first book, Only Ever Yours.

Four years and two books later and the first question people ask when they meet me is no longer “Where do you get your ideas from?” but rather, “What does it feel like to be successful?”

It’s a difficult one to answer because I’m not successful at the level of a JK Rowling or Stephen King but in an industry as unpredictable as publishing there can be no denying that I have been extraordinarily fortunate.

I do not describe myself as lucky, because that would suggest that everything that has happened in the last four years was a happy accident — that is simply not the case.

I sacrificed more than I care to admit to get to where I am right now but so too have many other authors; authors who are undoubtedly more talented than I am, but that magic alchemy needed to produce a bestselling novel just didn’t happen for them.

So when I am asked what my ‘success’ has felt like, it’s impossible to distil the last four years into a single soundbite.

My ‘success’, as relative as that is, has been a culmination of so many different experiences.

It is more people recognising you, coming up to you in nightclub toilets, and in restaurants and on the bus.

It’s people tweeting you saying that they just saw you at the train station and you instantly feel self-conscious, wondering what you were doing when they saw you.

It’s meeting celebrities and introducing yourself but they already know who you are.

It’s people you admire following you on Twitter or getting your email address from your agent so they can get in contact and talk to you about your work.

It’s authors whom you have adored for years inviting you to their home for dinner parties and whom you now consider to be your friend.

It’s your grandmother in tears of joy when you make it on to The Late Late Show.

And yes, it’s award ceremonies and first-class flights and beautiful hotel rooms and parties on yachts with Hollywood celebrities and black tie events at embassies.

But you will also feel bone tired and feel guilty for admitting to that exhaustion because there are so many people who would kill to be in your position.

You will be afraid of saying no to any opportunity that comes your way in case people stop asking.

You will worry if your career ascends to the next level that you won’t be able to cope with the attention but also fear that if it doesn’t then you will have failed in some way.

Most of your friends will be wonderful and their excitement for you will be palpable, but others will listen to your stories with a pinched expression on their faces and you will quickly change the subject, afraid that they will think you have ‘changed’.

All you want is for someone to understand how utterly strange all of this is but you know that it probably sounds like you’re boasting.

You will overhear people at a publishing party dismissing your recent win at the Irish Book Awards as “hype” despite congratulating you earlier in the evening on a “well-deserved victory”.

You will be haunted by the creeping fear that you’ve given everything to your work for the last four years and now you might be an empty husk with nothing else to offer.

At night time you lie awake wondering if in allowing your personal life to become public property you have proffered your bones for the vultures to pick at.

Those are the two extremes, I think, and yet neither are what I would deem as true success.

People never want to hear about the everyday joys that make up my life. The emails from women wanting to share their experiences with me.

Even though the desperation and sadness wafts from the screen and breaks and rebreaks my heart until I feel like it will never be whole again, oh, what a privilege it is to think that I might have touched their lives in some small way.

The school visits where girls tell me afterwards that I have given them the language to express their burgeoning feminism and I try my best not to start crying at their hope and their enthusiasm.

The days where I sit at my desk and I watch the words form on the page, and I marvel at the fact that I can do what I love the most as a job.

It’s when friends text me to say that they’ve listened to my latest podcast/interview and I smile at their patience for surely they have heard all of my anecdotes by now but they’re determined to show their support anyway.

And it’s when I’m sitting with my family in front of the fire as my mother holds up a magazine with an interview with me in it and we all start laughing at the absurdity of my face being in a British magazine.

And then my father asks my sister something about her school pupils or her Crossfit class and the magazine is thrown aside, my face emblazoned across the page or not.

Because it’s not important, in the end. Not really.

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