History is written by the successful

This Saturday I enjoyed myself at the Beverley Literature Festival, attending a variety of events delivered in a variety of styles. My companion for the day (who I know loves me very much) said, ‘It’ll be you up there one day.’ ‘Maybe,’ I replied. And then came the oft repeated mantra, ‘If you don’t believe it yourself it will never happen.’

This piece of folk-lore comes, I think, from various interviews with ‘successful’ people which have concluded that part of their winning formula was the capacity to imagine themselves being where they wanted to be. However, how many interviews have been done with people who held onto the insane belief that they would achieve their goals and never did? Not many, is my guess, since how would you find these people?

Don’t get me wrong, I am perfectly able to imagine myself on literature festival panels, winning the Booker, being given my five minutes on the BBC Breakfast sofa. And, indeed, probably spend several minutes a week doing so. My problem is that if I use these trappings of fame to define my success and they never happen, Bev Lit Fest1 010where does that leave me? A failure.

I know all I can do is write to the best of my ability and put my work before an audience as best I can with my limited resources. These are the only two things I can control. Everything else is down to luck and other people. I was interested that later on, the wonderful Sarah Waters during her event said her writing career had gone far beyond her initial modest ambitions. Not imagining herself being interviewed by James Nash in Beverley Minster has obviously not held her back.

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