Unfortunately, it’s not easy to quit something fundamental to your psyche. You can quit your job because once you're no longer in a particular workplace, eventually, you stop thinking about it. When you've physically moved away from that job, it might be painful, it might be difficult, but you can do it.
I quit a job once, and I really enjoyed the experience. I was 29, and I was reading for my MA in Shakespeare studies at the Shakespeare institute to make ends meet, I had a little job at the cinema in Stratford-upon-Avon, which has since closed. The shifts were 12 hours long; the cinema was empty 90% of the day, so my was it tedious! I could occasionally go in and watch the films, but after the tenth time watching the same explosively high-action disaster movie, I would rather have licked the floor than watch it again.
I remember the rotund little manager; he was constantly eating the pick and mix that was on sale; every time he went past, he would pick up a sweet; he did this so automatically that he didn't know what he was doing. We all used to laugh about it, but none of us said anything because it wasn't our place. I was not interested in eating any of the food at the cinema – the pre-war hot dogs didn’t look very well, and I certainly didn't want to eat the sweets, and it never occurred to me to take one, but one day I must have had a brain fart because I picked up a little chocolate and ate it. The manager was standing right next to me; he looked at me in absolute amazement. He was incandescent with rage! He puffed himself up to his full height, but he still only came up to my chest and said, "I'm going to have to take disciplinary action against you; I’m sorry” (he wasn’t at all sorry), “but those are the rules." I was amazed; I was thinking about the hypocrisy of the situation. I thought for a split second about what I should do - grovel or apologise – no! I just turned to him and I said: "I quit".
I walked over to the lift, which was just behind me and pressed the button. Luckily the doors opened immediately; I got in, it was all very James Bond, but there was a slightly awkward delay before the doors closed; I could see the manager’s red face and the other members of staff standing open-mouthed in wonder. In a matter of seconds, I was out into the street and off I went into the blue yonder. But then it struck me I had forgotten my handbag and my water bottle. So, I had to go back upstairs, back into the lift and into the staff room, which was very small and narrow; the manager was, as I mentioned, somewhat corpulent, so I had to breathe in to get past him, he was rubbing my name off the staff roster with great gusto. As I squeezed past him, I murmured in hushed tones, "I'm sorry, very sorry. I've just got to get my handbag and, tripping slightly over the chair leg, “um, ah yes, and my water bottle." He was not amused. My grand exit was ruined. It was not a great moment, I admit, but I was able to move on. It wasn't a job I liked; it wasn't very well paid. I didn't have any ambitions to be working there for any longer than I needed to. It was easy to quit this job, and I felt relatively good at that moment; I also decided that I would never think about that job again in any negative way, and I wouldn't let it have an impact on my life.
But quitting writing if you're a writer, well, that's much harder because how do you tell your brain to stop writing stories? How can you stop having ideas for your blogs or that non-fiction book or the play you've been casting in your head for three years? You can't quit something integral to your personality or to your make-up – if it's in your DNA and you have to live with it.
At the end of 2019, my first non-fiction book, Walking into Alchemy, was published, and I really caught the writing bug. But during the pandemic and the first lockdown in March 2020, I decided to quit writing because it all felt too hard and even pointless. For three months, I took to gardening every day almost obsessively; I was trying to let my brain just be, but there I was, weeding and planting potatoes and what happened? I got an idea for a book about Shakespeare, so I had to make a few notes. Then an idea for my next non-fiction book because I inherited all my father's diaries and watercolours from his time in Austria, where I now live, he was in the Royal Air Force, and I for a long time, I have felt compelled to do something with this archive, I can’t just bury that idea. I worked as a curator for many years, so the idea for a novel began to brew in my head; after a particularly long weeding session, I mapped out an entire novel which might end up being called The Many Canvasses of Evelyn Masefield, who knows. And as I have been writing plays since 2001, I have at least five plays I want to write.
I can't stop myself from writing; even when I'm supposed to be meditating, or I’m in the sauna or swimming, or especially whilst walking, my brain is going full pelt.
So, in late 2020 I decided to carry on, but I thought I should get back and market the book I had tried to launch six months before but had been prevented from doing so because of Covid-19.
I have always preferred to sell my book from my website or through independent bookshops, but Amazon will always be a factor (I imagine). So, in October 2020, I looked at the Amazon ranking for my book Walking into Alchemy: The Transformative Power of Nature, and it was not impressive:
I decided to get to work! I had already engaged Elly Donovan to work as my PR adviser, and she was great; she advised me to write some articles about walking, one of which was published in Cotswold Life Magazine in January 2021, which gave me a real boost.
Elly Donovan sent books out to reviewers, and the Brighton-based Scene Magazine reviewed my Book very favourably; I remember it was cold and rainy, but the sun felt like it was shining for me that day!
I have published over 50 blogs, and then I had the idea to open up my blogs to guest bloggers. I contacted the British Ambassador working in Vienna, and we became acquainted, although we have never met. He left his high-powered Government post to become a full-time writer, and he let me share one of his blogs. This was a big moment for me and brought me new readers and subscribers. I have hosted some lovely guest blogs; please do take a look.
There were bites from other magazines and newspapers, but often the virus knocked arts stories off the agenda. But an interview with Talk Radio Europe Hannah Murray and then with JJ Stenhouse of UK Health Radio and the aptly named Alchemy 1.01 Radio Show really helped to help me reach new readers.
In 2021, encouraged and supported by my partner and by my new friends in Austria, who became my "team", we launched a successful Crowdfunding Campaign with Startnext (based in Germany) to raise money to bring out a German edition of my English book – Alchemie des Gehens – unbelievably this too launched during another lockdown. But in 2022, I was able to start doing the book readings I was supposed to have given in 2021. I started at the English Centre in Salzburg – giving the readings in English and German (very scary!), then the Alpine Club in Vienna.
In 2022 I was able to fly back to the UK, and my hometown Malvern in Worcestershire welcomed me back warmly. The press coverage was overwhelming and unexpected. The local tourist board published one of my blogs and couldn't have been more helpful. Even Google found out about my UK visit; the first Google Alert I received arrived in my inbox a few days after I returned home.
I was then supported by people who live in my new hometown Bad Sankt Leonhard, being supported by the Musikschule (Music School), who provided a fantastic venue and live music and the local Gemeinde (Council), also bought books, which was especially welcome. The OEVP Frauen Partie (The People's Women's Party) hosted a book reading for Alchemie des Gehens in the wonderfully named Wolfsberg, one year to the day after my official launch was cancelled, again with live music and lovely food, the room was full, and I know that many more people came than I could have gathered on my own.
Does good news eventually come if you are a writer?
Yes! your hard work will pay off. A few days ago, there were suddenly signs of some real progress; Walking into Alchemy managed to get into the top 100 in the Fitness Through Walking category in the Amazon rankings.
07/02/2023 Best Sellers Rank: 88,556 in Books
• 98 in Fitness through Walking • 3,388 in Spiritual Thought & Practice • 4,281 in New Age (Books)
Making it into the top 100 in the category Fitness Through Walking is, I think, a win. During the pandemic, I thought about quitting, not marketing Walking into Alchemy, not writing, and taking the pandemic as a personal sign (just for me – how ridiculous!) that I should not be a writer.
I received three heart-warming reviews in the first week of January 2023; when people take time to review one’s work, that fills up the tank – I think most writers need or certainly like to know what readers think. This one arrived as I was dusting my desk and wondering what to start writing first, hence this blog.
If you have read my book and would be kind enough to leave a review, then I would certainly be very happy about that. Thank you!
Whatever you feel you MUST do, just keep going because you probably can’t quit. I know that if you are a writer, you would rather be writing than spending time on the selling and marketing of your work, which can become a chore, but then hey, presto! the world responds and sends a little bit of sunshine your way, and everything looks much better.
Best of luck – do what makes you happy, and try not to quit! Wishing you a successful and happy 2023.
If you would like to become a guest blogger on my site, please visit: www.ameliamarriette.com/guestbloggers
One last thing!
2023 marks the 400th anniversary of the publishing of Shakespeare's First Folio. The celebrations will be held across the world! If you belong to a theatre group, please check out my play Nay, Remember Me! published by Lazy Bee Scripts
There won't be another opportunity like this for at least a century!