It takes a lot of confidence to write, and then to expose that work to an audience.
I realise this isn’t true for everyone, but I’m not as thick-skinned as some people, and, for a long time, it was easier for me not to write at all than it was to have the work rejected.
Then Adelie High came along. I’ve already mentioned my heteronym in “What’s in a Name”, but I think it’s probably worth talking about her again.
Adelie High began as an Art School project about identity, and existed only on the web, where she made art on a bamboo tablet, and had FB and YouTube accounts. She wrote her first novel in the long summer break from Art School, folding it into her studies by creating author photos and a book cover, and opening an account on the writers’ site, Authonomy.
Then the husband started having seizures. It was September 2009 and I was about to begin my fourth year at Art School. It soon became apparent that returning to student life wasn’t going to be possible, and I needed to make good use of the time I spent at home.
I could have packed Adelie High away in her box, along with my art stuff, but I didn’t. I’d become quite fond of her; she was sassier and funnier than I ever was, and people liked her, too. She had none of the baggage I had, and none of her own.
It sounds insane, but it wasn’t just about being able to put someone else’s name on my work. Believe it or not, Addy had a personality of her own; I always talked about her in the third person, and she most certainly did all kinds of things that I wouldn’t dream of doing. I sometimes wonder if being a writer is a little like being an actor. I certainly became someone new in order to write, and I think I also become my characters in order to write them convincingly. I talk about hearing the characters’ voices in my head when I’m writing them.
Three months after I left Art School, the husband was diagnosed with a common or garden case of Epilepsy, but, by that time, Adelie High had completed “Naming Names”, and there was no turning back. Writing more-or-less full-time is a much more rewarding occupation for me than Art School was, and painting has been relegated to my Friday morning hobby.
I need Adelie High less and less with every day that passes, and I put my own name on my work now, when I can decide which version of it to use, but, on those days when it’s tough to sit at the computer and begin, I take Addy out of her box, dust her off and wear her for a little while, just until I can get back into my stride.