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~ Hazel Harps On

Limited but Learning

I’ve started doing post-mortems. Not the medical type, thank goodness, but a little thinking after each performance; an analysis of what went right and what went wrong - and why. Writing helps clarify things for me so I’ve been putting it all down on paper. This has made me hyper-aware of all my limitations. But it also highlights the fact that I’m learning tonnes. Every single performance teaches me something … and helps equip me better for the next.

During January I had three gigs in Care Homes. Even with low-pressure gigs like these there are difficulties to surmount. For example, in one the heating was so intense that my harp kept going out of tune. In another somebody decided it would be a good idea to hoover the next-door room while I was in the middle of one of my quieter numbers. The racket was very distracting. I did, however, learn that I could summon an extra supply of focus despite the annoyance. Scarborough Fair was partially drowned but effective anyway. The audience still loved it. And an audience always deserves the best, whatever the circumstances.

It would be nice to report that my writing is now flowing seamlessly and flawlessly. Er... no. As Thomas Mann said, 'A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people'. I used to think that I could easily write a book. The only reason I wasn’t doing it was lack of time. Then, when I did have time I became ill and it was too painful to write. When I regained my health there was no suitable place to write. Then, when I had a suitable writing place, there was a lack of ideas. When ideas finally started trickling there was lack of motivation to see the project through. In fact there always seemed to be a lack of something. Even now, as an (almost published!) author with Penguin Random House, I struggle. Boy, do I struggle! I’m learning, though. It’s my job now so I write even when I’m not in the mood, even when ideas run out, even when I can only write claptrap. And slowly but surely novel two is emerging.

The other day my American ARC of Ellie and the Harpmaker arrived. Such joy! What a treat it is to have it have two different versions of my book already!

I’m still clueless about the next stage and have been asking a lot of stupid questions to my agent, editors and publicists. Am I supposed to proof-read the ARC? What do you mean, a letter to libraries? Do you want me to include your name in this magazine article? What am I supposed to do about a book launch? It’s all good, though. Recognise your limitations and you can deal with them. As with all things in life, I’m learning as I go along.

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