I’m not a particularly competitive person. I couldn’t care less if I win at Connect 4, or if I end up with four little cheese slices in my Trivial Pursuit roundel. The side effect of this is that my husband thinks he is some kind of board game genius, which is fine – because we both know the truth: I simply pick my battles. In the ‘Spot the Monkey Puzzle Tree’ car game, for example, my superior observational skills are most certainly graded A*. Sadly that particular game has now been banned since I accidentally nearly killed us both during one particularly close-run round. Other than that, I’m usually quite happy, chugging along at my own pace, and measuring my achievements and failures against my very own successometer. Then, something happened – it was last night in fact - my brother handed me his finished novel.
I suppose I might as well admit it– my sister is also writing a novel, and as you know I have a lifetime’s work of unfinished stories under my belt, so we are in fact the slightly madder and less productive version of the Brontes. Anyway, despite being the only one among the three of us who hasn’t spent a couple of decades drooling over the prospect of becoming an author, he woke up one day with an idea, flipped open his laptop and wrote it in between being annoyingly successful in his career, relocating from Brussels to London, and doing arm-curls with his one-year-old son. He finally typed ‘The End’ two years later on a plane home from Australia earlier this month. Then just because this all seemed a little bit too easy, he left his laptop on said plane with no printed or backed up version of his novel in existence, and it then flew off to Sri Lanka - ‘The End’ indeed.
Except, by some miracle, the plane did return to the icy runways of old Blighty, complete with laptop, and brother and novel were gratefully reunited. I now have a copy of the finished manuscript on my desk. I’ve only had it for about twelve hours (eight of which I’ve been asleep), but I’m already on page 37, and I can honestly say, without a hint of sisterly affection or family bias… it totally sucks. Sorry - that’s what I was hoping to be able to say of someone who just decides to sit down and write a novel on a whim. Unfortunately, it far from sucks. I love it. I cannot put it down. I hate my brother. For a fraction of a second I have a glimpse of what it might be like for what’s his name Miliband, secretly eaten up with sibling rivalry. How the hell did he do it?! I internally scream.
But then, over a plate of spaghetti hoops on toast (nursery food is an eternal healer), it hit me: it’s all about confidence. That is exactly the difference between him and me. Because although I have ideas coming out of my ears, and no problem bashing out a couple of thousand words a day, one thing has been holding me back - the fear that it will suck. My brother, on the other hand, inherited the confidence gene. He has unfailing, unflinching self-confidence in everything he puts his mind to, and although he still can’t ice skate backwards, nine times out of ten that means he reaches his goals.
So sitting here, looking at his manuscript I am feeling very proud, slightly jealous, but most of all, amazingly motivated. Not in a competitive way, but in a ‘Jeez Louise let’s get cracking cos I reckon I can really do this!’ kinda way. Which is great, because learning to be more confident is probably going to get me further than learning to being more competitive. Anyone know where I put the Connect 4….? (Ahem).