The Third Something

136 / One Day You'll Be Ready Too

On finding the focus and commitment to write a book

Thank you for all of your lovely notes, kind comments and encouraging emails about the last letter.

Several of you remarked that you are impressed and/or inspired by my apparent focus and commitment to writing and drawing my stories; others said you wished you could find some of this commitment in yourselves.

I’ve been thinking about this a bit because, as I’ve written before, this focus and commitment eluded me for a long time. I lost years to a creative bereavement, too ashamed to be creative; then too self-conscious, too distracted and so on.

I would look enviously at people on the internet, seemingly able to make their art, and feel even more ashamed I couldn’t do it myself.

But something is different, now.

A photograph of Port Meadow in Oxford, England by Adam Westbrook

'That sweet city, with her dreaming spires'

I’m writing this letter on my birthday, from a small shepherd’s hut in the English countryside, surrounded by low marshland and the snaking banks of the River Thames.

I’ve spent the last few days in this hut alone, with a roaring fire in the corner, a warm tea to hand, surrounded by my storybooks and notes, thrashing out a new draft of my graphic novel script.

Yes: I spent my birthday alone working on a story and, reader, I have no regrets! I consider it a birthday gift to myself. But a younger Adam would never have made time to do this. Or if he did, he would have whittled the time away on his phone.

So what has changed?

If I were going to make this an internet-friendly letter (even ironically I can’t say “content”), I’d give you a bunch of surface-level practical advice.

I’d definitely tell you to develop a reliable system for doing creative work every day. And I’d recommend starting very small: let single page moments develop into multiple page stories and let those develop into bigger projects, building your confidence, in a sequence of finisheable stepping-stones.

Those things have definitely helped me. But the honest truth, for me at least, is deeper — and simpler.

I’m just…ready.

One year from now, I’ll be 40 and, if I am ever going to be a man making a living from telling his own original stories — well, I need to get started. I’m tired of the excuses I give myself; the clawing self-doubt bores me silly. I’ve been around long enough to trust there is art inside me that is worth getting out in the world and wise enough to surrender to the creative forces necessary to get it done.

“We are obligated to make our best attempts to become the thing we wish to be,” Nick Cave recently told a young musician, “otherwise we forever remain the sorry consorts of our own defeat.”

Please don’t beat yourself up if you’re not there yet.

I believe that — if not now, then one day — you’ll be ready too. And when you are, you’ll feel an urgency and a purpose, those silly negative voices will quieten down and your art will come together in your hands more easily than you thought possible.

Until another Sunday soon,

Adam's signature