Writerly Doubts by AJ Kirby
Under cover of darkness they come, stealing into your room on whispering feet, slipping under your duvet without the merest of rustles, hunkering in next to you and seething into your ear. These are not sweet nothings they whisper, but terrible prophecies of doom. These are not promises but threats.
They are your doubts.
In the dead hours of the night they thicken, take on greater substance than they do in the light, when they are reedy and insubstantial.
In the wee small hours they become big as houses.
And you try, desperately, to screw your eyes closed.
And you try, desperately, not to listen to them.
But their icy fingers wrap around the softness of your brain and they squeeze and squeeze. And their voice seethes and seethes.
And then you sit bolt upright in bed, the cold sweats on you, the clearest possible image of page 54 in the book you have just sent for publication alive in your mind.
Yes, that is the very page, says your doubts. Look three paragraphs down. See what you have written. IT IS WRONG!
And suddenly you know you have made a terrible mistake. Suddenly you want to dash to your laptop. Power it up. Slam in a password. Recall your email submission.
Because you have – most definitely – sent in something which contains one massive, gigantic sore thumb of a mistake in it.
You know that feeling, don’t you? As a writer, you’ll know it well.
After all, we all have our doubts (I picture mine as looking remarkably similar to the incarnation of a ‘Chest Bug’ which sits like a gremlin on the man’s stomach in that advert). As a fiction writer I am used to dealing with them. And at least as a fiction writer mostly everything you write comes from your imagination and hence you can argue you’ve never made a mistake in your life, even if you have, even if you’ve written the moon is made of green cheese.
But when you’re writing non-fiction and your mistake is regarding something factual; something which can be looked up online just as easy as it is to turn the page on an electronic reading device, then your doubts intensify. You worry you’ll be found out. You worry how you can possibly change what’s been done and is now set in stone.
You worry that your readers – who are at least as intelligent as you – will pick up upon your sore-thumby mistake and then dismiss the whole book because of it. Because once you’ve made one mistake your whole authority is called into question.
The night before my most recent book – the sports book ‘The Pride of all Europe: Manchester United’s Greatest Seasons in the European Cup’ – was published, I was assaulted by doubt. It came on me stronger than Man Flu. It gave me the sniffles. A sore throat. Cold toes.
A terrible sense of impending doom.
I thought, right there in the middle of the night, that I had made a blunder the magnitude of which would see me drummed out of the Manchester United sportswriting fraternity for good.
I was so utterly convinced by my doubts that I began to wish I’d never written the book in the first place. I began to wish I’d never had the arrogance to write about Manchester United from before I was born. Because I’d written something unalterably wrong about the 1968 European Cup win which EVERYBODY would notice, even the most fair-weather of supporters.
I wrestled those doubts until near 5am. Then gave up. Got up. Switched on my laptop, drummed my fingers and waited until the system booted up. Then checked the file I’d submitted.
And I think it was around about that time I heard the front door slam: my doubts leaving the building, their job done, a sleepless night secure.
I checked the offending page – page 54. Expecting to see the mistake there bald in front of me…
Only, it wasn’t there at all.
I’d written something else entirely: the truth.
I scratched my head and thought about going to bed.
And then promised myself I’d never again submit to those pre-publication doubts.
But I know I will.
We all do, don’t we?
Thank you, AJ. It’s great to have you back.
AJ Kirby is the author of the novels When Elephants walk through the Gorbals, Paint this Town Red, Bully, Perfect World and Sharkways. His short fiction has been published across the web, and in magazines, anthologies and literary journals, as well as in three collections: Trickier & Treatier, The Art of Ventriloquism and Mix Tape.
He was one of 20 Leeds-based authors under 40 recently shortlisted for the LS13 competition and his novel Paint this Town Red was shortlisted for 2012′s The Guardian Not the Booker prize.
All of his books are available for purchase on his Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-J-Kirby/e/B0046CG746.
He reviews fiction for The New York Journal of Books and The Short Review.
In addition he undertakes Red Sportswriting, as a regular contributor to The Republik of Mancunia and Stretty News blogs. He has written two books about Manchester United: The Pride of All Europe: Manchester United’s Greatest Seasons in the European Cup, and Fergie’s Finest: Sir Alex Ferguson’s Greatest Manchester United x11.
His official website is here: http://www.andykirbythewriter.20m.com.
And he blogs here: http://paintthistownred.wordpress.com.
About The Book
Manchester United was the first English team to make the foray into the European Cup, participating in the tournament despite the express disapproval of the Football League.
They were also the first English winners of the trophy.
Over the years, United’s European adventures have spanned tragedy – the 1958 Munich Air Disaster – and triumph – three European Cup wins – and have provided no shortage of memorable stories.
Despite United being only the eighth most successful club in the competition’s history, the United name is irrevocably linked to the European Cup.
This book explores the reasons why.
With interviews from fans, personal anecdotes and excerpts from football archives, this book looks back at the history of the club and their greatest – and worst – moments.
‘The Pride of All Europe’ celebrates Manchester United’s triumphs in European football, concentrating on ten key stories from the twenty-five seasons and six decades the club has participated in the Europe’s premier competition, interspersed with brief, first-hand fan accounts of those fabled United “Euroaways.”
In this detailed study, Andrew Kirby dissects the rich history of Manchester United in Europe.
This is the one book that every true Manchester United fan ought to read.
Praise for Andrew Kirby:
‘A brilliant look at the finest players we’ve seen during Fergie’s reign, and indeed, the club’s entire history. A must read for any red.’ Scott the Red, Editor: Republik of Mancunia United Blog
‘As a Manchester United fan I found it really interesting and the author knows his stuff. I recommend reading it.’ – Angela Bowman, Manchester United fan
‘This book takes an intelligent, thorough and witty look at the players who served Fergie during his reign at Man United. The perfect gift for the red devil in your life! Sam Sharp, Manchester United fan
‘I definitely recommend this to anybody interested in football in general and Manchester United in particular. Buy it now!’ – Michael Hopkins, Manchester United fan
Andrew J Kirby’s sports writing has featured in BBC Sport magazine, and on the Radio Five Live website. He has held a Manchester United season ticket for the entirety of the Sir Alex Ferguson reign at Old Trafford, and regularly follows the Reds across Europe and beyond. He is also the author of ‘Fergie’s Finest’.
He also writes award-winning crime fiction as AJ Kirby, and has published five novels including Sharkways and Paint This Town Red, which was shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize 2012.
Endeavour Press is the UK’s leading independent publisher of digital books.
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