Why The Alchemy?

So, you may have seen this:

It’s currently crowdfunding with Unbound and I really want it to exist. The team there has really grasped my vision and reasons for wanting to get this book into the world and, thinking of the messages I have received, I can see that quite a lot of other people do too and that is the best. This, from the publishing director of Unbound, John Mitchinson, was marvellous (and I do draw on a lot I have learned in my teaching background as well as in writing and other areas):

‘We’re thrilled to be working with Anna Vaught. She exemplifies the patience and generosity of the best teachers.

Having suffered and triumphed herself, she is able to offer calm and clear advice about how to translate ideas into publishable work. The Alchemy offers a warm and reassuring arm round the shoulder—it will inspire and motivate writers at all stages in their career but especially for those who are struggling with confidence.’

It is a book about writing YOUR book; a work of fiction, but in fact there’s plenty in there which you could apply to a non-fiction book or, for that matter, any extended creative project. It’s about gentle productivity; that is, small steps towards a big thing. Not only that, getting you to re-evaluate what you already have in terms of experience, thought, time and resources. What you consider work, even. The book contains a lot of things which I thought were probably true, but the past few years have confirmed that for me. In six years I have written a lot. In that time, I’ve been working, looking after three offspring, two are SEND who were radically let down by their schools and one by multiple agencies to the point where he became seriously ill and I was his carer and this went on through the pandemic: we had never had any support but this period pretty much felled me. My physical health had deteriorated, I had already been managing mental health problems – anxiety, OCD, depressive periods, dissociative episodes – for decades (and reasonably connected with complex extended trauma), now I was dealing with Long Covid and a seriously ill son. I had also had some very unpleasant experiences in publishing from which I’ve had to recover and have taken all the steps I can to try and ensure they do not happen to anyone else.

So gentle productivity in a book for all writers, but I have a particular eye on those who are carers, chronically ill and who are disabled. On writers who are tired, jaded, had their confidence knocked by others or who come from a background the impact of which they have not fully released – by which I mean, if they were demeaned, made to feel stupid or repeatedly mocked. Those are all different things of course, though intersectional, and I want to say I know I am hugely privileged compared with many.

But I wrote. I worked. I worked on cards sitting in a supermarket car park; I thought and plotted and planned and asked small questions when I had to be up at night being watchful. I wrote in short bursts and learned that pondering and ruminating are just as much the work as my sitting there tapping away. I day dreamed, asked small questions about people, situations, things I had seen out and about or read about or experienced. And I kept doing it. When the work began to build up, I developed little techniques for managing and editing it. I cried as I waited in hospital car parks, but then I tried to have clear thoughts about people and situations I wanted to write about, or was already writing about and needed to refine or develop. Small questions; small steps: taking what pockets of time and energy there were and using what I had. When I was admitted to hospital myself all I could think was that I was watching, watching. I had a TIA and was admitted to the acute stroke ward: I had to rest but I was looking, and listening and thinking about colours, textures, feelings, noises in the frightening ward, all the while, and it was distracting and consoling. I was telling myself and making stories.

The point is to be observant. And not to whip yourself mercilessly towards getting projects done. I did not have time or energy and I used what I had and learned to see and value what was there.

I hope that one day you read the The Alchemy and we all get to talk about it and that it helps you.

Here, if you feel you would like to pledge towards it – as I said, it is a crowdfunded book – I would love that!


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