I know everyone's got a book inside them. I should do by now - I've heard it enough times.
I also know how lucky I am to be a writer - something else people are fond of telling me.
So, a couple of years ago, I decided to use my good fortune to unleash the literature that, like everyone, I had been concealing within. I wrote a book. Or, to be more accurate, I wrote half a book - around 50,000 words. As a journalist used to writing to commission, I drew the line at doing any more work with no guarantee of payment. Full of enthusiasm and hope I sent the first three chapters off to an agent, and waited with mounting excitement. Within a month, I got it back, along with a polite - and standard - rejection letter. Mindful of the fact that Harry Potter was rejected 6/12/150 times, depending on who you talk to, I reinflated my dented enthusiasm and sent it to a different agent. The same thing happened. 'Publishing is a subjective business,' I told myself cheerfully, (not realising that this phrase was written on both rejection letters and had now filtered through to my subconscious to become part of my 'try and try again' mantra).
When the bloody thing had come back seven times, and I was sick of counselling myself, I decided to put my book firmly on the back burner. I told myself that I would return to it some day soon, polish it and hone it and start the dispiriting round of agent badgering once again.
We recently had a guest at our writer's retreat who was also writing a novel, and clearly enjoying every minute of it. He had a refreshingly unusual approach to the entire business. 'My book has become my best friend,' he told me, 'and whether or not it is ever published is irrelevant to me. When life is tough, the characters I have created in it sustain me, and when it's good, they make it great.'
When he left, I was inspired to dig around in the darkest recesses of my laptop and dust down an old file. My book. As it emerged, I began reading avidly, and soon I found myself smiling. I was enjoying my book.
That day another couple of thousand words joined the 50,000 already there, and now the prospect of completing my book seems more fun. And finding an agent and a publisher, less important.
I suppose that what I'm really saying is that if, like most people, you've got a book inside you, why not let it out?