A pink towel and a finished book

MARIANNEAbout eight years ago I was in TK Maxx with my best friend, Grainne, looking at towels. She picked up a giant hot pink one and asked me what I thought.

I liked it.

‘Would it look good in the cottage?’ she asked.

‘Definitely’ I said.

Grainne was hoping to buy an old cottage on the West Coast of Ireland, near where she grew up – and even though no cottage had yet been bought we had decorating it in our heads ten times over.

All our conversations now revolved around the pros and cons of marble versus slate, wood compared to tiles, original fireplace versus wood burner…

We went into a detailed conversation about how the pink towels were absolutely what her bathroom needed to bring it to life.

‘They’re cool and fun without being kitsch…’ I declared. As if I knew about such things.

‘You don’t think they’re too over the top?’ asked G.

‘No, they’re perfect.’

There was just one problem.

‘What happens when I get a boyfriend and he comes to stay? How will he feel about having to use a pink towel?’ asked G.

At this point we were both in our late twenties, single with no sign of any boyfriends. Really, no sign.

But for about ten minutes we had a serious conversation about whether the boyfriend she did not yet have, would have an objection to towels she had not yet bought for a house that she did not own.

We burst out laughing.

She bought the towels.

Fast forward to this summer and I have spent the last two months in the cottage that Grainne went on to buy. In the intervening years G not only found a boyfriend but she married him. They went on to have a baby boy who is eighteen months and so beautiful he makes me want to explode with love every time I see him.

As for me, I did not find a boyfriend to bring back to the cottage but this summer I realised another dream. Actually, for me, a much bigger dream.

I wrote my first book.

In the sun-filled porch at the front of her cottage, overlooking her flower-filled garden and a country lane whose main traffic came in the form of cows, I turned the blog into a book.

Predictably I made a drama out of it at times. I wrote whole chapters, then totally re-wrote them – only to go back to my original version two weeks later… I over-thought and I panicked. I got stage fright at the idea of writing a book.

But I kept going and there were even days when I really enjoyed doing it. Days when I’d come out of my little office feeling happy as Larry with myself. Like a real writer.

I would go for early morning and early evening walks to the lake near her house and look at the massive sky reflected in the water and think ‘God, how on earth did I get to be so lucky. This is my life. This is a dream.’ It was real pinch yourself stuff.

And then, somehow, in between the panics and the euphoria, this Tuesday I finished it. Well, the first draft, anyway.

I pressed send to the Brazilian publisher on Wednesday. I then went to bed and slept all afternoon. I was knackered. And relieved. And proud. And bereft. And worried. What if it’s crap…

I am now back in Dublin on my way to County Kerry to see family. I am spending a couple of nights in the guesthouse I stayed at in December.

The last time I was here I was cracking up. The blog was getting too much for me – all of it was getting too much for me. Rhona, the manageress, and her colleagues looked after me with endless cups of tea, scones and banana bread, as I felt like I was quietly going crazy.

Now they are looking after me again – but this time with bubbles. When I arrived there was a bottle of prosecco in the room, along with a bowl of strawberries and chocolates.

‘We are so proud of you! You wrote a book! We feel part of it!’ said Rhona, who has gone blonde since I last saw her. ‘You have to celebrate! You deserve it.’

Of course the old me wanted to dampen down the excitement, to say: ‘Yes, but it might not be any good, it’s not a book yet…’ but I didn’t. I hugged her back and tried to have the guts to be as excited as she was.

Which brings me back to the pink towels.

When we were buying those towels, I was working 14-hour days in a newspaper office. I was constantly wired, tired and stressed. I dreamt of being a freelance writer with a flowers at her desk and no midnight finishes at the office. I worried I wasn’t a good enough writer to make a living on my own but eventually I took the leap.  I never looked back.

In December, I just wanted to get to a point where I would wake up in the morning without hating myself. To be able to sleep at night without crazy dreams. To get to the end of my self-help adventure feeling better than when I started – not worse.

I got there. I am sleeping like a baby and waking up without fear or dread. And whatever happens with the book I am entirely different to when I started all this. Right now, I am so happy.

If I go way back, as a teenager I read endless books and it would have been a dream to write one one day. I didn’t ever think it would happen – book-writing was for clever, talented ‘writerly’ people – but look, it seems like I did that too.

The thing is our dreams are coming true all the time if we just take time to stop and notice. Not necessarily big things, but little things too. We just need to allow ourselves the time to sit still and go ‘Wow, look what I did. Look where I am.’

We are too quick to pick fault in our achievements, or set our sights to the next thing, the next thing, the next thing…

But thinking about the pink towels makes me stop. The truth is I wrote a book. A real life book. Whatever happens with it, I did that.

And Grainne not only got her cottage but far more besides.

And the pink towels are still going strong.

xx

PS – if you’re in Dublin, I recommend wholeheartedly Butler’s Town House – unless you’re on a diet. Then the constant cake might be an issue. http://butlers-townhouse.ie

PPS – In between being a brilliant mum and friend, Grainne is also a great photographer and took this picture of me. I love it.

PPPS – I really hope you’re well. xxx

20 thoughts on “A pink towel and a finished book

  1. Natasha

    So there I was worrying about you and then you put up this amazing photo in which you look great and super happy!! PHEW! Really pleased for you, well done!
    And love this line

    The thing is our dreams are coming true all the time if we just take time to stop and notice. Not necessarily big things, but little things too. We just need to allow ourselves the time to sit still and go ‘Wow, look what I did. Look where I am.’

    VERY TRUE!!

    Reply
    1. Michelle Bunt

      And also I can’t help thinking that buying the pink towels is an act of faith based on visualisation of a dream very a la The Secret. I know you weren’t a huge fan of that book, but all those years ago both of you were laying the foundations for your future! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Didem

    WELL DONE!

    I was able to relate to so many things you were writing on this blog, and so happy to see the happy end.

    Wish you good luck for the journey ahead.

    Reply
  3. Marguerite

    Dearest Marianne, over the moon for you, A BOOK.. and written by YOU. Wonderful. Smiled when I read you were as happy as larry..I said this to your mom once and she asked me ‘who is this larry’ :). Obviously you know him as well. Lots of love and see you soon. Marguerite xxxxxxx

    Reply
  4. Lucie

    Love a celebration so sipping a wee something in your honour. Wow, look what YOU did, and what YOU will do. It is outstanding that your journey resonates so fantastically. Well done xxx

    Reply
  5. Sarah

    FANTASTIC! Well done Marianne. I will be reading that book, and buying it for friends. Whenever it is I can get my hands on it.
    You’re a great writer Marianne, glad you are feeling like that after this experience.

    Love,
    Sarah

    Reply
  6. JohnC

    Welcome back & good luck with the book. I’m red/green colour deficient & I can admit to having bought 2 pink shirts in a sale when I was 17 (now I see why they were on sale) & I was frog marched back to the store by my Dad to get a refund.

    Reply
  7. Elaine

    Love that you are back and happy, well done you!!!! The book is an Amazing achievement, I love the pink towel and that you were visualising all that time ago!!!! I will be having a think on what I’ve achieved and also what I’ve visualised in the past!!!! big hugs xoxxo

    Reply
  8. Margaret

    I’m sitting here reading this with a big tear rolling down my cheek – I am so proud of you and have so enjoyed reading about your journey !! Can’t wait to read the book! I just need to kick start my own journey instead of reading so many self help books and doing nothing about it. How was the retreat?? xxxx

    Reply
  9. Tess

    Yay YOU! I am so ready to buy your book when it’s ready. Even if it’s in Portuguese. Even though I don’t speak Portuguese and do not know anyone who does. I would still buy it and show it to my friends and proudly tell them, “I followed her when she was just a starting blogger. Because I know rock stars when I see one.” Onwards to more successes!

    Reply
  10. Emma

    Check out this weeks “Art of Charm” podcast, there is a great interview with James Altucher about book publishing, very eye opening and inspirational . You definitely should listen to it!
    Oh and your copyright is still 2014

    Reply
  11. Liz

    So pleased to see an update from you, and even more pleased that you are so happy.
    Congratulations on the book, such a massive achievement – well done you. xx

    Reply

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