For the Love of Trees

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Oh, trees. You had no chance.

I ache in April, when tart green leaves uncurl, and the trees begin to breathe again.

I love trees. But I doubt they feel the same, not at the rate I make them dead. Ever since I first held a crayon, I’ve laid waste to forests of paper.

Last week, my heart full of April, I did a watercolour of spring leaves. I realised afterwards that this was a bit like painting a baby’s portrait, using skin flayed from dearly departed Great Aunt Aspidistra.

I’ve scribbled through seven notebooks since 2017 started, not counting my sketchpads, or my diary. I’ve printed off miles of HP Everyday. Right now I’m writing, surrounded by shelves bearing a lifetime’s collection of mashed tree-corpse. My words float on a screen largely powered by burnt fossilised wood. And I have the temerity to want to knit these words into more books. Sorry, trees. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

I’m not alone in my hunger for paper. In the UK last year, over 200,000 new books a year were published, more than ever before. Even as writers starting out, like me, complain about how difficult it is to Get Published. On top of the commercially published titles, access to digital printing has made it easy for people to go it alone and self-publish. Who wouldn’t want to give E.L James a run for her Fifty Shades money? Tens of thousands of people try.

I’m going to say something others in my boat rarely say. (And if they tip me out, that’s fair enough). Thank goodness it’s hard, this Getting Published. It should be difficult to kill trees with your ideas.

And thank goodness for the long chain of (largely) passionate and talented people that link writers with the printed page. For the literary agents and the editors and the marketing teams and the booksellers, who want no tree to die in vain. Who want dead trees to bear words that will take hold of people, steal time from their busy lives, give them something irreplaceable. Something worth the arboricide. And yes, something that makes money. That recoups the time and skill and capital it’s taken, to see those words in print.

Often, writers like me, looking to Get Published, see publishing professionals as obstacles. A long line of gatekeepers, slamming the door in our faces. I like to think of them as the guardians of the forests that would otherwise perish, and leave us standing on a bald globe, with way too many weird and wonky books to read before the sun fries us to death.

I promise you this, tree-huggers. I’m not going to publish anything myself. You won’t find my baggy manuscript wearing a book-jacket on Amazon, just because I’ve decided you want to read it. It takes a team of hardworking, creative people to craft a book into the best version of itself it can be. And unless someone else thinks my story is worth working on too, I’m going to keep it firmly to myself. For the love of trees.

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