Happy Anniversary

In a recent blog, I wrote that it was Time For A Little Celebration, following the completion of a new book, and by some miracle, meeting a publication deadline. Thus week, my hubby and I celebrate 37 years of marriage. So I thought I’d combine those two ideas and talk about the importance of celebrating achievements in our writing, both small and large.

It’s really easy to get despondent about our writing, especially if sales are not great, or reviews are negative or completely lacking, or if you cherish a dream of being published by a traditional publisher ad have just had another rejection letter fall on your door mat.

There are a lot of books ‘out there’ to inspire creativity, and a few of them even help you to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and move on.

But here are a few ideas that have helped me to overcome depression, discouragement, and the temptation to give up.

  1. You’re not alone. Surround yourself with loving people. You may feel like the loneliest person in the world, but with the ever-expanding array of coffee shops you can get out of the house and meet up with a friend, it will do you good. And with the wonders of social media, in fact you can quickly build real relationships with people you’ve never even met. If things are going badly, you can be tempted to retreat from others, as I often do, but it’s not a good idea. For a number of years, I’ve been friends with some people I’ve never met, in many countries around the world. They listen to my woes, give me encouragement and feedback, and I try to do the same for them. We tell each other tall tales, laugh and rejoice together in good times, and commiserate and encourage in the tough times. Writers need people, we need human contact, and we need someone to talk to. Do it. Lots of authors advocate steering clear of social media but I say it’s not a good idea to cut yourself off. When pouring yourself out onto the page, you need to replenish your energy, and spending time with other people can help with this.
  2. Don’t be tempted to compare yourself with others. No two people’s experiences are the same, and don’t add to your discouragement by looking at those writers you envy, whose work sells better than yours, who win accolades and awards or have millions of followers. They are a kind of writing royalty, and yes, one day you may be up there with them, but in the meantime, don’t grudge them their success: it’s not at the expense of yours. See yourself as an employee in a large organisation: you need to spend some time working your way up the ranks; learn your craft, improve your skills, and don’t put yourself down.
  3. Celebrate the small victories. If you have written a book, be proud of that. Everywhere we go, people tell us, ‘Oh I thought of writing a book once.’ The difference is, you’ve actually done it. If you’ve written 2,000 words or 100 words today, be proud. Try to do the same tomorrow. If you published a short story, won a prize, got a new follower, made a sale, be proud, be grateful, and celebrate.
  4. Remember how quickly things can turn around so don’t ever give up hoping or trying. Don’t give in to the temptation to feel you’ve arrived, we are all moving forward at different speeds. There’s not an actual arrival point with writing, just the journey. So whether you are a new writer, an old writer, a young writer, a middling writer, or an aspiring writer, keep learning, trying new things, supporting others, and be proud of your every achievement.

Meanwhile, thank you to my hubby for being laid back, (most of the time), occasionally encouraging, and even better, for being out of the house most weekdays so I can sit at a computer or with a notebook, instead of fussing over him! Thirty-seven years! Wow!

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Kiss my Baby!

This is an old blog post from Summer 2013. I’ve reused it partly because at the moment I’m working hard to get my latest novel to a decent standard ahead of a publication deadline, (self-imposed, always the worst) so it’s encouraging me, and partly because I’ve got a filthy cold/cough and I can’t ‘brain’ today. This harks back to those heady days when I thought a ‘real’ publisher might take me on, and I waited for the rejected manuscript to be returned. Oh my aching sides!

Quote of the week: ‘A book is so much a part of one’s life that in delivering it to the public one feels as if one were pushing one’s own child out into the traffic.’ Quentin Bell, nephew of Virginia Woolf and author of a number of biographies including the fabulous ‘Charleston’.

Yes, Quentin, that is exactly how one feels about one’s book!

You see, it’s kind of a weird thing, but as you write, the book/fag packet/old envelope becomes a living thing. And like a child, (one’s own child!) it seems so fragile, so vulnerable, so at the mercy of strong winds and icy chills. And once you’ve bundled up said child book to send it off into the world all alone, there is a certain amount of anxiety that attends its imminent return, and you hang around the front door, or the post box, wringing your hands, hoping for a glimpse, a clue, anything to tell you (or to tell one, I should say) how your baby is faring. And of course, until the parcel is dumped in your greenhouse with a note through the door saying the postman has left you a package, you have no idea what is happening.

Sometimes I look at my piles of paper, and think, ‘There you are, all snug and safe. No scary people are going to hurt you if you stay here with Mummy.’

Of course, if I’m really honest with myself (usually about two o’clock in the morning), it’s me that is afraid of being hurt. And it’s me who is afraid of being unappreciated, or proved to be talentless or who will remain unsuccessful. So really, this manuscript is an extension of myself, my hopes, my dreams. But I’ve discovered that the only way to achieve is to do. If you wait until you are ‘ready’, you won’t achieve anything. If I do want something to happen in my life, if I do want something to change, to have any chance of increasing and developing my writing skills, of being successful, I have got to make myself do it. It’s time to take a risk. I’ve got to step out into the traffic.

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The Long Road

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Writing a book is a process. And quite a lengthy one at that. Often we think that the difficult bit is getting the idea and setting it all down on the page. Or maybe we think the hard part is the effort of writing, day after day, week after week.

But in actual fact, writing a book is only the first half of the long process, the long road. Because after the writing comes the editing, the revising, the editing, the revising, followed by the editing and maybe some revising. Then there’s beta-reading. And leaving it to ‘mature’. Followed by some revising and possibly a bit more editing.

One day – one wonderful day – your ‘baby’ is published. And you feel like you can sit back and relax, heaving a sigh of relief as you do so.  Well, okay, maybe just for a few minutes.

Then it’s back to work. No, not on a new book! You’ve still got to promote and market this one! You need to engage readers, you need to tell the world about your book. Yes it is so, so exciting. But…

If you’re struggling in the middle of all this, if you’re wondering why it’s not fun any more, or why you feel anxious, overwhelmed, depressed, exhausted, emotional, or bewildered, and you feel that your ‘baby’ is not the cute little bundle of joy you were expecting… relax. It’s okay. You’re normal. We all feel like this sometimes.

Because, to repeat myself, it is a process.

It can be demoralising. You can end up feeling you hate your book and wondering why you didn’t stick with your day-job. In fact, I read ‘somewhere’ that if you don’t hate your book by the time it is published, you haven’t done enough work on it. I can honestly say that by the time my first book was ‘out there’ I hated the very sight of it.

But I did it. I published a book. And it was a draining, exhausting, wonderful, fulfilling, exciting process. The sense of achievement took a long time to filter through, but eventually I was able to regard my work with pride. And somehow, I managed to do it again. You will too. If I can do it, with all my ignorance, lack of skills, naivete and my lack of marketing savvy, then you most definitely can too.

So if you’re struggling. If you wonder where the magic went, and whether it’s worth all this hassle, and feel like giving up, stop worrying. You’re doing it right. This is what it’s like – this is the process. You’re doing it right. Just carry on.