Category Archives: writing angst

On days like this.

On days like this I compose reviews of my (non-existent) short story collection in my mind. I caught myself doing this just now, as I lugged wet washing to the line. The reviews aren’t harsh – they’re tepid, like milk left out too long. They say things like: While the stories are generally well-written, they are also stolid and unsurprising.

I realised what I was doing and stopped. I looked for the silver lining and congratulated myself for at least imagining a published anthology. But I know those negative thoughts are there, I know the limp reviewer hasn’t gone very far.

It’s a mug’s game, this writing gig. We write and re-write, edit and edit some more, send out our precious baby (manuscript/story/poem), and often don’t even hear back at all. Nothing. Not even a form rejection. Who would do this to themselves?!

And yet there’s that world we inhabit when we write, the places we create exactly as we please. We play with words and mix them up and tumble them into sentences. We bring characters, places, stories to life. It’s an enormous joy and I truly love to write.

Fellow writers, may your week be free of negativity and filled with writing bliss!

 

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a writer’s gang

I’m waiting to hear back from my mother and sister. I’m not tapping my feet about this (tap, tap, tap), because they have lives and I know that (tap, tap). I sent them my latest story a couple of days ago, and I’m keen to hear their thoughts. What worked and what didn’t. What they’d prefer gone, what they felt was missing. I trust them. They are both astute readers.

As I checked my email repeatedly today, it occurred to me how many people help with my writing.  These people are integral to me producing halfway decent stories. Writing teachers have given of their time and wisdom, some well beyond the course or workshop. My mother and sister often look at my work. Two of my childhood friends, and another writing friend provide feedback. Two friends in Texas, USA often read my stories. My husband is great at giving me title ideas when I’m stuck. And lastly, but so importantly, my writing group critiques most of my pieces – kindly, gently and thoroughly, helping me improve every story I submit. They are brilliant.

Without these generous people, I wouldn’t be able to make my stories work. Before the gift of their different perspectives, my work is muddy and lacks resonance. Other people get me there, every time. And I think that must be true of most writers. We think we create our stories, and it’s true we put the initial words on paper, but many others make suggestions, discuss plots, find weak points, encourage us, or even just bring us the odd cup of tea. We get the job done with the help of our gang, and hopefully we in turn become part of the support crew for other writers we know.

If you happen to be a writer doing it solo, I can recommend doing a writing course (preferably in person – just my opinion though, since I’ve heard of online writing groups that seem to work), since that’s how I met my fantastic writing group. And if you have a family member or a friend you trust, just ask. See if they’re happy to read your pieces from time to time (just try not to be impatient like me!). You can always rotate who you ask, to avoid dumping too much on the one person.

Although it’s been hard to ask for help, I’ve found that most people want to lend a hand to a struggling writer. Most people enjoy being consulted, and most people have kind spirits.

We all need each other when it comes to writing. Or perhaps I should just say we all need each other.  Writers or not.

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Off and running …

I really did it. Quit my job, walked away. Left a perfectly respectable position that gave me status, respect and good pay to try something for which I have little training and dubious aptitude. Sometimes I can hardly believe what I’ve done. Thank goodness I have a small part-time job in the pipeline and a supportive husband!

Strangely, I’m not sad. If anything, I’m a little relieved. I think I was ready to move on. But with the relief there is also a huge fear – the fear of failure, fear of mediocrity, fear that I’ll find myself floundering and uncertain and rudderless as a writer. I’m trying to sit with that fear. ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. That sort of thing. I figure this is all normal.

I’ve started a couple of stories since the big change. Both seemed like good ideas when I began but withered, mid-story. I’m unsure whether to persevere and see what they’re like once completed or whether to cut my losses. The usual writer’s dilemma, I suppose. I tell myself that all writing is good practice, whether the story ends up being ‘a winner’ or not.

Guess I’ll go see what I can do with those dodgy stories now …

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