Tag Archives: emerging writer

Taking stock in November

Do you have Novemberitis? It’s a thing, really. I reckon it’s a thing. In November, you can start to get restless because really you’re running out of time for whatever goal you were hoping to achieve this year (to finally make peace with your mother, to stop hating kale, to get that three-book deal). You can see December looming and you know it’s going to whizz by and then bloody hell … what happened to 2016?

Some of us will have had successes. Some of us will have had nothing but discouragement. Some of us will have had small victories. The fact is, we’re all trying hard.

And for writers, that’s really what counts. The main thing is the writing, the doing, the learning, the improving. The getting published bit feels so vitally important, but really it’s the process that matters most of all. So if all that happened this year was that you wrote and re-wrote and edited and maybe submitted, plus you ran a household or a sales team, fed the cat and phoned your sister and ate some steamed greens now and then – well surely that’s a successful year. And success feeds on success.

Writing seems to me to be a constant apprenticeship; to write is to be forever learning. So every day spent writing pays off, adds to the next day. Nothing is wasted, not even the words we throw away.

I have a mild case of Novemberitis but I know the best remedy. #amwriting 🙂

 

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Smackdown

So I guess I deserved this. What did I think would happen when I declared myself practically immune to writing rejection? Ha! Karma swung around and bit me on the butt.

It turns out I am totally fine with receiving writing rejections … sometimes. Those times include – when I don’t expect to get accepted anyway, when the rejections are spaced far apart, and possibly also when there’s something else exciting going on in my life.

On the other hand it seems I am not remotely good with rejection when I get three knockbacks in just over 24 hours. In fact I am a sulky, sooky baby (yes, I know, first world problems). I’ve tried eating a hell of a lot of ice-cream but that has been unsuccessful. So I thought I’d ‘write it out’. Verbally pout and gnash my teeth. I feel a bit better already 🙂

If you’d like to add to my complaints with some of your own, feel free. It doesn’t have to be about writing – any whining is welcome. There will be no judgement, only empathy!

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Taking Rejection like a Boss

I am the Rejection Queen! Watch me laugh in the face of defeat!

Actually, I don’t consider receiving a rejection letter to be a defeat. Not anymore. I don’t love rejection emails, but they don’t ruffle me like they used to. When I first started submitting stories to magazines, anthologies and competitions (four years ago, almost to the day), every ‘it’s not for us’ email stung. I cried once or twice, wondering if I’d ever get anywhere with writing. Over the next year or two I had a couple of positive replies, the occasional writing ‘win’, but so few and far between! Still, as time went on, rejection emails affected me less and less. I grew a thicker skin and began to believe in myself, just a little.

These days, I read the email and move on. Mostly I feel neutral, like I do when I’m cleaning my teeth. Sometimes I sigh, but that’s about it. I’ve decided it’s simply a numbers game. Write, re-write, polish, send out. Write, re-write, polish, send out. I don’t wait for replies on anything – I just go on to the next project. (Or sometimes I bake. There are times when cake is needed first.) I figure spending time mourning a story not accepted just gets in the way of finding the next possible placement for that piece, or blocks the writing of a fresh, new story.

I just counted them up, and since my very first submission, I have sent out 89 pieces (many of these are repeat submissions). I try to have at least ten stories out at any one time. Currently I have twelve pieces out there in the big, wide world, so I’m happy with that. I figure all I can do is write the best work I can and send it to well-suited homes. The rest is in the lap of the writing gods.

I’m hoping for some good news soon. I’m ready for an acceptance email or a competition win. But if nothing happens, if the next writing mail is a rejection, I’ll pull on my big girl panties, adjust my Rejection Queen tiara, (make a quick red velvet cake) and take it like a boss.

*Feel free to leave a comment … I wrote this in the hope that other writers might feel less alone, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.*

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Dogged Persistence

Tilly 25:11:14

My sister-in-law sent me a link the other day. It was an article about the research of a well-known psychologist, Anders Ericsson, who believes that given a certain basic level of talent, the main difference between people being ordinary or high-achievers in almost any field – music, chess, writing, even athletics – is the hours of learning and practice they put in. Talent doesn’t figure nearly as highly as you would think, according to the large studies he has analysed. The key to success is persistence. Not just mindless repetition though. The time has to be used for learning, finding ways to improve, taking new information on board, mastering each new skill. Spending hours and hours, week after week, year after year.

I found this quite cheering. Not so much the fact that I’ve obviously still got years to go before I might become a terrific writer. More that it’s potentially possible – I could become really good. Success is not just for those special writers who were born gifted, it’s not necessarily out of my reach. According to this scientist, unless I genuinely have zero aptitude for writing, I can be good at this. If I just put in the hard work, if I keep going despite all the rejection emails and the temptation of Facebook and the constant desire to bake chocolate chip cookies, I have a great chance of becoming a skilled writer. We all do – all of us who love words, the hapless scribblers of the world. Woo hoo!

When I worked as a GP, I was painfully aware that I wasn’t the smartest doctor in town. I didn’t know the causes of raised calcium off by heart and I had to look up drugs sometimes because I couldn’t remember which was which. I don’t know if I ever fully understood how the kidneys worked, but luckily that wasn’t really relevant to day-to-day practice. I did know how to work hard, though. How to read around patient cases, and call pathologists for advice. How to badger hospital outpatient departments to get my patients seen promptly. How to spend time with my patients and examine them fully and not rush them out the door. I knew how to put in the time required.

Now, trying to establish myself as a writer, that same determination is still with me. It flags sometimes, especially when it’s been a long time since any positive news (Like right now. Around ten months. Not that I’m counting). But I remind myself that the writers who don’t succeed aren’t necessarily the ones without the requisite talent – they’re also the ones who stopped writing. The ones who quit.

So after each ‘thanks but no thanks’ email I take a deep breath, make a cup of tea, and go back to putting words on the page. One foot in front of the other. Woof.

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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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Redemption

So, it seems I’m a terrible blogger. No post for over a year – abysmal. But here I am, just checking in. Trying to redeem myself.

It’s a funny thing about redemption – that seems to be the theme of so many of my stories. I’m attracted to the idea that no matter what mistakes we make, despite how we mess up and do the wrong thing as we muddle through life, there is always the potential for change. There is always hope, no matter how small.

This applies to writing as well as people, I think. I wrote a really bad story last year (so bad it frightened me. I’m not being dramatic, it actually terrified me how bad it was. I had trouble continuing to write). But because I am finally learning that to create a good story, you must write a whole lot of awfulness (or middling-ness, at best), then revise, edit, change, fix … because I am finally realising that only weird genius writers actually write stuff fully-formed, I let it rest. I let the smelly, messy, bulging bag of manure just sit there in the corner. I pretended I didn’t even know it was mine, and I wrote some other bits and pieces to console myself. Finally, I opened the bag of excrement that was my story, and kind of gently poked around (with gloves on, of course), and found something in there that wasn’t poo! It smelt a bit and took me awhile to separate from the poo, but it wasn’t actual poo. Let’s just say it was grass, or a stick. Not a diamond that’s for sure.

Anyway I took that tiny section, and stretched it out; I cleaned it and brushed it, and lo! it is not too bad. I’m not saying it’s going to win any accolades, but it’s got some redeeming features. I like it.

So to any other newbie writers out there – I say don’t be afraid of the poo. Keep all your dodgy, smelly stories, and come back to them. There will be something good there, no matter how small.

And now I must go. There’s another sack waiting to be opened.

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