Writing Rejection​, Obstacles? Try to look at now with hindsight

Sometimes I feel like a fraud, on this blog telling people it’s possible to write with four young kids and all the other stuff that happens because sometimes it isn’t that possible or only just about by the skin of your teeth.

(Excuse me, I need to go and help the three year old….)

Where was I? Actually I’m lucky today because the eight year old is at a friends but the ten year old was diagnosed with Aspergers last year and his homework usually takes ages and the six year old is a great reader and loves to read whole chapters to me.

At the moment I have several projects on the go. A literary novel that needs some good scaffolding and forty thousand more words, a flash fiction project that is a third of the way there, a fun sci-fi housewife thing that I’m editing and a short story collection that could do with a shine and a polish, and a few short pieces for radio that need to be completed. All I need is time. Ha ha ha.

I recently applied for time in the form of a grant which, although was a long shot, would have enabled me to spend more time at writing. Disappointingly I discovered today that my application was not successful and although I’m sure there will be other possibilities it did knock me back. Family circumstances mean that I’ve been less able to put much time towards writing lately. I’ve worked hard in the past couple of years, eking out time in the mornings, doing two novel writing months to produce 50000 words each time. And while it’s lovely to see the Spring settle in, mother’s know that the summer means that kids are need entertaining and looking after for longer.

Here comes the pep talk bit.

The truth is somewhere in the middle a friend said. While it is true that I may have finished more books by now if I had more time, I may have applied for an agent, even been successful if I had the chance to put in a killer query, would I really have been happier. Yes.

No, hang on….

What I want to tell myself and you that we need to look back at now and see..

(hang on I need to make a snack for the kids…)

we need to look back at now and see our current situation, if we can as if with hindsight. For example these are some of the things I might tell myself if I came back from the future:

‘The book is much better two years later than it would have been if I’d finished it then’

‘I’m a better writer now, I wasn’t ready then’

‘I’m much better placed now, mentally and practically for publication, marketing etc

Traditional publication is slow, it didn’t matter that I took some extra time to get things right.

I’ve made better decisions about my writing than I would have back then.

With success becomes responsibility and that can be a headache too.

‘I’ve realised I didn’t want to be a writer at all, I much prefer being a second hand car saleman’


Maybe not the last….


I certainly don’t believe ‘there is a reason for everything’ – I think the world is a rather chaotic, chancy but sometimes serendipitous thing, the grass is always a little bit green where you are already and a little bit worn and patchy on the other side.

However this pep talk I’m giving, (and it’s really to myself) should make me think about what advantages I have now; artistic freedom, freedom from deadlines and marketing circuits, all my children close at hand, the cheerleading of my lovely real world and online friends, some solid successes in the short story world. I also need to realise that opportunity and success can also have their own drawbacks. The truth is somewhere in the middle. So once the disappointment fades let’s see where the truth about our writing lies and proceed on.


19 thoughts on “Writing Rejection​, Obstacles? Try to look at now with hindsight

  1. Another excellent blog, Alison. I started my career as a novelist quite late, and I look back and wonder about what might have been if I had started earlier. But I couldn’t have written then what I am writing now. The gift of the present time is real — unlike dreams.

    1. alisonwells

      What a lovely response. I really love to hear from people like you who as you say ‘started quite late’ for whatever reason. There is too much emphasis these days on achieving early.

  2. Oh, Alison I’m sorry you didn’t get the grant you’d hoped for. I can imagine how you’d pictured the luxury of more time to do more writing.
    I remember a time, perhaps ten years ago, when I was feeling time running out, biologically, and I had spectacularly failed to find Mr Right. In some ways there are parallels (for me) between that feeling and the pressing desire to be published and successful writer. I saw friends marrying and having their first children often with people they’d met at university, or childhood sweethearts. I wondered if I’d missed a trick, and I was going to end up a grumpy old spinster. A while ago, when friends were possibly a little bored with me telling them I was writing a novel, no novels having yet appeared in any book shops, I felt the same way. So many fabulous new novelists out there, people writing their debuts while still at university, lists of the best writers ‘under 40’… had I missed a trick? But then I was busy enjoying (and sometimes tearing my hair out because of) the children I once doubted I’d have.
    OK I’m sorry about this rambling response. It’s meant to be a pep talk, and in summary, don’t ever give up on your dreams. Things will happen for you one day because you are persistent and also brilliant.

  3. A really lovely post, Alison. It doesn’t matter how many times people tell you that rejections aren’t personal – they hurt like mad! And when you have so many other calls on your life (I’ve got kids and teach part time, so I really sympathise!) it’s even harder, because all the juggling takes it out of you. But you’re so right – each stage you reach has its own merits and should be valued as such. I’m so glad now that I had all the rejections I did, because my book was SO much better by the end of all the revisions I did, thanks to the various feedbacks (feeds-back??) from rejecting agents. And I was in a better place mentally, too – more focused, more street-wise and (a bit) less scatty. (PS I started quite late, too. Not sure I’d have had anything to say about anything, earlier on in my life!)

  4. And can I just add that anyone who writes as well as you do in your blog posts is going to find success. It will just certainly happen! You’ll be so pleased that it happened the way it did, when it does, if you see what I mean. Your persistance and abilities will win out – all the agents say that a story that has to be told will be told – eventually. Just hang on in there!

  5. I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t get the grant – but like you say, that doesn’t detract from all your hard work and dedication. Whatever your situation, it’s hard to get a happy medium – but your situation is more challenging than most. I’m amazed at how much you squeeze into your day. And look at all the success you’ve achieved so far.

    There is a happy medium somewhere, but it’s hard to find it. I’ve resigned myself to thinking maybe we won’t find it? As writers, we’re typically self critical, driven and never seem to know when enough is enough. I don’t know any writer who hasn’t got several projects on the go (like you listed above) – or any writer who, despite having a full schedule, would turn down a great project idea. Your mantras are great – and true (OK, maybe not the car salesman bit).

    I think you’ve got a great attitude towards not getting the grant; ride the situation and the momentary disappointment through, keep reminding yourself of the benefits of taking time over your writing, and above all applaud yourself for having the courage, determination and skill to keep going. Thanks for writing this post – I think it’s important for writers everywhere to realise that, despite the best intentions and dedication, we all have blips sometimes.

  6. Alison, as you know, I am one of your biggest fans. I also completely understand. When I balance the ideas in my head with the amount of time available to transfer them into something ‘real’, it’s laughable.

    You have hit the nail on the head though, in 2 years time, our 3 year olds will be at school. But, you know what, even with that time, it will *never* feel like enough time. Available time has a way of being filled with other tasks.

    Keep grabbing at the moments you do have and putting them to use. If anyone deserves to succeed, it’s you.

  7. Alison, I’m so sorry you didn’t get that grant.
    It’s a good pep talk you give yourself.
    Nothing is wasted for the writer when it comes to life – everything can inform what you produce creatively, indeed I think the sacrifices you make as a mother will have made you a better writer.
    One of my favourite quotes by a children’s writer (sadly I forget who) is: After twenty years I became an overnight success.
    (I found that curiously encouraging anyway! Keep going.)

  8. Ah, I can relate to this. If we didn’t have the chaotic household, would we have as many ideas? I write for kids, and having a house full of kids actually creates a pile of ideas I’ll never have enough time to pursue. Hopefully we can all enjoy where were at right now, wherever that might be. 😀

  9. Alison, you’re a marvel. The things you’ve struggled through this last year, yet you have so many things on the go, not to mention the constant cheery support & kind words you give us. You’re doing an amazing job and your talent will absolutely be recognised. xx

  10. Alison, thanks for sharing your pep talk.
    We do tend to put on blinders, thinking we’ve figured out just the right step to take on the right path at the right time. It’s only when we twist our ankle and fall in the dirt that we see the other paths, other times, other steps that are possible. Happy hobbling!

    I also wanted to share that I wailed for years about not having enough time to write. I managed to eke out a novel and get a few short stories published, but I *knew* I’d never be a “serious writer” until I could do it full time.

    Then, I got really sick, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, had electroshock therapy, lost my husband/job/home. My family moved me back to my hometown. One day I was writing in my journal, and I realized that while I’d lost everything, I finally had all the time I’d ever wanted to write. So, I started in again, fearless, and I haven’t stopped.

    I, too, have difficulty with the belief that ‘everything happens for a reason,’ but I *do* believe that when one door shuts, another one opens.
    Many Blessings!

  11. alisonwells

    Thanks everyone for sharing your own experiences and for your supportive comments. I think sometimes it’s a matter of resilience. Sometimes the resilience wears thin and sometimes even when things are difficult we can find a way to keep moving forward.

  12. Sorry you didn’t get the grant, Alison.
    I know how you feel, trying to find time with your kids around. However, I only started back writing since I had my youngest so in a way, I wouldn’t be writing at all if I had continued working full-time.
    I have changed my idea of what I want to write since I started. I used to think it was a novel but now I feel it is shorter pieces, like radio, or theatre, even short film.
    So we probably need time to incubate the ideas.

    1. alisonwells

      Hi Brigid, Very intrigued by what you said there about the shorter pieces, short film! cool! The short stuff is much easier to do and I get a lot more joy from it, satisfying to see it complete and be able to send it out sooner. Yes, you can incubate ideas for shorter stuff more easily while there are distractions about. A lot less head wrecking all round.

  13. Thanks for another brilliant post Alison, I’m glad you shared this. I’ve spent years gnashing my teeth over not being able to get anywhere while yesterday’s shining young literary lights have turned into today’s pillars of the writing world…and here I am, still grubbing around down in the silt at the very bottom of the pond. I regularly find myself thinking perhaps I’m deluded and really, I’d make a much better second-hand car salesman. You’ve hit the nail on the head, it does come down to resilience, and mine is particularly thin at the moment too.

    You are a fantastic writer, and I love reading your blog. And I swear children sap one’s energy horribly!! It’s one of my favourite excuses!

    1. alisonwells

      Hi Sam, Very much with you on the bright young things! As the Irish politicians keep saying (as we grit our teeth) ‘we are where we are’. We can only do what we can do. Sometimes it would be great just to have a few days off and not think about anything at all. There is no clear answer. We write because we love to but it’s such hard work and there really is no material or sane reason for doing it!

  14. So sorry to hear about the grant, Alison. I had a similar knock back this week. Made the short list, but in the end didn’t get the cash… I’ve come to the post late, so everything’s been said really. All I can do is add my ‘hear, hear’ and reiterate that, in the end, talent, hard work and tenacity pay off.

  15. I popped back to say that it might be worth you taking look at the Irish film board for ‘First Draft’ loans, I recently got a rejection for one but they sent a very positive detailed readers feedback, which is useful to have. Might be worth a go for you, some of your pieces I have read are very visual. Let me know if you have any luck. I did a free scriptwriting course with Blanch library with film people, maybe something like that in your area? Best of luck if you try. See you at the Oscars!

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