Orientation is a good part of the battle
Whether it be as a beginner writer or one taking up the mantle over and over again against the backdrop of life’s challenges and chaos, it can seem as if the idea of getting to write, or being a writer, or becoming a published author is either impossible or unlikely. There are times when the odds seem against us, in terms of time, the market, others perceptions or our own energy levels. Perhaps this is a sombre view, you can take up many hobbies and activities and enjoy them but if the artistic pusuit feels to you to be part of who you are then being able to do it and progress in it and perhaps be recognised for it become much more important.
The fulfillment of our artistic ambitions becomes tied up with our self esteem and we may begin to berate ourselves for not having begun, or got as far as we wanted, or starting too late in life, or always putting other tasks ahead of what we want to do, or not finishing projects fast enough.
What I want to say to you is that orienting ourselves towards writing, (especially in difficult circumstances) is a significant achievement. Even before you put words on the page, just thinking about writing, thinking about ways you might carve out time or a writing space, letting projects run through your mind as you wake early in the morning, all these can bring their own impetus. We need to be careful not to kill that impetus by denigrating it, by taking ourselves apart and bemoaning all that we have not achieved yet. This might sound counter intuitive and naiive. Of course we can’t just procrastinate and never start, or rest on our laurels or not aim high. We can’t just stay still. We need to be ambitious of course but gentle with ourselves too, nurturing our quiet ambitions and our tentative steps. We need to build up to projects, not run ahead. We need to get others on board and find the core things that will power us as we develop our projects. But first we start, we take a course, we decide, we buy a notebook, we jot down ideas, we write for half an hour or ten minutes, we decide to post up our first story or to self-publish or join a writers group. We need to nurture our quite ambitions and tentative steps.
Last night I was delighted to attend the launch of Hazel Gaynor’s The Girl who Came Home, a book about a particular group of 14 individuals from Mayo who travelled on the ill-fated Titanic. This is a terrifically written book and one that secured a US publishing deal as well as UK and Irish release. But this is not your run of the mill publishing story. I interviewed Hazel several years ago as part of my Writer-Mother series, she was a mum of two very young boys and started out as a Mummy blogger (hotcrossmum) and was very successful at it. After writing several novels, she followed her abiding interest in the Titanic story, and wrote this terrific book and secured an agent. As the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic was at hand and the book had not yet sold to a publishing house, the decision was taken to self-publish The Girl who Came Home. The book sold so well that she attracted the attention of a US agent who then secured a publishing deal for the US and here. Hazel’s story is one of tenacity and determination and also of making your own luck. There are no guarantees when you begin to write that you’ll be good enough and even if you’re good enough, you’ll always need an element of luck in getting an agent or publisher to take note. As Hazel said last night, it was an absolute dream of hers to have a real book, published and in a book shop and I’m very sure the book will do extremely well. It has wide appeal and the writing and story are just excellent.
Begin and Keep On
The task of a writer then is to begin, to have enough courage and optimism and verve to hope and to start. Or even when obstacles stand in the way to still begin, to take out the blank page or submit a work. When years pass honing the craft and small successes arrive but bigger ones are still elusive, you must still keep on. There are no guarantees and you will always have to decide on what balance you want in following your writing dream and the work that goes into that alongside all the other elements of your life. Talking to some fellow writers recently, there’s plenty of candidates to join the Writer’s Despondency Club. I’ve received several rejections recently alongside some nice successes in lit mags, my literary novels are still searching for an agent though and I’m building back the energy after ill health to share my creativity thoughts with you and proceed on a new book. We might never reach quite where we want to – or perhaps we’ll come close but we can make our own chances along the way. We can make our work available to be read (doing that earned me a Glass Woman Prize finalist place), we can submit to journals and send, like Donal Ryan of the Spinning Heart our manuscript out 70 times. We can attend literary events and festival and make contacts. We can, after a day of no or poor words, start again and try. This is how we keep on, keep optimistic, begin over and over and persevere.
Tomorrow I’ll be issuing you with a writing challenge that may help you prepare for a brilliant and upcoming submission opportunity.
Don’t forget to jump right in to our 30k in May challenge and to introduce yourself and up date progress in the comments on that post.