Soon it will be eight years since I started to write seriously. In that time I have published a book of poems, 2 novels and a collection of stories. What I thought was important about writing has taken a full u-turn in the last two years. I’m starting my fourth decade with some clarity about this writing lark.
At the start, I entered competitions and submitted to lit mags. I even started one and worked on that for five years. I learned a lot about the lit business, but now I am trying to unlearn it all.
I learned that being on a shortlist is some kind of torture. (Constant email checking, anyone?) That is not to say that I won’t flip the odd story in the direction of a free contest. Though I have very few to offer, as I tend to write longer stories and guidelines are usually tiny. I’m leaning away … It’s hard to unlearn.
I write firstly for myself and having a readership is great. I once said at a reading that I want to produce a body of work I’m proud of. There were some looks of disbelief. Honestly, I’m not in it for the (no) money. My goal hasn’t changed. In fact, I need to just get back to it with fewer distractions and doubts.
I write because I have something to say – usually about violence, power, gender or disability. Can you stick a rosette on that?
Before my first novel got published I knew I would publish it myself if I didn’t get a taker. Going indie suits my personality. I love every creative aspect of it, especially cover design; I started as a visual artist.
That book, in the end, was picked up by a publisher. Long story short it went out of print and so I did reissue the book myself and loved doing it.
After everything I had learned about how much we need the nod of approval from others, what was I doing going solo?
This is what: I was not letting my book die. People wanted copies of it. I was not going to let disappointment win.
Yet people still frown on self-belief.
I don’t see books in terms of success vs failure. Even though it is how we are being programmed. We all know that some bestsellers are made by geniuses, others are made by the hype machine. They are still someone’s creative project.
Lately, and for a while now, I have had some horrible confidence-denting emails that would stop a less assured writer in her tracks. Writers need to be able to take rejection, etc. Maybe. Do they need to take unkindness? No, they don’t. Or at least, I won’t. It’s unnecessary.
I love when people talk about their ‘rejections’ online and not just the successes. Writing has been fantastic. Getting published has had nice highs and crushing lows. I hope it’s helpful to know that, for anyone just starting off. It’s helpful for me on the cusp of doing it again.
I keep on writing. That won’t stop anytime soon and if it did I’d still have a few manuscripts almost ready to go, or getting there, and I will get them there. I might take all sorts of routes. I haven’t decided. But they certainly aren’t going to stay in my drawer because someone hasn’t given them the green light. I’m green lighting them.
One I made earlier will be released soon. You can pre-order it here. But only if you really want to 😉