So much of writing is a leap of faith. Working without a specific contract or commission is the norm for most aspiring authors, and increasingly so even for those already published.
As a creative writing tutor, one of my most frequently repeated pieces of advice is to write for the pleasure of writing, to please yourself, and to enjoy the process. If, if, after that, the piece finds publication, then hurrah for a double result.
I’ve had more rejections than I care to remember this year – once I’ve sent something off, and noted it down somewhere, I do my utmost to forget about it – which at least means I’ve been sufficiently productive to do some original writing (and to finish it). And anyway, from an editing perspective I’m well aware, second-hand, that getting to that fabled place of agent or publisher acceptance, is simply a stepping stone to another (often equally rocky) road.
Not that such difficulties prevent any of us harbouring dreams of a fully self-sufficient life of writing. And nor should it – as the song says, if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?
The key, for me, to writing success (and sanity) is stopping to celebrate all those little achievements along the way: the carefully-crafted twitter pitch that’s liked by a couple of agents; the editor who takes the time to praise (and subsequently reject!) a specific story; occasional placement on the longlist, even (rarely) the shortlist, the invitation to speak at an event, to contribute to an anthology…The fact that as an editor I can also do this one step removed – cheering on ‘my’ authors is an enormous bonus.
Social media has its ups and downs but there’s certainly a camaraderie amongst writers all on this journey together; literary instant gratification in a Like – Look, I am here and I (or someone close to me) has achieved!
‘Winning’ at writing is all about your work finding the right audience at the right time. Sometimes it’s all a matter of perspective. November has seen my first novel, Chasing Elena, shortlisted for the eHarmony and Orion Publishers ‘Write Your Own Love Story’ competition. It never occurred to me that the lives of April and Elena, thirty years apart, could be a love story, but since I’ve refused to turn it into a crime novel or a psychological thriller or literary fiction…then what actually is it but a love story? And a love story on so many levels. But it took that leap of faith for me to see it as such.
I’m sure enough of not winning the whole competition to have promised my 8 year old an X-box if I do win (I know, terrible!) but it genuinely doesn’t matter: for the time being, the void has narrowed. A project I really believe in has been validated; I’ve had a great day out in London with the most fabulous editorial feedback; I’ve met six other aspiring authors with fascinating stories, and it’s all been fun – I’m also lucky enough to call it work.
What better combination can there be?