Any regular reader of this blog will know I decided to take my writing more seriously at the beginning of 2015. Like most writers, I’ve pretty much always written – journals, stories, bits of poems – and when I was growing up, I dreamed of becoming a journalist who wrote novels in her spare time.
Fast forward in time, and getting waylaid somewhat along the way, needless to say, I didn’t go into journalism. I worked as various other things; secretary, social services assistant, ceramic café owner and, importantly, mum of two daughters.
So, January 2015, mine and my partner’s business sold, my daughters growing, and I finally decided to actually try to keep a new year’s resolution, for once. I packed my husband off to his new teaching post, and my kids back to school, finished off my BA in English Literature (graduation later this week – eek!), and set about setting up a blog and investigating the possibility of following my life-long dreams at long last.
And the results have been, at various times, both amazing and disappointing. For someone who has always written under the duvet, as it were, to come out (in a literary sense) and let other people read my work has been both terrifying and exhilarating.
First, I set about writing articles (remember the journalist dream?) mainly because I find factual and opinion pieces easier to write – they are, after all, a little like writing an essay for a tutor to mark, only the tutor is an editor and possibly more picky. At first, I heard nothing, then – success! I started getting pieces accepted by the brilliant online magazine www.skirtcollective.com. I was well chuffed. I started writing book reviews for www.thebookbag.co.uk, something I felt more than trained for after studying English Literature for the past few years. I got some lovely personal emails from editors who, whilst turning down the piece of work, encouraged me to work on them and re-submit.
I also got a couple of poems published in an online journal – something which I find much harder to write, and two life-writing pieces in a local magazine. I was flying high. Then, it went a bit quiet…
I got to a point a few weeks ago, where I felt I was starting to wilt a little. I was writing piece after piece, sending them out to both print and online magazines, and getting, at best a polite rejection, at worst – nothing. I started with the procrastination – today I’ll tidy the desk; tomorrow I’ll get back to writing.
In the meantime, I continued work on a couple of short stories I’d started at the beginning of the year. I joined a writing group – to get that ever necessary but ultimately terrifying ‘honest feedback’. I also started reading more again, something I’d been neglecting a bit.
I re-read some of my favourite writers, to study their style; Vendela Vida, Aimee Bender, Mary Wesley. I re-read Natalie Goldberg’s excellent Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind. And then I got hold of the new Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert.
I’ve long been a fan of Ms Gilbert’s wonderful way with words; the way she pulls you in, making you believe she’s your best mate. But the best thing about the book is that she reminded me that there is no rush. As she says, she has committed to being a writer for the rest of her life – so why worry how long it’s taking to get published?
I realised that that’s where I’ve been going a bit wrong lately. I was running out of creative steam because I was in such a hurry to prove myself. I thought if I wasn’t having something published every week, then I wasn’t really a writer. I felt like I needed to justify myself – my time sitting at this makeshift desk in the corner of the bedroom, typing away, living in the stories in my head.
But I realised – it’s okay. I’m doing okay. Those short stories I dug out? There’s real potential in them, I think. And I realised in trying to churn out articles at a couple a week, I was losing the thing that got me published in the first place – the passion and belief in the subject matter.
This realisation must have come at the right time – because I was recently accepted as a contributor to a new arts website in my home city of Sheffield www.thestateofthearts.co.uk and have so far had two pieces published on the site http://www.thestateofthearts.co.uk/features/the-sheffield-authors-who-are-doing-it-for-themselves-by-kate-jones/ ironically celebrating other local authors.
So, with this new insight, I’ve slowed down a bit. I’ve decided that it’s fine to take my own sweet time at this – because I’m in it for the long-haul. I want to write, and write I do. Every single day. If I remember the advice of the guru that is Liz Gilbert – to write for myself first and to enjoy the ride – then whether the results get published or not, I will have had a ball along the way.