Sometimes I hear traditionally published writers being interviewed on the radio bemoaning that writing is hard work. Usually I get a tad cross, they have everything I want (or so I think in the moment) and envy is a terrible thing. But these last couple of weeks I’ve been wondering: is writing hard work?
I don’t mean hard work as compared to digging diamonds out of a mine in Angola. Or trying to get by as a single mum on minimum benefits. Or being a subsistence farmer. But is there something hard about trying to be a writer?
Perhaps that is a different question. The writing I don’t find hard. I know I have to make a commitment of time, energy and creative input to compose the best story or poem I possibly can. However, I find this process of creation a joy.
Being a writer, though, there’s the rub. What is a writer? Someone who writes, who commits to the craft of writing? If only. There’s an argument that a piece is not complete until it has been read. And connecting with readers is, of course, hard work.
The other thing I find hard work is keeping motivated. I get caught up in a ‘what’s the point’ – ‘no-one cares’ spiral which stills my hand and seeks to squash my creative spirit. The Great Silencer. I struggle with him a lot.
Maybe it is only our own demons which make writing hard?
What makes writing hard for you?
I was watching the BAFTAs on TV the other evening and noticing those who did not win, hiding their disappointment with a smile and with whole-hearted applause for the victor. I want to be equally gracious in defeat, as I have not gone from the long-list to the short-list for the Crime Writers Association first novel award (http://thecwa.co.uk/news/cwa-dagger-awards-shortlist/).
I do keep reminding myself that it is already an achievement to be on the long-list, there were only twelve of us chosen out of 400 entrants. Even so, I do feel disappointed not to have gone further.
On the other hand, this could be an opportunity to hunt down an agent and I am preparing to do that. Plus I am working on ‘The Art of Survival’ the second book in my crime series which I hope to publish this Autumn (agent or no agent). I am into writing the final draft as well as planning the publishing schedule, talking to printers, copy-editors, proof-readers and so on. No time to dwell too long on the if onlys….
Ten years ago, Julia Darling died of cancer. She wrote in many different genres, but it is her collections ‘Apologies for Absence’ and ‘Sudden Collapses in Public Places’ which I go back to most often. Through this poetry she charted her life with cancer and also asked pertinent questions about illness/health and how we as individuals/professionals respond to both.
At our Lapidus (www.lapidus.org.uk) meeting on Saturday, Julia was amongst us like a benign ghost and so was her poetry, inspiring us to write about ourselves and our own approaches to wellness. I was pleased to discover some lines from Chemotherapy:
‘I’m not unhappy. I have learnt to drift
and sip. The smallest things are gifts.’
Another line from this poem prompted me to write the following, which I feel is perhaps an aspiration, perhaps a blessing:
I would wear myself more lightly;
my self –
a silk shawl,
imperfectly woven, yet
vibrant and warm.
And dear reader I am on it! There are 12 of us out of 400 entrants. To say I am surprised would be understating it, I have to keep pinching myself and re-reading the email from the CWA. Hopefully once I get through the shock, I will feel excited. At the moment, I begin to feel excited and then think, no, I’m not really there, it’s all a big mistake….
I have also been receiving some lovely reviews of my book, one calling it ‘haunting’. It’s being read by a niche audience at the moment, but a jolly nice niche audience.
P’raps you’d like to join them? Find ‘The Art of the Imperfect’ here: http://goo.gl/z7HFgz