A very intelligent and decent poet and facilitator wrote a blog a while back about progress and success. It shouldn’t matter that everybody else is being published, and you’re not. It really shouldn’t, except it does. Like it or not, the entire fabric of the literary ethos is constructed around what other people consider successful, whatever the fuck that actually means. To move forward, to be seen as capable, talking about when you’ll be published is no longer enough. It has to happen.
Many people pick the route of least resistance and publish themselves, and to be honest, it remains the best way to make money. There’s nobody else to pay but you and the printer… but the scope can be small, and the results can feel variable. When all is said and done, having other people tell you that you’re amazing and yes, could they publish your work because they think you have the potential to make everybody’s lives richer is… yeah, it’s a Thing.
This Summer, I realized how many other people needed to know I could do this. It’s also a Thing for family, your friends, your peers… when they see you working your arse off, submitting and continually failing… the assumption is that you are clearly not there yet. You need more practice, or the right place to settle your work. With time, writers begin to get the sense that even with everything else in place, the best ideas and the strongest output… it’s never just the words that matter. It’s you, too.
I have been massively lucky in the last eighteen months, but have also worked extraordinarily hard to put myself in spaces that previously were not available. COVID granted an unexpected boost : suddenly, travel to literally anywhere was possible using a computer. Instead of just doing the work, a great many extra virtual miles were walked and a tonne of extra online effort was inserted into everything that was presented. In the end, it was patience that was the missing piece of my puzzle.
It was all about waiting for the right moment. Two mutuals who I hugely respect decided to start their own Small Press in the Summer. They granted me a twenty-minute headline slot in a virtual event back in April. Then, when they saw me perform at their return to in person events in Brighton, I was asked if I’d publish with them. They couldn’t believe that I hadn’t been snapped up by anyone else. It transpires I do my best work behind a microphone and not on a page. Who knew?
I was first published in December 2018. Four years later, my inaugural poetry pamphlet will be published on November 30th. Many people have achieved more in less time, and many others have never managed so much this quickly. Success, it must be said, is very much a relative endeavour. I have a phenomenal number of people to thank for helping me here as well. I remember you all by sight, even if I end up forgetting most of your names. You are all absolutely smashing.
Flammable Solid is the next chapter of a journey I really hope never ends. I have never been more proud of myself or what is being produced at present. There has been so many compliments, so many brilliant people who have bolstered an often fractured sense of worth and ability and it is to them I look to now with grateful and bountiful thanks. Your compliments are more important than either progress or success. You have given me a value I never thought I’d ever own.
THANK YOU ALL.
PS: I did a different version of this on Twitter that actually thanks people. It starts here: