Alone Again Or

Yesterday, I filled in a survey for a large organisation who, if I’m honest, was never set up to deal with the likes of me. The girl with anxiety issues, constant bouts of Impostor Syndrome, fear of failure and inability to understand what other people are talking about, on her worst days, puts the cause back months. Today however that girl’s still in bed, not wanting to push forward or achieve greatness. In her place this doppelganger is at the PC, putting in the hours, covering for inadequacy.

The world’s a tough place to negotiate at the best of times, especially in these fraught days of political and social uncertainty. The survey asked me a simple question: what do I miss in my life, now that there’s so much dedication to the writing cause? The answer is simple: friends. People who understand what this is like: the constant rejections, the uncertainty, doubting yourself and the output you produce. When I look at the successful people in my timeline, perilously few show the weaknesses I deal with.

Maybe that’s part of the problem.

Twitter presents the world with a platform to be whatever they wish, yet so many believe that’s the kind of person who never shows vulnerability or shortcomings. Undoubtedly the people I now gain the most from in terms of interactivity and support are those who show this more vulnerable side, not afraid to be honest with their failings. It is also becoming increasingly apparent that anyone who arrogantly believes their opinion is the only right answer will never be worth listening to or indeed debating with.

When I’m writing poetry, or fiction, or whatever else might be needed of me in terms of words, success is what is aimed for. However, less and less that success equates to being able to put well known organisations next to my work. Validation in a capitalist society inevitably is being able to earn a wage from your efforts. It doesn’t help that ‘best-selling’ ‘successful’ writers are all over my social media: many act like they’re some kind of literary evangelist, offering answers and succour in exchange for your fealty.

Except reality is a long way from that truth.

A lot of individuals consider any public admission of failure as unacceptable. It is understandable, especially as such concepts are often grouped with social constructs or lifestyle choices that directly fly in the face of continued success. The pressure to achieve, present the ‘right’ impression or outlook, places incredible amounts of stress on the most hardened of individuals… and yet, showing this is inevitably negative. That’s not true. To err is human. It is the most basic part of ourselves, and should be embraced.

Today, sitting here, I know there’s a rejection waiting to drop in my Inbox. I could probably write the generic message that will accompany it. It will include phrases such as:

‘hugely high standard of entries’
‘incredibly difficult decision’
‘so difficult to choose a winner’
‘because of the high volume of entries, no individual criticism of individual work can be provided…’

and there’s the killer. Nobody’s willingly prepared to offer free criticism, or comment. If you want to learn how to do this, you’ll more than likely have to pay someone for the privilege. Take a course, hire an editor, and even then nobody may care one jot about what makes you passionate because, in the current market, nobody wants poetry that rhymes. Your narrative is unsaleable, according to people who claim to share your passion, but only if it will make them money.

This is a tough world, and it is not getting any easier.

Not gonna lie here, I have JK muted on Twitter. Her ideas and mine are quite a long way apart, but if personal proof were needed that the unknown can become successful overnight, this is it. It would be a foolish person who did not respect the achievement of others: it is also a foolish person who will believe that only one route to success exists, and that is to exactly emulate the actions of others, without being true to yourself first. You are what you are, good and bad: I believe that you need to embrace both to be truly comfortable with your work.

One day, my work will get noticed. There’s a fair chance that won’t happen until long after I’m dead, part of why the notion of ‘success’ needs to change in the here and now. As it is just as likely I’ll not be around to enjoy that definition, maybe this is the moment to find the joy elsewhere, and stop worrying about the idea that you’re only good when people you don’t know read your work and enjoy it. I’m already at that stage, or else you wouldn’t be here now. So, in that regard, this is progress.

What matters most, right now, is honesty and not publicity.

Learning to Fly

Some days, it gets old. When publishers use online resources to gather your submissions, but then can’t be bothered to offer the same courtesy in order to let you know you didn’t make it. When rejection letters are so generic and yet positive as to be, quite frankly, depressing beyond belief. The long periods when you sit around, ignorant and clueless, no idea if your work has been chosen, or even if it’s been read. Then, to add insult to injury, some famous writer turns up in your Social media mentions before preaching from their position of wealth and success, telling you to never give up.

Yes, you will continue to fail, but not nearly as much as you think.

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There’s a lot of virtual fatigue around these parts of late: whether you’ve had enough of the news coverage, political turmoil, the naysayers almost joyfully predicting the Apocalypse has already arrived… none of this is any help at all when the future, at least for you, is tied to a bunch of people who don’t seem to care one iota about what you’ve done, until suddenly they decide they can make money from it.

That’s the key to breaking the control such things have on creativity; this is not about what you’re writing to make money. Of course it would help, and we all need to be careful of the promises made to ourselves and others when such lofty claims are thrown about. In the end, writing has to be about deriving pleasure from the action. You need to find the means by which development takes place, allowing creativity to move forward. Without this, there is stagnation, and ultimately depression.

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The key, of course, is to keep trying. The mark of the best writers is the undiminished enthusiasm for all forms of their craft, regardless of their situation. In my mind, the  famous writers sitting on social media, telling others how to succeed are doing it wrong. There, I said it. There are rules, sure, and there are processes certainly, but the best way isn’t what somebody else tells you to do. It’s the way you feel happiest. Learning is incredibly subjective, and if you’re struggling with difficulty in that department, it can feel like an uphill slog.

It’s become an industry out here of coaches, supporters, service industries you can’t live without: programmes for editing and grammar, insistence you need to have never published online, that virtual books are somehow less important than their paper counterparts… and the list goes on. In the end, your individual version of success will vary. Other people will only consider you successful when you earn money from your writing. Personal satisfaction, growth and evolution become completely irrelevant.

Those people are wrong, too.

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In the end, you do feel everything, like it or not. Good and bad, capable or otherwise. As you continue to fail, success can seem a lifetime away, if all you define progress upon is the validation of others. This is my (by now daily) reminder that they don’t matter. I do. This is my journey and not theirs, and although their intervention affects progress, it will never be the best reward. That comes every time someone thanks me for a post, or enjoys a poem. This is the stuff that cannot be bought.

This is the true satisfaction derived from the written word.

Moving On Up

One of the most significant issues I need to overcome going forward is writing to deadlines. As this is being written (late, it must be said) there is the spectre of another ‘must be finished by’ item sitting to my right, taunting a brain that knows perfectly well how to schedule, but that struggles with the impetus to do just that. Next year will include finding third party help in learning practical means by which this happens more often than not. Time management, after all, is a problem for many.

My job now is to organise better and be more productive when inspiration strikes.

Redesign

There will be a lot of thought given over the Christmas break over what stays and goes on this site in the New Year. I’ve already made the decision not to blog at weekends: not only does this allow more content to get used in the week, but provisions for scheduling that ought to be finished on a Friday. Effectively, therefore, I work during the week and have two days off. To do so however means fitting in what used to be Sunday planning on a Friday. This is where everything needs to change for the better.

It will require a quite complicated checklist of things that need to be finished in certain places and at particular times, but this is no more complex than my current workload. I could, for instance, write all the posts here on one day and then schedule them all to cover the week. I could get up 30 minutes earlier every day and write my personal blog if that’s a better fit. What has to happen is change, so there can be some feel for what is most appropriate.

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Technology in 2019 will serve me and not make life difficult. It will be impossible however to avoid certain issues, and my mental health will (like it or not) cause conflict along the way. However, what has become apparent in the last few months is I’m more than capable of rising to a challenge, so that’s what this is. Everything can be fun, useful and a learning experience.

That’s what happens here going forward.

And I Love Her

This is the last of four posts I scheduled for ‘Interests’ in the mistaken belief there’s enough interesting stuff in my life to write about at length. The truth is, of course, existence is incredibly mundane most of the time. I eat, sleep, exercise, write, play mum to two young adults who increasingly don’t require the supervision and a husband who I have to schedule time with around work and cycling. None of this is a problem. Life is pretty much as good as it can be.

Some people in my position would be unhappy however that this is all there is. They are, and daily via Social media that fact is communicated with varying degrees of competence. Sure, there’s stuff here that could be better, and changed: it is, slowly, all being reassessed as issues present themselves. On the top of that list is redecorating the house, which has pretty much remained as it was since my daughter was born in 2005. After that, the garden’s slowly becoming a practical place in which to grow fruit.

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Yes, of course I’d like a sizeable pile of best-selling books in any number of genres and styles, but I’m also very much a realist. It’s been a year here pretty much solidly of creating this website, building a foundation of content that will allow me to continue to grow and expand as a writer, with living proof of ability outside of submitted work. Next year, that means being able to self-generate income. It worked for six months with Patreon, and hopefully once I get Gumroad up and running it will again.

I can but hope.

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It is a modest goal, to recreate a career from scratch at this late stage of existence. I feel it isn’t overreaching, and is still eminently doable. When my faith in other people is shaken, that the people I respect and look up to are human too and can make mistakes, it is just a part of the process required to make the next step. Self promotion is not dirty or wrong. Some people will hate you regardless. There’s no right way to become what your dreams dictate.

Just be yourself, and hope everything else just works out okay.