Inspiration Needed for the Writing not the Creating

Or how nice it is to get a pat on the head

Inspiration for all of us unpublisheds is not only finding some little sapling which tempts us to nurture it until it blooms into a story but also being inspired to find the time to write at all. Without publishing deadlines set, book tours scheduled, lunches and meetings with agents and publishers in the diary, it is sometimes easy to wonder why we bother at all. After all we have no idea if we are any good and whether there is a point to all this. So anything that gives me a little boost, inspires me to want to skip back to my laptop and crack out a few hundred words is always welcome.

I had just one of those moments on Friday at the Winchester Writers Festival. I had never been before but it was stuffed full with ‘proper’ authors, agents, publishers all wandering around for us unpublisheds to just talk to. Yes really. And they didn’t seem to mind. I felt like a writer. Just for the day. I am a Festival newbie so for me this was all very exciting. After many months of sending out my manuscript into the dark and wondering if anyone was even clicking ‘open’, here I was chatting to actual agents about my book and hearing that they thought the concept was an interesting one and wanted to find out more. As part of the deal at the Festival, all attendees get to pick two people to have a 15 minute one to one with from a broad list of authors, publishers and agents. Submission packages are sent in beforehand and in your 15 minutes slot you will get some honest feedback about the potential of your project. Both the agents I picked really enjoyed my first three chapters, felt the idea had not been explored before and the writing was not bad at all. Both suggested some improvements but not as many as I had feared and neither suggested I scrap it and find another hobby which was my darkest dread. I was elated. For the first time I felt that there might be a point to all this after all and I wasn’t deluded when I decided to give up my job because I felt I could write and the idea I had was a good one.

Since completing Thicker Than Water I have been working on novel number two. But in the loosest term of the word ‘working’. I know that idea is a good one. I am excited by it and I want to tell the story. But somehow I couldn’t find the energy to bother. A few scribbled notes, a burst of characterisation, some rudimentary research but nothing that was making the thing coalesce into the beginnings of a book. Whilst I was inspired by the story I was not inspired to write it. I was fortunate when I wrote Thicker Than Water that I had given myself the time to devote to writing it. Every day. Like a job. The demands of my mortgage company mean I don’t have that luxury with the new one so I have to make the time, magic it out of somewhere. And it seems to me that this is an extra level of difficulty that us unpublisheds have. To carry on in our writing vacuums without encouragement or acknowledgement. I know that it overwhelms me at times and my writing slowly peters out. How easy it is to be distracted by other things, things that normal people do in the evenings and at the weekends. It is these times that can end with me resolving to give up writing altogether. And it’s never because I don’t have a really compelling idea or don’t feel that I am a good writer, I just run out of inspiration to do anything about it.

The fact that I am writing this blog is evidence that my attempts to give up writing have not been successful. Being around other writers at the weekend, being able to chat about my book amongst people who knew what I was talking about has fired me up again. And for that the Winchester Writers Festival was worth the fee.

You Want to Write? Really?

Or Another Thing to Feel Guilty About

Guilt is always a subject that will catch my attention. Especially when it is that special guilt in all its wondrous forms that us ladies enjoy torturing ourselves with. So I read with interest an article on Books for Women about this very thing. The author had an interesting viewpoint as her guilt stemmed from whether or not women have the right to write. Now I am not sure I agree with her on that point, as whether I ought to be writing never occurs to me. Whether I should be writing is the maggot slowly gnawing away in my brain.

I am yet to be published and so far no one is interested in even talking to me about my completed manuscript so surely I am wasting my time? Aren’t I throwing good money after bad, barking up the wrong tree, making an idiot of myself by continuing with this nonsense? If no one is going to publish my book surely I should face reality and step away from the keyboard? Find something more productive to do with my time.

Like most guilty thoughts this is all generated in my head. No one has ever said that to me or made me feel it. On the contrary. My friends and family are both interested and supportive. Many are in awe that I have actually written a book at all never mind getting it published. The physical act of thinking it up, plotting it and the getting 76,000 words down on paper is enough for them to be impressed.

But I do want to get published. That’s the point. Not just to write it, but to have people read it. I don’t want to self publish I want someone to want it. An agent to recognise a spark of talent in there. A publisher to believe it has some commercial potential and is worth investing in. That’s what I want. And that is what makes me feel slightly ashamed that I continue to write without it. After all, isn’t that what books are for, to be read and enjoyed on a grand or even modest scale?

I find myself embarrassed confessing my weekend plans when those involve a day at my laptop working on novel number two. I am really excited about it and can’t wait to see how it is going to shape up as I begin to write. But with the first one still languishing in various agent slush piles I don’t like to admit to friends and family that I am already creating my second.

I am a single mother who works full time. There is already plenty in my life for me to feel bad about. On a daily basis I beat myself up because I can’t take my daughters to school or pick them up, I am not there to make sure their homework is done, at some point during the week there will be kit for a PE lesson or money for a school trip I have forgotten. I always seem to be on the back foot. It is debilitating. It wears me out. So I don’t want to also feel guilty when they are with their dad for the weekend (having a lovely time) and I decide to write. Any grown up woman would of course be cleaning the house, preparing food for the week to make those after work dinners a little easier, sorting out the admin and the filing. That’s what proper mums do, not all this silliness writing another book that no one is ever going to be interested in.

I tell myself that my friends who enjoy photography are not expecting to have their work displayed at the National Gallery, those who play Sunday league football are not believing it is the first step to being signed for a Premiership Club. But I guess the difference between them and me is that I am hoping that my furious writing is the first step. That I will be one of the lucky ones (if they even exist) to be plucked from the slush pile and make it to Waterstones.

So, reading this post back, it is clear that  it is not the writing I am guilty about, it is my expectations.