I’m sure every writer would agree that the writing ego, of all professions, has to be one of the most delicate. They’re far too easily deflated, and let’s be honest, with the amount of rejections most of us receive when entering competitions or submitting to publications it’s a wonder that many of us are able to pick ourselves up and carry on. And although as a writer, the more you write the better you become – it appears that self-doubt never fully disappears!
I was shocked to hear so many great authors, with lists of acclaimed books to their credit, admit that there comes a stage in every novel (usually mid-way) where they feel like throwing in the towel. They doubt the current book will ever see the light of day and that even if it is published that it will be torn apart by the critics. But that’s the difference between professional and amateur writers – the professional perseveres regardless, pushing through the pain until they reach that elusive final page. Then, at least, they have the bones to work with – a manuscript they can edit and edit and edit – until it finally becomes the polished work which arrives in our local book shop.
While working on my debut novel the last few years, I’ve entered a number of competitions and submitted to a couple of publications. Sure, they may have taken me away from the novel, but in times of self-doubt, in among the rejections, there have been the highs of being long-listed or short-listed or winning or of having a poem or flash fiction or short story published. They’ve had me dancing around the kitchen, forcing my family to read whatever piece has brought success (that’s if they haven’t already been forced to read it before submission!?!). But more importantly, as two good friends and mentors are fond of saying, ‘success breeds success‘ (Eileen Casey) which helps to ‘keep your bum on the seat‘ (Valerie Sirr). And that’s what keeps you writing.
This week, having just returned from a wonderful trip to San Francisco and Vegas, I was jet-lagged like never before and began a week feeling drained and tired instead of rested and refreshed. But I couldn’t have pictured a better week. On the professional front, the contract in my new job was extended into next year, and on the writing front; my poem, Lavender Scented Memories, was aired by the lovely Brenda Drumm on KFM Radio. Then I received a beautiful, hand-written letter from Rosaleen Thomas (wife of Eamon MacThomais and mother of Shane MacThomais – the wonderful historians and writers) telling me how much she enjoyed one of my short stories which was recently published in My Weekly and wishing me well with my novel. The following day a letter arrived from the Jonathan Swift Awards to advise me that my short story has been short-listed, with the award ceremony taking place next Saturday.
Such an exceptional week really can keep you focused and driven and stuck to your seat, so that you can get words on the page! I’m currently attending the NUI Certificate in Creative Writing for Publication – part short story writing and part novel writing – so right after I upload this blog post I’m signing up to NaNoWriMo. I’ll then be committed, from 1 – 30 November, to writing 2,000 words per day to get my second novel well and truly on the way.
Wish me luck!