My corner of the interwebs is full of discussions about the writer’s life. Not full as in a meme travelling at the speed of the interwebs full. But there’s Kerryn, quoting (in bold) from Kirsty Brooks‘s blog, Kate having a moment to moment moment, Elsewhere looking for a batysphere and Ariel reclaiming her time. And all of this at a time, when over here at ThirdCat, things are a writerly rollercoaster with very high highs and very low lows.
Those words of Kirsty’s, quoted by Kerryn, are a timely reminder for me: “You fall down but you pick yourself up again. In this field, your success is never guaranteed, but your love of it should be”.
I’ve heard it before of course. It’s ten percent inspiration, ninety percent motivation. Watership Down was rejected a zillion times before the dude’s wife picked it out of the bin and sent it off one more time. JK Rowling was on the bones of her bum.
And I think it’s sinking in, because this time around, I notice that picking myself up is less difficult than it used to be. My writing future is no more certain or guaranteed – and indeed I sometimes wonder whether the longer you hang around on the edges of ’emerging’ the more damage you do yourself. But it seems that soldiering on has become a bearable state of being. When one agent tells me that indeed my work is good, but they just can’t take anyone else on; when I hear another say ‘we rely on recommendations’ so Iâ€™m gonna need an agent to find myself an agent; when a publisher tells me ‘it’s just a matter of time’ but that time is not now, I soldier on. I am tense with disappointment and yell a bit more than I should for a day or so. I wallow on the couch demanding cups of tea. But I soldier on.
I’m so far in now, that I can’t stop. I’ve given it so much of my time and my energy that if I stop, then surely all of that has been a waste. To get my novel-length manuscript finished, I missed nearly every birthday party my children got invited to and the clothes went mouldy in the washing machine. My partner used up a fair chunk of his leave looking after our kids and then his mother took care of them while I went searching for a room of my own. I haven’t had much more than the partest of part-time work since my first child was born, and by now, I have written my way out of any other career. These arenâ€™t â€˜sacrificesâ€™ or â€˜things Iâ€™ve given upâ€™, these are decisions Iâ€™m glad Iâ€™ve made (although they are decisions with complex consequences – like the shade and shape it has given my marriage, but thatâ€™s not a blog entry, thatâ€™s a book).
The biggest favour I ever did myself was to redefine my definition of success. More than once. I used to be consumed by the desire to publish a picture book. And then I thought that if I did not have a novel published before I died, then I would die unsatisfied.
But now each thing I write is an end in itself. Every sentence matters. Every word. Essays in journals, short stories in anthologies, the best blog posts, the stand-up jokes that work. Theyâ€™re not stepping stones, theyâ€™re goals. It’s the writing that counts. Not the form.