Thick skin and soldier on

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 I’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 aren’t ‘sacrifices’ or ‘things I’ve given up’, these are decisions I’m glad I’ve made (although they are decisions with complex consequences – like the shade and shape it has given my marriage, but that’s not a blog entry, that’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. They’re not stepping stones, they’re goals. It’s the writing that counts. Not the form.

0 thoughts on “Thick skin and soldier on”

  1. I like that: redefining your idea of success, taking pleasure in each achievement as it comes. Wise words indeed, and food for thought.

    As for me, what I like most about your writing here are the telling moments, the everyday musings or snatches of conversation that often illuminate more than the immediate.

  2. I don’t know about wise, but I had to do something. All sorts of really great things have happened to me over the last half of this year and I just kept saying ‘yeah, but my novel still isn’t published’ over and over again and moping around and boring everyone even myself. I learnt so much from writing it, and I enjoyed (loved) doing it, and I was forgetting that. Also, as a friend of mine has kind of kindly pointed out I’m much more patient now than I was, so that has probably helped (don’t know whether the patience is cause or effect).

  3. Keep your chin up, Third Cat. From what I’ve seen of your writing, it is beautiful and perfectly formed. And don’t forget the lovely Anne Bartlett. She had been writing non-fiction and fiction for many years before her first novel was finally published. Write away, right away!

  4. What I like, Ms Cat, is your clarity. You distill things beautifully, but without robbing them of ambiguity.

    I am so very glad you’re the persevering type. I wish you well.

  5. I hope you do have your book published, as I would very much like to read it. But in the meantime I shall continue to appreciate your blog and your writing here (all the while being quietly envious of your way with words).

  6. Sorry Kate – it went to spam (as opposed went to jelly). Don’t know why. Elsewhere’s sometimes do too, and CIB Helen’s nearly always do.

    It’s not my fault!

  7. Have you thought of entering you MS in the Varuna/Harper Collins thing (probably too late this year)or the ABC books thing (if it’s running this year)?

    It’s a hard slog, certainly. I keep on hearing stories of writers whose first novel published was the third one they’d written, if that makes sense. The emerging writer thing always seems a bit hopeful starlet (maybe on the couch, who knows!) to me.

    I’m sure that we would all like to read your book!

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