I guess for a lot of writers, maybe the dream week would include standing up in front of a major festival crowd, receiving a huge royalty payment and being interviewed for a Sunday supplement.
But for a writer like me, who has experienced two of those and wouldn’t really want to again, the things that make a great week are comparatively humble. (I wouldn’t mind experiencing the massive royalty payment at some stage, of course – just to check whether I like it or not).
Here are five things that have happened in the last few days, and made my week:
- Working on a new book. That’s got to be the first and best of everything for a writer like me, and it’s even sweeter now, after a year of not really writing at all.
- A cheque for my fee of 50 guineas (more or less – the bank can’t exactly do that) and a lovely letter from Liskeard Poetry Group, for helping them select the poems for their upcoming anthology.
- An opportunity to run a poetry workshop around a really interesting museum exhibition.
- A new 5* amazon review for my children’s book, Bullies, Bigmouths and So-called Friends.
- Having an intriguing dream to write down in my diary.
- Word from my agent that the Turkish publisher of Peony Pinker wants to renew the rights for the first two books. We’re talking 800 euros altogether, and after agents’ fees and income tax I’ll be lucky to see half of that, but still – they’ve sold enough books to want to do a new print run… in Turkey!
- An email from someone who was on my last workshop, telling me she’d felt emboldened to press send on an article she wrote for a holiday publication (circulation 40,000) and it’s been accepted.
- Another email from a different person who’s come to workshops to say she’s got a gig writing restaurant reviews.
- Discussions about book covers with my lovely designer and her assistant, Moriarty, who has excellent emailing skills for a cat.
- Reading Angela’s Ashes and calling it work.
It doesn’t come to much in terms of wealth and fame, but all those things add up to a pretty good week for a writer like me.
What would make a good week for a writer like you?
The second series of writing workshops I was planning this year didn’t work out because I didn’t get enough interest to make a big enough group. This happens from time to time, and it doesn’t faze me.
The reason why is because I invariably find the timing would have been bad for me, and that life was working in my best interests in overriding what I had planned. On this occasion, I injured my back a few days before the first session would have been and spent the best part or a fortnight laid up in agony. The third session would have clashed with a family get-together; the fourth would have come when I was recovering from a sickness bug we all came down with after we parted.
The course, had it gone ahead, would have been fraught with problems, and that’s the point – we don’t know when we’re making plans what the consequences of success or failure might be.
I need goals to give me a sense of direction, and when I set a goal I go all-out to achieve it. Then, if it doesn’t work out, I know it wasn’t for lack of trying on my part, so it’s easy to let it go and look for the silver lining.
Because there always is a silver lining. Take the three books I completed last year, none of which sold on the first time of offering
‘The Binding’ is a children’s story set on a remote Scottish island. I wrote the first version fifteen years ago, my agent sent it out, it nearly sold, but not quite. Coming back to it after such a long interval, having a much better grasp of the craft of writing, I loved having the chance to make the story much stronger and more exciting. The book has been accepted for publication in 2015.
- ‘Drift’ is a YA novel I also wrote about fifteen years ago – which also came very close to securing a contract at the time, but didn’t. It’s a story about sibling suicide, which is close to my heart – too close, those years ago, for me to be able to fully explore the emotional situation of the protagonist. Writing it again was a deeply satisfying experience which I would not have had if the book had sold in its original version, and the MS is currently out with various publishers.
- ‘Writing in the House of Dreams’ is my child-of-the-heart book. It didn’t find a conventional publisher because it’s ‘too niche’ and if I hadn’t loved it so much I would probably have put the MS in a drawer rather than face the complications of trying to self-publish. Because I love it, I’m going the distance with the publishing, doing it properly, and the surprising upside is that the process feels really enjoyable and creative.
Any freelance life involves plans and goals, setbacks and successes. Being a writer, you have to learn how to go with the flow, or else the extraordinary ups and downs would soon make you go under.
How do you cope with the ups and downs of the writing life?