About this time of year I write a round-up of the year. In the past, I’ve celebrated the successes, I’ve made bright plans for the coming year, and I’ve generally been quite upbeat. (I know, hard to believe but I promise you it’s true – occasionally on this journey my cup’s been half full!)
2015 has been rubbish. (And occasionally not.)
Okay, I’m not, not upbeat – because actually, it has ended with a new found positivity, (yay, she’s back in the room!) but in truth, up until yesterday I was swollen with despair. (Oh for fucks sake!) Because, not only have I not achieved my target for this year – to bag an agent… I’ve not come anywhere near close – but, if you were to stack up the success and progress of year 1 and 2 at this writing game, I’d say year 3 has been something of a backward step. Utterly pants. And not the great pants that hold you in when you are pretending to be inches smaller than you are, but the rubbish pants that ride up your arse crack and are impossible to surreptitiously retrieve. Who even invented those pants? And why did he think they were a good idea…
Or has it? (Am I up or down here? I’ve lost track!) Well, yes; by my definition of success, it has been (bad) pants but, perhaps I need to rethink my measure of success. Because of all the three years and therefore, the three books I’ve written, the one I finished this year has been my favourite to date. It is the one I have felt most proud of. Most confident in. I’ve said it before in other blogs but I really believed in this one. That it has been met lukewarmly, pretty much across the board, has been a real blow. People have been nice, sure, but no-one has fizzed. You know? Like they loved it. Which was what I really wanted. It’s not that I felt it had a right to be loved, or a right to be published even, but I badly (so badly) wanted that to be the case. I’m looking at what options are left, and my gut says it’s not going to happen.
Consequently, I’ve done a bit of feeling sorry for myself. I’ve shed tears into the children’s chicken nuggets, I’ve bored friends with my woes, and I started book four in a negative fog whilst opening rejection emails on book three and wondered what the point was. I even switched off twitter (briefly), because the amount of book deals my twitter pals were getting was, frankly, rather depressing. It brought out the worst of my inner teen. A recent blog post entitled something like: 2015 –the year of the book deal almost pushed me over the edge. No it isn’t! I wanted to shout. Where’s mine? I felt like screaming. Obviously I didn’t, because I am not a child. I just stamped in to the kitchen and ate a bourbon instead. That’d show them.
And then I met up for coffee with someone local who is also trying to write and we talked a lot. She was someone I instantly trusted. Why? Possibly the coffee, but still, she felt like an ally. She offered to read my novel whilst on holiday. Which she did. And when we met up again earlier this week, she presented me with a SWOT analysis she had done.
My day job is marketing and business development… I BLOODY LOVE A SWOT!!! They’re the perfect procrastination when you want to do something, but writing a detailed strategy or trying to remember what PESTLE stands for, seems too hard. So already, I felt giddy. And then, after bathing in my novels strengths, (allow me a moments joy, please!) I read and thought about each one of the remaining WOT’s. As I did, my little heart started jumping and I felt the familiar tickle of excitement in my belly. The book I had loved and then hated was coming back. As was my positivity and motivation. Because if someone was inspired sufficiently by it to write a SWOT – then maybe there was still potential to be had. Potential I can realise when I’ve finished the first draft of my fourth.
Today, when I sat down to chip another 1k words at it, I felt freer… is that a word? More free, you know what I mean, the words came more easily. Some of the things my friend had noted about my last, were applicable here too. I had learned new things about my writing and the constrict I felt before, seemed to evaporate. Disintegrate. Disappear.
So actually, although I’ve gained nothing in the form I wanted to this year – perhaps I’ve gained something more valuable. I’ve definitely refined my style, I can see patterns and strengths and a voice. My voice. And, there’s a strange confidence that comes with that. I have eternally searched out people’s acknowledgement of me, professionally speaking. My entire career was built on two separate situations in which people saw potential and gave me a leg up to achieve it. The fitted my square peg into their round hole… that sounds worse than it actually was. What I mean is, without their spotting something in me, I wouldn’t have got there alone. They gave me opportunities and the confidence with which to deliver. I lapped that up and was super lucky as a result.
So maybe it’s time to look inside myself for that leg up. Although, my new friend has spotted something and wants to help, she is different to the person I thought I’d need to get that from; an agent or a publisher. She is as much a part of this journey as those brilliant friends who usually follow up my posts with unwavering support and confidence in me. Neither those friends, nor this new one, can enable my success in the way previous professional peers have, but they can all facilitate. Does that make sense? Because I get the feeling that this time, I have to make my own way. It’s not that I don’t want an agent or publisher, far from it, I’d sell a body part if someone were prepared to take me up, but perhaps I need to take a different route to achieve that goal. I’ve committed bum to chair, I’ve been practising and learning and growing, but I wonder if for me, those things won’t be enough.
Is my writing different enough, or good enough to stand out in a slush? Can it generate the opportunity I crave in that traditional way? Or is it possible that it may not be different enough, or good enough, or commercially viable enough to get signed up. Whatever the answer is, I am me. I am doing my thing. And on some level, that has value. As all the things all of us do, does. I want to write and I want more than anything for people to want to read it. So maybe, I have to be even more proactive than I have before. External validation from people I respect is a way I’ve gained confidence for my whole career. I’ll be eternally grateful to all those who’ve offered it. Should anyone wish to in the future, dear agent, dear publisher, I’d snatch your beautiful hands off like the greedy bear that I am. But, maybe it’s time to be more in control of my own destiny than that.
So yes, 2015 didn’t work out as I planned. And I was/am pretty bummed out about that. It means I’ll start 2016 with the same goal as 2015: to get an agent.
I think this year, I might have to try a different route to achieve it.
Happy Christmas you lovely lot. Thanks again for the reading and supporting and generally being lovely. I write this blog for many reasons, both stuff for today and stuff I think might be useful to me in the future. I appreciate those of you who continue to read. And though the comments my brilliant friends put make me feel a bit silly, I do appreciate those of you who take the time. I’m very lucky. X