Dear Fellow Children’s Writers and Friends,
I went to an amazing writer’s conference last week and I had intended to write an amazing inspirational blog post about it last Tuesday. As I said on Journeygirl’s Facebook page although it was only one night it still threw me and I apologise for this post being late. It’s true attending the conference threw me, I’m nothing if not honest. Sure there was the fact that even though it was only an overnight stay, it was a long two days getting there, attending the conference and getting more planes, trains and automobiles home again at almost midnight. Sure I’d rearranged Friday’s after-school activities to Thursday to enable Friday afternoon’s travel. Sure I could give you a whole lot of reasons why last Tuesday’s post didn’t come out last Tuesday, but if I’m really honest and I’m nothing but honest, then I have to say that the real reason was writer’s doubt, a severe case of crippling self doubt and I have to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Megan Higginson who also posted eloquently and inspirationally on the same topic earlier this week. Her courage and the many heartfelt responses of agreement showed me that I was not alone in this, by any means. Check out her great post, Giving up on my writing journey. 6 ways I’m fighting back, at meganhigginson.weebly.com
I attended a professionally organised, incredibly thoroughly thought through, inspiring, unique conference that I’d been ‘watching’ for several years and was looking forward to like a little child looks forward to Christmas. So why did I come away feeling not only uninspired, but downright disheartened? Perhaps I’d built it up too much in my mind, but I suspect the reason is much more simple. The sessions I attended had speakers who it seemed had found success with a traditional publisher with their first manuscript or their first foray into children’s writing for those who’d tried and/or still write in another genre. For me, who had tried on and off for the last fifteen years and seriously for the last three to achieve what they did on the first attempt, it had the opposite intended effect and my enthusiasm gradually began to slip away. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t begrudge them or the competition winners, many of whom have been approached by publishers their success. I couldn’t be happier for them. There is a certain sisterhood (brotherhood, if you like) in the writing community and it was inspirational to hear that so many emerging authors were gaining recognition by editors and publishers, but it did made me ask the inevitable self doubting questions- What is wrong with me? What am I doing wrong? Why don’t they like my work? And the biggie- Aren’t I good enough? Should I just stick with my day job?
Now if I’m honest with myself, the hardest sort of honesty, I actually do know the answer to some of these questions. For example, that same crippling self doubt prevents me from submitting enough which doesn’t really give me much of a chance. Crippling self doubt, now that’s quite lyrical really, fit well into a story wouldn’t it? Actually I got it from the one speaker at the conference sessions I attended who did not receive publication success until she had built her resilience, craft and confidence by living through over 300 rejections. Bingo! I hung onto every word spoken by this prolific Australia writer. Although the others had had hiccups along the way e.g. nothing much after that initial success for ages, her story gelled with mine. There were similarities, there were possibilities. If she could do it, so could I, with a little determination- one of her ingredients for getting and staying published.
Thanks to her I can even take the somewhat humiliating, definitely disheartening experience of having my first page ripped, actually no, not ripped to shreds. It didn’t even get that far. The editors panel whose job it was to say when they would stop reading got a mere three, maybe four lines into mine before they said they would leave it on the slush pile. Urgh- just shove the dagger in, right now, NO WAIT read the next line, that’s when it gets really good! I can take the (thankfully anonymous) experience as awful as it was though, because of Megan Higginson’s courageous post, her followers and that wonderfully positive and energetic speaker, Aleesah Darlinson. And after my week of wallowing I can even be thoroughly grateful that my ms was chosen to be read out at the beginning of it, because it has now been rewritten starting from ‘the really good part’ of course and submitted to the next competition and soon to some publishers. The thing about writer’s doubt, you see is that it is temporary, recurring, but temporary and the treatments (there’s no known cure) include; time, knowing you’re not alone, succeeding in competitions, a positive critique/ review, publication- be it in magazines, newspapers or even that ever illusive trade contract, fan comments and above all resilience and determination. In the end, no one can do it for you. It’s difficult, but despite everything I have no doubt it’s worth it.
So for now, farewell fellow travellers,
Savour the quest,