You’re not alone

You’ll find that writers are a very supportive bunch on the whole. They understand the pros and cons, highs and lows (admit it, there are lows) that writing involves and they are always willing to help – whether it’s reading through a piece you’re ready to submit, cheering you on when you’ve achieved something you’re proud of, giving tips on writing technique, or giving you a nod at the right times when you’re having doubts.

This can be in person, via email, twitter or Facebook, a text message or a phone call. You might find a revelation in an article, book, blog post, TV documentary or piece of journalism. The source isn’t really important. The point is, you are not alone. Help and support is out there. 

Usually, writers offer their support without question or judgement – just ask and see! – but sometimes, useful advice is given at just the right moment, by mistake. Such an incident inspires this week’s blog post, thanks to Susan Lanigan.

Shrimp pot in the Atlantic

Don’t let fear or doubt pull you in the wrong direction

Last week, Susan posted On Luck and Writing. She opened the post with – “Yesterday, I had a moment of uncertainty about my writing. The usual questioning and fear and stuff. To distract myself I picked up a book that did not belong to me and which I would never normally read…”

This resonated in two ways. Firstly, my mindset at the end of last week matched Susan’s exactly. Secondly, I too needed distraction, and On Luck and Writing proved the perfect tonic.

Usually, I’m all about staying focused but the more I write, the more I value those snippets of free time that you can salvage for research, reading about other writers and winding down. I’m still not great at it, but I’m improving.

Last week, my mindset was simply a product of over work and then stressing about not working enough which in turn generated negative feelings towards my output. Rather than remembering to enjoy the process, without too much inner reflection and criticism, I got caught up in over-analysing results and steaming towards unnecessarily ambitious, self-imposed deadlines.

I know, foolish. But what can I say? I’m only human. I think we can all fall into that trap on occasion. The important thing is that we realise it and rein ourselves in.

Like Susan’s post highlighted, we have a tendency to over-think things and allows ourselves to contemplate failure before we’ve even given things a fair try, flitting from one thing to another trying to find ‘the right answer’ instead of trusting our instincts and continuing on, unshackled.

Personally, I enjoy working on different projects – e.g. poetry, haiku, themed submissions, different word counts for stories – to hone my skills and keep things interesting. But when it comes to my novels, I have to trust my instinct and write what I want to write, what I can write well. It’s usually pretty easy, but sometimes, I need a post like Susan’s to remind me that that’s exactly what I’m doing and it’s the right choice to make.

Many people ask editors and publishers – ‘what are you looking for?’ – as though there is a magic ingredient that will ensure your book/s will be published. The truth is, even though publishers have gaps to fill, there is no such magic ingredient. What they want is a damn good story.

Sometimes your book will be rejected because it’s got a way to go, and it’s an almost damn good story with potential. In this case, listen to the advice you’re given, treasure it and use it to feed into your next draft. Sometimes, your book will be well written but the story isn’t quite damn good enough. Again, listen and act accordingly.

On other occasions, you’ve got a damn good story and it’s really well written, but it doesn’t fit a publisher’s list right now. Or any publisher’s list. That doesn’t mean that it never will, but neither does it mean – ‘quick, write a crime novel because they’re selling well’, or ‘switch to Young Adult, there’s a great market for it’.

Stay calm and carry on writing what you write in the way that you write it. All the while, you will be honing your writing skills, stimulating your imagination and writing more books. If you really want to be a writer, write. No matter what your inner critic says. You cannot let the inner critic hold you back or send you in the wrong direction.

In the words of Susan, “Hunt for what you want. Don’t be a prey animal. Be a predator.”

Great advice.

Squawking seagulls on the Atlantic

Silence the inner critic!

As you go into a new week, put any silent doubts, fears, anxieties or uncertainty about your writing behind you. You are a writer. So write. It’s that simple. Who cares if you have to wait longer for that elusive publishing deal or literary journal to accept your work? Stay on track, be dedicated to your craft and it will come.

I’d like to end with a huge thanks to Susan for being there at the right time, giving much-needed advice, without even realising.

Who has inspired/helped you over the last week? Share it with us – you never know who might need to be listening.

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4 thoughts on “You’re not alone

  1. Toby Neal (@tobywneal) says:

    Aloha Elizabeth,
    Lovely post. I’m struggling with overwhelm and escape fantasies, myself. In the middle of my most intense book yet rewrite, and having trouble concentrating and feeling pecked at by the seagulls of life. Thank you for sharing that you read my blog post on creative idea generating…I wrote it because I need to do it every day, and I haven’t been.
    You have to let the brain rest, and it rests, daydreaming. Only, that’s productive too.
    Best,
    Toby Neal
    http://www.tobyneal.net/

    • ERMurray says:

      I’m sure it will be worth it too – fingers crossed for you re the Novel Fair. I appreciate the encouragement – like you say, it would be easier to be an Albert (but not as rewarding)!

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