Giving up; giving in

Sometimes I feel the only way I can get a major publisher interested in mental illness is if I find a character who has bipolar disorder and is also a love-sick vampire attending an English school called Hogwarts. But I’m not giving up.

Pete Earley

What winning is to me is not giving up, is no matter what’s thrown at me, I can take it. And I can keep going.

Patrick Swayze

It doesn’t take much for me to question my unerring belief in fate and destiny which makes me wonder how strong that belief is in the first place. One rejection from one agent and one loss at the hands of the Northern Writers awards makes me doubt myself so much and I wonder why, when I believe in my story and I know deep down the idea is strong and original and is a good read. I think the rejection from the NWA is the hardest to take because I had convinced myself that the powers of coincidence and the gods of the universe were surely directing me towards that moment; even the demon masters of astrology were pointing me in that direction but maybe they have just jumped the gun, maybe the true story is just around the corner. There is a whole list of agents, competitions, publishers out there that I haven’t even begun exploring so how can I contemplate throwing in the towel now; if I believe that much then I just have to keep on going. Which brings me to Patrick Swayze. My mum has lung cancer but she’s old and she was a heavy smoker. At 83 they gave her a round of chemo and radiotherapy but they told her this week that her cancer is growing again and the first thing she did after hearing this news is to go home and make a batch of strawberry jam; jars and jars of it that will probably live long after she has departed this earth and still every Saturday when I take her shopping she puts her lottery tickets on and every week without fail I wonder why. I want to say to her, explaining patiently like I would to one of my children, there’s no point in winning the lottery when in a few months time you are going to die. Then I came across this quote by Patrick Swayze who we all know died of cancer and it made me realise that while there is breath in my body and while I believe in what I write and while I continue to write and try to support my children then I have no right to give up or give in. The same as Patrick didn’t give up even when he knew he was living on borrowed time and the same as my mum doesn’t give up even though she knows she is dying. And if Pete Earley can keep going then so can I.

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Repent in haste

Unreasonable haste is the direct road to error.

Moliere

The other side of the coin to impatience is of course the fact that we may have been too hasty and may have to eat our words. I was quick to judge those who had criticised my work even though I was the one who had uploaded my chapters onto a website inviting criticism. Criticism is hard to take especially when you have so much invested in your work but actually I take back what I said and I swallow my pride because if more than one person says the same thing then they obviously have a point. So at this stage I can either dig my heels in and be the stubborn person I have always been, who always knows best or I can re-read every single word that I have written and take on board the criticism and use it so that the next agent, publisher or competition I send it to might look twice at it and think maybe there is something special there. I can tighten up the writing and the grammar and the discrepancies so that it is as watertight as it could possibly be and for those people who chose to write an honest comment I can only now thank them.

However, as for the NWA, I refuse to repent. I think if people have taken the time to enter your competition and have invested their blood, sweat and tears into their work then the least you can do is inform entrants of the outcome even if they have been unsuccessful. To do otherwise is unprofessional and that is totally unforgivable.

Impatience is a virtue.

As human beings we are all flawed and the older we get the easier it is to spot our flaws and accept them. My biggest flaw this week is impatience but the way I see it is that it shows how much I care, how much I want something, how much I need something. This week I was impatient with the NWA whose website proclaimed that all entrants would be informed of decisions by the beginning of June. Now beginning of June to me means the 2nd of June at the latest so I sent off an email asking why I hadn’t been informed yet. I am assuming that the lack of notice means I have been unsuccessful but still it would be nice to be told. Having received no reply I decided to phone – at this stage in the game what have I got to lose only to be told that emails would not be sent out until the end of the week, so here I am, at the end of the week, constantly flicking backwards and forwards to check my inbox, even though deep down I am not expecting good news but there is still the smallest flicker of the tiniest flame of hope. Come on, for god’s sake, just put me out of my misery.

Impatience with the greater world often overflows into the mundane world and I find myself on edge, niggling my children, wondering why they won’t behave and then I catch sight of the home made cards and rockets and aliens littering the desk where I write and I know my impatience with them is because I care too much. This writing isn’t just for me, it’s for them, so I can provide for them because they deserve better than this.

I am also impatient with Youwriteone this week – a website where you upload chapters of your work so readers can review it and leave amazing feedback and constructive criticism. I doubted my words this week so decided to seek out opinions and in doing so have revealed another of my flaws – I don’t like being criticism. Guess I will have to get used to that and grow a thick skin but as much as I like and appreciate this website the two biggest problems with it are that writers can’t reply to negative criticism and readers are reviewing books that they normally wouldn’t pick up in a bookshop so when somebody starts a review with, ‘this isn’t really my cup of tea’ and then just proceeds to tell you where and when you should have put a comma or a full stop it makes you wonder why you bothered in the first place. rate the idea, the bigger picture, not the small grammatical errors, if there are any that is, leave that to the editors.

Failure

You always pass failure on your way to success.

Mickey Rooney

It’s not how we respond to success that marks us out but how we deal with failure. Do we fall, lie curled in a ball and give up or do we drag ourselves back up, once more daring to throw our head over the parapet and prefer to fall once more, praying for a soft landing.

You don’t always need a sledgehammer to crack a walnut; sometimes, even your bare hands will do.

Dare to dream

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.

Edgar Allan Poe


My advice from JC this week was to ‘dare to dream’ and as one deadline looms I keep those precise words close to my heart. The Northern Writers Awards are fast approaching and according to their website all entrants will be informed of their decisions by the beginning of June – well they’re certainly keeping me hanging on.

On the one hand I torture myself by thinking that if I surely was a winner I would have heard by now, I mean, you don’t keep winners dangling on a string, they will have plans to make, what to wear, childcare, etc.

On the other hand, these few days of not knowing still represent a small glimmer of hope, a chance in a thousand. So I sit with a single seed from a dandelion clock in my outstretched hand waiting for the wind to blow it into oblivion or for it to land in fertile ground and reproduce standing tall and proud with the sun shining brightly out of its distinctive yellow head. To some it may be just a weed but to others it is also a thing of beauty.

Uncertainty

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.

Khalil Gibran

I have been plagued with doubts recently. Where once as a teenager I lay awake at night unable to sleep pondering the universe and human existence now as an adult, as a mother I ponder my inability to provide for my children and wonder whether my self-belief in fate and destiny is actually self-delusion. Is it not my fate here in this cold northern town behind the till of a supermarket checkout?

I contemplated playing the lottery tonight wishing for the few million pounds that would change my life and then stopped myself knowing that if I actually won I wouldn’t write anymore because the necessity would have been taken away. I certainly wouldn’t sit on my backside wasting my life away but the hands of fate would definitely swing 360 degrees.

I now realise that to actually succeed in life you have to be plagued by doubts. The super over-confident kids from school are the ones who never tried falsely believing that life owed them a living. They are the ones who are the big fish in the small pond. Me – I would rather be a tadpole swimming against the tide in the ocean of life.

Patience

Put on your cloak of patience. You’ll be glad of it.

Jonathan Cainer

JC is my mate this week. Having come out of the doom and gloom of the Bunker relatively unscathed my want and need to have a crack at the literary world is so great that it wears me down and fills me with self doubt and longing. What if my words are no good; what if they are words that no one wants to hear. These are the doubts and fears that plague the greatest of writers and even more so if you are yet to receive any recognition. The long, long butterflydays waiting, wondering hoping that a glimmer or speck of hope lies on the horizon and that an agent or publisher or competition will throw out a lifeline and the potential to be rescued. It is a lonely life being a writer. Lonely I can deal with. Try being a single parent and staring at the four walls when your children are in school or when they are tucked up safe in bed with the only adult voices you’ll hear for company on the radio or TV. Lonely is fine; I have had a lifetime preparing for loneliness but hardship is something else. All I want is that  glimmer, glimpse, glance of hope and then I will be ready to break free of my cocoon and live my final brief days as a glorious butterfly. I am waiting and I am ready.