Friday 31 March 2017

This Writing Malarkey - By Kate Maryon

This writing malarkey is a funny old business, nothing like my imagination carved when I was a small girl, earnestly writing away, dreaming of being the next Noel Streatfeild or Enid Blyton.

It's nothing like I imagined, eight-years ago, when HarperCollins beckoned me into their fold, dangling the carrot of glittering success. Or even two-years ago, when PenguinRandomHouse said Yes to a picture book text.

But then the truth is, nothing in life is ever how we imagine it to be. It's generally better or worse. And as the lovely Caitlin Moran says, however it is, "You only have to survive the next 60 seconds. And then the next 60 seconds. And you can do this." We can all do this. So I'm discovering it's the imagining that's the problem. It's the imagining how things might be, should be, could be, different or better that creates the unsettling pain of unnecessary doubt.

Being taken on by my lovely agent was a breezy and thrilling experience, likewise, I was effortlessly offered book deals and I thought, wow, what's the fuss all about, what's the deal with everyone being rejected a thousand times? This is game is so easy! But since then it's been a slow, rusty process of landing in the reality of being a good enough writer. With good enough, but not glittering sales, struggling to find a good enough next book idea that both agent and editor like.

Seven years and five Middle Grade books later, with the said picture book due for publication in May, I've finally stopped imagining how things might be, should be, would be, could be. And this is a good thing. A very good thing. Because I'm learning to let things be as they are. I'm learning to embrace good enough in so many areas of my life. I'm learning that success can never be what my imagination carves. It is something else entirely. It's a movable, changeable feast of good enough-ness, because the truth is, we can only be what we are in any moment and it's plain self-abuse to think we can be anything else.

So success is nothing like I'd imagined. And the truth is, good enough sales apart, this writing malarkey is actually much, much better than my imagination carved. In so many weird and wonderful ways. Success is seeing my good enough books in print all over the world, and that has to be one of the most thrilling feelings on earth. And stumbling across them in bookshops still brings disbelief and then such deep joy. Success is to be living my childhood dream, being blessed to be a part of the network of writers who, apart from doing some actual writing of words each day, spend much time drinking tea, pottering, checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram in the name of, ahem, research! Success is going to 'work' in my pyjamas, snuggling in bed writing on a chilly day, sitting in the garden with my laptop on a sunny one. Success is living this wonderful reality of doing what I love for a living.

But the success I love most in this good enough writing malarkey, way above and beyond the rest, is connecting with the children who read and love my books, who write to tell me how much my books help them with their problems, how easily they identify with my characters. Success is when I receive letters from parents and carers telling me how much my stories and the contact I have with their children help. One girl has read Shine 100 times. Every time she feels sad and worried she snuggles in bed to read a chapter or two and it helps to calm her down. And it's stories like this that bring me such deep internal rest, knowing I'm doing something good enough to help kids feel a little safer, a little more connected and less alone in the world. This is what makes all the pain and struggle and self-doubt that is such a part of being an writer, or artist of any sort, worth it.

Success is talking to a hall full of children, telling them about my own difficult childhood and how that lead me to becoming a good enough writer, and then witnessing their courage to speak up, raising their trembling hands to share their own difficulty. Success is seeing them leave the room with smiles on their faces, feeling inspired and full of hope for their own future, knowing they too can turn their lives around and create something magnificent. Success is teaching the bright kids and being bowled over by the stories they write. But too, it's working with the ones that struggle daily in school, the underachievers, the dyslexics who have so early on thrown themselves on the scrapheap. Success is encouraging them to discover their own way of telling stories, sharing the lives of three of my sons, all dyslexic, who have gone through University and are now all engaged in fabulous careers. Success is working with kids in Pupil Premium units who rank themselves even lower than the dyslexics, holding their attention for an hour, stilling the fidgety ones who become transfixed when I read a chapter from one of my books.

When I set off on this writing malarkey I had no idea I'd be spending time on all or any of the above. I imagined I'd be hidden away in some romantic garret or garden shed. I had no idea I'd be asked to stand up in front of hundreds of children and speak. In. Public. Ekkk! The thought of it would have terrified me. But the reality is I love it and I've discovered, much to my delight that I'm really rather good at it!

So I'm inviting you to join me in taking an awfully big step, to commit to being kind to yourself in all that you do, for the rest of your life. Be gentle. Be your own best friend. Quit imagining how things might be, how you might be different, how you could be, should be, would be, better or more. And celebrate how you are. Because how you are is how you are. And I promise you that however you are is good enough. & 


Hilary Hawkes said...

Very wise and true. You're right, what we imagine and all of our 'shoulds' and 'shouldn'ts' etc can cause all sorts of distress and worry. Congrats on the new book too - love the cover!

Penny Dolan said...

Lovely thoughts, Kate. So easy to see and feel only the negative.

Kate Maryon said...

Aww, glad you enjoyed my post, ladies! x

Becca McCallum said...

This made me cry. Thank-you for being just what I needed to hear just now.