Wednesday, 18 July 2018

When you feel like giving up - by Lu Hersey

This is a post about staying motivated as a writer. I was asked to write it for a Mslexia forum - ironically on a day when I was thinking of giving up writing, finding a remote lighthouse somewhere off the Scottish coast where I could hole up, and not talking to anyone about writing ever again...I got over myself the next day. But here's the post:

Sometimes finding the motivation to keep writing isn’t easy. It might sound like a dream job, but few people earn a living wage from writing books, and most of us can probably wallpaper a small cottage with rejection slips of one kind or another. If you’re having a day when you seriously wonder why you bother, just try reminding yourself that even the most successful writers didn’t leap straight to fame and fortune. And even when they find success, there are times when, for any number of reasons, the going is really tough.

Being a writer is like being permanently stuck on a roller coaster ride. Put a group of writers together and more likely than not we'll end up discussing the wisdom (or lack of it) of our career choice. Most of us are all too familiar with the feeling of doom and despair that hangs around on a bad day. And comments from well-intentioned people don’t always help either – I can’t count the number of times I’ve wanted to scream JUST SHUT UP ABOUT BLOODY JK ROWLING, CAN’T YOU?. But I don’t. I smile (even if it nearly cracks my face) and try to heed Thumper’s advice to Bambi - if you can’t say sumthin nice, don't say nuthun at all.

Since I won the Mslexia children’s novel writing competition a few years ago (which gave me the biggest confidence boost of all time and was a real game-changer in my writing career), I've still had plenty of rejections to contend with. Most published writers, including really well known ones, (though probably not JKR) have ideas and books rejected all the time. The best way to deal with it is to remember that everyone thinks differently (fortunately) – some will love your work, and some won’t. If they don’t like it, it doesn’t mean it’s bad.

My best advice would be don’t be a writer unless you love writing and feel that it’s something you need to do – like breathing. Don’t listen to people who say there’s no point, you’re no good, or it’s not a proper job. They are not your friends. (I’m not talking about constructive criticism from a writing group or editor, obviously – just people like my ex. Which, frankly, is why he’s my ex.)

People who tell you there’s no money in writing actually do have a point…few children’s writers earn a living wage from their writing alone. But you’re not in it for the money, remember? You just love writing. Keep telling yourself that. A very successful writer friend once told me that he found writing a first draft, just to get his idea down on paper, was the thing he enjoyed most – he found it all a downhill slide after that!

If you feel really down and your screen stays blank for a while, here’s something from Mary Oliver, which is worth taking to heart:

‘…Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.’

Don’t worry about it.  Don't give up. Just try again tomorrow.

by Lu Hersey

t: @LuWrites


Katherine Langrish said...

That's a very true post Lu - and wonderful wisdom from Mary Oliver.

LuWrites said...

Thanks Katherine. Sometimes find a little Mary Oliver helps get through the tough times :)

tracy alexander said...

And I thought it was only me ....

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Rowena House said...

[Apart from facile/useless spam from Alpha AH above...]
Love the sentiments, Lu, and that Mary Oliver quote. Wise lady!
Personally, I think giving up for a bit is fine, even desirable in terms of thinking about new directions. If it's not a job that pays the bills, we can at least enjoy the freedom that brings.

LuWrites said...

Ha! Of course not Tracy - after last couple of rejections, I think about it quite a lot :) And yes, Rowena - guess the fact it doesn't pay enough to cover bills gives some room for thinking time, though can't help wishing it would actually pay bills as well!!

Anne Booth said...

Wonderful post - and great quote from Mary Oliver x