Thursday 11 March 2021

Expectations, Rejections, and Money, oh my - Kelly McCaughrain

Someone on the Facebook group recently mentioned Sophie Hannah’s Life Coaching program. I’m exactly the sort of person who is instantly turned off by the term ‘life coaching’ but so many people were raving about it that I googled her. You have to pay for the program itself but there are some sample podcasts and webinars you can listen to and actually they are brilliant. I started listening because I was bored and within ten minutes I was taking notes. I considered doing a post about all the interesting things I’d learned but it would have been massive and frankly, Sophie Hannah explains it all much better than I could so I’ll just direct you to the podcasts and you can listen yourself if you’re interested.

This page has a sample podcast (scroll down for it) on deciding what kind of writer you’d like to be and includes the mind-blowing wisdom that just because someone expects you to do something, doesn’t mean you have to do it. 


This page also has a sample webinar (scroll further down) where she answers questions members have sent in and includes the life changing revelation that the unpleasant feeling of disappointment that comes with rejection is the worst thing that can happen to you as a writer. 

I know, but think about that.

It’s not nice at all, but it’s just a feeling and feelings always pass and nothing worse is going to happen. (I know that sounds obvious but I really do think it helps to be consciously aware of it.) The moment you realise this and decide you are willing to go through that feeling, suddenly it becomes much less painful.

Moreover, feelings are nothing to do with the results we’ve got, they come from our interpretation of those results. We tend to believe rejection = I’m a terrible writer. But instead you could believe rejection = one person didn’t like it/it’s not the right market for this piece/the competition was stiff/I can improve this and try again/this is a necessary step on my journey to inevitable success.

There is no more evidence for ‘I’m a terrible writer’ than there is for ‘the competition was stiff’ (probably less in fact) and yet that’s the one we invariably decide to believe. If we believed instead ‘my writing is good and it just didn’t suit this agent/publisher/journal but someday I’m going to win the Booker’ we might be wrong but if we really believe it, we’re going to enjoy our work a lot more and I firmly believe that a happy writer produces better work than a miserable one. So worst case scenario, you don’t win the Booker but you produce a better book than you would have if you’d dragged yourself to your desk everyday chanting the mantra ‘I’m rubbish at this’.

This page has two podcast episodes, one about building resilience and one about writers and money. The writers and money one was very interesting because she explains why writers hate being asked how much money they make. Personally, I don’t mind this question but the question I hate is ‘how many copies have you sold’ for exactly the same reasons.

Check them out for yourself, there are many nuggets of wisdom, plus things we probably knew but need reminding of, and things our husbands/mothers have been telling us for years but which we’ll never believe until we hear a real writer say them.  


Kelly McCaughrain is the author of the Children's Books Ireland Book of the Year,

Flying Tips for Flightless Birds

She is the Children's Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland #CWFNI

She also blogs at The Blank Page







Sue Purkiss said...

I am extremely wary of the idea of life-coaching - but I signed up for Sophie's course and have found it hugely helpful. She's sensible, funny, energetic and positive, and she's made me look at the bsusiness of writing - but also of life - in a much healthier way. She's great!

Kelly McCaughrain said...

That's great, Sue! I do keep hearing good things about it. The term 'life coaching' is a weird one for me too. I'd be totally on board with 'training', because any other job would have training courses and it's actually weird that writers don't. But then, writing (or any creative pursuit) does seem to be a lot more personal and emotional than regular jobs and it kind of does become your whole life, so maybe life coaching is an appropriate term. I dunno.

Lynne Benton said...

When I first joined Sophie's Dream Author course, she described it as a "Coaching and Support group for writers", which sounded interesting - and I'm so glad I joined! It's brilliant, and as Sue said, Sophie is tremendously positive, cheerful and encouraging, which is what we all need. She is tireless in her support for us and our work, and although when she first talked about life-coaching I was a bit dubious, in fact it's all useful stuff, which can be applied to writing as much as to other things. I'm a great fan too!

Kelly McCaughrain said...

Thanks Lynne, it does seem popular, I haven't seen any negative reviews so far. Glad it's been helpful for you!

Penny Dolan said...

Adding that Sophie is an amazingly positive person: her online sessions brought extremely valuable social energy during the long isolations of lockdown.

The course offers plenty of material and ways to practice the course's model of thinking. Though my own personal Author Dreams are fairly low-level - no Booker wining, no book-world headlines, no blockbuster millions, no masnion or swimming pool - Dream Author still helped me turn/return to a much less negative state of mind than I had been for some years, and which supported me when an nice but scary opportunity suddenly arrived in my inbox.

The programme is not about specific writing craft skills but about gaining some power over the thoughts and attitudes that shape one's personal writing life.

Shirley-Anne McMillan said...

Thanks Kelly, this sounds really interesting and helpful.