Friday 21 February 2020

Changing expectations - by Anne Booth

I am so sorry that I am so late posting today. I thought the 21st was tomorrow.

I was going to say something about expectations, and now I find I have another example to add - I have not met my own expectations about posting on time.

Recently I RT something from The Society of Authors about grants for published writers who needed help to complete a project.  I was a bit taken aback to have my RT immediately commented on, first by an unpublished writer commenting on how there was not enough help for people who weren't yet published,( a fair point in itself)  and then immediately following, the tweet which really got to me, by another person, ' Ah, so not designed for the writers who actually really need it then'.


We all know that in too many cases, the expectations are that published writers do not need grants, and are greedy to want them, or indeed, payment for events etc. I tried to point out that in reality, published writers often struggle financially, and sometimes they are poorer after they are published than before, because they may have cut down or given up other paid work in order to meet publishers' deadlines etc.

So here, in case you didn't see my re- tweet, are the details about the grants.

I have been at  events for my books where I expected only a few people to come, and many more have turned up. I have also been at events for my books where only a few turned up! I have learnt to manage my expectations but the difference between how it looks online and the reality can be vast.

Signing books yesterday I had a lovely time. I had a long and fascinating chat to a bookseller about pet rats and their personalities. A lady from my village whom I had never met, had seen on facebook I was going to be signing books, and came into town to see me. She was really lovely and was wearing a beautiful bird brooch. She showed me  a stunning photo on her phone of a cloud shaped like a flamingo (I had told her my next book is about Flamingoes) and kindly bought my book 'The Snow Goose' for her grandchild in Canada, and I signed it. I then had a very interesting chat to a very bright 8 year old who showed me she could spell a word I can't even pronounce (I also had to look the meaning up when I came home.)  She told me how much she liked Dr Who and Horror, she sat down at the table  in the bookshop and wrote me, there and then, an absolutely brilliant and dramatic beginning to a novel, we discussed the relative merits of happy and sad endings (she doesn't like happy endings, I do) I showed her my bird ear rings, a picture of the illustrator Rosie Butcher who has illustrated The Magical Kingdom Of Birds series, and she said how pretty Rosie was and what a good illustrator she was. She coloured in a sheet of Rosie's illustrations, she told me she had read the first of my series and very perceptively suggested the back story to one of the characters, a back story I am about to reveal in Book number 6! I realised, from her enthusiasm for Sci Fi and Horror and the fact that she was reading Philip Pullman, that she was very unlikely to buy any more of my series, but I adjusted my expectations of any sales and just enjoyed talking to a very engaging person who I told should definitely become a writer. Through all this time her lovely  younger sister had been colouring in a sheet too, and smiling, and not chatting as much, and then their mum came to pick them up, and bought one of my books for the younger sister, and I signed it, and she was very happy. By this point I had not expected to sell any books to that family, so that was lovely.  Two more children came and coloured in sheets but bought nothing.  My husband brought me tea and tiffin, I signed some more stock, and I went home. I had only sold two books in one hour but had had a lovely time, mainly because experience had taught me to manage my expectations before the event.

I am sure that I will sell many more books at different events, (I certainly hope so!) and that hour was definitely worth it for the lovely encounters I had. I know, from talking to other writers, that such an experience is entirely normal. However, I do wonder if those people complaining about the injustice and unnecessariness of Society of Authors' Grants to published writers, need to adjust their expectations of what a writer's life can truly be like!

Here is a picture of me wearing my bird earrings.

And the earrings themselves can be bought here:


Pen Wilcock said...

What a lovely post. I concur (about expectations). My whole journey through life has been a demonstration to my surprised soul that all expectations are born to be confounded. But I have a problem now. My expectations having been turned upside down time after time, not only do I no longer expect anything in particular, I do not hope for it either. This has led in turn to a waning of interest and commitment, and a profound inclination to wander off. Because I have learned I cannot expect anything, I have lost the desire to try. It is as though what I expected life would be is — and perhaps always was — over. So . . . what now?

Anne Booth said...

That is very interesting and thought provoking. I don't have an easy answer. I think, for me, yesterday, I had to make a decision to stay in the present moment, to enjoy really listening to and talking to the people I was meeting in the bookshop, and to not worry about sales. But your comment about hope is a tricky one - how does staying in the present moment link with keeping a sense of hope about the future? I suppose the future is just the present moment we hope to live in a little further on in time, and if we try to live and love fully in each present moment, then we get a taste of the joy which we have hope will still be waiting for us in the not-yet present moments to come? I don't know! This is such a profound comment and question I will be thinking about it now for ages. I certainly didn't expect it, so it's entirely fitting for this post! Thank you x

Joan Lennon said...

This maybe sounds as if it should be on a t-shirt or something, but for me I think that it's a good idea to keep putting myself in the path of surprises.

Anne Booth said...

I think I need a t-shirt with that on!