It was the sort of morning that fills you with resolve to be better at life. You know the type of day I mean – the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and you’re walking through a leafy green park with your tunes blasting through your headphones. It’s a Thursday, which means the working week is almost over, and this weekend you are definitely going to go for a jog – or at least a long walk – and stock the house with vegetables, and write at least 5,000 words of your work in progress, and maybe even do a blog post.
Well, I say I didn’t do any of them. I did go for a longish walk, it’s just that I punctuated it by eating a prodigious quantity of Italian food. I did buy a pepper, but the skin wrinkled over its orange crunchiness long before I deigned to put it in a salad. And I did start adding to my WIP, I just didn’t manage 5000 words. And y’know, here’s that blog post – it’s only 5 days late.
It’s easy to beat yourself up about the things you haven’t done yet, and easier still to be self deprecating about the things you did manage to achieve. This is true in life as it is in writing. In either field, it’s easy to judge yourself against the miraculous amazingness of everyone else and come up short. Social media has a lot to answer for here (as we all know, everyone posts the best versions of themselves there, and after scrolling through pages of 10ks and publication dates it’s easy to feel like a slovenly failure) – but that’s not the main problem for me.
Of course I go through phases of obsessively comparing myself to my peers, I’m not weird. But I also have enough of an ego know that the reason I don’t have a book deal, or an agent, or whatever, is because I haven’t sent out the queries yet*. And the reason I haven’t sent out the queries is because nothing I’m working on is finished to the point where I can truthfully say ‘this is the best I can do without the help of an editor/agent.’
The problem I have is getting to that point before I die. Obviously I’ve got a lot of collateral to work with, what with the writing 12 books in 12 months, but I also have a full time job and what we could generously term a social life, and lately I’ve been allowing myself to fall into the trap of being too tired or too busy to write. This has been particularly bad over the past year or so – I’ve basically been ignoring the most important lesson JK Rowling ever allegedly gave on Pinterest: Protect Your Writing Time. I’ve been letting other things (mainly sleep and wedding planning) be more important.
This mightn’t be an issue except it means I get fantastically annoyed at myself because I haven’t got my work to querying stage yet, not through lack of talent but through allowing myself to be tired (after working 9 hours a day or making hundreds of paper roses using book pages). Then I compare myself to other people my age and go ‘seriously, that guy’s getting published?! I’m at least as good as that guy. I’m 3.9% better than that guy.’
In doing that, I neglect to think about what I have done. For instance, in 2015 I have:
- Managed to rework a chapter book in about a month in order to enter it for a writing competition. This involved taking the characters from a fictional town and putting them into a real one, which sadly doesn’t really work – but hey ho. It taught me quite a lot about the story, not least that it may be time to give up on it and transport the characters into a better one.
- Completed an 8 week Open University Course online, ‘Start Writing Fiction’ – because even though I’ve been writing fiction for over twenty years, it never hurts to get some deranged peer feedback.
- Had a piece accepted for the Edinburgh City of Literature Story Shop 2015, which basically means I’ll be reading my work at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this August.
As has already been mentioned I also got married, more on which in another post – but I can tell you it’s the most amazing procrastination tool.
Overall, in 2015 I’ve made a lot of good resolutions on the blue sky walk to work which I’ve so far failed to keep. I haven’t written as much as intended, or exercised, or eaten enough vegetables, but I’ve managed to get a few bits and bobs under my belt. Today I even ate a salad. Maybe there’s hope for getting myself to querying level by the end of this year after all.
*obviously there may come a time when my ego is broken, but that will only come when I’ve been roundly rejected by all agents and publishers for my children’s fiction, my YA offerings and comic fiction for adults. That’s a lot of queries, so it’ll be a while.