Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Growing with Experience

My writing has taken a considerable leap in the last year. Not because I discovered some magical key, but last year I realised that just writing when the inspiration struck and working haphazardly wasn't going to give me the writing career I envisioned. So I began a more disciplined approach - okay, still working on the discipline bit. I realised that my writing practice, even if I didn't have a completely finished project to show for it, wasn't wasted. I had learned more with practice. But not enough. So I began connecting the dots of all the things I have learned. I am still doing that. And learning more. While I know that the learning would never really end, I do hope that I will get to a good enough level where I am happy sending out my books in the world. Then I read this... "There is no doubt in my mind that I have found out how to begin (at 40) to say something in my own voice; and that interests me so that I feel I can go ahead without praise." - Virginia Woolf When Woolf wrote this, she had already published several books, written countless articles and stories, reviewed books for The Times, and overall was far more involved in the literary world than I would ever be. It made me think about the value of experience, though I must admit that I can't think for myself that I will be fine finding my own voice at 40, because currently being 40 seems quite a way away, and to even imagine that my own writing will not satisfy me until then seems like walking on a road of failure. (Here I must say that it is nothing to do with being how old you are, but rather how long you have to wait before you get to where you want to be) It's a bit bleak way to look at it, but so is always is. One always dreams about the shiny future; hardships we only observe in the past, looking back in retrospect to see how they make us grow. While I know that I shall continue to write no matter what, because I do that for myself, success most certainly matters. I want to have my hard work paid off. And it's a vicious circle really that until I can make a living wage from writing, I cannot spend more time writing because I have to work. Are you one of those writers, to whom only the writing matters and not the success? Would you keep writing, no matter how long it takes to get published?


  1. You never 'get to where you want to be'. That doesn't change when you get published. Winning an award doesn't change it. Making a lot of money doesn't change it. That's my experience, anyway.

  2. Brian, with something like writing craft, of course there would always be something new you can learn, and not to mention that you are only as good as your last book.

    But do you find it gives you more motivation, being able to do what you want to do, all the time? Or does it make it harder, because you no longer have any excuse of distraction from regular job?

  3. It's easier that trying to write when you've got a full time job. Much, much easier. And it's undeniably real. You've made the decision and this is what you do. And, of course, after a few years, you're not really employable in any other capacity. So you can't back out even if you wanted to. But there are no excuses. You sit down in the morning in front of the computer and you have to work, otherwise you're a phoney.

  4. Thanks for posting this. As a 40 year-old coming back to writing after a long hiatus, I find myself affected by many of the concerns you describe. Like you, I would love to be a "real" writer, and feel accomplished.

    That old cliche--a good life is about the journey, not the destination--is what keeps my fires lit. I write because I need it and I love it, and maybe that's not always enough, but in my eyes it's something beautiful--so I keep doing it.

    I guess in the end that's what success looks like to me.

  5. I'm certainly more interested in the journey than the destination. I was very focused on getting my novel published, but when it happened I realised that my days were pretty much the same and what happened between me and the blank page was most important of all. I look back on the writing I did last year and can see I've improved since then, and that makes me happy. I hope I'm still able to look back like that and see the progression when I#m forty.

  6. Brian, thank you for sharing your experience. It's motivating to hear voice of exerience.

    Jon Paul, all the best wishes for you. I agree, journey is definitely worth it.

    Jenn, thank you for sharing your experience. I do believe that unpublished writers (including me) get hung up on being published, but as I said to Brian, I always try to remember that we are all only as good as our last book.

  7. I think I have a less tenuous "hold" on the actual publishing bit than a lot of unpublished writers for a couple of reasons. One is, I don't let not being published stop me from putting work out there just for the joy of sharing it. My blog serials aren't publishable after they've been posted to my blog, but it still gives me the satisfaction of writing for an audience. I will always do that, no matter what. It reminds me that writing is *fun*.

    And secondly, I have nothing against self-publishing, and if for whatever reason my novels are rejected by agents/publishers, I'll be fine publishing them myself. It's a harder road, and less likely to allow me the freedom to write full time, but it will get those novels out "into the world" while I'm writing another one to submit to agents/houses again. Self-pubbing also might allow me enough extra income to cut back the hours I have to actually go to work. Who knows? That might make all the difference between staying un/self-pubbed and traditionally published.

    All that said, the book I just wrote will never be as good as the one I'm writing now, and the next one will always be better than the current one. Artists are never happy with their work - it's just something to accept and deal with, in my (rather long-winded) opinion. :-)

  8. *Sigh*

    That should read "more tenuous", not less.

  9. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog... your post has got me thinking about a new blog post I might do over the next couple of days. :)

  10. Jamie, it's good that you know what works for you, and of course if sharing your stories gives you the satisfaction then that's the important thing.

    I do agree that this book would never be as good as the next one. It's not only about artist's view, but at least in writing, we also learn with experience so it's logical that we would get better. Of course not always the case because we have always come across one hit wonders. But here is to hoping for the best.

    Jenn, happy to follow your blog. :-) Thanks for stopping by here.

  11. This is a thought-provoking post. One thing I like about reading your blog is that I see you as just a bit ahead of me with regards to experience/skill/the writing process. You give me something to look forward to as I find my own way. Your views on where you are right now as a writer are enviable and provide me something to aim for.

    As far as the question you pose, the part of writing I enjoy the most is when I succeed in writing something that gives me chills. When I write something that I believe to be really good. Then when I get feedback from others that confirm my thoughts on the piece, that's the icing on the cake. While I do hope to get published someday, my idea of success is when I've written an entire novel, made my way through multiple drafts, and am able to look at a completed draft that provides me that same "chills" feeling. I won't comment on the whole "40" thing, since I'll soon be within a year of that particular event. Great post.

  12. Eric, thank you. Glad to provide motivation. I feel the same way about other writers who I feel are just that little bit ahead of me.

    I like the chill feeling. I guess my first goal is to have my book at a stage where I would be happy to read it as a reader.

  13. There must have been something in the air last year because I found myself leaping forward with my writing too. My last NaNo novel was the cleanest draft I've ever written.

    I agree with Jamie that there's a lot of satisfaction writing a blog serial, plus it gets me working to a deadline. And I also have no problem with self-publishing. I have a friend who self-publishes and she wouldn't have it any other way.

    While commercial success would be nice, it's not the driving force behind my writing. I don't think working necessarily precludes a writing career. I'm in school full time and I'm accomplishing far more with my writing than I did when I was unemployed. The less time I have, the more I get done.

    I guess I'm just weird that way. :-)

  14. C R,

    I think with regards to self-publishing, it is each to their own. While I would always write, regardless of publishing success, self-publishing just doesn't work for me.

    I know what you mean about less time and more writing. I didn't do much when I couldn't work for 6 months due to immigration restrictions when I first moved to UK. But I think it's also a lot to do with motivation. At the time, writing wasn't an all consuming passion as it is now. So if I were to have 6 months free now (I WISH), I would definitely be writing a lot.