I have been listening to a great writing podcast called Write or Die. It is perfect for writers, like me, who are deep in the querying trenches. If you are struggling with rejection and the journey to publication, listen to this.
Podcast host and author, Claribel Ortega, focuses on the struggle and the suffering with trying to get published in her interviews. All the authors she has on her podcast endured tough and painstaking journeys.
Some of the interviews make your thirty five rejections feel like some kind of fun warm up.
The best episode is the one with author Julie C. Dao. How Julie kept going with her book dream I don’t know! Her epic publication story left me in shock and speechless.
This podcast will inspire and motivate you. I have been busy telling all my writer friends to listen to it and now I am writing about it on my blog.
Some of the authors Claribel interviews started writing seriously at a young age. They wrote their first draft of a book in their late teens and then continued to write seriously before securing agents and book deals.
So this got me thinking. I wrote the first draft of a novel at forty-one and continued to write seriously from that point on (now forty-five).
Why did I leave it so late to start writing seriously?
Did the younger version of me have what it takes to commit to writing and get published?
As a child I wrote stories and as a university student I wrote weekly ten page letters to my mother, recording the comedy highs and lows of my student life. But the idea of being a writer didn’t knock on my door again until my husband had been diagnosed with cancer at twenty-seven and I threw myself into writing a bizarre vampire story set in a retirement home. I deleted all of it, once he got the all clear, as what appeared on paper was not the story in my head.
The writer calling reappeared when I was pregnant with my first child (now a teenager) and I wrote a lot of words in three weeks (a space set romcom), whilst in the throes of morning sickness and an iron deficiency. I shelved the story and the idea of being a writer left me once I moved into the second trimester of pregnancy. There were other things to obsess about like how the hell I was going to push out a large baby and sorting out my daytime TV planner for when the baby was born.
The writer calling went away during my years raising kids and came back after my husband’s mother died unexpectedly. Whilst in the middle of grief I wrote 30k of a story set in India at the start of the nineteenth century. My mother in law had been fascinated by India and so the morning after the funeral, I found myself writing about a girl born in England who was sent away by her family as part of the Fishing Fleet. I shelved that because someone at work made a negative comment about me being a writer and I did not have the personal strength to stand up and say, ‘yes I write in my spare time.’
Then in my late thirties the calling to be a writer reappeared. My husband bought me a writing course at Cardiff University as a Christmas present and I went along with high hopes. After twelve weeks I completed the course and was devastated at the comments the tutor had made on my final assessment. The writer calling was sent packing.
After turning forty I started blogging. A year later I completed writing my first draft of a full length novel.
I then spent three years slowly come to terms with the following:
- Writing was something I needed to spend hours practicing.
- First drafts are crap.
- I have to revise the life out of a story before it is ready to send to an agent.
- Sacrifices have to be made if I want to be a writer.
- Writing is one big head mess.
- Finding the personal strength to tell the world I was a writer was a huge unexpected personal battle.
- Not everyone likes my writing.
- There are better writers than me out there.
What if I had carried on writing my space romcom? Obviously that dreadful story would not have led anywhere, but other stuff would have come from that. Where would I be now?
Part of me likes to run away with the idea that in an alternate universe I am published, after years of mastering my craft. The space romcom was a turning point for me and I carried writing through my late twenties and dreams came true in my early thirties, I got the agent and the book deal. Once I allow this part of me to run away with this daydream, I get gloomy and sink into that negative pit of ‘why did I leave it so late to try and get published?’
Another part of me, the sensible part, pulls me back and asks the question – was the younger me really ready for the journey towards publication?
Over a cup of coffee the other day I pondered this question.
Looking back I don’t think I was ready to write a book back in my twenties and thirties. There were other things going on in my life and there were some big changes which I had to deal with.
I don’t think I was committed enough to be a writer back then. The calling to be a writer kept knocking at my door and each time there was an emotional hurdle to climb over. Most of the time I would fail at trying to overcome the obstacle which, I believe, was a sign I wasn’t ready to start the publication journey.
I read only a handful of books during the child raising years because I had better things to do like change nappies, play Barbie weddings, clean food splattered walls and sleep in their play house whilst they cooked me dinner on a toy stove. There was no time for writing and any free time I had was spent losing myself on my husband’s Dungeons & Dragons computer game, where I got to travel around distant lands, selling jewels, staying in nice inns, sparking romance between fictional game characters and running away from every creature I was supposed to fight.
After draining the coffee in my cup I reflected on the Write or Die Podcast . There is a great line from Julie C. Dao, who says, ‘every writer has a different timeline.’ In the podcast she is talking about being a struggling unpublished writer and seeing people around you enjoy literary successes. You start to wonder why these things are not happening to you. She uses this timeline approach as a reason why this happens.
However I think it also applies to my scenario. We all respond differently to the writer calling during our lives and there’s a reason why some of us start young and some start later with their journey.
We are all on different timelines.
I wasn’t ready to start my journey when I was younger. I didn’t have the life experiences or emotional resilience to become a serious writer.
I found writing in my forties because I am on a different timeline to other writers. My life has turned me into the writer I am today. Over time my emotional resilience has got stronger and my box of life experiences has grown too.
I needed to live my life to get where I am today. The younger me wasn’t ready to write a book.
This blog post has been very therapeutic.
Have a great day x