A Writer in Crisis (or the one where I am a teeny-tiny bit of a drama queen).

goodbyewriting “That’s it. I will never write anything ever again,” I wrote to my husband, Heathcliff*. “Except this, obviously.”

If I could have found an emoticon with the back of a hand pressed against a forehead in a “woe-is-poor-talentless-me” sort of way, I would have sent that in the email too just to emphasise how distressed I was.

After seven years he is used to this sort of proclamation and takes it in his stride, possibly with a well-hidden roll of the eyes but definitely with the procurement of cake and/or peppermint hot chocolate. The difference this time was I actually had a proper reason; I didn’t get shortlisted in the romantic fiction writing competition when I DESPERATELY wanted to be.

I didn’t ever think I had a chance of winning but I thought my submissions were ok. You know, until I read them back after the shortlist was announced on Friday and then I thought they were the worst things I’d ever written. Even the titles of the other entrants’ work were better than mine.

It was the first time I had entered any creative writing into a competition, the first time I had put myself out there to the wider world (outside of a small creative writing group many years ago and my mum). And I had been rejected.

To be shortlisted would have been a nod that I wasn’t wasting my time. That maybe my dream to one day publish a romantic fiction novel would become a reality. But when my name wasn’t on the list, despite me refreshing the page FIVE times, I decided that was it. The End.

The excellent BlondeWriteMore perfectly summed up my feelings in her recent post, Five Moods of a Writer. This is from number four, A Writer in Crisis.

Giving up writing feels like your only option. There is a lot of loud sighing, huffing and puffing coming from you. Friends and family give you a wide berth. This turmoil stage can go on for weeks or even months.

The only phrase during this mood is: “I am close to quitting”

Only I wasn’t “close”. I was done.

For a couple of hours anyway.

And then I sort of got over myself.

As my lovely been-through-this-many-times-before husband pointed out, there could be all sorts of reasons why I didn’t make the cut in that competition – other than the fact I’m simply not any good, that is.

It is also rather arrogant to assume that I would be among those selected on my first go, I’m not exactly J K Rowling (if she wrote Mills and Boon).

To be (what I hope is) a good journalist has taken years of work. I find switching to creative writing hard. Whereas news reporting is all about telling people in the least amount of words possible, creative writing seems to be about showing them using as many words as you think necessary.

You know what, even if I’m never published (and clearly there are far worse things in life), that shouldn’t stop me writing for fun. From enjoying the craft of it all. And I think that’s where the confusion comes in; writing is my (much loved) job and it feels like the end result should be to be published (not to mention earn money) rather than just for my amusement.

To have been shortlisted would have been like being given permission to write fiction because it might one day go somewhere but I realise now I don’t need permission for a hobby. That it doesn’t need to go anywhere but my saved folder.

So this was an epiphany of sorts, to separate work writing from fun writing – and not just romantic fiction but blogging too. I’m never going to be a pro-blogger, I haven’t got the time or the will to put in the hard work to get that far – never mind the content – so why do I need to be ranked? I can see that people are reading the blog (thank you) from my stats, I don’t need it to be a competition (mainly with myself) each month. As a result I’ve removed the ranking badge.

I feel good, sort of free.

From now on, I will still work at writing outside of actual work but it will be purely for fun – although maybe I’ll publish some of my creative writing here.

When I am feeling brave.

And after I’ve given my Heathcliff a chance to recover from this episode first.

* Not his name but so excited about the new Bronte TV drama.

This is as close as I could get.
This is as close as I could get.
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22 thoughts on “A Writer in Crisis (or the one where I am a teeny-tiny bit of a drama queen).

  1. Oh yes! Been there, done that. Having sent the opening chapters of my novel to countless agents and received countless ‘thank you but not quite right for our lists’ I totally sympathise. I also tend to the concise style of writing and know what you mean about the jump to fiction. I try and remind myself that at least I’ve gained (some) recognition for non-fiction – as have you (lots). I will try again on the fiction front… maybe… one day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kate. It’s nice to know I’m not alone, although I’m sorry no one has picked your novel up. Maybe if you mention you also write fiction while you travel the world promoting your wonderful green parenting book, doing all the talk show rounds etc shortly the agents might be calling you? 🙂

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  2. Tara,
    I know how you feel and I’m sure, lots of other writers do too. I (finally) entered the CWA Debut Dagger competition a few years back, and felt the ‘So, I’m NOT good enough’ pain keenly. Looking back I was just glad I finished the entry, got the words down and proved to myself that I could do it ~ something that I’ve been promising myself I do for ages!

    I also look at (writing) competitions differently now: For MOST people (writing) competitions should not be a talent defining tool, sure top slots are defining/confidence boosting, potential career changers, but….

    If anything competitions are more like (and should be treated as) a marathon. By all means take up the challenge (they’re good for you); prepare well, enter, take your number and let your manuscript run the race. Just remember, unlike a real marathon you’ll only get to see a select few cross the finish line…

    What of the other (writerly) runners?

    The slush pilers? The got-something listers? The not-quite listers? The long listers?

    Just because you (and I) didn’t get into the one of the top slots, doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have crossed the finish line ~ obviously the ‘runners’ that dove straight into the bin would’ve been the running equivalent of being carted away by St John’s, but we won’t go there 🙂

    We write because of the words; wanting readers isn’t a great leap, it’s a natural one. Putting your work out there, for others – strangers – to see is a bigger leap (one I should take more often). It’s too easy to label your work based on the opinion of a few select judges, but the truth is they’re just weren’t your readers that day. You’ll may find your readers tomorrow, or in the next competition, or via self-publishing, or by sending your work to a publisher or agent… one competition shouldn’t crush a dream, it should just be a hurdle to the next opportunity to find your readers.

    You crossed the finish line x

    PS: I often struggle with these thoughts myself – I blogged – something I’ve not done for a while – in response to yours… http://wp.me/p2WO8i-8M (I’m hoping this is ok blogging etiquette)

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    1. Wow, Cath, thank you. What an amazing reply (and I’m honored it inspired you to blog).

      Everything you said makes total sense. There are positives I can take away from the experience. For example, it’s the first time I wrote a full synopsis instead of letting the story grow organically and I found it really useful.

      I think the trouble was I had written my own story (in my head) about being shortlisted, featuring me as the lead, and it leading to a career where I wrote romance novels (in Tuscany overlooking a lake) and so it felt bigger than just not being picked. I suppose that’s one of the downfalls of an active imagination!

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      1. Entering a competition and not imagining what winnning could be like, would be weird. I imagined what I’d wear to the awards, who I’d meet, the career I’d have, leading to the life I want – it was nothing short of winning an Oscar 😉
        Most of all being shortlisted would’ve acknowledged that I’m not wasting my time… I’ve since decided I’m not; ‘my time’ just hasn’t happened yet 🙂

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      2. Blimey, I didn’t get as far as what I would wear. Hehe. Your awards sounds brilliant and very glamorous. Can I come to them instead? 🙂

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  3. Really enjoyed both yours and Cath’s posts on this, and I totally relate to the ‘ping-pong’ analogy. Though my problem is more the fact I have waaaaay too many creative interests, and can’t concentrate on just the one at a time.

    I definitely wouldn’t take it too much to heart regards the competition. I always tell myself most people have absolutely no taste, and I would be belligerently thinking, ‘who are you to judge me?!’. As you can tell I don’t take criticism all that well 😀
    I love coming over here and reading your blog, and look forward to when you’re feeling brave and fancy sharing some of that creative stuff! 😉 Keep at it, enjoy it and don’t give up, just because that lot had no taste doesn’t mean others haven’t! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I need to be more like you. Where can I get some kick ass? 🙂

      My pledge not to write didn’t last long, I think after all these years it’s a bit like breathing 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Aww! It’s a good week for stamping our feet!
    So sorry it ended that way, I’m sure I could tell you countless examples of authors who missed the mark first time round but went on to great success, but Ii won’t. I’ll tell you to go drown your sorrows in ice cream my love! 😉

    Hopefully the bug will bite you again once you have dusted yourself off.

    Hurrah for ditching the rankings – so very liberating! I gave up on all that Jazz nearly straight away when I realised I didn’t fit in any neat little box anywhere.

    PS love the emoji, you should definitely approach apple with that one!

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    1. I treated Freya to some Booja Booja which is the most amazing ice cream in the world and I am having to resist it (at £6.99 a small tub) but if you are giving me permission….:) The bug is already back, I don’t think it will ever go for long 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

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  5. Ah life is full of times like this isn’t it. I think that it shows how much of your self you put into your writing and that’s only a good thing.
    I look forward to the day that you feel brave enough to share some of your fiction on your blog!

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  6. I would love to read some of your fiction! I agree with Mother Mands, clearly the judges have no taste at all!! You’ve moved me to tears with your factual writing, I imagine your fictional stuff is just as powerful!! Enjoy your well earned ice cream! xx

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    1. Thank you, what a lovely comment. Never mind the ice cream, I’m coming to Dubai for free drinks and food! I like the sound of Ladies Night 🙂

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      1. You can come to Dubai for free drinks and the Godiva ice cream!! Freya could play at the amazing waterparks we have on the beach for little kids! Ladies night is definitely good, as are the happy hours which actually last for three hours at most places. For somewhere that apparently ‘frowns’ on alcohol they seem rather keen to give it away!

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