Writing can be like a game of snakes and ladders. You inch your way toward the top, only for a snake to appear and banish you to the pits of misery.
That’s how it feels, anyway.
This past week I’ve had a bit of a sort out of my scribblings and found dozens and dozens of short story manuscripts. Some have been published, plenty more haven’t. Looking at them all, it’s pretty amazing to see the amount of time and effort invested into a few thousand words. All those notes excitedly scrawled in the margins, entire paragraphs, even pages, crossed out with a firm, frustrated grip of the pen.
And still, no results.
What’s the magic formula for success? How can I perfect these stories so publishers want them?
I’ve been writing seriously now for three years. In that time I’ve amassed a fortune of £30. £10 a year. A fine supplement to my already slim earnings. I’ve wondered whether the idea of making a living from fiction is more of a fantasy than the novel I’m writing. Shouldn’t I just go back to my lawyer job and earn some cashish?
That would be giving up.
When you invest so much time and effort in any pursuit, it’s natural to expect some return. And we human beings are an impatient bunch, which doesn’t make things any easier. On those days when confidence is low and you feel like quitting, take a step back.
Think about why you began this crazy pipe dream in the first place. Why you keep on scribbling away in your notepad or bashing away at your keyboard. Re-align your focus. Reflect on your successes, however small they may be. Take stock of your projects and goals, and re-structure them to make them feel more achievable. If there’s something you’re unsure about, need to know the answer to, embark upon a journey of discovery. Never fear to reach out to others, no matter how silly you think the question. Someone is always there to give you a hand up the ladder.
Life has a knack for trying to knock the stuffing out of you. It’s up to you whether to stay down and wait for the count or push yourself up on shaky legs and ready yourself for the next bout. Whoever’s standing last wins.
Even when futility swallows you whole, there’ still a way out. Persevere, persevere, persevere.
So brush the dust from your clothes, park your arse in the chair, and focus on the next word.