Back in the early days of lockdown, I joined thousands of others wondering exactly how I – a full-time freelance writer, editor, creative writing tutor – would stretch my already limited budget to feed myself and the 9 year old.
I applied for two streams of hastily-assembled national arts funding; one-off grants to see us through. The respective application forms, and therefore my answers, were near-identical.
The first response was a stern and non-negotiable ‘you do not fulfil our criteria’. I was devastated, first because I really, really needed the financial support and second because I (obviously!) interpreted this as ‘you are not a proper writer’.
The second response just as quickly granted me funds, and transferred them to my account, almost by return (and I am eternally grateful for such generosity). I spent a good few days waiting to be found out as some kind of fraud and/or expecting it to be an admin error, before trying to convince myself that contrary to response one, I now was a proper writer. Wasn’t I?
Guess which feeling constantly won out?
Of course, I quickly got a grip and carried on with life and work: writing, editing, entering competitions, signing up for the flurry of online writing festivals (more of those next time) and, courtesy of The National Lottery: Awards for All, running a virtual creating writing class for locally-based OxPen Writers.
We were doing okay.
Then something unexpected happened: an email from Creative Scotland: Create Inclusion. It contained the unlikely but true news that I was the very lucky, very privileged recipient of funding to write my current novel (another huge and heartfelt thank you).
Yes – I am being paid to write a novel.
It means I can shift priority from editing to writing, and to create my ‘breakthrough’ publishable, third-time-lucky, novel. (The other two are still around, peaking and troughing; unpublished) It’s the one I pitched at Bloody Scotland last October, and which was longlisted last month for the Blue Pencil First Novel Award. And it’s my first foray into psychological suspense.
It’s also been sitting at 5000 words and lots (and lots) of notes for far too long, until last week, when in a veritable honeymoon period, I scribbled 15,000 new words; draft-y but okay. I’m trying to take my own advice and Just Write. And write. And write…
It’s a funny old world, this one of writing, and I’m summarising my five pieces of advice for everyone – but right now, especially myself!
If you write, you are a writer.
Practise self-belief: the only label you need to accept is your own
There are many reasons for rejection: none are about you and many are not about your writing but about marketing, preference – and luck.
Writing is 10% talent and 90% perseverance!
Don’t: (1) wait for inspiration, (2) compare yourself to others, (3) try to write a perfect first draft.