The peaks and troughs of writing

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Yesterday I was feeling a bit flat as I’d received three (writing comp) rejections in a matter of days. It’s so easy at times like this to get demoralised and allow the familiar feelings of doubt to creep in until you quickly end up thinking you have no ability at all (there’s such a fine line between jubilant self confidence and depressive inertia, isn’t there?) I’ve only recently committed to writing, partly because it feels right but also because I believe deep down that it’s something I can do, but sometimes I can’t help wondering whether I’m fooling myself?

What bothers me is that even though these competitions are relatively insignificant, when I get nowhere in them, (especially if I’ve won before), I feel as if I’m going backwards rather than forwards. It’s then that my mind begins to spiral out of control and I end up feeling as if I’m totally and utterly incapable of writing.

What is the answer? I suppose it’s a matter of ignoring the negative little demons and moving on by doing so many little challenges and competitions that when you’re unsuccessful, it doesn’t matter all that much. This is something I’m learning. It’s really helped reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, as she points out that the whole rejection thing is just something you have to deal with. It’s all part of the writing process.

Yesterday when I received my third rejection, I had this horrible knot of disappointment, somewhere around the level of my heart, but instead of instantly blocking the feeling out as I normally would, I absorbed it for a few seconds, really felt the feeling and that helped a lot. Then I forgot about it, opened a bottle of wine and consequently felt a whole lot better.

I don’t think rejection is ever something I’ll really come to terms with, but what I’ve discovered is that it helps to have lots of balls in the air at once. I’m now getting ready for my regular Friday competition, and if I don’t get placed in that, I’ll try to find other places to submit the story. If nothing else, the whole practice of writing to a deadline helps to generate ideas, and having a number of things out there keeps the hope of success alive.

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8 thoughts on “The peaks and troughs of writing

  1. Mary, Please don’t give up. By the sounds of things, you’re doing quite well in “keeping those balls in the air,” without which you’d have no chance at all! Keep plugging away, meeting those deadlines, and know that somewhere your work will shine on through. And, if it weren’t for rejection, we’d have fewer excuses/reasons to open up fine wine and realize how good life really is! And I don’t think you’ve been “going backwards.” Think of it, instead, as a circle, where you can come back around and not have lost any ground at all. Cheers to you! 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much, Mark! I guess I’m forever battling self doubt when it comes to my writing (& other things!), but I know it’s a common problem & the successes when they come are even sweeter after a few rejections 🙂

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  2. I think self-doubt will always follow writers around. It must be the same part of the brain that allows us to think deeply and wander through our ideas, when it’s left alone for a few minutes it can’t help run a list of alternative possibilities. Some days a positive comment has me believing I’ll eventually breakout and be a Mancunian Stephen King/Charles Dickens hybrid; other times the thought of just one other person reading my work seems preposterous.

    It’s just about rolling with the punches. Soak up the good days and ignore the bad.

    As for writing competitions, they are too subjective to be a measure of how you are progressing. The best judge of your development is you. Only you know what style and what type of writer you want to be. Judges are following a Write-By-Numbers checklist most of the time. I only have experience in NYC Midnight, and stories I produced and hated fared well, others I felt good about went over the judges’ heads.

    You’re never going backwards if you can look at what you’ve done and feel happy with it.

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    1. Very true. Two of the first stories I ever submitted came first and third in national competitions – I was gobsmacked and also slightly blasé after that as I believed things would continue in that way. Of course, they didn’t, and now that I’m so much better at writing, the best I’ve managed since is getting shortlisted once in one of those comps. Yes, it’s very subjective!

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