The talk I was supposed to give last week to a creative writing class was postponed because the class tutor had the Flu. In a way it did me a favour because I had a croaky sore throat myself (not that I'd wish the poor woman the Flu, of course!) ... and I'm now due to give the talk tomorrow.
It's quite timely. One of the things I always stress when giving talks to any group of writers or would-be writers is the importance of anticipating rejection, not taking it personally, treating it as part of a writer's life and taking it on the chin. And so on. Of course, we all know it isn't always easy to follow that well-worn piece of advice! - but it's important to recognise that rejection goes with the territory and that it's possible to recover from it.
I'm aware that, because I've had a small degree of success over the years, some of the people listening to me spouting this stuff might think, "It's all very well for her to talk!" Of course, I tell them about all the rejections I had before I finally had a novel accepted - and about all the short stories I've had rejected over the years, and still get rejected now - and I like to think that this gives some of them a bit of hope: I did get lucky along the way, and it could happen for them too.
But I certainly never got complacent! I often quote Graham Greene's very depressing statement that 'For a writer, success is always temporary. Success is only failure delayed.' ! Of course, there are those writers who find success easily, and go on to be successful for the rest of their lives ... but these are the minority. For most of us, we're only ever as good as our last contract, and those contracts are increasingly difficult to secure.
My recent writing career hasn't exactly gone swimmingly. I had an agent briefly last year, who having been enthusiastic about my work and professed herself optimistic about getting me a good publishing deal, worked hard with me for a few months and then abruptly left the agency, informing me that none of the other agents there were interested in handling me, and leaving me wondering if it was something I'd said! So I was back on my own again, unagented as I'd been throughout most of my writing life, and (to be honest) thinking maybe I'm better off that way.
As some of you know, I've recently had a stab at writing a serial for one of the women's mags. This was my first attempt and I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but the editor was really helpful and encouraging, and I tried my best to follow her advice - ending up doing two complete re-writes. I can honestly say it was the hardest thing I've attempted to write - and I've just heard that the third version hasn't been successful - so that's the end of the road with it. Maybe I can eventually adapt it and try it elsewhere, but for the moment the thought of doing that is quite overwhelming and I'm just going to sink back into the comfort of writing some more of my new (as yet unsold) novel!
I found writing the serial a tremendous challenge - and quite a humbling experience, not that I needed one! - reinforcing my admiration of those writers who do write them successfully. Of course I'm feeling disappointed, but (always looking for the silver lining), I'm now in exactly the right frame of mind to talk to the creative writing class about coping with rejection!
Today I've visited my ex-colleagues at the hospital where I used to work, and as always, found myself wondering if I wished I was back there. The answer is always NO - although I still miss them all, and have some great memories of my years there, I know I'm happy with my life now. I refer to myself as a full-time writer but in fact, I think it's important for those of us who aren't MEGA successful (!) to have lots of other things in our lives as well as our writing, so that the disappointments don't feel like the end of the world.
And yes, I'll be telling the creative writing class that, too!
Here's one of the other lovely things in my life!