Last week, the wonderful Elizabeth Rose Murray wrote this fantastic post on her blog. It was a compendium of her most popular posts on writing – the art, craft, graft and ‘secret’ of it – gathered from her experience as a successful writer, blogger and social media professional. Elizabeth is much further down the road to success (if there is such a thing) than I am, but she nevertheless asked if I’d be interested in compiling an advice post of my own, gathering together in one place some of my most read posts on writing.
I thought it was a fantastic idea.
When I checked my readership stats, however, a funny thing emerged. It turns out that my most read – sometimes, also, my most commented-upon and liked posts, though not always – were the ones which dealt with failure, disappointment, and how to carry on when it seems like a task too far. In a strange way, I am quite proud of this. I like to think that my musings on how to keep going when things get tough were an inspiration for others.
So, without further ado, here are some of my most read posts, grouped loosely by theme. I hope that they are helpful (some of them are quite old, so even if you’ve been following this blog for a while, they might seem fresh), and a reminder of how far a person can come. Just so you know: most of the stuff I worried about when I wrote these posts never came to pass, some of the stories I recount struggling with have subsequently been published, and every hard-won lesson I learned about editing, drafting and submitting has been vital in my journey so far.
When you feel like you’re not good enough, and the self-doubt is building up inside you:
Try this post, about how to distinguish between good and bad self-criticism, or this one about slaying the dragon of self-doubt.
When you feel like you’re running out of things to say, or you’ll never have a good idea again:
Try this post about how to respect your own idea-getting process (because you do have one, no matter what you might think). You could also give this one a go when you feel like your ideas are going to dry up forever – remember, ideas are everywhere you look.
When you feel afraid – of being read, of not being read, of being successful, of failing – or when you’re wondering if you’re doing the right thing:
Try this post, which takes you through the fear I used to have about being read, back at the beginning of my writing career when I hadn’t published a single story. I have published several since then, and with every one the fear drains away a little more. You could also try this more recent post about how, sometimes, we feel like frauds, and how the fear of success can be a crippling thing. Or perhaps try this one when you feel unworthy, whether it’s unworthy of following your dream or of succeeding at it.
When you do decide you’re going to start submitting, and you’re wondering how to go about it:
This post is about the importance of having a polished opening to the book you’re submitting to agents and/or publishers, and how it’s important not to overlook your first 10,000 words. You can check out this one, this one and this one when it’s time to write your pitches, synopses and cover letters, and the very best of luck to you. You can try this post here if you think you know better than the agents to whom you’re submitting, and when you’re tempted to chuck their advice in the bin and go for broke (not usually a good idea). You can check out this one when you’re wondering what the flippin’ point of editing is, and why you need to go over your work again and again and again. (Tip: everyone has to do this).
And when you’re dealing with rejection and disappointment – for, sadly, this is something that happens to us all – and you’re wondering how to keep on going:
Try this post, which – because it was written before I’d really experienced any disappointment – is a good way of mentally preparing yourself for the inevitability of rejection, and how to separate yourself from your work. You could also look at this post if you’re wondering why you’re bothering, and whether your voice, and your words, have any role to play in the larger picture. (Hint: they do). Finally, try this one when you’re a little further down the road of rejection and the ‘No thank yous’ have started to get a little more encouraging – for that will happen, too. Try to take the good out of every bad situation and the advice out of every ‘no’; it’s there. You just have to look for it.
And always remember the most vital advice of all: Get your butt in the chair, get the words on the page, and finish your work. Never give up. Tell the story you need to tell.
And when the world is ready, it will listen.