Tag Archives: hope

Keeping Count of the Good Stuff

Today is ‘Budget Day’ in Ireland, the day when our government will announce the latest round of cuts and taxes designed to take over €2 billion out of our economy without throwing us back down the plughole of recession. Not an easy thing to do, I’m sure; I don’t envy them the job. Things have just barely started to nudge in the right direction here, and our ‘recovery’, if you can call it that, is still on very shaky legs. I hope today’s budget will be gentle enough not to cause stress and worry to too many people as we face into the colder months.

I hope.

Image: intervene.dugfree.org

Image: intervene.dugfree.org

Yesterday, I spent some time with my brother. It was an unexpected joy. I hadn’t seen him in a very long time, and he happened to call over out of the blue. It made an otherwise ordinary day into something that sparkled with happiness, and even though it meant I took an unscheduled day away from my writing, it didn’t even really seem to matter.

It’s on days like this, spent with loved ones and making the most out of life, that I try to count the good stuff.I’m not much of an accountant, and I don’t have a lot of anything to count, but I like to think I know a little about keeping things in balance.

If I were to prepare a personal ‘budget’, designed to maximise potential and encourage these elusive ‘green shoots’ and keep my own small economy running, it would look a bit like this:

Negativity – to be reduced by at least 75%;
Pessimism – to be taxed at the higher rate of 90%;
Fear – to be eradicated through greater reliance on existing support structures;Self-belief – to be nurtured through tax breaks on ‘You can do it’, ‘You’re good enough’, and ‘It will all be okay in the end’;
Ambition – to be fostered through cuts to Negative Self-Talk and Doubt;
Peace of Mind – to be the focus of spending for the coming year.

Image: thejournal.ie

Image: thejournal.ie

It’s a cold, clear day, with traces of the frozen north on the wind. It’s exactly the sort of day I love. I have some final edits to do on ‘Tider’ – things like tidying up chapter numbers and making sure my pages are properly laid out, that sort of thing – and I have at least two new ideas bubbling in my brain. I have several competitions I want to enter, and I’m looking forward to opening up my idea-chest and having a good old rummage inside. The sun is shining, and I am alive.

By anyone’s account, that’s all good.

The Plunge? Taken!

We find ourselves on the rocks of Thursday once again. I trust you’re all well? Good, good.

So, this week, I finally got around to doing that thing I’ve been promising to do for, oh, the last six months, or so. I’m sure most of you had given up all hope that I’d ever make good on my word, and had probably come to the bitter realisation that sometimes, you just can’t believe a thing you read on the internet…

I never should have trusted her! Sniff! Image: nature.com

I never should have trusted her! Sniff!
Image: nature.com

Yeah, or not.

In any case, it might be of interest to you to know that this is the week in which I finally did it. After many months of waffling about it, I’ve at long last begun to make contact with agents. Literary agents. Actual literary agents. With connections in the publishing industry, and everything. So far, I’ve lived to tell the tale, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

You know, sometimes, how you can pay visits to really tall buildings – in places like America, I mean, because of course Ireland doesn’t have any *really* tall buildings, on account of how we’re all short and oppressed – and they have glass floors that you can walk on and look down hundreds of feet to the ground below?

Like this? *covers eyes* Image: alexderavin.blogspot.com

Like this? *covers eyes*
Image: alexderavin.blogspot.com

When I tell you that I had to have a cup of strong coffee before I could even do a Google Image search for that picture, I’m not joking. I hate heights so much that even looking at that photograph is giving me vertigo. Standing on a kitchen chair is as high as I ever want to be off the ground – and even at that, sometimes, I get an attack of the wobbles.

And, my dears, that feeling of vertigo, and the sensation of ‘ooh, I think I might be out of my depth here,’ is now a permanent fixture in my life.

Pressing ‘send’ on an email which contains the first five pages, or the first three thousand words, or the first ten thousand words, or whatever the case may be, of a book over which you’ve (almost literally) sweated blood, is no easy thing to do. The email doesn’t just contain words, of course – it holds your hopes, and fears, and plans, and ambition. It contains everything in you which is good and admirable, and everything which is desperate and terrified, too. Every submission made is an hour, or two hours, or a day of preparation – writing a synopsis, crafting a cover letter, reading and re-reading and re-reading your opening chapters just in case there’s an error you’ve missed the last five thousand times you read it; it’s the hours spent researching the agency to which you’re submitting and making sure they have an interest in what you’re writing, as best you can; it’s the hours of self-talk, trying to convince yourself that this isn’t completely crazy and that you can actually go through with it.

So, you see. Not just a case of ‘whack it all together and let it go wherever it needs to.’

I’m trying not to look back over the emails I’ve already sent, because they’re sure to make me cringe. I’m trying to be positive, and hope that something in what I’ve sent will spark interest, somewhere; I’m aware, though, that what I’m doing is akin to trying to light a match somewhere on the deepest ocean floor. There are a lot of people trying to do what I’m doing – most of them with more to offer than I have – and it can be hard to keep dredging inside yourself, expecting there to be endless supplies of optimism and hope just waiting to be tapped; that, however, is what I have to do. Every time I sit to write a synopsis (because I do a new one each time I submit to an agent, in the interests of keeping the whole thing ‘fresh’ and relevant to each particular recipient), it gets harder to shake the feeling of boredom surrounding my novel – it all seems so old, and worn, and overdone. I’m telling myself that’s because I’ve read it so many times, and I’m clinging to the hope that this is the truth.

And, of course, I’ve only just begun the whole process. I still have the weeks and months of waiting for a reply to come yet. At least the waiting process will give me some time to build myself back up again, just in time to cope with the lovely, kind, well-meaning emails which will read something like: ‘Thank you for your submission – we can see you’ve worked very hard on it, but unfortunately, it’s not for us…’

And, the best bit of all? I’m not even halfway through my list of agencies, so this will be going on for some time yet. Someone pour me a whiskey…

'Tomorrow... Is... Another day!' Yes, Scarlett. Another day in which I have to turn around and do all this again! Yay? Image: lesscakemorefrosting.com

‘Tomorrow… Is… Another day!’ Yes, Scarlett. Another day in which I have to turn around and do all this again! Yay?
Image: lesscakemorefrosting.com

 

A Thought for Saturday

I used to worry, a lot, about the balance between the amount of readers in the world and the amount of writers. I used to worry that the former would outstrip the latter, and that readers would eventually stop reading because writers would run out of stories. I used to fear that writers would, in their desperation, start recycling too much material which had already been told, from every possible angle. The thought that nothing was left to say – nothing original, nothing new – used to keep me from trying to create something, or even thinking about stories. This fear was exacerbated in the last short while, when I really jumped into this writing/reading world with both feet; I realised, for instance, just how many blogs and Facebook pages and Twitter feeds are out there concerning themselves with reading and books. (FYI: There are lots). Everywhere I looked I seemed to see more and more and more readers, desperate for newness, unwilling to accept sub-standard stories, passionate about reading but highly critical of the material they were being expected to read.

Then, the fear began to set in. I looked at my WiP, and wondered if it was derivative, boring, clichéd, nondescript, unreadable. I wondered if there was anything new in it, anything worth reading, anything worth spending a little money (and a little time) on. I’m still not sure what the answers to all those questions are, but I have come to one further realisation.

My story is mine – nobody else has ever written it. That gives it value. I don’t think it’s similar to anything else I’ve ever read – but I’m a long way from having read everything in the world! There are people out there who read so much, and are so knowledgeable about books and trends and fashions, that they leave me in the shade. And, to be honest, if my story ever finds its way into the hands of a person who has read their way to a level of expertise I can never hope to emulate, I’ll consider that a compliment in itself, no matter what their opinion of the story might be.

I’m also realising that for every story that gets told, there are thousands that don’t get told. Everything you do, and everyone you meet, tells a story; what’s more interesting is the story told by everything that’s left undone, and all the people who never meet. So, I’ve decided to stop being nervous that the world is going to run out of stories – and I’m hopeful that I’ll never run out of stories, either. Where there’s life, there’s hope – and where there’s life, there are stories.

life hope

Every second is an opportunity to create something, and your next good idea is only a thought away. I hope you have a creative and fulfilling weekend!