Friday, 12 December 2008

Coffee Morning - How Do You Do It?

Morning all. This is my first ever attempt at a coffee morning so please bear with me. :)

As it is cold out there (well it is where I am!) I would like to offer you some nice warm drinks. Hot chocolate perhaps? Maybe a latte or a macchiato? Alternatively how about a plain old fashioned tea or coffee? Think of me as a mini Starbucks or Costa Coffee. (I spend far too much time in Costa Coffee and my kids now expect to go in there every time they see one!) Please help yourself to a muffin or pastry too.

Anyway on with the coffee morning. I still feel like a 'newbie' here and feel like I am in the non league when most everyone else is in the Championship or Premier League. (Sorry for the football reference but couldn't think of a better way to explain myself!)

I have yet to be published. Anywhere. However, I do cling to the belief that it will happen one day. I can't let the fear of failure put a stop to things before they even get going properly! I have friends who have always known what they wanted to do. One always knew she wanted to be a doctor and another always knew she wanted to work with bugs. They have both realised their ambitions and are still working on progressing further in their chosen field whilst I still languish below the bottom rung of my chosen career ladder! I know it will be hard work but if I truly want it then I need to work at it. I thrive on the success of you all and when someone announces they have a new book coming out or gets a book deal I get a sudden rush of inspiration a motivation to carry on with my WIP. I do live vicariously through you all sometimes. At the same time I wonder how I ever managed to wangle my way into this group. The beginning is always hard, I realise that, but the first hurdle that I need to jump seems to keep moving away from me. It keeps getting further away or is too high for me to clamber over. I want to write as I enjoy it and it is something I feel I can do. I have started trying to make a real go of it so my children can have a better understanding of me. (The current WIP is quite autobiographical in places.) I don't put myself through this in the delusion that I am going to be the next JK Rowling or sign a million pound book deal. I don't even think becoming a number 1 best seller on the NY Times book list is an incentive for me. I love reading and just seeing someone enjoy what I have written would be a wonderful reward. To make it a full time job would be great but I wouldn't be full of despair if that didn't happen.

So now I have rambled on enough here are my questions for you all.

Why did you start writing and what was your trigger to get going?
How did/do you cope with the fear of failure? (I am assuming of course that everyone has that fear at some point, if not then I may pack everything up now!)


liz fenwick said...

I truly believe that if you have persistance then one day you will make - so stick with Sarah!

I have always written and always wanted to be a WRITER. I held tight to this for a long time - through uni and even wrote a local history book for a small island off Massachusetts just after uni. My advisor at uni gave me her agents name and wanted my to send my senior thesis to the agent but I never did. I was too scared and too fragile at 22 to take the failure and critism.

Back on New Year's eve of 2004 I knew I needed to take up and fight for what I always wanted - what my heart begged to do. Si I began writing fiction again. Now as the end of 2008 approaches I say that critism doesn't really bother me any more (isn't age great!) and I taking small steps closer to seeing my fiction in print! I don't worry about failure any more and I'm trying to teach me kids that you can still reach for your dreams even when you are OLD! If nothing else mum following her dreams I hope will teach them failurs is ok and trying is more important - So here's hoping that 2009 will lucky for those of us waiting to break through.

Now I need an expresso as I have 40 people coming for drinks tonight!

Kate said...

Make mine a fluffy flavoured white choc mocha. I always drink espresso normally so I can only enjoy such treats virtually...

I'm another one who always loved to write - it was something that seemed to come naturally at school, but as 'novelist' wasn't really a career option, I went into journalism. I was always rather shy and so actually it was a great thing to do as it forced me to get out and meet interesting people.

I wrote short stories in my spare time and various factors came together in terms of starting my novel: having great feedback online, finishing my OU degree (so having more time) and, most importantly, having the idea that became Old School Ties. Writing the book felt easy as I really engaged with the idea.

I have huge fear of failure - every time I start writing, and then send to my editor and agent, and then when the book is published. I don't 'cope' as such - I tell myself that I want to improve as a writer and story-teller and all well meant feedback is useful. Oh, and hope for lots of fairy dust.

I do think that a novelist/writer needs a strange combination of psychological traits - the confidence that you have something interesting or exciting to say to make it worth writing down; the robustness to take the knocks and persevere against the odds; but also a desire to learn to improve your craft (whether that's formally in classes, or simply by reading and re-writing) and a healthy dose of self-doubt to spur you to improve and edit, edit, edit. Oh, and the knowledge that you can only do so much when a book or story goes out into the world - so much is luck.

Don't pack up, Sarah. It sounds to me as though you have a great balance of hope and realism, which is what we all need!
Kate x

Debs said...

Those drinks look so tempting, I'll have a moccachoca (no idea what they're called, but they have chocolate in).

I've always written, but it was when my first marriage was collapsing that I used to get up at about 10pm and write until about 5am, and it was pure escapism for me, and I think kept me sane.

Now I can't imagine not writing, and although my ambition is to earn my living writing (rather than working in a breeze block all day) I know that whether I ever do succeed in being published or not, (here comes the self-doubting bit) I simply love writing and will probably just keep on trying to improve the way I do it.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Ooh, hot chocolate please, and a doughnut - yum! I started writing stories as a child because I loved reading them, and I've never really stopped. I cope with fear of failure by writing through it; seeking support from other writers; providing support to other writers; and reminding myself of my writing successes to date. Also, I'm too stubborn to let it beat me! And I think Liz is right about age helping with handling criticism, fear of failure etc - some people can manage it in their teens or 20s, but I'm much better at it now than I was then.

JJ said...

Oooh fab question and I'll help myself to a cup of tea.

I've always written too,though not necessarily fiction. My mum always wanted me to write and although she meant well, that held me up. I resisted because I thought it was her dream and not my own. In the end you can't argue with it, and I realised it was what I wanted too.

I have several failed starts behind me but I guess this starting point was being here in Thailand with limited choices, finding the Kate's blog and then she and Sue starting the novel racers. I've spent 18 months working out what it is I need to do and how to deal with the fear. Back in May time when the new story came to me, something just clicked and I'm off.

For me, re the failure ... there's no bigger failure than never trying to do it.

Captain Black said...

Large moccha for me please. Light on the chocolate and heavy on the coffee.

Firstly, you are not alone in being a "newbie". I too have had nothing published, and still feel very much like a beginner as far as writing is concerned. But beginners have to start somewhere, right? And where better a place to start than somewhere where you can can expert help and great encouragement: right here! My advice would definitely be to keep going, have faith in your ability and don't be afraid to call out when you need help.

Secondly, your question: when did I start writing? That's surprisingly difficult to answer, as I think it's always been there with me, lurking in the background. I suppose I started writing "properly" in February 2007, after my job was made redundant. That has given me the time to focus on it, rather than it being just a background pastime for rainy days.

Lastly, how do I cope with fear of failure? Quite simply, I see everything as practise at the moment. I've hardly submitted any work anywhere; I'm simply still working on most of my projects. I plan to change that in 2009, however. There are some shorter pieces that I'm going to polish and then send out there somewhere. I guess the fear will start then... Gulp.

Perhaps it will then be your turn to encourage me.

ChrisH said...

I'll go with the hot chocolate and doughnut too! Like everyone else I've 'always' written and had a few articles published when my daughters were smalland it grew from there.

BUT, and I do think this is a very important point which echoes what Liz says, it was only when I took myself seriously and made my writing a priority that I started to succeed. Along the way I'd blown a couple of very good opportunies because I didn't recognise them for what they were - mainly because I didn't think of myself as a 'proper' writer. You have to take yourself seriously and you have to keep going and believe that you will get there.

Failure is horrible but once I've got over the 'b*st*rds!!' bit, I try to learn something from it.
Hang on in there, Sarah!

Lucy Diamond said...

Hot chocolate with loads of whipped cream please. Go on, and a few marshmallows as well then. Sounds much more appealing than the Lemsip I've got here in real life!
I have always written too but the trigger for me to really have a go and take it seriously was getting a job in a big publishing house (Random House) and finding out how the whole process worked. And how nice we were to the authors! (Is that a really shallow reason for wanting to become an author?? Hmmm...)
Then, the trigger for writing a novel was starting a brilliant evening class in Brighton when I was struggling with the rest of my life. I found it liberating and exciting, being able to get my conflicting feelings down on paper and share them with the group - rather like therapy, really.

Starting out, I was so convinced of failure that I didn't have any fear. It was more like, well, let's see what happens, probably nothing, but it's worth a try.

I think I'm much more fearful of failure now - it feels like the stakes are higher and there's more to lose. I guess I cope by having lots of different writing projects on the go. If one goes pear-shaped, I can console myself with the others, if that makes sense.

NoviceNovelist said...

Morning Sarah, Thank you for the wonderful drinks offer - I'll take a creamy, hot latte!!! I'm with Liz and Zinnia on the getting older/braver bit. I've always written - had some stories published in my early twenties, then a few plays performed then life got in the way and I went off on a totally different career path because I was too scared to keep writing and didn't beleive in myself. Now I'm older I think back to my younger self and wonder what I was thinking to stop writing!!! So now I'm back at it - hopefully a bit braver and defnitely a lot more tenacious.

Doing a Masters in creative writing a couple of years ago gave me the courage to write a novel which showeed me that I have got the stamina to do it. Now I just need to sort out having more time - that's my 2009 hope!!!
Hang in there Sarah!

Leatherdykeuk said...

Just keep plugging away - you'll get there :)

I couldn't write without the internet. I use writing forums and writing prompts to generate ideas that turn into stories and novels. I just keep plugging away at it. I suppose being stubborn helps.

Oh, tea for me please. In a tea cup. Not like the short I posted to Youtube last night.

Flowerpot said...

Keep at it Sarah - you'll get there! As for me - decaff cappuccino please. I've always written but it was only when I gave up a very stressful job that I was able to take writing seriously. I had a few short stories and articles published and started writing novels. Then I did a journalism course which has made a huge difference to my getting published - the novel has yet to come but I've had two requests for full ms this year so I'm getting ever closer. Fear of failure is always there - but you only fail if you give up. The rest is practise. Well, that's what I tell myself on a good day! On bad days I weep, drink wine and walk the dog - in reverse order!!

KAREN said...

Great post, Sarah :o)

I've always wanted to be a writer and would tell people when I was younger, but it was partly doing The Writer's Bureau home study course, which led to the publication of a couple of articles - a great boost - and , ahem, finally turning forty that made me decide to seriously Get On With It. I couldn't bear more years going by without at least giving it a shot, and once I started to take it seriously I wished I'd done it sooner.

Failure, as someone said, is only not trying. As far as rejection goes, I've developed a much thicker skin these days :o))

Rowan Coleman said...

Hello everyone

Great topic Sarah, like Liz I too believe that if you persist you will acheive your goals. Like so many of you I have always been, not a writer but a story teller. Like Lucy I worked in bookselling and then publishing (also at Random House!) but unlike Lucy instead of inspiring me to try to be a writer it disinpired me (is that a word? Is should be!) because it seemed to hard to be a published writer! But I couldn't stop the storytelling so I started at an M.A in writing. As you probably all know I won a writing competiton in Company Mag and that basically spured me on ot write a full length and eventually make that transistion from one side of the publishing fence to the other. The fear of failure is constant. Once published doesn't mean always pubished, but at the end of the day its the impulse to keep telling stories that will never change.

Graeme K Talboys said...

I laugh at failure. "Ha, ha," I go. Trouble is, failure laughs back. And then smiles. Curse it.

Despite my modest successes, it's always there and I suppose I write because of it and to spite it.

I've written since I was about seven (which is a very long time ago) and if there is one thing I have learned it is that there can be an enormous disparity between the quality of a written piece and the commercial success that goes with it. I don't really know why I started other than (a) I was a fairly solitary child who was brought up in a house where books were appreciated and (b) I loved the idea you could make your own stories.

One of the things that has kept me writing is that it has brought me into contact with some wonderful people - always willing to help, even if it is just allowing their ears to be bent.

Fiona said...

A hot chocolate would be lovely. Thank you.

I wrote a lot in my childhood and it was the only thing that kept me going through school were I was rubbish at everything else. I gave up when a teacher told my mother that my dyslexia was too bad for me to consider writing as a career. 'What made Fiona think she could possibly do that?' she laughed in front of me.

I tried again, a few years ago and am hooked. It doesn't matter if I write rubbish or not - I'm an addict.

Lucy Diamond said...

What a terrible and crushing thing for a teacher to say, Fiona! Glad you didn't let her put you off for life. xx

Kate.Kingsley said...

I’d like a giant hot choc, please. And a muffin. And a pastry. Or three (well, I am pregnant…and I got TWO rejections today and am therefore in need of some comfort eating).

Hhhm, those two rejections ~ I sort of think that I don’t have a fear of failure where writing is concerned, which is certainly handy. Truth be told, I think I have more of fear of success, in that one you’ve made it you’ve got to keep on ‘making it’, and you’ve ultimately got further to fall if you do fail. So for me just being brave enough to submit those pieces in the first place was my mark success, and the fact that they weren’t selected was almost incidental.

I think I always wanted to write. And for more years than I care to think of I didn’t do it, because I was waiting for someone to let me in on ‘the secret’. Eventually it dawned on me that putting pen to paper, over and over again, WAS the only secret and I started to have a go at it.

Lordy, it’s cold outside :-(

CC Devine said...

It's 3.30 and my week has gone from bad to worse at work so mine's a vodka and soda please. Sadly I have another few hours to go until I can have a real one!

I have always been imaginative and a bit arty farty (childhood hobbies etc.) but I never really enjoyed writing at school plus I'm a bit prone to waffling and am not always as eloquent or articulate as I think I am in my head so writing had never been a big draw for me.

The turning point for me was reading the most atrocious chick lit book written by a big name author and thinking 'even I could do better than that.'

Prior to that I'd had lots of great ideas and often thought that a particular scenario would be great in a book so these various notions plus that crap book made me give it a go.

Naturally it was a lot harder than it looked (still think that THAT book is dreadful though!) but I realised that I enjoyed writing and needed it to keep me sane - I totally relate to Debs in that respect.

Three years down the line I'm still trying, still unpublished but feel that I've learnt so much and am very hopeful and inspired by all you guys.

Great post Sarah. Here's to a prosperous 2009 for all of us writers.

Sarah*G* said...

Thanks so much for all the replies and I do think that being a member of NR is the biggest motivator I have for finishing my WIP. I will get it done and one day, not too far away in the future, I shall be posting on here that I am finished!

Calistro said...

Like many of the others I started writing 'books' when I was a child (sent my first 'book' to Penguin aged 8 so learnt to handle rejection from a very early age!).

Loved English class at school and positively looked forward to my exams as it meant writing a short story off the top of my head in a tiny time period (good practise for writing flash fiction!). After school I stopped writing fiction and wrote terrible poetry (mostly angsty!) all through university. When I left university and moved to London I started writing the odd short story again and had them published on a website. I also wrote a column for them on living in London (it mostly involved me waffling on about being single, hating exercise and drinking too much).

I stopped writing temporarily when I moved to Brighton and got into a relationship but when that ended my determination to write returned, renewed and I signed up for an evening class in creative writing at the local tech college (I wonder if Lucy and I did the same course?). The course was rubbish in terms of 'craft' but it was great at motivating me and, towards the end, I started my first novel (that was the YA novel I never finished). After that I focussed on short stories until a) a close friend's unexpected death remind me that life is short and b) I joined the novel racers.

How did I deal with fear of failure? I didn't - I just bit the bullet and sent stuff out there. If you never send stuff out you'll never get to experience and excitement and joy of an acceptance. Of course that means that you have to experience rejection too but I think it makes the eventual acceptance all the more sweet! The one thing you have to remember is that a magazine editor/agent/publishing house is never going to come and knock on your door and say, "Could I have a look at that short story/MS in your bottom drawer/on your computer?" YOU have to get it out there to them. And if you fail, you pick yourself up and try and again. You send out your story/novel to more magazines/agents and more and more. And if that doesn't work? You write something new and send that out. It's all about determination and learning and improving.

Paige said...

Hi everyone!

What a fantastic post Sarah! This has been really interesting reading everyone's answers.

When I left school, I had the dream of becoming a sports journalist. I went to college and started to apply for jobs... Nothing was doing. Getting a job as a journalist seemed impossible.

I remember going into WH Smith's one afternoon, wanting to buy a book. But nothing took my fancy. No covers or blurb on the backs of any of the books screamed, 'READ ME!' So I walked out the shop and thought, 'I'll write my own.' I came up with the basic story that evening and put the first 10,000 words on an old palm top my dad gave me. When I got that far that's when I realised that this wasn't just a phase or a fad I'd get bored of.

My love of fiction writing has made me come to the decision that Journalism isn't for me any more.

Failure? Um... I don't really cope very well with it. 4 rejections from agents and I haven't sent Book 1 out since. I can't. I'm too scared to. I know I have to bite the bullet if I want to get anywhere but the rejections sting. I too, have never been published - I don't know if I'm any good. I'm probably crap (I'm a realist) but it won't stop me writing. If I get published, I'd be really really happy but if it doesn't happen for me then I'm not going to cry (MUCH!)

Hope everyone is well!

Cathy said...

I always wanted to write. When I was at university studying languges, I dreamed of doing literary translations. My best friend and I decided we would make lots of money writing for Mills and Boon, as it looked so easy.

Life got in the way after uni because I had to earn enough to live. I chose a profession the required a lot more study to qualify. There was no time to write. Then I had my kids and there was even less time.

Four years ago my best friend, the one who had also dreamed of writing, died from breast cancer at 44. I decided that life was too short not to grab the moment and I started to test my dream of writing by tiny steps through the OU Start Writing courses.It is the support from here and OU writers which keeps me going, even when life is rough as it has been lately.

As for rejections they hurt, but I just try to remind myself that it is part of writing and try not to let it develop into an overall fear of failure. I know that when the time comes to submit my novel it will hurt even more, because it is a very personal story. But when the insecurities strike I just remember that at least I have still have the chance to try, unlike my friend.

Caroline said...

Fab question!

The rejections and the fear of failure are always there. They terrify me and sometimes they make me freeze in the spot. I am annoying! I annoy all who are close to me and cause them to shout!

But, what I have realised is that I'm not alone with it all (clearly) and every writer has fears ranging from plot concerns to the ultimate 'what if the ideas stop?' - so I guess fears change as careers build, but they're always there.

The key is not to let them stop you from followng your dreams.


wordtryst said...

I'll join the hot chocolate brigade, it there's any left. The muffins and pastries are all gone but serves me right for getting here at this hour.

Sarah, I read Heather Sellers' Page After Page a few years ago and I took this advice of hers to heart: If you study your craft, keep sending your work out to well researched markets, and persist, you will get published. So don't even think of packing it in!

I don't know if the fear ever goes away. As you move from one stage to another it just expands, imo. Sometimes I manage to sneak past it; sometimes it catches up and chews on me for a bit. The only comfort is knowing that I'm not alone in this.

How did I start? It's always been a part of me but a looming fortieth birthday and a catastrophic end to what had been a transcendent relationship shoved me into actually doing the writing rather than dallying with it.

Lane said...

Good question Sarah and thanks for such an array of delicious drinks.
Sorry to be late but blogger has been refusing to let me play.

Like everyone here, I've always written. But I dabbled, sending the odd thing out here or there, some with success but many with rejections. And along the way I missed opportunities because I wasn't serious and foolishly didn't notice the years passing.

Then I woke up. You do when you get to a certain age:-)

I'm know there are going to be bucket loads of rejections. But that's better than not even trying.

Keep going Sarah. You'll get there.

Un Peu Loufoque said...

Started writing as a child, a neighbour was a published author from an illustrious writing family, even the kids had books in print so never seemed odd to me just more like somethign everyone did. However my problem comes when I finish its almost an end itself and instead of then striving to polish and publish I put it down and get on with the next thing..

Clare Sudders said...

Hi, sorryI'm late! Again! I went away for the weekend.

I started writing because I had assumed I was going to be an author since I was a kid, cos my mum and grandma are pub;ished writers (not famous or particularly successful though) and I assumed I would be too. But I never got round to it and once I reached adulthood decided maybe I wasn't that easy after all and kept it on back burner, pretty much giving up on it altogether. I didn't even get started, or not beyond the first two chapters of three very putative efforts in late teens / early 20s. The trigger came when I was 29 and ll my friends were doing arty stuff and I had a boring steady old job and moaned about this to a friend, who was unsympathetic. She said I earnt more than I needed and should just stop moaning, lower my hours at work and writer a book in the freed-up time. So I did! I went down to a four day week, telling my bosses it was cos I wanted to writea novel. And then I had no choice. Once I'd told everyone that was what I was doing, and significantly took a 20% pay cut in order to do it, I couldn't avoid it any more. So I did it. And it got published! But it took 30 rejection letters and the people who published it didn't even respond to me until 10 months after I submitted to them.

As for fear of failure... I try to be stern with mnyself. My fear of failure prevents me from writing, so what I have to do is remind myself that the little critic / naysayer in my head is a mean cruel bastard who I wouldn't give the time of day to if they were anyoneother than me. They stomp on creativity. They must be ignored. Yes, I might fail. Yes, I might be writing utter drivel. But I can always edit and make things better, and if I don't try I'll never get there. I just have to grit my teeth and keep going.

It's an important skill to learn cos even when you achieve what may appear to be success, most people get success followed by many failures, rather than success followed by success. My first book was published, my second book was rejected many many times until I finally found an agent, but then he took a year to find a German deal and still hasn't found a UK or English language deal.. and that has been 12 months of countless rejections from publishers he has submitted to all over the world. But I keep plodding on. What else can I do?