Friday, 29 May 2009


Morning all. I can offer you - well, I've got a mug of Rooibosh tea 'cos I can't drink caffeine but we also have PG Tips, herbal or Nescafe. Take your pick. Oh, and Digestives (note the capital D).

First the bad news - I got my first rejection for FOUR LEFT FEET. It was from an agent who had emailed and asked to see anything new I had, and was very fulsome in her praise (lovely word, fulsome). So I had high hopes. Silly me. Having exchanged various emails, the rejection, when it came, was a standard rejection letter, signed by a secretary. I think you can all guess how I felt. Pah! To put it mildly. But onwards and upwards and all that, so I will send it out again ASAP.

Enough of that. I wanted to talk about striking a balance today. We all have things in our lives that cause friction and interfere with our writing. Family, friends, money problems, ill health, falling in love, breakdown of a relationship, schooling troubles – the list goes on and on.

In my case, my problem comes from the two arms of my writing. On one hand (the paying hand) I am a freelance journalist, and on the other I am an unpublished novelist. (But So Nearly There, according to agents!)

I feel like these two aspects of my writing life are like two children. The journalism daughter is called Chrissie. She is extrovert, confident, cheerful and punctual. She will take on anything, loves meeting people, and is very good at meeting deadlines with efficiency and tact. She wears jeans and sporty tops, or smart suits. She goes hiking and walks miles with her bouncy dog. She shops efficiently for food and never runs out of anything. She is, if you like, the conscious side of my brain.

My other daughter, the fiction one, is Felicity. She hides behind me when we meet people, and is always off day dreaming. She lives in awe of her older sister, the confident Chrissie. But she can weave stories with her words, and draw the most stunning pictures that spring into life, making other people wonder at her great talent. She needs to be left alone. She can be temperamental and grouchy, has no idea of time. She will emerge from writing, ravenous, devour food and leave trails of destruction. She runs out of food and has to eat cornflakes. She has low blood sugar levels from her mood swings. She likes sloppy clothes, floaty dresses and long skirts. She walks her dogs for miles over fields and paths, sits enraptured by the side of the sea, drinking it all in. She is the subconscious side.

And me? I'm the mum in the middle, with these two girls pulling me in ever opposing directions. Sometimes Chrissie takes us off in one direction, and we have an action filled day and return full of life and zing. At other times Felicity takes us and we have a day in the country, picnicking and enjoying the quieter, purer things of nature – with the odd extraordinary adventure thrown in.

Life goes well as long as there is a balance between these two. If there is not, that's when the trouble starts. One starts shouting, the other cries and life is discordant, my sleep is troubled, and I feel pulled in too many directions, don't know what to do or which way to go.

These are my two children whom I love dearly, but I've learnt the hard way that it's so important to keep a balance between the two of them.

What are your conflicts?


Debs said...

Good morning. I'll definately have a cup of PG and a digestive, or two.

Commiserations on the rejection. They're always grim, but yours sounds expecially so, as it all seemed so promising.

I love the way you describe the two sides of yourself. As I only 'do' one sort of writing (the fiction sort) I don't really have a conflict there, but apart from the obvious children, house, etc, my problem is my eyes being so tired after a day at work on the computer. I come home to write, and have to switch off by nine o'clock otherwise my eyes will be too tired the next day for work.

(I hope I haven't completely missed the point. I can be a bit switched off sometimes).

Fia said...

Great post thanks Flowerpot

I only have one side - Felicity. I don't think she can draw stunning pictures with her words but she tries.

She has Irwins Syndrome and dyslexia which means she is always late, disorganised and can be troublesome. Is that a word?

Thank goodness she's an only child.

Lucy Diamond said...

What a lovely, lovely post! (Apart from the rejection of course - so sorry to read that bit and GRRRRRR on your behalf.) I love the idea of Chrissie and Felicity being your different 'sides'. I have never personalised my conflicts like that but you've made me think about them in a completely different light.

I guess my main conflict is being a mum v being an author - an obvious one, I know... I work (as an author) two days a week but even that feels like too much sometimes and I am plagued with guilt about not being a good enough mum blah blah. (I guess every mother on the planet feels guilty about some aspect of mothering though... it's part of the job, let's face it.) I am hoping that when my youngest starts school in September and I can work a bit more, the conflict will diminish. Maybe then I'll start feeling bad about the housework situation!

Lane said...

Morning FP. Nescafe would be lovely and I'd never say no to a Digestive - especially a capital D Digestive:-)

I would so like a 'daughter' like Chrissie. Unfortunately one of my daughters is Felicity. She's fine because she gets things done eventually, even if she may take forever. However her sibling is Edie the Editor who is constantly saying 'you can't write that, you'll offend someone. You can't write that, it makes no sense' and so, and so on. She's the tiring one.

You know, they say you should love your children equally but sometimes Edie is very hard to love:-)

Pah to your rejection. Keep sending out. If agents say you're So Nearly There, then you are!

Cathy said...

Sorry about the rejection but keep sending it out there!

I love your daughters metaphor. Like Lucy my conflict largely comes between my writing and my family responsibilities. Though at this time of year I can add in an overload of my 'paying' work, the year end accounts of a business.

I'm hoping that now I've finished my OU study I will be able to achieve a better balance, but don't hold your breath...

liz fenwick said...

Huge Hugs on the R and a pat on the back for pushing it out the door again.

My conflict is the normal one for a wife and mother complicated by the travel aspect. I also feel that dd is the one missing out as when the boys were little I wasn't writing in this way so she really gets the short end many days. As i struggle for publiation I wonder if its really worth the trade off but I try and tell myself that I am showing the kids that to reach your dreams it takes sacrifice - unfortunately on their part too. Poor DH misses out too as a crawl out of bed at five to carve time for writing during the holidays.

I hope one day it will prove worth it in the end for all concerned. :-)

Anonymous said...

Any kind of tea sounds great, capital T or not. I'll also help myself to a Digestive, provided they don't have chocolate on them. Ironically, the only chocolate I allow myself these days is drinking chocolate.

Bad luck on the rejection letter, Flowerpot. It seems harsh and cold after the previous encouragement. Good luck with your subsequent submissions.

I won't bore you all with my life's conflicts, of which there are plenty. Instead, I'll focus on my writing conflicts. There are two major ones: conflict of projects and conflict of methods.

Conflict of projects is, fairly obviously, the fact that I start too many things and (so far) have finished none of them. The solution to this is to focus on one until it's done, before moving on to the next. Sounds easy, doesn't it?

Conflict of methods is a bit more tricky. I try to organise my writing in a very technical and scientific way, using skills I gained as a software developer. This works fine. The conflict is with the actual creation of the writing, which cries out to be more organic and disorganised in the way it evolves. I've yet to find the right balance, though I've tried many an iterative approach. Maybe I should just follow Hesitant's advice.

It's probably a good job I don't have any children, metaphorically or otherwise.

JJ Beattie said...

I've brought my own green tea as it's late evening now for me, but I'll have a Digestive, if I may.

Big commiserations Flowerpot on the letter. Keep at it though.

I'm not sure what my conflicts are. I don't have to (and legally can't) make a financial living for myself here. The children are at school all day and husband and children are very supportive. Probably my personal confidence is the major obstruction to my writing. I don't know if that answers the question...

Rowan Coleman said...

Hello all - I think is a lovely post, and don't worry about the rejection. How many racers have we seen now who've come past that difficult patch and got through to publication? It will be you too soon, I'm sure.

Conflict. Wow, my last year and a bit has been all about conflict. Like Lucy and others I struggle with the conflict between working and being a mother, but I count myself VERY lucky that as a writer my hours are less and more flexible than they are for many working women in the same boat. With a baby on the way I am already conflicted over the fact that there will be only a very short period of maternity leave (maybe six weeks!) and already feeling guilty about that, but as with all self employed people the normal rules don't apply. This year I've gone through a divorce (my choice) put my daughter through all of that upheaval, moved house for the first time and am about to move house for the second time and expect a baby boy in August. I've constantly questioned every single thing I've done for the last few months, all the lives that I've affected and changed with my choices in the belief that in the end it will be better for everyone. And in the middle of all of that I've also written three books! For me my writing has been a both a refuge and a torment, emotional scenes have been both harder to write and I hope better written than they have ever been. And on reflection I think that I am grateful that I have had no choice but but to make time for writing which after all is the most wonderful job in the world.

Conflicted? Every single day, but you know - what ever doesn't kill us makes us stronger - and better writers, right?

I bloody hope so.

Karen said...

I see all the Digestives have gone, but I'll have a nice strong cuppa.

Great post - sorry about the rejection, but it does sound as if you're almost there :o)

My conflict has always been Felicity versus Doubting Thomas, her insecure brother who procrastinates a lot and is scared of failure, but lately he's matured and Felicity's taken over and grown wings - how long it will last no-one knows...I'm hoping Doubting Thomas will move out altogether soon, but we'll see!

Flowerpot said...

It's great reading about your different conflicts - thanks everyone so far!

KeVin K. said...

Good choice on sending the ms out ASAP. Don't even look at the thing, except to check for coffee stains or whatever. Get it into the hands of folks who are willing to buy -- or get it sold.

I used to think my conflict was between game and media tie-in riting and my original fiction. Spent a lot of time working on that problem before I realized it was not the right problem.

My day job is case manager for a mental health services agency. (We aren't actually the government, we're a for-profit agency contracted to the government. North Carolina trimmed expenses by contracting mental health services to the private sector.) The problem is this is a soul-deadening job that requires copious amounts of writing. Interim treatment reports, person-centered plans, clinical supervisions, treatment team reports ...
A side effect of this is when I finish a day's work and sit down to write, I don't want to write. In many ways I can't. Maybe it's because I use my company laptop for my writing as well; or because the word-generating centers of my brain have burned out.
What I've discovered I must do is separate the to types of writing. At the end of the day, I do my research, my reading, my note-jotting. Then I turn in early and get up around 5AM to do my creative writing. Without that block of sleep as bulwark, I can't keep the bureaucrat out of my novels.

Graeme K Talboys said...

My biggest problem is living on a see-saw. Most of the time I balance in the middle, but I sometimes swing to the manic and then slide all the way down into a deep hole. It's keeping in the middle that is my struggle - not easy when you are so reliant on outside agencies to get beyond the 'sitting in a room typing' bit of the odyssey. Teetering on the edge of the hole at present after several 'we love this submission but' rejections.

Leatherdykeuk said...

*hugs* for the rejection. I know that feeling very well!

Liane Spicer said...

Rejections are part of the game. You've done the right thing, which is to move on to the next submission. And keep doing that till it meets the right agent/editor/publisher. Which, from the feedback you're getting, it will.

I've run out of categories for my conflicts; they've all morphed together in my head into a huge 'other'. I battle with this other on a daily, even an hourly, basis. My daughter is Felicity, although I can perform an impressive Chrissy when the need arises. Structure helps a little - pulls Felicity's head out of the clouds long enough for her to actually get stuff done.

Revisionista said...

Wonderful post & v. timely as I'm trying to balance academic writing and novel writing this summer. Loved the way you described your 2 children--your freelancer Chrissie sounds so much cooler than my angsty academic persona. :)

If I ever figure out how to do both, I'll let you know.

Keep sending out that novel--it'll find the right agent!

Un Peu Loufoque said...

Ah I know that rejection well, but onwards and upwards and no looking back now! My conflcit lies between my super dupper confident "ha I can write and conquer the world of humours and joyours writng"side which is undermined by my "oh no you are an absoluet dullard and totaly null ( as the french say)" other side. How to keep a balance heaevn only knows!

Annieye said...

PG would be just heaven right now.

Rejections are all part of being a writer. It's all very subjective - what one agent or editor doesn't like another will rave over and love. Just pick yourself up and get your manuscript out there again. You sound so very nearly there.

My conflicts are spending my working days writing with an elderly grandfather-type man called 'The Guv'looking over my shoulder. He's stern, never smiles and ticks me off when Felicity drifts into my office where I write reports and Council minutes for the day job, giggles in my ear and goads me into liberally splashing my black and white work with dabs of colour and sparkly bits.

Felicity has a serious side though. She knows that if she doesn't keep whispering in my ear that I CAN get published if I keep trying hard enough, I'll regret not trying for the rest of my life.