Saturday, 11 June 2016

Ramblings on Writing

There's a group on Goodreads called The Guild of Writers Who Never Really Publish or Even Finish Most Anything They Work on, But That's OK Since They Just Love Writing


That's pretty much where I am at the moment with my writing. I've come full circle.

As a child I loved writing for the sake of writing. I loved exploring ideas and seeing where my inspiration would take me. My dream was to one day be a Writer and be able to spend my days living in my over-active imagination.

As a teenager,  when I had my first careers guidance at school and was asked what I wanted to do I said 'Be a Writer.'

The answer to that?

"Yes, but what do you want to do for a job?"

And that was it in terms of career guidance on writing. Other adults I spoke to followed the same lead. 

"Well, writing is something you can do in your spare time. You need to do something else to make a living."

I sometimes wonder if things would have turned out differently if one of those adults had taken me seriously, sat me down and gone through the realities of it. Explained that the average writer does not make a living from their writing but that I could get to the point where some of my income came from that. I would need to be realistic and work at least part time in a more mainstream job and money would be tight but if I were happy to live within those restrictions then, yes, writing was something I could do.


Working part time on something else to support a dream is not something that the education system promotes as a post-school life-choice. Maybe things are different now but I don't recall there being any concept of work life balance. The assumption was that you would learn, get your qualification, leave school, get a full time job and work until you got to retirement age, with some possible time off somewhere in the middle if you were a woman and had a baby. That was the template.

I put writing to one side as was expected and got into full time work, finding that it was pretty soul-destroying. School for me had been about progression. Always something new to learn, always a reward for learning well, always that sense of moving and developing. Work was not like that at all and I was ill-prepared for the reality of eternal routine with no automatic advancement to the next level, few rewards for learning, minimal opportunities for progression.

In my mid twenties I realised that work was not going to satisfy me on any deep level so turned to writing in earnest. I started a writing group, began to submit pieces for competitions and magazines, and did my research on the writing industry. 

I enjoyed making contact with other writers and spending time writing. 

I found the competitions wearing after a little while and within a year had ground to a halt with this area, having won £25 and a pen and not much else. 

It was the research on the writing industry that really did for the dream though. The more I read about the publishing world, the less I wanted to be part of it. I had this naive idea of publishers as being the defenders of fiction, happy just to have good stories out there. Maybe decades ago they were like that, the fantasy and sci-fi publishers that produced the books I loved in my late teens anyway. Perhaps I'm fooling myself with that one. Anyway, the modern world of the earning writer sounded soulless and compromised to me. Love of writing, I had assumed, would take up at least 80% of the process but reading articles and attending 'how to get published' events made me realise that this figure was grossly incorrect.

I finally went part-time in my mid-thirties, dropping to a four day work week. I hoped to get more writing done, to 'focus my efforts' - i.e. get my head around what a writer needed to be in the modern world and change myself accordingly to fit that mold.


Except I don't want to fit that mold. It has taken years to accept that.

I want writing to be what it was when I was younger, that pure interaction of pleasure between my imagination and the page. I don't want to write with an imaginary audience of would-be agents, publishers, internet trolls and critics hovering over my shoulder. I want to set myself on the starting line, pick a random picture or quote or whatever and say GO! - not to start a race but to start a treasure hunt. See where my imagination takes me.

I sometimes wish that none of my family and friends knew I loved writing. I feel the people around me have the expectation that if I love writing then of course my main goal will be to get my work published some day and the truth of the matter is that I don't think it will be, not traditionally anyway.

I want writing to go back to being a fun place for me. Like the Goodreads group, I want to recapture that good old love of writing.


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