I didn’t realise quite how long it had been since I’d written on here. As 2019 drew to a close I had to make the difficult decision to part ways with my publisher. After spending the last two years anticipating a publication date for my second Young Adult novel, only for said dates to arrive and then pass with no launch in sight, I felt I needed to take some control back with my writing career or I was in danger of giving up (and losing my sanity). Never the writing, as I have still continued to write, albeit never as much as I want to (I am just about to finish book 3). I was on the verge of giving up on the hope of continuing on a path I felt I had merely dipped a toe in, only to get lost as soon as I’d turned a corner.
Many times over the past couple of years I have felt like a fraud whenever anyone asked, “When’s the next book out?” and I answered with an optimistic, “I’ve been assured it will be x month,” only for x month to come and go, taking my hopes with it.
I will always be grateful to my publisher for putting Follow Me out in to the world. I am especially grateful to encouraging librarians I have been lucky enough to be supported by on the back of Follow Me, (and my short story collection Exposure), who invite me to deliver creative writing workshops to young people. They remind me that this path I’m following isn’t just about publication, because I genuinely enjoy the creativity of writing and if I can inspire a young reluctant reader to pick up a book/story, or even better, try to master their own, then any number of disappointments along the way will always be worth it.
I was involved in judging a fantastic flash fiction competition for pupils in Inverclyde schools in November, working alongside a librarian, Katharine, whose enthusiasm for words and encouraging young people always leaves me with a spring in my step. (She is an award winning slam poet). At the prize giving presentation I used examples of famous writers such as Dr Seuss who nearly gave up before his career even started, but thanks to a chance encounter one day his manuscript finally found itself in the right hands and the rest was history. It wasn’t until I started researching the start of many famous writers’ careers that I realised how close a lot of them had been to giving up. Stephen King’s wife was the one who pushed him to finish and submit Carrie, even picking his scribbled notes out of their kitchen bin. I realised as I put the presentation together that these were words I also needed to hear: never give up.
In my day job as a careers adviser when I work with young people or adults a big part of what we discuss is asking, ‘Where are you now?’ and ‘Where do you want to be?, figuring out small steps along the way to reach the ultimate goal.
At a recent training event, (before we went into lockdown and were allowed out), I re-enacted a motivational interview technique I had tried on myself years ago when on the cusp of publication. You physically step onto a bit of paper, imagining you haven’t taken any action against a goal you want to achieve (ie. You’ve given up sending your work out – how does that feel?) then you step onto a bit of paper which has the opposite scenario; you’ve kept working towards your goal (You’ve not given up, book 2 has just been published and book 3 will be soon – how do you feel?).
That all important question, How do you feel? is a powerful question as it taps into emotion and intuition. My two colleagues asking the questions reported my body language instantly changed when I stepped into the box where I was still working towards my goal (in a positive way). Then I had to take steps backwards, naming all of the things I would do now to get there.
The first thing on my list was to write a post on this website, because I knew it was a way of re-committing, to say I am still here, I am still writing and I am looking forward to what the future might bring.