I’ve been having a bit of a crisis of confidence as far as my Longer Piece of Work is concerned. I hold responsible all the great writers out there, the ones that tuck me up in bed, curl up with me on the couch or help me relax in the bath.
William Trevor, your brilliance at one line character descriptions makes me want to rip out the pages of my notebooks and set them on fire.
AL Kennedy, enough with the sharp, witty dialogue that perfectly encapsulates a moment in time – or I fear my laptop will follow the notebooks into the flames.
And I haven’t even mentioned the new writers on the scene: Kirsty Logan, Anneleise Mackintosh, Sara Baum (whose title for her debut novel is one of my most favourite ever: Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither – in relation to the seasons). All writers with that special something that makes a piece of literature glisten and come alive.
Oh and let’s load on the pressure from those that have tutored and mentored me: Paula Morris, shortlisted for this year’s Sunday Times EFG Short Story Competition, and the tutor who whipped me into shape on the MLitt; and Karen Campbell, my mentor through the WoMentoring Project, who prodded and cajoled me into finding a structure and voice for my LPoW. Both dazzling in their eloquence.
And to add insult to injury, at my lowest ebb, a story submitted to a literary magazine didn’t make the cut.
Now do you see my problem? Ok, I know, I know, it’s been said to me many times that the way forward is not to compare my work with others (and it’s not the first time I’ve been rejected). But, come on…
And yet, in general I’ve been pleased with my writing. My LPoW has a structure, several completed chapters and an outline plan for completion. I’ve been writing much more regularly and even had glimpses of the finish line. So why now? Which, I think, is precisely the point. It’s now because I’m close to the end – because I’m approaching the point where I have to let it go and send it out there to fight for a toehold and dig in.
I realise that by now you more-than-likely think this post it about a plea for reassurance or worse still, a chance to indulge in self-pity. Here’s the good news: it isn’t.
For those of you who read my last blog, you may remember that I ended with a line about receiving good news. Here it is.
A week before Mr D and I rode off on our honeymoon in Happy, I saw the following on the website of Moniack Mhor:
… the opportunity of a supported place for one unpublished writer with a work in progress. Application process: Please provide us with a sample of your work of up to 750 words and a short summary outlining your work in progress.
‘You should apply,’ said Mr D. So I did.
‘I think I just won the Moniack Mhor grant,’ I said to Mr D.
‘Really? How do you know? Did you get a text?’
‘No, I just know.’
The first chance I got I checked my emails. Nothing. The next time, nothing. Several times during our honeymoon, on the return journey and back home. Nope. Nothing.
‘I don’t know what happened, I was sure I’d won,’ I said.
The evening after we got back, Mr D was cooking and I was systematically checking through my emails. I noticed one entitled Work In Progress Grant. It was dated two days previously and yet I’m sure it wasn’t there when I looked.
I opened it. Screamed. Mr D dropped the stirring spoon and ran, closely followed by A.
‘What’s wrong? Are you alright? What happened?’ Worried faces stacked up in the living room doorway.
‘Look,’ I said, ‘I won.’ They did and I had.
And so my confidence perked a little, straightened its back, cracked its knuckles and started to make its way homeward.
Moniack Mhor offers creative writing courses throughout the year and comes highly recommended from a host of writers.
If you’d like to read a little more from my LPoW, here’s my submission: The Glass Spider_extract