Staying the Course

pathway-backPart of maintaining vitality in writing is about learning how to stay on course. Personally I’ve found this difficult. After years of scribbling ideas for novels down, writing short stories, poems, and journals, I finally committed to a particular character that just wouldn’t be silent. That was about ten years ago. I quickly wrote mountains of notes, and began my precious first novel. It grew fitfully amidst a complex life of raising a family, scary problems with one of my children, divorce, and part time jobs. Once the book was finished, I decided it wasn’t good enough, so I embarked on an English degree, with the purpose of then re-writing completely.

When I left uni I felt daunted (it’s not just young students that suffer this). I felt like I’d outgrown the work and went on to other projects. I experienced doubts over my skills, and moved into other full time work. But the need to write wouldn’t be silenced. Whenever I turned away from it, procrastinating because of fear, I always turned back. As A.A. Milne once said: “Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.”

This is the main reason for my fear – can I make a living from writing? But the fact that I can’t stop scratching the writing itch tells me that the desire to write is in fact stronger than the fear, and must be given an unencumbered path. Returning to my original novel – honouring that first character seemed the best way to return to the course, so I’m back where I first started (just a little wiser), keeping the words of Ray Bradbury firmly in my mind: “Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as a writer.”


About josieblueowl

I live a life as healthy and well balanced as I can. I believe that is the best way to support my creativity, I'm definitely not a person who thinks you should suffer to produce good work. I walk, meditate, read, garden, cook and try to write with honesty, and to the best of my ability.
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2 Responses to Staying the Course

  1. Jenny Alexander says:

    I don’t know many authors who make a living from just writing books – for most of us it’s part of a ‘portfolio career’, as my careers-adviser daughter would say. Children’s authors keep body and soul together with school visits, others teach writing workshops or read for literary consultancies, or do various other related jobs such as journalism or copy-writing. Lots do unrelated work part-time, or write in the evenings/early mornings around their full time jobs. I think that’s normal now. Even those who earn good money from their writing have to nurture their success with book tours and appearances that take them away from their writing for months at a time. But if you have to scratch that itch of writing, by God it still feels good! And coming back to something you first wrote ten years ago can be wonderful, because you have the skills to really develop it. Enjoy!


  2. josieblueowl says:

    Yes Jen, I think you’re completely right. It also wouldn’t be possible to write all the time, we need these other things in our lives to feed the writing. I think for me ‘staying the course’ is about holding onto the belief that I am first and foremost an author; even if the income is not large, even if I have to do many other things to make money. It’s about continuing to try. I’ve talked to a few wonderful writers who have sadly put aside their writing because it’s not a ‘serious’ vocation to pursue. I was told throughout my schooling in Britain that my dreams and aspirations were not ‘serious’ – even at Uni they told us that we wouldn’t make money from writing novels. It can be hard to push through the barriers of self doubt when they are bolstered by the institutions that teach us. And yes, returning to old characters is wonderful indeed, like revisiting old friends.


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