Tag Archives: confidence

Millstones & milestones

“If you wish to be a good writer, write.” – Epictetus

There hasn’t been a lot of movement along Thunder Road in the past year and I apologise for that. New role at work, tight timetable, too much travelling… I can make excuses aplenty. Will they really be honest though?

I confess to a severe loss of writerly confidence but missing mojo isn’t really a good reason to put down my pen and not pick it up again. Most guides to writing, and the quote above, cut to the truth. Yep, I get it. I haven’t been making myself right because I haven’t been making myself write.

So 2018 has begun differently. I’ve changed my routine. I’ve begun writing again. I don’t know if the words are worthwhile but I know they’re better than anything I produced last year.

Cover image for Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology

One of the things I did do in 2017 was send off a sample of my DNA to check for ancestral connections. I’ve long joked with my kids that my cultural interests and palate must mean I’m a blend of Japanese, Indian, Scandinavian, Brit and indigenous Australian. When the results arrived they were focused across the United Kingdom, western Europe and Scandinavia. It turns out I’m one-fifth Viking after all.

I’ve read Norse mythology as long as I can remember. That interest was understandably rekindled last year.

2017 favourites

Watching: Vikings; The Handmaid’s Tale, 13 Reasons Why; Stranger Things; Luke Cage

Reading: One Would Think the Deep – Claire Zorn; The Stars at Oktober Bend – Glenda Millard; The Other Side of Summer – Emily Gale; Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen; When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi; Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman and others.

Listening: Ironbark -The Waifs; Go Farther in Lightness – Gang of Youths; Greetings from Asbury Park – Bruce Springsteen, Midnight Oil back catalogue. And podcasts! Check out Phoebe’s Fall, The Music Dissectors (with a guest appearance from yours truly) and Myths and Legends.

Silver screen: Blade Runner 2049; All for One; Dunkirk

Post-Halloween jitters

Milestone achieved. I set myself a deadline to complete a hard copy read through of my latest manuscript by the haunting hour of  Halloween. (OK, I missed by a day or so but got there close enough that Pumpkinstein was still mournfully inhabiting our living room.)

Pumpkinstein has the manuscript jitters
Pumpkinstein has the manuscript jitters

So here’s the skinny. I’ve written what I think is part one of a trilogy. It’s the longest thing I’ve ever written. I’ve already made inroads into part two.

But I’ve no idea if it’s any good.

I enjoyed writing it. And, maybe, cosmically, that’s all that matters.

I’ve constructed a universe that I’m still exploring and that’s great fun, too.

But the nervous wait has begun.  Self-doubt is part of any creative job but it is particularly rampant while you’re waiting for feedback on your work.

Will anyone else like it or think it has merit? I take nothing for granted.

But the pumpkin soup was fine.

Deja Vu

Saturday’s Herald Sun featured a Q & A interview with author Tom Rachman, who is described as a London-born, Vancouver-raised, Rome-based journalist. As I read it, I was struck by how similar some of our thinking was, given that I’m your average home-brand Victoria-born, Victoria-raised, Victoria-based journalist/author.

One of the questions asked was, “Was it always your goal, even before you became a journalist, to write a novel?” Mr Rachman’s reply is: “I became a journalist because I wanted to write fiction, as backward as that seems. I had planned to be a film-maker…but toward the end of my time at university I realised that it was fiction and stories that I really wanted to be writing…”

I entered university with no real idea what I wanted to do for a crust. I knew I wanted to write, preferably fiction. I considered script-writing but the career information seminar made it sound too cut-throat. (I think the phrase “like being raped by a two-tonne gorilla” might have deterred me.) I decided to have a crack at journalism, my logic being that I could write news stories by day and fiction by night. Naive? Totally.

Mr Rachman then speaks of being more confident in his work with his second manuscript, compared to his first. “I felt much more technically able… I had the misconception that a lot of people have about writing: that there are people who have talent and there are those who don’t. So when I sat down at my computer I was terrified that maybe I was one of those who didn’t, which was incredibly inhibiting, because you write something and then look at it and say, “My God, that doesn’t sound like Tolstoy to me, therefore I am completely untalented”. But in my case … I realised what was most important was having an idea, and, very, very incrementally, reaching that idea. And that involves a heck of a lot of work.”

OK. Let’s just say I know what he’s talking about. I read my stuff sometimes and wonder whether I should give up and go back to lawn-mowing. Or breaking rocks. My confidence ebbs and flows big time. Low tide is like, way, low, as my teen workshoppers might say.

I wouldn’t say I was any more confident with this manuscript than my first – apart from knowing my ever-enthusiastic agent would read it. But I certainly believe in the worth of fresh ideas and the power of perseverance. I’m on my 8th draft of Five Parts Dead and the final deadline is approaching fast. More sweat has gone into this story than anything I’ve written before. So I certainly understand the “incrementally” comment. And the “heck of a lot of work”.

2009 targets

I have a mate who continually reviews his progress in relation to personal and professional goals. Each month he sets himself targets and asks whether he achieved to a satisfactory level for the previous 30-odd days. At the year’s end, he analyses each month in turn before considering the year as a whole.

As a part-time author, my progress towards major goals can be painfully slow. After signing a contract, for instance, publication may still be up to a year away. Writing time tends to be crammed in between wage-work and other commitments … and there are days when I struggle to get 500 words written. That said, I reckon some public goals are in order for 2009 as, once I write them down, they are on the record for better or worse.

So, to kick off the new year here are some writing goals:

1. Get a contract for publication of Book 2.
2. Hammer out a plan and (hopefully) a complete draft for Book 3.
3. Make more time for writing (and reduce distractions/distractedness) in order to achieve #2.
4. Read more and watch less TV
5. Be more optimistic and less afraid.

The last point is inspired by things I’ve been reading recently. Tim Winton’s ‘Breath’ was a surf-centric, brilliant book for a beach holiday and a powerful exploration of how we feel most alive when we’re afraid. I know myself well enough to accept that fear regularly affects me, sometimes inspiring me to greater heights and sometimes holding me back. Fear of not measuring up to expectations (whether my own or others’) is a big one for me … but I also know that if I focus on what I might not do, I’m less likely to do anything. So my goal is about focusing on the positives that can come out of fear, rather than being crippled by potential negatives that usually don’t eventuate.

In relation to optimism, I like a comment by the founder of the online store Remo General Store that I read today. Remo Giuffre wrote in his 2008 Printed Thing how “chronic entrepreneurship” had hurt him and his family financially but he remained optimistic. He said: “Not only do I remember feeling optimistic but I also remember coming to the realisation that this feeling of optimism was probably more important than whatever was going to happen. A feeling of optimism about the future … was actually delivering us a very high quality of life in the present. The outcomes of our endeavours were actually irrelevant to the quality of the lives we were living.”

Optimism doesn’t always come naturally to me so I’m keen to lock it in as a goal. It means seeing the best in others and seeking the best in myself.