Now that I am finally finished with the PhD, I am faced with the considerable task of redrafting the novel for submission to a publisher, and at the same time trying to kick-start my writing career which has hovered in limbo for the last six years. It’s a strange position to be in, strong in that I feel I have completed one stage of this journey, a feeling which comes with a good sense of achievement, and weak in that I still find myself unpublished as a novelist. The quest for publication becomes the next stage on the journey, and I have to gather up my string of rejection letters from the last six years, and learn a set of new lessons.
Looking back on two decades of ‘trying to write’ I have a body of work that never sees the light of day, and raises the question of whether I am writing just for pleasure, or whether I truly have the ability to be an author. I do not believe there is anything wrong with writing for pleasure, and in this day and age, a woman who writes can find many outlets for her work, such as blogs, self publishing, or print on demand. This allows anyone to see their writing in print and share this with family and friends. Is this as satisfying as having an author contract and being ‘published’?
For the last six years I have been driven by one kind of motivation, to complete the work needed for the PhD, to ‘learn my craft’, believing this would make me a better writer, a better author, a better prospect for publication. I have learned a lot about the way that novels work, the way that a whole host of authors have used this form to achieve their own goals and even developed an insight into some of the denser theories related to creative writing. I could talk for hours on the nature of stories, the difference between history and fiction, biography, autobiography and life writing. But I still don’t feel as if I have truly achieved my goal. The novel sits there, one hundred thousand words of carefully crafted prose, like some hopeful, beautiful shipwreck whose maiden voyage was never even begun. Will this craft ever leave the shipyard? How much retrofitting will it need to take that final, crucial step? Is there something wrong with me that my sense of achievement is not complete yet?
I do not know why I, or any other writer, can be so driven to write. I do know that it has been there for almost as long as I remember, and is the longest-held ambition and motivator in my life. I know that aspects of my work affect others positively, that I can tell a good story, that my work has made people cry, has been described as gripping. Should I accept, after six years of studying this craft, that maybe, just maybe, despite my love of writing and my mastery of some elements of skill, that I just don’t have what it takes? Or do I keep on keeping on, aiming for that elusive target that grows smaller and less visible each day?
The answer is simple. I can approach this in a businesslike manner, and work on the task now of getting published, disciplining myself further to shape the awkward, literary edges of my work into something more acceptable to an agent, editor and the reading public. I can continue to invest in this process, believing that the investment itself is of worth, and that nothing is wasted even if I do not reach my goal. I can build myself an author profile, out there in cyber-space, publish my critical work in academic publications, and try to keep on learning. I can shape, reshape, draft, redraft, and start new projects, write short stories, enter competitions, and keep shooting for the moon, because the urge is still there, the stories, voices, characters, openings, cliffhangers and crashing, satisfying conclusions are all waiting to be pinned to the page. This is my longest love affair and I am in its thrall.
My writing has its own momentum and I know it is not finished with me yet
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