20th March 2018
Submitted my manuscript to Hellie Ogden at Janklow and Nesbit on Saturday following shortlisting for the prize and have had a serious wobble.
Despite her being very clear that drafts are “completely fine” after I explicitly declared that my MS was very “drafty”, I’m a nervous wreck. Truth is, I was so worked up shortlisting (amongst other things) that my brain jumped off the imaginary roof of a high-rise building. After plummeting to earth, it appears to have embedded in a mental abyss filled with self-doubt, criticism, and loathing.
What did I do? Submitted without applying my wit, without going through it with a fine tooth comb. Clown! I have this thing where mistakes only stand out after I’ve pressed send. From now on I will email to myself as though I’m the recipient and will then, hopefully, be able to pick the thing apart effectively. There were simple spelling and grammar mistakes, formatting oversights. One of the main problems, I think, is how the details dissolve the more I stare at the manuscript. I want to lock myself in an underground bunker in shame. Shame. That’s what I’m feeling.
Since then, I’ve been trying to rediscover my writing motivation. I’m mortified at the low standards I’ve displayed to one of the two main agents I wanted to approach when I was ready. I’m sick at myself.
Writing motivation. Even writing this is a challenge. Watching the letters appear on the page is embarrassing. Like, who do I think I am wanting to become a writer when I’m so crippled by rookie errors?
Decided to strip back all my goals and return to the place I started. Writing for fun. In diary form. In places I enjoy hanging out, so I’m currently sat in the King Arthur pub in Glastonbury which I find relaxing. The place is warm, plays good music (reggae, soul, blues) and has the perfect balance of being friendly while minding its own business. I can sit here and be amiably ignored. Love it. Thatchers Gold next to my laptop leaving sticky rings on the wooden table. A year ago when we discovered Dad was ill, I came here all the time and read The Great Gatsby. It was the only activity to calm me.
So I realise my writing motivation stems from rediscovering my writing roots. Forget the rest. Go back to my voice, my internal monologue where I paint the world with my interpretation. And read. Reading books I love, not the ones I drag myself half-way through because it’s good for my craft.
Don’t believe in writer’s block, but if I did, I’d do the same. Relaxation is the most helpful influencer for writing. And not stopping. I must keep writing. Wobbles I face along the way will only rectify if I face them calmly. For now, I’ll go back to the mess of my manuscript and start by tackling which chapters need working on. Some of them are so thin. Useless. In identifying and reworking the thin scenes I should incidentally be able to thicken the protagonist’s drive. For now, I’ll forget the JN prize and get on with my work. Reading from the shortlist shows who I’m up against, the heavyweights. I’m a flapping duck amongst gliding swans. What’s done is done. Time to learn and move on. And when the manuscript is complete and really ready to submit, I shall submit to myself first (!!!!!!) and leave it a few weeks before I comb out its knots.