This year I’ve found my mojo with writing for a minimum of four days a week when the kids are at school.
I have also, touch wood, learned the art of prioritising my work above the other things I can get involved with when at home. Thanks to affirming conversations with creative friends and Liz Gilbert’s Magic Lessons Podcasts I’ve assimilated the fact that writing is the work I must do because it’s now harder and more crazy-making to keep it in than it is to let it out.
I’ve barred kids from looking at their spyware laden websites on my laptop, lest it dies a blue screened death. I’ve got excellent at making back ups. I’ve got way more comfortable with the house being minging at times. I’ve stopped feeling guilty about the dog, the garden and the invites I’m declining to make space for battering down words. I fantasise about one day having a cleaner but no longer answer the fantasy by getting up and doing all the cleaning with all the martyrdom.
I’ve realised that just like with running, unless I put one foot in front of the other the movement will not happen and the rewards will never come. I have at last taken my work seriously, got extremely honest about self-sabotage and made myself accountable. It’s paying off.
A 2015 highlight has been being a finalist for the 2016 Aesthetica Creative Writing Award. Having always been one for swooning about Aesthetica’s beautifully expressed production values I felt it was a creative institution that was light years away rather than within reach. Then I wrote something that I sensed might have a shot so I sent it in as part of my ‘why not?’ philosophy. The worse that could happen was that it got rejected and, somewhat weirdly, I’ve got kind of hooked on rejections this year, so even that didn’t seem like too bad of a prospect.
As the Goddess Brene Brown says, ‘when we lose our tolerance to be vulnerable, joy becomes foreboding’. I keep my tolerance to vulnerability close to my heart and say I’m OK with failing these days; I’m just no longer OK with not trying.
I wrote the Aesthetica deadline in my writing diary and fully expected to be pitching the story elsewhere in hopes of publication come December.
Then, in late November I received an email to say I was a finalist.
Then, in early December I received another (really lovely) email to say I didn’t win.
And yet……. I feel like I did.
I took a shot and it paid off. Another potential rejection flipped to validation. The odds of both are slowly changing. I love stepping in and out of the process to observe it and then be part of it again. I love that rejections make me try harder and that if I just incorporate the feedback they make me a better writer. I love that the positive affirmations of occasional publishing are more than enough to stoke the fire of believing that I should totally just keep going. I love the stories that now go everywhere with me in my head; I love that they make me look and listen harder to everything because they are hungry for details, moments and colour. I love that I feel at last like I’m working on the right stuff even if the pay is absolutely crap – because the pay off is high.
The story I’ve written in the annual is called Mathematics. Be warned though, the title and structure are juxtaposed to the subject which is about an experience that’s horrific (and alarmingly common for women) viewed through a logical lens. There’s no soft way of saying it – it’s about rape. Despite the less than cheery disclaimer I believe it’s a story filled with much more light than dark and that it brings something to the table that positively informs how humans treat themselves and each other. If you read it and it means something to you I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The Aesthetica annual is, of course, completely guaranteed to be packed with excellent short fiction and poetry. It’s also a stunning coffee table book with a comparatively tiny price tag for anyone who loves being taken on journeys with words. You can buy it here .