Tag Archives: ambition

achieving dreams – #WhatImWriting

Aspirations are funny things. I’ve mused before about whether their real power lies not so much in the thrill of achieving them but in the joy of having something to aim for: an exciting goal glittering on the horizon, something to focus on and to dream about. Like a guiding star shining above the more mundane aspects of daily existence.

star cluster

Aspirations can certainly be seductive, whatever form they take (career, home, family, travel – the list is endless) and thinking about them can be a stronger motivator than any other. Without them, I suspect life would lack the flavour and momentum that their sense of possibility brings to it. You might not achieve all your aspirations, you might not achieve many of them at all, but as long as you have them, there’s something out there for you isn’t there? Something to reach for?

What about if you do achieve your dreams though? What next? Do you set yourself further goals, ones that are harder to achieve and further away? Or can you simply bathe happily in the joy of aspirations reached for the rest of your life?

Perhaps it depends what they are. I always wanted a loving husband and three kids; a fairly normal sort of aspiration perhaps, but there it was. I’m fortunate enough to have that, and it’s wonderful. It’s also exhausting. It’s fun and fulfilling but it’s challenging. And as much as I know I’m lucky, my daily life is full of an awful lot of washing and cleaning, not nearly as much sleep as I’d like, and more shouting than I consider ideal. So, while I achieved my dream, living it is not a life of perfect bliss and I often aspire to doing a better job in a hundred little ways. But then I wouldn’t expect it to be otherwise. Three kids were never going to be easy, real marriages aren’t like fairytales and running a household was bound to be hard work in some form or other.

Is it different with other aspirations? How about specific, ‘once in a lifetime’ types like seeing Niagara Falls, flying in a hot air balloon or swimming with dolphins? The experience would surely be as exciting as the dream in those cases wouldn’t it? Yes, absolutely – I’ve experienced one of those (the first) and it was fantastic, a real thrill – but they’re also short-lived. The memories are wonderful but they are just memories (and mine, being over twenty years old, have faded considerably!). That said, building up an archive of achieved aspirations like that certainly adds to the joy of existence and I guess, with enough time and money you could even spend your whole life surfing the wave of these types of dreams…

Are there any more long-lasting aspirations that are as wonderful to experience as they look from afar though? Specific career goals perhaps? It’s possible, but in my experience, every goal realised in this area too, brings its own challenges. But then, no aspiration has ever burned quite so brightly as my desire to be a published author. When I imagine how it would feel to see my name on the cover of a printed book… to open it and run my fingers through its pages… to sit and read it to my kids… ahhh. I’m smiling just thinking about it.

Would achieving that not bring me joy unbridled? Of course it would!

… For five minutes, or perhaps five hours but beyond that, well, publication would bring a whole other range of pressures and expectations. I’d have to market my books for a start, and I’d also have to write more. And maybe it wouldn’t be to my own schedule anymore. There would be deadlines and pressure from editors and publishers. And that’s if things were going well.

But you know what? None of this is bad news. Living the reality of an achieved dream, rather than musing on the fantasy, doesn’t make that dream any less worthwhile. Sure, my home life isn’t perfect but it still makes me very happy; my family is the most important thing in the world to me. And my memories of Niagra Falls may have faded but some sense of them will always linger… and that sense makes me want to fulfil those other ‘once in a lifetime’ dreams too. And then, even as aware as I am of the hard work involved in publishing a book, imagining turning the pages of that book still makes my stomach fizz with excitement.

And that’s the joy of aspirations really isn’t it? Unlimited by practicalities, they exist in perfect form. They are the wonder of motherhood without the exhaustion of sleepless nights, the excitement of choosing a dream home without the burden of paying for it and the fulfilment of publishing a book without the pressure of sustaining a writing career. They are the pop and whizz of ‘what if?’ and ‘let’s try that!’.

So, for me at least, I think the excitement of aspirations is in the journey just as much as the goal. And I love that about them. After all, individual aspirations can only be achieved once (if at all), but thinking, planning and dreaming about achieving them makes their sparkle limitless.

Every day I imagine how it it would feel to get that publishing deal. Maybe it will never happen, but my life is one hell of a lot richer for having dreamed, hoped and strived for it.

What do aspirations mean to you?

***

Thanks to Reneé from Mummy Tries for the inspiration for this post! Reneé is running the Brit Mums Carnival this week and the theme is ‘achieving dreams’. Why not pop over to see what other people have come up with?

Muddled Manuscript

getting somewhere – #whatImwriting

It’s Tuesday! It’s time for ‘What I’m Writing’! Chrissie is hosting this week so pop over to Muddled Manuscript if you’re wanting to link up – we’d love to hear all about what you’re writing at the moment. Having said that, Chrissie’s suggested a ‘what I’m NOT writing’ theme this week for all those of us who are struggling to find the time/energy or motivation. It’s optional though, luckily for me…

flying saucer

A clue about one of my picture books… also evidence of why I’m not illustrating them myself!

Last week I said I was going to knuckle down and do some writing. Guess what? *trumpet fanfare* I managed it! Yes, for the first time in weeks (or is it months?) I’ve actually achieved something with my picture book manuscripts.

The key to making progress was not just having a bit more time this week but also some extra motivation. Having decided I need some professional feedback on my work, I made the decision to submit some work to a manuscript appraisal service. I figured if I’m going to submit my books to agents and/or publishers, it makes sense to get expert advice first.

When I mentioned my three manuscripts to one such service they said they could do a ‘3 for 2′ offer (“like with shampoo!” as a friend of mine said) as long as I submitted all three at the same time. So, all at once, I needed to get the three of them to a point where I was happy to send them off. The third one was in shoddy-first-draft-form so I’ve put a lot of time into that, and I’ve also done a fair bit editing work on my first story. Manuscript Two could do with more attention but one of the main problems I have with it is being unable to decide if the long version or the shorter version (yes, I somehow have two!) works best. So perhaps I should just send it as is, and get advice there…

Anyway, I’ve loved getting my teeth back into the books again and have become a bit obsessed, writing in any spare moment I have. I was up for two hours in the night with my toddler the other night (groan) and found myself leaning against his door frame in the dark, making shushing noises while the better part of my brain was thinking “does ‘exquisite’ rhyme well enough with ‘fillet’?”. By the time I staggered back to bed my brain was whirring with ridiculous rhymes!

So, all in all, a good week! And I even managed a couple of blog posts too – if you haven’t seen it, my interview with Renee Davis, mummy blogger extraordinaire and author of Become The Best You’ is well worth a read. Reneé is inspirational!

I hope you’ve had good weeks too – I’m looking forward to finding out!

Muddled Manuscript

what I’m writing – week seventeen

typewriter butterflies badgeWelcome to week seventeen of ‘What I’m Writing’. We had a great start to the new year over at Chrissie’s blog last week with more linkers than ever before! It was great to catch up with our regular linkers on what their plans for the new year were and we were also pleased to see new faces too. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this year takes you all – the only way is up, yes?

So, If you’re new here you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short version is Chrissie and I are both writers who love blogging about our writing processes and reading about those of others. Our linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through. September’s and October’s round-up posts (we take turns to write them every month) give you a flavour of the sorts of things we chat about. I posted December’s Round-up last week.

We’d love you to join in and there are just a few suggestions (‘rules’ feels too strong a word) for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use our badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to whichever one of our blogs is hosting that week. We will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet us a link to your post @writingbubble or @rantybeast then we will RT.

Over to you – please link up below! I look forward to reading your posts (I’ll be linking up too of course)!

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new year plans (or not) – #WhatImWriting

It’s time for the first #WhatImWriting of 2015! Chrissie is hosting this week so if you’re hoping to link up, please head to Muddled Manuscript for tea, cake and a good old chat.

jasper mountainSo, where to begin? Um… I have no idea. I took two weeks off blogging and writing over Christmas and it’s totally thrown me out of all my routines and I kind of feel like I’ve forgotten how to write.

It was great to have a break though and I have to admit, as far as blogging goes, it was a massive relief. I hadn’t quite realised how tied to blogging I feel – the need to post a couple of times a week, to join in linkies and read and comment on other blogs. I enjoy it, but having a proper break made me realise that I do kind of view it like work. Fun work I don’t get paid for (admittedly), but with that sort of ‘must do, can’t get out of’ ethic that I don’t associate with hobbies of any sort. Anyone else feel like this?

Then there’s the creative writing. The first week I really missed it, I ITCHED to write but, what with kids and present-wrapping and general build-up of festive activities, I literally didn’t have the time. Then we were away for a few days over Christmas and writing of any sort wasn’t on my mind at all. When we got back the itch seemed to have gone. I started blogging again a few days ago (this is my fourth post of the year which is a bit extreme for me!) but as far as creative writing goes, I haven’t written a single word.

I feel like there’s maybe some lesson for myself in all this but I’m not sure what. If it was a relief to stop blogging should I blog less? Should I make sure I don’t take too long off writing in the future since it’s brought me to a standstill? Should I transfer my energies from blogging to writing this year?

You see, I do feel like I should have a plan. I’ve read a fair few blogs over the past few days and everyone seems to be full of decisions and intentions for 2015. Meanwhile I haven’t made any decisions at all! I was hoping some goals would reveal themselves while writing this post but they haven’t really.

It’s not that I can’t think of anything I want to achieve. It’s more like there’s too much I want to do and I don’t know what to focus on this year. Do I write more picture books, work on the ones I’ve got and try and find an agent for them? Should I finish the novel that was a big focus of mine in the first half of last year (it’s at 55,000 words at the mo), finish my other novel (the one I only wrote 7000 words of before getting distracted by other things I wanted to write) or  do I start a whole new novel for kids that I’ve had an idea for bubbling away for months? And then there’s my old romance novel to consider too!

No wait, no time for that, I want to make more flash fiction submissions this year! I write so many pieces for my blog and I’d love to channel more energy into writing them for other publications instead – to try and get my work published elsewhere rather than just on my own little blog. But how would I fit that in with the fact that I’d also love to self-publish my own little book of limericks?

You see? A whole new year has arrived and I have no idea how to make the best of it! I don’t know what goals to set myself as I don’t know where my real (writing) priorities lie. But here’s a plan – this week I’ll do some kind of creative writing (whatever type leaps out at me), I’ll publish no more than one blog post between now and next Tuesday and I’ll take the time, now my older kids are back at school, to try and work out what I want to aim for this year.

And there’s one thing I’m certain of – no matter what form it takes, 2015 is going to be a year of writing.

Muddled Manuscript

what I’m writing – week fifteen

typewriter butterflies badgeWelcome to week fifteen of ‘What I’m Writing’- the last of the year! Chrissie and I are taking a couple of weeks off over the festive period but #WhatImWriting will be back on 6th January 2015 ready to hear all about your new year’s resolutions!

Since it’s the last of the year I just want to say – on behalf of Chrissie and myself – a huge thank you to each and every one of you who has linked up and/or commented on the posts in our little linky. When we launched it in September this year we had no idea how it would go and we really have been totally thrilled to see people sharing such a range of fabulous posts every week. You’ve been inspiring and supportive and honest and funny and lovely and it’s been wonderful to get to know you all. Truly. Thank you.

So, enough of the mushy stuff (though I’m a huge softy at heart so don’t be surprised if I write more of that sort of thing in my post to link up this week) – to business! (ie the bit where I cut and paste… ).

If you’re new here you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short version is Chrissie and I are both writers who love blogging about our writing processes and reading about those of others. Our linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through. September’s and October’s round-up posts (we take turns to write them every month) give you a flavour of the sorts of things we chat about.

We’d love you to join in and there are just a few suggestions (‘rules’ feels too strong a word) for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use our badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to whichever one of our blogs is hosting that week. We will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet us a link to your post @writingbubble or @rantybeast then we will RT.

Over to you – please link up below! I look forward to reading your posts (I’ll be linking up too of course)!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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what I’m writing – week nine

typewriter butterflies badgeWelcome to week nine of ‘What I’m Writing’! Once again, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who linked up (over at Muddled Manuscript) last week. I loved reading your posts. Thanks also to Chrissie for being a fabulous host. I can’t compete with the excellent linky posts she writes – mine are just cut and paste jobs… on which note, I’ll now commence the pasting:

If you’re new here you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short version is Chrissie and I are both writers who love blogging about our writing processes and reading about those of others. Our linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through. September’s round-up post gives you a flavour of the sorts of things we chat about (and October’s round-up is on its way).

We’d love you to join in and there are just a few suggestions (‘rules’ feels too strong a word) for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use our badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to whichever one of our blogs is hosting that week. We will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet us a link to your post @writingbubble or @rantybeast then we will RT.

Over to you – please link up below! I look forward to reading your posts (I’ll be linking up too of course)!

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teenage dreams – #WhatImWriting

It’s been half term this past week and having three kids with me full-time has not been conducive to getting any writing done. I did manage a silly limerick and a ghost story on the blog, but not much else.

Rather than try and extend this un-exiting news into an entire blog post though, I thought I would do something different for this week’s ‘What I’m Writing’. Get ready to cringe!

You see, the other day while scrabbling through a huge pile of papers that I haven’t looked at in years, I found this:

I dot my 'i's

Yes, it’s the title page of an old manuscript of mine. As a teenager I harboured dreams of being a romantic novelist and, as luck would have it, so did a friend of mine. So together we created the genius flouncy pen name ‘Hebe Laroche’ and set about writing our first novel. We must have been about 13 or 14 when we began and were very much influenced by the American ‘Sweet Valley High‘ series (remember those? All 152 (!!!) of them?) We wrote it on and off for a couple of years before it stalled at Chapter Six, although I do have a plot synopsis for most of the rest of the book.

Our central character Andi (who introduced herself by spelling out her name and then simpering “I dot my ‘I’s with hearts” – what were we thinking?!) was a rather drippy girl who met Chad, a gorgeous, rugged, rich-boy and was swept away by his charms. Here’s the not-at-all cheesey *cough* description of when she first lays eyes on him:

meet chad

‘Penetrate her very soul’ Ha! And there was much more of such guff to come. In fact many of the scenes were laced with overly-romantic, flowery prose:

Classic soppy teenage writing-style, yes? We did however, manage to create a likeable best friend and a lovely family for Andi to be part of. So it’s not all bad. Well… ok, it kind of is but there’s maybe something there amidst the flouncy-words.

Reading it now, what I’ve enjoyed most is the fact that we clearly came back to it a fair few years later – late teens maybe – with more life experience. There is then a clear conflict between how we think we should be writing – dreamy and romantic – and how we actually want to write, so later bits of the manuscript are littered with sentences where we are clearly taking the piss out of our own writing style. The best part of this is, the sentences appear at random, slap bang in the middle of a romantically-written passage. Since I’ve completely forgotten writing them, they take me by surprise and make me laugh every time.

For example, Andi receives a romantic parcel to her family home on Christmas morning. Imagine the typical clichéd romantic build-up to this moment. Think what beloved, dreamy Chad might write on a red, heart-shaped label floating atop an array of silver ribbon spirals on an exquisitely-wrapped festive gift…

That’s actually the least risque example I could find (I didn’t want to have to put a warning on this post). Honestly, in places I am quite shocked by our late-teenaged selves!

Our later edit also includes a lot of scrawled notes in the margins: “More fun, less shit”, “This is just jiz” and the quite straightforward “PANTS”.

Anyway, I’ve now thoroughly embarrassed myself so that’s quite enough of all that.

You know what’s really embarrassing though? That somewhere, deep down in my heart-of-hearts, I’d love to finish our book. Ok, the title would have to go, and Andi would have to buck up her ideas and well, yes it would need to be totally different in every way but imagine if our teenage dream could come true?  Never mind your chiseled-jawed hunk, there’s something worth getting all misty-eyed over.

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focus – #WhatImWriting

A clue about my picture book

A clue about the picture book I’m working on…

Last week I wrote about being in a spin with everything going on in my life: about all the things I wanted to write and the decisions I needed to make. The rest of the week I suffered a classic case of writer’s block. The words just weren’t flowing. It was incredibly frustrating, especially as I wasn’t lacking inspiration, just the ability to get the words out!

I got to the weekend and decided something needed to be done. So I wrote a list (ah, lists – love ‘em!) of all the non-writing things I needed to get done and then managed to get a lot of the little tasks ticked off. That calmed the spin-cycle in my head down a bit and I realised I desperately needed to focus more. So I thought I’d set myself just one writing task and ignore all others… and I’m now in the process of writing my second children’s book!

I made this my focus on the back of people’s advice on my post last week (you were all incredibly helpful, thank you!) I’ve decided I’m going to try and get an agent for my picture book and I think I’m going to be a much more interesting proposition for an agent if I have more than one piece of work to show them. Also, when I actually paid attention to my thoughts (rather than just being in a flap saying ‘I want to do ALL THE THINGS!’) I realised that a second book was actually what I WANTED to focus on. I had an idea and I was itching to write it – everything else could wait.

I’ve realised that as much as I love writing something every week (or most weeks) for #ThePrompt and #Prose4T - and more recently #FridayFiction and the #WonderfulWorldofWriting it’s also a huge creative commitment. It’s a fantastic thing to do in terms of pushing me on, developing my writing and being part of an online community but I feel I’ve reached a point where something’s got to give. I can’t write a novel and two picture books and a blog and poetry and flash fiction and also research literary agents (alongside three kids and work commitments) every week. I need to prioritise.

So, I’ve made a decision: no blogging between this post and next Tuesday’s post. And no writing other things either; this week is for writing and editing my picture books, and for researching agents. Full stop.

See you next week!

in a spin – #WhatImWriting

leaves2This week seems to have flown by – I can hardly believe it’s time for another #WhatImWriting. Hooray! Chrissie is hosting this week so if you’re looking to link up, please head over to Muddled Manuscript.

I’m not certain what to write about for my post this week as my brain is flitting all over the place, but I guess the main thing to update you on is my picture book. I’ve been working on it a lot and have now shown it to two more close friends of mine, both of whom are primary school teachers (and mothers), and therefore have particularly useful perspectives. The feedback has been really good: both positive and useful. I’ve now reached the ninth draft and think I’m very close to something I’ll be happy to send off somewhere. But where?

Well, quite. So while working on the book I’ve also been looking around at publishers websites, checking out what they’re looking for and how to go about submitting. I found this blog post by Lou Treleaven a really useful resource: it lists children’s book publishers who are currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts.

I did have a bit of a crisis of confidence while researching though, as all the publishers said they get masses of submissions every week. Not that I expected anything different, but there’s nothing quite like seeing that fact in black and white! They all said it would take three to six months to get a response from them, if indeed you received any response at all. And of course, as all writers know, you’ve got to expect rejection. I suddenly felt very small, like a tiny Jelly Baby person clutching a flea-sized manuscript trying to get anyone to even notice I was there!

So I started wondering about the possibility of getting an agent. I know you don’t need to have one to submit work but I assume that it’s a huge help in securing a publisher. It’s means there’s someone else backing you up rather than your little manuscript just sitting in the middle of a huge pile of other unsolicited submissions. Like having somewhere more noticeable for Jelly Baby-me to sit perhaps? Or lighting to enhance my lovely juicy colour?

But trying to find an agent is a huge task in itself and I only have one little book – would an agent even be interested? I feel I need to research more here. Any advice?

There are lots of other things whirling through my mind as well at the moment: work-related issues, some family stuff and other questions to do with my writing too. I feel I’m in a bit of a spin trying to work out what to focus on. I’m in a bit of a spin in general actually. I don’t even know how to finish this blog post. Haven’t a clue.

Like this?

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self belief – #WhatImWriting

believe you can quoteYou know when you get ‘The Feeling‘? You know the one: you’re reading something you’ve just written and you find yourself thinking Hang on… this is… actually… rather… GOOD! And in those moments before the doubt sets in you get this rush of self-belief like maybe you can actually do this. Maybe becoming a published author isn’t such a crazy, cock-eyed distant dream after all.

Well, I had one of those moments last Tuesday. I like to join in with #ThePrompt and this week the theme Sara had given us was ‘books’. So I sat down in front of a blank screen at the start of the baby’s nap and along came the words. I wrote a story-poem (is that a thing?) about a girl who wouldn’t read. By the time the baby woke up the bulk of it was there and all the time I was writing it I could see illustrations in my head. When I read it back I found myself thinking, This would make a good children’s book.

All the next day it was in my head and I kept popping back to the computer and giving it a tweak here and there. Yes, I thought, this is worth doing something with. But then I started wondering if I was deluding myself, so I decided that – on the back of my post on feedback last week – it might be an idea to ask the lovely #WhatImWriting lot for feedback as part of my Tuesday post.

But then – another thought! Posting something on your blog makes it ‘previously published work’ doesn’t it? A quick google told me ‘yes’ and although it seemed presumptuous, I decided I couldn’t shoot myself in the foot if there was even the slightest chance of sending it to a publisher. I knew what I had written was only an early draft, but the storyline and overall structure were all there, so I didn’t want to risk it.

So instead I sent it to Chrissie and asked for her (genuine, proper, no-holds-barred) opinion on whether the piece had potential. I simultaneously placed it in front of my husband (whom I also trust to tell me the truth) before I went off to get the baby to sleep. And when I’d got him settled I came back down and asked my husband what he thought. Simultaneously, an email from Chrissie popped into my inbox. To my delight and relief both responses were: “Yes! I can see this as a book.” Woo hoo!

Since then I’ve been re-writing it constantly. I’ve read it to my kids, discussed it at length with my husband and received lots more useful feedback from Chrissie. I’ve also just sent it to my best mate who’s a primary school teacher with two young children. It’s the first time I’ve asked her for constructive criticism but I figure she’ll be a good person to give it and I’m sure I can take it… eeek. It’s currently on its fifth draft (oh, what a different world from novel writing this is) and I feel like I’m getting there with it. Yes I have my moments of doubt (and I’m sure I’ll get more of those in the future) but right now I’m riding a bit of a wave. The reality of how competitive the children’s book market is isn’t nagging me too much. (Yet.)

Next, I’ve got lots of research to do to find out who I could possibly submit it to and what I need to be keeping an eye on in terms of, well, anything really… this is all new. And all quite exciting. And quite scary too.

So that’s me at the moment. That’s very much ‘what I’m writing’!

One final thing – I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Sara for the inspiration. It’s amazing where one word can take you!

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