Tag Archives: self doubt

why labels are important

starlight-illustration-sketches

Some of my sketches for a song illustration.

Do you ever find it difficult to call yourself a writer, or an artist or whatever the appropriate label for your creative niche is? I know I do, and conversations with fellow creative types has told me I’m not alone.

These days I do call myself a ‘writer’, although – as ridiculous as it sounds – it originally took considerable effort to do so. I remember the day I put ‘writer’ on my personal Facebook page – I felt really nervous and a bit of a fraud but figured I had to do it because if I couldn’t think of myself as a writer then how could I expect anyone else to? I was starting to submit manuscripts to agents so that felt kind of important. Even now the self doubt demon creeps in and tries to tell me I’m not one – not a ‘real’ writer – but obviously I kick it up the bum and wave my blog and manuscripts and pieces of published writing at it till it goes away.

But recently I’ve faced a new self-labelling question. I’ve been studying illustration since the start of this year – I’ve submitted assignments, drawn most days and, in the process, illustrated both my own writing and other people’s. I’ve studied art in the past too – dare I say it, created art in the past (some of it was once even in an exhibition) – so can I, or should I, call myself an artist? No. Surely not. That’s… just… I don’t know, it seems a step too far. And as for calling myself an ‘illustrator’ Hahahaha. No, that’s just ridiculous.

Isn’t it?

But then I had an experience last week that made me look at things a bit differently. I was on the phone to a work colleague (he works for a different company but we’ve worked alongside each other on various projects for years) and he asked if he could run an idea by me. ‘Of course’ I said. He then went on to say that his company (a human relations one) was looking at a new way of presenting some of their ‘models for ways of working’ (kind of patterns of human behaviour and interaction broken down into stages). They’re in a sort of chart form at the moment which he was thinking was a bit dry and that perhaps an illustrative approach might bring them to life more:

“… and I was thinking ‘what illustrators do I know?'” he said, “And then I thought ‘hey, I know Maddy!'”

He knows I’ve been studying illustration and said he’d seen one of my illustrations (the tea limerick one) and loved it. He then went on to outline the project to me… at least I assume that’s what he did but all I really caught was his “So what do you think?” at the end, at which point I had to admit “I’m sorry but you called me an illustrator and I got so excited that anyone would call me an illustrator that I couldn’t really hear anything much you said after that!”

Not exactly cucumber cool of me, but anyway, I did listen the second time round and the project sounds rather interesting. He’s very open about what might work and how things might pan out so I said yes I’d love to do it! I mean, obviously I don’t really know what I’m doing but I’m hanging on to the idea that I know more than I think I know and have skills I don’t know I possess, and can achieve more than I can imagine I could.

I got off the phone with a smile, warm with the knowledge that someone out there in the world, someone who’s not my husband or my best mate or my mum (lovely though they all are) thinks I’m an illustrator.

An actual illustrator.

It’s made me realise we should all seize those illusive creative labels and own them. We should say ‘Yes, I’m a writer/illustrator/photographer/modern cheese artist/whatever’ and then just get on with doing the actual creative work and living up to those titles. Because although it’s about self-belief, it’s also about accountability: after all, if you call yourself a writer, you’d better keep writing.

Speaking of which, this illustrator needs to go illustrate. :)

Writing Bubble

blogger’s block

bloggers-blockA question for my fellow bloggers – do you ever find, when blogging, that you get paralysed by your own thought processes? Like you can’t post anything because everything you write is way too introspective and not interesting enough and who on earth wants to read that, and anyway shouldn’t you be writing about that other stuff that’s way more compelling and means much more to you?.. only you don’t feel comfortable sharing that stuff so ‘argh’ and ‘bleurgh’ and ‘what should I do?!’

Do you get like that?

I’m there at the moment – what’s in my head is not translating to words on the screen. Or not words I have confidence in, anyway. There is so much more I could share on my blog than I do, and so much of it is the interesting stuff, the different stuff, the more controversial or opinionated stuff. Or just simply the real stuff. But I don’t feel comfortable sharing it and I struggle with that feeling because it would make for a much more interesting conversation with my readers. It’s just that it’s a conversation I’m not sure I’m up to having in the wide open space of the world wide web.

At times I’ve thrown caution to the wind and written something very honest or personal, and have been rewarded with a surge in my blog stats and many lovely comments and stimulating conversations. But I struggle to keep it up. Putting myself out there like that puts me on edge. I can do it from time to time (usually when the emotion explodes and the words come bursting out,) but not on a weekly basis. Not even on a monthly basis.

And it’s ended up making me doubt the point of this little blog. It takes me a ridiculous length of time to write a post so if I’m not going to share anything of great depth, how can I justify the time it takes away from my other creative pursuits? I could have spent this evening cracking on with the next section of my illustration course but instead I’m writing this, then I’ll write the linky post for #WhatImWriting tomorrow. The evening will vanish, as will tomorrow evening on commenting.

As I’ve been mulling this over today, bubbling away simultaneously has been the question ‘What if Trump wins the election?! WHAT IF THAT NARCISSIST BECOMES PRESIDENT?!! ‘ Actually my brain is kind of freaking out over that one! Did anyone see the debate last night? Just horrifying. Part of me thinks that’s what I should be writing about. Another part of me thinks ‘what can I say that hasn’t already been said much better by someone else?’ and ‘that rant isn’t for here’… and then the words die before they reach the tips of my fingers.

All this pondering and introspection means this is the third post I’ve written today. I don’t like any of them and I don’t want to publish any of them (and, incidentally, none of them are the Trump rant). Maybe it’s bloggers block, characterised by self-doubt, squirming embarrassment at my own words and an inability to hit the publish button.

So I guess I just tackle it head on like I would writer’s block, don’t I? Force the words, squash the doubt and publish the post?

Right?

Right.

Writing Bubble

tackling the self-doubt demon

self-doubt-demonThis time last week I was battling with the self-doubt demon who was determined I shouldn’t submit my illustration assignment. You know the drill: “This is rubbish… you can’t draw at all… call that a picture? Pah, a child or a lamb could do better!” The nasty creature. I couldn’t let it win could I?

Or could I?

No, I couldn’t! I drowned him out with loud music, finished the pieces off and hit the submit button. And yesterday my super-speedy, very lovely tutor, Spencer Hill sent me feedback on my work. And it was really positive!

Admittedly, Spencer is the sort to be very supportive – despite having never met him, I can just tell through the emails he sends all his students and in the way he’s interacted with me online that he is good at encouragement. But still, he clearly knows his onions so I’m going to take his positive remarks to heart. Best of all, the depth of the feedback he sent (nearly 4 A4 sides, typed) was massively useful – it’s given me lots to think about and build on and I’m really keen to get my teeth into the next section of the course now.

Take that self-doubt demon!

Last week I shared a few little snippets of my three assignment pieces. I really appreciated each and every comment I received – they helped me hit that button. Since sharing last time had a positive outcome I’m going to take an additional leap now and share one of the final pieces. The assignment was to illustrate song lyrics – here’s my illustration of a line from “Somewhere over the rainbow”somewhere-over-the-rainbow-blog-picAs you can see, the illustration is very literal, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but my (self-imposed) challenge for my next assignment (illustrating poems) is to think differently and come up with some more surprising interpretations.

And I will get back to some writing soon, honestly. Maybe I’ll even have a go at writing and illustrating something of my own. Who knows – it’s exciting to think of the possibilities!

Writing Bubble

 

not writing but drawing

Nope, It’s just not happening. This post is refusing to write itself. I can’t think of a single thing to say this week, or rather, I can but it’s all way too introspective and lacking in focus.

So I tell you what – I’ll show you a few pieces I’ve been working on for my illustration course. I need to submit an assignment but I’m currently doubting everything I’ve ever drawn. Perhaps sharing a bit here will get me past the hurdle. Worth a try, hey?

The assignment is to illustrate lyrics from three songs. These are just snippets of the illustrations (because I can’t bring myself to share the whole pictures):

sections-of-ilustrationsThe one on the left is for a Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris song. I put loads of work into the picture at the start of the summer and rather liked it, but have basically gone off it in the interim. The middle one is a kind of obvious illustration of a kind of obvious song. Hmmm. And as for the last one – I was going for a bit of romance and softness but, having deliberately chosen to use just pencil, I now feel like it needs colour. My attempts to add some on the computer last night (in an image manipulation program called GIMP which I can’t really get the hang of) didn’t go well.

Yes, the self doubt demon has come calling – he’s sneering in my ear right now (the squelchy git) – and it’s slowing me down. I think I probably just need to put my fingers in my ears, or, even better, play some loud music (my seven-year-old currently loves ‘Walk This Way’ by Run-D.M.C. – that should do the trick) and while the demon is temporarily incapacitated, submit something.

So, here’s a thing – a ‘sticking to my intentions via the medium of blogging’ thing. By this time next week I will have submitted the assignment. No excuses. You can hold me to that.

And once it’s done, I’ll get back to some agent hunting and manuscript submissions.

But that’s a whole other blog post.

Writing Bubble

the uplifting power of words – #ShoreToShore

grassI’ve been feeling fraught lately. Too much emotion, too much worry, too much sadness about the state of our country and our future.

But last night something wonderful happened – I went to Carol Ann Duffy’s Shore to Shore poetry tour. It was held in my local church, a lovely location at the best of times (I say that despite my atheist tendencies) but on this particular occasion it had a bar serving cask ales in it (it did – honest!) and was filled poetry and music.

Poets Gillian Clarke, Imtiaz Dharker, Jackie Kay and Gillian Allnutt all performed along side the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and with musical interludes by John Sampson. I loved it all. I’m not saying I loved each and every poem equally or that each poet affected me the same way. I think poetry is a personal thing and you can find your own meanings within the words. I let some of last night just wash over me, while other parts made me smile or laugh, and still others brought tears to my eyes. Some poems really hit home. Politics did enter the building (at a time like this how could it not?) but I had a strong sense of being surrounded by like-minded people. And we sat side by side and were immersed in thought and intelligence and warmth. It was an evening of out-and-out soul enrichment.

When I got home I wrote a poem about it. I didn’t really think about it I just walked into the room, exchanged pleasantries with my husband (‘How were the kids at bedtime? Perfectly behaved? What, did the stars align this evening or something?’), grabbed a pen and paper and the words appeared on the page. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a poem like that. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a poem.

Of course I’m terrified to share it here – because it’s a first draft and it’s raw and you might think it’s rubbish. But I want to put it somewhere because, I don’t know, there’s been so much sadness recently and the poem is about how I felt last night, remembering what’s good in life. It was transmitted so clearly through those wonderful poems from those wonderful writers and, though I can’t hope to live up to their words, they’ve given me the strength to throw a few of my own out into the world.

Poetry

They fell like raindrops
drenching parched soil –
words of beauty
of truth
of kindness,
of art and wisdom and thought.

They fell like blossom
coating tired streets –
words of culture
of insight
of education,
of rawness and emotion and love.

They fell like sunbeams
through the treetops,
a soft wind through the grasses,
warmth beside me,
gentle hands in my hair.

Prose for Thought
Writing Bubble

don’t doubt, just draw.

I started an illustration course in January and, with a ‘New Year – Raaaah’ sort of energy, immediately threw myself in to a daily drawing practice. I joined in with #ShapeChallenge on Twitter, drew picture after picture and between January and March I noticed a definite improvement in my ability. I really can’t speak highly enough of doing something creative every day. No matter how limited your abilities at the beginning (or, more to the point, how limited you THINK they are because we all seem to doubt ourselves massively!), you WILL improve and seeing that improvement spurs you on to do more and get better!

So there I was, feeling quite chuffed with myself (‘New Year Raaah’ with a tangible outcome has to be something to be proud of), when in Mid-March I was hit by a whole heap of stuff that totally derailed me from my drawing. I couldn’t find time and, because I was drawing so infrequently, everything I produced on the odd occasion I tried, was rubbish. Honestly, it made me cringe. I totally lost confidence and felt quite fed up about it all.

Then last week I gave myself a huge mental shove. I’d felt like I had no time for drawing because so much of my energy was going into blogging and running the #THISislearning campaign, so I decided to combine the two. I started doing tiny daily cartoons about the sort of activities kids love. The sort where they learn masses without even realising it. Where they experiment and persevere and imagine and create. I shared my first two in my last blog post. Here are my next three:

#THISislearning maths buns

I love maths with a positive outcome. Admittedly, “0+effort = lots” is maths only in a very general sense but still…

creative #THISislearning

I had no idea what this kid was making until I’d drawn it!

puddle fun #THISislearning

This was inspired by this post from Luisa at Teaching Tiny Minds: https://teachingtinyminds.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/making-a-river/

I did tiny pictures because somehow it helped my confidence. I’m not sure why… maybe because drawing big feels more risky (if it’s rubbish it’s a big pile of rubbish) and drawing small feels more safe (less of a potential mess)? Who knows, but I’ve enjoyed doing it.

And then a really fab thing happened – an awesome friend of mine –  Sus @MrsJTeaches – started drawing some #THISislearning pictures too. I LOVE them:

#THISislearning @MrsJTeaches
Since then, a couple of other people have expressed an interest in drawing something for the campaign too (thanks guys!) and it got me thinking that I’d love to put together a gallery of #THISislearning pictures on my blog (and share them on social media of course). And I would love you to join in!

It DEFINITELY isn’t a talent competition it’s really about having a go at something creative and having some fun. In fact, you don’t have to draw, you could paint or glue or photograph a tower of creatively poised bananas or something…

If you’d like to join in just tweet your image @writingbubble using the #THISislearning hashtag. Go on, don’t doubt yourself, create.

Writing Bubble
Post Comment Love

creativity and inspiration

You know that feeling when you start a new relationship and everything is exciting and fizzes and crackles and you can’t wait to spend time with that other person and you think about them all the time and keep smiling to yourself and feeling a little giddy? That’s how I’ve felt this past week. Only it’s not a new man (phew!) it’s a new creative avenue. I’m mad for drawing.

It all began with Twitter. Well, Twitter, and a chat with a really good friend.  You see, I was nervous about this illustration course I’d signed up to do and I thought I might procrastinate my way out of beginning it even before the course materials had arrived so, with the encouragement of this kick-ass friend of mine, I decided to throw myself in at the deep end and join in with an artistic project on Twitter.

A bit like how I felt about doing an illustration course!

A bit like how I felt about doing an illustration course!

It’s called #ShapeChallenge and is run by author and illustrator Sarah McIntyre (I love her books!). Every week day she tweets a shape and encourages anyone – people of all ages and abilities – to draw/paint/create something based on it. Everyone then tweets their creations and ‘likes’ and comments on each others pictures. It’s FAB.

I’ve joined in every day for the past week and, even better, my sons have joined in too! My older two love doing it and even their little brother sits beside them and earnestly scribbles on a piece of paper. I’ve loved watching how their brains interpret the shape and the different things they’ve come up with. It’s felt like such a positive thing to do together.

owl

Owl – by my six-year-old. The original shape was one of the wings.

submarine

‘The diver’ by my eight-year-old. The original shape made me think of a hat but this is much better!

The other people who’ve been taking part in Shape Challenge have all been so lovely and welcoming too. There are lots of ‘proper’ illustrators who do it but also plenty of children and people who just enjoy drawing. After I post our pictures for the day I always go through the feed and look at what everyone else has created – it’s hugely inspiring! Honestly, I’ve been feeling a bit high on it all!

I’ve also found the idea of drawing something and tweeting it immediately, really liberating. I think I could spend ages on a drawing and decide it’s no good but somehow, the process of this challenge – having the shape to work with and then the community to tweet it to – has allowed me to overcome the fear and doubt and just go for it. It’s also inspired me – just looking at a blank piece of paper can be intimidating, but put a little white shape (with a red dot in it) there instead and it’s amazing what your brain comes up with. I’m pretty sure that even in the space of a week, my ability has improved. I mean, ok, I’m not producing great works of art but I’ve surprised myself with how not-totally-shit it is.

howard the monster

The original shape is in the bottom corner. It took my boys a while to spot the shape in the drawing!

Even better, it’s filling me with more ideas for writing too, and making me think about ways of overcoming procrastination and blocks there. I set myself a writing challenge last week where I hoped to harness this same idea of doing something quickly and throwing it out there. Just like with drawing, it took away the stress and was really fun. I’m going to do more.

I know this is a very image-heavy post but I just want to add one final picture – in celebration of unusual plumage everywhere and because all stories need to be told. :)

Maud's unsual plumage

Be like Maud.

Writing Bubble

my big, new, (not so) secret project

As my regular readers know, I’ve put a lot of time into my writing these past few years. The whole point of this blog was to chart my journey into this brave new world and hopefully meet some lovely people on the way – which I have!
path into a book

When I began, I wasn’t sure which direction my writing was going to take me and, in fact, it’s taken me in all sorts of different ones – I’ve written poetry, short stories and flash fiction all while working on a novel (or two). But what’s gripped me most has been writing my limericks, which I plan on having illustrated and self-publishing, and my picture books, two of which are currently out with agents.  With limited time at my disposal, they (and this blog) have been my focus.

The fact that both of these either need or benefit from illustrations means I’ve spent a lot of time looking into illustrative styles and wondering who I might like to work with. I’ve also thought a lot about what pictures could go with my stories and poems and how images could complement words. And through it all I’ve found myself saying repeatedly ‘I can see pictures in my head but I couldn’t possibly draw them myself’. It almost became a mantra – this admission of one ability alongside a simultaneous dismissal of the possibility of another.

This, despite the fact that I’ve always loved art – it was my favourite subject at school (well, that and creative writing). I took Art GCSE and, although I was guided away from it after that by the school’s careers adviser (bright kids had to study ‘proper’ A levels you see… don’t get me started!), I returned to it in my mid-twenties and did a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design. I can’t think about that year without smiling – I LOVED it! I specialised in textiles and ended up setting up my own business designing and making handbags. Then other things happened, including a recession and having kids and, to cut a long story short, I no longer do anything arty at all. Bar the odd picture on this blog, all my creative energy is poured into my writing.

But then over Christmas an idea popped into my head. Why not return to visual art? Why not study illustration? I mean, imagine if I could learn to illustrate my own work?! A whole life of unbridled bliss rolled itself out in my mind – one where I could spend time gazing out of a window thinking up beautiful stories to spill over a page, and then cosy up in my rustic studio surrounded by paints and pencils to bring those stories to life with pictures. I could eat toast and marmite looking wistful with a smear of turquoise ink across my cheek, do the school run with a notepad tucked in the back of my paint-splattered jeans. My children would be surrounded by stories and art and we would all live a life of unending creativity and imagination… ahhhh…

And then I got real.

And the doubts set in.

What on earth am I thinking? I don’t have the ability, I’m setting myself up to fail, what makes me think I could possibly make a success of being an illustrator? Surely anyone else would be better at illustrating my work than I am? How can I find time to write AND draw when I can hardly find time just to write? Who am I kidding?!

I almost talked myself out of it. But not quite. Because I have this really strong feeling that if I don’t give it a go, I’ll regret it. I feel like I’ve been trying to tell myself something by (accidentally) focusing on writing that goes hand in hand with drawing. It’s like I’ve been leading myself somewhere and I’ve only just taken the blindfold off and seen what’s always been there.

I’m not deluded though – I know that regardless of how things go, my life won’t be just like the one I imagined above. I don’t have a rustic studio for a start, nor do I have much time for window gazing and anyway, any success involves knuckling down to do the hard graft rather than looking wistfully paint-splattered. But it’s good to have a dream!

Who knows if I will be any good? Who knows if I’ll even be able to illustrate anything at all? Perhaps my dream will collapse like a bad soufflé. It scares me (really quite a bit actually).

But I’m willing to give it a go. So I’ve signed up to an illustration course – a distance learning one that I can do at my own pace (within limits) which I think is the most realistic way of juggling it with my other commitments and passions (I have no intention at all of giving up writing!). It feels like the first step on a new path – a twisty, turny path I suspect, for which I haven’t got a map or a compass. But I do have a sturdy backpack with some sandwiches and a flask of hot chocolate. And I’m kind of hoping that, through this blog, some of you will be able to be my companions along the way.

***

I’m linking this post up with ‘The Prompt’ at Mum Turned Mom. The word this week is ‘paint’ – I couldn’t quite believe it when I saw it and thought it had to be ‘a sign’ (I don’t believe in signs but still, I needed something to make me take action rather than just continue mulling the idea over…)

mumturnedmom

Writing Bubble

building confidence – #WhatImWriting

Confidence can be a slippery beast. As a writer, I find it can ebb and flow like the tide, rushing in to joyfully knock me off my feet when I’m in the zone (‘Yes! this is going brilliantly!’) and then retreating to the horizon when it comes to showing my work to anyone else (‘Argh! They might think it’s rubbish!’).

waves darkAdmittedly, I’m getting better at keeping my feet wet these days. When I first set up this blog two and a half years ago I published two posts, didn’t mention to anyone that I’d written them (I’m not sure I’d even joined Twitter at that point) then within 24 hours I took them down and ran away from the blog for a whole year… and all because I was too scared of people reading ANYTHING I’d written. Even when I finally plucked up the courage to start writing and publishing posts, it took me a while longer to start posting any of my poetry or fiction because, well… what if people hated it? What if they confirmed my darkest fears and said, “Think you can write?! Ha! You’ll never get anywhere!”?

But I finally took the leap and did post my creative writing and people weren’t like that at all; they were lovely. And that’s one of the things I’ve found in the blogging world over the last eighteen months, in general, people are just that: lovely. They leave lovely comments and send lovely tweets. They support you and appreciate the support you offer them. They become your friends. Oh what a lot of time and worry I could have saved myself if I’d assumed that from the start!

I was thinking about this last week when I was lucky enough to find myself at a confidence building/media training workshop run by Jon Hammond. Now, you might be thinking ‘confidence workshop? Is that the sort of thing where you’re forced to do horrible exercises that make you really uncomfortable in order to overcome your fears?’ And I did have an awful thought en-route to the workshop that maybe I would be made to stand on a rooftop shouting “I’m a strong, confident woman!” to passers-by. Eeep. But thankfully my fears were unfounded and no rooftop declarations were necessary to ensure the sense of confidence I came out of the session with.

statue in paris

NOT me making an announcement from the top of a building (although the likeness is uncanny).

Jon spoke about human beings’ natural fear of new situations (which makes sense from an evolutionary perspective) and how such situations can send us into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Just as our ancestors would have reacted to the approach of a woolly mammoth with fear, we now view the prospect of public speaking – or often any other event that involves a crowd of unknown people – with the same fear. We spoke about how counter-productive this is – you’re never going to give the best presentation or make the best impression on people when you’re viewing them as a hoard of marauding beasts that need to be escaped from or jabbed with a spear!

Although the workshop was based around public speaking I think this idea applies equally well to confidence about writing. Ok, the actual writing bit doesn’t usually have us running scared but what’s the point of being writer if no one ever reads anything we write? And it’s the ‘being read’ that normally provokes those flight or flight responses. Sometimes we give up before we’ve even tried, view our potential readers as those scary beasts and don’t even put our work out there.

He's coming to get you! RUN!

He’s coming to get you! RUN!

To overcome some of this, rather than seeing an audience as a threat, Jon suggested that when meeting new people – or putting ourselves in front of an audience of any sort  – we think of them as friends. That we approach them as ourselves and not put up a false-front based on how we think we should be behaving. That we don’t wind ourselves up beforehand about how awful it’s going to be but instead tell ourselves ‘oh, this is going to be enjoyable, I’m going to have some lovely chats.’ or something of the sort.

Obviously this is easier said than done for those of us who tend to lurk by the snack table at the back. But thinking both positively and logically, the chances are, when you approach people in a friendly way (rather than avoiding conversation and hoping to be mistaken for a pot plant) they will reciprocate. As I discovered with blogging, despite my fear of looking like a talentless idiot, most people don’t remotely treat you this way. If you’re friendly, they’ll be friendly back. And before you know it you’re just talking to friends and, well, what’s scary about that?

Let's be friends (but maybe not lick each other).

Let’s be friends! (But maybe not lick each other.)

Still, when Jon first encouraged us to take this approach I think there was a certain amount of ‘yeah, great, but that’s easy for you to say, you’re all confident and stuff – this comes naturally to you’. And who could blame us? But nope. Turns out Jon’s shy. You’d never believe it because he doesn’t act like it. He doesn’t act like it because he’s realised this approach works and he’s used it… and in using it, it’s become second nature. You know that whole thing about ‘when you act a part for long enough then it stops being acting’? That. Only all you need to do is act like the natural self you are with family and friends. You’re just having the confidence to be that you with people you don’t know.

Another thing that helped me here was Jon’s message to ‘be your audience.’ Whether you’re doing a presentation to a room full of people, going before a small interview panel, or submitting a book to an agent, think of things from their point of view. Put yourself in their shoes. Empathise. It’s much easier to make a connection with people that way and the idea of them as friends immediately feels more genuine.

There was masses more involved in the workshop (and Jon has written a book about his methods if you’re interested) but a final message that resonated for me was if you’re nervous about a situation or a decision, to challenge yourself with, ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’. Many of us live our lives held back by various fears, imagining somehow that if we say this or do that then someone might laugh at us, or be mean, or that we’ll feel stupid etc. etc. ad infinitum. The reality is often far from this and we could be missing out on all sorts of positive possibilities: that someone might find us funny (in a good way) or be kind to us or make us feel really clever or appreciated. We miss out on so much because we’re scared. I know I have done.

But not anymore!

Well… at least let’s say it’s the start of my journey to that destination anyway. I was certainly on a bit of a high after the session. I felt really inspired and imbued with a sense of, ‘Yes! I can do this! I WILL get published!’ Half way through the drive home I almost pulled into a layby to record the awesome ideas of awesomeness I was convinced would take me to my own book signings within the year.

Of course I calmed down and reality set in. Book signings are still a distant dream and my ideas now seem only tinged with a glint of awesomeness rather than being being the all-out dazzling awesome I considered at the time. But, BUT, that little tinge is enough. The fire has been lit under the idea and it’s now flickering away enticingly. A plan has begun to form in my mind. It involves limericks and illustrations and self-publishing. It involves educating, developing and promoting myself. It involves ‘becoming my audience’, working out what they need and how to give it to them. And most of all it involves not being scared.

What’s the worst that could happen? The worst that could happen is that I never have the confidence to try.

And that, my friends, is quite simply not an option.

***

***I just wanted to share this stuff with you. This is not in any sense a sponsored post (although Jon, If you’re reading, I do like After Eights ;) )***

Muddled Manuscript

 

Linking to #ThePrompt which, this week is “To be a… “. Confidence is all about the ability to be whoever or whatever you want to be! (this post also could have fitted with either of the prompts for the last two weeks too but I didn’t get it written in time… )
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from behind the sofa

20140922_104608Yeah so I’m hiding behind the sofa. I’ve lobbed the laptop out of the window and I’m hiding where no one can find me. Specifically where the laptop and the story can’t find me because the story needs to find someone else to write it and the laptop is full of drivel.

Urgh.

Yes, I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself. I thought I was making progress with the novel – another 2500 words written in the last few days – but then I read a bit back and oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

Basically I’m floundering. I set off with an idea and a plan that – if I was writing a short story – would have been perfectly adequate but for a novel kind of leaves me high and dry. I’ve now written myself beyond the point where I had a plan and, although I know roughly where I’m going, I have lots of plot strands that I have no idea how to pull together. Honestly I’m starting to wonder if I have it in me to write a novel at all.

In contrast to this, I write quite a bit of flash fiction these days and one of the things I love about that is that the focus is small. You’re not trying to pull a zillion different strands together. You can go for simplicity and purity and intensity. You can work on the same couple of lines and hone them from a rough lump of rock to a smooth, gleaming pebble. I wrote a piece of flash fiction for my blog earlier this week. I didn’t work on it for long enough to get it smooth and gleaming (not even close) but even in the space of an hour I saw it go from an idea, to a rough outline, to a story that I thought was quite touching. And that was so satisfying, you know? And I compare that to how I’m currently feeling about my novel and it makes me wonder what on earth I’m doing. Maybe novel writing is not for me? Maybe I should work on improving my skills in other departments. I always did love a short story.

But then, I’ve come this far. I’ve written over 50,000 words. And I have other book ideas swimming round in my head too. I can’t just give up all my dreams of becoming a novelist now can I? Surely not. If someone could give me a hearty kick up the bum (metaphorically speaking, of course) I’d be very appreciative.