Earlier this week, Fiona posed a question to me and Gabbie: how do we pull ourselves off the writing cliff? In other words, when the rejections start rolling in, when the novel just doesn’t seem to be working, when it all seems too hard, how do we stop ourselves from giving up?
My first thought was wow what an interesting question. My second was how the hell do I answer that? I’ve never really thought about it before. And I think it comes down to one thing – giving up is not even an option for me because writing in itself is the reason I’m writing in the first place.
For years I dreamed of being a writer but never thought I’d be one. I was on a path of academia, chasing a traditional career. For me this meant I didn’t have much time for anything else, as when it comes to study I’m a bit of a psycho. I learned that from my mother. Growing up, I watched her pursue her dream of attaining university qualifications – this entailed her waking up at 2.00am in the morning and studying all the way to 5.00pm in the afternoon every single day. She was that dedicated (and of course her ultimate results reflected that dedication – she got straight 7s – which, to anyone not Australian, is the highest score you can get). So I grew up seeing there is no limit to hard work if you want to achieve something – and followed that example in my own endeavours.
I got my degrees (law and business) and my graduate diploma in legal practice, and set out on the next leg of my journey.
And then I realised it wasn’t enough.
I still wanted to be a writer. But lucky for me I was finally in a position to pursue this dream. So that’s what I did. And six years on I’m still chasing that rabbit down the rabbit hole.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times it gets tough. I’ve had my fair share of rejections and disappointments. I’ve realised my book is crap (excuse my French) more than once and doubted my abilities. But I’ve never given up. I’ve picked myself up and barrelled down the road again. I’ve wracked my brain for a fix to my broken novel and then rewritten it once, twice and then a third time for good measure (yes, to date I have four versions of my first novel – versions one and two being completely different, version three and four, revisions). I’ve resigned myself to the fact my novel might never be published, imagined up three other novels I’m desperate to write, and set myself to the task of completing my second book.
And you know what? Honestly, not once have I seriously entertained the idea of giving up. I’ve asked myself that age-old question every writer pursuing publication asks themselves at some time or another – if I knew I was never going to be published, would I still keep writing? – and answered in the positive.
And it’s not only because of all that stuff I wrote about up there ↑ , it’s also because of all the amazing experiences I’ve had and all the wonderful people I’ve met along the way (and yes, Fiona, Gabbie, Karen and the very special Lorelle, this means you) :).
So, dear Fiona, to answer your question, that’s how I pull myself off the writing cliff – I remember the road I’ve travelled to get here, I recall the experiences writing has brought to my life and the things I’ve learned, I feel the joy creating and sharing my work instills within me, and I think of all the stories I have left to write.
I also keep in mind what’s over the edge of that cliff – a life without writing. To me, no existence could be sadder. A life without writing would be a life without colour, without dreams, without magic.
For me writing is like being in love – it’s forever. And in the immortal words of Dido:
I will go down with this ship.
And I won’t put my hands up and surrender
There will be no white flag above my door
I’m a writer and always will be.