There are very few similarities between the way I write fiction and the way I write my blog posts.
Fiction work takes me hours, revision after revision, carefully fiddling to find the right adjective, the right sentence structure … Blog posting is a far speedier process. I try to approach my blog like I’m talking to a friend. A chatty discussion as opposed to carefully sketching out a picture.
But there’s something which ties all of my written work together, and that’s finding connections.
I can remember studying English Lit at school and excitedly tracing themes and images through books, to then translate the connections I found into essays. Years on, and while I don’t have any essays to write any more, I still enjoy joining the literary dots. Whether I’m writing a blog post or a chapter of a novel, I often find myself making connections between ideas and events, to come up with the final product, and in this way my blog posts tend to write themselves, a collection of themes and ideas that weave together to form an idea loosely linked to writing.
Take today for example. My day started reading one of many lovely comments on a recent blog post of mine. In the comment, another writer remarked that writing isn’t a competition. Authors aren’t competing against one another. We’re colleagues, not competitors, and so we need to work together and share our collective knowledge of an otherwise opaque industry.
Then this afternoon a friend on Facebook had a chain letter-style status declaring exactly where she was in life several years ago, and asking those who read it to work out where they were that year.
Finally this evening, as I pounded the streets of my home town on yet another Marathon training run, I realised in a lot of ways, I’m right back to where I was in 2002.
That year was my gap year. I had my first full time job, was newly single, living at home and running every spare hour of the day. It was one of the most fun years I had. Heaps of cash, peak fitness, and an amusing string of hopeless and hilarious dates, many of which have become dinner party annecdotes.
The thing is, nine years on, on paper I’m in the exact same place. Whilst friends of a similar age are buying their first house, getting married and having babies, as far as a stalk of my Facebook goes, I’m still very much a teenager. I live at home, just broke up with a not-very-serious boyfriend, and am in a non-career job.
When I look at my life that way, it’s hard not to feel like I’ve failed somehow, or I’m behind the rest of the pack … and yet that isn’t how I feel at all! I love my life … and to be honest, I loved my life at 19! But what I’m trying to say ISN”T that it’s great to be single and have no commitments when you’re 27 … (though it can be!) … it’s to say that life isn’t just about what’s on paper. Life isn’t a snapshot, or a comparison, and to be honest, if you live your life comparing it to other peoples, you’re going to miss out on a lot of fun.
My life isn’t as simple as being single, living at home, running, and working … the parallels I drew between 27 year-old me and 19 year-old me! In the last eight years I’ve achieved so many things … gone to so many places I could never have dreamed of. Anyone who regularly reads the blogs will know my life is anything but ordinary, and has had it’s ups and downs, but all in all, if I did the past eight years again, I’d do it all the same. And I’d end up right back in the same place …. A place I was at 19 too!
The thing is, by comparing myself to other people, I’m only going to make myself miserable … I don’t have a house, or a nice car, or a husband, or kids …. yet. But that doesn’t mean I’ll never have those things, I just haven’t got there yet.
And yet, if I compare myself to 19 year old me … the me that lived in this village, and pounded the same pavements I pound every night as I train for the Budapest Marathon … well in that case I come out trumps. 19 year old me hadn’t travelled the world, written two novels, done two degrees, or done any of the other weird and wonderful things I’ve done since I was her …
The moral of my story isn’t just about life …
It can also apply to your writing!
As an aspiring author, I’m faced day after day with other peoples’ work. Other peoples’ successes. The minute I decided I wanted to become a published author, one of my favourite pastimes – reading – became a reminder that I hadn’t made it yet.
But you can’t think like that while you’re trying to get published. As all the amazing comments on my blog post ‘Just the Advice I Needed’ reminded me, writing ISN”T a competition, and authors aren’t in competition with one another. Someone else’s success ISN”T your failure, and you have to remember what a long process getting recognised and published can be! Instead of measuring yourself up against other writers, measure yourself against a younger you … What have you achieved in YOUR writing over the past few years? Maybe you finished a chapter, maybe you finished a book? Maybe you came up with a concept? Maybe you found an agent? Maybe you touched on my current Holy Grail and secured a publishing deal? Or maybe you’re JK and just nailed another billion 😉
Set your own goal posts! And don’t look away from them, coz everyone else is playing on a different pitch! (Mixing my sporting metaphors now, I know 🙂 )
But seriously, the only person you need to compete against is yourself … do the best you can! And if you concern yourselves with other authors, use them for advice and inspiration, not to make yourself feel worse about your current situation!