Welcome to the end of another week friends!
I’ve been flat out with uni this week (and done some training sessions designed by James’s coach–or by me, why do I do this to myself?–that have wiped me out), and realised at an inconvenient moment this morning that I had nothing ready for this blog. Noooooooo! But pressure makes diamonds and I’ve been wanting to talk about this topic for a while now, which is how we, as human beings and regardless of what our chosen or inspired purpose is, find our meaning for keeping on.
As I have mentioned in the past, it is easy to become creatively disheartened, whether that be about blogging or writing (be it fiction or non-fiction). As a writer, it is easy to be discouraged by continual rejections, especially when these are form rejections: at least a personalised rejection can remind you that you are actually a human being, or possibly offer some advice or encouragement. As someone who is passionately interested in social justice and human rights issues, it can be incredibly frustrating to feel as though you’re shouting into the void and no one listens or cares about the things you want to talk about.
Amidst all this frustration and disappointment, what are you meant to do?
First of all, I guess I believe, to some extent, in the ‘conserve and protect’ method—I don’t actually know if that’s a thing, I think I’ve just coined it here and now—which basically means that when you’re wounded, withdrawing into yourself for a while to process and find a way forward. After what really feels like countless submission rejections and innumerable competitions entered with very little positive results, I’ve felt wounded. For me, that means that it’s time to take a break from writing competitions. I know there are a lot of other writers who use these competitions for inspiration, to galvanise their writing, for competition feedback, or as a way of networking with other writers, but those have never driven me. A great many larger competitions don’t offer feedback for obvious reasons, and amongst those that do I’ve found that its predominantly complete and utter crap… So that’s hardly enough to spur me to spend money on entering.
Writing competitions for me have been more about putting my work out into the world and hoping to get some recognition of it… And when that repeatedly fails to happen, you have a couple of choices. Either everything I’ve ever written is terrible and doesn’t deserve to see the light of day—not so sure I’m convinced of that just yet—or it’s just not the right time for me. As a writer, there’s the need to constantly remind myself that I’m artistically young and my writing is still developing: which, believe you me, isn’t a very encouraging thoughts some days. But I am, and it is, and that means patience. It also means that in a world spinning too fast for me to keep up—university and training take up a pretty significant amount of my time—it’s better for me to strive to reduce my stress, rather than add to it. It’s also worthwhile spending some time examining and strengthening my novel, and exploring other tales I want to tell. I don’t want to be disappointed, disheartened and frustrated with writing: I want to love it. And there are very few times when I love it more than when I’m writing without goal or plan at six am, and my brain leads me a merry dance.
I want to write for the rest of my life… And that means pursuing writing in a way that permits me that longevity and allows me to keep loving it.
Secondly—as a conversation with my Dad a few months ago reminded me—for the vast majority of us, saving the world isn’t really an option. He reminded me of the starfish parable. After a particularly terrible storm, the beach was covered in millions of starfish washed ashore by the wildness of the surf. A lone man walked along it, stopping to pick up every starfish he came across, and throwing it back into the water. Another man* came up to him and asked him what he was doing.
“I’m throwing the starfish back in,” the first man replied calmly.
“Why?! There are millions of them on this beach, there’s no way you can rescue them all. What difference does it make?”
The first man bent over and picked up another starfish. He threw it into the water.
“It made a difference to that one.” He answered.
We too, can throw starfish, even though we must realistically accept on some level that we can’t save every starfish we can see. And just as I know that I’m a young writer, so too is this blog young and still growing, learning and developing: there is no knowing what can become possible in time. For now though, if passionately and enthusiastically pursuing social justice issues through writing and talking about them enables me to connect meaningfully with even one person, then maybe that’s enough. That’s a hard lesson to teach yourself: we all want to save or change the world. Having chosen writing as a medium through which to do that, it can be incredibly difficult to feel as though you’re not being read, you’re not connecting with anyone, that what you’re trying to do is unseen and unappreciated. But (as James has told me more than once), I do know that there are people who read this blog, and who connect meaningfully with some of the things I talk about.
So I’m going to keep going, and I’m going to keep getting better—both as a writer and as an activist—and I’m going to keep throwing starfish back into the ocean, because to that one starfish, I can make a difference.
Have a beautiful weekend everyone.
*Why they’re both men in this parable, I don’t know, but I think it’s time to re-write it.