The Journey is the Reward

imagesIn the build up to Book Week Scotland 2015 in November, the Scottish Book Trust has posed the question, ‘Have you walked a new path, taken the road less travelled or been faced with a crossroads?’

SBT have provided an opportunity to share a personal story on their website and become part of their national campaign to get Scotland writing.

Here’s the challenge…

Write about a journey in your life. This could be a real journey or an emotional journey, the day you stepped out into the unknown. Did you end up where you planned to go? Did the experience mark a turn in the road or show you the way forward?

download (1)To trigger ideas for the ‘Journeys’ theme, SBT organised a series of free writing workshops across Scotland and when I saw that Jenni Fagan was the writer leading a workshop at the Central Library in Edinburgh I rushed to book a place. I LOVED Jenni’s book, The Panopticon and have previously heard her talk about her writing so I was really keen to take part in her workshop.

Jenni set the scene with some quotes connected to the theme of ‘Journeys’ and my favourite was, “The only journey is the one within” – Rainer Maria Rilke.  This quote related to the Five Dials piece Jenni shared with us that she wrote on letter writing and her life’s journey.

To get us thinking about our own writing, Jenni asked the group to write about why we write and also our earliest memories of reading and writing. The questions made me reflect on how I have developed as a writer and a person. When I was wee, I was a ‘teacher’s pet’ and used my reading and writing ability to fulfill my desire to be a ‘people pleaser’. This need for validation to feed my self-confidence lasted well into my adult years and seeped into my writing. It meant I held back for fear of upsetting or offending a reader until finally I realised that I can’t please everyone and that my writing had to be truthful. This has been an emotional and intellectual journey that’s taken years and one which I’m still on.

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Close up of my favourite tile on the wall of the Central Library. The letter ‘H’ is from a quote from the Book of Proverbs and states, “‘Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom and with all thy getting, get understanding”. Very apt for a learning journey in a library!

But from the writing prompts which Jenni provided, the one that immediately inspired me was, ‘Write about a journey that starts with fear‘. I remembered a physical journey I took when racing to A & E after my youngest son was injured at school. The emotions from that day are still vivid and as Jenni suggested I will write 100 words on this memory to see if I’m fired up to continue writing. If not, then I’ll dabble with the other writing prompts such as, ‘Write about a journey you were forced to take: grief, separation, illness‘ which instantly reminds me of the trauma of my dad’s sudden death.  Or I’ll try something more light-hearted like my ‘journey’ to lose weight. Who knows yet which path the workshop will lead me down…

As well as spending an afternoon meeting other lovely writers such as Catherine Simpson and Marie-Thérèse Taylor,  I made the journey home energised and keen to write about a journey which meant a lot to me.

Fancy writing about your journey? You can submit your entry here. And if you’re looking for great examples, I recommend reading the submissions by Stephen Watt, Angela Hughes and Nicola Burkhill – a talented trio of writers.

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* Postscript*

It was hard to choose a journey to write about but in the end I settled on the one involving my son’s emergency admission to hospital. If you’d like to read, Burn Rubber, it’s now online on the SBT website.

http://scottishbooktrust.com/writing/journeys/story/burn-rubber

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And the winner is…

downloadAnd the winner is…Not me! (but many congratulations to Alex Morgan on her winning novel).  After months of waiting for the final verdict I got the news that my shortlisted entry to the Hookline Novel Competition wasn’t successful. Disappointed? Of course I was! If I didn’t want to win then why would I’ve entered? (and paid the hefty £50 fee to add to the hunners I’ve already spent on pursuing the dream).

So you’d expect a self-confessed drama queen like me would be gutted to get the bad news that my last novel had failed to be published and there’d be tears and snotters. My reaction was subdued, not because I didn’t care but because I’m now used to dealing with rejection, it comes with the territory of being a writer.

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Heartbreaking viewing.

Also, I wasn’t sobbing because I got the ‘bad’ news email just before I switched on the news to see Fernando Ricksen break down in tears while explaining that he has been diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease. It doesn’t matter that Fernando is a handsome, gifted, wealthy sportsman; his world has been turned upside down and he now has to cope with an incurable muscle wasting illness. If I needed a sense of perspective then the evening news slapped me across the chops. And yet I still enjoyed wrapping myself up in the comfort blanket of clichés my close family and friends kindly offered when I shared my ‘bad’ news and said I was still a winner in their eyes.

But the interesting part of the process was that I got feedback from the book groups which selected the winner. This might initially seem like a valuable starting point for a rewrite. Wrong. The response to my novel was a love/hate batch of random comments.

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How do I respond to statements like, Clever story, interestingly resolved” versus Rather predictable and plodding”.

The answer is I can’t!

I have to write the story that I want to write and not one that I think others might enjoy because I will never please everybody.

The result made me reflect on two excellent blog posts I’d read this week. ‘Writing Terrors’ written by Catherine Simpson for the Scottish Book Trust dealt with the concept of fear experienced by writers. I read it and could relate to everything Catherine lists as fears associated with calling yourself a writer and add a few more! As I waited on the final outcome from Hookline, although I desperately wanted to win, my perverse fear was of success and worrying about what the next stage would involve (a wasted night’s sleep!).

But the seemingly negative result also made me reflect on another thought-provoking blog post. In it Dan Holloway asks writers to take time to consider what appears to be a simple question, “What do you want from your writing?” And to nail that mission statement in a one liner. Dan’s aim as a writer is to Help those whose identities are marginalised or confused to figure out who they are, and then to be that person and no one else.”

Every writer measures their success in different ways but if the only reason I write was to have my novel published then I didn’t need to enter the competition, I could’ve easily uploaded my novel on to Amazon and called myself a published writer. So why do I write novels despite remaining unpublished in the traditional sense?

The answer is in the name of this blog. I believe I’m a natural storyteller with a way with words. I want to entertain folk with my stories that’s my one liner. Not everyone will enjoy reading these words but they’re MY words and I’ll keep writing them even if they don’t win prizes!

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