Tubthumping

This morning’s earworm (and blog title) are largely self-explanatory:

Why is this your earworm, Sarah?

The e-mail came late, because (presumably) the people running the contest have day jobs making this very much an evening task. It was the first time in nearly two years I got some tension/drama too, because to find out whether I’d been long-listed or not meant a click through to a website. Actually, of everything I’ve failed at thus far, this felt the most professional. This then led me to be looking at Twitter when somebody else joyfully announced they’d been long-listed for another contest, which clearly I’ve not won either.

I mentioned to Julia the last time I saw her that this weekend had the potential to be rough, because March 1st clearly is when lots of people wake up properly after Christmas and the wheels of competitive industry start properly grinding for the year. It meant that yesterday I added FOUR new potential means of failure to my Submissions Deadlines calendar. It became apparent a few months ago I need a visual list of dates, or else I just forget what matters. Now I have it, June’s already packed.

Instead of taking March completely off (it transpires a few days of not thinking too hard was all I really needed) I’ve scheduled 4 poems and a short story, plus a proposal for becoming a Poet in Residence. On top of that there’s a second proposal to send off tomorrow on top of the fiction project which, amazingly, seems to be moving under its own steam fairly well. That’s being earmarked as complete before one of my new June cut-off points.

What this month will be remembered for is learning the next skill level of ‘Multi-Function Organisation’ because the second Twitter account really has become a godsend. There’s also, very crucially, an emergent mental ability to be able to switch between two very distinct worlds. It’s a bit of a shock when they suddenly overlap, but the fact they do is a salutatory reminder of how small a world this really is. If you know creatives, there’s a good chance that overlaps exist in circles of association even you weren’t aware of.

That means, that like it or not, knowing when to keep quiet is a life skill I really need to keep practising. It also meant an apology was sent last night via email that many would consider unnecessary, but I still believe was essential. A lot has happened in the last 24 hours that I’m still attempting to process. How that affects things going forward is still unclear, but there’s an awful lot to think about. Good public conduct is essential as a professional. Knowing who’s reading is also fairly important to the responses you then present.

Nobody said any of this was going to be easy.

Last Train to Transcentral

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Today is certainly not the first to involve literary disappointment. By 5pm I will be sad, but that maudlin state undoubtedly will be short lived. That’s the problem when you enter contests and someone else wins. However much I could sit the night before and imagine myself as successful, the harsh reality of modern publishing is that inevitably you have to do an awful lot of work for little to no return. For all the sweat and angst  expended, there are thousands of people doing the same. If gambling has taught me anything, it is that odds are not worth knowing, because they won’t ever help in the end. What you need, like it or not, is the patience of a saint and the ability to keep bashing your head against a wall until you die.

I’ve also discovered it helps if you’re rich too: the poem I submitted yesterday (for a contest I’ll hear the results of in December) politely asked for an entry fee before I could enter. The next mentorship I’m considering asks the same for each poem submitted, up to a maximum of six. In this case it’s a sure fire means of raising cash to pay for the mentoring, but I can’t help but feel that somewhere, something is not right. I haven’t really investigated the world of novel submission yet, but even the thought of this currently is enough to give me the vapours. Now I’m serious and capable of a finished manuscript, it will be 2018’s task to get that bandwagon finally rolling.

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Of course, all of this is simply sauce for a metaphorical goose. I don’t need to expound on the health benefits of writing and that the significance of doing so is continuing to outweigh the desire for critical acknowledgement, but these bills won’t pay themselves. So, whilst I write blogs and essays, poems and fiction need to start pulling their weight considerably more than is currently the case. Throwing work at contests and mentorship chances could end up driving a lesser woman to madness is all I ever get as feedback is silence: ‘no correspondence will be entered into’ is the equivalent of a door slammed unceremoniously in your face, multiple times.

Yet, I know only too well that to be successful, that failure is essential. You must learn from every poem, grasp the significance of each unsuccessful attempt, and hope exasperation can be kept to a minimum. The belief must be that if you are truly good enough, eventually, someone will notice. However, would I be more attractive as a writer  if I paid to submit six poems to my mentorship scheme as opposed to, say, only three? Do I have to ensure I hit a specific word count for a story to show I ‘understand my genre’ or can I just write from sheer love of the task? A lot is expected from authors in the modern world. Knowing how to social media successfully is probably quite a way down that list.

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What is becoming apparent, at least from behind the screens I now inhabit, is that failure is relative. I’m never lost for things to do of late. There’s never a day where I ponder what there is to be done. Boredom has become utterly non-existent. As I sat yesterday afternoon between two guys at the Gym, both of whom were using lighter weights than I was, it became apparent that success isn’t just relative but increasingly subjective. I can’t confidently handle a mountain bike, yet doing upright rows with 16kg weights is second nature. Everybody has to start somewhere. Not stressing about outcome allows process to become habit, and fear to no longer hamstring your progress.

Yesterday’s poem was possibly the most personal thing I have ever written, and by doing so an important mental block has shifted. I am no longer afraid of allowing genuine, unfettered emotion a release through my work. This ultimately will never be anything other than a Good Thing [TM] and knowing this means that in the next few weeks, nothing and nobody is safe in terms of subject matter.

I am ready to deal with disappointment, however it decides to manifest.