Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The New Year of Writing Starts Today

I've decided to take myself in hand, because I have been drifting. I've been drifting away from my own writing, letting so many other things take over. And I don't mean editing The Short Review, because that is something I love, which involves reading short stories, reading reviews of short story collections, interviewing authors of short story collections - heaven, in other words.

No, what has been causing (or I should say, what I have been doing to cause) the drift is a building obsession with submissions. I have been spending more and more time looking for places to send stories, looking at details of competitions, sending stories off and then waiting, clicking, re-loading, emailing, to see if the results are in, to see if my story has been accepted. I keep a spreadsheet-like document to track all my submissions and also to remind myself of upcoming deadlines. But now I have been thinking of what I can write to submit to themed issues of magazines, which of my stories might be good to send to competitions...and I realised that I was trying to write FOR someone, FOR something. And I had completely lost that joyous feeling of writing just for me.

This actually has been put in perspective by the responses I have been getting by authors to my interview questions for The Short Review. Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing, I asked. And almost everyone said, No. And that's when I realised that I had lost this path.... Ever since my book deal (maybe even before) I had begun to write with specific ends in mind: publication, success. And now I can barely write at all. I write flashes for the weekly challenges in my online writing groups, but this is not supposed (for me) to be all the writing I am doing. That's mainly supposed to be something enormously fun, something that binds me to a community, and something that keeps my fingers moving.

But where are my new stories? Nowhere. I haven't written any. What have I been sending off to magazines and competitions? Old stories, older stories - Yes, the ones that will be published in my collection in June, that are guaranteed publication. Why am I still sending them out? Because I don't have anything else. And that has got to change.

So today I took myself in hand - I cancelled all subscriptions to email lists with calls for submissions, contest guidelines. I deleted my RSS feeds with more of the same. I don't want to know. Not now. I don't want anything tugging at me now except my desire to write, to get to know new characters and find out what happens to them. I have a huge headache today, don't know what it is... but I can only hope it is because my head is so full of voices that I am not listening to, whose stories want to be told, that finally they started knocking and insisting I let them out.

The New Year of writing starts now!


CTaylor said...

I can really identify with that feeling Tania. Until very recently I was doing exactly the same myself. My aim for 2008 is to put the joy back into writing rather than it being what it was last year - a big ol submission, submission, submission slog. I want to write because I feel inspired, because I can't not - and not because a comp is coming up that I don't have an entry for!

TitaniaWrites said...

Hi Cally, it's good to know it is not just me. Somethingabout the Internet makes it too easy to hear about calls for submissions, competitions etc... Too much information. I hope this is a great year of writing for you too!


Sarah Hilary said...

Me too *raises guilty hand* plus editing the novel for others rather than myself. It's such an easy trap to fall into. I have a new novel to write and so little free time to write it, that I cannot believe I'm frittering away that time. I think it's partly that daunted - brink of the precipice - thing that comes with a new writing task (can I do it? what if I can't? what if I only had one book in my and I'm all dried up? what if the words don't come) but mainly it's poor management of my own time and my own goals. I've been writing for pleasure, for myself, since I was eight. I've always loved feedback, which I suspect is part of my problem, but let's put the love back into the hard work! You're right. Is there a pledge I can sign?