There is an element of feast or famine to the writer’s life that can make even the most resilient lose faith. Particularly for novelists, there will be many years of writing with blind hope keeping them going and determination that not only will they finish the masterpiece, it will also be published and read by millions. This obvious success may never happen, and if it doesn’t, it’s on to the next project, the next grand passion and the whole cycle starts again.
I’ve had a lean couple of years. I’ve been writing, yes, but there have been manuscripts rejected by agents, short stories ignored in competitions, scripts just sitting on my laptop thinking they were invisible. All this output with so little purpose.
But sometimes, just occasionally, those lean times suddenly become plentiful and your creative tree is full with fruit. This month I had a short story and a piece of flash fiction accepted (indeed I received a cheque in the post this week, whoop whoop!), then I had a request to submit two radio plays (both works-in-progress with no guarantee of acceptance, but heck, someone want to read them), and I’ve nearly finished a couple of short stories I’ve been working on for the new website. And finally, next weekend, I’m going to be sitting down with The Editor and an inexhaustible supply of coffee, and we’re going to download The Big Deep to Kindle. In theory, if the technology is kind to us, it will be available to buy bright and early the following week.
It’s no wonder I had a dream this week that the cupboards in my kitchen were heaving with food, the fridge overflowing with bottles of fruit smoothies and delicious treats, a sudden and unexpected bumper crop.
Of course this rare sense of success isn’t what keeps me going. The paradox is that the lean times are important, those days when I’m sitting alone in a room and uncovering characters and stories, shaping and cajoling them and helping them on their way. As lean times go, they’re pretty special and I feel privileged to be able to spend my days this way.
For now though I have to make the most of this feeling that all the hard work is paying me back. This is the writer’s life after all, and you can’t have the feast without the famine, just like you can’t have the cheque without the story, so I’ll be back to the daily grind soon enough, with those radio scripts needing a rewrite, a couple of ideas for short stories that need developing, and oh yes, there’s that other novel waiting for my attention…