Friday 27 September 2013

Keeping On

It's been pretty quiet around here lately.

The truth is it's been difficult to find things to say, and I'm always wary of those 'blog posts about how hard it is to write a blog post' posts. Put simply, this has been one of the least successful writing years I've ever had, certainly in terms of competition results and publication. It's taking some getting used to, to be honest.

So far, 2013 hasn't yielded a single publication or longlisting, let alone an appearance on a shortlist, or a prize of any kind. My output has been slightly reduced (as I've mentioned before, I moved house last month, and that caused significant disruption to my usual routine both before and after), but it's taken me by surprise to find that none of my stories are finding homes at the moment. As the months have slipped by I've found myself scanning the results of the new Bath story competition, Bristol, Bridport, the Salt Prize, the BBC National Short Story Award, HISSAC, the Wells Festival competition, the list goes on - all to no avail.

OK, some of those were very ambitious long shots, but the point is that the stories I've been sending to all these places have been, as far as I can tell, pretty good. And I know it's all down to luck and the results of any given competition would be dramatically different if you changed the judge or the initial readers, but still, this year is feeling like a particularly tough roll of the dice.

I suppose the problem is that I've always used competitions as a way of gauging whether I'm on the right track with my writing. To go through nine months without getting a single confirmation that, yes, what I'm producing is all right, does open up a floodgate for the doubts to come rushing in. Have I lost the plot? Am I somehow writing the wrong things now? Are my stories too far-fetched? Or not far-fetched enough? Are they -gulp- boring?

A dry spell like this does knock your confidence. It's times like this when I feel silly for even having a blog. It seems ludicrous that I can claim to have anything worthwhile to say about writing when my work is sinking without trace in competitions left, right and centre. What insight into the process can I offer, if my stories seem to appeal to nobody but myself?

There's only one way to go - onwards. Anybody my situation can whinge, but the only way things are going to change is just to carry on. Write more stories, send them out, try new things, revisit old things but do them better this time. Nobody's entitled to get results in competitions, or a string of publication successes. Those things have got to be strived for, earned. The knockbacks are there to weed out the people who just don't want it enough. The ones who succeed are the stubborn swines who just won't take No for an answer.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some fiction to write.