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2015 Review: gloat-free!

Creative WritingPosted by Barbara Thu, December 31, 2015 12:18:20

So… this is the time of year when authors write those posts that sum up how productive and successful they’ve been in the past twelve months.

Of course it’s a great thing to do, especially for well-established authors with a big following, whose readers are genuinely keen to know what they’re up to.

For the rest of us… well. I never know whether they’re a great marketing tool, interesting to readers or possibly to other/aspiring writers - or whether they’re just plain annoying.

Might they sound a bit like those boastful round-robin newsletters people used to put in their Christmas cards (before the days of social media!) or like a compilation of My Top Facebook/twitter Brags of 2015? Potentially, I fear.

So here’s My Year with all its shades of grey, white and black. It’s the sort of hands-up, honest post I’d like to read by other authors rather than a list of how relentlessly brilliant things have been (but maybe that’s just me).

1. I kicked off 2015 with huge optimism. I’d had a brilliant previous year, with the publication of a children’s and an adult crime novel, with two different and very wonderful publishers. ‘Things can only get better’… uh oh. Who remembers this track being part of the New Labour campaign in 1997? And we all know how that turned out. So…

2. I didn’t go to war with Iraq or introduce socially retrograde legislation like tuition fees. That’s the good news. But I didn’t quite live up to my writing potential either. Why? Lack of time, self-organisation and energy. Let me explain further…

3. I had (for which read: I still have) a list of exciting ideas for novels, some of which are part-written. But I also had (have) three jobs on the go and for the self-employed, that’s probably the minimum needed to bring home a living wage. It’s the reality of being one of the government’s army of Forced-to-be-Freelance-because-There-Are-No-Real-Jobs.

So time was a major issue: I found myself working seven days a week, usually until around 9pm each evening. No holidays. None. No, really. Not even a week’s staycation. Just work, January to December. For those of you who remember pictures of Florence (my wedding anniversary weekend) and California (a conference where I was running writing sessions), I took work with me and did some every day, because I had to. Working when you are somewhere lovely is still… working, even if it feels a bit nicer.

4. Lots of this freelance work involved reading other people’s creative writing. I’ve now come to the conclusion that this kind of close reading and critiquing uses a very similar brain muscle to doing my own creative writing, because whenever I did get a little rare breathing space, energy for my own projects seemed hard to muster.

Now I know it’s not cleaning sewers or coal-mining and that jobs like those are harder and grottier, so don’t get on my case, but I don’t think work has to be physical or dirty in order to sap your energy. So nothing got properly finished - and every time I thought I was heading for a quieter time to concentrate on my own stuff, another project came along that I was too skint to turn down.

5. Now for the positives (phew! – if you’re still with me): I did have a published novel in 2015, thanks to the paperback version of My Cousin Faustina coming out in April via ReadZone Books. Readers of this site may remember this was originally written as an interactive e-book with Fiction Express in late 2014.
I also was very lucky that Legend Press negotiated the audio and large print versions of my two crime novels, In Too Deep and This Little Piggy. So these made me appear productive, even if I didn’t feel like I was. But like the government’s NHS money, none of it was new.

6. I did attend some brilliant writing conferences and festivals. They’re not relaxing – they’re a kind of work, which is why they pay – but they are one of the nicest parts of being a writer. Thank you, Hexham Book Festival, Newcastle Noir, Crossing the Tees, Ilkley Festival and NAAF.

7. In the second half of 2015, I also got two new jobs that I love: teaching journalism at UCA in Farnham and creative writing programme leader for the Open College of the Arts. “All” I need to do now is crack that ‘work-life balance’ issue.

8. So what have I learned? Not writing my own new stuff makes me miserable. Setting my own deadlines is tougher than it should be. I need to find a way to carve out writing time, even if it’s hard. That list of writing ideas won’t go away.

The New Year may well be an artificial concept, but I don’t mind using it as inspiration. Things are going to change. Come on in, 2016!

9. And PS: a huge thank you to anyone who’s supported me in any way – by reading my books or liking my posts or above all, just being a pal. I promise to pay it back or forward as required.







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