I received another agent rejection for ‘Embedded’ last week and it’s starting to make me wonder just what it is I want out of this writing game.
The drive is to be successful. To ‘be the next JK Rowling’ – that’s the terms in which Success As A Writer is couched these days, but I’m starting to wonder exactly what success means to ~me~ rather than to the masses. I mean, Katie Price is a multi-millionaire, best-selling author whose face is known in every UK household, but that’s not exactly what I’m hoping to achieve myself.
So what do I want to achieve?
Well, certainly not money. At least I was never under the illusion that I’d ever be rich from writing. Even daydreaming about ~getting a film deal~ never took into account any issues of payment; I just want to see my words come alive. So it’s not about the bling bling kerching.
What about fame? That’s a tricky one. I always thought I wanted to be famous – fame before riches. But if I analyse the desire a bit more, it’s not so simple. If I question ~why~ I want to be famous, it always comes back to ‘to meet people and do things that normal people don’t get to do’. I want to meet my idols. More than that, I want to meet my idols on equal terms – I want them to approach me because they’ve heard of me. Why? Well, thinking about it, not through any desire born of vanity or validation or superiority, but just from the simple fact that I feel like whenever I approach ~anyone~, famous or otherwise, that I’m somehow intruding or annoying them. I want to be famous because I want people to come to me, and I want people to come to me because I feel like I’m not justified in approaching them. This is not, when I think about it, a very good reason to want to be famous.
You can meet your idols when you’re a nobody – you just have to be cheekier and more confident to do it. I’m (and I say this with sincere humility, even though it probably sounds horribly vain) every bit as talented and worthy and interesting a person for anyone to converse with as any other human out there including the most successful, the only difference being that people don’t know my name. I need to remember that, if I ask myself ‘if I didn’t know me, would I be the sort of person I’d like to meet?’ the answer is ‘yes’. That should be enough to convince me. And incidentally, if there are any other mes out there, please get in touch – we can make beautiful collaborations together!
I need to rethink the ways in which I measure success and what I want to achieve and maybe change my tactic for writing. I should list all the things I want to get out of this vocation, rather than the things I think I ought to be achieving, because it’s a sad fact that in today’s writing climate, with changing trends, I may never get ‘professionally published’.
I’ve already achieved so much. I’ve had two emails from strangers saying how they enjoyed my writing (due to ‘The Dust Bunnies’ being taught on curriculum at Chester University) and that meant so much to me, the fact that they actually went online and looked for my contact details to tell me so. I’ve found out that my work has also been taught at Coventry University (‘Life Skills’ – a short story published in a rather obscure small press anthology) and that’s just the places I know about. I’ve had email correspondence with Susan Price – who wrote my favourite book ever, ‘Head and Tales’- and she’s given lots of support for Re-Vamp and has said she likes my writing. Let me spell that one out: one of my favourite authors thinks my writing is just fine. What more validation do I ever need than that? It’s a big, big deal to me and I’ve been pretty much floating around in a cloud of fannish joy for the past week.
What I need to do is keep reminding myself of these things I want to achieve, and what I value, instead of just feeling like a failure because yet another agent doesn’t want me. I’ve still got a long way to go, I don’t doubt that. I’d still love to one day have people outside of my immediate circle of friends really care about my characters and my messages (that said – thank you SO MUCH to everyone who gives endless support and encouragement for my writing, you know who you are and you know how I appreciate it). I’d like one day to know that my stories have changed people’s lives in a small way for the better. And I’d like people to come up to me and want to know me because at my age, I really do doubt that I’m going to ever get much more confident than this (as Lady Gaga so perfectly puts it, “I just want to be free, I just want to be me and I want lots of friends that invite me to their parties.”)
The more I think about it, the more I realise that getting the opportunity to work with LC – a writer I just love working with – on our brave little DIY horror project ~that Susan Price approves of!~ – means a lot more to me in real terms than getting paid such and such an amount for some publishing house to package my work in a way that I have no control over. Don’t get me wrong – I’d love to go the traditional route (and if any agents or publishers are reading this and want to represent me, please do get in touch!) but mainly because the thought of having to do all my own marketing and publicity makes me feel tired out before I begin: I just want to write stories. Just going to have to be stronger and work harder though and – here’s the big revelation – maybe start considering self-publishing.
Yep – the more I think about it, the more I realise that little-known authors like me and LC are the real rock stars of the business for keeping at it against the odds: in many ways, I’ve already made it.