Wednesday 4 January 2012

Insecure? I'm not sure really.

Actually I was feeling relatively secure as I sat down to write my blog. Then an 85 mph gust of wind hit a tree just to the right of my office window. Several tons of wood split from the trunk and destroyed my neighbour's garage and a good portion of the house roof. The rest of the tree now leans towards my very position. Now, I've always maintained that any sense of security in this world is misplaced. We are helpless creatures of no account, clinging to our fragile capsule of individual conscious time. As dear old John Keats wrote for his own epitaph "Here lies one whose name was writ in water".  I'm OK with the water, but I wonder if I could have it 50/50 with a decent brandy? Of course,  John Keats did not have the benefit of the Insecure Writers' Support Group.  The course of English Literature could have been so very different...

Insecurity as a writer is of course another thing all together. I mean, who is not a writer? Any time I tell someone I've written a book I find that they have already written several or believe that they have a host of unwritten brilliant narratives ready to wow the Readerverse. So - who would bother with me?  Um - well - there are always the critics.

When I first launched "Knockout" I came across a lady who offered to review books. Her verdict opened "I knew at once that I would hate this book." All the same she carried on in what I can only assume was an orgy of masochistic self loathing. "The characters were unrealistic since no Police Inspector would just fall in love with some guy." She followed it it with the suggestion that "The writer is clearly a foreigner with no idea of England. (I am a Londoner) Names of places in London are used as if it were a guide book."  The critic then turned to the matter of a restaurant menu which she felt was a poorly designed combination of dishes.  Finally she declared that the character of a Police commander was "unrealistic since such a bombastic character would have been brought up before some kind of employment tribunal".  I thanked her for her kind efforts but some small part of me wanted to say that it was a Romance where rather larger than life characters behaved rather "Romantically" in a world of unsuitable menus and horrid bosses. I could also have said that the Police Commander was based on someone I knew and if anything, underestimated his odiousness. As a final salvo the lady opined that the choice of the name Freddie for the French/American male hero was a ridiculous pun on a sitcom character called "Freddie the Frog" of whom I had never heard. 

The choice then was whether to accept all her criticisms and not publish or kinda stick to my self belief that, although not high art, it was not that bad. Perhaps some of you guys will let me know.

I think I'm in my 35th year of more or less continuous rejections. I suppose my confidence wavers as I wait for the letter. By now I feel utterly secure in my prediction of the outcome. I know there is a novel from 20 years ago possibly in a slush pile, still out there somewhere. Some rejections have become treasures. A famous poetry editor wrote back to me to say that my work was ghastly but that he loved my covering letter. I felt validated and secure. It was the only time. I have always taken comfort from the notion that all the GREATS were rejected, cut their ears off and ended up in a pauper's grave. The only problem is that this is not true. 

If I'm being serious I would say that all the years of rejections have never stopped me from trying and have convinced me that I'm unlikely to please any publisher/agent. This realisation is my freedom and I am secure in it. My good friend Oscar Sparrow, the poet, has recorded the supposed world's worst poem. People get in touch with him just to say they love it. If you wanna hear the sweet sound of heroic failure here is a link. By the way, the "world's worst" poet Theo Marzials was a huge success in his own life-time!

Emma thinx: The trouble with insecurities is that they tie you down.


  1. You keep going and you don't give up, thats what counts. I like your thinking. Whether we get published or not, a writer writes because they have to. Nice to meet you :)

  2. One participates in these blogfests and feels, perhaps, a sense of obligation to reciprocate commentary, but here's the thing. I felt an immediate draw to your frankness in the comment you left on my blog and read with interest every word of your own post. You feel real, if such a thing can be communicated properly. Just wanted to let you know.

  3. Hi Emma, Gee! The tree-wow!

    I agree with Siv and Suze. Your voice comes through well. And yes, writers write regardless. It is the soul. After all, it is in the painful stuggle of life the pearl is created.

    Writing can be the greatest joy:)

  4. I love the way you think and you have definitely inspired me with that outlook. I am a recovering people pleaser and sadly, I let this affliction affect my writing. I am a self-editor and as a result, it takes me forever to produce anything. Not this year, no more.

    Hope everyone is okay with that massive tree.

  5. First off, I'm glad you are okay. That tree looks pretty pissed off. Thank you for sharing this. It is a true inspiration. Thanks.

  6. Ugh, sorry about your tree AND the reviewer. But don't let either get you down. As long as you're having fun writing, just keep on doing it. When the pleasure is gone, that's when you stop.

    I'm a new follower via Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support group. I try to connect with a few new bloggers every month. Keep your chin up!

  7. Thank goodness no one was hurt from that tree! Sorry that you've had more than your share of rejections. Who knows what's really going on in someone else's mind? Seems like these reviewers are suffering from an overwhelming case of insecurity themselves! Julie

  8. One of the most surprising things to me after I came out of the writing closet was how many other people I know also write. I agree with you - everybody's a writer.

    Good luck w/ that teetering tree and I hope your neighbors get their house righted soon.

    Insecurities are indeed suffocating. I'm so happy you threw yours off. ;)

  9. An excellent post. I really appreciate your humor and tenacity. Thanks for dropping by so I could find you and your gem of a blog.

  10. Hi Emma! Nice to meet you. Aren't reviews like that funny?? I never put too much stock in them since some peeps are just bitter to the very core regardless of what attributes a story may have.
    The rejections are tough.. I know, cuz I have a slew of them myself. But I tend to look at them as my wake, meaning at least I'm pressing on. That's all we can do... and it sounds like you're doing the same. :)

  11. Good for you!

    And I agree--a lot of people do seem to be writers. :)

    Thanks for coming by my blog!

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  13. Glad your house survived the tree (at least so far). Perhaps you could work that into your next story. But then again, someone would complain that it wasn't realistic that a tree could fall on a house.

  14. What a great post! Persevering in the face of ... everything, is what it's all about. I truly believe it results in success. And many best-selling authors were actually spurred on by those who denigrated them - I saw a video with quite a few whose motivation came primarily from "I'll show them!!" Look forward to reading more of you this year.

  15. My that's a large tree!

    It's easy to get lost in the branches especially when the wind blows hard. But, one thing we writers understand is how to keep going.

    Nice post!


Thanks so much for stopping by. Always so happy to get your feedback. Emma x