Saturday, 16 May 2015

A Writer's Lament

What's the point in writing when it's all been said before? My short story has failed to even make the short list for a recent competition. Apparently short stories are different from what I wrote. The judge's feedback on how to write a successful short story includes the following: 'All short stories are about change and transformation', 'need to kick into life immediately with a strong, vivid and involving first paragraph.' Well, what about the reader persevering a little?  I have read short stories that I didn't get into until the second page let alone the first paragraph and they were fine examples of writing.

 I really do question whether it's worth subjecting myself to all this. I am to blame of course, for putting myself up for this form of external evaluation. My internal evaluation likes my writing but it never feels this is enough. I wish it did. I feel like all I have to look forward to is more rejections which in turn reinforce my sense of failure. Writing is a form of masochism. Well, not the writing itself but what the writer does with her writing, that's the masochistic part. We are constantly bombarded with messages to enter this or that competition, to pay a mentor to guide and edit our work, how to write a best seller, to attend workshops that will inspire our imagination. Then there are the marketeers who follow you in order to make money by offering to get your book published. A whole noisy industry has grown up around what was once the quiet world of the writer. It's hard to ignore it especially when writing is and has to be such a solitary occupation. The need to get out and mingle, the curiosity for some feedback on the hours you've spent pounding the keyboard or getting cramp from holding the pen are surely common to all of us writers. And then we retreat into our caves again and mull over what we have heard and somewhere among all this tangled web we have to retrieve our own voice again, not that of others, however well meaning.

So it seems to me that the Twenty First Century writing industry has got us over a barrel. Before the Twentieth Century writers didn't have these distractions but their lives would have been harsher in other ways. Yes, I know stamina is a vital ingredient of any writer's recipe but I wonder if  Dickens felt he could add nothing to the world because it had all been said before? Did George Elliot doubt she was writing something revolutionary about her sex? Answers anyone?


  1. Every word you say resonates with me.

  2. Hello Sensibilia
    I'm glad my post reached you. Thanks for commenting.