I know quite a lot of people who have dreams of becoming published writers and who struggle at times to remain positive and optimistic while on that noble quest. I know just how they feel.
I made my first attempts to be a writer when I was at Uni. I wrote some poems for a poetry magazine and I also wrote a comedy sketch for a television program – the Paul Hogan Show. I didn’t show anyone what I’d written because I was a bit shy and embarrassed about trying to be a writer, but I sent them both away and I waited. Anxiously.
Eventually I received a reply from the Editor of the poetry magazine. He took the trouble of writing comments and suggestions on one of my poems but then ended with something like, ‘Your poems show some nice touches, but unfortunately they are not quite up to the standard we require at this stage. Best of luck with your future writing.’
I didn’t send any more poems away after that.
Then I got a reply from the head comedy writer of the Paul Hogan Show which went something like this. ‘Dear Michael – Paul and the whole comedy team have read your sketch. We think it’s quite funny, but as we write most of our own material, we won’t be using your work in the show. We wish you all the best with your writing.‘
That was the last comedy sketch I ever wrote.
Looking back, those replies seem quite hopeful and encouraging. But back then, when I had little belief or confidence in myself or my writing, I figured those two people were just being nice and what they were really saying was, ‘Stop kidding yourself. You’re not a writer. Only other people get to be writers.‘
These days when I talk at schools I sometimes tell students about my first two writing attempts and my reactions to them. And I say, that if they have dreams about what they want to be, then they shouldn’t be as pathetic as I was when I was young, and just give up when they get some knock-backs.
I know now that I should have kept writing back then. I should have kept sending things out there. Even if I’d kept being rejected, I would have been doing that I loved, I would have been practising my craft, I would have been learning and improving and getting valuable feedback, and maybe, just maybe, each rejection would have been taking me one step closer to that magic acceptance.
In the end I was lucky. I went on to do teaching which I loved (and sometimes dreaded) but eventually I had another shot at writing and that changed, and at least figuratively, saved, my life.
So to my friends and fb buddies and those people I meet from time to time who are aspiring writers, here’s the message I give to the students:
‘Some people claim you should follow your dreams, but I think that sounds a little passive; sort of like you’re tagging along behind all the time, never quite catching up. So I say you should STALK your dreams. Stick close to them. Track them down. Corner them. And don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.‘
ps I should add that when I say that to students I always take pains to point out, that while ‘stalking dreams’ is fine, stalking people is definitely not! I explain to them that such behaviour is both frowned upon and illegal. And that personally, I found it to be very time-consuming when I could be writing.