I was pleased to find a definition of ‘emerging writer’ in the FAQs for the Northern Writers’ Awards: ‘Writers whose work has appeared in magazines and anthologies and who are pursuing full publication of a longer piece of work…’ – almost exactly reflecting my current position as a writer and my description of myself as an ‘emerging author’ on my website.
But as I indulged my new-found activity of reading blogs and following links, I found myself mulling on how the process of emergence is not necessarily a smooth line from ‘new’ to ‘published’ writer.
For I have been here before: in 2008 I’d completed my MA Writing; I had a number of published short stories to my name; and I’d found an agent for my novel WIRE ANGEL. Emerging writer poised for take-off, except…
Except the agent couldn’t sell the novel and I’d decided to lessen the pressure on myself to write. Recovering from a severe nervous breakdown, I felt I needed to go easy on myself, to at least try to focus on the needs of my family, and, as necessity demanded, to increase my paid employment to full time. I didn’t stop writing: with the encouragement of my ever supportive writing group I embarked on another novel, albeit at a slower pace, until 5 years later I have almost finished the first draft.
And now my life is such that I have been able to give up a day a week at work and I feel I can begin to emerge as a writer once more. As well as making faster progress with my novel, I am starting to look at opportunities such as the Northern Writers’ Awards, and to think about responding to some of the blogs I’ve read, beginning with those on Mslexia’s website.
Here I read of other writers for whom the path to emergence can sometimes be blocked by life events. Laura Libricz in Chaos or How Not to Follow a Recipe talking of having to push on with her project despite having difficulty coping with the stress levels in her life. Rebecca Alexander’s Publication Day tells how her writing career was set aside for many years with the birth of her severely disabled daughter.
It is heartening to read these honest accounts of bumpy writing lives and to feel that it is never too late to reprioritise writing and push it further than I managed before. So, for my official re-emergence I took a lead from another Mslexia blog, Anna O’Brien’s A Writer’s Creed, where she sets out guiding principles for her writing in ‘a little list of ten things I believe in about my writing process…’
I took this idea to my writing group as a kind of start up exercise after the long summer break and I think we all found it a useful refresher. So here, for what it’s worth, is my revamped writer’s creed:
• I believe in collecting stories and eye-catching details from everyday life, no matter how irrelevant to my current writing project.
• I believe there is no substitute for putting the time in, setting an amount of writing time per week and sticking to it.
• I believe allowing myself to write rubbish is better than writing nothing. As Picasso allegedly said, ‘Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working’.
• I believe in creating characters with a life off as well as on the page, who are complex and surprising and who are shaped by and react to the world they live in.
• I believe my characters should reveal themselves through their actions in the story, rather than walking on with potted histories.
• I believe that editing is central to the creative process – the first draft is the clay from which to fashion the pot.
• I believe in welcoming feedback and criticism as a chance to improve my writing.
• I believe in not despairing when I miss my targets: keeping going and trying again.
• I believe that writing is about communication and there comes a point where I need to call it finished, take a risk and share it.
• I believe there are sometimes bigger things that rightfully demand attention, but that writing provides an enhancement to my life that I return to each time with renewed resolve.