Saturday, 30 October 2010

Celebration Time

After the delight of the birthday party comes the hangover...How on earth do I start year 2?

Last month I started working as the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Bristol, which has been really enjoyable so far.  I'm working with students on their writing, essays mainly, but there have been a couple of dissertations and even an agent package for sending out. 

So far, about half the students have told me that they feel a fraud, that they've got into Bristol by mistake, that everyone else knows everything, that they can't write.  Half the students!  And that's just the ones who've told me.  

I think we all feel like that.  I compare myself to other writer friends and feel they've somehow got "the secret".  They write everyday, they hit their word targets, their editors and agents love them, their publicists get better interviews... They sail effortlessly over every hurdle and setback, I set the bar low and miss it.  

I spent my blogoversary giving an interview to Penwith Radio, a great community radio station in Penzance run by some dedicated guys including the lovely Lewis, who invited me onto his show, and Timothy, Dave and David.  It was great to meet them all (that's also an in-joke for Lewis) but I felt a bit of a fraud because they appeared so impressed by my paltry achievements - the City and Guilds certificate in Brick Laying and my Countdown teapot seemed top of the list.  

And then I thought, isn't it time we learned to appreciate what we've done?  It's all too easy to feel small when a writer friend gets shortlisted for a competition, or gets an agent.  We judge ourselves so harshly, and feel that everyone else finds it easy. I think we're all muddling along, all feeling like frauds.  Being sensitive and vulnerable is part of being a human, and even more so if you're creative. 

So let's celebrate our achievements.  

Let's cheer when we finish a short story, which is more than most people ever manage, even if it doesn't go on to win first prize in a competition.  Let's allow ourselves to enjoy that warm glow when someone praises our work in class and not immediately chip in with 'I know it's rubbish really'. Let's be proud when we look at some writing done a couple of years ago and realise how far we've come since.  

We're all on the same road: you, me, JK Rowling, Anne Tyler, any writer you care to mention.  Some of them may be a bit further ahead and travelling faster, but it's the same road.  And as no one creative ever feels they stop learning and developing, let's celebrate the milestones and how far we've come already along the road.

And above all, let's stop feeling we're frauds.  We're writers! Hooray!


David said...

Agree totally, Sarah. It's all too easy to get hung up on the areas you would like to improve on or to concentrate on the things that didn't go quite as you would have liked.

Much more healthy to take the time to celebrate what has gone well every now and again.


Jo said...

What a brilliant post, Sarah. My self-doubt has prevented me from writing at various intervals, and I'm fighting to overcome the perfectionist gene. I keep reminding myself that having written three quarters of a full-length novel is an achievement in itself and that 'seeing it through to the end' will deserve a bottle of champagne!

Sarah Duncan said...

Thanks to you both.

Jo - when I think of your achievements to date, I think you ought to be drinking that bottle of champagne right now. QWF was the first mag to publish me for starters, so you're one of the foundation stones of my achievements as a writer, and I know the same is true for other writers. Hooray!

womagwriter said...

Great post, Sarah - I'll drink to all that!