On Adulthood

So no one told you life was gonna be this way. Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D.O.A.
It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear, when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year.

Because my husband and I recently got Netflix, I’ve been binge-watching all of Friends from the very beginning. So I’ve been singing (and clapping) along to the theme tune a lot recently, and it’s got me thinking – about life, and it not being what you quite expected.

This time last year, I was panicking about turning thirty, focusing on all of the things I felt I should have achieved by that milestone. I was married, which society told me was a key achievement I should have unlocked, but I wasn’t sure I had done anything else I was ‘supposed’ to have done.

My expectations were unrealistically high. I was disappointed I didn’t have a publishing deal or a child. And not just because society told me I should want these things. I wanted them – and still want them – deeply, on a personal level. If kids or marriage or writing a novel isn’t want for your life, then cool, you won’t find any judgement here, but – for me – having these goals lined up with what a lot of other people profess to want out of life.

I’ve talked about success (and the lack thereof) on here before. I’ve discussed, in-depth, my journey in constantly amending my personal milestones and how I feel about them. I’m generally reflecting – again – about this whole thing we call life and growing up.

As I watch Joey and Chandler and Monica and Rachael and Ross and Phoebe navigate their late twenties and early thirties, I find myself comparing my life to theirs – no matter that they’re fictional.

All of that is to say, I’ve come to a conclusion. Despite being in pretty much the same physical place (literally, and financially, and career-wise) as last year when I was having my Big Panic, I actually find myself in a much better headspace right now. I don’t have a publishing deal or a baby, but I don’t feel all that stressed about it. My mental health is the best it’s maybe ever been.

I think what I’m trying to say is, for right now, I’m okay.

I don’t want that to come out like a boast. I know I recently put up posts telling the story of how I found ‘the love of my life,’ but don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to paint some rose-tinted version of my life that the internet will applaud me for. God knows there have been plenty of times in the past few years where I’ve come on here to rant about life being just plain sucky.

It can be tricky trying to find a balance between sharing the good and the bad – you don’t want to misrepresent yourself or your life, one way or the other. It just so happens that right now, I’m having a good patch. I want to document that, and I want to celebrate it.

I hope you, reading this, are also having a good patch. If you’re not – I know this will sound incredibly cheesy, but I do genuinely mean it – I will be there for you, attempting to be the best friend I possibly can. (Even if it’s only on the internet.)

Maybe that’s what growing up is really about, and I’ve got it figured out after all. I guess we’ll see.

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Summer Successes and Autumn Goals

This post is third in a series. You can find part one (covering January to April) here and part two (May to August) here. As outlined in those previous posts, I’m tackling this year in chunks, setting myself goals for four months at a time, rather than having a single set for the whole of 2019.

It seems to be working out.

My only year-long goal – the Goodreads reading challenge – has me sitting at 44 books completed off a total of sixty. That’s 73% complete/4 books ahead of schedule.

Before I get into my goals for the rest of 2019 going forward, let’s take a minute to recap on my summer goals and how well I did (or didn’t) achieve them.

In May, I set myself the following tasks:

  • Lose more weight
  • Continue to submit my first novel to agents
  • Make edits to my second novel and send it to beta readers
  • Draft yet another novel during Camp NaNoWriMo in July
  • Attended two publishing conferences
  • Complete my tax return

From that list, what I didn’t do was lose weight or write a third novel. The number of things I achieved (listed below) definitely outweigh these two failures, which I’m obviously delighted about, but they are still two pretty big failures. Though I will point out that I did take part in Camp NaNoWriMo, as planned, and got a few words towards book three in my trilogy. Overall, I wrote 25,000 words during July, much of it fanfiction works in progress that I wanted to get out of my head at long last.

Here’s the full list of what I actually did achieve: Continue reading

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Life Advice from a Thirty Year Old

Sylvia Plath was thirty-years-old when she died. This is a sobering fact I have only just learned, having googled her to directly reference her fig tree analogy.

When I lie awake at night, I often think of the fig tree she described in the Bell Jar. Of all of the opportunities and the paralysing fear over picking one of them.

Somewhat fittingly, I have started to write this post several times, each with a different slant, only to scrap my words and start again. I almost scrapped the idea in its entirety, worried that not being able to select and follow a narrative was a sign that the whole thing wasn’t going to work.

Here’s a fun fact: life has many narratives. That’s the whole point!

I always felt like the fig tree analogy spoke to a deeper truth but from my perspective now, as a thirty-year-old myself, I actually feel there’s a lie at the core of it: “Choosing one meant losing all the rest.”

NO!

Choosing means choosing and nothing more. You can change direction down the road.

Changing direction is normal.

Changing direction can be the best thing ever.

Turning down one opportunity might mean it is gone and will never be open to you again but for every turn-off you miss, there is a literal infinite number of others and THAT’S OKAY. In many cases, that’s actually fantastic. Revel in the freedom of this knowledge.

Missed opportunities are not the end of the world, friend. I wish to god someone had sat me down ten years ago and told me that. Continue reading

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Six-Month Stats Round Up

It’s a new week at the start of a fresh month. We’re now entering the second half of 2019 and, personally, I’m excited. But before I jump headlong into the next round of CampNaNoWriMo, it’s time to look back. I said I’d be more open with my stats, going forward, so here we go:

Books Read

  • 31 out of my goal of 60 for the year = 52%
  • So, just ahead of target. That’s a win.

Words Written
(Rounded to the nearest thousand)

  • January: 4,000
  • February: 6,000
  • March: 6,000
  • April: 37,000
  • May: 12,000
  • June: 13,000
  • Total = 78,000

Continue reading

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On Taking Opportunities

It is my firm belief that success rarely happens on its own. There’s a huge amount of random chance involved in winning the lottery, but there’s always another key ingredient, too: buying a ticket.

Award-winning author Kit de Waal wrote a piece for the Bridport Prize website urging people to enter competitions. Lots of them, in various different shapes and sizes; paid and unpaid.

I found this advice as I was reading through this year’s website, preparing to put my work forward for a few of this year’s prizes (the Bridport actually being made up of a few different competitions: one for poetry, one for short stories etc).

Kit de Waal offered up five bursaries to people wanting to enter the flash fiction competition. I was eligible, I entered, and I won one of those five chances to enter the flashfic competition for free.

On top of this, I paid to enter the poetry competition and the short story comp.

Fingers crossed something comes of it. I’d love to be able to end this post with a big success story to perfectly illustrate my point, but I don’t think the pay off is the point at this stage. Success will come in time, I’m sure. If not with this competition then somewhere else.

I also think successes tend to build on themselves.

Once you’ve won an award for a short story (for example), you won’t necessarily find it easier to hook a literary agent for your novel, but it might help and, in the meantime, other doors may open.

All that’s in the future, though. The main takeaway message for right here, right now, is to try. And to keep trying. Continue reading

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On Lack of Success, Taboo, & Transparency

This post has been brewing for a while and, in that time, some other people have touched on similar points. Linked here you will find a post by Kelly McCaughrain (which references a thread by Claire Hennessy) which talks about rejection.

Rejection is something everyone faces, but ‘creatives’ most of all. The more art you make, the more you put yourself out there, and the more you’ll experience the full spectrum of reactions, from awe to apathy to the aforementioned rejection.

Statistically speaking, the apathy and rejections will far outway acceptance and adoration. As Kelly and Claire point out, that goes for published writers just as much as those who have never been in print. It’s something you will need to make your peace with if you’re to carry on submitting.

We all have wobbles – days where we doubt ourselves and our work – but, personally, I’ve made my peace best I can. To do this, I have two things in my arsenal: regular pep talks and a philosophy:

Lack of success does not necessarily equal failure.

What I mean by this, is that for every publication and showcase and competition and whatever else, there are a finite number of winners. There are also, almost always, an infinite number of entries.

It is literally impossible for everyone to be accepted and, therefore, when your piece inevitably isn’t accepted, it means just that: it hasn’t been accepted. What it does not mean is that you and your work have been actively rejected.

Yes, that’s a semantic difference, but it makes sense to me and – most importantly – it keeps me sane.

When I don’t win the thing I’ve entered, don’t get shortlisted, or even longlisted, I am sad. Of course I am. But I know deep down it’s not the end of the world. I really recommend forging a similar attitude and/or coping mechanism for yourself, if you can. (Yes, it’s one of those horrible ‘easier said than done’ things.)

I also have a slightly more daring suggestion: be honest when you’re struggling. Talk about your lack of success. Insecurities thrive in the dark, so drag them into public kicking and screaming. We’d probably all be better for it. Continue reading

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