How I Persuade Myself to Submit My Writing

I’m not often anxious about submitting to publications/competitions. Perhaps hiding behind my laptop helps; perhaps, amid the hundreds of rejections (ew), I’ve had just enough successes to keep me hopeful; or perhaps I’m a little masochistic when it comes to my writing! The main reason, though, is that I’ve found coping mechanisms. During low moments, I tell myself these things:

  • ‘There’s no particular reason why they wouldn’t choose my story’ – My story isn’t bad, I’ve edited it well, and I’ve been a good girl and followed all the publication’s submission guidelines. Hey, you never know.
  • ‘Let yourself daydream’ – I like to submit stories to big competitions, not necessarily because I think I’ll get anywhere, but because dreaming about winning or being shortlisted is such a joy. Again, you never know.
  • ‘Someone’s got to win, and it could be me’ – There’s a reason I won’t win the lottery: I never buy a ticket. You must be in it to win it. Your ‘competition’ might be a huge pool of brilliant writers, giving you little chance of even being longlisted, but…your chance is not zero.
  • ‘I’m not being personally attacked’ It’s not about me; it’s about my writing. Even then, a brilliant piece of writing isn’t guaranteed publication. There are many factors at play.
  • ‘It doesn’t matter’ – I love writing. I would write stories even if no one read them. Perhaps we sometimes fear submitting our stories because we use it as validation – if we’re accepted, we feel good about ourselves, if we’re rejected, we feel bad about ourselves. However, our worth shouldn’t be defined by our publication record, and if it isn’t, then what is there to fear?
  • ‘Submitting a story is a technical action’ – If all else fails: Just do it. It’s a series of physical actions. Your storytelling might require emotion, but reading a bunch of rules, formatting your story to align with requirements, and hitting send, doesn’t. Hit send because you’ve decided to…not necessarily because you feel like it.

Why I Haven’t Tried to Have a Good Week

(Disclaimer: There are references to health issues like vomiting, so please don’t read if that’s likely to be triggering!)

I was standing in the kitchen on Sunday afternoon when it happened. I was video chatting with my boyfriend and his son, phone propped up on the counter, while I made devilled eggs. After I’d scooped the hardboiled yolks into a bowl, I turned to the fridge to get the mayo, and…it was happening.

No, please, no! The burning, the dizziness, the strange hallucinatory sensation, the numbness and tingling down my right arm, the feeling of being gripped by something horrendous. I held onto the counter, gently lowered myself to my knees, leant down until my face was on the cold floor, and blacked out. Two minutes later, I came round and gradually worked out where I was. My fist was clenched; my nail had broken the skin on my palm. I stood up carefully and moved to the sofa, lying there until the symptoms wore off. What day was it? What month was it? It took slightly longer than usual for me to remember.

I was gutted. I’ve been free of partial seizures for sixteen months now and had hoped they were a thing of the past. To put it flippantly, this was the perfect climax for the past few weeks…It’s been one thing after another. I spent an unexpected week in Cornwall, where I was ‘on call’, being with my great-uncle at the end of his life. The week after, I was hit by fatigue and emotional exhaustion, and then the following week I had stomach issues (probably anxiety related). Straight after those had eased up, I had a bad migraine, vomited several times, and must have burst a blood vessel, because…you get the picture. The next day, my body decided to attack me for being a woman!

So, yes, the seizure came at a bad time. It’s been a struggle recently; there’s no escaping that. I’m not unaware of the many blessings. It’s not been all bad. I’ve had moments where I’ve felt fine and have been able to post cheerful things on Facebook, but this string of events knocked me back. It has affected my confidence and self-esteem as well as my body and I’ve had bouts of hysterical crying. I’m still trying to find ways to cope, both mentally and physically – the two are intrinsically linked.

Initially I’d started each week with determination to make it a ‘good one’, because I am, basically, an optimist. It didn’t work. Trying to force a positive attitude can’t always help the situation. Sometimes it creates extra pressure that makes the problem worse, causing friction in your mind and increasing the feelings of failure when you find you can’t see past it.

I’m realising that it’s sometimes better to try to employ neutrality: ‘absence of decided views, expression, or strong feeling’. It’s a meditative thing, to observe without judgement. There is also the sense of ‘handing over’ the things that are out of our control – an important element of prayer.

Life is hard enough. It’s okay not to be okay. We shouldn’t feel bad for feeling bad.

Strange New Anxieties

When we went into lockdown, I picked up some weird little anxieties: fear of hair loss and split ends. Eek, is there more hair coming out when I brush it? Are the ends coarser and more broken? Will I be able to go to the hairdresser again before it becomes a problem?

These anxieties had no rational basis. I knew this, even at the time. I wasn’t losing too much hair (and if it seemed a lot, it was only because I hadn’t brushed it all week!), my hair ends were perfectly healthy, and I’d ‘survived’ for 26 years almost entirely without a hairdresser…so I could manage a few more months. Not a problem.

These anxieties were deflection and distraction. I couldn’t immediately engage with the situation, in observation, discussion, or prayer. World events and uncertainty threatened to overwhelm me, so my brain redirected itself to something trivial, engaging with the massive topic of shampoo and conditioner instead. I was surprised by that initial coping mechanism! I still revert to it sometimes.

Did you have any strange responses to lockdown?

In Case I Forget

Lockdown is easing off in Wales. Throughout these uncertain and difficult times (what an overused phrase!), I’ve realised how many blessings can go unnoticed in our normal busyness. I’m not an ungrateful person; I enjoy the ‘little things’ and write a daily gratitude journal. I have a new appreciation for life though. I’d like to say I’ll never forget these feelings, but I might, so that’s why I’m writing them down. These are a few of the things I’d like to remember: a funny mix of big/generalised and smaller/personal things.

I want to remember the new friendships formed with neighbours. When we were required to stay close to home and only go out for exercise, people connected more – smiling, saying hello, and getting into conversation. It felt like a happier estate, with a strengthened community spirit.

I want to remember how blessed I was to be safe and well at home. Safe at home, not stuck at home.

I want to remember the importance of taking care of mental health. Lockdown has had a severe impact. From what I’ve noticed, it’s been a mixture of people finding life much easier and finding it much harder, and sometimes swinging between Continue reading

In a World of a Million Causes

I don’t post much political/social content on social media. I post jokes, clips of my life, photos of pretty scenery, selfies, writing news, and whatever else I think will entertain or interest my friends. If they make even one person smile, I’m happy. However, it weighs on me that I rarely post about more controversial topics. I want to attempt to articulate why that is.

I’m scared of confrontation; I’m scared to voice an ‘opinion’ when I’m not an expert on *insert issue here*; I’m scared of putting forward a misguided simplification of a complex matter; I’m scared to stir up arguments with anyone who wouldn’t change their viewpoint when faced with new information; and I’m scared to write anything that I couldn’t stand by 100%.

I also struggle to know which of the Continue reading

Writing Musings and News-ings

18.6.20 Thursday

It’s been a strange time for my writing. Strange in that I’ve hardly done any! I was prepared for a dip in energy and creativity after submitting my MA dissertation, but the extent of it has taken me by surprise. I haven’t written any fiction in four weeks.

The ‘current situation’ does no one any favours. It’s difficult to recharge when your movements are limited. I would normally spend time visiting friends or have some adventures. I should be in Cornwall now. I feel as if my wings have been clipped (as I’m sure we all do), even though I’m completely aware that I have the privilege of being safe and well. I was very down for a couple of weeks.

I’ve had a lot of writing rejections recently. They Continue reading

The Journey of a Story

Four years ago, I had a story idea, and then last year, BAM, it wrote itself! Yes, that’s a lot of brewing time…

It was inspired by a comment from my Creative Writing tutor about his name, Wayne. Eventually, this idea created a ‘spark’ with another idea – someone I noticed in our local skate park. I wrote it for an OU assignment. It needed unusually little editing. I showed it to Mum, having lost trust in my own judgement, and she was shocked when she couldn’t find much wrong with it either. We both wondered if that meant it was too ‘basic’ for MA level. It didn’t help when a fellow-student described the story as ‘good, but a bit lightweight?’ – a comment that has become a bit of an inside joke. (It’s all a question of taste. ‘Wayne’s Name’ is no action thriller, that’s for sure!)

The best stories don’t always Continue reading

Inspired by Those Horse Stories

When I was little and attempting to write something, gazing thoughtfully at a notebook, Grandma asked where I get my ideas from. I replied, ‘From books.’

She laughed.

Yeah…that wasn’t the right response, apparently! I hadn’t communicated effectively. She thought I meant specific ideas; I meant inspiration.

Books inspire me. Stories inspire me – prose, plays, films, verbal storytelling etc. All of it.

At the time when Grandma asked me that question, I was working my way through a box of books leant to me by a family friend – all stories about horses. I devoured them. I was obsessed with the idea of horses generally, even though I had never ridden one and tended to be too scared to even Continue reading

Grandma’s Hairdryer

My Grandma died last autumn, before all this. It’s strange how we can say that, isn’t it? Before All This. Everyone knows what we’re talking about…

So, before all this, my Grandma died. I inherited her hairdryer, for the simple reason that I didn’t own one. (Yes, I know – super low-maintenance in the hair department! A great trait During All This.)

The hairdryer has been sitting on the carpet, unused, by my ‘work area’ for…umm…yeah…too long. I used Mum’s instead, while Grandma’s – I mean, mine – collected dust – literal and metaphorical – because I couldn’t bring myself to touch it.

I’ve tried not to Continue reading

A Star Pupil of the Isolation Age

I stand in the kitchen making a salad. Glancing out of the window, I see a man walking past. His walk speaks to me. It speaks loudly and clearly.

‘Hello, it says. I am a man who is walking down the road. I’m walking down the road in a ceremonial fashion because it has become deeply significant of late. There is something I must make clear: It’s my first walk of the day. And you know what? It’s my ONLY walk of the day. I hope my serious expression is enough to Continue reading