November Blues

Almost the end of November, and what have I achieved this month? Sweet nothing, that's what.
Is it the time of year or the time of life? I don't know.
I have sat at my desk and tried to write, regularly, but the results have been something less than inspiring.
I have done a lot of thinking and the results of that have been a bit more interesting, but faintly depressing as well.
I am chasing my tail to make some money but the bills get higher and the earnings get lower, and after a while, you wonder what it's all about.
The mornings are dark and the evenings are darker and you work away but nobody wants what you have written...
Welcome to the world of freelance writing.
You may remember that - a longish while ago - I mentioned a play called The Physic Garden and how I was waiting to hear from David McLennan at the Oran Mor about it.
Have I heard from him? You bet your sweet life I haven't. Not a word, zero, zilch, nada.
BUT, having lived with William (the gardener) and Thomas (the botany lecturer) for all these months, I have begun to think that there is more to these characters and their relationship than meets the eye, much much more than I have been tinkering with in the play - and so I have begun to write their story as a novel. Thomas is the one telling it. And it suddenly seems to have the potential to be a serious, funny, moving and literary story.
All of which fits in with the doubts that have been besetting me with increasing regularity over the past couple of months. I think I have seriously short changed myself for years and years in the pursuit of the elusive will o' the wisp of commercial success. Nothing wrong, I might add, with a bit of commercial success. But when you find that you are increasingly tailoring what you write to the demands of some elusive market - and actually, you still aren't making any money out of it, however, professionally you behave - you do start to wonder. I must admit, that over the past few months, I have started to think that I have been selling myself short for years. I used to have the potential to be a writer of some consequence. One or two of my plays have shown the literary skills I used to have. So have a few of the poems. I should have been more true to myself all those years ago. I should have written what I wanted to write, explored all those ideas I wanted to explore, grown and stretched myself. Instead, I have the uneasy feeling that I have run up and down a series of dead ends, and the result has been that I am ill considered among people who used to admire what I did - and I still haven't made any money. Worst of both worlds really. This is a cautionary tale. Be true to yourself above all else. What I need to do (as a friend recently pointed out, succinctly) is 'fail better.' How right he is.
I'm about to give it another try.


Anonymous said…
Go for it & good luck!

melon collie said…
i am hardly a professional writer, but have felt the same way about writing for an audience and still remaining true to one's own ideas.

good luck.
Unknown said…
I say - go for it too. And don't dismiss the fact that Scottish winters of short days and darkness could be adding to this feeling of regret. I am struggling with the winter myself.

Listen, though. The thing I notice about that post is still the feeling of needing recognition to justify your work. And regretting stuff is never helpful and probably not even true. There are plenty of people who have been "true to themselves" and not been recognised and maybe regret not trying the commercial route.

BUT - perhaps the thing is to find ways out of the vacuum. And the internet is one. There are ways of connecting to millions of people with your work or to even work with other people who are like-minded, whereever you live, whatever arts facilities are near - or not available. What I'm saying is being true to yourself is one thing, but finding your true audience might also be the key. No matter what the establishment, what the fashion, who the gate-keepers are - it is possible to find your own audience now and even dialogue with them about the kinds of work you are trying to achieve and that speak to you. This might help the winter blues too. Fail better? Maybe it's more about audience, people to correspond with, bounce ideas off, and getting back that energy and motivation?

I dont' know if I'm barking up the wrong tree, but might be a thought.
Rosy, I think you are very much barking up the right tree - and your comments have given me even more to think about. Finding the right audience in spite of the gatekeepers - working with like minded people - all those things are important and you're right that it's something I can do for myself - or have a go.
But in a strange way, I can only see that because of the revelation (or do I mean acknowledgement? My own acknowledgement?) that for the last few years I have only sporadically written from the heart, attempted to stretch myself, developed. I didn't realise until now how much I needed some real incisive insight, not in general career terms, but into the actual work - and the way I write. It's a strange thing about writing, but when you're starting out you get too much advice on all sides, and then later on, once you've had a few plays or publications under your belt, you get almost none! And I suspect 'advice' isn't the right word anyway. Analysis is a better term. Over the past few weeks a friend has almost tentatively pointed out a few things, given me the compliment of taking me seriously. The main effect has been transforming, not in the sense of me wanting to make radical changes to the way I write, but in allowing me to give myself permission to go for it, and enjoy the 'now' of it, the writing itself, the process of discovery, so that what happens after that becomes less important. Not sure if this makes sense, because I'm still thinking things over. Just know I feel better about the writing than I have in ages.
I'll see how it goes. The proof of the pudding....