Where Are We Now?

It’s been over a year since my last blog post.

I never had any specific intention to stop blogging, it was more I just cared less about it. At some point it had become a mundane and a reluctant task rather than something I took pleasure in and my thoughts are once it gets to that point you need to stop. So I did. The fact I had only very recently started a long-distance relationship with the man that was to turn out my Mr Right, well that may have been a minor contributory factor.

© Amlet | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Amlet | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

So for the update-

I’m still a struggling writer

I’m still dating Mr Right

And I’m still fumbling through life trying to figure out what I’ve forgotten from my ever growing to do list

The past week has been a little occupied with trying to work out how I’m going to sell my house, or more specifically with which estate agent. I had been of the impression they were all pretty much the same- that was a mistake.

Estate Agent One

Well I don’t know what happened with these guys. Even arranging a viewing was difficult. I had to drop a key off with the office in the end because they were not able to do the valuation at a time I could attend. Then when I got home they hadn’t left the key and I hadn’t received any phone calls. Now I have to arrange getting the damn key back!

Estate Agent Two

I had high hopes for this one, recommended by a colleague I knew they were the most competitively priced but they were also late to the appointment and sent a trainee. Now I don’t think I’m being picky but I want my house sold and I’m spending money to do so, please at the very least be on time and if you are a trainee I’d really rather not know!

Estate Agent Three

 I was actually late to this valuation- mainly because I nearly forgot I had to leave work early to get. Wendy of ‘Estate Agent Three’ was lovely, she had done her research too and then even phoned my at half 6 on Friday night to say she had emailed me the details, found my energy certificate on record and sent that across too and I could be in touch if I wanted to go ahead.

It doesn’t take a genius to know who I’ve decided to use.

So with all the estate agent screening, related house cleaning, not to mention pursuing my accountancy qualification, which is for another post I imagine, the writing is a little on the quiet at the minute. It’s still there of course, it’s like a very sweet pet dog, I need to feed it but it does follow me around a lot.

The Seven Big Fears: Revealing Too Much

We are naturally private as humans, liking to create a comfortable level of knowledge around us and only ever revealing certain aspects of our life and experiences to selected members of friends and family. Writing however creates a fundamental problem in how much we expose ourselves within our work.

Even in writing non-fiction you quite possibly will be revealing some of yourself within the work either by opinion of by recalling of your own experience within the field. It is inevitable then that one of the big writing fears is that of revealing too much.

There are positives and negatives to revealing yourself in your writing. As a disadvantage it does make any criticism feel more personal but the big positive is that it can allow you to better engage with your readers. If the reader is able to access a sort of genuine emotion in a piece they can relate to it makes your work all the more enjoyable to read.

When dealing with this fear remember that, unless you intend to write strictly neutral non-fiction, it is a necessary part of writing and that without it your work is in danger of sounding dull and artificial. When it comes to the question of too much do look at the consequences of what you are writing, who it may upset and if it can perhaps be amended to make it more suitable.

Whether you reveal yourself in your work or not you will always be vulnerable to criticism and as a writer that is unavoidable. The key I think when putting yourself into your work is to reveal as much as you are comfortable with provided it adds to the work and does not put you at risk of a libel suit.

If you are unsure about libel law you can find some useful information on writers services.

The Seven Big Fears: Success

Of all the seven big writing fears, the fear of success is the one that I have found most difficult to reflect on.

Like the majority of writers I dream of success and become fixated on visualising what success could bring- book signings, letters from readers and a three book deal! I wish I could say in total honesty I write because I want to write and for the love of writing but it is more than that. I want to be successful at it.

So how can success become the object of fear for a writer and is it something that you fear? This fear is often more about the consequences that success might bring such as the effects on relationships and demands on lifestyle.

Although focusing on the future consequences of writing can be encouraging and motivating, as with the fear of failure, it can also cause unnecessary and negative pressure even when looking at it from the perspective of success.

The one piece of advise I would give is to focus on the now. Remember why you love writing in the first place. Besides anything else it may help your word count!

The Seven Big Fears: Not Being Good Enough

In the last blog post I explored the common fear of rejection that afflicts most writers and can, in many instances, prevent a writer from continuing. In this blog I explore the fear that what you produce may simply not be good enough.

This sort of fear of inadequacy does not just afflict writers, most of us as humans suffer some sort of low self-esteem in an area of our lives. It is the part of us that makes us humble and modest but it can become crippling when the fear is so overpowering it prevents us from actually producing what we fear will be inferior in the first place.

You are a Normal Human
I think in tackling a fear of inadequacy you first need to realise that your fear is more than likely not actually related to the writing you are producing. It is actually a normal human fear that can be applied to every part of our lives from relationships to the day job. Most likely the reason it is so prevalent in your writing is because it is one of the most personal aspects to your life and probably, as a result, the area in which you feel most vulnerable to criticism.

Write for Yourself
If it is this fear of some sort of judgement or criticism that is making writing difficult then write as if you are only writing for yourself. Some writing books do advise you write with your audience in mind but if doing this is actually proving counter-productive because you fear their judgement then writing for only yourself makes more sense. It is at the editing stage and once all the initial words are on the page that you can put your critical head on.

No Such Thing as Perfection
There will always be aspects in your writing that might make you cringe a little or wish you could do better but writing without that sort of humanity would be dull. Self-criticism is important but try as much as possible to put it on a shelf during the first draft, it is during the editing process that you can bring it back out again and make your piece shine.

Above everything else remember why you write in the first place.

In The Book Show Audience

I am pleased to announce this weekend has been enjoyable and productive, and one of the key moments has been attending a filming of The Sky Arts Book Show at the Words by the Water festival in Keswick.

The festival is an annual event ran by Ways With Words. This year it has been sponsored by Sky Arts, which is good news in the growth of the festival and its publicity, and Saturday was the filming of two episodes of The Book Show featuring writers attending the Words by the Water festival.

I attended the second filming at 12.10pm featuring Chris Mullin, Salley Vickers and Manju Kapur. Based on Mariella Frostup’s comments this was the plan of most attendees and the morning filming was much quieter. It would seem we are late-risers here in Cumbria, Mariella’s hotel couldn’t even provide her with a 6.30am wake-up call.

I have never been at a television filming before so it was fascinating watching the switch between different cameras and participating in prompted clapping. One thing I did however find strange, was attending an event where the presenter speaks to a camera rather than the audience.

The first guest was Salley Vickers who spoke about her latest book Aphrodite’s Hat and who’s earlier book Miss Garnet’s Angel has sold over 350,000 copies. Salley gave insight into where the idea from Aphrodite’s Hat came from and how she rebelled from her upbringing. Manju Kapur’s ideas also come from her upbringing and are heavily influenced by her Indian heritage. Her latest book Custody centres on a couple as there relationship falls apart and a custody battle ensues.

The final guest was former MP Chris Mullin, who added humour to the line-up and spoke about the frequent departmental changes under the Labour government, the problems in Libya and the political memoirs of other MPs.

Attending the filming, as is often the case when I see other such events, has also given me a sense of inspiration and enthusiasm. I’m also looking forward to seeing the airing of The Book Show and trying to spot myself in the audience.

The Book Show is on Sky Arts 1 Thursdays at 7pm.

Virgin on the Airwaves

It is an enlightening moment when you first hear your own voice on the radio and, unless you are overflowing with self-confidence, I can pretty much guarantee you will hate it.

There is a definite argument to be made that what we hear of our own voice differs vastly from what everyone else hears. It would explain why so many people auditioning for the X Factor believe they are amazing only for the cringing public to have to suffer through a terrible performance before the judges promptly dismiss them.

This week I am on Radio Cumbria for the Little Cumbria slot. I actually missed my debut this morning and it was an email from a friend that alerted me (thanks Nick). Catching the drive-time repeat I could not help but feel excited on hearing myself introduced as ‘Emma Bragg- a writer from Whitehaven’.

Unfortunately the reality when I did hear myself recounting the arrival of my little sister was one of confusion. To me, it did not even sound like me. For a start I sounded a lot posher than I expected, secondly it was horribly monotone!

On the positive it is exciting knowing my voice is being promoted across the airwaves. Maybe promoted is not the best description, but it is getting out there and there is no harm in that as good preparation for when I am a best-selling author and in high demand on Radio 4.

You can hear my first attempt at radio on listen again here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/p00dfs4s/ and I’ll be on Radio Cumbria for the rest of the week at 9.40am with a repeat at about 5.40pm incase you miss it.

A big thank you to everyone who will make the effort to listen.

(a former radio virgin)

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Competition of the Month: Onward Short Story and Poetry Competition

The Onward Short Story & Poetry Competition is aimed at raising funds to restore the endangered Theatre Royal Hyde, an Edwardian gem that dates back to 1910.

Although winning the competition will not sound as good on your writing CV as say the ‘Bridport Prize’ the winner does get a small prize plus critique and profits go towards saving Theatre Royal Hyde so it is a good cause too.

The competition is looking for stories of up to 1,200 words and poems of up to 40 lines are required on any theme.

Closing: 28.2.11.
Prizes: £50, £30, £20. Plus critiques
Entry Fee: £3 each, £5 for two.

To find out more about The Onward Short Story & Poetry Competition including full entry details and rules visit the website here.

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