Down in the Dumps and Out Again

It must be all of three years to the day since I first felt down in the dumps with regard to my writing. With four books under my belt (two fiction and two non-fiction), the fact that my work continued to be self-published, as opposed to being commercially published, had created two specific problems for me –

  • one in respect of monetary necessity,
  • the other in respect of how I and others might adjudge my work.

You see, those four self-published books had cost me several thousand pounds. Even so, to state my case in this manner is to misrepresent it somewhat. For the fact of the matter is that I had become very conscious indeed, as head of my family, of the fact that my self-published work had been sponsored to some tune by the family budget. Naturally, this could not allowed to continue. Because it seemed to me that the sad lack of recognition of my work as a commercial entity made this quite unfair of me.

So that was the first thing that worried me.

Meanwhile, Samuel Johnson’s adage about writing had me figuratively chafing at the bit, or fretting rather:

‘No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.’

It doesn’t matter that this statement is untrue, unfair, unthinking and ultimately unworthy of the bombast who uttered it. The point is that it rankles. Because this adage (and others like it) has long since become the self-congratulating rallying cry so eagerly taken up by those

  • snooty critics in the so-called quality press, who would never deign to read a self-published book, and by
  • shiftless commercial publishers, whose minimal regard they are prepared to pay to submissions is of the knee-jerk variety.

There was something else that bothered me, too. That is to say:

  • how dare I, feeling as I did, how dare I continue in all conscience to encourage via the WISP column other self-published writers and wannabe writers to press on regardless?

Accordingly, I stumbled onward for the past three years (as your editor well knows: indeed, how understanding and supportive she has been to me throughout) . . . until now, as it happens, when I seem to have staggered out the other side of the cumulus of my writing depression. Yes, indeed – concerning which, I would suggest, the point  at issue, as far as the patient readership of WISP is concerned must surely be this

  • How did I manage to do that? Get through my writing depression.

With sincere apologies to that same patient WISP readership for my having been such a misery guts for far too long, I propose to take each stage of my recovery in chronological order.

1. To begin with I made a point of replenishing the family budget. To do so I turned my attention once more to a particular commercial activity, the rewards from which had around the turn of the Millennium, permitted me to come in from the cold (that is to say, from the various hands-on part-time jobs I had pursued over the past 35 years) in order to write my first novel. (See below.)

2. I then brought to mind over a period of time all the

  • people I know, friends and acquaintances, who have made a point of not buying my books
  • literary critics I hate
  • publishers I despise
  • local journalists who are pathetic writers yet earn a living from it
  • local television presenters who signally fail to support local writers –

and I asked myself in all seriousness why on earth I would want people I detest to speak well of my work. Were they to do so, I reasoned, I should perhaps need to regard this as evidence that my writing had failed – worse still, that I had become like them – the pathetic, self-serving no-nothings.

3. Alongside the idea of a short sabbatical, which our editor did not deny me, I wrote a series of 10 articles for the local trade magazine in my hometown of Middleton, Greater Manchester in order that I might perhaps sit back and take stock for 12 months. (Just as well I did, because I was twice hospitalized earlier this year.)

4. I then took a break from reading and writing, too, took short breaks away from home. Then found myself fiddling with the series of 10 articles I had submitted to Life Magazine, which were now in the process of being published.

5. And, of late – I finished my final read through only this week – I developed those 10 articles into a document of 40,000 words, which I am now looking to publish in the autumn as a Kindle book, entitled BOOST YOUR POCKET MONEY AND PENSION – A Winner’s Guide to Buy-to-Let Property Investment.

6. As this, my latest submission to the WISP column goes to press, then, I ask you (like me) to consider the following list of names:

  • Philip Larkin, novelist become poet
  • Alan Moorehead, novelist become documentary reporter
  • F Scott Fitzgerald, advertising copyist become novelist
  • John O’Hara, journalist become novelist
  • Les Dawson, wannabe writer become comedian

All these people became what, at least initially, they were not. (Here’s an odd thought: Philip Larkin, the famous poet, was a published novelist long before his friend, Kingsley Amis – the eventually prolific novelist, got into print.)

What am I saying here? Simply this, that I personally now have only 2 fiction titles to my name and as many as 3 non-fiction titles. So perhaps I am not the novelist I set out to be, but a non-fiction writer instead. So ask yourself when next you feel fed up with your writing, are you really the novelist you set out to be?

The poet you wanted to be?

The short story writer?

Remember Hans Christian Andersen while you’re at it, too: are you perhaps, in literary terms at any rate – a swan, rather than the duckling you always imagined you were?

(26 June 2013)


Bill Keeth’s books, Every Street in Manchester ISBN 1859880649 & Write It Self-Publish It Sell It ISBN 97809558863 are available from Amazon and all good book shops. Bill can also be contacted via his website, http://www.novelnovella.com.

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