Friday, 17 July 2009

Taking Aim

I'm still sorting through the information I gathered from the Wenlock Olympian games last weekend and I've still not come down off the ceiling from the whole experience. I have approached some editors but none have bitten so far. I have to admit, though, that I took a sabbatical yesterday in order to tidy my work space and get rid of all the old magazines and bits of paper that have accumulated over the past few months. You see, I do take my own advice every now and then.

I have to say that now I can see the wood for the trees I feel calmer and more organised which I hope will translate into more efficient working and a more efficient brain! (My husband is choking on his breakfast as we speak!) Everything is in its own appropriate space so I can find things more easily and not waste hours (precious writing time) tearing my hair out and searching for whatever it is I have lost.

I'm still unsure as to where I'm going with the info from the games but I will be attending my writers' group meeting tomorrow so I'll take some stuff in for some advice. I know I can always rely on my friends at Wrekin Writers to save me from myself!! (The cheque is in the post guys and girls!)

I think that a big part of my hesitation and concern is to do with the hang up I have that I'll never get another piece of work published. It started after I got a short story published in an Australian mag back in April/May. Although I was estatic that I'd got one in, I very quickly got myself in the damaging mindset of thinking I'm never going to do it again and that it was a fluke. So far I haven't managed to get another story in any magazine. And every rejection just inflates that belief just a little bit more.

It's happening again with my articles too. I had one accepted for Writers' Forum last month (HURRAH!) My first article in a national magazine - and a writing one at that! But I have a sinking feeling in my stomach and an impending sense of doom that I won't be able to pull it off again. Does anyone else feel like this sometimes, or is it just me?! I know someone's going to give me a kick up the posteria for this!

I know the only way forward is to read the target magazine, keep writing, keep pitching and keep sending stuff out, so this is what I am going to do. I think a lot of barriers that we come up against as writers are self imposed and we have to work hard to punch through them. Going back to a workshop we had at my writers group meeting last month where we had a motivational speaker in, he advised us not to feed the ducks - people or situations that suck our energy and ambition out of us. (I'm looking at the plastic duck I got from the workshop now. I keep it on my desk). The speaker was quite correct so I must remember it's a phase I'm going through and I can stamp the ducks down!

If we can conceive it we can achieve it, as Liam, the speaker, said - but we have to be prepared to work hard and keep going, not giving up at the sign of a first and subsequent rejection slips. So if you're feeling in a bit of a rut with your article writing and can't seem to move forward here is what I suggest you do (it's what I'm doing and it seems to be working for me. Try it and see - it might not work for you but it's worth a try.)

1. Take a step back: You're the boss so order yourself to take some time off - a mini holiday. Put your writing away for a period of time - long enough to feel refreshed and to recapture your enthusiasm for writing but not too long that you are demotivated and never pick a pen up to write again.

2. Do something different: Try an activity you've always wanted to do but have never done for whatever reason. This will not only be fun but it will give you more material to work with!

3. Relax: Go to the spa, go for lots of walks, read a book, put your feet up with a stack of magazines, coffee and biscuits and let the world pass you by. If you are relaxed the ideas for articles will flow better.

4. Clear the decks: Have a good clear out and get rid of the paperwork and junk within your writing space - a tidy desk = a tidy mind and you will be more focussed and able to prioritise your work.

5. Read: When you're ready - read through a couple of back copies, and the most reent copy of the magazine you want to target. Don't be tempted to do what I usually do and read lots of different magazines as this is confusing and you may start to panic! Take it slowly and by one magazine title at a time. Note down the name of the editor and their contact details. Get their submission guidelines and note down the types of article subjects they use, the tone, language and style of the articles and word count. This will help you to write your article in the style that is in keeping with the magazine, and give you a better chance of acceptance.

6. Research: It's important, when gathering info for your articles, that you ensure you get them from a reliable source and they you get the facts right. If you say something in your article that is untrue - whether you realise it or not - the editor will not be pleased and you may lose your chance of acceptance. Don't just rely on one source for your info. There are many places you can go to obtain info: the internet, library, journals, newspapers, magazines, books, people.

7. Organisation: Once you have all the info you need take a deep breath and don't panic. Sit down and sift through the info and organise it into files for each section of the article. If you keep all the information in one file but devided into sections within the file you won't lose any of it and it will be easy to locate the info you need.

8. Try to keep the idea of the theme of your article in your head when you are writing it. What are you trying to say? What are the main points? What evidence to back the claims up do you have? What other info do you need and how are you going to get it? Try not to wander off topic or lose the cohesive thread of your theme in your article.

I think, by taking a step back from your writing and doing something else or relaxing for a while, you give your brain time to calm down and recharge your batteries. You view your life from a different angle when you relax and this can be liberating for your creativity which is now unbound and free from the constraints of your everyday life. But the only answer really is to have regular breaks but then get back to your writing and keep going! Keep sending your work out there - and try and have fun while your doing it.

Good luck

Julie xx


  1. Dear Julie
    Because of you, I am doing my first interview today. When you were so enthusiastic about the Wenlock Games I decided that I had to get out there and do more. So I am off to the rare poultry breeds nr Ludlow. Don't you dare get despondent now, I count on you for inspiration, there will be a place for your article and the rest you are about to write in the future. I felt exactly the same with my little book and wonder if it was just begninners luck, but we have to keep plodding away.
    Keep it up
    Love Di

  2. Thanks, Di. I hope your interview goes well! I can't wait to hear about it tomorrow. I've got much further on with my article than I thought I would and so feel a lot better now. I'm glad I've spurred you on.

    There's a lot to be said for just sitting down and getting on with writing the article isn't there, instead of sitting round moping about it and worrying that you can't do it!

    See you tomorrow.

    Julie xx