Nobody in their right mind would ever want to be a writer. Michael Caine once commented that when people told him they wanted to be an actor, what they wanted was the perceived glamour; the interviews, the attention, the fame, the cars and the money. And the girls (or boys). What they didn’t want was the actual job; the waiting, the wrangling, the endless rehearsing, the waiting, the bad cups of tea, the horrible hotels, the alienation. So he said, ‘if you wanted to be an actor, you’d be one. You’d be doing rep or pub theatre or working for a small am-dram company; anything you could, because it’d be in your blood.’ And he’s absolutely right. I say the same thing (perhaps more tactfully) to would-be writers: if you want to be a writer, write – but if you just want to be famous and do interviews and book-signings and get prizes, there’s no way past the slog. And oh, god, the endless rejections.
What nobody tells you – because nobody can tell you the length of a piece of string – is how long this period lasts. In my experience, there is first of all a phase where you are finding your voice. You may get published during this period if what you do coincides with what’s popular; and that can be good. It can also be bad news, because you may get stuck there and never evolve. Then there is a phase where you have found your voice and need to find your public. That’s where I am right now. I’ve found a sort of limited public, in that I’ve published a few things: I’ve also found a sort of private public in you guys who are kind enough to read and comment on what I put on here. But I have yet to find my wider public.
Every time I go onto Everyday Fiction – a magazine which has published a couple of my short stories – I see that my latest offering is still waiting to be read. This means that it is categorised as ‘slush’. I do not like seeing my carefully-crafted work described as ‘slush’. But what can you do? Insist they recategorise it as ‘genius in waiting’?
I don’t know. There seems no way round this problem. You just have to keep going.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress through the Slush of Despond.