Resilience, submitting, and novels.



A good friend just obliquely asked me (paraphrasing) how I maintain the motivation to write and submit. I think. I have been mulling that over and the key is resilience. Writing resilience. And I can see how I have managed to hold onto my writing resilience, because it contrasts very starkly with the lack of resilience I have in other facets of my life.

I’ve had postnatal depression for I’m not sure how long now. Next week is the Goo-boy’s second birthday, and most of that time has been pretty rough. Writing is often therapeutic. It’s something that has kept me going, even when the darkness threatened to overwhelm. I’ve held onto my writing resilience purely because writing helped me cope with all the other stuff. The hardest part of writing was that the lowest point in my mental state coincided with the middle of my acceptance drought. It’s difficult to continue submitting when no one seems to like your words. Why did I continue? Maybe I’m just a masochist, or maybe I needed one hopeful thing to hold onto. If I didn’t submit, I would never get an acceptance, and I would probably stop writing. I needed to keep writing. Self-reinforcing cycle is born.

I’m contemplating what forcing myself to write a novel is doing to my writing resilience. It seems when my head is in a good place a novel is a great idea. I have loads of discipline and sit down and write. But when life intrudes, when my lack of resilience *elsewhere* becomes apparent, my very restless mind see the novel as a bleak wasteland, trapping me into a single world that doesn’t necessarily meet my therapeutic needs. Shorts and poems allow me a brief interlude in a world that feels rich and alive. I can work through stuff and then remove myself from the pages. The novel doesn’t let me do that. And it’s becoming hard work. A chore. Some days I actually think I don’t want to write. But I need to write. If not every day, then as often as possible.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Limit myself to only working on novels when I am in a good headspace? Accept that some days I *need* to work on a short story? In the wise words of Trent Jamieson, “A novel’s not a race, it’s a negotiation with everything else in your life. No-one wins a novel, they build it, brick by brick.” And I’m seeing that he’s right.

I guess I’m still figuring this thing out.


6 thoughts on “Resilience, submitting, and novels.

  1. “It seems when my head is in a good place a novel is a great idea. I have loads of discipline and sit down and write. But when life intrudes, when my lack of resilience *elsewhere* becomes apparent, my very restless mind see the novel as a bleak wasteland, trapping me into a single world that doesn’t necessarily meet my therapeutic needs.”

    I think this is why I binge write. For a short space of time, whether it be an afternoon, a morning, a week or a month I can force everything else into some kind of ‘happy’ stasis to allow me to write. When everything is chaos I don’t have the ability to commit to brand new words. I’m not sure when writing as an escape hatch closed down.

    What I have discovered though is, within the chaos, I can edit up existing words. I just need to have those words there in the first place.

    I feel as though I have achieved next to nothing this year: just two short stories finished (one which was a binge in a single afternoon and the other that took seven months to complete!), and two others on the back burner. Two publications, one from a sub last year and the other from a vignette.

    Then I remember the small things – a month of poetry in February, the long haul of finishing Piper’s Reach and then editing it, and the not so small thing this month of writing a novel.

    I believe what we need as writers is to understand our rhythms and our flows and adapt them as best we can so there is always a sweet spot for writing, even when the winds turn cold and howl through our psyches. And always, ALWAYS, only ever using ourselves as comparison points, instead using those around us to encourage and support us. To paraphrase Trent, to know what the bricks are, so we are always have our building blocks at hand.

  2. I also meant to say, resilience is the one thing I missed when I was depressed and then recovering. I knew I had always had the ability to pick myself up in the past and move on, but when I was depressed I got knocked down and didn’t get back up again for days and weeks at a time. I haven’t at any point this year said I’ve had depression simply because I have had the resilience to weather everything that has come my way. And the darkness has been hours, a night here and there, not the yawning void of days, weeks and months.

    To have found a way to hold the darkness at bay, or to abide within it, is the most amazing gift to yourself.

    • I don’t cope with the smallest things but I always have writing to retreat to when the overwhelm threatens, I guess I feel resentful for the novel taking that way from me. If it was a novel that fed that part of me, it might be ok, but it’s not. Hmm. If I come up with an idea that feeds my warped darkness I might just have the answer hehehe,

  3. That’s why I’m attempting to write a Novella, and not a novel., as my first steps towards a longer form of fiction. Some little kids learn to stand and just start running. I’m not one of them. If the story is only say, 10 chapters long,.. the end is in sight and I can keep motivated to write.
    I think though, for now, I’m actually a short form writer. I love that I can work on a story for a week or two and then send it out somewhere and get some kind of feedback, whether it is rejection or acceptance. (mostly rejection obviously but it’s the principle). It’s also fits in better with family and kids and life. I think i’d find finding good solid blocks of time to work on a novel very hard right now.

  4. Oh wow I hear you. I’ve got a stalled novel on my computer – it mocks me each time I log on. I become overwhelmed at its potential, then retreat with fear and anxiety. It’s a hard road. Writing resilience – such a great thing to embrace. I feel like this is something to work on.

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