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Why Big Breaks are Bullshit, and other tales from the Writer’s Life

My housemate is a lovely person. She tends to talk me up to people. When she was explaining what I do for a living, and that I’m an author, her work colleagues asked, ‘that’s great. Is she just waiting for her Big Break now then?’

Big Breaks are a myth. There is no one defining moment in a writer’s life that means they’ve ‘Made It’. Often, we think getting an agent, or getting a publishing deal, or finishing a body of work is the Big Break. But I’m a firm believer in the fact that even though those rituals are recognised (and really exciting) they are only one more step on the journey.

We don’t wait around for breaks, we make them. By writing the book, by talking to authors and bloggers and reviewers, by blogging and connecting and entering competitions and continuing to have belief in our goals, no matter what.

The goal posts are constantly shifting for authors. First it’s agent, then publishing house, then bestseller, then multi-book deals, then royalty percentage. Then what about the movie deal? And is it really any good? Maybe you’ve got all these things, but people still think you’re waiting to ‘make it’ because they haven’t heard your name, or haven’t seen you on the cover of Hello Magazine.

We confuse success with fame, and we confuse creative lives with lives of ease. When you do something as a job, it involves dedication and hard work, regardless of whether you love it or not.

The writers who ARE sitting around waiting for their big breaks, well, I don’t classify them as writers. I consider them to be Writers-in-Waiting. If you don’t have the confidence or commitment to chase after your dreams, even in the face of derision or judgement, well, you’re in waiting. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s the nature of the game that no-one is going to come along and drop a multi-billion pound book deal in your lap if you’re not doing all the groundwork.

Ways to Make your Own Breaks:

Write. Every day. Find your pattern. Find your story. Make it happen.

Talk to people, but more importantly, LISTEN to people. Out of interest, not just about how they’re of interest to you.

Enter competitions, blog, tweet.

Build a brand based on who you really are. Spend some time navel gazing. Think about what you want to write about, what kind of writer you want to be, and where you want to go.

Think about how you define success for you. When will you feel like you’ve achieved what you wanted? What are your goals? What are you working towards?

Keep doing this every day, every week, every month, and regardless of whether you even think you’re any good, I guarantee someone else will. Baby steps. Not one big break, but many little ones.

 

 

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Giving Yourself Permission to Write

Even as a professional writer, taking the time to write feels a bit selfish. Yes, I’ve got a deadline, and yes, it’s a business, but still. I get to sit here and make up stories, and it feels a little self indulgent. I could be doing my laundry, or cleaning the house, or advertising the book. We often take the stance that this is procrastination, and sometimes it is. But other times, it can come from the idea that what we’re doing isn’t worthy of the time we’re spending on it.

Writing is something just for you. In many ways it’s a completely solo activity. Obviously, this isn’t always the case, people write in a group, and share stories, create together, but usually, the process of drawing out a story from within you to on the page, is a personal journey. Learning that the stories you have to tell are relevant and important is necessary to work well. If you think about it in terms of your feelings, regardless of how the work will be received or what others will say- you have a story within you, and you need to get it out. If the story stays untold, unacknowledged, it’s not going to be good for you. It’ll sit forgotten, itching at you. Like many things that reoccur and pop into our heads, nudging us for attention, it’s important to listen to them.

To ignore your artistry is to ignore how you work, and how you feel about it all. I run Writing for Wellbeing Workshops, and these are a fairly new and holistic way of using creativity. It’s thinking about the process and not about the outcome. Obviously, the writing you produced has a part to play, and often you’ll create some beautiful and meaningful work. The reason people come to these workshops is because they feel they need permission to spend the time on their writing, to take a break from their lives for the day, and focus solely on them and their creativity. It’s a brilliant atmosphere, and the hope is that when you finish the day, you’ll take away the sense that writing is good for you, and it’s not selfish to do it, but necessary and helpful to you.

There’s more details on the workshop here, but always try to remember that anything you do has purpose, and you can’t feel guilty about that.

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