I concluded a recent post on mourning our writerly disappointments with a reminder that we need to celebrate our small successes too. But do I heed my own advice? Well, maybe sometimes, but standards can slip. If we’re not careful, our small achievements can be diminished by our much bigger ambitions. We need to beware of viewing them as if through the wrong end of a telescope. But how to make them matter without aggrandising every little thing?
Generally, that’s okay. There are multiple minor successes and failures in any job. But when the failures hit especially hard we need to ensure that none of those small successes slip through our fingers and disappear.
I’m generally shy of sharing small successes as I prefer my friends and readers to save your cheerleading for the bigger ones. But I thought I’d have a go at listing some that came my way recently when I needed them most, not for your congratulations but to urge you, if you don’t already, to acknowledge your own.
- A publicist quoting from one of my reviews in a tweet.
- A fellow blogger buying a copy of my debut novel, Sugar and Snails.
- An editor emailing to suggest a possible publisher for a short story he’d declined.
- Getting the link fixed for a magazine article about me and my writing so I can finally share it online (see above).
- A fab image for my latest guest post on fictional therapists (see below).
- Surprise nominations for two local writing awards (see below).
- A short story accepted by an online journal that had previously declined my work. (Actually, I don’t count this as a small success as publishing my fiction is what I’m about. But the email arrived as I was nearing the end of this post.)
- Managed to plug my own novels without straying from the theme of a (very brief) interview on local radio about Jane Eyre.
Although most of these were unexpected, they wouldn’t happen without some effort on my part. As I said in one of my (rare) inspirational guest posts, you don’t know what you can achieve until you try. We have to create opportunities for ourselves and for our communities.
We have to continue submitting to get published and even shrinking violets need to be open to opportunities for promotion, even when it feels like pushing at a bolted and padlocked door. While we might do some of the pushing individually, writing communities are wonderfully resourceful at creating opportunities for celebrating each other’s successes.
When I began blogging four and a half years ago, it was a marvellous boost to receive a blogging award and then to pass it on to other bloggers I admired. (And, as D Avery has shown, and Norah Colvin with SMAG, you don’t have to wait for an award to come your way to pass on the plaudits.) Not long after, the Bloggers' Bash was born and, steered by Sacha Black and an organising team of British bloggers, it has grown in strength and reputation, with an annual event in London and numerous awards open to bloggers around the world.
That’s not for me, but I admire the energy and entrepreneurial approach of these largely self-published authors. I was also impressed with some novelists displaying awards on their tables at a book fair last year: instead of waiting for some external expert to bestow (or withhold) an award on (from) them, they’d clubbed together to buy a trophy, donated some of their own books to local libraries and asked readers to vote for the best.
The awards night at Nottingham Writers’ Studio tonight seems similar in scale. With over twenty prizes – about half for membership contributions and the other half for writing – it’s about celebrating a breadth of achievement in myriad ways. I think it’s a lovely idea and I’m looking forward to celebrating, whether or not I get a present to take home.
Before I put on my glad rags, I need to compose this week’s 99-word story. Charli’s prompt – a stranded suitcase – leads me straight to my possibly third novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, which features at least two stranded characters and three suitcase scenes, one of which I drew upon for another flash this month. This is based on the opening:
Clark Gable is pinning a red rosette on the bodice of her second-hand dress when the maid shakes her none too gently by the shoulder. “I wasn’t asleep,” she lies. On the parquet beside her feet sits a battered brown suitcase. “Are you leaving us, dear?”
“No, but you are, they’ll be here any minute to escort you to Tuke House.”
“Tuke House?” Matty knows of the Palladium and the Royal Albert Hall. She knows of the Folies Bergère, despite its salacious reputation. She has never heard of Tuke. “Thank you, dear, but the current arrangements are perfectly acceptable.”