24 June 2014

Follow Your Passions

During a writing class I attended years ago, the tutor asked us why we wrote. There were various answers, most taking the high road of feeling the need to write, having something to say or wanting to entertain with our writing. The tutor smiled and said it was perfectly acceptable to admit we wanted to make money.

At that time I was in the naïve stage of the writing business, and still wondering whether an 'ordinary' person like me could ever aspire to calling themselves a writer.

Fast forward to now. There have been huge changes in the publishing business, and I think for writers they are good changes, giving us more of a say in what we do and how we choose to accomplish it. However, while there may be more people making money from their writing, I doubt many have been able to give up the day job.

If you are a writer, why do you write? 

There is nothing wrong in wanting to make money from writing, but I do believe if money is your goal, you’re in the wrong business. It’s easier to make money in almost any other way. The payment per hour of hard slog is negligible, and the lottery probably offers better odds.

I’ve never been under any illusions about becoming rich through writing. If I'm ever able to make enough money to pay the bills, I will be thrilled, but money is a secondary goal. Much higher up the list are improving my skills, becoming a better writer and entertaining people.

Maya Angelou said, ‘You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.’

If you don't love writing (or anything), purely for the thing itself, if you don't have a passion for it, you won't be able to put in the work that makes you excel.

This is easily seen with children. As they grow you can see characteristics and their likes and passions develop. The correlation between things they love doing and the growth of skills is obvious. Somehow that connection becomes fuzzy as we get older, and are bogged down with stuff we ‘have to do’.

Pursue your passions, and it shouldn’t seem like work!

15 June 2014


Occasionally in a text or email from my daughter, she’ll add a #Perfectionist. It’s an in-joke between us, as I sometimes moan about by perfectionist tendencies.

I’m obviously well aware of this trait, and sometimes flaw, in my personality. I’m not a perfectionist with everything, far from it. I can live with dusty surfaces and general untidiness (to a point!). When we’re decorating, I’m definitely a ‘close enough is good enough’ worker, who manages to get plenty of paint on surrounding surfaces and myself. However, when it comes to my creative writing, it’s never good enough!

Perfection is a double-edged sword. If something is important to me, I absolutely believe in making it as good as I can, but some things just aren’t worth worrying about that much. For me, house-decorating, cleaning and a whole pile of other things definitely fall into that category. Perfection is also an impossible standard. Whether it’s trying to look as good as a model or actress, or be as fit as a professional athlete, we’ll probably never measure up, certainly not in our own eyes.

However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work at being the best we can, at things that are important to us. The hard part is knowing when we’ve done all we can, at this moment. Those last three words are important. I look at some of my early short stories and writing – the things that no one else has ever seen - and cringe when I read them. The flip side is that I’m improving.

This thing with perfection can defeat us if we take our search too far. I know I reach a point where I have to tell myself that something is as good as I can make it. Now. It’s been critiqued, edited and polished to the best of my abilities, and within that search for perfection, there is a certain pride that I’ve done my best. We have to know when we’ve reached the limit of what we can do now, and send it out into the world.

If we don’t, then we’ll never learn to be pleased with where we are now, and look at how to move beyond it.

Equally, we know when we could make something better, but we can't be bothered because we're fed up with it. It's a different feeling, and if we leave something there and don't improve it, we're selling ourselves short.

Some time ago I read the book 11/22/63 by Stephen King. In speaking about the book, he said he first had the idea as a very young writer, but knew he didn’t have the skills to pull it off at that point, so he practiced his craft and honed his skills until he felt he could write the book and do it justice.

Somewhere there is a point we have to find, where we can let go and be proud of what we've achieved, knowing there is still more of the hill to climb.