I loved the sparkly Strictly Come Dancing final this weekend – and in my opinion Caroline Flack deserved to win. But what a difficult competition to judge, towards the end… Frankie, Simon, Mark, Caroline… Jake and Pixie as well… They had all done so well. In fact, after just several months training, a couple of them looked like professional dancers. Before this most had no experience of the Cha Cha, Rumba and Salsa… I said to a guest staying with me, it’s scary to think that lots of us probably have hidden talents within us, that we’ll never be given the opportunity to discover.
Next I thought how the competition had parallels with writing. Hand on heart, I don’t know a single writing friend who has failed to get something published, as long as they have persevered, tried not to take rejection personally and kept on writing. Year in year out a different literary friend lands that coveted deal. I’d say above all, determination is the most important quality a writer can have, even above talent.
I started writing seriously ten years ago next February. I sold my first short story in 2011 and signed my first novel deal in 2013. Yes, many times I felt like giving up, but the occasional positive rejection letter and the support from my writing pals pushed me out of the troughs. It was hard to hear of other writers finding success after only a year or two of writing – even though I was pleased for them – but I accepted that I am one of life’s grafters and that success doesn’t land in my lap. At university I had to slog hard to get good grades. Natural talent, me? I don’t think so. But I am prepared to put in the hours, like all the contestants on the dancing show. So to anyone going through a negative phase with their writing, I’d say chin up, just keep on going, learning your craft. And like those celebrities who fall in love with dancing, keep that sparkle – try never to forget all the things about the act of writing that you love.
Fun Mistletoe Mansion, my 3rd novel, is out now.