Managing Expectations!

wreathNicola Burggraf has written a lovely piece on her blog today about how a recent get-together with two friends has inspired her to pick up her (almost finished!) novel again and it got me thinking about how friends’ attitudes and comments can help or hinder us, as writers.

As many of you know, Sally Jenkins is my writing buddy and we meet up once a quarter to talk through our writing ‘hits and misses’ and goals for the coming few months.

It’s not quite as serious or structured as it sounds, by the way (in case you were imagining power suits and flipcharts), it’s more of a ‘chat about writing over a cuppa’ but we do try to encourage each other and it helps to talk through our plans for our writing, because let’s face it, if your writing buddy’s not interested, who will be?!

We met up last Saturday and reflected on 2015. It was great that we both have cause to celebrate this year: among other things, (eg: she’s revamped her website and successfully completed her PTTLS course), Sally’s published her first novel and of course, I’ve had my success with The People’s Friend serial.

Yesterday I met up with some of my former students and the first thing they asked me was ‘How’s the novel? Have you finished it yet?’ (as that, apparently, was the reason I stopped teaching them – so I could ‘write my novel’! Erm, actually that’s not quite true, I stopped teaching my class at the end of the summer term because I wanted more time for my writing, in general!).

I honestly don’t think I’d have managed 16000 words for The People’s Friend serial if I had still been teaching. But it was a relief, to be honest, to be able to tell them my good news. I suppose I felt the need to justify my ‘time off’ as a teacher! And sometimes I do get a bit ‘defensive’ about my writing output – or lack of it! Am I the only one?!

When I told my dad about my PF serial win he was pleased. He used to call my writing ‘stories about Auntie Betty’ (I know, you have to laugh), so he clearly sees this as a ‘step up’. But I know he also thinks, ‘it’s still not the BBC…’.

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12 Responses to Managing Expectations!

  1. Nicola says:

    Thank you for the kind words, Helen. It looks so nice to see my name in print, especially as my writing inspired your post today (that makes me smile with pride). I also took a teaching break in order to concentrate on my writing and I get the same questions when I bump into an ex-student or a parent. It is strange that we seem to have to justify our ‘time off’. You are not the only one who gets defensive about output. I’m exactly the same, when questioned. I think only writers understand the writing process. Wish you a lovely Christmas, Helen and I’m looking forward to reading your serial. Have lots of fun with that!

    • Thanks, Nicola. Everyone told me that part two would be easier but I’m not finding that! Part one all takes place on one day but part two covers about six months and fitting everything in is proving to be tricky! I’m currently on 9000 words and it’s supposed to be 5000…! Happy Christmas to you too, Nicola and good luck with your writing next year.

  2. I really wish I had a writing buddy. There are no writing groups where I live. But I do have two very supportive friends who are always encouraging me with my writing projects. I got a beautiful wall plaque in the post this morning from one friend which said, “A good friend knows all your stories. A best friend helps you write them.”

  3. I’m sure your Dad is really proud of you. He simply doesn’t understand what we go through as writers because only another writer can do that. It was Paula Williams who said her family told her writing short stories was ‘money for old rope’.

    • Lynne, it’s funny what they come out with, isn’t it? ‘Money for old rope’!! I bet Paula didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! I’m coming to the conclusion that the least they all know, the better, so I tend not to talk about my writing, if I can help it, with people who don’t write themselves!

  4. Linda says:

    I hate talking about my unpublished writing projects in case they’re rejected umpteen times (as they often are), or I end up abandoning them because I don’t think they’re good enough. I’ve trained my nearest and dearest not to ask – although they’re the first to know when something is accepted.
    I know a lot of non-writers think women’s magazine stories are easy to write, but that’s only because they haven’t tried it themselves and have no idea how tough the competition is.
    You have every right to be proud of your PF success, and 2016 might be the year you crack the BBC. Merry Christmas!

    • Thanks, Linda. I might crack the BBC if I actually sent them anything…! Maybe I’d better make 2016 the year I look out for submission opportunities for competitions from the BBC! Funnily enough, THREE people that I’ve told about writing the serial for People’s Friend have said “Could you turn that into a novel?” So even my serial-writing is looked down upon…! Only ‘novels’ are good enough, aren’t they?!! It’s annoying! But onwards and upwards. Good luck to you for your writing in 2016, Linda and Merry Christmas to you too!

  5. Wendy Clarke says:

    Couldn’t do without writing buddy Tracy. She keeps me on the straight and narrow. Just imagine if the four of us got together for Teacakes and chat! Like you, I gave up my private teaching to devote more time to my writing and never regretted it. Wishing you a very Happy Christmas X

    • Thanks for your comment, Wendy! I do have twinges of guilt about giving up teaching but it was just taking over my life! As people in the class got more advanced, I was spending 5, 6, 7 or more hours a week on prep and delivery – not including the emails I was answering in between sessions and the amount of time I spent thinking about ideas for the class. Something had to give! Not ruling out going back to it at some point but for now I need to concentrate on my own writing. Your ‘admission’ makes me doubly-sure that I made the right decision, so thank you again! And Merry Christmas..!

  6. Joanne Fox says:

    Well done on your lovely win with People’s Friend. I look forward to seeing your serial when it comes out.
    Happy Christmas!

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