I don’t have anything to say.

I should have something to say. I normally put something on the blog on a Monday. I’ve usually written in over the weekend. Normally writing something isn’t a problem. I planned to say some more stuff about Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 but I’m really not feeling like it.

I’m worried. The election solved nothing. Brexit still lies ahead and there’s no plan to deal with it. Politics, both globally and in the UK, is still all messed up. I’m still broke. I still don’t know what to do with my novels.

I just want some sort of hint about where to go and what to do. A great big quest marker in the sky. Even it it’s only so I can decide to head in the exact opposite direction because screw quests.

I don’t have anything to say. I don’t know what to do. I’m worried about the future. So instead of doing anything constructive I’m going to blow up some (virtual) tanks.

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Things can only get better

Ha Ha. LOL. Nope.

Things can always get worse. That’s one of my mottos. As long as the human race has access to a planet with breathable air then there’s always room for things to get worse. However my personal life has now reached the point where worse doesn’t mean very much.

We had a visit from a couple of Sheriff’s Officers (the Scottish version of bailiffs). They came to inform us of a truly massive debt that we apparently owe to the local council from where we used to live. It was terrifying for about 20 minutes. The stress caused my husband to have the first full NEAD (Non-Epileptic Attack Disorder) seizure in years. We contacted the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

Then we found out that we are so poor that they can’t do much to us. We have too little money for them to freeze our bank accounts. We don’t have earnings for them to arrest. We don’t have property to seize. At worse it’s going to mean that our other debts will take longer to repay as it’s a priority debt and thus gets the biggest slice of our financial cake.

The debts will all get paid eventually and that hasn’t changed. My credit rating will be in the toilet until they do and that hasn’t changed. All that’s changed is how long that will take. It’s now slightly less likely that I’ll live long enough to see that fateful day but I wasn’t really expecting to anyway.

I have another motto: Always look on the bright side. If you can’t find the bright side then polish the dark side until it shines.

Just think, if we owned a house or a car or had savings or jobs then this would be terrible news. It would be devastating. But our lives are already in the toilet so it’s just one more thing. This is how you polish the dark side.

Please don’t kill me.

The UK is facing an unexpected election in June.  I have a message for everyone eligible to vote in it – I’m a human being, my disability doesn’t make me any less human, people like me don’t deserve to die just so that our elected leaders can pursue a dream of austerity that most reputable economists regard as purest bunkum.

You might be wondering what on earth I’m going on about. It’s not like anyone is talking about loading disabled people on to cattle trucks. Yet. So here’s some further reading for you:

If you vote Conservative you’re voting for people who don’t care about child poverty, the working poor, or disabled people. You’re voting for people who can’t even lie consistently. You’re voting for people who claim that they are subsidising an entire nation (Scotland) while refusing to subsidise a spare room to store the equipment needed by a disabled child.

A vote for the Conservatives says that you’re just fine with selling off the NHS. It says that you think filling in an 8 page form about sexual assault is a reasonable burden to place on a woman just trying to get tax credits for a third child. It’s saying that you think the 50,000 disabled people who have already lost their motability vehicles are better off indoors.

Whatever else you think you’re doing when you put your X in the box marked Conservative And Unionist Party you’re also telling me and people like me to just fuck off and die quietly.

New fail conditions.

My life has always sucked but for more than half of it I was sure that the suck was all my fault. I didn’t know what I wanted and I knew I wasn’t trying very hard at anything. I thought that if I could just work out what to go for and really go after it then all my problems would be solved.

You can see why I thought that, can’t you? It’s all over pop culture. The idea that if you want something enough and you fight hard enough for it then you can get it. It’s bullshit. Dangerous bullshit.

Underachieving because you’re not really trying does hurt but at least it feels like it’s under your control. Trying your very hardest and still failing hurts far worse. It hurts so much that it makes you try harder than your hardest. It makes you push yourself beyond the point of failure, beyond the point where your body ceases to work properly, beyond the point where you are, strictly speaking, sane.

If you get to that point and still fail it feels like death. It feels like you’ve died and gone to hell. You must be dead because how can something hurt that much without killing you?

I hit that particular wall back in 2012. My repeated failure to do anything with my completed novel is nowhere near as bad as that. But it is giving me flashbacks.

Change of plans

I have decided that maybe it’s time to give my completed novel a rest for a bit. Maybe it’s the wrong work to query? Maybe I was thinking too big, too long, or too crazy?

I’m going to concentrate on another story. As it stands it’s a complete first draft of a novella but I think it could be more. I think it could be a short novel. It’s smaller in scope than the novel I was querying though I think it will get a bit bigger as I expand it. Maybe it’s more what agents are looking for as a first novel? I know that the setting will be easier to pitch to Scottish publishers and easier for them to sell to readers.

Of course it’s probably displacement activity. It’s easier to write another novel than it is to query the finished one. The novel has to be finished before someone can reject it and, by extension, me. Writing is the bit that I know I’m good at. Well, think I’m good at. Most of the time.

It’s something a bit different for me. The narrator character is disabled. Writing stuff that’s too close to home is something I usually shy away from. It feels like cheating somehow. But I keep seeing agents and publishers asking for diverse storytelling and diverse characters. Maybe they actually mean it. And if they don’t I’ve got this other story I can whip out when they tell me that they can’t sell a locked room mystery set in Aberdeen where the central character is an unglamorous disabled woman.

Confidence

I find myself asking, “Am I mad?” I’m not asking myself if I’m mentally ill. That’s hardly news. I’m asking if I’m mad to cling to the idea of writing as a profession.

I am a writer. I’m never going to stop writing. But that’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to support myself by my writing or even that I’ll ever be paid for it. Am I a dreamer? Am I mad to think that I’ll ever persuade anyone to part with money to read my work?

On a good day I believe that my work is good. On a really good day I’m sure it’s good. But there aren’t many good days. On the less good days I wonder if I’m lying to myself. Maybe my stories are terrible and I’m just too close to see it. Maybe my characters are hackneyed, my plots obvious and my settings are silly.

The world belongs to the confident people. That’s why so much of the world is in such a mess right now. Because confidence doesn’t correlate that well with competence, or  work ethic, or intelligence, or imagination.

On a good day I can fake confidence. I’m pretty good at it but I can’t keep it up for very long. I have a feeling that I’m missing out on opportunities because I lack the confidence to see them or to pursue them. I think the lack of confidence might be coming through in my query letters. I know it’s keeping me from querying widely enough.

I think I need to stop worrying about the quality of my writing unless I’m actively editing or re-writing. I think I need to just pretend that it’s fine and push on as if I really believe it.

We seem to be living in times that are not just post truth but post competence. Maybe the quality of my writing matters less than the confidence with which I tell people that it’s good.

Diminishing Returns

There are days, sometimes there are weeks and months, when I’m trapped by the law of diminishing returns. The conditions of my life mean that sometimes every step forward, every movement, every attempt to do anything takes a ridiculous amount of effort for very little reward.

I’m trying to stick to a diet that means that I have to cook things. But when cooking a thing hurts as much as giving birth did, and the thing you cook is a failure, and the diet may or may not be working, and even if the diet succeeds the best I can hope for is to be slightly less fat… what’s the point?

I’m trying to finish a draft of a novel. But every word is hard and it takes so long and I have no idea if it’s any good. And if it gets finished, and I edit it, and it’s good – what then? Then all I’ve got is a pile of words I kind of like. Which is nice but it doesn’t do me much good. It’s a lot of effort for something that doesn’t pay the bills.

I don’t know how much longer I can keep going forward when every step is shorter than the one before it but hurts more.

I am so done with this year.

My computer is a Zombie. It suffered some sort of catastrophic error and wouldn’t start up properly so I had to roll it back to an old restore point. And when I say old I mean 2012.

It’s now running windows but it won’t run much else because it’s stuck with Windows 7, Service Pack 1 which is hopelessly outdated. And it will not allow me to update it. The Windows Update Installer just hangs and any attempt to track down the updates and install them also hangs. We even spent the best part of two days re-installing Windows from a disk only to end up back where we started.

I’m typing this on one of my Mum’s old laptops. She has a surprising number of old laptops. This one is really, really terrible. The processor is pathetic, the 2GB of ram is barely up to running Windows and Chrome simultaneously and the action on the keyboard is appalling. As I type this it feels like the keys are held in place with soggy newspaper. It lags every time I hit return twice. I’ve spent more than 5 hours trying to get Dropbox and chrome and Scrivener working only to discover that I can’t update Scrivener because I don’t have admin privileges.

So instead of trying to get back to my work in progress after days spent dealing with technical -problems I’m writing out this whiny blog post.

I know I shouldn’t really complain. None of my writing is lost because it’s all backed up to Dropbox and Google Drive. I do have an alternative computer. The old one was quite old. Also as a worthless, disabled scrounger I shouldn’t have nice things. But writing is hard enough without having to deal with all the additional crap. And my Steam library is now useless because this piece of crap would have difficulty running minesweeper.

It’s also depressing to be reminded how little money we have now. My computer is probably fixable but there’s no point asking a professional because however much it costs I can’t afford it. I could replace it. I have plenty of credit on my catalog account but I know that we can’t afford the payments. We’re in a situation now where we’re only ever going to have less money than we have today. The amounts coming in are frozen or decreasing and our expenditure only increases.

I can’t see any way of bringing in more money. Even if one of the Agents that I’ve sent my novel out to wants to represent it then it will take time to find a publisher and even more time to see any money from it. And it’s unlikely to be a lot of money.

I really wish I didn’t care about the money. I wish I could live for art. But I have bills to pay.

Only making things worse for myself.

So, as I said the other day, I submitted some work for a competition because I wanted to get used to the inevitable rejection. I did my best but it was an exercise in working to a deadline and preparing a synopsis and most of all it was about not freaking out when I get rejected.

So I should be happily ignoring  my email in the knowledge that they will get round to sending out the rejection eventually. This is not, in fact, happening. I keep checking my e-mail looking for the news that I’ve made the short list.

Why?  Why am I doing this to myself? I know they don’t want me.  They want glamorous people with a social media following not a fat middle-aged depressive with a face like a badly made Mr Potato Head. My professionally done head shot is going straight on the rejection pile as soon as they see it.

It’s not normally in my nature to be optimistic. I am a pessimist by habit, experience and philosophical choice. I know, rationally, that even if I were the right kind of person my novel is probably the wrong kind of novel. It’s too weird. Its too hard to quantify and too hard to market.

I have no reason to expect that they’ll want my work and yet I keep checking for that short list e-mail. This is going to make the rejection so much more painful than it needs to be.

Am I too ugly to be a writer?

I submitted a thing to a competition the other week.  I mainly did it because I’m trying to become inured to rejection.

It’s not that I’m unused to rejection.  I get rejected a lot but I usually try to avoid rejection. I always thought that rejection meant I was doing something wrong.  A major lesson from my childhood was that you shouldn’t go where you’re not wanted so when I get rejected I turn around and try something different.  But writers get rejected all the time. Even the greatest get rejected a lot.  Sometimes the rejection means that the work isn’t quite ready yet, or the work is ready but the time isn’t right, or that you’ve sent it to the wrong person and the next one will love it, and sometimes it means that the work sucks.

I’ll never be a writer if I assume that a single rejection means that the work sucks. So I have to get used to the idea that a rejection doesn’t mean that I should stop trying. Which is why I’ve submitted to this particular competition. Because I am absolutely sure I wont go far.

Why would I be so sure? Did I submit substandard work?  Not a chance. I gave it my absolute best shot.  I’m just sure they don’t want me.  I’m sure because there was a list of things that the submission needed to contain – fairly standard things like a query letter and a synopsis and the first 50 pages.  And a head shot. Only the head shot was the first thing on the list. No one who thinks a head shot is the most important thing in a submission is going to want me.

I’m not saying that you can’t be pretty and be a good writer.  I know some fantastically good looking people who are also excellent writers. What I’m saying is that if pretty is one of the qualifications then they don’t want me.

All of which leads me to the question in the title.  Am I too ugly to be a writer? Which is not quite the right way to phrase the question.  Anyone can write.  Anyone can self publish. But I mean a specific kind of writer.  I mean the kind of writer who makes a living from writing and gets at least some of that living from persuading someone else to publish them.

I know there are people who make a living from self publishing. They are talented writers but they’re also industrious and organised and I don’t think I can manage industrious and organised while also writing.  I just don’t have the mental and physical reserves to do both well.

So the real question is – am I too ugly to persuade someone else to publish me?

The only answer I can come up with is maybe.  There are hugely successful writers who are not pretty. No one is going to send George RR Martin or Stephen King down a catwalk. No one cares what they look like now because they’re already successful and no one cared what they looked like when they first got published because the market was different back then.

I worry because I hear whispers that traditional publishers are running scared. I hear that the rise of self publishing has made them cautious and that if you want to get published you need “Social Media Reach” and you need to be marketable. I am not marketable.