Saturday, 8 March 2014

It’s not easy being green

Kermit the frog sang It’s Not That Easy Being Green with typical Muppet wisdom. In the song, he laments feeling too blended in and not sparkly enough. When you see other writers pass you by in the publishing world, you can identify with Kermit’s sense of ordinariness. We writers can be green too, not that we want to own up to envy and jealously. I suspect some writers have these feelings in spades. It’s hard seeing other writers being published and gaining recognition, while you’ve been slaving away on your work with hardly a nibble of interest. You want what someone else has and feel it rightly full was yours: the agent, the publishing deal, the place on a panel at a literary festival. It’s easy to slip into the sort of covetous thinking that does you no service.

The creative industries can be a tough place to make a reasonable living. Sure there are the lucky few bestselling authors, who seem to have come by it all with ease. Yet, I suspect for them, their ‘luck’ came about when they had done the work needed, when they had broken though their personal barriers of self-doubt, and harnessed their persistence and resilience, and just kept going, believing in what they had to offer, until finally they found themselves in the right place at the right time. Not seeing that background, it’s easy to think it’s always going to happen to around you rather than to you.

Some of my immediate writer group of writer friends are doing great things; being published, building a profile, being acknowledged. It would be easy to get sucked into feeling miserable that it will never happen to you. Instead, it’s useful to look at what they are doing, measuring up the effort they put into their projects, and being honest as to whether you do the same. The other traits these writers have in common, is that they are extraordinarily generous both in sharing knowledge with, and in being supportive of, other writers. They don’t have the mentality of scarcity like some writers, who choose to believe that there is a limited amount (of interest, publishing opportunities, readers) to go around. One of biggest barrier is a lack of confidence. When that escalates (as invariably it does from time-to-time) you're almost ready to bin your laptop and empty your fountain pen. Listening to writers who are open to all the lessons the industry affords, is one way to get your thinking back on track and enjoy the success of others. One day they will be enjoying yours.  

It’s not always easy to maintain this attitude but it’s worth the effort. It gives you a greater chance of ending up in the published basket. Meanwhile, if it all gets too much and you still need to be a little bit green, you can sit with Kermit and soak up Clive James’s wonderful poem The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered.  Read it. You will be glad.