Saturday, 24 August 2013

Huffington Post/TED weekend

A whole host of info here

Featuring Katy Gray, who is making an amazing recovery from her mental health problems and who is reaching out to help others who are on the same road.  Well done, Katy!

And as for me - I am enjoying the school hols.  Been spending an awful lot of time at the beach with the kids, and an awful lot more sorting out the house and garden, de-cluttering like mad.  And hardly any time writing...

The plan is that when the kids go back to school - all too soon - I will be able to write to my heart's content, because everything else will be dealt with. 

The field is clear.  The only thing I am continuing with this academic year is my writing group.  I will no longer be running it for the mental health charity though.  I have decided to run it as a 'normal' writing group, because the mental health connection put some people off, and because there will be less admin this way. 

Everything else I have been doing - helping at school, ghost-writing, psychology studies, is finished.  (I got a B for psychology by the way.  I am delighted with that - the same grade that I got for all my other A levels, all those years ago.  So the old grey cells must still be in working order). 

I might go back to helping at school one day, but for now I think it is more important to my family that I get on with my work.  And as for the ghost-writing - after fifteen months, that book is completed!  It does need editing, but I am having a bit of a break before I start on that, and I don't expect it will take me long once I do get started.  The author is happy with the book in its present form; he doesn't want me to cut out much, if anything.   

It has been a learning curve, writing someone else's autobiography.  I have found it frustrating at times, not being able to shape the book more, and for that reason I was looking forward to the editing process.  However, now it seems not much editing is called for - and I really have to step back now, take my ego out of the process and accept that this is not my book - I am simply an agent in the writing of it.

Meanwhile, I have watched in wonder for just over a year as the book has taken shape.  Between the two of us - Anton writing his bit every week, me re-shaping it, the words have added up fast.  The book now stands at well over one hundred and sixty thousand words.  And it has only taken me four hours, week on week (sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more) to put it together.  I am sure it has taken Anton longer, because he has had to think about what to put in, and how to write it, but still.  Four hours times (say) sixty weeks, because we have scarcely missed a session - is only 240 hours.  That's how long this book has taken (me) to write! 

The message is that perseverance pays.  And that is what I am going to take with me for the next year - perseverance, this time on my own projects.  I vow to finish every single one of them from now on. 

I have been sorting out my writing space today, and thrown away lots of old magazines, journals, notes, etc etc.  And there are still hundreds, thousands, of pages of writing - and those are just the handwritten ones - there must be millions more words that I have typed out, somewhere on my computer or on various discs.  And yet hardly any of these words have been published, hardly any stories completed, hardly any ideas seen through to fruition.  What a waste.

And yet...perhaps not a waste.  I was reading a long letter from Sylvia Plath to Ted Hughes today, in the Saturday newspaper.  She poured out her heart, she wrote about all sorts of stuff.  A lot of it was in connection with her writing and some of it reminded me of myself, of my hopes and plans and aspirations as a writer.  And she achieved success of course - she forced herself to write, and she wrote good stuff... Brilliant, some of it.

And yet - she gave up.  She gave in.  She died young, by her own hand, leaving small children behind her.  She despaired.  Poor thing.

And this made me think - maybe my life is a success anyway, even if I never 'officially' succeed as a writer.  Even if I never get into the habit of finishing my work, or writing anything brilliant.  I am raising four children, and as long as I have them, and Paul, I will never despair, because I never could.  My life is happy, almost all of the time (although worry and stress do creep in a little too often I know how to combat them before they get out of hand).

Maybe I have done enough already, I thought, just by surviving.  Just by being here, and raising my children to be happy and successful.  By home-building - the ultimate career.

I feel that there is more ahead for me though, more to me.  I want there to be more.  I have written one good book (and some other short silly ones) and I see no reason why I should not write several more, perhaps better, ones.  All I need is the determination, the stubbornness and the grit, and the time.

I'm gonna do it!

(I'm gonna start by not writing any more about writing, and by writing instead!)

Sunday, 11 August 2013

No Such Word...

I changed the title of my memoir on Amazon Kindle a couple of weeks ago, hoping to generate more interest in the book.  'Surviving Schizophrenia' became 'There's No Such Word as Can't'.  I also put the book on a free promotion for two days, then kept the price really low.  I sat back and waited...

And I have been really surprised by the outcome.  The book has not had many new readers at all, despite the new neutral title.  I thought that taking the word 'Schizophrenia' out of the title would definitely encourage more people to download it, people who wouldn't want to read about mental health particularly, but who might enjoy the book and learn something useful from it.

Nope.  In fact, the reverse - I think the use of the word 'Schizophrenia' actually helped to sell the book!  It has been really interesting to see the book fail to flourish under its new title - I was so convinced that the opposite would apply.

And the key to this conundrum,  I am sure, is marketing.  That is the crucial difference between us Indie authors and the traditionally published ones.  Using the word 'Schizophrenia' may have piqued people's interest initially, which was enough to boost sales, and then the book sold well for a while through word of mouth.

Of course, there could be other reasons.  The book has already been on the market for a couple of years - perhaps its time has simply been and gone.  I could well be flogging a dead horse - just because my instinct tells me that there is still a huge untapped market for my book, doesn't mean I am right.  I probably just need to move on to something new - and I'm trying, I really am. 

It's just that I can't seem to stop pushing my memoir, because I really believe in it as a worthwhile product. Nothing else I write seems to invoke the sense of worth that book does.

I am sure though, that if I just keep on writing I will come up with something equally good, hopefully better.  I am going to look for an agent, because the prospect of attempting to interest the general public in my work for years to come is not the most inspiring vision of the future that I have ever had.  In fact, I wrote to an agent last week, and have been encouraged by the fact that I did not immediately receive a polite rejection by return email (probably because she is on holiday or my email landed in her junk box, but still, you never know).

So, I am going to give it another week or so to see if anything else happens, and then revert to the original title (which has still been out there alongside the new one anyway).

Meanwhile, I am nearing the end of my ghost-writing project.  After fifteen months of weekly meetings, and devoting several hours each week to working on someone else's autobiography, I am really close to finishing.  Just one final push over the next week, and then a huge edit (not sure how long that will take) and I'll be done.  It will be sad in a way - the end of an era - but mostly I will be really pleased to have finished what I set out to do. 

Ghost-writing has been a really interesting process - not just learning so much about another person's experience of life, but also seeing how a book can build, slowly and steadily, with just three or four hours' work each week.  It shows what can be done with perseverance - because I had no choice but to keep going, week in, week out (and of course I was getting paid for it) just those few hours have built up to a massive piece of work. 

The book stands at over 150,000 words now!  (It will be much shorter after my edit, hopefully half the length, but it was important to the author that we got every detail of his life down exactly as he wished it to be recorded.  I have been printing the writing out weekly for him, so that he will always have that record, although the book itself will have to be shorter for the sake of the readers).

So, once the children are back at school, or not too long afterwards, my time will be my own again.  I don't like to make excuses, but I did fill up the last academic year somewhat, not leaving myself a great deal of time to write.  Between helping at the kids' schools and attending every single sports day, concert etc for all of them (and taking them to various orthodontic appointments and so on) and the Psychology A level I decided to embark on, and taking into account time allocated to the ghost writing and the writing group, I really have not had much of a chance to draw breath. 

All that will be left of that come September (once I have finished the ghost writing editing work) will be the writing group.  I don't want to stop that, especially as we have a brand new venue lined up, free of charge, which will give us a nice fresh start to the new term.  And it doesn't take up too much time to prepare for the group each week.  In fact the other day I had the bright idea that I might share the responsibility next time, by asking everybody else to take a turn preparing for the session.  Clever, eh?  It will make things more interesting, and at the same time reduce the pressure on moi.  I just have to run it by the others, but they are a nice lot and I am sure they will be agreeable.  (Are any of you reading this, by any chance?!)

So - yes, I should be able to devote more time to my writing soon, and about time too.  I don't know why I threw up so many obstacles in my path last year - I suspect possibly because I felt capable of much more than I have done for a long time (perhaps ever) and I wanted to test my capabilities.  It has been fun, but now I've had enough of flitting around and I'm ready to knuckle down again.

I fear that this has been a dull post.  I try not to use this blog as I use my journal, as a kind of tedious (to others, fascinating to moi, of course) thinking-out-loud tool, but sometimes I just seem to drift that way unintentionally.

Sorry, and all that.  Hopefully I will think of something better to write about next time!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Eleanor Longden

Below is a link to a Guardian email interview with Eleanor, and it includes a link to her TED talk.  I am really excited that the talk is being broadcast at last, and look forward to watching it later this evening.  I did read through the interview and all the comments, which were very interesting.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Free Memoir

My memoir has been free today and is free all day tomorrow too.  Sorry not to have posted re this earlier, but it is the school holidays and so I rarely get the opportunity to even switch my computer on.

Here's the link:

NB - This is not a new book - it is my original memoir under a new name -  I am hoping to increase my readership  (see recent posts).  Meanwhile, I need to get on and finish the various other work I have begun in recent months/years - I will post here when I do.

Anyway - please pass the word re the free book.  Any reviews, as always, gratefully received.