Tuesday, 10 April 2018

And Now What?

It's starting to look as though I am not going to be doing a PhD after all. Applicants are supposed to be informed of whether they are successful after eight weeks and it's been at least twice that long since I applied. The funding deadline has long since passed. I could get Government funding, which is available for the first time for PhD study from this year, but I don't want to end up with more debt (I already borrowed for the MA).

Anyway, I think I need to take the hint - my PhD proposal almost certainly was not up to scratch. I wrote it in a hurry, I never revised it. I put the project on hold until I knew whether I was on the programme or not. And now it looks as though it is a not.

I don't really mind. It would have been good to look into this subject some more - the treatment of mental health is so unsatisfactory and I would have loved to be part of the solution. There must be a solution, I know there is. But I can think about the subject anyway, examine it in fiction. Because although I love academia - I have always been good at studying - I am, first and foremost a writer. I need to hold that thought.

It's not as easy as it should be. I feel as though I should be having a successful career, showing a good example to my children. Modelling a future for them. But I hardly earn anything from my writing these days (I have been distracted by the MA and also because we moved house and I have been organising the building works. Some days - most days for the last eight months - we have had builders in). So I consider other jobs, sometimes apply for them, get rejected. It's always a blow to my confidence, even though it probably happens because in my heart I don't actually want the jobs.

Confused? Moi?


So what now?

Well, as I wrote on my last blog post, I need to finish the novel I started last May. I am just treading water at the moment until the end of the school holidays, then I will get back to work on that properly. As I write, I am revising. I recently read the Eleanor Oliphant book by Gail Honeyman as well as two by Rachel Joyce - the ones about Harold Fry and Queenie Hennessy - and I want to end up with the sort of a book that I consider those to be. Simple, but profound.

I have also been reading a lot of thrillers. A month or so ago I went to an author event which consisted of a panel of four crime writers and I bought one of each of their books. Then I ended up a week or so later at an event featuring another crime writer and bought hers. They were a mixed bag. Of the first four, one was in my opinion unreadable, one was trite, one was very well written but too disturbing for me and the last I haven't read yet and might not because the opening passages feature a murdered child and I don't really want to think about that. I know, I am a squeamish wimp, it's only a book...but still.

And the book I bought from the second event, which was at our local library, was rather horrid. Not badly written, but...I don't know. I just feel that book was unnecessary. I don't know about the subsequent six or so that author has written. Presumably crime books suit some people, but I don't want to read them and I don't feel as though they contribute anything useful to the world, to our understanding of humanity. (Which begs the question, why have I just read four of them? Out of politeness towards the authors and curiosity, I suppose). I have probably just got staid and old. I used to read anything, gratefully. Now I feel as though time is running out - how many thousands of books do I have time left to read? I don't know. Not enough.

Anyway, my novel has definitely never been in the crime genre but I did think at one stage that I was writing a psychological thriller (until that Penguin editor informed me otherwise). Now I see that what I am aiming for is just fiction. I don't want to classify it further than that. I want to write a good book. A page-turner, but with meaning.

It's what every writer wants to achieve, I know. All I want is to write a masterpiece... And of course that might never happen but it's what I am going to work towards. I'll aim high. And if I don't achieve what I set out to do in this book then I will try again, in the next.

I'll have to forget about the money side of things. Stop applying for jobs. It's not as though we're ever going to starve. We're going to have students in to help pay the bills, as soon as the house is ready for them.

And it's a better example for the children to see their mother happy than successful, if it has to be one thing or the other. What is success anyway? Can it be measured purely in financial terms? I know a few people who are very well-off but still dissatisfied with their lives.

Maybe writers aren't meant to be rich. Maybe stay-at-home mothers aren't meant to be. Perhaps a person can't have everything. But I also have a feeling that I don't put enough hours in to my writing, and that until I do I won't know how good I could potentially be. I want to keep trying to be the best that I can be.

So here's to some hard work ahead. But not until the school holidays are over.

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