I wonder how many books have never seen the light of day, because the potential author of that book kept thinking “What’s the point?” Whether you secretly think it (perhaps so secretly that you keep it from yourself) or whether you find yourself sighing out loud when you sit down to write, “What’s the point?” is a serious book-stopper.
Lots of writers — both aspiring and published — suffer from ‘What’s the point?” Anyone who has ever seriously thought about writing a book has considered the huge number of books out there. Books in bookshops. Books in charity shops. Manuscripts of books piled high on the desks of agents and editors. All the the books that aren’t published. All the books that are published. All the books that don’t get reviewed or win prizes. All the books that sink without trace.
Last week, I taught for the Arvon Foundation at Totleigh Barton in Devon. It was a massive thrill for me to be back there as a tutor. The last time I was there was as one of the students, the very youngest on the course at just 15. Teaching a residential week for Arvon is just one of a long list of dreams-come-true that have materialised in my life over the last three years, and follows hard on the heels of getting a permanent job in the English Department at Goldsmiths and selling my second novel, Devotion, to Oneworld.
None of these things would be possible if I hadn’t written The Marlowe Papers. And believe me, there were quite a few moments between 2006 and 2011 when I thought it was never going to get written. Or that it would be terrible rubbish, and no-one would want to read it, let alone publish it. Now, wherever I go – and last week’s Arvon was no exception – people ask me “How on earth did you write it?”
I have several answers to this question, and I usually offer a few of them, one after the other, and yet I find my questioner often continues to be unsatisfied. And it’s true, that even when all of my stock answers are added together, something absolutely critical is missing. The part I tend to miss out is the most important part of all. It is the daily practice that moved me out of frozen terror (when I realised the enormity of the task) to steady progress and eventually into – dare I say it? – genuine ease. It’s the technique that allowed someone who was timid, fearful, and uncertain of her own talents to become courageous, audacious and bold. Here it is: I obliterated all of the psychological blocks in the way of writing it by using EFT.
I returned to my old home town of Colchester recently to give a talk at one of my old schools, and was asked by a young poet there how to get published. Specifically,
- which are the best magazines or journals to submit to when you want to get published?
- is there any way of getting past the shredder other than the poems themselves being very good?
So I thought I’d lay out a few useful pointers for young poets looking to make their way in the world. Read more