On being “Very Young”

The evening before this year’s John Hewitt International Summer School kicked off, I was sat on a bench out the back of the Charlemont Arms hotel alongside some of my fellow bursary students, sipping a pint of Diet Coke while others had a smoke. The group of us had only just met and were getting to know each other ahead of the crazy week-long adventure we were about to have.

“You’re very young,” I was told by one of them, with a tone somewhere between surprise and confusion.

“Okay,” I replied, because I had no idea how else to respond. I found it kind of amusing, I suppose, that this was someone’s initial reaction to me.

When the week started in earnest, though, I heard the comment again. And again.

“Everyone keeps telling me I’m really young!”

“Well, you are.”

This got me thinking, because I was certainly not the youngest person there and I’m not particularly babyfaced. I am, in fact, almost thirty.

In reply to my initial post about JHISS in which I said I was intimidated by the heavy schedule, someone said, “If you feel intimidated, imagine how I must feel!’

What I conclude, taking those bits of context into consideration alongside the “very young” comments, is that people don’t think I’m young in per se. If you’re one of the people who made these comments, you can correct me on this, but what I think is happening is that I – somehow – have given the impression that I’m accomplished, or established, or vaguely know what I’m doing, or… something. The surprise seems to come from the fact that I have achieved this mystical level of influence/achievement at my age whereas for most people it comes much later if even at all.

Just typing that out makes me feel uncomfortable; like I’m bragging or something, but I don’t know how else to figure it. I certainly don’t feel impressive for my age. In fact, I panic fairly frequently that I haven’t done enough and should be doing more – should be being more.

On these expectations, I have also been musing.  Continue reading

Addendum

Things I Wish I'd Known About Self PublishingIt’s just over four years since I published the first ever edition of Still Dreaming, and I’ve learnt a lot since then.

At the time, I boasted about how I could do everything myself – editing, proofreading, cover design, etc. – and, as such, that I was saving so much money.

Older me knows better.

Twenty-seven-year-old me knows, for example, that you can read over the same document three hundred times and still miss a typo that a different person, with a fresh pair of eyes, can pick up in moments.

Proofreaders and editors are worth their weight in gold, and if you want your book to be the best, it’s a good idea to invest in hiring one (or both).

Editing and proofreading are skills that I now offer other people (having now learnt the skills, myself), but I no longer rely solely on myself to do it for my own books (as per the reason mentioned above).

I’ve also learnt a fair bit about formatting and cover design since two-thousand-twelve.

Still Dreaming (and all the rest of my books) have been updated a few times since then, and I’m a little bit embarrassed about the earlier versions, truth be told, but I’d probably do it all again, if given the chance.

I mean, sure, if I was doing it again I’d do it differently, but the only reason I know what changes to make is because I went out there and tried. I made mistakes, I learnt from it, and now I’m better at what I do. I’m even able to help other people, which is great.

As for the money thing: I couldn’t have afforded to hire an editor back in 2012 even if I wanted to, but I have paid the literal price since, ordering new proof copies each time I updated anything (which was often).

If I’d been more patient and less arrogant, I’d probably have waited until I could have afforded to work with professionals, but then, as I say, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I’m very happy with where I now find myself.

I guess the main thing to take away from this is to be wary of advice from newbies – especially if that newbie is yourself.

Books on the Business of Writing

How to Make a Living with Your Writing Book CoverPreviously, I wrote about how being a full time writer is very much about being an entrepreneur, but not the same kind of business person as found in other industries. I said that, when I started out, I had to do a lot on a trial-and-error basis, because I couldn’t find a lot of advice specific to what I was doing. There are an abundance of books on writing, and an immeasurable amount of books on business, but not many on the business of writing. Well, I’ve since found a series of books by Joanna Penn.

I’ve read them, and am happy to recommend:

Book One: How To Market A Book

Book Two: How To Make A Living With Your Writing (currently free on Kindle!)

Book Three: Business for Authors


Related Article: The ‘Business’ of Writing, by Rachel McGrath.

Current Ploy for Productivity

I watched a TED talk once (I love TED talks!) in which some scientist or doctor or something said that people most likely to reach their goals A. actually outline their goals (rather than keep them as vague ideas just in their heads) and B. don’t necessarily have more self control than those people who fail but, rather, put things in place to take them out of the path of temptation, so they don’t need to fight themselves in the first place.

Well, I like setting myself goals, and I’m not particularly good at sticking to them, but this new thinking resonated with me. As such, I have a new ploy to stop myself from getting distracted on the internet when I should be writing, which is (drumroll please!): disconnecting the internet before I go to bed.

Genius, right? Okay, well, to some people that may sound daft, or obvious, and certainly not worthy of a blog post, but hear me out.

Turning off the Internet before bed means that you’ve already got a good chance of success before you even begin your day. Going offline is so much harder half way through the day, when you’re already lost in a sea of cat GIFs on Tumblr.

Continue reading