Tuesday, 26 August 2014

It’s terrifying but I’m going to do it anyway...

Simon Copland dives in to Saturday night drinks with strangers at the MWF and emerges inspired and unscathed!

The great thing about writers’ festivals is that you end up in situations you would never expect, talking to people you would never think you were going to meet.

I have never had a book published in my life (although I certainly intend to change that in the future) but somehow on Saturday evening I ended up sitting around a table having a drink at an event designated for ‘mid-listers'. I’d never heard of this term before but apparently a mid-lister is someone who has been published a couple of times, but hasn’t yet made it on to the best-seller list. Having never been published myself I was the odd one out around the table, but I thought, why not? Maybe I could learn something?

Looking back on those drinks - and the party and events that followed - I cannot help but think of how...well...terrifying it all was. I am someone who wants to achieve that goal; to spend my life writing and getting published. Listening to those who had though, I could see how easily people can be turned off the idea.

I heard stories from those who were making barely any money off their writing at all - $10,000 in the years you were lucky enough to get published. This is a fiscal fate I’ve faced myself, working in politics, (another industry that seems to have no money in it). But still, ouch!

And then there's the question of how we define success? One of my co-drinkers told the story of a writer who was deeply disappointed as, even after a large amount of publicity, she only sold 1,500 copies of her first book. The others around the table, however, were amazed - 1,500 is great, apparently, for a first book. I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed, though, and disheartened at the thought that the piece I am working on now - the thing I am putting my guts and soul into - may only be read by 1,000 people.

Talking to writers can be disheartening. . . for a writer.

Yet here’s the funny thing: none of the writers sitting around the table was disheartened at all. And neither, dear reader, was I. In fact, after all that chatting and drinking I was more enthused then ever about continuing my work.

That’s the great thing about a writers’ festival. It’s not just about the money or the career - although most writers would love to have both. It's also about the love for the art. Writing isn’t just a thing you do - it’s a passion. It’s a thing you can’t live without. It’s something I don’t think I could ever give up.

Sitting around that table I thought that I could pursue another career - one with more money and fewer problems. I could pursue something that was more secure - that would guarantee me a job with an income for life. But I, like most people at this festival, can’t do that. We're not going to give up. I’m not going to give up. This festival is all about that kind of passion - and that’s what makes it so wonderful.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.