Monthly Archives: January 2021

Writing, Impostor Syndrome and Productivity: a Confessional

This started out as a late night Twitter post but I think, I hope, it’s worth posting it here. It was inspired in part by SFF writer Matt Dovey’s own, extremely honest thread about the doubts and tribulations regarding his writing process. Since it resonated so hard with me, I can imagine it resonating with others.

This is what I wrote yesterday, expanded a little, because I’m not restricted to 280 characters here!

“I wrote a new poem. That’s a much bigger deal than it sounds. I haven’t dared to write anything truly new in four years: since I was nominated for a BSFA Award in 2017.

In hindsight, I found the sudden sense of scrutiny crushingly intimidating: it juddered me to a slow crawl, during which I made many notes and obsessively squinted at poems/fiction I’d been writing already. I barely submitted anything. What I did submit bounced, usually with encouraging noises attached; two publications that did accept pieces sadly folded before they could bring their project to life.

Looking at that, it was my confidence that was shot (by getting an award nomination.. the irony), rather than my work lacking, per se. Not that I saw it that way, I was my own worst heckler. But considering no one else at the time went: ‘Your work stinks, Suna, give up!’, I was definitely getting in my own way. I did an interview here, a blog post there. I could talk up a storm about my WIP’s. I just omitted they’d been ‘IP’ since 2011 or thereabouts! I knew intellectually it’s fine if you’re not prolific for a while, or at least not as prolific as you feel you should be. To not beat yourself up on top of everything else. Easy to understand, harder to break. Especially since words and concepts swam opaquely around my head but I just didn’t seem to have the whats to capture them with a pen.

I never entirely stopped but my heart wasn’t entirely in it, either. I just dribbled occasional words into notepads or my writing app. Then something did change. As insidiously as my confidence leaked away, my will to write crept back. I’d love to say I made a conscious choice to grow a spine, but it grew over time.

A drabble prompt clinched it: short enough to not be daunting, challenging enough to make blood flow back into places I thought I had only tar. It got accepted almost immediately. The validation, the sense that I am doing something right after all, helped enormously, too 🙂

I felt excited about writing again. There was movement, albeit still a bit uncertainly. Then I read Matt Dovey’s thread. A long heartfelt sharing of his difficulties, obstacles both internal and extrnal, his doubts: his honesty and vulnerability were so moving and galvanising, it helped stoke up the fire in me. Yesterday, I used another call for submissions to write an entirely new piece. What made all the difference: I spent no time fretting about The Gallery of Scrutiny, its nameless judgements and the shameful sense I should pander to it. It was mine.

I still lack structure. Music is partially responsible, but really, it’s discipline and I am inconsistent. But I’m writing again and I’m happy about it. Matt’s post really yanked my chain in the best possible way, it helped me to nail my courage to the sticking place and I’m so grateful he shared it. I’m excited for his newfound fuel as much as mine and I look forward to reading his upcoming work.”

Afterthought after having posted the thread: “Maybe I’ll hardly publish actual fiction again. The most important and liberating thing is that the shouldism and self-judgement are gone. I play music, I perform. It’s an infinite luxury to have a creative career at all. When they flow, there are words. I’ve made amazing friends through writing. If you’re still reading, you are probably one of them, so: thank you.”

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Book Review! The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

This is a cut and paste of my review on NetGalley!

As a longstanding Nix-fan, I’m very happy to say this book did not disappoint. It was a delight and I’m so grateful for the advance reader copy!
I love it when Garth Nix writes standalone books; as much as I love his series, he really shines when he condenses the narrative to a single volume, as he did before with the brilliant Shade’s Children.

This adventure is packed with pagan lore and big, quest type concepts, sweeps the English countryside and manages to feel cosy and folksy at the same time.
But what is really wonderful about this book is that I was, very decidedly, suffering from major ‘Merlin-Fatigue’ before reading it.
I will admit that when I realised this was a Merlin based story my first reaction was ‘For heaven’s sake, hasn’t riffing on Arthurian themes been done, overdone, and then done to death?’

It’s always brilliant to be proven wrong. This is such a lovely take on Merlin and his relationship with his sister Vivien, Susan and the human/magical worlds around him that I was riveted. The fact that everything is tied up with a secret society of ancient personages prowling the perimiter of the modern world to protect it, in the guise of booksellers-with-supernatural skills, plus that a lot of those society interactions take place in libraries and/or specialty bookshops, is a joy for a bookworm!
On top of that, I’m a middle-aged woman and officially not the target audience but it didn’t matter one bit. That has always been the case with Garth Nix.
I wasn’t introduced to his books until at least my early thirties and I’ve been hooked ever since. That is certainly not always so with YA books but he has a fantastic insight in the teenage mind and has an ability to describe them so well, without them ever becoming exasperating to the reader!
This is a ripping yarn, I loved the pagan elements, the beautiful yet wild spirit of Old Nature that permeated everything, the snappy dialogue, the humour and the very present sense of dread and danger.
Susan’s personal quest for her father and how she comes to grips with who and what he is is extremely well done and the final resolution is deeply satisfying, albeit bittersweet.
There is definitely scope for a sequel but I almost hope this is it.
Perfect book.

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