Five ways to become a braver writer, by Deborah Jenkins

'Hello' I said shyly, 'Such a lovely shop!' The woman behind the desk smiled and reached for my bookmarks.

'Thank you,' she said.

'Actually...' I stopped, embarrassed. She paused, putting the bookmarks down, perhaps assuming I'd changed my mind.

'Yes?' She had green eyes and lightly freckled skin and was wearing a badge that said THIS GIRL CAN.   I took it as a sign.

'Actually, I said,' rummaging in my bag, 'I'm a writer and my debut novel comes out in June. Would you accept a proof copy just in case...' I tailed off, forgetting the script I'd rehearsed in the bathroom mirror, '...in case you'd like to...buy it?' I winced. What a loser!

She gave me a proper smile then, with teeth and dimples.

'Oh how lovely!' she said, 'Congratulations!' She took it, looked at the cover, turned it over. There was an excruciating silence while she read the blurb. I could have cooked a meal in it.

She looked up. 'This looks great. I'll have a read. Do leave your email so I can get in touch with you.'

I thanked her, wrote down my email, paid for my bookmarks, left the shop. As the door closed behind me, I remembered how to breathe. I said Thank you! out loud, to God and a man wheeling a bike, who immediately looked behind him.

That was a few months ago. Now I've done this several times and am much braver. What changed?

It seems to me that writers, if they pursue their calling, need an extraordinary amount of courage. From the moment we begin to type, to the final signed copy at the book launch, and beyond, if we pursue the publication route, we need bravery in buckets. At times, it all feels too heavy to bear. 

When you read social media posts by writers mentioning their books, they sound so assured and successful. But I wouldn't mind betting that inside every writer, even the well known, there's a child screwing up her face while muttering desperately, This girl can...What helps you to be a braver writer? Here's what helps me: -

  • Keep a diary - I record every writing success however small and reread them when I need encouragement. It reminds me how far I've come since those heady days of early publication in the school newsletter
  • Build a tribe - Find a few like-minded writers with whom you can share writing journeys. There's nothing quite like fellow creatives who will celebrate with you in success, comfort you in failure and buoy you up with satisfyingly fierce outrage at bad reviews. I'm often surprised at the numbers of writers who don't have writing buddies. It's rare that a day goes by when I don't talk to at least one of mine. Without them, I'd find it hard to keep going
  • If you're working with a publisher or agent, communicate often. I'm blessed to be working directly with a publisher and as we share the different things we're doing for the book, it makes me braver. This is a team effort; I'm not alone; with others, this girl can...
  • Go to writers' days, seminars, conferences, workshops, anything writerly you can think of. Being with other writers is emboldening. I've just come back from the most amazing conference in Derbyshire, the Worth Our Weight In Gold (WOWIG) 50th celebration weekend of ACW. I heard so many inspiring speakers and met so many wonderful writers, I feel I could take on the world now, book in hand
  • Act brave, even if you don't feel it. It's amazing how the smallest acts of courage go on to make us feel braver.
Perhaps, at the end of the day, the journey's not really about the book at all.


Braver will be published by Fairlight Books on 30th June 2022. You can read more about it and pre-order at Waterstones , Blackwell's and Amazon worldwide.

Deborah Jenkins is the author of textbooks,  educational articles and a novella, The Evenness of Things, available in both paperback and e-book versions.

Deborah wonders aloud about the crazy, inspiring and inappropriate on her blog stillwonderinghere.net 


 








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