As much as we might like it to be otherwise, being a good writer – even being a great writer – generally isn’t enough to become a successful writer. And in this day and age, when the first instinct of many people is to Google something or someone in order to know more about them, if you aren’t on those first few pages of results, you might as well not exist at all. Unless other people are already talking about you and your writing, having a searchable platform is one of the keys to this.
It’s been a whole year since I made four New Year’s writing resolutions. Given my previous lack of success in making plans and sticking to them when it comes to writing, I gave no guarantees about achieving any of them but because New Year’s Eve is right around the corner again, I thought I should review them and see if I managed to tick any of them off the list.
Resolution #1: Publish Black Spot
Straight off the bat, a big fat no. I didn’t publish Black Spot. I said at the time I made this resolution that I was just waiting for a couple of rejections from publishers before going ahead and self-publishing. Of course, that was before Black Spot was shortlisted for the 2016 Text Prize for Writing for Children and Young Adults. Although I didn’t win, I did get a lot of great feedback, did another rewrite and sent it off to a few more publishers. So I’m still waiting for a few more rejections. One way or another, Black Spot will be published in 2017. (I won’t call that a resolution, just an inevitability. There aren’t any more reasons to keep putting it off.) But as with everything when it comes to publishing, it’s just taking a little longer than I thought it would.
One of the most common feelings of unemployment is the sense that no one else can understand what it is you’re going through. And they can’t. Not exactly. No one has precisely the same family or financial circumstances as you do. No one has precisely the same employment experience. No one has precisely the same goals and dreams.
What everyone experiencing unemployment does have in common is going through five distinct emotional stages as we process an ending and look for another beginning.
However, the manner in which you enter unemployment significantly impacts in what order you will experience these emotions.
I know how lucky I am. By choice, I’ve had a year out of permanent work, spending that time writing, doing some more writing, writing a little more, publishing a book I wrote, and being choosy about which freelance roles I accepted.
But now that I’m looking to return to full-time work, I’ve had a number of interesting pieces of advice on how I can do that more easily. Some of them are interesting. Some of them are downright terrible. Some might seem unethical. But if everybody else is doing them, am I just losing out by not doing them, too?
When I was in high school, I wanted to be a lawyer. At least, I thought I did. Yes, I was writing poems and novels in my spare time but when anyone asked, I insisted I wanted to be a lawyer. “A lady lawyer,” my great aunt Violet said to me. “No,” I replied in my youthful feminist beginnings, “just a lawyer.”
In May this year, I interviewed Barry* for an article. We talked about many things, mostly him, but somewhere in the middle of our conversation, we deviated onto the broader topic of workplaces with poor cultures, poor managers or poor management styles.
He’d just been made redundant from a company he’d been with for over a decade and in that time he’d become jaded and demotivated and he was far from being the only one. From processes that made no sense to workers who were treated with contempt, he’d seen enough to welcome the redundancy and the chance to move on and up in his career, hopefully to a company that didn’t engender the same or similar employee disappointment and dissatisfaction.
My response, in the form of a question, was this: “If good employees leave, how will poor cultures and poor managers ever change?”
Barry didn’t answer. He didn’t know the answer. We finished the interview and as I drove home, the question crystallised in my mind. Because it’s not just the workplace where this is relevant, it’s the entire world. If we all just turn our backs or leave when times get tough or when we encounter difficulties, where will the impetus for change for the better come from?
In short, I wondered, where have all the idealists gone?
(Note: When I first published this article on LinkedIn, it was read by approximately 9,000 people and liked over 650 times and one of the authors of the books I recommend contacted me to thank me for her inclusion on the list. It is my most read piece of writing ever. I can’t tell you why. But it was fun while it was happening.)
I’m not generally someone who recommends self-help books. In fact, in the past I have been guilty of pouring scorn on many of them, perhaps because the ones I’ve picked up and started reading have been particularly vague (what exactly is self-actualisation?) and therefore particularly unhelpful to someone like me who prefers the literal to the lateral.
Finding a self-help book that is actually going to help you is a deeply personal thing. You have to be at a particular point in your life to benefit from specific self-help books. And you have to be going through a similar crisis to the one being described by the author. And you have to be able to put into practice what they are telling you to do. They’re long odds.
But as I was sitting in my study recently, the three books I am about to recommend kept jumping out at me despite being on three different shelves on three different bookcases. I’ve read, and in some cases reread, all three of these books in the past five years and the longer I looked at them in conjunction, the clearer it became. These three books had important things to say to women of a certain age.