Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Following Ms Seagull's Example: Nurturing our Writing Life and Keeping Going

For three Springs now, I've watched seagulls nest on the roof behind my house. Ms Seagull's out there now, feather-treasuring her unborn babies, as she has been throughout the past few weeks, despite harsh sun and days of rain.

And when her babies are born, she will fly frantically back and forth to feed them, coralling those kooky grey furballs away from the edge of the roof and even buzzing my house like a fighter jet should I dare to stare at them too long.

Her persistence, devotion and even courage comfort me as I look up from my daily duties (I'm still here, I'm still here) and it's struck me that I could learn a lot from her in terms of my writing life - all about staying put when self-doubt, rejection and even illness claw at my artistic dreams like thunderclouds or stiffening cold.

Ms Seagull's teaching me that I have to warm my novels - cradle them in my hand like eggs, as fragile things full of possibility and hope - until they are ready to come into the world and then do all I can to help them grow and fly. She's also showing me that I must accept that some books, some dreams may tumble off the roof anyway and never grab the agent, the publisher, the reader I hoped for and that, even then, I need to go on towards another Spring, believing more beautiful things will be born to me.

How cute is this baby seagull? And how tough is her mama! I'd probably be a lot braver and determined with my writing if I thought of my books as such sweet things  

What can we do to nurture our writing lives or a particular project-in-progress?

Inspired by Sage Cohen's The Productive Writer ( and Michael Nobbs' Sustainably Creative (, I've been carefully considering how I can give my writing more attention by establishing a schedule which will keep me on track and positive about my progress, but which also takes into account my low energy levels and pain (from Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). By being realistic and compassionate about when I generally feel my best and exploring and exploiting my motivations for writing, I'm hoping to be a more constant presence at my desk - just like Ms Seagull.

What can we do to help launch our projects into the world?

I've also realised that by blogging more and keeping focused on submissions - not only in terms of my first novel, but also to competitions and anthologies - I'm also taking care of the work that is already done, but which needs a sky to dive into. Hence, following Cohen's advice, I'm looking into how I can make regular space in my writing life for sending stuff out and participating in the creative community online.

As for the part about precious projects tumbling from the roof, readers of my last blog entry will know that rejection is something I'm simultaneously terrified of and fascinated by and thus aim to write a book about - The Great Wall of No. A fresh insight on this issue came to me this week when I read about Rosie Garland ( who won the Mslexia Novel Competition ( which I was lucky enough to be long-listed for. Hearing Rosie's story - of being twelve years with an agent without selling any of her four books and then fighting off throat cancer - I lost all sense of  'I wish that was me' and suddenly felt so happy for her. It's so good to see people who've fought on - like Ms Seagull - finally getting their due. It's the same for my lovely friend, Andrew Thorn (, who has now been taken on by agent, Eve White, who richly deserves a wonderful deal after having one agent and publisher close down on him.

Rosie Garland as her performance double Rosie Lugosi - it's always good to see another girl who wears eyeliner doing well.
In the end, the writing life is an unpredictable one, for sure, and our babies may break a wing and perish, but if someone else's little birdie manages to take off, we can feel hope for our own future. Indeed, in a Buddhist sense we are all inter-connected anyway, so one person's success belongs to us too - as do all our losses. That's why it's so important to cheer for others and show compassion on their darker days. We're all on our own paths, but we're all in this together too.

I'd love to hear how you nourish your writing life on a long-term basis and how you find time and the all-important faith to keep putting it out into the world.


  1. That's the spirit! And let's make sure we keep each other going on blogging - I hadn't done one for a year but from now on, once a week.

    Andy x

  2. Yes, let's try to get a weekly online thang going, Andy. I'm very inspired by your success! x