A Little Note About Writing

I wrote a piece a few years ago that made it into The New York Times. If there are cats that get cream, and pinks that are tickled, I was all of that and more. Friends suffered through my exhilaration, my 50, okay possibly 150 retweets on twitter and shares on Facebook. It was beyond exciting. I wasn’t a real writer, nor a journalist, and someone liked my story and we weren’t related. I’ve listened to journalists and writers as they’ve explained the thrill of seeing their name in a newspaper or magazine for the first time, their first byline. I’ve smiled along, enjoying every second of the story, never brave enough to say I think I’d really like to do that.

Three years on with a further 700 stories, endless articles, a little bit of study, and a few interviews later – I now call myself a writer.

A literary agent I once met with had a Christopher Hitchens quote above her desk  everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay. I giggled out loud when I read it. “Don’t you tell anyone you read this in my office” she grinned while raising an eyebrow. We talked of submissions of work received, how much is politely declined. The rejection letters. I wondered how one must feel to invest all that effort and time on a project without knowing if it would ever be shared or recognized. What it feels like to open a letter or email and read a swift and hollow not at this time. Your work showed merit but…

I am the perpetual lover of the short story or tale, the equivalent of a chance meeting in a supermarket aisle. Did you hear? An anecdote or adventure that will have you smiling all the way back to the car. This blog provides me with an opportunity to record a moment, the shortest of short stories. My chance meeting between the cereal and the laundry products here each day – it’s a quick fix with fast rewards. Comments are made, shares and likes given. “Thank you – it’s like you’re inside my head” or “I love this – I read it out loud to my husband”.

But each blog, whoever the writer, has its own form of rejection letter. For some it means a lack of interaction, no comments or visitors. A polite silence. When I was a new blogger sharing posts with larger sites, I learnt to brace myself for the person who would take an instant dislike to either me or something I’d written. A comment made in The New York  Times article provided a quick and effective sting. I was apparently  ‘micromanaging a herd of children as a full-time job, while my husband had no idea of how to deal with them’. Luckily for the reader this wasn’t going to happen to them  “I’m hoping that by better balancing work and life for both of us, one wouldn’t be so overwhelmed, frustrated and clueless if something were to happen to the other.”

For a brief moment I contemplated whether I was micromanaging my herd, it was possible. I could understand how the reader had come to their conclusion. I’d written a parenting post about the busyness of children and pointed out all of the tedious bits and pieces I’d had to hand over to my husband. Had I made him appear to be clueless and unqualified for the role? Possibly. But anyone who knew G, knew that it wasn’t the case. While he may struggle to put the girls hair in a high pony, if you needed someone to assemble a highchair, cook a healthy family meal, load the washing machine, and get a baby off to sleep, G was your man. I was halfway through typing my reply, my staunch defense, when I stopped and realized I was wasting my time. It didn’t matter. It really didn’t matter. I didn’t write the piece as a work of self discovery, I wrote a funny story about breaking my ankle. A story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. A story which showed a snapshot of my family at the time. That was all it was ever intended to be.

It was roughly five months later when I arrived home to find a new piece of artwork on the wall. A framed newspaper article, a byline with a familiar name. It was mine. With a grin which stretched from one side of his face to the other G explained the process of having something printed by The New York Times publishers. “We should put it somewhere where everyone can see it!” He was beaming with pride.

Writing can be cathartic, emotional, exhilarating and excruciating all in the same thirty minutes. Your best work will always be the work that is raw and honest, the work that has you shifting uncomfortably between sentences. Words which are written without the thought of a stranger looking over your shoulder. What will they think?  It really doesn’t matter.

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  1. So I don’t end up in the “polite silence” category – I just wanted to let you know: I read every post you write. You’re one of my fave bloggers – I love your voice and your stories. 🙂

  2. You’re so right. The best work is that which is written from a place that when shared, requires vulnerability. Thanks for your words, Kirsty!

  3. I have recently watched Miss Representation, read Lean In and listened avidly to Elizabeth Warren, and I have learned one thing. We need better role models for girls, women and family life; not hypersexualized or over sanitized, but real, warm, human, funny, vocal and most of all, accepted and celebrated. You should be proud, not just to have been good enough to feature in the NYT, but to have been good enough, just as you are. The rest of us are truly grateful..

  4. Janet Richards says

    I love reading your blog. You are my expat ‘friend’ and I really look forward to reading about your life so vastly different from/to my own. (Someone please tell me which is correct.)

  5. Thank you for sharing, fabulous post:)

  6. Thanks for that–you give me hope to keep writing despite the polite silences. At least I hope they are rather than non-readers :-).

  7. Kirsty, I loved this insight! I’ve just come out to my family and friends about my efforts to write my first full-length manuscript. I know that there’s a huge chance of rejection by publishers as it seems to be the nature of the beast. However, it doesn’t mean I have to conduct my efforts in secret – I’m doing this for me, as if I don’t ever finish a manuscript, I’ll never know if I can do it! It’s so much better having it out there now, instead of keeping it to myself. I’ve decided that once I finish this work, I’m going to go on to the next one and the next one and the next one. There’s no point not following my passion and I salute you for coming to that same conclusion!

  8. Ohhh, I’ve just noticed your live traffic feed – I don’t have anything to add (you’ve covered it well!) but really enjoy your writing (both this piece and the New York Times article

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