Losing My Mojo

By Amber Mart, aged 5

By Amber Martin aged 5

I have spent the last few months trying my hand at writing a children’s book, to enter into the Chicken House competition in October. I tried to start last year, but didn’t get past an idea and an opening. This year I managed to complete the first draft (including writing 30,000 words in two weeks).

Unfortunately my idea stinks.

I began to feel it during drafting, and it was confirmed as I started editing. Chicken House are looking for a fresh new voice and, in the words of the editor I lined up to help me, my writing is, “flat, almost formal, and not successful for Middle Grade fiction.” Apparently the tone is more Enid Blyton than J K Rowling. Much of that is because my fantasy world is dismal and boring, my baddies two-dimensional and my protagonists predictable.

It’s all very obvious. Just because I love reading kids books, from great picture stories all the way to young adult, doesn’t mean I have what it takes to write them. I could learn, of course.

The editor suggested I perhaps didn’t have the work ethic to draft and draft until I had the story I wanted. Maybe that’s true. It isn’t that I’m afraid of hard work, but I have to confess that extensive editing leaves me demotivated and exhausted. The more I work at something the more stilted it feels and the harder it is to remain objective. Eventually everything stinks, or everything is bland or derivative.

It happened to my paintings. The abstract my daughter did this weekend might be a bit whacky but it’s much more vibrant and original than mine these days. They used to be like that. But then I overworked them, trying to make them into something that wasn’t me, and they became so bland and boring I didn’t want to paint anymore. But I couldn’t recapture that unselfconscious freshness.

I feel the same with my writing. I used to write multi-pov stories that had a bit of whacky freshness, but I trained myself to write strict limited POV with accurate grammar and not too many similes. All the things that kill children’s stories. And now I can’t write anything else.

Working Hard

Working Hard

What’s the answer? Hubbie asked me, as I sobbed yesterday that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a writer, whether it is really what I want to do. I had to pause. What I want is a creative job that fits in with the school-run and might eventually make money. I hoped it was paintings – it wasn’t. I tried web design and marketing services to small businesses, but didn’t have the enthusiasm or skills.

Is writing one more fancy and unrealistic dream to avoid getting a real job? I’ve stuck at it much longer than the other ideas (though it’s made less profit) and have published half a million words. I’ve even sold 200-300 books (although not a single copy of Class Act!) But it’s not earth-shattering and certainly not a career.

Parenting is such a thankless, soul-destroying pass time (for me) that I need to feel good at something, to feel successful. Something to offset the endless criticism and contrariness of a three and a five year old. Part of that includes making money and getting positive feedback. Feeling like I’m actually good at something I enjoy.

To be honest I probably need an agent, a publishing deal. But if my writing is flat, formal, clichΓ©d, I’ll never get one. And if I ‘m not prepared to tear a manuscript apart to its bones and rebuild it, am I just another delusional wannabe?

Don’t answer that.

34 thoughts on “Losing My Mojo

  1. I’m sorry that you’re feeling blue. Changing your writing to fit a different age group is a huge ask. I don’t know many that would attempt it!
    I remember seeing once on a graph, that most indie authors only sell 100 copies, so you are doing well. It’s a long slog and even some authors with publishing houses behind them still have ‘day jobs’ too. It certainly isn’t an easy route to wealth or recognition.
    For what it’s worth, I loved Baby Blues and am pretty sure that I will love Class Act, too.

  2. Oh man. Do NOT go there with this right now. Listen. Creativity does come and go. Increase and decrease so just cos now it’s not that wacky. Nothing to say it won’t be in a few months. I have not got it in me to even do a funny blog post at the mo xxxx

  3. It’s going through these times that will make you stronger in the end when you get through them (not much use now, but just know it will get better!) πŸ™‚

  4. Very sorry to hear you are blue. I really enjoyed your extracts over the 200 steps home year. You can write, you do have talent. Maybe you just need a holiday from it for a while. Believe me, I know how it feels to try and try, day after day and not seem to get anywhere. I feel as if I am running a marathon to stand still sometimes. I earn nothing. I write a pariah genre which no-one’ll buy. I hear you sister. πŸ˜‰ But the fact is, there are hares, there are tortoises, there are snails and there are people like me who move a little bit more slowly than glaciers and are sick of eating snail and tortoise dust. But, for most of us. Earning money from writing takes years and years. Look at Michael watssisname, War Horse bloke, look at Julia Donaldson, flying high now but the Gruffalo came out in 1980 something.

    This is the long game and you will get there. So don’t give up. Not unless you actually want to.

    Cheers

    MTM

  5. Don’t give up! You have got way further than me – it has always been my dream to write a novel, but I don’t have the right frame of mind to get it done. As a HSP, you are going to have to jump huge hurdles of self-doubt, but you’ve already come so far!

  6. You will succeed. Period. And anyone who goes the extra mile like you do with your children, (making such a cool indoor and outdoor playground for them), goes the extra mile with her writing too. All you have to do is keep doing it. You will succeed. I remember when my daughter required such strict painting schedule time. So strict. I would drive 1 hour to the studio, paint for four, then drive another hour to get to the school bus. I did my best work then. It was the most intense. But I had that restriction. the restriction that Jackson Pollack says is important to creativity. (I said that once to someone else this week) It must be true. You need restriction to be creative!

  7. You can write, Amanda. No question of it.
    I’m going to suggest something that might sound a bit crazy but it works!
    I read a number of years ago about a method of releasing a more spontaneous creativity like that of a child by using your less dominant hand. It’s meant to get in touch with the child part of us that never grows just as in the same way we neglect to use the less dominant hand.
    A friend of mine, when at art college, was criticised for lacklustre work and I told her about this. She then submitted work done with her left hand and the lecturer was blown away. Wouldn’t believe she’d painted the picture with her ‘weaker’ hand.
    The technique was used to get people in touch with their inner child, answers written with the less dominant hand coming from the delayed child while questions were posed from the adult and the dominant hand. Does this make sense? πŸ˜‰
    I tried it and it worked for me, more realistic drawings than I can manage with my right. The ‘voice’ from the other hand is remarkably astute in being the child.
    I know it sounds a bit airy fairy, lol, but we can restrict our on free reign of creativity by being too adult.
    It might be worth a try for writing exercises. Bugger it, I’m going to give it a go myself again. It’s been ages since I’ve done it. πŸ™‚
    Don’t give up, Amanda. We all have these days.x

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