Mentorship, Writing Skillz, Finishing Things, and a New Short Story

As I’m sure 100% of people who have ever daringly put pen to paper, or… fingertips to keyboard… will know, writing is such a wild stab in the dark with a blunt wooden spoon. Objectivity is obviously impossible. You can guess, but never really know, if what you’ve written is good, or terrible, or if it just faffs around in between good and terrible.

The only thing you can rely on is whether you enjoy it. I keep writing because I enjoy it too much to stop (like eating fried cheese sandwiches: why would you ever stop?) I keep tapping away on the laptop, having a rare old time to myself, and usually it’s great.

Sometimes, it’s not great. I keep writing away, and it’s a lonesome activity, and since I’m usually the only person who will ever read it, it all seems totally pointless. I keep writing, get annoyed, call it a load of rubbish, abandon it, throw the laptop across the bed and then walk off to look in the fridge again.

Which is why I think that getting a bit of support and advice is absolute gold dust. It opens up your mind. It makes you raise your game. It means that you can’t be lazy. You have to consider carefully, exactly what you’re doing, and why, and how. Another writer, editor, or generally excellent person, gifting you with their time (and time is the most valuable and underrated thing we have), putting in effort and thoughtfulness and care, to look at what you’ve done and help you make it better… it’s an absolute gift.

Anyway… after that intense introduction, here is a link to a short story of mine, which is up right now on the Product Magazine website. It’s called The Sugar Hotel, and it’s a creepy and gruesome tale about drinking with the devil. The story of this story is that I sent them a little, scrappy, slightly deranged piece of writing, and they got back to me and invited me on to their New Writer’s Programme. I’ve been working with the wonderful and very talented Lisa Locascio, who has helped me to buff up and fluff up this story, and led me, very thoughtfully, sensitively and encouragingly, toward new ideas and ways of doing things, all of which has  made the story a much better thing, and made me feel much more positive and happy about writing in general. Basically, this help has been priceless.

It has also made me realise the importance of taking your work seriously. I don’t mean in an absurd, ‘I am James Joyce, admire my monocle’ sort of way. I mean, making it a priority. Allowing time and space, without feeling embarrassed or weird or pretentious, to get writing done. Keeping going, ignoring the doubts, all the diatribes in popular culture about how 98% of writers are never paid, never have any success, and end up dying alone covered in cats who can’t even read… and… not giving up. Not letting up until you’re sure that you’ve done your very best.

Obviously this applies to all walks of life, not just writing. If you are lucky enough to receive someone else’s attention and time, for the work that you are doing, then perhaps wear a gold crown today, and be thankful.

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