Tag Archives: don’t give up

never, never, never, never give up

I misquote Churchill, because “never give up” galvanises me more right now than “never give in”. Though maybe the latter is more constructive. Maybe this is war.

After a couple of weeks of productive writing (which coincided, without coincidence, with me doing all my dishes every single night) I have hit a general, across the board wall. No surprises, then, that the wall applies equally to my blog, and that I found a large-ish cockroach in my kitchen the other day.

I have noticed a feeling of quiet confidence in me. Actually, quiet is the wrong adjective, because it’s more stubborn and immutable than quiet. It’s not trumpeting from the rooftops or anything (who used to trumpet from the rooftops, anyway?), it just is.

The confidence says: If you keep writing, keep progressing, keep learning and breaking it down and polishing it up, you will be published.

We’re always being told this. The main reason people don’t get published is that they give up. It seems like a pretty straight-forward equation: just keep writing. So it’s amazing to me how even with this sense that I’m on my way towards what I want, it quite frequently feels impossible.

For right now, then, writing is an endurance sport.

creative thinking

this post is not about writing.

You know when someone throws a spanner in a plan, and it looks like whatever you were going to do is now undoable? And as annoying as that is, there’s that tiny part of you that’s relieved, because whatever effort you were going to have to put in is now unputinable?

The kind of creative thinking I’m talking about is when you reach that kind of dead end and instead of listening to the relief and thinking “That’s that, then,” you think the problem all over again, but this time as though you just need a new solution to it. It isn’t a dead end at all – it is solvable.

This may seem obvious. It’s something that’s taken me years to learn.

Example: a very good friend of mine, who’s very pregnant, has been missing her globe-trotting husband terribly, so I invited her around to dinner. I just got back from shopping at the South Melbourne Market for all sorts of yum things, when I got a message from her. Her back has made her immobile, and her dog bit into a battery.

So there’s the disappointment, and there’s the relief. Another quiet night at home.

And then I thought – well why don’t we just go up to her? Cook the dinner at her place? The part of me that felt the relief thinks it’s an excessive thing to do. The other part of me thinks, Huzzah! With just a tiny bit of creative thinking, an evening I’d given up on as a dead end has turned into an excursion into the burbs, the company of one of my best mates, and a nice dinner for her.

It’s a good model for living, I think.

on feedback

I’ve been getting quite a lot of feedback lately – some confidence-destroying, some very encouraging, some useful, some not really to the point.

It all affects me.

Which has made me think and get all existential. See, this is where thinking led me: It’s all just someone’s opinion, informed by their experience and tastes. We all know that. There is no golden standard of good writing, against which our paltry offerings will never measure up.

But it’s also very clear that my writing is equally biassed – just a bunch of things I made up, informed by my experience and tastes. There is no truth within my writing, but what I decide.

So the real trick with feedback, it seems to me, is this:

Use feedback as objects in the vast, treacherous ocean that is novel writing. Land and rest at those that uphold you. Recharge and shove off revitalised from those that encourage you. Rethink your strategy on those that make useful critique of your game plan.

Rise up and recover from those that pull you under without warning.

Because the thing is: feedback is only useful as far as it gets you where you’re going. So use it like that.

It’s naive to ignore useful feedback just because it’s not what you want to hear. It’s tragic to give up because you think feedback is anything other than a tool on your journey.

Be courageous, open and generous in the face of it. Is the conclusion I came to.

For a brilliant essay on this topic – including a scientific experiment using rats and hidden islands – go here.