On The Twelfth Day of ChristmasNovember 13, 2022 2022-12-30 19:53
On The Twelfth Day of Christmas
On The Twelfth Day of Christmas
And so, day twelve, and who do we have for you? A familiar face for those of you who are friends of The Book Room.
Jennifer Saint is the author of three brilliant books on Greek myth: Ariadne, Elektra and forthcoming, Atalanta. She also put together a brilliant Greek myth curation for The Book Room which you can find here, and you can watch our conversation where Jennifer talks about her own work and why she picked the books she did here. Fittingly, Jenny has something to tell you about new year’s resolutions, and if this piece of advice does not inspire you, then I don’t know what will. Jenny’s story just goes to show the power of making a writing resolution and sticking to it, and we all need reminding of that every now and then, at whatever stage we are at in our writing careers. And so, a final reminder from me to subscribe to my newsletter, spend your pennies in my online shop, wishing you a very successful writing year in 2023, and it’s over to Jenny…
“Quite fittingly for this series, I wrote my first novel, Ariadne, as a New Year’s Resolution. It remains to date the only New Year’s Resolution I have ever kept. There’s a reason for this. On 31st December 2018, I resolved that the following year, I was going to give myself a gift – the gift of time. There were a million reasons why I had never fulfilled the ambition I formed when I was still in primary school: to write a novel. The main one being that I thought I was too busy – I was an English teacher with two young children, constantly battling to manage all the demands of my professional and family life. Deciding to take the time to write meant taking time for myself – in the evenings, at weekends, shutting myself away to indulge a project that surely would never amount to anything.
“But my gift to myself was to not see it as selfish, to not feel guilty about having those hours to be creative. It was worthwhile, whether the final manuscript ever saw the light of day or not, because writing gave me satisfaction (which doesn’t mean I love every moment of it – it can be very hard, but ultimately rewarding). I didn’t put any pressure on myself. This wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution borne of self-loathing or dissatisfaction – those resolutions are always doomed to failure. This was a kindness to myself, an acknowledgement that writing was something I had always wanted to do and if I did hope to one day become an author, it wasn’t going to happen unless I actually wrote a book – so I gave myself permission to write one.
“The resolution turned out far better than I ever imagined: I did finish the novel and by the end of the year, I had an agent and a publishing deal as well. Now, as I write my third novel, I still don’t have a fixed writing process or routine. I’m still as in the dark as I was on 1 January 2019 when I opened my notebook in a freezing cold park while my children played on the slides and I wrote until my fingers were too numb to hold the pen anymore. I set myself realistic goals – I want to finish the first draft by x date, but I rarely set myself daily or weekly word count targets (when I do, I usually rebel against them!). I made the exception for NaNoWriMo last year, which was a lot of fun but only achievable in my case thanks to the support of a group of likeminded friends where we all cheered each other on to the finishing line. I’m someone who has to shut out the rest of the world while I’m actually writing though – phone off, a closed door, a silent room and most importantly, I have to quiet down the critical voice in my head quoting all the bad reviews I didn’t manage to avoid, all the self-doubt I harbour, the relentless needling of comparison and envy, all the imposter syndrome clamouring to be heard – and just write.
“It’s much like my resolution this year – to keep up regular yoga practice. Getting back to my laptop after Christmas is like getting back to the mat; stretching out those painful and complaining muscles, pushing on through the reluctance to get started, feeling like I’m doing it all wrong and I’ll never get it right. But at the end of each session, I have that sense of peace and achievement, a quiet contentment and conviction that I’m on the right path and I don’t have to do it perfectly or the same way as someone else – it’s enough just to show up every day and keep on trying. That’s my advice to everyone who wants to write: show up, keep going and be kind to yourself.”