My blog has been quiet lately on the writing front. There hasn’t been much news about my books to shout about to be fair, and I’ve had nothing to say about my writing because I’ve been feeling quite introspective about both the process of writing itself and the process of being published. This reticence most likely has something to do with my character, as I am also the kind of author who needs time to think about what story I want to tell. Although am doing #NaNoWriMo this year, I’m doing it in my own way, taking the bones of a first draft which has been taking shape mostly in my head for the last couple of years and giving it some body.
The last year or so has seen what could be described as a ‘quiet’ publication for my second novel. I am not sure if we are supposed to talk about these things on our blogs, perhaps it’s better to try and maintain a high gloss, but the truth is that many second books have a harder time reaching readers than the author’s debut, and indeed many debuts and third, fourth and fifth books struggle to be heard too. For an author, this basically means trying to smile through all the social situations where people ask you how many you’ve sold, whilst buckling down to write another in the hope of ‘better luck next time’.
Is it all about luck? There is some general advice to authors that suggests you ‘write the best book possible’ and then it’s pretty much over to chance, and this is probably true to a great degree if you are traditionally published, but psychologically, if I’m to invest my time and emotion into writing a novel, I need to think that there is more that I personally can do to give it the best chance out there. Then if it flies or if it falls I’ll know I did all I could. So I’ve been mulling over what I can reasonably hope for as I write my next book, and what influence I have over bringing those hopes to life. And so I came to thinking about a quote you’ll all have heard: the one about having courage to change the things you can. I remember now it’s from the Serenity Prayer, but I had my wires crossed and first looked up Desiderata.
I remember reading Desiderata as a teenager, and finding things in there that seemed wise and useful, but in the decades that followed I’ve seen it so often marketed in swirling calligraphy on plaques and posters in high street card shops, or quoted on the internet with motivational backdrops that whatever value it might have had for me I subsequently discounted. It was a strange beast, a poem that became a meme even before the word meme had been invented.
Well, I found it again on the internet this morning and actually, so much of it speaks to me right now that I’m going to share it with you too. Underneath this motivational picture (actually my daughter standing on a volcano).
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.