A Letter To The Doubters

Writing this has been hard. I have gone through three drafts within the last hour trying to formulate what it is I ACTUALLY want to address. This usually does not happen, usually I have a somewhat clear idea of what I would like to write about before I sit down and start. Usually I’ve spent a good few days researching or pondering over my next subject, while at work as I pick avocado’s out from the tops of trees, while drinking tea outside my cabin or listening to some music in my office, which currently is a white van, a van falling apart that I park outside a library under a lanky tree where I receive somewhat good internet connection. Eventually, I figured out where I was going wrong with this post, the issue was not with the content but finding a good place to start, more of understanding what NOT to say rather than what TOO say. Once I figured out how to open this letter, it all just fell into place. I had a blast writing this just so you know, it was a complete joy, filled with relief and a small percent of smugness (I am Human after all). So, here is a letter addressed to all those people who doubted me, to all those who gave me a hard time, who laughed as I explained what it was I wanted to do, who held me back, made fun of and even attempted to bully me out of this choice, this letter is for you.

_____

To the haters

It hasn’t been easy pursuing this life, the life of a writer. I still struggle with whether or not this is my profession, even after a decade of writing I feel as if I can do more. There is so much out there that I do not know, things I will never be able to get a grasp of no matter how hard I try, no matter how much time I sink in to whatever it may be, there will always be something else to experience, and I have no shame in admitting this, I will never be the best, the idea I guess is to try your hand is as much as possible and just see what happens. What I have accomplished has its flaws but I can at least make a feeble attempt to try and fail knowing I gave it my all. What I have read, what I have seen some writers accomplish in my thirty years on this planet (that’s right, I hit thirty a few weeks ago) is quite simply beyond words, pardon the pun, it was intentional. From your perspective, it may look like we (writers) or I, am just sitting down in one spot procrastinating, indulging in laziness watching the world go by using my writing as an excuse to not do anything while others, people like yourself do all the work. Watching a writer work is mind boggling to most people, it is not like watching someone who works with paint in a studio for example, where you can see the change upon the canvas happen right before your eyes and transform within a single sitting, it is not like watching a footballer practise on a field or a dancer perfect a technique in the mirror … No, what we do takes time, what we do requires a skill set that you have no compression of, a virtue that most people in this busy world have lost, it’s called patience.

Patience is key when you write, without it you are not a writer, you can’t be without the ability to wait, usually this means waiting on others, but sometimes it is just to give your work that time needed to grow, and it will only grow with the work/time you put in. Of course, there are other things that one needs in order to write a book, such as endurance, not of the body but of the mind, you need to be able to write when you are not feeling it, you need to be able capture those feelings that are detrimental to our health, feel them authentically and do your best to convey them onto that bloody page. In fact (going off topic a little) a way to cure writers block IS to write instead of staring endlessly into the white, even garbage can be polished, neatened up and turned into something useful. One of the worst things I had to do when on my journey through my first book, was to carry on with the story during a failing relationship, it sounds cliché but it is true, it felt like I was moving on without her, facing the world without someone at my side. This is a very real feeling and it will test you, because writing is a relationship in-itself, a relationship that needs nurturing, needs a lot of one’s time, thought and care. It will be up to you with whether or not you provide these things. It may seem at first that this is a one-way street but I do promise you that the work you put in is rewarded ten-fold, if not more so if you love what you do, and I certainly love what I do.

You need faith. Faith is an excuse people use when there is no evidence to provide, this is much the case with writing. From a personal experience, I knew I had a story deep down inside, locked away somewhere behind a number of doors, yet all I had at the time was my ability to voice such ideas, to describe such places and detail instances, usually this was a clash between a protagonist and an antagonist. However, no matter how well I could describe these images and feelings in my head, this is indeed a low form of evidence in the eyes of many and comes across as just cheap talk, especially when the person you’re talking to begins to yawn or check their watch or worse insults your intelligence. When this happens, I ignore the insults but know that I need to do more to engage my audience. So, faith is required, faith in yourself and in your story that you wish to build, voice and share. Should you lack this vital quality, you’ll soon stumble, you’ll soon fall and be buried over the countless obstacles that are heading your way and cemented over with your own conscience verifying that your feat is ‘impossible to achieve’ when actually all it needs is you.

You need solitude, you cannot write at a party or in the company of others, if you can, if that is how you play this game, then by all mean go nuts, you can do something I cannot, though I prefer to be alone, with candle light, tea and in the company of a cat sleeping on a radiator nearby or on a printer I never use. From an early age (7) I’ve always had a need for loneliness, often yearned for it especially when I moved to the City of Oxfordshire. The first thing I noticed upon arrival to this amazing City was the unrelenting noise from man and machine, both equally annoying and both extremely efficient at drowning out the thoughts of my story, thoughts which get me by and hold together what little sanity I have.

You need trust, trust in your ability to learn especially when it comes to the formatting and marketing stages. Often, I’ve found myself in a position where I had absolutely no idea how to do something, it can leave you feeling lost, witless and a bit hopeless. It can be daunting and make you feel more alone than usual, like being lost at sea but further adrift than you initially thought…And you’ve just put a hole in your lifeboat…And there are sharks around you…There is only one thing you can do in this situation, you must trust yourself to learn new skills and to learn them fast because even your own patience has its limits. Trust yourself to do the work and not let it linger, trust yourself to pick yourself up after being knocked down, be ready for this to happen because it will happen a great deal. You also need to trust in the fact that you may not have all the answers right away, but you know you’ll find them, eventually if you trust in your process.

There are a truck load of other abilities you need, abilities that you’ll pick up on along the way such as vision, passion, motivation. Some abilities you’ll wrestle with and have to acquire through hard work and research. There are too many to list in this letter but I feel like I’ve highlighted the main ones besides one which I will talk about toward the end, because it is the most important, but before I do that I must not forget, I need to address you, the doubters.

With such abilities needed in order to create something beautiful, on top of ALL those things I’ve listed, creators have to deal with the haters, doubters who bring with them bundles of negativity who cannot help but fling it your way. As if trying to write a consistent, complex story is hard enough we have to deal with the small percentage who try to rip us apart at any given opportunity. Not cool. There are those that lift us up, more people I have found have lifted me up rather than attempted to drag me down but oddly enough it is the enemy that has the most impact on your self-esteem. I do not know why this is; Why is it that we listen more to those who hurt us rather than those that want us to succeed? If anyone can help me answer this question, I am open to your speculations. This is where things get a little bit interesting and amusing, because if you’re reading this, if by any chance you were one of the ones who doubted me, whether you were at school, college or a university acquaintance, a literary agent or a representative of a publishing house with more money than God! Then it is with great pleasure to announce that I have written a book, the book that never should have been published according to you. It’s an epic/fantasy book which is presented in the way I want it to be presented, told in the way I want it to be told and this is only the beginning, the beginning of something which I hope will redefine what epic fantasy is. Episode One – The Ancestral Odyssey: The Utopian Dream, was broken apart for those who love Kindles, I recently made my final update to them, they can be found on The Amazon Store, but also there is a remarkable Hardback Edition if you prefer to hold something physical, a book of Episode One in its entirety. To all those people who said this book, this Ancestral Odyssey could never be done, it’s impossible, that I was embarking on something that simply could not happen, that would and could never ever be published into print, I say to you, you’re wrong, you were so wrong. It is with great satisfaction that I write this letter, the feeling is uncanny. After all the doubt, the hate, the ridicule, I did it.

You know it really does something to you on a psychological level, when you spend a great portion of your life (over ten years in my case and longer in some others) pouring your energy into something, working so unbelievably hard on a project that is essentially the best you can be, the start of a path that you simply cannot falter from, something that is all you can be, a driven purpose that sees you through everything through thick and thin, gets you out of bed in the morning, gets you through that shift in a dead end job which pays like shit and is wasting your abilities. I hope you know what I mean when I say it gives you a joy that nothing can compare to, and then you’re told within a sentence long e-mail (probably automated) that it is ‘Not good enough’ or ‘We have more than enough clients’ or worse no response at all, that this is more than devastating. This is mainly directed at Literary Agents and Publishing Houses, most of you know how to do your job but you don’t know what it’s like to be a creator. Now, I am not saying that all work must be published and marketed, I am not saying that all work sent your way is worthy of more than hour of your time, I am sure you are professionals and have worked hard to get where you are today, but what comes across to us (the people submitting to you) is a complete lack of interest, a disregard of passion and an absence of even a shred of empathy. I know what you’re thinking, I know exactly what you’re thinking I do not even feel the need to spell it out, but you are the ones responsible for crushing the hopes, dreams and aspirations of thousands, people who may at the time not be good enough, and just need a push in the right direction instead of a shitty, heartless, automated e-mail saying ‘Nah.’ You are not here to offer support, I understand that you are paid to do a job and would not jeopardize your position, but in my opinion, from my experiences something has to change. I was several years into this project before I even thought about making my first submission, so upon my first rejection there was no way in hell that I was about to close my laptop and pack it in, I kept trying and trying and I did it all over again and developed a thick skin, thicker than yours no doubt, unless you know what it’s like to have invested the majority of your years into writing, but there are thousands if not millions of people who do not have a thick skin, who have not had the time to develop a layer of armour. These people could be in seriously shitty situations, a kid for example living under the roof of a broken household, a person a pay cheque away from living on the streets, someone who is at the end of their rope and their work is literally the only thing that is holding them together. Before you say anything, let me repeat, I am not saying you publish their work out of sympathy, but instead of not replying at all or sending that one lined e-mail saying ‘No, try somewhere else’ perhaps a few lines of encouragement, maybe a slight push in the right direction..ANYTHING..Is better than what you’re doing. You may be responsible for creating the next J.K Rowling (Remember her? The woman who was rejected seventeen times who is now in a position who could buy a planet, remember her?) or George R.R Martin, Jane Austin, Phillip Pullman and A.C Grayling.

The funny thing is I could be Traditionally Published by now, I could be well into my second possibly even third book, but instead I am just embarking on my second, due to the fact that I’ve spent so much time trying to convince you that what I am doing means something worthy of thirty minutes of your time. That’s right, I rejected an offer and it was in that moment when I learned that if I was going to get anywhere I would have to do it myself. I am not going to go into much detail but long story short, I was accepted and I was in that moment another being oozing happiness, but (there’s always a but) there had to be a compromise. In order to see my work on the shelf I would have to shorten the work by half which would eradicate the story and call for massive changes. I rejected the offer on the spot and tried elsewhere. After a few more months of further rejections, getting the same old tedious responses which at this point, did not feel like a thump to the delicate areas and instead bounced off of me like they were nothing, I decided not to waste my time anymore. I decided to make this happen myself.

You’d think that the story ends there, but it doesn’t, turns out that Self-Publishing is indeed harder to work through than Traditional Publishing (from what I’ve heard and read). With Traditional Publishing, you hand over your approved work to your Literary Agent, who passes it onto the appropriate Publishing House who goes ahead and edits, proofreads, spell checks, grammar checks, prints, binds, distributes and markets your work. Self-Publishers have to do all of that by themselves. I know what you’re asking; Why Self-Publish in the first place? – Simple, apart from reasons I have previously talked about, I cannot stress how hard it is to get the attention of a suit in an office, but after you hand over your work for them to handle, it no longer belongs to you, it is now a shared project. Not only are you bound by a contract but you no longer have full control over your work, you do not get to decide what content stays in, what and how much comes out, what your front cover should look like, when it is to be released and for how much and so on and so on. It can also take years to be released after the contract is signed. Sure, the work load is far less when you Traditional Publish but the trade-off is a hand over of power. Last thing I want to see is someone else who lacks originality, life experience and boldness fucking with my work, catering to the safest options for selling purposes. I know what is best for this project and the thought of me being overruled, forced to sell out and have my work misrepresented is something I will not allow. I’d rather start from square one than to see it turn into some money milking machine for a bunch of suits. I know that this is jumping the gun a little, it is unlikely my work will EVER be at such a crossroads, but just for the record, this is how I feel about it. If an offer is ever available to me, I’d rather keep my integrity than to flush it away.

In truth, to everyone who put up walls and barriers, from Literary Agencies, Publishing Houses and negative personal encounters, I thank you, for every obstacle you’ve thrown my way, for every hindrance you’ve caused I’ve overcome it time and time again. If not for you this book, this story would never have grown into what it is today, if not for you I would never have refined my techniques to create the best story it can be, and as much as I’d like to say ‘I told you so’ as much as I would like to indulge in the lowest form of childish mockery, I will not however tempting it may be, because unlike the people who drag others down, I want to lift people up, just like the people who helped me get where I am today. I’d rather see success come from each and every one of you because as I said within the back leaf of my first book, The Ancestral Odyssey: The Utopian Dream, ‘People are capable of so much’ it would be a shame to see people’s individual talents go to waste. So instead of putting up barriers for you, I wish you the best, I’ll even help you overcome some hurdles if you know me personally or not, you know how to get in touch.

I’ve talked briefly about the ins and outs of publishing and how difficult it can be. I have listed off a few key abilities needed in order to be a writer from my perspective. I’ve ranted and raved about the doubters and offered a little advice here and there, but I did promise you that I’d mention what THE most important ingredient to writing is especially of this calibre, and as cheesy as it sounds, it’s love, love for your story and the characters and world that you’ve created. Love for your work at times can feel like it’s dwindling, certain to go out in the times of writers block, in the times of lack of motivation and in the times where life gets in the way. All these things will hinder the love you have but if it’s true, you’ll always find a way to get back to it, even if you have to push yourself into the page, that love will drive you forward. It did me and it’s carrying me into Episode Two. Thank you for reading

Duncan

_____

Announcement

The book is now on sale. I really hope you decide to give me a chance. You can either pick it up as a Hardback Edition on the 09/08/2017 OR you can get it on Kindle in colour, because the Hardback had to have been in black in white. Please be aware that if you decide to purchase it digitally, you can only get it piece by piece in three individual Volumes, a beginning, middle and an end. As we’re on my Kindle Editions, they have been available for a little over a year now, well the first Volume has anyway, being released in April 2016, but all the money made from digital downloads will be donated to a tree re-growth charity here in Australia. Anyone can donate, I hope that you do. From reading their site which is also linked below, $3.75 plants a tree. Please consider a purchase, if this book is not for you then please, a share to someone else who may be interested will of course be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

E-Mail – taotome@outlook.com

Twitter – @MegasTeque

Charity – https://cncf.com.au/catalogue/uncategorised/donate-a-native-tree/

Kindle Edition – https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01JMZ2BE6

Hardback Edition – (Available 09/08/2017)

 

D.W.Gill

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