See-saw, Margery Daw by Sandra Horn

See-saw, Margery Daw,
Johnny shall have a new master;
He shall have but a penny a day,
Because he can’t work any faster.

It will be no surprise to fellow writers that life can be a bit up-and-down.  Since my last blog, mine has been absolutely Zebedee/tart’s knickers/ W.H.Y.  You’d think that, at my age, and after all these years, the highs and lows would have flattened out somewhat. Not so. A piece of work accepted, a nice review, any small pat on the back, and I’m soaring with the skylarks. A non-response, a rejection, a fewer –than- 5- stars rating, and I’m in the murky depths. The Slough of Despond. The Pit. I am Finished as a Writer. Was I ever any good? Was it all just a fluke?
As March turned towards April and the first botanical tulips brightened the kitchen windowsill, the bleurghh of that long grey winter started to lift and so did my spirits and energy – and optimism. I went into submissions overdrive: poems, a monologue ,  short plays. Nothing to do now but hover and wait... 

Then my poem in the Emma Press ‘Age’ anthology got a marvellous review in Cadaverine (honestly) magazine. Up, up! 

Rejections of two of the plays. Down, down, in spite of encouraging messages from both theatres about future work. A rejection is a rejection, right? I then panic and wonder if I had followed instructions for the monologue – look it up and see there should have been certain words in the subject line. Did I? Can’t remember. Try retrieving it from email. Can’t find it. Down, down.
Then a poetry magazine accepted ‘How to paint a snow scene’! Up! I’m shortlisted for a collection of humorous poems! Up again – but wait, it’s only the shortlist. Hover. I don’t hear any more.  Down.
I finish re-writing , to Starshine’s specifications, a musical based on one of my picture books and it goes in via the delightful  man who wrote the songs. We’re in with a good chance, I think, but they are busy and may not read it for a while. Sigh. Wait. Hover.
The daffodils are out. Shake yourself, woman! I submit, with a colleague, a workshop based round ‘Little Red Ella’. It’s great working collaboratively! Up! I fire off another play. Still up. Workshop people put back the date of the selection as they’ve had so very, very many submissions. Hmmm. Slightly down, and even further when we hear we weren’t successful. Why don’t I find something sensible to do with my time? I buy canvas and start to work a bargello chair seat.
There’s a call-out for plays celebrating Shakespeare. I’ve got one! Up! Short deadline. Never mind. Rush it into post. Feel good about it, even when they say they’ve already had 100 submissions. Then realise I didn’t put a front page on it. Down, down, down. Johnny only gets a penny a day because he can’t work any faster. Fast is no good to me, penny a day or not. I need to slow it down and stop making idiot mistakes!
Sunshine. The garden calls. I plant campanulas, foxgloves, aconites, yellow crocosmia. Forget this writing lark, at least for a day or so. Idling on the computer in the evening, I stumble across a publisher who will take rhyming picture book texts. I’ve got one! Tidy it up, send it off. Up! Three month wait for response, if response there will be. Hover.
Now? Two plays, two lots of poems and a picture book text, all still out there waiting to be judged by anonymous somebodyorothers.  Why do it? Because it’s all about the doing of it! That’s where the joy is, the satisfaction, the pride. The see-saw stuff isn’t about the writing, it’s about the publishing, which is a different thing entirely. Hold that thought.


Bill Kirton said…
Having read this, I must now go and have a lie-down. Great blog, Sandra. You put me to shame. But, despite the ups and downs (or perhaps because they're necessary), you're managing to achieve what Estragon says to Vladimir in Godot: "We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist?"
Jan Needle said…
Great stuff, Sandra. Mek the buggers 'ave it!
Dennis Hamley said…
A blog which gets to the root of the writer's life, Sandra, And what a frenetic experience. It reads as if all this happened on one day! Well, I suppose one of the rewards for a productive writer like you is that SOMETHING is happening, which shows you're alive and still possess that vital spark which, against all the odds, keeps us all going. And a bit of praise amidst all the disappointment has, thankfully, a disproportionate effect on our morale.
JO said…
Phew - I think you got there in the end, though it's a hard thought to hold on to. The joy has to lie in the writing. The pigpen of publishing is completely different.
Chris Longmuir said…
Oh my, what an apt description of a writer's life. It's a wonder we all survive the ups and downs. But I'm full of admiration for your determination. I think that needs to be added to any job description for a writer 'Must have determination'.
Lydia Bennet said…
Blimey I'm knackered just reading this, Sandra, you are a whirlwind in human form! It is an up and down life and we do have to remember why we do it, and you are right, the publishing/marketing is not all of it. A timely reminder.
glitter noir said…
I too am dizzied by this perfect description of the wild whirligig of writing. Beautifully done, Sandra.

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