"Is there ever a time when you know that your writing is worth the investment?"She then had to put up with me (and others) giving these and similar answers:
"Only you can know. Only you know what it means to you"But it turned out Sarah was meaning money. (Actually, I kind of guessed that but I was being a mixture of honest and facetious, if that's possible.) Specifically, there's a festival for writers, the York Festival of Writing, in March next year and she was wondering whether it would be worth going to. Sarah lives in Spain so this would be a significant cost for her. So, it's a fair question: how do you know what it's right and necessary to spend in the quest to become published? As she said,
"The only necessary investment is time and courage."
"How do I know if it's worth investing money in my writing? Difficult to know."And my answer remained:
"Only you can know. Only you know what it means to you." And, "The only necessary investment is time and courage."Sarah said, "Time isn't enough. A writer needs guidance."
My response to that - bearing in mind this was Twitter, and Twitter falls down when it comes to detailed conversations - was, "Time can be enough." I pointed out that in my case, time was all I had. Twenty-one years of it. I had no money, knew of no writers' festivals or consultancies to help. So, all I could do was practise, learn, read, and just work away at it.
But this is not a fair or good enough answer. It's really not. I can't dismiss the palpable anguish of an aspiring writer who is probably at least as desperate as I was to become published and published well, for writing I believed in. Or wanted to believe in. (For, as Sarah later said, "I get insecure days when I wonder if i'm wasting my time and others when I feel it's really worth it." Yay! You're a writer! It goes with the territory. Having insecure days is essential.)
So, I think the question I have to ask myself is,
"If, when I was struggling to become published, there had been something I could have done, which would have cost money but which stood a good chance of helping me improve my writing and thereby speed me towards publication, would I have done it?"Yes. Yes. Yes.
Because time can indeed be enough, but a) monkeys on type-writers could have all the time in the world and not get published and b) if it's a matter of getting there more quickly with good tuition or guidance, why not do it?
- I would not be foolish in my willingness to throw money at the problem. There are too many people trying to take money off would-be writers. So, I'd be careful about what I chose. I'd pick workshops by people with reputations, for example. Luckily, the York Festival of Writing does have workshops with people with good reputations...
- I would not spend more than I could afford to spend. At the end of all this there may be no publication and I would want to spend (lose) an amount of money about which I could say, "It was worth a try. It was worth that just to know." So, in a way, we are back at my original answer: "Only you know what it means to you."
- I would spend far more time practising what I'd been taught than I'd spent on receiving the teaching.
- I would value the people I met and the opportunity for new ideas almost as much as the actual information gleaned.
- I would do what felt right for me and not what other people said I should do.
- I would not measure the value of something by how much money I'd spent on it.
- I would take the view that sometimes you don't know the value of something unless you try it and that some risks are worth taking. But others are not and I would not spend time regretting a wrong decision where money was concerned.
"Only you can know. Only you know what it means to you." And, "The only necessary investment is time and courage."Just with a bit more detail. And, hey, it was free!
By the way, if you do want to come to the York Festival of Writing, I'm doing some workshops there! I'm also doing my own workshops, starting in March. And my aim for each one is that every participant will come away feeling they got great value for money and learnt something which should help them get published.
Are they worth your investment? Only you can know... But I hope so. And I believe so.