We need to talk about the bad times ... (to steal a line from Lionel Shriver)
Because we all get them. Mine started just after I came back from Kendal, when I succumbed to a really nasty cold (which still hasn't gone, entirely) and arrived home to find a rejection letter from an agent whom I'd been hopeful was seriously considering my latest novel.
Since then, nothing seems to have gone right. Lovely people who are friends and colleagues have got agents, book deals and even film options. I've got rejections. Emerging writers whose work I've enjoyed and tried to support have gained grants and residencies where I've been turned down. Stories I'd thought perfect for certain venues have been rejected. Contests I'd thought I stood a chance of winning haven't even shortlisted my work.
It feels, to be honest, like one of those dreams where you're naked and everybody else is dressed and they are laughing at you but you can't escape.
Such times are horrendous. The experience of being a multiple, multiple failure is vile. What makes is worse is having to be pleased for your friends and associates when all you want to do is howl the unfairness of it to the moon. You do feel happy for them, but you feel utterly miserable for yourself and nobody seems to notice how awful things are for you.
I said it happens to all of us, but that's not true. Some people imagine what a time like this would be like, and it stops them entering the world of literature at all. Right now, I fully understand their feelings.
But I've been here before. This too will pass. It's a cycle, and soon, when it's my turn again to be getting the things I'm striving for, I hope that when other writers congratulate me I'll remember to ask 'How are things with you? No, really, I want to hear,' and if they're in the bad time, to tell them what I know. Which is, it's better to be at the bottom of the heap with everybody else's bootmarks on your body as they climb above you, than to be looking at the heap and knowing you'll never be part of it at all.
However - should you ask me in the next couple of weeks how things are going - I might just tell you! Be prepared to listen to one miserable writer sharing just how nasty it can be to live the writing life, and ignore 90% of what I say. Because if you asked me again a few months from now, I'd tell you the truth - I'm the luckiest woman in the world to be doing what I do for a living. It's simply that, right now, my luck is being overshadowed by the luck of others and I've got to try and enjoy their reflected glory without dwelling on the darkness of my own lack of success.