The perils of success

There’s little preparation offered to the average writer in terms of what happens when things go right. Nobody much talks about how to deal with the offer to publish your book, how you’re going to feel if you win a big prize, and what it means to be heralded as a local, or even national success.

On the other hand, there’s a massive amount of information out there on how to deal with failure. There are blogs devoted to literary failure, Literary Rejections on Display being perhaps the best and most balanced, there are books about how to cope with the constant pain and peril of being a writer who is rejected, refused and reviled at every turn, and yet whose unpublished (dare I suggest, unpublishable?) prose must continue to flow.

What you are almost never told about is the pain of succeeding.

What happens when you win, and realise that your success is the failure of people you like and admire, often, in fact, people very close to you, because writers tend to congregate around competitions like animals around a waterhole. Even worse, when you are shortlisted and have to wait to hear, and endure a month of wondering if you are the ‘winner’ who will walk away with the big prize – the one that would clear your overdraft and have agents beating a path to your door, or a ‘runner up’ who will get nothing but the pleasure of applauding the winner as they walk to the stage to pick up their prize. Worse still, when you are shortlisted and wait to hear and then finally, you’re told that this year they aren’t awarding a prize to any of you – because actually, none of you are good enough.

Virginia Woolf walked into a river with stones in her pockets. I suspect this last scenario is the one that could send many of us to our gardens to find the right rocks …

Que sera, se-bloody-ra.

I’m about to throw my rocks, rather than myself, into the sea off Brighton and buy a great big double hot chocolate with cream instead. Sometimes, you have to celebrate your failures and mourn your successes, and today is one of those days.