New Opportunities and Seizing the Day
'Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius power and magic in it. Begin it now.' Goethe
Life, be it national, professional or personal is driven by opportunity. Nothing would happen if new opportunities didn't present themselves. And equally nothing would happen if opportunities weren't created or taken up. There's nothing wrong with periods of status quo, but we need to be wary of stasis tipping into stagnation. Being born is of course our biggest opportunity, but it is in facing all the new beginnings and times of upheaval, change and challenge we're presented with throughout our lives that we truly live. Opportunity - recognising it and taking it when the time is right - is vital.
Writing this as a Scot living in Scotland in September 2014 in the final fortnight before the referendum on Scotland's independence, I am very aware of the possibility of new opportunities at a national level. Whatever way the vote goes, things in Scotland won't be the same post-referendum. The old ways won't do; not after all that's been said by the Yes and the No camps.
I hope that both sides, winners and losers, whatever the result, will work together to improve the governance of Scotland. I hope both sides view Scotland as facing new and positive opportunities and that disappointment, anger or resentment don't get in the way of us seizing our chances to improve the lives of individual Scottish citizens.
And I hope that people resident in the other parts of the United Kingdom will also see their opportunities to change the way they're ruled; that they will see that the UK, with or without Scotland, can change how it operates; that discussion and debate are healthy and that although challenging, the opportunity to change things for the better, to change how government works and to change the nature of our politics away from being answerable to vested interests and towards being accountable to the electorate is something to be seized. It's not about nationalism. Yes or no, in or out, Scotland and the rest of the UK are facing significant new opportunities for fresh starts, more justice and fairness and big changes to how we run our lives.
In my professional life I have just undergone the major change of retirement. At the age of fifty-eight and after thirty-six years of primary school teaching I accepted the opportunity to take my pension and to move on to the next stage of my life. I'm very excited by this. I plan to take this opportunity and use it to become (amongst other things) a more professional, more dedicated and more productive writer. Yes, there's a pun coming - I'm at the beginning of a new chapter.
But what of writing and new opportunities? Well, as in the instances above, sometimes opportunities present themselves and sometimes you have to create them. The biggest enemy of the would-be writer is procrastination. Don't wait for the time, the conditions, the ideas to be right. Goethe got it right - the time is now. Show up and write every day - even if only for a few minutes - take the opportunity.
Then when you're underway, you'll see that every line, every page, every chapter is another new opportunity; a new opportunity to drive your narrative forward. The act of writing is taking up the opportunity to tell your story.
However - as far as writers are concerned - probably the biggest and newest opportunities of all are the opportunities to get your work out there. It has never been easier to publish your work. The rise of the indie or author-publisher has been amazing in recent years. The traditional route is still valid and rumours of its death exaggerated, but it's no longer the only route. Authors nowadays have the opportunity to seek out and work with the best editors, proofreaders and book designers. We can choose our formats, distributors and retailers. We can do our own publicity and control our costs and prices. I've published both my novels independently and can highly recommend doing so.
It's a great time to be a writer. The opportunities are there for the taking.
If you're inspired to take up the opportunity to write, good on you. Below are just a few of the many useful sources of support:
Books - there are many how-to books. Two of my favourites are:
'On Writing' by Steven King - straight talking from the bestseller himself
'Writing Down the Bones' by Natalie Goldberg - exercises and motivational tips
Writing clubs and groups:
Investigate what's available locally. Your local library might well be able to help.
Online groups and forums - e.g You Write On http://www.youwriteon.com/ where you can get feedback on your work.
Mslexia https://www.mslexia.co.uk/ is a quarterly magazine aimed at women writers and stuffed with tips and information
Writing Magazine https://www.writers-online.co.uk/Writing-Magazine/ same as for Mslexia but includes those of a blokeish persuasion in its readership
WORDS WITH JAM - of course!
Local authorities, colleges and universities run courses in Creative Writing as does the OU - and not all are at degree level
Enter them, whatever your genre there'll be something for you. They are great for giving you a deadline and a bit of a focus. Writers' magazines, including this one, and writing clubs are great sources for competitions.
Ready to publish?:
You may want to go down the route of finding an agent and a traditional publisher and if so, 'The Writers and Artists Yearbook' is the publication for you.
Or you may want to go it alone and self or indie publish in which case, The Alliance of Independent Authors http://allianceindependentauthors.org/ is a great place to go for advice. You'll find information on editors, designers and publishing packages here. Take time to explore their website and consider whether joining might be helpful to you.
Whatever you do in the pursuit of your writing I wish you well and many new and exciting opportunities.
Anne Stormont is an author-publisher. She can be a subversive old bat but maintains a kind heart. As well as writing for this fine organ, she writes fiction for adults – mainly of the female-of-a-certain-age persuasion – and for children. She blogs at http://putitinwriting.me – where you can find out lots more about her.