This week, I was getting a writing thing ready for submission to another writing thing. You can sense we’re not going to get too specific here. I put a lot of time into it, writing, rewriting, editing, honing, thinking, shaking my head, rethinking, polishing and drinking tea. I finished the thing on schedule and it sat there on my computer, gleaming in its preparedness, ready to be dispatched.
And then I didn’t submit it.
So it’s still sitting there, still gleaming in its preparedness although now there’s a kind of subtle taunt built into it too. “Chick-Chick-Chicken, you did all the work and then you chickened out.”
There could be a bit of truth in that. I’m honestly not sure. Self confidence, for me at least, comes in waves. The good parts are right up there on the peaks while the other stuff lies waiting down in the troughs. Maybe the old self-confidence wasn’t as high as it sometimes is when the time came to submit last week. Maybe the battle of inner voices was won over by that dull insistent one who reckons you’re just a bit shit really.
It could be that, it really could, but I think not. Maybe I’m simply guilty of post-rationalisation but again… nope, 'don’t think so.
Here’s what I think.
I think there is quite a few ways of ‘not submitting’ and I think I actually did two of them last week.
In earlier times, I used to read scripts for a number of competitions. Mostly these were radio plays. I would get lovely big packages in the post with twenty or twenty-five play scripts in them and I would have to read them, write a little report, and select maybe two of those scripts to go on to the next stage of reading. I enjoyed it. I found I could learn a lot, particularly about how not to do things.
At first glance, it may sound like a reasonably skillful job, requiring years of experience and knowledge. I’ll let you in on a little secret, if you don’t know it already. It’s easy to spot to best ones. Just that. It’s easy-as-hell to spot the best ones. I reckon anyone could do it. We all love a good story. We all love to be gripped, We all love truth and emotion, wrapped up in a winning package, and we can all spot it when we see it. I never had any problem finding the best two plays out of my stack of twenty-five. They shone out. There was never any mistaking them.
What’s this got to do with anything, Ken? Have you veered off on another of those tangents of yours? Is it an inevitable symptom of your age?
No, none of the above. At least I don’t think so.
The simple fact is, the thing I had written and rewritten and polished… it just wasn’t good enough to send. That’s the truth of the matter. That’s why the email never flew. It was okay, maybe, but it was not good enough.
And this is a lesson that’s been hard learned. It’s knowledge gained from first hand experience and from having an opportunity to operate inside the system for a little while. It’s the knowing that submitting your writing is not like buying a raffle ticket or entering a tombola. It’s no use telling yourself that you might win if you can only get something in, get anything in. It’s not the case. ‘Never was, ‘never will be. If your writing does not shine greater than the rest then it won’t progress. So many of the scripts I read were clearly ‘raffle tickets’, a scrap of paper sent in with the writer’s name on it in the hope of getting lucky, of slipping through.
A total waste of time.
I know this well, I really do, but there is a tendency to forget it or, at least, to shove it to the back of my mind. Maybe this thing I’ve written is a little better than I think it is. Maybe I should just send it away, take a punt on it.
This is a way of thinking that we can all fall into from time to time.
But I won’t submit to it.
I won’t submit.