Marcus Sedgwick: the power of perseverance

April 2022

Well, well, well. Last time I wrote, I had a book out on submission. I handed control of my destiny to the gods of writing, and they have been favourable to me on this occasion. As I said, just because I’m an ‘established’ (whatever that means) writer, doesn’t mean every book I write gets accepted – twice in the last few years I’ve written a book only for it not to find a home. I can’t say this any more clearly: THIS IS NOT EASY, there are no two ways about it. But (cliché alert) one of the most important things you need to have as a writer is the desire to persevere. You don’t even need to be confident about your work (I’ve never met a writer who was, genuinely). That might sound strange, and I once was verbally attacked by someone on a panel event who said I must have been confident to submit my work in the first place, twenty and something years ago. I said it wasn’t a question of confidence, it was more that I was naïve, enthusiastic, and though I didn’t see it then, I had the ability or the gift of perseverance. 

My big brother is now a successful writer too – I got going before him, not because I was any more confident than him, but because I sent my stuff into the world, while he wasn’t. Publishers do not drive around obscure Cambridgeshire villages, knocking on doors and asking if there are any half-finished manuscripts inside, I told him. You have to finish your work, you have to send it out there. And you have to persevere. Last weekend, a writer friend of mine got news that her agent likes the book she has been working on for six years. She is 87. She has perseverance; it will never leave her.

The result of perseverance (sometimes, because the other magic ingredient you need is good luck) – is that you get a book deal. And as it turns out, not only did the book on submission get an offer, but a book I have been working on for four years finally found a home too. I had almost given up on this other project, but finally, finally it has found a home and will be published very soon. This is a book called All In Your Head and it’s a very personal book – it’s a memoir type thing of the last decade or so of my life, which began with me falling ill and consequently not being taken seriously by my doctor(s). It’s a rather rambling story of medical gaslighting, but also it investigates some of the supposed truths about writers – for example, are writers more prone to madness? Are writers really physically frailer than the average? And so on.  It will be published by Impress Books in July and suddenly there is a lot of extra work to do surrounding the project, but that’s fine – I welcome it.

My birthday approaches and I am grateful for that. On Friday I will be 54, which is good news because I found 53 to be a really unsatisfying number, and so indeed it proved to be as a year of my life.  My daughter arrives tomorrow to celebrate, if I’m lucky some other friends may be able to raise a glass with me too, and as I see life now, that’s all we can do – celebrate the victories, no matter how large, or how small. 

If you’re submitting yourself at the moment (because that’s what it feels like), all I can say is this; do try not to take it too seriously. And I totally feel your pain. This is not an upbeat blog post, but it is an honest one, and I am minded to finish with something my friend Catherine Johnson is always (very rightly) pointing out: no one is asking us to do this crazy thing. No one is forcing us. So just take it for what it is and try to keep some balance in your life, at all times.

Next time, something happier. 

Want to learn more from Marcus?

Author Marcus Sedgwick is 2022 Novel Writer-in-Residence for the Hub, WriteMentor’s community learning platform that connects like-minded storytellers and provides all the tools they need for writing success.

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