On not getting the money

It was a day late, but for my birthday the Scottish Books Trust decided to give me a ringing lack of endorsement by not awarding me one of their bursaries for new writers. As this blog should be more about trumpeting my successes (give me time … ) than mourning my failures, I’m not going to go into this at any great length – it’s frustrating and annoying, but not ultimately discouraging. Rejection tends to put the wind in my sails rather than make me lower them, and I won’t run up the flag of surrender just yet. Or continue with these nautical metaphors.

I thought not getting one of the awards would precipitate more of a crisis, but I think any frustration I feel is due more to the fact that it’s coincided with my birthday and that my twenties are now a distant memory. Early to mid twenties seems like the perfect age to publish a novel; certainly it’s one of the best ages to market one. A culture which sees youth as a virtue in itself takes more note of a book written precociously young than one written venerably old, or even middle-aged. Which is not to say that I’m anywhere near the last two categories yet, of course. It’s no more than the frustration due to having lived for several years in a situation where all your time for writing has to be clawed back from the demands placed on you by other commitments and responsibilities, usually those tiresome ones of earning money to pay for rent and food – both massively overrated, but seemingly essential. The last statistic I heard quoted about this was that only 5% of writers make their complete income from their writing alone, and most have to combine it with part time work or teaching anyway. And as far as age goes, I’m aligning myself fully with people like William Golding and Roberto Bolano, people who only started publishing when they were in their forties, and whose books are infinitely more interesting as a result. At least I’ve got another ten years before I get to that stage …

Also, I can’t be too annoyed at missing out for the award this year, because the book I submitted isn’t even finished yet. There’s a great deal of work to be done on it, and this was the first thing I’ve submitted it for. No endorsement then, but no final discouragement either. I look forward in time to reading the work of the eight writers who did get the New Writers Awards this year; I’m sure they’ll publish excellent and wholly original books, and do truly great things for literature in this country. Yes.

See? Not a trace of sour grapes.

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