The Difference a Year Makes
For the past year, my best friend Eleanor and I have been running the University of Nottingham BA (Hons) Creative and Professional Writing anthology project. It has taught me a ridiculous amount about the publishing industry, writing and people. Now we are just about to cross the finishing line, and launch our finished product, I thought I would take the time to reflect on those things that I have learnt.
The publishing industry:
Time. There is none.
You have so many things to do and hardly any time to do it. I have found throughout this project that for months it would feel like we were doing nothing at all, and then suddenly a million things would need doing immediately. It is always the way that everything needs doing at the same time. Organisation is the key. And a good team you can rely on, that’s helpful too of course, and I’ll discuss people later on. Making sure we knew when we had deadlines, and being able to work towards them was what worked for us. There were two project managers, Eleanor and myself, and we seemed to naturally divide the work between us, as we both had different skills we could utilise.
Money. There is none.
Funding a project is hard work when there is no money to back it. We were very lucky and managed to regain some of the money that we thought we were going to lose, but we know that that money is disappearing very rapidly and we had to be careful. We thought of many fundraising but getting volunteers to actually help out was very hard. People seemed to be very willing to.
The publishing industry is hard work. But it wouldn’t be worth it if it wasn’t hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it, and I am not everyone.
I contributed to the anthology as well as running and editing it. Giving work up for scrutiny is one of the hardest things a writer will have to do, and because I was also on the submissions team being one of the project managers, I had to listen to many of the comments made about my work where other writers wouldn’t have to.
It was all anonymous, thankfully, but some of the comments made did hurt. As a writer, you have to develop a thick skin. You have to be able to take it. Those comments, even if they are phrased in the most tactless way possible, are valid. Like it or not. People’s opinions of your writing matter, because it is people who are going to read it.
Yes, you don’t need to listen to every single comment.
Yes, not every single comment is actually going to be helpful to you.
And yes, not every single comment is going to be representative of your entire readership.
Because they are opinions, it is up to you which comments you choose to use to improve your work, or not as the case may be.
It comes down to respect. Respect your fellow writers and readers, and maintain your self-respect. At the end of the day, it is your writing and you need to keep your passion and love for it. I’m glad I heard some of the things said, and I can confidently say it has made me a better writer and a better person.
Another great thing about this anthology was seeing other people’s work. I got to read so many amazing pieces. The talent in my course is phenomenal. Not only that, I got to see some writers grow.
I saw pieces of work that I thought were okay, be edited and transformed into good literary pieces that I enjoyed and made me think. I saw people edit for the very first time, it was great seeing people take the time to read through someone else’s work and treat it with respect and admiration and put so much effort into improving it. Seeing these little teams, these little acts of collaboration really restored my faith in the publishing industry. With our lack of funding, trouble with eBook permissions and logistics, and ever approaching deadlines, I got very stressed. Very.
However, through this I saw a smaller version of the industry was, and helped me get through all the work when I thought it was too hard. The fact they worked so well, gave me a purpose to continue working hard in my own studies, and also to make this anthology the best we possibly could.
People. Oh People.
I am not a people person.
That is a lie, I love people.
I am just extremely impatient. I don’t like people wasting my time. I am a highly motivated and ambitious person. Since we have been working on this anthology for a year, it has become my baby. When people slacked off, it became personal. Expecting 100% from certain people was a mistake, I was letting myself in for a fall to begin with. People had other commitments; some people just were not interested. You can’t blame people.
I learnt I had to try to at least curb my impatience. And although at one point I did slam a computer mouse onto a computer desk (repeatedly until I got people’s attention) I did improve, slightly.
As a project manager, there is no point getting frustrated that someone hasn’t done something the way you wanted, because it is your responsibility. I found it was wasting time bitching and moaning about it, I just had to get on with it. When I found out people hadn’t edited properly, or formatted properly at the very last minute, I had to finish them first, then complain after.
And I did complain. A lot. Very loudly.
However, again through this I saw people develop as writers, and as individuals. I met some really cool people who I might not have had the chance to talk to previously. I got to work with some writers and editors who I might not have ever had a chance to. Friendships grew, as did my respect for people.
When you respect people, and treat them appropriately, they will be there for you, and pull through. There was a very frantic evening on the deadline of editing submissions when me and head editors were counting the pieces, as we had one missing as is always the way, at around midnight. It was mental, and hilarious, and annoying, and brilliant all at the same time. We pulled it all through and they got all the work in and I had so much pride in my team at that point. I then went to sleep. Because, really it was past midnight, I had stuff to in the morning and I hadn’t slept in around 72 hours.
As I am writing this, I am checking to see who has clicked “going” on the launch event. I keep getting excited when I new person checks yes. Even people who I thought I didn’t like. It shows working as a team, relying on people, and trusting people brings you closer together and break the boundaries between you all.
I used to hate public speaking, but I can’t wait to address all of the people at the launch and tell them how proud I am of every single person who was involved in the anthology in any way. I can’t wait to mingle with people who all appreciate the work we have done. I just can’t wait to see everyone.
That’s the thing about writing and publishing, it is about the people.
Writing connects people. It brings us all together with common themes and emotions. It reminds us that we are all human, we are all flawed and we are all amazing in our own way. Because of this project, I got to experience this first hand, through the words of my fellow writers and through the actions of my team, and for that, I am extremely thankful. For every up and down, every writer, every editor and every trial and error, I am thankful.
A year ago we were about to start this anthology, and a year later here we are about to launch it. My hopes are now for the next team, not that they will do well, because I am sure they will. They have too much talent to not do well. But I hope that they embrace it all, learn as much as possible and get out of it as much as I did.
Thank you and good luck,