Last year after returning home from my first Swanwick experience I wrote about the post-Swanwick blues. I was bracing myself for the same deflated feeling this year but actually I’m feeling something else. The post-Swanwick boost.
I did wonder whether attending again as a fully fledged delegate (after being privileged enough to receive a subsidised Topwrite place last year) could ever meet the magic of 2017. Would I feel as enthused, motivated and welcomed? Would it make me question whether I had ‘done enough’ since the Topwrite opportunity? The answers are yes, yes, yes and no.
Despite it being a completely draining week (anyone else need a holiday to recover?) it’s been an absolute blast. From reconnecting with my Topwrite family to performing a brand new song written by Swanwickers to winning a 10,000 word professional manuscript edit in the raffle, I can safely say it’s been worth it and then some.
Rather than feeling depressed that it’s over, I feel hugely inspired and ready to hit my notebooks immediately while the motivation is still at Swanwick levels.
Here are my top five takeaways from Swanwick 2018 (taken from an almost endless list).
Writing is not a solitary business
If Swanwick epitomises anything, it’s that writers are a community. Whilst yes, we do spend lots of time on our own hunched over laptops, I’ve never met a group of people who are more willing to support, share and big eachother up.
Thanks to Swanwick, I now have a group of writing friends scattered all over the country. I know I can call on them to share successes, critique my work and provide group hugs when those rejections come in.
We had some great breakthrough moments with all our writing, simply by sitting together, sharing our work and bribing each other with chocolate. Particular shout out to my script-writing friend Pearl who, despite several dramatic protests, wrote her first ever flash fiction piece at Swanwick which genuinely would not look out of place in a professional anthology. Just one of the many, many times I felt proud over the Swanwick week.
I CAN…write a song
Another thing I love about Swanwick is hearing so many people say ‘I can’. It’s so inspiring and makes me believe I can too.
I’ve always told myself that I’d love to write a song but ‘I can’t’ because I’m not really musical enough or I can’t play an instrument well enough or I don’t understand the art behind it.
Thanks to Paul Dodgson’s brilliant whistle stop tour of songwriting, I now know I can write a song and I’m looking forward to giving it a go!
Characters – We must want to spend time with them, but they don’t have to be likeable
The evening speakers this year were fantastic, with my particular highlights being AA. Dhand, best-selling writer of the only Asian crime fighter in popular fiction, Harry Virdee and Simon Nelson, the person in charge of all scripts at the BBC.
I came out of both these sessions buzzing with ideas and with a better understanding of the hard work involved in developing stories.
Simon Nelson’s point (above) about characters will stay with me. I need to view the world through my characters’ eyes and look for the chinks in their armour to do this. Not easy, but since Swanwick I feel a lot clearer as to how to approach character development.
There really is no such thing as an overnight success
Another common denominator running through nearly every conversation and talk at Swanwick was perseverance. No one I spoke to has whizzed off a novel draft sent it off and found their book at the centre of a huge bidding war. That does happen on the rarest of the rare occasions, but the majority of the time writers have grafted and grafted and faced closed doors so many times. And the ones who are published now were the ‘contenders who never gave up’. Particular thanks to Sue Moorcroft for being so honest about her writing journey and for shouting about her successes. Hard work really does pay off.
Write down your goals and you are more likely to succeed in them
The last session I attended was quite aptly John Lamont’s session on ‘Succeeding on Purpose’ aka setting goals.
He talked about things I’ve heard a lot before but have always taken with a pinch of salt. Things like visualising our goals, writing them down, setting milestones throughout the year. But I am now convinced that these approaches can and do work, so I’ve started working through my own life goals.
A biggie for me is to draft my first novel. (My practise novel).
This has always seemed like a hugely overwhelming and unachievable goal, but since attending Swanwick I’ve never believed more than I CAN do it. (Of course the little Gremlin on my shoulder is telling me I can’t, but I am now better equipped to flick her away).
Then, to top it all off, I won the raffle! Editing of 10,000 words. If that’s not the universe telling me I need to crack on with my first draft, then I don’t know what it is.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of how I’m feeling post-Swanwick but basically THANK YOU to everyone involved and perhaps I’ll see you again in 2019…