Cracking on

What inspires you to write? Is it the words, the idea, the characters in your head? Deadlines? Competitions? A stunning first line? Wanting to earn money?

Okay, that last one is silly, forget I said it. You’d be better off getting a paper round, as everybody knows, than trying to make a career from fiction. Doesn’t stop us trying though, does it?

The reason I ask is that one of the things that inspires me to write is challenges. It can be something as simple as my son saying ‘Bet you can’t write a story about a tree’ – which led to a novella set in the New Forest and due to be published next year. Or it could be the remote and intangible possibility of something you want very much.

I recently had an essay accepted by a publication I’m half in love with. And then the editor mentioned there might be the faintest chance that I could get a bursary to go and read my essay in New York. It turned out that the week of the reading was a week I was fully committed to spending with A.L. Kennedy and Eric Gill on an Arvon course in the Scottish Highlands, so scratch one trip to the Big Apple.

And then I thought …

Maybe I could get onto next year’s reading schedule?

Of course that meant having another essay accepted, and that required writing another essay. Which I did. Which was promptly rejected. So I wrote another, which was accepted, but for 2010. So I’m working on another, and another …

And slowly it’s become a habit to try and write for them, with the side product of a second acceptance, plus an essay that was rejected which I shall try to place elsewhere. And, in the best possible way, I’ve developed a relationship with a great editor which I could never have dreamed of – just because I rose to the challenge.

Very red bento courtesy of the allotment


  1. Nik's Blog
    12th August 2008

    Brilliant! Persistence pays, doesn’t it?

    And what are the details of this novella? Do tell…

  2. Quillers
    13th August 2008

    Well done, Kay! I think I’m often driven by a need to prove myself, hence me continually entering competitions in which I get nowhere and submitting to a magazine that has already rejected 16 of my stories this year. I figure that one day that persistence has got to pay off.

    I’m also often inspired by song titles or lyrics from songs, and quite a few of my stories have got their titles from songs. After a recent holiday with my mates, where we rediscovered some 80s tracks, I’m now waiting to see where I can fit ‘The Swords of a Thousand Men’ into a story…

  3. Dave King
    13th August 2008

    Interesting. I recently had a poem “gifted” to me – quite unlike anything else I have ever written. It produced some interest on my blog, including requests for info which I didn’t have, which in turn suggested more of the same. Quite a challenge as it turned out. Great post.

  4. Jim Murdoch
    13th August 2008

    Why is it when someone challenges you to write a story about a tree it works but when you just sit down to write a story about a tree it doesn’t? I used to visit a wee site that put up a poetry challenge every day and ever day I churned out a poem. The site died a death and my poetry went back to whenever.

  5. lauraajk
    14th August 2008

    Well done on the novella, Kay.

    I’m trying to get to that state where just because a journal has rejected you it doesn’t mind they might not accept a future piece. I do think chocolate helps, although I’m eating way too much of that at the moment!

    As for inspiration, apart from usually writing stories or poems loosely based on life-time experiences, I find I get inspired by competitions with specific themes and will write something on that even if I don’t enter the competition or, as too often happens, I miss the deadline!


  6. Kay Sexton
    16th August 2008

    Hi Nik – how’s your foot? I’ll tell about the novella when I’m sure it’s going ahead, I have one of the loveliest editors I’ve ever not met (if you see what I mean) and he’s already had to change publisher once with this antho …

    Thanks Quillers, you’re right, intelligent persistence will always pay in the end. Song titles eh? That’s a good one.

    A poem Dave? Wow. That’s never happened to me.

    Jim, I don’t know, I just don’t know, but it does happen all the time, doesn’t it? If only we could bottle whatever makes somebody else’s suggestion workable where our own ‘suggestion’ isn’t, we could become the richest writing instructors ever.

    Laura, I miss deadlines too, but that work still finds a home somewhere else, glad to know it’s not only me that does this!

  7. Nik's Blog
    17th August 2008

    The foot’s almost pain free now, thanks. About bloody time too.

    Looking forward to hearing more on the novella front. Keep us posted…



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