Measures of success

I recently blogged about failure and redefining it in order to become a better writer. There was a piece in the Guardian Review this weekend, in which writers talked about their own definitions of failure and success.

I loved Will Self’s comment, that “the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short.” I recently wrote about something akin to that feeling, in a piece for my MA about the genesis of my (as yet unfinished) novel.

On the subject of novels, I also enjoyed Anne Enright’s view that “a book is not written for the crowd, but for one reader at a time. A novel is written (rather pathetically) not to be judged, but experienced.”

It was very interesting and encouraging to read Diana Athill’s comment that “it is possible to recover from failure: to digest it, make use of it and forget it.” Or Margaret Atwood’s closing gambit: “Get back on the horse that threw you, as they used to say. They also used to say: you learn as much from failure as you learn from success.”

I received a rejection email for a piece of writing this week, and while I was disappointed, I wasn’t disheartened. Quite the opposite, in fact. I see that in itself as a positive step forward in my own perception of failure, and taking what I need from it to continue to strive.

France: a postscript

In France, children are required to provide their own stationery for school: exercise books, timetable books – the works. This means that stationery is affordable and readily accessible. I remember visits to French supermarkets when I was a child – on a family holiday or the school exchange programme – and was amazed by the sheer volume and variety. Having always been a notebook fan, I’ve never forgotten that feeling of wonder, and making time for a trip to the stationery aisle of a French supermarket is a must when I’m  there. During my recent trip across the Channel, that’s exactly what I did  in our local hypermarket. It’s hard to do it justice, but here’s snapshot of what was on offer.

Impressive, don’t you think?

Vive la France

I love France. I write stories set there, go there when I can and have lots of books about France in some way. And after a recent series of Guardian features, which inform that summer 2013 is all about France, I’m feeling very current. I’m just back from a family holiday in the Poitou-Charentes region, which was gorgeous. This is where we stayed, just outside Jonzac:

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This is the view that surrounded us:

It was tranquil. And hot.

I didn’t manage much writing there, but the peace and distance from day-to-day life did offer headspace in a way that is often impossible. It was hugely valuable; I read a book by the pool, noted two new potential novel ideas and achieved additional clarity for my current one. I must try to keep some of that holiday positivity and calm about me as I return to reality, routine, and trying to write.