Monday, 2 November 2015


Apologies!  Having had considerable problems with my computer, and then had everything wiped from it, followed by a week away celebrating my sister's big birthday, I was unable to produce an original post this month.  What follows is an adaptation of one I wrote for the ezine articles blog.  Hope it might be of some interest to you.

Some years ago, one of the speakers at The Hayes Summer School, a writers’ workshop held every year at Swanwick in Derbyshire, asked a question which I have always found very telling.  ‘Do you want to be a writer?’ he asked.  ‘Or do you want to write?’

He then went on to explain that many people think in terms of the fame and fortune they imagine authorship confers.  ‘I want to be a writer,’ translates in their minds to ‘I want to be a writer like J.K.Rowling.’  The fact is that the J.K.Rowlings of this world are few and far between.  I once read that the ratio is that 1% of writers make a fortune; 4% make a living; and the rest of us struggle in our proverbial garrets, like all artists driven by the compulsion to perfect their art, and earn only peanuts.


And therein lies the second part of the question.  Because if it is the process of writing, itself, which drives us, if what we’re saying is that we want to become a writer, then, according to the speaker, we have a chance of succeeding.  But it takes effort, and the capacity to accept constructive criticism.

One of the flattering, if potentially fatal, aspects of being an author is that other people want you to read their manuscripts.  Seduced, in the early days when I was first published, I undertook to read through several dog-eared masterpieces.  The trouble is that some would-be authors didn’t seem to want the advice I so (bravely!) and helpfully had to offer.  What they wanted was a pat on the back and an assurance that their literary genius was exactly what the market was waiting for with bated breath.


Fortunately, not everyone was like that.  There were many who were prepared to put in the hard-slog that’s necessary in order to achieve in any artistic pursuit.  And because I remembered the endless patience of those who mentored me in my early endeavours (as I clung to my perfect prose as if it were my baby and I was faced with a gang of child-snatchers) I decided that it would be only right and proper if I were to offer whatever expertise I had to others.  So, when I was invited to lead a weekend-long writers’ workshop at The Hayes, following publication of my first two or three books, I began to develop a series of lessons based on what I had learned. 

That event led to other workshop opportunities – and ultimately to an invitation as Resident Writer in the city library in the county where I live.  Sadly, it was an invitation I had to decline.  Circumstances at the time had forced upon me the necessity of earning a living, and I had little chance for my own writing, let alone mentoring that of others.

However, in the belief that we never cease to learn, I made sure that the workshops and lessons I developed were still available on my website.   You can access them here. And do spread the word amongst other wannabee writers who are, as yet, undecided as to whether they want to be writers, or whether they want to learn to write.

Merrilyn Williams, is the author of a number of traditionally published biographies, one of which was a bestseller, and she writes fiction under her maiden name, Mel Menzies.  Her latest novel, a mystery drama with a psychological twist, published by Malcolm Down Publishing, is set in Exeter and substitutes counselling practices for police procedures.  It has already received a number of 5* reviews on Amazon and is available from any good bookshop.  

Recently retired as ACW Chair, Merrilyn is an inspirational speaker; has led writers’ workshops at The Hayes, Swanwick and elsewhere; and is often asked to take part on BBC broadcasts on a wide range of topics, such as stepfamilies; drugs; godparents; and bereavement.  She blogs regularly on creative writing, speaking and relationships.  Her website, An Author’s Look at Life, provides Resources to Inform, Inspire & Encourage.
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1 comment:

  1. I found this blog really helpful and interesting. Thanks, Mel, good to see the different emphasises.