On Trying by Mila GrayThe most important lesson I’ve learned in writing (and in life) is to try. I think a lot of people fail before they even start because they lack self-confidence. I never think ‘I can’t do that’. I naturally assume: ‘Why not?’
Obviously self-belief can be hard to come by but I don’t beat myself up about mistakes and I’m not a perfectionist either, both traits which can be very limiting. I really like the quote: ‘No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you’re still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying’ by Tony Robbins. It’s so true. And the more you try and the more you put yourself out there, the more likely you are to have success.
I know I’m not the best writer in the world but I know that I’m good enough. I try to encourage my daughter to think this way rather than putting herself under huge strain to be the best. Being the best is subjective anyway and I’m pretty sure that the journey to ‘being the best’ is pretty fraught with heartache. When we are too self-critical or we think ‘I can’t be as successful as X’ or ‘I’m not good enough’ it’s paralysing. So I like to think ‘what if…’ and try anyway, and sometimes it doesn’t work out, but I always learn something about myself or improve as a writer as a consequence.
Recently I was invited to pitch to adapt a novel to a screenplay for a huge Hollywood studio. It was a $60m movie and was way out of my comfort zone but I tried anyway. I did the best job I could and I didn’t get it. Was I downhearted about it? Sure. I had put in huge amounts of time and effort and I really wanted the job, but it was a great learning opportunity. I extended myself, I learned a lot about people in the process, and I made some great new contacts so I think it’s also about learning from every opportunity even if they don’t go the way we want them to and trying, even when we think we can’t do something.
I often get asked what I do to find inspiration for stories and how I get out of a slump. I’m actually in my first ever real slump for a long time. I wrote 14 books and several screenplays in 5 years and didn’t take a break and I’m completely worn out. I keep panicking but the small voice of calm inside me keeps reminding me it will be OK. I just need to relax, take a break and refill the well. Ideas come to me from reading the news, books, magazines and from conversations, so I’m trying to chill, watch lots of good movies, read books, meet up with friends and just take a break until I feel the buzz again. It will come. I have faith in that. The world is full of stories. It’s about finding one that resonates with you and your life at that moment.
I often feel like quitting writing. It’s a difficult industry to make a living from, and, on top of that you are putting yourself out there which requires a great deal of vulnerability. You need a really thick skin as every writer is going to receive criticism and some of it can be extremely hurtful. There have been one or two vicious reviews I’ve received that have torn strips from me and made me want to quit - but only for a couple of hours before I think ‘screw you, I’m not letting your negativity impact me.’
The quote I return to again and again is this one, by Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Daring greatly is what it’s all about.
(And if you’re struggling to deal with haters here’s an essay I wrote about it. I hope it helps!)
ABOUT THE BOOK
Come Back to Me
by Mila Gray
In this heart-wrenching tale of love and loss, a young Marine and his best friend’s sister plunge into a forbidden love affair while he’s home on leave.
When a Marine Chaplain knocks on her door, Jessa’s heart breaks—someone she loves is dead. Killed in action, but is it Riley or Kit? Her brother or her boyfriend…
Three months earlier, Marine Kit Ryan finds himself back home on leave and dangerously drawn to his best friend Riley’s sister, Jessa—the one girl he can’t have. Exhausted from fighting his feelings, Kit finally gives in, and Jessa isn’t strong enough to resist diving headfirst into a passionate relationship.
But what was just supposed to be a summer romance develops into something far greater than either of them expected. Jessa’s finally found the man of her dreams and Kit’s finally discovered there’s someone he’d sacrifice everything for.
When it’s time for Kit to redeploy, neither one is ready to say goodbye. Jessa vows to wait for him and Kit promises to come home to her. No matter what.
But as Jessa stands waiting for the Marine Chaplain to break her heart, she can’t help but feel that Kit has broken his promise…
Riley or Kit? Kit or Riley? Her brother or her boyfriend? Who’s coming home to her?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Originally from London she has lived in Bali for the last four years with her husband and daughter.
As well as writing young adult fiction under the name Sarah Alderson and adult fiction under the name Mila Gray, she also writes screenplays.