Apparently, according to an equation dreamt up by Dr Cliff Arnall in 2005, the third Monday in January is the gloomiest day of the year, based on factors such as the weather, time since Christmas, credit card bills and – well – the fact that it’s the third Monday in January. Well, I hate to buck the trend but I’m feeling quite perky as it happens.
On Saturday I spent my morning at a Guardian Masterclass on “How to Get Your Novel Published.” The course leaders were publisher Suzie Dooré and literary agent Ed Wilson. Amongst the many pearls of wisdom they shared were two that stood out for me because they were a) blindingly obviously and b) often forgotten. First of all – if you’re looking for an agent, treat it like a business (which means do your research and be professional in your approach to the search and how you engage with potential agents.) So OK, when I’ve finished the book, I’ll get right on it. And secondly – persevere. Many novelists don’t get their first book published, but writing is like any skill, it needs practice, so keep at it.
Right now, the pace of our lives, fuelled by social media and the instant gratification it provides is so fast that it’s easy to forget the importance of learning through practice, and how repetition in and of itself brings greater understanding and skill. The shock of the new is always attractive, but don’t forget that experience brings its own benefits. When it comes to writing a novel, nothing beats practice – those hours spent working on the words, writing, editing and honing sentences until they say what you really need them to say. Of course, the same is true about anything worthwhile, whether you’re an athlete, a musician, a creative director, a designer or a medical writer.
Ed and Suzie’s words resonated with me so strongly because during my career so far in healthcare communications I must have written hundreds of press releases and developed similar numbers of presentations. I’ve read and analysed spreadsheets and profit & loss accounts until my eyes have crossed. I’ve attended more international medical and scientific conferences than I care to remember, along with running press events, advisory board meetings and strategic brainstorms. Over the years I’ve come up with ideas and programmes to address countless challenges for clients, and there are still new things to learn and think through. I’ve been successful so far, I think, because I’ve kept learning and kept practising my craft, building and honing my skills.
So, today may be the third Monday in January, and I may indeed have spent my day doing more of the things that I have been doing, work-wise, for many years, but I’m not bored and I’m not gloomy. There will always be something new that challenges you – whether it’s teaching a more junior colleague the ropes onsite at a symposium, or the client who suddenly opts to go a different route creatively than the one you’d originally envisaged. Use those moments to re-inspire and re-motivate yourself by taking the learning from them to power you through. Persevere. Stay perky. Say No to Blue Monday (or Tuesday or Wednesday…you get the picture).