First, the frustration of writing to a theme. Some writers might find it useful to have a theme or subject to focus on, while others might find it limiting. At first, seeing what the theme is, it will seem difficult to come up with even one idea. “Customs and rituals”? “The colour red”? “Escape”?!. You start wondering what on earth any of these mean. Sometimes you think of some associations with the theme: “the colour red – like anger, or blood? Should I write an angry and bloody story?” Or you might think about what it means to you – “I had a red shirt that once belonged to an ex – is there a poem in that?”
And then, once you start thinking of some ideas, there might be some doubts about whether they are “good enough”. You start wondering whether they’re right for this theme, if you’re able to write something good from these ideas, if you can even write at all. It’s difficult having all these doubts but it’s important to work through it to get to the actual writing process (which, unfortunately, is also full of challenges). For me, I try to freewrite the beginnings of some ideas to see if any of them work for me. Normally, I’ll be able to choose one that I don’t hate and then develop it into something I actually kind of like. This process might not work for you but finding something to get you writing in the first place is usually helpful. Another thing I like to do is imagine Project Runway’s Tim Gunn telling me to “make it work!” But that is really… just me. You don’t have to do that.
Then comes the time to send your work in and with it, the fear of rejection. Once you’ve submitted it, your work will be read and judged and, for whatever reason, might be rejected. It’s scary for some people, but it’s also not the worst thing that could happen. It can be disappointing if your work isn’t accepted, but the other possibility is that it is successful and you do get published. It is worth finding out. Probably the worst feeling, however, is when the deadline has gone by and you haven’t submitted anything. It is always worth trying. Even if your work is not accepted in one instance, there will be more opportunities to try again, and learn, develop, improve, and all those other clichés.
With this in mind, I hope that all of those hesitant writers might feel more encouraged/less disheartened and get their work in for the Emma Press’ current call for poems about customs and rituals in Britain – good luck!