This week I am very pleased to welcome Philip Whiteley to the Meet The Artist series.
Philip is a seasoned writer whose day job is in corporate writing and ghost-writing. On the side he also writes novels. Despite being a professional writer he spent seventeen years working on his first novel after discovering that initially, his efforts weren’t good enough.
If you are in despair of how long one of your creative projects is taking and how you’ll ever get better, then read on!
You’ll also discover some great tips on how to manage different types of creative projects, how to cope with rejection (even when you’ve received glowing reviews) and how to overcome doubts in your ability.
Over to Philip…
Give a brief description of your day job and your artistic activities
I am a full-time professional author; my ‘day job’ consists of corporate writing and ghostwriting, while I also have two novels published, Close of Play and Marching on Together; and a contract for a third, The Rooms We Never Enter, to be crowdfunded through the London publisher Unbound.
How much time in a day or week do you spend creating? How do you go about your creative practice?
I probably spend, on average, 10 hours a week creating, in terms of writing and promoting my fiction. However, there is a creative element to my ‘day job’, and a business element to my fiction as I do earn modestly from my novels, so there isn’t a strict divide between earning and creativity. I spend a lot of time at the computer writing in any case, and when ideas for a story or a bit of dialogue come into my mind, I try to write them down before I forget. On occasion, I’m able to devote several uninterrupted hours to the next novel.
How do you manage your time and energy so that you have enough left for creative activities?
When I’m very busy with paid commissions, the time on fiction gets squeezed; other times, I devote what hours I can to new creative works. I’ve sought to reduce the time spent watching TV or doing social media – though that’s complicated because I have to do a lot of marketing for the fiction, some of which is on social media.
What made you decide to start or resume artistic activities? What was the catalyst?
I’ve been a writer in some form or other for 30 years, starting with desk jobs in journalism. I decided to pursue a career that I enjoyed, rather than one that pays well. The downside is I can’t afford to retire; but the upside is that I don’t really want to. The fiction was something I started 20 years ago, but my efforts just weren’t good enough for many years. Getting to know other writers and talking about the process helped give me ideas and develop my confidence and skills, and I got my first novel published, about 17 years after I first started it!
What challenges do you face in your creative activities? How do you overcome them?
The hardest thing I find is getting noticed, as writing fiction is one of the most competitive arenas imaginable – probably only sport and acting are more so. I’ve had very good reviews, but this doesn’t guarantee sales. I spend more time marketing than I would like, but that has a creative, entrepreneurial element too. I have a small but very keen fan base for my fiction, and writing for a small group is infinitely more satisfying than writing for no one.
If you lived in an ideal world where all the money you need was taken care of, how would you like to be creative?
I would love to have an uninterrupted period of a few months to work on the same opus. So far, the work on each novel has been a few hours here, a half a day there. It can be hard to get into the heads of the characters when you are away from the work for a while.
What one thing would make a difference now to how you go about your creativity?
Reaching goal for my crowdfunded novel would be the most important single thing! https://unbound.com/books/rooms-we-never-enter/ I’m also looking to hire someone to help with publicity; this should both boost my profile and free me up to write more. Fortunately, the paid work is going well, so I may be able to afford someone.
How do you motivate yourself to create when you don’t feel like it or your creative work isn’t going well?
I think I always have ideas, and want to get them down, but physical tiredness can cause problems with motivation, if I just want to do something more passive instead. Sometimes, I just need to rest and not beat myself up about not being productive 10 hours a day. Other times, a walk or a run can both relax me and generate new ideas.
How do you cope with criticism and rejection?
It’s never nice, but rejection is part of the territory. One way of coping is by reminding myself that there are books and works of music that I don’t like, and that people have the democratic right not to rate me. No single opinion is a definitive verdict: last year a young literary agent rejected me, but I received praise from Louis de Bernieres, a legendary novelist, and Katy Guest, former literary editor of The Independent on Sunday. The only time I get annoyed is when an agent or reviewer has clearly spent very little time reading my work, and gets basic facts about me wrong. An intelligent negative review, by contrast, is a fantastic learning opportunity.
How do you overcome doubts in your creative abilities and do it anyway?
I learned years ago that if you are writing badly, then keep going and keep going and eventually it will improve, and if it doesn’t improve sufficiently, try another idea. I’m confident in my current ability, but I’m aware that there are higher levels, and I’m exploring ways to improve, such as perhaps an advanced residential writing course or partnering with other authors.
Find out more about Philip
You can find out more about Philip at his website: www.pjwhiteley.com
And here’s the link again to help crowdfund Philip’s latest novel. It’s a really interesting plot about what happens when one of the wealthiest people in Britain falls for one of the poorest. Will the money be a salvation or an unsurmountable obstacle? https://unbound.com/books/rooms-we-never-enter/
And now I’d love to hear from you
How do you manage multiple projects especially if your day job is in the creative industries? How do you cope with criticism and rejection?
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