Philip Whiteley's Blog

May 8, 2018

The quest for humble pride

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 8:15 am

There’s a curious balance to make as a writer; indeed in life, generally. Few people like a show-off, someone who is always promoting himself (it is normally the alpha male). On the other hand, it is an error to shrink too far, to fail to assert oneself when you have something valid to say.

Like most writers I oscillate between the two: between thinking I am brilliant and thinking I’m a fraud; between worrying that I promote myself too much, and beating myself up for not raising my profile more.

This week, I have the proud announcement that at the weekend at a literary festival, I shared a stage with a legendary writer, a truly great author, comparable to Dickens or Tolstoy. According to the feedback I have received, my nerves were not visible, I made few verbal fluffs and I generally acquitted myself well.

On the long journey home, the first item on my ‘to do’ list would naturally be to tell the world about this achievement. Yet still, I felt reticence, mingled with fear. How would I tell people? Would they think that I am comparing my work to that of Louis de Bernieres? Would people think ‘Wow, Philip, tell us more!’? Or would they think: ‘Oh there goes Philip, banging on about his books again, this time with a bit of name-dropping.’?

I’ve come to the conclusion that, probably, I will receive both reactions, and that that’s OK. There’s a sort of happy medium between narcissism and self abnegation, and it’s something I call humble pride, which involves being relaxed about not everyone loving what you do. It’s having the confidence to say: ‘This is my view. This is what I’ve created. I wish to share it. I think you’ll like it. If you don’t, that’s fine, though please don’t be too rude or personal if you don’t.’

Recently I was interviewed for Cali Bird’s wonderful Gentle Creative blog, and one of the questions was about dealing with rejection. This is one area where I would claim to be the best qualified author to comment. At this stage of my career, 30 years a self-taught writer, I’m probably the world leader in rejections received. What I’ve learned is a couple of things: firstly, it’s remarkable how few acceptances you need to have a satisfactory career; secondly, if people don’t like your work, hell it’s a democracy, they’re entitled to say so! I don’t like Harry Potter books or the music of The Human League. I don’t suppose JK Rowling or Phil Oakey would lose a moment’s sleep at this discovery.

It’s good to be rejected. It’s even better to get a bad review. It shows you’re trying, and that someone’s noticed you. On Saturday evening, I had around 25 people listening to my readings, laughing at the right parts, sometimes murmuring with approval. It felt deeply rewarding. I hope it leads to my third novel The Rooms We Never Enter getting published, through the crowdfunding appeal.

Now, I can start planning the next talk and signing, at Waterstones Leeds, on the evening of Thursday 14th June. Details on this link.

I just have to close this blog with a few notes of thanks:

  • To my fellow performers, actress Lucy Freeman, musicians Nick Browning and my big brother Andy. Great performance, plus we had the author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin joining in on a Kaiser Chiefs number #bestculturalmashupever
  • To the wonderful and brilliant Andreas Loizou and Gemma Pettman of the Margate Bookie, for their faith in me and their unfailing support.
  • To Eric and Dee for doing the video – I will post links in due course.
  • To Louis, of course, for his grace and generosity.

www.pjwhiteley.com

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