What is it about writing that provokes such highs and lows?
In my academic work, when I have followed the wrong thread of research, or when I fail to phrase things clearly, I simply rewrite the piece. I accept peer review of my work, listen to my boss's criticism without worry and just go back to my desk and change it. There is no despair, no angsty wails of 'will I ever be able to write anything good ever again?' And, when I finally get it right, I feel happily smug, and relieved that a piece of work is done.
For me, the process of creative writing is completely different. When I get it wrong, when work is rejected or given a bad review, I get so upset, to the point of tears. Suddenly, because I have had ONE bad day, ONE rejection, ONE bad review, I feel I will never write again and that all my achievements up to this point have been random flukes or the result of fraud on my part.
I am a very rational, positive person. I am not prone to tears or self-doubt. I am confident and happy. I like being challenged, I like criticism, I like making my work better. So why do I sometimes feel so down when my writing suffers the inevitable dips?
Is it because writing pays so badly and, as I am self-employed, I am dependent on a book deal in the way I am not with my steady, permanent academic work?
Is it because it's easy to compare myself to other writers - the prizes, the book deals, the film deals, the puff pieces on Twitter celebrating every good review, every book reading?
Is it because everyone tells me they could write picture books? 'One day, when I have time, I'm going to write a book;' 'Are you going to write real books one day?' 'What value do you actually add if someone else is doing the pictures?'
Or is it because they really matter to me, these little stories that I write? Each one has a bit of my values, my family memories, my voice. So a rejection cuts me personally in a way a cold critical analysis of my academic work does not.
Whatever the reason; if the lows in creative work are lower, the highs are higher. Nothing feels as good as having nailed that character, sewn up a troublesome plot or written something that will be read over and over, something that provokes strong feeling and emotion in others.
Nothing feels so wonderful as when a small child I have never met before comes up to me at the end of a reading to say:
"I love that book!"