Posts Tagged With: writing life

A letter to my younger writer-self

Dear Me (aged 16),

You are bursting with expectation and impatient to start life, I know, but just bear with me for a moment because there’s something I need you to do: don’t stop writing.

When you leave home just before you turn seventeen, you will enter a world where writing doesn’t seem to fit.

Make it fit.

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At 16, you feel as though you can take on the world.

For though this new world will be exciting and liberating, it is one that holds unimaginable lows. And though these times are not permanent, writing – as you will discover much, much later in life – will be your release. It will be your escape hatch.

So when you’re awake and alone in the hospital at 3am and the pain threatens to drown you, write. No, you won’t be able to sit up or even concentrate on words printed on a page, but there will be a cassette walkman and it can record.

Use it.

Writing is the best drug. It can set you free, it can stop you from falling over the edge.

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To write is to find the light through the darkness.

You’ve always loved to write. You’ve always intended to one day write a book. Don’t wait for the right time.

Keep writing.

You can not control anything in life except for the words you write on the page and the worlds you create in your imagination.

When the most important friendship in your life fails, and grief and despair engulf you, write.

When life is hard, write.

When life is good, write.

Write for yourself. Write for the characters in your mind. Set those daydreams free and you will be amazed at the weight they release with them.

Write because it is one of your favourite things in life to do and because it brings you pure joy.

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To write is to feel a beautiful freedom.

Don’t let your writing feel like a childish past time you need to leave behind.

It is not. It is part of you and always will be.

Don’t ever stop writing.

x Fiona

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Writing on the edge…

Earlier this week, Fiona posed a question to me and Gabbie: how do we pull ourselves off the writing cliff? In other words, when the rejections start rolling in, when the novel just doesn’t seem to be working, when it all seems too hard, how do we stop ourselves from giving up?

My first thought was wow what an interesting question. My second was how the hell do I answer that? I’ve never really thought about it before. And I think it comes down to one thing – giving up is not even an option for me because writing in itself is the reason I’m writing in the first place.

For years I dreamed of being a writer but never thought I’d be one. I was on a path of academia, chasing a traditional career. For me this meant I didn’t have much time for anything else, as when it comes to study I’m a bit of a psycho. I learned that from my mother. Growing up, I watched her pursue her dream of attaining university qualifications – this entailed her waking up at 2.00am in the morning and studying all the way to 5.00pm in the afternoon every single day. She was that dedicated (and of course her ultimate results reflected that dedication – she got straight 7s – which, to anyone not Australian, is the highest score you can get). So I grew up seeing there is no limit to hard work if you want to achieve something – and followed that example in my own endeavours.

I got my degrees (law and business) and my graduate diploma in legal practice, and set out on the next leg of my journey.

And then I realised it wasn’t enough.

I still wanted to be a writer. But lucky for me I was finally in a position to pursue this dream. So that’s what I did. And six years on I’m still chasing that rabbit down the rabbit hole.

Down the rabbit hole...

Somewhere down the rabbit hole…

Don’t get me wrong, there are times it gets tough. I’ve had my fair share of rejections and disappointments. I’ve realised my book is crap (excuse my French) more than once and doubted my abilities. But I’ve never given up. I’ve picked myself up and barrelled down the road again. I’ve wracked my brain for a fix to my broken novel and then rewritten it once, twice and then a third time for good measure (yes, to date I have four versions of my first novel – versions one and two being completely different, version three and four, revisions). I’ve resigned myself to the fact my novel might never be published, imagined up three other novels I’m desperate to write, and set myself to the task of completing my second book.

And you know what? Honestly, not once have I seriously entertained the idea of giving up. I’ve asked myself that age-old question every writer pursuing publication asks themselves at some time or another – if I knew I was never going to be published, would I still keep writing? – and answered in the positive.

And it’s not only because of all that stuff I wrote about up there  , it’s also because of all the amazing experiences I’ve had and all the wonderful people I’ve met along the way (and yes, Fiona, Gabbie, Karen and the very special Lorelle, this means you) :).

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DANGER! Do not jump!

So, dear Fiona, to answer your question, that’s how I pull myself off the writing cliff – I remember the road I’ve travelled to get here, I recall the experiences writing has brought to my life and the things I’ve learned, I feel the joy creating and sharing my work instills within me, and I think of all the stories I have left to write.

I also keep in mind what’s over the edge of that cliff – a life without writing. To me, no existence could be sadder. A life without writing would be a life without colour, without dreams, without magic.

For me writing is like being in love – it’s forever. And in the immortal words of Dido:

I will go down with this ship.
And I won’t put my hands up and surrender
There will be no white flag above my door
I’m a writer and always will be.

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The ship I'm going down with...

Sometimes being a writer is like being on a ship in a storm…

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A Writer’s Life

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A writer’s life…

I’ve heard it said (and seen it written) that a writer should write every day.

If only it was that easy.

I’ve had periods in my life when I’ve written diligently every day for months on end, and I’ve had months on end when I haven’t written a thing.

I don’t believe it’s that desperate. When I hear (or read) someone saying you have to write every day, I can’t help but think they’re worried somehow that if you don’t you’ll lose your passion or forget how to write or some other frightening fate will befall you.

But quite frankly I believe if you’re a writer you’ll always be a writer. And if your passion or skills are so precarious that not writing for a day, or week or even a year will put them in jeopardy, then perhaps you’d be better off (and a hell of a lot happier) not writing at all – because seriously, being plagued by a need to tell stories and not being satisfied until you’ve gotten them down on paper (or onto the computer screen) is a sort of torture in itself.

If you can escape that, I say run for the hills, my friend, and be free.

No, often being a writer means having to find time to write around the rest of your life. And being flexible. And also realising that writing isn’t just about the physical act of putting pen to paper (or fingertip to keyboard) – it’s also about thinking and dreaming and pretending, and a whole bunch of other things (like listening and watching and experiencing).

And (because I am so enlightened hoho) that’s how I approach it.

In 2009, when I first began to write seriously, my eldest (and at the time, only) son was in school. This was a wonderful arrangement because I could, and would, write (pretty much uninterrupted) between 10am and 4pm daily. I’m so thankful and sentimental for those early years as I did a lot of my learning and experimenting back then. And I don’t think I would be the writer I am today without them. I wrote the first 140k version of my vampire novel during this period.

In 2011 and 2012, my two littles came along, and boy did my writing life change then. I went from writing consistently day-in and day-out, to writing sporadically whenever I could find the time. That meant maybe getting an hour or two of writing in while they napped (if I was lucky enough to have them both napping at the same time, that is), or sneaking in half an hour of writing in the afternoon if they happened to discover an activity interesting and novel enough to capture their attention for more than 10 minutes.

I remember being heartened by the writing journeys of writers I admired – Laurell K Hamilton, for example, crafted her first novel in the hours before work every day, two pages at a time, and Maggie Stiefvater set aside Wednesday’s once a week (and some Sundays) to work on Lament – the moral of the story being that over time, if you plod away and keep at it, the words start to add up. And it’s true. During this period, I managed to write the second version of my vampire novel (all 105K words of it), and complete revision after revision after revision of the damned thing (until I reduced the word count to 88.5K).

Then in 2014, when my hubby and I started up our own little law firm, I found myself evolving into a night writer. And let me tell you, that was a pretty phenomenal feat for me – my ideal time for clear thinking and creative expression is early in the morning, after a long night of sleeping on ideas and dreaming up scenarios.

But it was either write at night or not write at all – so of course night writing it was. And over the course of six months I plotted and wrote the first draft of my fantasy novel, while dreaming up the premises of two other novels I’m still dying to write.

Knight Rider

Night Writer

But like I said before, writing is not just about the physical act of writing. So even when the demands of my non-writing life dominate my usual allotted writing time, I “write” in other ways – I plot novel number three in my head, I rework novel number one on my iPhone, I listen to songs on my playlist and imagine my characters in various scenarios.

And I know when I turn around the next corner in my life and my time for writing once again changes (and hopefully expands), I will have done so much preparatory work in my head that my next two novels will come flying off my fingertips onto the screen.

And I can’t wait until then.

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Pen and paper and something yummy… sounds like heaven to me 🙂

As for my ideal writing life (a writer can always dream, right?), this is how it would be…

Wake up every morning, grab a nice hot coffee, sit down at my desk, and write. All day. With no interruptions. Well, maybe a break or two to grab something yummy, but that is it.

Ta da!

Lol I know I’m dreaming. With one child in high school and two others under five, I have quite a wait on my hands until my life will be anywhere near my own again. And that’s okay.

In the meantime, I will live like this: every chance I get, I will write – five hundred words here, one thousand words there – and before I know it, I’ll have a dozen works to my name. Well, that’s the plan anyway. Oh, and I’m going to enjoy every single step along the way – both in my writing life, and the real-life I have with my family – no matter what.

In the immortal words of the lovely Nancy Sinatra (and yes, if James Bond can live by them, so can I), you only live twice – once for yourself, and once for your dreams.

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