Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why I Write



Under a bed there is a box. And in the box there is a bag (and some dust bunnies). And in the bag there is a wad of exercise books. And in the wad of exercise books is a story I wrote across several years of high school. It is a high school story of the tripey-est variety, full of angsty teenage romance and set in American towns I'd never visited. There are long paragraphs describing clothes and accessories in scary amounts of detail (parrot earrings were a thing, apparently). There is a hidden club-house in a forest. There is making-out and fights and teary moving-away scenes. It's woeful.

And I don't think I'll ever be able to throw it away.

I don't keep all my writing. I've killed quite a few of those darlings over the years, but that one lingers in my mind, a massive act of therapy before I even knew I needed it, before I ever knew what therapy was. Back then I needed those books and that story, needed the little world I created.

I kept up the fiction writing through my undergrad degree and published here and there - $400 for my first ever printed story felt like a dream. And then the non-fiction slowly started to take over. I was writing essays, and then theses. I was writing news bulletins under hourly deadlines and long magazine articles under monthly ones. I was writing journal articles and marking essays.

And then I took up blogging.

And look where that leads me. Into a blog tour/meme *coughchainlettercough* on 'Why I Write'. Stacey from The Veggie Mama has passed the parcel on to me. She's way more succinct than I am. Sorry (not sorry).

What am I working on?
In the land of academia, I'm pulling together a conference paper with a lovely colleague who is being very patient with me while I get my parts together. After we've smiled to the audience and done our fifteen minute spiel on the comparative creative processes of fiction writers and journalists, we're going to turn that baby into a journal article that we'll send off into the wilds of peer-reviewing land. That's always a whole heap of fun with (most likely) months of back and forth on comments until the editors okay it and it gets sent out into the big wide world. In academic speak, that'll land me a C1 publication I can add to my list and land the university a little bit of cashola from the government. See how academia works?

In other work, I'm writing a proposal for funding for a neuroscience training course ('we're awesome and we've got lots of awesome people here, and so many great resources we don't really need your money, but please can we have some money?'). Then I'll be helping write the training course. And then help get that turned into a MOOC. O.M.G.

And here... well, here there's a little something in my draft folder about Tombliboo trousers.

How does my writing differ from others of its genre?
I suspect there's something about the mixture of writing I do that informs my writing style. My academic writing is less complex and full of jargon and academese than a lot of the things I read in my field. I've been told it tells stories, which is odd for academic writing but suits me and the things I write about (fiction writers; creativity, etc). My other work writing (proposals and various communication collateral) gets a lot of the old journalism treatment - pared back, active voice. I also use fewer words like angsty, tripey and academese.

I think my blog writing is some strange combination of the academic and journalistic style mixed in with my creative writing voice that I developed during a semester of intense writing classes with Helen Garner and after a short lifetime of reading Helene Hanff. If you're not familiar with either of their works, and are a fan of non-fiction stories, of small moments captured and little winding details, do check them out (for Garner read True Stories or The Feel of Steel; for Hanff read 84 Charing Cross Road, Letter from New York or Underfoot in Show Business - in that last one you discover how Oklahoma! the musical gained its exclamation mark). I'm not a huge non-fiction-for-pleasure reader (outside of blogs, that is), but these ladies taught me much of what I know and show me how far I have to go still.

In all honesty, though, I'm not sure there's much of a genre to compare myself to... in any of the work I do. I always tend to be at the fringes of academic disciplines and have a weird combination of themes here.

Why do I write?
Because, as I mentioned in a comment on Life, Love and Hiccups, "I like books and words and folks that write words. Except for folks who use words like weapons. They can suck it."

In the past, I kept the words to myself, I hid the exercise books in a bag under the bed. Now I've discovered the sharing of words, of the communities those words can form. That's part of the reason why the fiction side of my writing has fallen away to a great degree - I've found joy in a different way of writing, a new way of reading.

How does my process work?
I get an idea or a demand for an idea. I test the idea, letting it germinate over days or weeks or just hot-housing the shit out of that sucker and getting it on the page. On the blog, a post idea might sit in the draft folder getting bits added in the quiet moments between other jobs or it might get pounded out in a short period. Sometimes the need to share, to publish, to submit, to finish overrides the desire to polish, to perfect, to edit to death. Sometimes it doesn't.

Life with three jobs and a two year old doesn't leave much space for a single, defined creative process. Sometimes it doesn't leave me with many words left over to share here. Sometimes it does.

Others who write
The longer this blog meme continues, the fewer ideas I have for who to pass the parcel to next. Instead, I'll be that person who breaks the chain letter and runs the risk of invoking some hoodoo curse or seven years of bad finances (bahaha - seven years is all you got?). What I'm offering up instead is just a small selection of links back to those who've done their own literary navel-gazing. If you haven't been to their blogs, I'd suggest you try them out, see if you find something new to read.
  • Mrs Woog (Kayte) is in the house at Woogsworld (and writes a mean Hoopla article, although you need to pay to get some of that action now).
  • Sonia is one of the most generous bloggers, writing over at Life, Love and Hiccups, sharing not only so much of herself in her own posts, but also her time with new and established bloggers.
  • Bianca at Big Words is kicking arse and taking names at the Australian blog awards this year.
  • Lauren is over at I'm Better In Real Life (she's also an awesome retweeter on Twitter- I get sucked down the rabbit hole over there)
  • Bruce is the big daddy over at Big Family Little Income (he's also a keen Kiva donator - righteous! If you didn't say that in a turtle voice I don't know who you are).
  • Along with Sonia (and a few others), Bron hosts a great weekly link-up at Maxabella Loves that gives me lots of great new blogs to read. She's also just set up a linky for all of these 'Why I Write' posts so I might just be adding a few new blogs to my reading list shortly.

12 comments :

  1. I am only succinct because I have nothing to say.
    I have also studied creative writing and still suck at it.
    I think I wrote a story about parrot earrings once, because I wanted to be in the Babysitter's Club so badly.
    I miss academia a little bit.

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    1. I think I have to blame parrot earrings on the Babysitters Club too. That Claudia Kishi has a lot to answer for!

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  2. Actually I'm also succinct because I hate reading waffle.

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    Replies
    1. Oops! I tend to waffle far more in my blog writing than anywhere else. I get to loose the reigns a little here compared to the other writing I do.

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    2. Ha people are allowed to waffle! I would fully indulge if I were you. Some blogs I read make my eyes glaze over. Not yours, though, or I'd have given you the flick ages ago!

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  3. I sooooo want to read that story under your bed- I really do! Please pretty please share just a wee bit? ;) Thank you for all your lovely words hun. I have so loved getting to know you through blogging and I love the way your writing makes my brain wake up in a really really good way xx

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    1. Erg, I might have to trawl through it for the least embarrassing parts. That could take some time.

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  4. So jealous you had a chance to learn from Helen Garner!! Please tell more... And I'm also interested in your story about the Tombliboo trousers - if it goes some way towards answering the question "why are they always falling down?" can you please publish it??

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    Replies
    1. I was going to post that next week, Karen, except now the ABC has decided to restructure their whole ABC4Kids program and shift In the Night Garden away from the 6:30pm time slot and my planned post isn't relevant anymore. *shakes fist at ABC programmers* I think I'll rework the angle and post anyway :)

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    2. The semester with Helen was pretty amazing. She was in Newcastle writing Joe Cinque's Consolation at the time, I think, and did the classes at the Uni there. She was brutal with her comments (told one student their story was shit), but you could just tell she loved words and the things you could do with them. She ended up sending on of her students' novellas to her publisher and he got a deal from it.

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Thanks for taking the time to respond to what you have read here at Lilybett and Boy. I love reading through all your comments.

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