For my whole life I’ve described myself as an aspiring writer. One day I will write a great Australian novel. At the moment, all I can manage are some irregular blog posts about other writers who I envy unhealthily.
Except this week something weird happened in the cosmos that made me think; maybe I could actually START a story.
At a work ‘getting to know you’ session a group of us were asked to choose from a series of scattered photographs on the floor an image that best represents us. I looked on the ground and found this:
When I introduced my picture I explained, ‘One day I want to write a novel, but this is as close as I’ve gotten so far.’
That afternoon I received an email from a publishing friend who drew my attention to a writing course. ‘It’s happening this weekend, it’s not expensive, and they have a few spots left. You should enroll!’
I took this as a bit of a sign and registered for the course.
It was called Start to Write. And so I did.
Run by Allen & Unwin’s Faber Writing Academy, something felt right when I walked into the classroom. Shelves and shelves of amazing books, and not a corporate motto or inspirational ‘goal’ poster in sight.
What I loved about the Faber Writing Academy (apart from the super elite sounding name) was that within 15 minutes I was exercising my fingers and my brain by writing. Writing just like that…no hang ups, no procrastination, no structure planning or chapter outlines. Just brain dumping onto the page demonstrating hardly any skill! What we all spewed out was quite terrible, and shall never see the light of day. But it was an exercise in creativity. And it was food for the soul.
Paddy O’Reilly led the course and enveloped us with encouragement and good humour. We read other published works, and interpreted their merit. We read each other’s work and enjoyed the language and construction of sentences, dialogue, and character.
And during the course of the day it seemed like everyone had their own moment of clarity. Translating our favourite family anecdotes into a short descriptive story sparked an intangible energy. We all had a little buzz. A shifting in our seats. It made me think faster and bash typos quickly onto the screen. We all identified moments in each other’s stories that meant something, something that the writer should grab onto. Should think on a little more, and maybe somehow weave magic from that a-ha twist in the tale.
I’ve always been one to structure my work. I imagined my journey of writing a novel as one that involved story-boards, chapter outlines with post-it notes, smoking endless cigarettes, glasses askew, labouring over a keyboard with research papers at my side. The ending clear in my mind right from the beginning. But I don’t wear glasses. And I’ve never bloody started.
Paddy said she writes in the dark. Not knowing what is coming, but just letting the words flow.
I think I need to do the same. To give this a proper crack.
From a (genuinely) aspiring, and ACTIVE novelist.