Last night was the launch of the inaugural Emerging Writers’ Festival Reader at Bertha Brown in Flinders Street. The book looks fabulous, I gotta say, and it’s jam packed with over 170 pages of writerly wisdoms and scriberly sagacities and I’m feeling rather proud to be included in its pages.
I was invited to read my submission at the launch last night, which, for an ex Thespian, is always fun. I heard a few laughs (panic not, it was meant to be funny), so I can only assume it went ok. Here’s a very grainy pic that looks like I’m about to face-plant the microphone.
And here’s a pared back version of my piece, in case you can’t get your hands on a copy of the book. Of course if you do want a copy, (and I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t!) head over to the Emerging Writers’ Festival website and grab yourself one – they’re only $20!
A Letter to My Younger Self (from the time machine)
Dear higher-bosomed, smaller-bottomed, younger me,
You should know that in the future you are not a rich and famous writer. Here’s why:
You didn’t read enough. You mistook reading for relaxing and didn’t set aside enough time to devour all you could. You didn’t sharpen your mind, fill your head with better ways of doing things, nor see your own long-windedness. So quit tweeting around and grab a book, knuckle-head.
You didn’t set aside work to brew for long enough. You didn’t allow enough time for your brain to be able to see what you had actually written, instead of what you thought you’d written, and you submitted things that were only half-cooked. And half-cooked pieces get spat back at you, leaving you to slop about in the ill-considered ingredients, regretful, for a long time.
You held your breath and pushed too hard. It filtered into your writing. Desperation leaves stains on the paper, didn’t you know? Tacky stains that readers’ thumbs get stuck to. Relax. Let the story be authentic. Clear your head, loosen up your wrists, and try to stay one step behind your characters instead of in front. Breathe, mini-me, breathe.
You didn’t draft enough. Drafting and editing are not the same things and you happily convinced yourself they are. Editing requires sweat. Drafting requires blood. Tossing out an errant comma and deleting reams of superfluous adjectives is a leisurely jog compared to the marathon of unpicking a rambling narrative arc or killing off characters in the name of expediency.
You spent too long networking before having something to network about, getting your author bio just right, and not enough time writing. Writers write. Please, please Kemosabe, don’t forget that bit.
You know the rejections, oh waify one? They still flutter through my mailbox, surrounding the bills and the fan-mail like bookends. They never do go away you know.
And please, please get your set-up right. I remember the pain in your thumbs. Please know that those luscious, unblemished digits are now scarred from carpal tunnel surgery. Spend money on a chair, a laptop stand, an osteopath, OK?
Oh, and progenitorial one? There is no fan-mail. I made that up. Sorry.
You know those writing groups where you read excerpts from your work to each other? Pointless. If you need someone to tell you how great you are, ask your mother. When you need someone to criticise the hell out of you, ask your mother. Yes, ye of the unwrinkled cheeks (both kinds), mothers have everything a writer needs: soup, criticism, and praise so blinding that it can, you know. Make you blind.
Speaking of cheeks, would it be so hard for you to get up and stretch every now and again? Move? Do some exercise? Because you know, chump, terrible things happen to the scriberly derriere when ignored. It can turn into Writer’s Bum, otherwise known as ‘no bum’, ‘flat arse’ or ‘dinner-plate butt’.
You know all those times you slumped off in a grump because it was too hard, took too long, was too lonely, and had too many rejections? You think people care? Pft! Get over it. And get on with it. Most writers love to have written, but don’t like to write. You are no different. You just have to put your head down and plough on.
And we need to have a chat about word count, buoyantly-breasted one. Word count isn’t everything. Don’t make your eyeballs bleed checking the word count every five minutes, you hear? Just write something. A blank page isn’t a blank page anymore if it has a word on it. So if one is all you can manage, make it a good one… like solipsism.
Right, that’s about it. Hopefully this time machine I got for a song on eBay actually works and you get this, Grasshopper. Good luck!
Oh, and I almost forgot. You know how I said in the future you’re not a rich and famous writer? I lied.