I’ve got writer’s block and I need to do a blog post; not a good combination. I have a few half-written things that could do the job, but I don’t like any of them enough to and press Publish. Throw into the mix the 22-week-old puppy who is as demanding as a three-year-old child, a hot day and a keen desire to do anything but write and you see my problem.
But I have found inspiration. A few weeks ago, the Australian Writers’ Centre called out for people to send in a piece about when they fell in love with writing. I didn’t end up doing it – but figured I could have a shot now.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t telling stories. From the earliest school days, English was my subject. I would have happily foregone every other subject and just had English lessons. In the seventies, it was all about creativity and free expression. I still have a remnant of a 75-page scroll I did in grade 1, several faded pages written in big letters about a group of children on an adventure in Egypt. Although it’s just a scrap of paper I can’t bring myself to throw it out as it was the first story I ever finished.
As an only child, I identified with the girl writers in fiction; Jo March, Emily Starr, Joey Bettany, Sally Baxter – Girl Reporter. I spent my time scribbling in exercise books and typing on Mum’s Olivetti typewriter. I didn’t need friends as I had my characters—my writing people.
I wrote fanfiction before I knew what it was. I wrote imitations of Enid Blyton, and adventurous girl guides and in my early teen years’ soft porn about encounters with my favourite pop stars (The Bay City Rollers) On one hand I’m glad I didn’t keep these stories, on the other an excerpt could have made an amusing blog post.
If people asked me what I wanted to do I answered: write. And that’s what I did, in between working for the government (Social Security gave me a lot of material), a University and for a couple of decades, the tourism industry. Writing became a hobby faced with the realities of a family, bills and a mortgage. Every couple of years I’d churn out something and it would get published and people would be positive and complimentary and say what are you doing?
Several years ago, I was in a job that I loved but wasn’t enjoying anymore. And I had the epiphany through the help of a counsellor that it was either now or never. Back in my day, there’d been no writing courses on offer and now there was a glut. I applied for 4, was accepted into all of them and chose RMIT’s Associate Degree in Professional Writing and Editing. People said, ‘You’re brave, I wish I could do that.’ I was lucky. I have a supportive husband who encouraged me to follow my dream.
For three wonderful years, I was with my people. I was challenged every day, mentored and engaged by a wonderful group of teachers and my own cohort. I’ve made deep friendships, joined a writing group and loved been a student again. Sure, it was difficult grappling with Canvas and InDesign and learning new technology. It was humbling and invigorating to be to relearn things, to have new ideas thrust on me every day and to mix with writers of all ages and genres.
I’m done with study- for the time being. My degree came in the mail the other day and I can’t bring myself to open it as it almost feels like the end of things. Maybe I should consider this to be the beginning of everything and to be brave again. In the meantime, there is this blog post to finish, a bored puppy to entertain and ambitions to be nurtured.
I have finished the degree and now people ask me “What’s Next?” Well, the course gave me the kickstarter I needed, it gave me the discipline to write every day, it gave me opportunities to question myself and dig deep.
In one of my favourite books, Emily of New Moon the following conversation took place between Emily Starr and her teacher, Mr Carpenter.
“Emily, why do you want to write?”
“I want to be famous and rich.”
“Everybody does. Is that all?”
“I just love to write.”
“A better reason —but not enough… Tell me if were as poor as a church mouse all your life —if you knew you’d never have a line published —you still go on writing —you?
“Of course, I would,” said Emily disdainfully. “Why, I have to write — I can’t help it at times —just got to.”
Emily says it all.