Grey Skies Are Gonna Clear Up, So Put on a Happy Face

March 6, 2008 at 12:33 am (Uncategorized)

It never rains, it pours. This phrase could describe my week as well as Sydney’s recent weather patterns. Mercifully, there’s been a reprieve from both.

I’ve had three very busy days with freelance writing and editing, which is why I’m only now – on a Thursday – posting again. You have to have the energy reserves for this kind of work, and I haven’t had any energy at all. But now I’m finally feeling well again – still coughing up some spectacular phlegm specimens, but feeling good in mind and body after a pretty shoddy few weeks. The sunshine is making a big, big difference. Let’s face it, I am a fan. The sun comes out to play and my spirits automatically soar. Fair-weather friend? You betcha.

Now, I must tell you about this great little writer’s guide I’ve been devouring in the off-hours. It’s called A Novel in a Year, and it’s by the British author Louise Doughty, based on her wildly successful Daily Telegraph (UK edition) column of the same name. I read a very positive review a couple of weeks ago in one of the weekend papers, written by an Australian novelist, and I thought it couldn’t hurt to have a read of it myself.

There are two things I believe any aspiring author really has to do. Two non-negotiable, no-brainer must-haves. And they are read and write. Read and write. I was shocked and sort of disturbed by a recent article in The Weekend Australian‘s Review section entitled ‘When Everyone’s an Author,’ in which lecturers around the country discussed the rise and rise in popularity of creative writing courses in Australian universities. The shocking and disturbing thing wasn’t how much competition I have – although believe me, it’s a sickening thought – but that many lecturers observed in their students a real reluctance to read anyone’s words but their own.

Oh my god.

There’s a breathtaking arrogance to this kind of approach to writing, so breathtaking that when I think about it, I can’t, well, breathe. After a sharp intake, I hold my breath and freeze in horror. They don’t what? They don’t read? And they want to write? Could there be a more counter-intuitive approach to writing than showing this kind of monumental disregard for writing? I really struggle to imagine how that could ever work. I doubt it does.

Doughty, of course, picks up this thread very early on, saying it’s like trying to learn French while refusing to listen to it. She’s got a really accessible, unadorned style, at least in ‘teacher mode.’ I’ve not read any of her novels yet, but I’m going to buy them now, as a small way of extending my thanks to her for putting this useful, sanity-saving book together.

Because whilst it’s designed to help get people writing – never my problem – it’s also full of useful ideas, tips, observations and commiserations that will be valuable and true whether you’ve written no books or a hundred. It’s to do with process – which, as I’ve already discovered, is the Big Kahuna here – but it’s also just so reassuring to read that much of what I’m experiencing is par for the course. That is, at least I am on the right course. It rarely feels like it, so it’s rather easier to constantly imagine I’m wildly off course, lost beyond saving, but now when the awful doubts besiege me, I’ll have Doughty’s book close to hand, and I can pick it up and find the paragraphs that medicate against my loneliest moments of despair. I can’t tell you how helpful it has already been.

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