Archives: writing

Wordsmithery

 

Bowie noseAt this delightful soiree a few weeks ago, mid-anecdote, I was whacked with one of those personal life realisations: not quite an epiphany but probably not far off.

It was a fabulous shindig: a local landscaper, nursery owner, and all-round bon vivant threw a party to celebrate his premises expanding from the heritage brick bakery into a vast white warehouse next door. So he invited a half-dozen aerosol artists over to paint the walls, popped up some scaffolding, opened the gates to a couple hundred of the neighbourhood’s finest citizens, whacked a lot of booze in ice tubs and some fume-protecting masks on the tables, and threw a bash* that lasted well past dawn. Or so I am told.

I’d remembered how, in a low demand period of my writing life, a few years ago, I’d seen a help wanted sign in this nursery. I love gardening, and the thought of getting to hang out around plants for a day or two a week tempted, despite the pay cut.

So, as I told my polite-but-probably-bored audience at the party, I wrote an email to the business owner. This bloke, incidentally, knew I was no horticulturist, and that my frontline retail experience was faded beyond recognition, and that I probably couldn’t even lift half the pots in the showroom. But Christ I loved writing that email. Necessary words and useless words about random things that may have been related to the position, or may not. Like my infatuation with Costa Georgiadis (pre-ABC, mind, when he was still on SBS and before he was media-trained to speak like every other… incorrectly punctuated… newsreader). And inheriting a rose garden, even though I’m not really that type of girl. And weeding.

Of course I didn’t follow it up, and of course he didn’t even reply. Was probably scared out of his wits. Perhaps he’d never received such a fiercely gonzo application before. But while recounting the story, I became aware that this was around the same time that I had been receiving comments on things that I was listing on Ebay in an attempt** to de-clutter. I had listed some of the op-shop treasures that were hulking in crowded corners of the house, and may have had a bit too much fun with the descriptions. I had a couple (yes, more than one) comments from people saying, “When are you going to list some more things? Your descriptions are hilarious.” And “I don’t want to buy anything but I’ve just favourited your account because I love reading your stuff.” I think I was funny, too, but I’ll never know because I didn’t keep a copy and Ebay surely doesn’t have any sentiment for old content either.

With a flash of lovely hindsight, I see now that I wasn’t doing much writing about this time. And so, I’d relished any chance to get my hands wordy, to knead sentences until my knuckles ached, and flick punctuation around for fun. Because I am a wordsmith. I may not be a particularly interesting writer, I can appreciate this sad fact, but I need to write. I realise how lucky I am that writing occupies a significant proportion of my working hours.

And it’s a trade. It’s my trade. The more I write, the less the subject even matters – it’s all about the action, the work, the process of clicking these strokes together to make some sort of sense for a reader. I love writing for clients in fields I know little about, because then I get to learn a bit about something as well. And I love creating something from nothing. Words fly together in my head when I’m in the shower. Sometimes I even write them down. As much as writing, I love the edit. I love to chop dead limbs away, or leave that little bit of purple there if it helps with tone. I actually was the little girl who said she wanted to be a writer when she grew up, and although most of my writing goes unacknowledged as “mine”, I don’t care.

By the way, I’m not sure what the point of this post was, and it contains far too many personal pronouns for my taste. Also, I’m going to stick it straight up without proofing it or giving it a tidy-up edit, because I’m anticipating delightful irony for you, dear reader, when you see a whole shipload of infelicities in a blog post about the act of writing for work.

But gosh it was fun to write.

 

 

*soiree, shindig, party… Yes, Ros would scold me for “thesaurus syndrome” here, but I do like all those festive synonyms rolling around that paragraph

**unsuccessful

 

 

Writing update

If you’ve been following this blog for a few years (and hello to both of you!) you may remember I finished a novella draft over a year ago. And promptly hid the bugger in a drawer, sick of the sound of my own headspace.

Well, I just gave it another edit, and still don’t like it much. Should I chuck it? Start on something more grown-up? Or send this one out to the wolves… that is, call for some kind/unkind/constructive reader feedback?

Self indulgent chunk of flash memoir

Memoir. It really should be avoided by all but those with the most interesting, important, timely, or unique stories.

Oh well, tough. I just pulled another old writing exercise out of its box. It’s none of the above. This one’s being set free today because it’s my Superbowl story. It’s also an Ekka story. Does that send you running, screaming in the other direction?

wool parades 2013

Click these lovelies to read “Ekka”

Ros had encouraged me to play with flash pieces: it’s her fault. At least flash memoir is brief.

Fraud?

It will be the year of structure.

I will make time to write, corral little chunks of hours. Things will be produced*. (*I will find an alternative to the passive voice to avoid that overexposed personal pronoun.)

I have been guilty of calling myself a writer with little to back it up. Let’s be honest.

The latest edition of Island contains an essay, Public Writers, Private Lives, that resonates. Island editor, Matthew Lamb, sniffs “there are a lot of talkers out there”. Lamb will not call himself a writer until he has three books published. Good for him. Guess I am a talker. Also, a mother, event producer, communication consultant, freelancer, critic, gardener, publicist, social media gnat, school volunteer, environmental campaigner, friend, and corporate writer/editor. But writer? Underpublished, unpaid. Fraud. How dare I use this undeserved label, “writer”?

To the library

Recently, for the sake of conversational amusement over the party season, I heard myself describing my being a writer as “going through my rejection phase”. Ha ha, snort. 2013 was a year of occasional literary rejection. Good for the spirit.

Must a writer be published to a predetermined level before earning her name? For me, a writer is one who simply must write. Hell, it’s not for the dosh. (According to this report, the average income for Australian writers is $11,000.) Writing is surrendering to the compulsion to deliver these chains of words somewhere. This screen, that notebook, that toilet wall. Even if (like this blog!!!) very few people even read it. Does the audience even count?

Does the audience count? With this in mind, I release below a piece I’ve sent off as a writing sample to two of last years rejecters. Perhaps it’s rubbish. Perhaps I come across as quite a wanker. It’s part of a series of flash writing that my mentor, Ros Petelin, suggested I play around with: stuff that I use as a writing exercise.

Decadent boredom

Decadent boredom

The night they freed Nelson Mandela

 
The night they freed Nelson Mandela we threw a party. The strange thing about this party was that it didn’t take place at our house on Honour Avenue in Chelmer, because that was the house of impromptu parties. Living with someone in a band meant you ended up living with most of the band. Initially JC, Jacinta, and I moved into the Honour Ave house. Jamie moved in later, after a sojourn in Aspen. (He was preppy to our grunge.) Jacinta’s boyfriend Bish lived with us on weekends, when he was down from studying in Gatton. Ian may as well have lived there. Missy, too. It was awesome.
 
 Most of us decamped to my friend Mez’s place the night they freed Nelson Mandela, because her parents were away, of course. We played drinking games and danced and skinnydipped. After all, we were 19. We woke in the morning to find JC asleep in a baby’s travel cot. Can’t remember who put him in there.
…want more? Here’s the full piece.
 
 

From the dusty vault…

…in the spare room, covered in cockroach crap, I found a stack of old work from around the turn of the millennium.

I uploaded this one for fun (and in utter self-indulgence). I’d forgotten all about it; I’d forgotten how satisfying it was to write. And I’d forgotten exactly how much I despised Sex and the City.

Quandry

I’m all in a dither over this latest review. Already, it’s taken much longer to write than usual. It has been written, deleted, rewritten a few times. The book was poor. I disliked it on a number of levels: starting with the macro, I think the genre of “memoir” can do without half-life scratches from less-than-fabulous nobodies. I didn’t like the writer as she placed herself on the page. I wasn’t interested in much of her life, and the bits that could have been interesting were written from an uninformed place with little apparent self-awareness. Oh, she could write a sentence. But the subject matter wasn’t there, and the promised insight into a different culture went missing, too.

But it’s a first book. And if I write what I think, I will be cruel. I don’t want to be nasty; I don’t want to hurt someone I’ve never met. However, as a reviewer, I owe my readers honesty. It’s the usual review paradox. I could go all Dorothy Parker. But what would that get us all, except for smug? But then, why should I sweeten this stranger’s pill? Because I don’t want her five enormous brothers standing outside my front door with polished fists*?

It’s actually made me a little miffed, which I know is immature, at the publishing house responsible. By publishing something so meh, something potentially glorious has missed out.

Everyone’s a critic; nobody likes a critic.

 

*imagined

 

Work in progress. Slow progress.

Writing a novel is surely making me a better reviewer. And a kinder one.

This process is hard. Without the time luxury to write in large chunks, I fit in hours or two when I can. Which has produced not quite 20,000 words in just under a year. Already I am sick of the thing: the plot, the places. Some of the characters. I can see from here the dead wood that will have to go later, the tangled vines I am writing just so they will get hauled down again.

Oh well.

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