Month: November 2017
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As a writer, you write through a filter. That filter shapes every aspect of your writing – not just the creative elements (plot, content, characters, etc.) but also the technical aspects (grammar, spelling, and punctuation, etc.). All the things you don’t know – that can constitute bad writing – exist in this filter and influence how you express yourself.
Here’s an example: you don’t know anything about ‘expletive constructions’. What then happens is expletive constructions appear everywhere in your writing. You use them because you don’t know you shouldn’t be using them.
Now you might be wondering, What’s an expletive construction? It’s starting a sentence with something like ‘There was’, ‘There were’, ‘There is’, ‘It was’, etc. E.g. There were three boys sitting at the bus stop could easily read Three boys sat at the bus stop. Expletive constructions commonly sneak into writing. Look back over anything you’ve written. See how often you’ve used them, and if a simple rephrase can eliminate them. I bet you’re surprised.
Once you become aware of an issue – and aware that it is an issue – you’ll be mindful of it. You’ll sit there, writing away, and about to do something just as you’ve done one thousand times before, but then you realise, Uh uh. Can’t do it that way. You rethink. You have to come up with a new way to write this passage – this is great, forcing your mind and imagination to expand, because it’s now transcending a pre-existing boundary.
At first, you might be stumped. It might take you minutes to come up with a new way of writing this sentence. You might scratch your head, get up and pace, sigh in frustration, and even have to take a walk. But, with perseverance, you’ll eventually find your way. The next time it’ll come easier. And then easier again. And so on. Until you’re bolting. No pause exists now.
This is what learning’s about: eradicating as many of these issues as possible. The filter – once this big amorphous glob that encompassed a horde of problems – shrinks. These issues are mostly squeezed out. Mostly. You’ll never wholly eliminate everything. Every writer’s early drafts are going to be flawed, no matter how experienced that writer is. But your early drafts get better. You get better. And you continue to think of new ways to say things.
As a writer, you should always seek to improve your craft. Unlike an athlete, who might have a physical peak, and then decline, a writer can continue to improve – well, at least until they enter their dotage and their mind begins to let them down. But, hopefully, there’s many decades of writing before that happens.
Don’t ever believe you’re as good as you’re going to get. Don’t believe you have no room for improvement. Don’t believe you’re infallible. Writing is such a delicate, vulnerable craft, and it takes care and diligence and perseverance to find yourself, the stories you want to write, and how you want to write them.
Keep learning. Writing is the best form of evolution. Then reading. Then education, such as workshops or courses. But be open.
Always look for ways to develop.
Always find a way to work on your filter.
November 9, 2017
This year I was the lucky recipient of the 2017 Busybird Publishing Creative Fellowship.
As an aspiring writer, I love to write, although all I’ve had published is a handful of articles for a sporting magazine years ago. I’m most certainly a complete novice, so I was overwhelmed and so very grateful to be awarded this honour.
It has been a fantastic experience, where I have learned a lot both formally and informally from the team at Busybird. Over the last twelve months my confidence and skills as a writer have increased and I have made some wonderful new networks and friends.
A big part of the fellowship has been having the assistance and support of Busybird writer, co-owner and publisher Blaise Van Hecke. Blaise has been a brilliant mentor and support throughout the last twelve months. She has spent sessions with me brainstorming and assisting me to make sense of my writing and the story I have been constructing.
My project is a collection of stories and experiences of women (including my own) and their recovery post Black Saturday Fires. At times, it has been challenging to pull it all together, due in part to the sensitivity of the subject material and also as I am relying on others to tell their story. Blaise really helped me through some of these obstacles, encouraging me to persevere, brainstorming, and helping me to think laterally.
From the very beginning I wanted this project to have meaning. As a social worker and survivor of Black Saturday, I really wanted to share the stories of survival, recovery and resilience and to help others who may be struggling with some sort of adversity. Blaise has at all times been encouraging and nurturing, and I have really appreciated her sharing her wealth of knowledge and experience with me. Through this process we have become good friends and shared many laughs and stories.
As part of the fellowship I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to attend a number of very helpful workshops on developing writing skills, editing and publishing. I really enjoyed these events and learned a lot, with my favourite being Book Camp. It was also an opportunity to meet and network with other writers. It was interesting and insightful to learn from others and to hear about their writing projects.
A big thanks to Blaise and the team at Busybird. It was a pleasure to attend the Busybird Publishing space, where I was always welcomed, supported and encouraged. I look forward to not only seeing my writing come to fruition and having my book published in the not too distant future, but also to the continued friendships.
The winner of the 2018 Busybird Creative Fellowship will be announced at the Busybird Christmas Party/Open Mic Nic 50, held on Wednesday, November, beginning from 6.00pm.