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How to Write – a manual for distractible writers

Step 1. Check email, in case you have won some nationwide competition or had a world-renowned journal accept one of your stories.

Step 2. Check Facebook. There could be a writing opportunity on a page you’ve liked. Or a cute puppy video.

Step 3. Check Twitter. You may hear some interesting news that prompts you to write a brilliant new piece of fiction. Or creative non-fiction. Or a cool sort of limerick.

Step 4. Check Instagram. You may get good ideas for a snack.

Step 5. Get a snack. And a drink while you’re at it.

Step 6. Sit back down. Open your document. Yes, just go to the toilet. Be quick.

Step 7. Write. Stay there. Do not access the internet, ring people or text people. Write.

Step 8. Briefly congratulate self. You’re writing!

Step 9. Keep writing.

 

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In Praise of Twitter

I never really got Twitter. Up until six months ago, that is. It seemed like Facebook in hyperdrive, and I hardly ever post on Facebook, so why would I use Twitter? On Facebook I can just slip around finding out how everyone is, admiring their growing-up children and holiday snaps, so again – why Twitter?

I joined to find out. Because you never really know if you don’t try something. And even then, you have to give it time. For example, when I first tried wine (as a twelve-year-old on New Year’s Eve, just a small sip) I thought it was disgusting. Now I feel differently.

At first on Twitter there was not much going on. Well obviously – I was following maybe twenty people and about two people were following me. But slowly I began to follow more people – mostly writers, since none of my non-writer friends are on Twitter – and I began to interact a little. After reading an article I enjoyed in The Australian, I tweeted to the journalist, who responded with a comment. I re-tweeted tweets by other writers. I realised there is a whole writing community out there, linked by Twitter on a day-to-day basis. It’s supportive. It’s informative. And it’s fun.*

It’s also a bit addictive, so I’m trying to be intentional in how I spend my time. But I’m happy to spend some of that time on Twitter, connecting with other writers and hearing about their news. Because writing is a lonely business – the actual bum-on-chair writing – and interaction with other writers who understand the whole hair-pulling joy …. it’s a great tonic.

If you feel so inclined, I might see you on Twitter 🙂 @FionaRRobertson

*This post is not funded by Twitter

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It’s a Brand New Year

img_2709This time of year is my favourite, despite the oppressive Brisbane heat, despite the extra roll of chub around my middle (thanks so much, Christmas gingerbread), despite my on-holidays children who leave yogurt-coated bowls on couches and don’t refill the water jug and ask to be driven around like I’m some sort of chaffeur.

It’s my favourite time of year because I secretly do like my kids, because that gingerbread was good and because a fresh new year is ripe with possibility. Anything could happen.

There are things I want to achieve this year and I’m sure you’re the same. Many of us are setting goals and planning steps towards those goals – either on paper or in our heads. (I plan to complete my short story manuscript, kindly assisted by the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre Fellowship I received last month, wahoo! I get to write for 2 weeks in Greenmount, Western Australia!) But it’s not just this possibility of achievement that I mean.

A new year feels like everything could be better. Our capacity for patience, our tolerance. Our generosity of spirit. Our attention to emotional detail, our care for those who too often get forgotten. Our ability to forgive. Maybe our hearts can even soften towards ourselves, because sure as eggs we’ll mess up. So we try again, and we might just do well. We’ll do the best we can and that fills me with hope.

Thanks for stopping by. And Happy New Year!

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In the Aftermath

Yesterday we watched Donald Trump claim victory in the US Presidential election. It felt like a day the world will never forget. My friends and family were shocked, exchanging a flurry of emails and texts, and on Facebook and Twitter many others I know did the same. We were flayed. So if we’re all the way over here, mostly middle class, mostly white, how do marginalised Americans feel? How do people of colour feel in America right now? What about people who are LBGTQIA, how are they coping? And Mexican Americans, what emotions are they experiencing? How do Muslims in America feel right now, to be vilified in the way they have been by this man, to have been branded as terrorists purely for their religious beliefs? How do women who have been sexually assaulted feel now that this man, who has been caught on tape boasting of his ability to get away with sexual assault, has been elected to the highest political position in the land? I don’t know what they’re feeling but I’m guessing it’s not good. I think I’d be scared and angry and betrayed – not so much by Donald Trump but by the people all around me who voted him in.

So now that this has happened, what next? It seems like many of us have needed time to process this information – to let the result sink in, to despair for a humanity that would vote for this man, to cry or swear or roar with anger. And I’m talking Australians here, so again I can only try to imagine the distress many in the USA are going through. But after this acknowledgement of pain, what next?

I guess we have to go on. We have to look to the future, and each do what we can to combat racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments. We have to treat each other with love and kindness, and that includes all the people who voted for Trump. Here in Australia, we have elected members of parliament who have racist and xenophobic platforms, and we still don’t have laws that allow gay marriage. So we have a lot of work to do right here.

I might have fears but I don’t want to be fearful. I want to stay open to others, open to possibilities, open to love. And yes, I’m aware it’s a hell of a lot easier for me than for many others. So that being the case, I better work harder.

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Taking stock in November

Do you have Novemberitis? It’s a thing, really. I reckon it’s a thing. In November, you can start to get restless because really you’re running out of time for whatever goal you were hoping to achieve this year (to finally make peace with your mother, to stop hating kale, to get that three-book deal). You can see December looming and you know it’s going to whizz by and then bloody hell … what happened to 2016?

Some of us will have had successes. Some of us will have had nothing but discouragement. Some of us will have had small victories. The fact is, we’re all trying hard.

And for writers, that’s really what counts. The main thing is the writing, the doing, the learning, the improving. The getting published bit feels so vitally important, but really it’s the process that matters most of all. So if all that happened this year was that you wrote and re-wrote and edited and maybe submitted, plus you ran a household or a sales team, fed the cat and phoned your sister and ate some steamed greens now and then – well surely that’s a successful year. And success feeds on success.

Writing seems to me to be a constant apprenticeship; to write is to be forever learning. So every day spent writing pays off, adds to the next day. Nothing is wasted, not even the words we throw away.

I have a mild case of Novemberitis but I know the best remedy. #amwriting 🙂

 

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Taking Rejection like a Boss

I am the Rejection Queen! Watch me laugh in the face of defeat!

Actually, I don’t consider receiving a rejection letter to be a defeat. Not anymore. I don’t love rejection emails, but they don’t ruffle me like they used to. When I first started submitting stories to magazines, anthologies and competitions (four years ago, almost to the day), every ‘it’s not for us’ email stung. I cried once or twice, wondering if I’d ever get anywhere with writing. Over the next year or two I had a couple of positive replies, the occasional writing ‘win’, but so few and far between! Still, as time went on, rejection emails affected me less and less. I grew a thicker skin and began to believe in myself, just a little.

These days, I read the email and move on. Mostly I feel neutral, like I do when I’m cleaning my teeth. Sometimes I sigh, but that’s about it. I’ve decided it’s simply a numbers game. Write, re-write, polish, send out. Write, re-write, polish, send out. I don’t wait for replies on anything – I just go on to the next project. (Or sometimes I bake. There are times when cake is needed first.) I figure spending time mourning a story not accepted just gets in the way of finding the next possible placement for that piece, or blocks the writing of a fresh, new story.

I just counted them up, and since my very first submission, I have sent out 89 pieces (many of these are repeat submissions). I try to have at least ten stories out at any one time. Currently I have twelve pieces out there in the big, wide world, so I’m happy with that. I figure all I can do is write the best work I can and send it to well-suited homes. The rest is in the lap of the writing gods.

I’m hoping for some good news soon. I’m ready for an acceptance email or a competition win. But if nothing happens, if the next writing mail is a rejection, I’ll pull on my big girl panties, adjust my Rejection Queen tiara, (make a quick red velvet cake) and take it like a boss.

*Feel free to leave a comment … I wrote this in the hope that other writers might feel less alone, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.*

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Big award for female writers

I stumbled across this today – an award with a huge prize ($50,000 US) available to women authors with a short story, novel or screenplay that ‘gives an insight into the lives of women’. The deadline is June 8, so you have a little time (and the shortlist comes out June 22).

Got something you could submit? Here’s the link.

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