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.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, writing advice

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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!

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

breaking the drought

I read this morning that Jacob M Appel won the 1998 Boston Review short fiction prize with a piece that had previously been rejected by 75 literary journals. 75! I don’t know if I’m more amazed his story won the prize after such a chequered history, or at the fact Appel had the determination and conviction to submit his story so many times. He must have had faith in his own writing, and really believed that rejections often come down to a matter of taste.

I’m not going to lie, 2016 has been a lean year for me, writing-wise. Not in terms of the actual writing. I’ve been inspired, had ideas, and stories have come streaming out in various shapes and sizes, but I’m talking external validation here. Competition wins, or publication. I kept wryly telling friends and family who asked that I was ‘having a bit of a dry spell’. I told them I was writing plenty, but had no exciting news. I began to be impressed by my lack of achievement.

I received a few rejections, including a couple of pleasant, personal ones, but most of my stories are still with the journals I submitted to earlier this year (3 months ago, 5 months ago, 7 months ago, 8 months ago, even one piece that has been sitting comfortably on Submittable for an impressive 11 months). All of these stories are ‘in progress’ and most have been for a few months. I wondered if that meant anything good – the fact that the stories had been ‘opened’ and not rejected yet – but when I googled the topic, it seems a number of literary journals, being swamped with submissions and understaffed, don’t ever actually get around to ‘rejecting’ the piece you send. So ‘in progress’ on submittable may just mean no one has found time to send you the form rejection email. Gulp.

But last week, I finally had an email from a fiction editor, asking if a story was still available. The journal wants to publish it.

I may have cried. I may have done a little shuffling dance in my pyjamas. I may have felt that finally, finally, after a year of thanks but no thanks and a year of waiting and waiting for replies that may never come … that finally one of my stories will again be going out into the world.

I’ve said it before – writing is a mug’s game. We toil and doubt and wait and are rejected. But we do it because we love it, and because we want to share our words with others. And when we get an acceptance, even just one in an entire year of writing, it’s all worth it. Every heartbreaking, exhausting, exhilarating moment.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under the joy of writing

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.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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 🙂

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

wake from dreaming

Ever wake from a nightmare and sigh with relief? Or spend a morning feeling unsettled, before realising it all stemmed from a dream?

It’s amazing how dreams affect our moods. It’s amazing how dreams reflect our moods too. Last night I dreamt I had an English assignment due the next day and had nothing prepared (yes, I’d reversed thirty years in age and was back in high school). I also had an exam the next day for which I’d done no study. In the dream I was trying to reassure myself, asking myself calmly, ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen? You won’t get a good mark. No big deal.’ But it was a big deal. I wanted a high mark. I was panicked and upset.

These ‘school exam dreams’ seem to happen to many people, often years down the track. Maybe it’s when we’re under pressure, maybe when it’s when we feel somehow inadequate for whatever we’re facing. For me, I suspect it’s because I have several stories under consideration and I’m waiting and hoping and crossing fingers and toes.

How about you? Do you dream of exams too?

2 Comments

Filed under personal