Friday, December 08, 2006

Writing as your J.O.B.

When you want to be a writer full time, which is a difficult thing to be considering it might take a couple of years to write one novel and Australia is a small market, you have to find other ways to fund your career. I am also a part time freelance editor, reading and reporting on manuscripts. It's quite complementary, because it gives me the opportunity to think about and articulate ideas about story and structure and character development. But it's sometimes quite time consuming and it can be hard to switch between reading and thinking about someone else's work and reading, writing and thinking about your own. And it's a bit like doing an undergraduate degree, it can get repetitive and you start feeling like you're trotting out the same old hackneyed phrases or that you've been reading the same novel over and over again. It also uses up some of my precious reading time that I would like to spend reading for the love of it.

The other thing many writers do are public appearances, usually through schools, conducting workshops or giving talks. This isn't an avenue I've pursued because it requires a certain degree of flexibility, and in terms of childcare it's been tricky in the past for me. Also I don't personally know any schools. There are speaker's agencies in Melbourne which I will probably contact in the New Year because I quite like the idea of it, mostly in terms of hanging out with some interesting teenagers and nicking their ideas. I'm all for teenagers. They've got this kind of in extremis thing happening - no one's beaten their spirit out of them yet. They are connected to childhood and adulthood and teach you lots of great stuff about both. For me doing the Masters is also an avenue to teaching, I would quite like to teach people serious about writing, because I like being an Expert and yap yap yapping. But I'm a bit scared of tertiary level teaching because what if they all know more than me? Eek. Plus I think there is a fine line that you can cross where you stop being a writer and become a teacher (or worse, an academic). And there are definitely writers who are better at doing schools and the festival circuit than they are at writing books, probably at least in part because they don't have time to write books, they're too busy yap yap yapping.

Another thing writers do in order to keep being writers is contribute to series fiction, ghost-write, write articles, write copy for weetbix boxes etc. I've recently had two series of books brought to my attention and I am trying to work up ideas for both. But ideas are hard when you're trying to think of one, and I must admit I am afraid to use up the really good, award winning type ideas (because all writers have plenty of those) that I already have filed away on series fiction (which is completely valid and great and marvellous but it's not about standing out, it's about fitting in, which is totally cool but it makes me want to hoard away my stand-out ideas for another time, which is entirely appropriate of me). And getting the idea is one thing, finding a voice - sustainable, entertaining, distinctive - is even tougher. Still, I feel quite energised by the idea of writing something purely to be enjoyed. I loved chick lit as a kid, I used to read three Sweet Valley Highs a night and then swap with Zoe the next day (we borrowed them from Lisa Donahoe who lived across the road from school and was our brief foray into popularity in grade six). So I want to write something like that, a bit more believable and less sensational and Valley Girl, but fun and playful and words to dream to...romance, drama...young love.

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