Sunday, 12 December 2010

When You've Got a Navel as Pretty as Mine, Of Course You Want to Gaze at it.

Navel-gazing... Excessive introspection, self-absorption, or concentration on a single issue: "The optimistic trend masks a looming problem, which has sent the travel industry into a renewed bout of navel-gazing" (Financial Times).

Apparently this is the plight of creative writing produced by people in my age bracket, and people in my situation (That is, students of Creative Writing) in general. It is the creative equivalent of dipping your toes in a freezing ocean but being too cowardly to dive in and swim towards the horizon.

Let me just stop right here and say that the only reason I even care about "the direction of creative writing produced by people in my age bracket and situation" is because of some feedback. Last Friday, in the mail I received a certificate telling me that I had placed second in the Katharine Susannah Prichard Short Fiction Awards for the under 20s category. And that was pretty awesome. I got a little happy out of that. Won $25 and I got a nice gold piece of paper to tell me I'd done well, so that was nice. But on reading the judges comments that buzz died a little bit. The judge, who shall remain nameless (but he knows who he is), in his general comments, blathered on about the overall poor literary standard of everyone's work, and about how language use and length were neither experimental, nor fully utilized. Now, being general comments, I have to remind myself that this person was not calling me into the Principal's Office, sitting me down and yelling "YOU SUCK" directly into my face. But it was disheartening nonetheless, and several of the comments brought me back to the whole navel-gazing argument.

I recall reading an article in Kill Your Darlings Issue Three by Emmett Stinson which talks about the growing trend in criticism to label works being produced in such a way. Stinson, as far as I can tell, made the argument that this should be applied perhaps more to the American journals than the Australian ones. He also concludes by saying that to insist on all writing having some sort of political agenda or deal with a political issue at least, is an unrealistic notion.

So how can we not navel-gaze?

As a CW student, I am constantly told to write what I know. So largely, that would consist of: working in retail, going to uni, driving around the same old suburbs to hang out with my friends. But apparently, to write about my life is to navel gaze.

Perhaps what all writers should do from now on (in fact, it should probably be made a law) is log onto their twitter accounts and take all the trending topics for that day, and make a story about them. Write about stuff people really care about, like Chuck Bass having survived the season 3 gossip girl finale, and Oprah's tour of Australia. Who cares about the trials and tribulations of leaving home? Oprah climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge! And she's got a Book Club, so she's better than the rest of us humble peons.

It's a post modern thing, guys, that's what it comes down to. Navel gazing is a fact of life. Reading is about interiority and the subjunctive a lot of the time, and perhaps that's what writing is about too. Imagining what it would be like to be someone else. I think I'll leave all the political writing to people who actually understand (read: like or care about) politics.

Congratulations to all the winners of the KSP Short Fiction awards, even the 15 year old who beat me (because you must be really goooooood girly) and especially to my friend Elisa!


To see the Judges Report and Winners for the competition, Click Here.


  1. Man, I agree 100%. When I read what he wrote I was like, "Yeah, constructive criticism, I get it...". But then he actually had nothing nice to say? What a wanker. It can't all have been crap. So discouraging.
    Navel gazing seems rather unavoidable... And really, in my opinion, it doesn't make sense to attempt to avoid it in the first place. The best writers are not neccessarily those who have had the most interesting lives. In fact, I think many of the greats had extremely mundane realities. Perhaps that's what made them so brilliant in the first place.
    Congratulations on second place! Hell excited that we both won something. Oh, and my name as a label for this blog entry? Yeeaahh, I feel a bit famous.

  2. Liking the new background :D Pretty vintage books and the white space looks great. I give you full graphic designer approval ;)

    Congratz on placing second in the competition bub! You should've told me! Or maybe you did...and I'm misplacing memories again.

    Anyways, yeah agreeing with Elisa. That judge had nothing good to say? Discouragement much. Good criticism has to have an up-point for encouraging good results next time right? But then if its such a generalization -shrugs- ah well, you got 2nd! :D be proud.


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