Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk

I keep hearing "fake it 'til you make it" and "don't say you want to be a writer, actually be one", and other similar advice.  It's frustrating.  I think that I'm following it most of the time, and then I realise that I've been going to bed earlier and earlier because I'm exhausted from doing other things, and the thing I've neglected was my nightly hour of writing.

Sure, I've started telling people I'm a writer.  I work in retail, and I'm fairly young looking, so naturally people always ask me a) if I'm studying, and b) what I plan to do with my life.  Because, of course, staying in retail is not a legitimate career goal unless you've given up all hope.  (I do hope you could tell I was being sarcastic there.)  In case you were wondering, the answers to those two questions are a) no, I finished last year, and b) I'm trying to get my first novel written and published.  The difficulty with doing this, however is, as Emma Chapman pointed out at the Perth Writers' Festival in February, people always go on to ask you what you've had published.  And sometimes, like in my case, the answer is not a lot.  Or, it's a long list that you're usually very proud of but mostly consists of small award wins that become even tinier when a stranger looks at you kindly and pretends to know what you're talking about.

What 'choo lookin' at?


"I hope no one can tell I'm checking my Facebook again."
The other question I get asked is "What is your book about?"  I have to remind myself when I answer this that these people don't know me, and they don't know my whole backstory, and they're usually on their way to do something important, like grocery shopping.  So I can't stand there, look all adorable and say, "Oh it's like about these two people who meet between the wars and they live in Fremantle, and they are horrible to each other, and one of them becomes a POW and I haven't really researched that bit much yet," because that will make the person do this:

Wasn't that one of the Twilight films?
The thing is, I know this book like I know my own hands, right down to the flaky cuticles.  What I should be doing is thinking of every person who asks what my book is about as a potential reader or even a potential agent or publisher.  I should be telling them that my book is "A historical anti-romance set in Fremantle before and during the second world war.  Two characters meet each other, enjoy the flushes of first love, but are forced to separate when they realise that each one has unrealistic expectations of the other.  While apart, they go through trials which force them to mature, and when they meet again years later they must assess whether or not real love is possible for them."  And I have to stop thinking that describing it like that is wanky, because I am 22 years old now and I am too grown up to use words like that.  

Perhaps the connection that I need to make here is that in order to think of myself as a captial W Writer, I need to think of my story as a capital B Book.  Take my work and myself seriously.  But not too seriously.

Because where would be the fun in that?

4 comments:

  1. I'm still hopeless at telling people what the book I'm working on is about. There's nothing like being asked that question to transform me into an incoherent mumbling mess. And I was too embarrassed to call myself a writer until I knew my first book was going to be published, which says a lot about my self-esteem or lack thereof! Good on you for calling yourself a writer - you are a writer and believing that and thinking that is half the battle.

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  2. This is lovely!

    I have all these story ideas in my head but I haven't quite managed to get them altogether to form a book yet, which is really frustrating. I spend so much time writing up ideas, so when someone asks me what my book is about I honestly couldn't tell them!

    I can't wait to read yours when you get published though!

    xo

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  3. Keep going Emily, it was great hearing bits about your writing in class. Kaili

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  4. Thanks Amber, Natasha and Kaili! :)

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