Sunday, 24 May 2015

On Writing, Female Friendship, and the Importance of Really Caring About What You Do.

Writing a novel is really hard.  There are probably thousands of people attempting to do it as you read this, and I would hazard a guess that many of them won't finish.  Of those who do, some will never revise their work, and some will never revise it enough times to get it to the point of being ready to submit to agents and publishers.  (Some will self publish but that's a totally different subject.)  This is where the real paradox of being a writer comes in.  To get your work to this point, you have to be hard-working and second guess nearly every decision that you make.  (Or, okay, I guess you don't have to be, but I have always found that a lot of writers experience higher than usual self doubt while they are working.)  THEN when it comes time to submit your work, suddenly you have to feel as if you are the greatest writer ever to have put words on a page and you have to convince a handful of industry professionals that this is the case too.  You have to write short but punchy emails that convince agents and publishers to outlay time and money for the furthering of your literary ambitions, and you have to somehow convince them that when your book is a real thing with pages and a spine and cover that people who are not your immediate family will buy copies and possibly that your story will sell movie rights and become a blockbuster hit.

This doesn't come naturally to me.  I'm getting fairly confident in my abilities, and in the last few months I am growing more and more confident that I am a writer and not a person who merely enjoys writing.  I am learning to see my own work semi-objectively and evaluate it, and I am learning to push myself to new emotional depths.  I am learning to work hard and sometimes suffer for my art, and this all feels really really great, particularly when it earns you the opportunity to do awesome things like go on writing residencies and things like that.  But I'm still not super good at self evaluation.  It does not come naturally for me to sit down and write about myself in a manner intended to evaluate myself in a positive light for the purpose of other people's assessment.  It feels weird, and somehow not allowed.

Now, I'm not a man and I've never been a man in my position before, so I don't really want to comment on whether or not this is something I have been conditioned to do because of my own gender.  I am getting interested in feminism and in gender studies, but I've got a long way to go, so I will leave my opinions on #writingwhilefemale to the experts-- awesome people such as Maxine Beneba Clarke, who started aforementioned hashtag, and Ceridwen Dovey who wrote an article called The Pencil and the Damage Done, which I will continue to reference in nearly every conversation I have until someone hits me over the head and says 'Enough already!'  What I will say is that I am lucky enough to be related to, friends with, and inspired by a huge network of amazing women and it's days like today when I feel especially blessed to have them in my life.  I'm fairly privileged to be able to say I have never really been made to feel like I couldn't achieve something on the basis of my gender (which is not to say I've never been discriminated against, but my experiences of this have been fairly recent and I choose to see them as the other person's shortcomings, and therefore hilarious and wrong) and when I look at the amazing women in my life, I know that anything is possible.

Except, you know, writing a self evaluation without feeling incredibly awkward.

In light of the recent cuts to funding of the Australia Council, it's going to become even harder to be a successful artist, writer, actor etc. in Australia, and I think (woman or not), this means it is more important now than ever to own what you do, and continue doing it to the best of your ability.  It would be far too easy to stop producing due to lack of funds and lack of places to exhibit your work, but that lets The Powers that Be win.  And I am inspired by the amazing women in my life, three of whom I have just had an incredible morning tea with, to continue to use my voice and my words for good, to continue writing even when I feel like my voice has no value, and to continue putting myself out into the world, even if it feels like the world doesn't really want my words.  I'm fortunate because writing is something that cannot be taken away from me.  I can write anywhere, and I can write about whatever I want, and government funding or not, I'm still going to have it-- so I am going to keep doing it and feel blessed every time I put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.  I will keep throwing my ideas out into the universe until something sticks.

1 comment:

  1. Aww! It was a great brunch! And your voice is valuable—look what you did with the petition. Keep talking yourself up and feeling positive. I don't know anyone who isn't uncomfortable doing it, but you just have to talk the talk. I partition off the two sides—the self-doubting-critical side is only allowed out when editing, and the 'my book is so good' self-promotion side, is my intentions for my book or how I'd love people to see my book. I keep the two quite separate because they're both there and they will always be there, even if it's published—some people are going to love it and some people are going to hate it.

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