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On Writing: 3 Tips That Have Helped Me

Are you wanting to become a writer? You might already be one.

And if you don’t think so, well, you can become one.

I’ve been writing professionally since 2011, before then I was studying it for almost five years. I love it so much – there is always something new to learn, but most importantly write. So whether you’re at university, studying for a 21st century writing career ahead or penning away at a novel squirrelled in your study, post-work, I’ve put together a few tips which may be of service.

There are so many books on writing which are valuable here but be aware that every writer this side of the millennium and before, has carved out their Writing Land for themselves… and the landscapes are all different, all varied, all personal to what works for them.

From Stephen King to Julia Cameron to Anne Lamott, there’s much useful advice on this topic. I hope some or all of this resonates with you.

Free Flow

Journalling – Go Free Flow; let the words flow, even if you don’t think they’re ‘good’. Just be yourself. (Bonus: you may quickly find your writing voice too!)

What’s really important, when you’re getting into writing, is practising the craft of it… whatever state you’re in. I believe it’s all about learning to write when the words aren’t perfect.

That could be in a journal, doing ‘morning pages’ à la The Artist’s Way (written by author Julia Cameron).

Or it could just be in your journal, whenever you feel like.

This could be when you’re angry and the words flow, though not so delicately.

This could be when you’re sad and you don’t want to write a thing: then, write whatever comes and feel proud that you’ve written something.

Hardest of all, when you’re both busy and you’re happy: writing, especially a free style of journalling, can feel like a foreign concept. Happiness – in a moment or a day – can seem enough for that. Then again, the happy side of love has been a poet’s food since … who knows when?

If you can capture your happy mood in words, you may find an optimism and lightness to it which will seem surreal – even wonderfully so – when you’re reading it when in a different mood.

Draft Away

Embrace bad drafts. Something is better than nothing. And, as Sheryl Sandberg reminds us in her book, Lean In, “done is better than perfect”.

When you feel like you’re in “draft”/baby-steps mode but you’re needing a level of polish and the blank page feels so intimidating (and so blank!), don’t worry about it – just write anyway.

Even if it’s your worst words.

Even if you wrote (and can prove it, with a little bit of paperwork archaeology) much more eloquently in grade three than in this assignment, short story or blog post.

Protect Your Work In Progress

Many writers have learnt this one the hard way. I believe this is hugely important. It takes self control. It’s hard. It can also be worth it.

In the age of over-sharing and the pressure that comes with the “platforms” of social media, it can be tempting to share ideas about baby manuscripts as they come and are moulded into place. Yet that may be detrimental to our book if we share too much, too soon.

The same goes, sometimes even more so, when it comes to conversations with other people ‘in person’.

Just watch an excited writer – one bursting with joy at their baby novel, a new plot line or just the general joy of baby characters growing inside of them to the pages of their novel – tell the ‘wrong’ person about their story idea or work in progress, and here lies an unfortunate case in point.

Someone who ‘doesn’t understand’ can smear your idea, if you’re lucky, or at worst stomp all over it.

The writer leaves feeling the opposite of encouraged at the thought of returning to their work, and, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about writerly/creative types it’s that we definitely need to believe in our works!

A prolonged and chronic level of doubt is surely the writer’s nemesis.

Sometimes people need to avoid certain foods or stimulants due to allergies or other health conditions. It can be the same with sharing our ideas – the ones we are trying to grow and nurture – with those who may not appreciate them.

These people can be our best supporters, closest friends, loved family members and beloved crew all round, but if you sense they don’t – or won’t – ‘get’ the vibe, vision or particulars of what you’re trying to write, please don’t go there. Share with someone else you trust or keep it in… it will be read soon enough in the editing process or when you’re ready to show others.

For myself, when I’ve ‘kept’ it in, despite my inner excitement (insert series of emoticons showing full gamut of varied emotions with only cool sunglasses guy emoticon missing), I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do: I’ve written.

Talking about it seems to scratch an itch for “expressing” the story, but if we don’t get it down on paper because of this, then what’s the point?

There is a wonderful book, which I read in university, which illustrates this point in a beautiful and very clear way. I’m going to revisit it, and if any of this resonates with you, I recommend it: Becoming a Writer by Doreatha Brande.

Wishing you flowing, easily drafted and ‘protected’ writing to you!!

Anna

 

Dresses from The Dressmaker Movie

Note: Some posts deserve an excited, 1st person introduction. Please see below:

Hey! If you like beautiful dresses, I know a place where there are lots – but only until the 11th of March this year. I’m talking about the Dressmaker Costume Exhibition, currently on at Barwon Park Mansion in Winchelsea.

Even if you haven’t seen the movie, these intricate costumes – designed by EMMY nominated and AACTA winning costume designer Marion Boyce, – are worth seeing for their beautiful handiwork, vintage references and detailing. Known for her costume design in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Marion says it was an honour – and certainly not one to take lightly – to be involved in such a film.

The Dressmaker_Sarah Snook_Gertrude 'Trudy' Pratt_3.jpg

LOVE. Love. LOVE this elegant black gown and cape.

“When you get approached to do a film called The Dressmaker you feel an extraordinary amount of pressure. I read the book quite a few years ago and fell in love with it.”

She wasn’t the only one.

“A few years ago, probably four Christmasses ago, one of my sewers who has worked with me on and off for a very long time, sent me the book. And she said to me, ‘This book needs to be made into a film. You need to do it and I need to work on it.’

Which, Marion tells, smiling as she recalls the serendipitous comment, she ended up doing.

“So I rang her up and said, ‘now Lyn – it’s about the Dressmaker.’ She said, ‘Oh my God.’”

With the historic backdrop of the National Trust owned mansion also on display, Marion says the location has worked well.

“I love it. When the National Trust approached me about doing the Dressmaker exhibition I was a little bit nervous because the home’s from a very different era. But driving up here, it’s not that far from where we filmed.”

The Dressmaker_Sarah Snook_Gertrude 'Trudy' Pratt_2

Endless landscape. Silk couture number with sequin detail. Sarah Snook. Gorgeousness elements captured well: tick that box.

With some filming of the movie occurring in the desolate-seeming, rural landscape of Mount Rothwell (near Little River in Victoria), some similarities were happily bound to happen.

“I thought, ‘Fantastic,'” says Marion. “By the time summer comes the grass will be burning off, it will be browning, the cattle are out there – it’s country, so it was the most perfect setting… and the most glorious home.”

She says admits to being a bit struck by the 19th century mansion. “I’ve never seen a home quite like it.”

Having worked on costumes for the film, Marion also designed the exhibition set too.

The Dressmaker_Kate Winslet_Myrtle 'Tilly' Dunnage.jpg

Ahoy! A stunning, 50s gown at a country footy match may not be the most conventional choice but case in point! Many, many points for this jaw dropping sophisticate number.

“I really enjoyed designing the exhibition and the narrative that went behind it,” she says. “To develop all of the exhibition hardware … all the exhibition runways and catwalks and podiums was a lot of fun.”

Also a lot of fun, says Marion, is seeing your handiwork spring to life right before your eyes; cue moment when a costume becomes more than just a costume…

“Often when you design, you see actors morphing into their characters in fittings. And that’s when you know that what you’ve set out to achieve has worked.”

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Judy Davis, Sarah Snook and Kate Winslet all steal the show, respectively speaking

 

The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition, held at Barwon Park Mansion, runs until the 11th of March, 2016.

 

 

 

2015 Reflections

In a few hours time I may just be with loved ones watching NYE fireworks, eating pizza, enjoying the cool sweetness of ice-cream on a balmy night (or all of the above) but not right now.

In this moment I can’t help but take a little time to reflect on the year that was: the year of our Lord 2015. Also more commonly known as as 2015, even ’15 to some unsentimental about four digit figures.

There’s a plethora of posts going round right about now that’s all about this line of thought: the highlights (or less commonly, lowlights) of another year that’s whooshed by. There’s a sense of looking at goals set and asking ‘how did I go?’ and there’s also lots of plans being made for next year. All this is good, all this is right.

But for my post, I’d like to say that while this year was a fairly great year work wise, it was great in the way I didn’t expect. There were some mistakes, some things that went wrong … some of these things were out of my control, others were not. There was a ‘first time’ in a lot of areas of my career and not everything went right…and so I will walk into 2016 wiser in some areas, more informed and empowered because of this. You need only to make a mistake once to never make it again. (That’s the plan, anyway!)

Some things which have been great about this year has been increased responsibility in some areas of my writing. Also I’ve worked in new areas, like styling.

I’m a person who enjoys – even, way too much – learning… and developing myself. So, I jumped at the chance to go up to Brisbane earlier this year and hear from the likes of Narratively founder Noam Rosenberg, authors like John Birmingham and veteran investigative journalists with truths to pass on. I also discovered Trent Dalton, who writes the most poignantly beautiful and narratively placed feature articles. This day was a chance to mingle with other freelance writers, find out about industry trends and happenings in particular to solo journalists and basically, be utterly inspired. This one day was a highlight of my work year, for its impact resonated well beyond that sunny Southbank day. [Blog post from September on that subject if you’re interested – Writing Conferences and The Unknown.]

Writing an architecturally focussed cover story on the new Geelong Library and Heritage Centre for The Weekly Review Geelong was another highlight. Hats off to everyone involved there. [Check it out, if you’d like – Sphere of Influence]

I’ve also loved the chance to work in both fashion as well as interiors for this year. I’m someone who adores variety in my work so the chance to chat with all kinds of creative and talented people was a privilege. [Loved working on pieces like Tops In Hats, Coastal Style and the 70s trend, just to name a few.]

Working on this Mother’s Day cover story was an absolute privilege as well: Mum’s The Word For Three Generations.

I also revised my fiction novel again … especially the first 50 pages… to be sent out to prospective agents. I’ve gathered my courage to do this. Still need to ‘press send’ to agents but I’m closer than I’ve ever been.

For a while there, I rose extra early and wrote fiction first thing in the morning. A few short stories came out, all as different and surprising as each other. This wonderful, intense style of writing took it out of me a bit  but I’m looking forward to coming back to that practice next year.

Practice. Writing practice… like sporting practice or music practice… it feels right. I don’t want to make writing a kind of sacred ritual, coming along only by unburnt candles, cold mineral water and a guarantee of no cat hair in my study. Those conditions are unrealistic… who can control where a cat may go to sleep… in my experience, this may encompass every single room in the house.

This is where the discipline of writing comes in. Regular attention to this is an area I would like to improve in next year, in relation to my fiction.

Also, this year I have stopped “trying”* to put myself in a box – quotation marks to indicate emphasis on this word, maybe I  mean I don’t do this on purpose; this could be a subconscious action if you know what I mean?

I am a writer who writes fiction. I am a journalist who writes features. I am  a strong artistic type who also paints, sketches and does DIY things while watching TV… I am also constantly moving around the furniture and objects in bid to keep things fresh and creative.

I now realise it’s ok to be all of those things… writer, journalist and artist. Funnily enough, being on social media – particularly Instagram – has helped with this. There are so many “slashie” titles on there… actress/model/author/founder type titles which have helped me realise that many people are creative in more than one – or two – areas … and that’s who they are. So, in that sense, I have a stronger sense of – it’s ok to be myself.

I also turned 30 this year … and celebrated with a fabulous French themed party… it was boho chic meets cupcakes meets gorgeous op shop finds and plenty of Edith Piaf and Carla Bruni, too.

So maybe, turning 30… along with all its insecurities, paranoia about hair changing colour and general shock… has given me more grounding, more confidence in my identity. Then again, we’re all learning who we are, aren’t we? Space to answer here: _________________________.

As we charge into a new year, here’s my chance to thank everyone who supports my writing, my wonderful editors and clients who give me the chance to write and anyone who actually reads my work – thank you so much and it means a lot!!

Onwards and upwards to 2016. (This will be the year I will send my novel out, I promise!!)

Let me leave you with a quote that, I think, will live on my desk for 2016…

“A life without courage is no life at all.”

Happy New Year!

 

On Being

“Hey friend! Lovely to see you. How’ve you been?”
“Busy. Just really busy.”

“Hi! Haven’t seen for you a while, how are you?”
“Good. Yeah, just busy! Flat out. You?”

“Hey {Insert Name}! How are you? What you have been up to?”
“Good. I do things. All the things. In fact, I’m really busy, busy, busy!!! Zzzzzz!! I’m busier than a bee, seriously… they have it easy. What about you? Gosh I’m busy! Sorry, I don’t have time to chat.”

Ok, so that last conversation may be a slight exaggeration but you get the point.

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