On writing and writers

You know what?  I am completely loving being a mature age student.  The sort that reads all the lecture notes and the recommended reading as well as the required stuff.  The sort that sticks up their hand in lectures.

I love it.

I think it’s because I recognise this as a luxury.  This is something I saved up for – a chance to commit time and money to learning, reading and thinking.  A commitment to creating.

Part of me is scared it is all a waste of time.  Part of me doesn’t care.  This is living life with my priorities front and centre.  I can live with the background hum of ‘Gosh that’s selfish’.

One of the biggest luxuries in this course is being able to hear writers talk about their craft.  Today we heard from Anthony Eaton, who’s had 11 books published and is just finishing a twelfth.  He’s an honest-to-goodness Australian writer, who has been able to support himself through his writing.  That is a very encouraging thought.  He talked about getting his first novel published, and how he supports himself.  He also showed us some journals from his trip to Antarctica – that was amazing.

Anthony has a PhD, so he loves his research.  And his writing-journals had maps, paintings, sketches, time lines… and a chapter by chapter outline of the book he hadn’t started writing yet.  I thought the journals were works of art by themselves.  It was awesome to have a writer so generously show us the nuts and bolts of their craft.

Last week I mentioned Stephen King’s book On Writing.  In it, King outlines his method of creation, which imagining a situation, populating it with characters and then writing to see where it goes.  It sounded like the complete opposite of what Anthony tries to do.  But then, who said there was ever a correct way to create?

I’m taking away two things from this class.  The first is just to get the manuscript done – it doesn’t matter how rough, or overwritten or clumsy as long as it’s finished.  Once you’ve got a shitty first draft, you have something to work with.

The second is that a writer’s notebook can be many different things.  When I think of journals, I think of Anais Nin or someone like Helen Garner, who basically admitted writing about her friends from her diaries.  But Anthony’s journals were something else entirely.  More akin to an Artists diary, it was a document of the development of a creative idea.  Anthony said it took him nearly two years to find a way of journaling that worked for him.  That makes me feel quite a lot better about my own neglected journals.

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6 responses to “On writing and writers

  1. What a great experience it sounds like you are having! The stuff of seeing in an author’s writing journal ~ that’s the guts of it all, the behind-the-scenes work which often goes unseen.

    I’m half-way through writing the outline for my book. The entire thing I have completely envisioned in my head. What’s interesting is that, sometimes, the thing I want to write about, does not want me to write about it yet. And so … when I originally wanted to write a fiction book, it turns out the muse had other ideas … no worry. The muse, she’s wise. I have learned to listen to her gentle prodding!

  2. Absolutely love your post! First off, I have also been a mature age student when I did my uni course years ago. You cracked me up about reading all the course material and raised your hand at lectures! 😀 I did the same! I envy you that you got a chance to look at a real live author’s journal. I’d trade anything to do that. And I’m about to write up a post on writer’s notebook. Probably post it tomorrow or Fri. So if you have time to spare, swing by to have a read. Lastly, never think that you’re being selfish to fulfil your dream. I believe that one actually becoming a better person by following one’s dream. So stay true and have a wonderful day!

  3. yay mature age students. Who do their reading and get their work done and give every evidence of learning stuff and enjoying it. Hurrah.

    I don’t think writing is selfish at all. Not like hogging all the tim tams.

  4. cluckandtweet

    The best part of returning to the world of academia later in life is that it means more– it isn’t about getting a degree, rather, it really is about getting an education. And that, simply put, is lovely. And to see the innermost workings of someone’s mind through their journals– how inspiring!

  5. It’s me again! To make your day a little bit more special, you just got the Noblesse Award! Yeah! Come to my place to claim it. 🙂

  6. I’m laughing out loud at your sentence, “Once you’ve got a shitty first draft, you have something to work with.” 😀

    Thanks for the wee giggle … and a lovely blog!

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