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1. Why you’re here
You’re here because you want to write. You may have already begun a writing practice or you may be looking for some inspiration and advice on how to get started.
1.1 Why write?
Some people are endowed with endless creative inspiration and never have a problem sitting down to write. But such people are few and far between and the rest of us secretly hate them. For the majority of people, writing is hard work. And that work can seem overwhelming, especially when you’re getting started. At such times, it is useful to have a bag of tricks to dip into. It’s also important to start developing a regular writing practice that suits your life and is flexible enough to withstand some changes. We’ll cover these topics later in the course, but at a bigger level, it’s also important to think about what is motivating you in the first place.
Why do you want to write? What is driving you to do this?
This is a question we’ve asked many Queensland writers and their responses can be grouped into a few types of responses:
Love: Almost every professional writer expresses some form of love for the craft, for reading, and for stories generally. Picture book writer Robin Adolphs talks of her childhood, of the books by Enid Blyton that kickstarted her imagination, and how the love of stories can be passed from generation to generation as children who read grow up to become adults who write.
Self-discovery: Kylie Kaden describes writing as a kind of ‘purge’, working things out in life. Edwina Shaw says writing helps her ‘make sense of the world’. Sally Piper feels a social or moral obligation to share stories, to begin a conversation around issues that are important to her.
Because you have to: Many writers (Nick Earls, Talitha Kalago, Sandy Curtis, Simon Higgins, Lisa Walker, Kim Wilkins) equate writing with a kind of addiction or compulsion. Nick Earls puts this view most succinctly: ‘I write because it feels worse not to.’ For many writers, stories become something inside that won’t leave you alone until you get them down. John Ahern has a slightly different take on the same idea, describing the feeling of becoming lost in the storytelling: ‘[I’m] often surprised it’s 2pm when it felt like minutes at my desk.’
Sharing your stories with readers: Benjamin Law, Cass Moriarty, and Dave Lowe all describe sharing something you have learned, an idea you have formed, people and situations you’ve created, with people you don’t know and have never met.
It’s in the making: While a published work in any form is an extraordinary achievement, not one author talked about publication as a motivating factor in their writing. Rather, the pattern that emerges is one of gaining satisfaction from the craft itself. This is what Karen Foxlee talks about when she says:
‘It’s in the making.’
Your motivations might align with some or all of these at various points in your development as a writer, but that final act of sharing stories with others—whether on a page, a stage, a record, a podcast, a blog, or any other way—is something common to every writer whose work you’re familiar with.
As satisfying as it can be on its own, a text is just a vehicle to reach someone else. As a writer, you place your trust in an audience to understand you and to see the world the way you do, even if just for a little while. It’s important to remember that whenever you sit down to work: there will be someone else, a real person, on the receiving end of this.
Though it might seem abstract at first, when you write, you are making a very human connection with someone else.
Then again songwriter Dion Read is not entirely wrong either when he says: ‘Honestly, for the most part, I think it’s ego.’
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1.2 Activity: Why I write
Now it’s your turn.
Keeping your focus on your own purpose can support you through those days of re-writes and edits, or when you just don’t feel motivated. Reflect on why you write and you will rekindle your passion, question your purpose and hopefully find an answer that satisfies.
Have you ever asked yourself this before? Write a brief paragraph, up to 300 words, explaining why you write. Not what you want to write about, but what leads you to write in the first place.
- How you feel when you are writing?
- Do you feel different when you have written as opposed to when you’re in the middle of doing it?
- Do you do it to share your hopes/dreams?
- Do you do it to share your thoughts?
- What is your main drive for writing? Self-reflection, instruction, enlightenment, motivation, fame and fortune?
- What are your goals? (e.g. Do you write for change, to have an impact, to give the gift of laughter, to trigger emotions)
- Why is finishing your writing important to you?
Print this out and put it on the wall near your writing space and re-read whenever you need to.
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1.3 What is writing?
At its most basic, writing is a system of communication that conveys the thoughts and emotions of the writer through an ordered collection of symbols. In effect, writing is nothing more than putting words down on paper (or digitally).
However, this doesn’t mean that the only way of consuming writing is to read it. Writing can be presented in as many forms, mediums, genres, and styles as you can imagine.
1.4 How we think of writing
A lot of the generic terminology we used in creative writing courses will lead you to think that creative writing refers to books (the novel particularly) and its readers. The yen to write a novel is natural and good and should always be encouraged, but not everyone who sets out to write wants to produce the great Australian novel and even those who do frequently find their true calling is to write something very different.
Creative writing is about stories and stories can be told through as many media and forms as we can imagine. Often the terminology we use reflects the central place books have in the writing world, but the advice in this fundamentals course is in no way limited to one kind of creative writing.
When we use the term ‘publishing’, we’re not necessarily talking about books. Your ‘readers’ may just as easily be listening to your words or watching them performed.