Late last year I was accepted into a program called the ‘Four Centres Emerging Writers Program‘. It is a new, State government funded program administered by Fremantle Press and the four writing centres around Perth. I was accepted into FAWWA’s program initially on the long list (me! on a long list!) and then, wondrously, on the short list (short list!). The long listers have access to all workshops and events run for the program over the two years. Short listers also get a mentor.
So, now I have a mentor. For two years.
And, in our first conversation, one of the things he said to me was that he wasn’t really interested in working with me unless I wanted to be published. So I had to say, clearly and unequivocally, that I want to be published.
I’d never really said that aloud before. I mean, one would assume, given my general activity around writing, that I do want to be published, but actually saying it in order to convince someone to put their time into you…whole other ball game.
In a later conversation, he reminded me, when I was floundering around being unproductive and blaming the job-that-pays-the-bills, I was in this program and that it came with a suggestion of pressure and responsibility. It was a gentle reminder, given kindly. I needed to hear it. Later, he told me, more bluntly: “just bloody write it”.
So, I got serious. More serious than I had been before because, even though I had previously congratulated myself on “being serious”, I found, when I examined things, I had let myself be less serious than I thought. Hello, harsh light of day. I cleared my calendar of everything I could possibly get out of. I told friends and family I wasn’t available. I actually made it clear I was writing and that I would be putting that first. I honoured the writing commitments I made with myself: said I’d get up at 4am to write; got up at 4am to write, said I’d get 10k words done by a certain date; got them done.
Being serious creates a sort of momentum, I’ve found, that helps enormously to continue being serious. Like one big serious ball gathering speed, turning over and over, gathering energy as it goes. Getting up to write got easier, writing after school (something I always struggle with) was actually possible, the angst over perceived difficulties of particular scenes lessened in the face of dogged determination.
Then, last weekend I went to workshops run by Fremantle Press on how to give an effective ‘pitch’ of my work in various scenarios and then I got to watch some of their authors give pitches to industry people. It was fascinating and so freaking REAL.
And I came away with a sense that I was part of that, that I was an “emerging writer”, that people expect something of me and that I’m ready, really, actually ready, to do this thing. A friend asked me if I could see myself doing what those authors did and I told her, yes, and had not a moment’s hesitation about it.
Sounds like I’ve got it all figured out, right?!
Yeah, nah. If I stop to think for a moment, this is all terribly scary. But, at the same time, I’m not letting myself stop to think because the only way I’ve been able to deal with all this is to continue to throw myself into the writing. To actually DO the work.
I re-read some of Big Magic and this helped. Jack Gilbert, the poet, asked one of his students: “Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage to bring forth this work?” He also told his students that “[w]ithout bravery…they would never be able to realise the vaulting scope of their own capacities…Without bravery, their lives would remain small–far smaller than they probably wanted their lives to be.” So I found some courage from somewhere.
What I’ve realised is that I’m working on a career here and, while I don’t know yet how to write (not really, not properly), I know how to build a career. I’ve done that twice before. You start in a small unassuming, grateful but enthusiastic way and you do the work and you do more work and you do better work and you fail and then do more work. And you keep being brave about the work and you keep working. You find people who support you and you learn from them, quietly, studiously. Then, more work. And then one day you look around and see you’ve got somewhere. You feel more brave and do more work.
So, I’m doing the work and I’m taking the title ’emerging writer’ and hanging it out for all to see.
And today, even though it is a public holiday, I’m going to do the work. Because I am an emerging writer.