Why I Write:Writing Out Loud #3

If money is the measure of success, as a short story writer and poet, I have little chance.

So why do I turn up? Why do I fill notebooks with words? Then copy and rewrite it in Evernote. And then again into Scrivener?

I now know I’m borrowing a talent as it were, but that doesn’t explain my motivation to write. Especially when the story or poem is demanding to be written.

Why do I do this?

Much like a poet who expresses those thoughts best unsaid, the author, Natasha Lester answered for me in her blog Success as a Writer: What Does it Mean? Understanding.

And she speaks for me. I was joyfully surprised by the feedback I received for the Great Blow. I wrote a poem called The Unravelled Heart , then attended a meetup. Two people had read it and they understood.

But the first time I really found out why I write occurred when I wrote a story called Medicine Woman.  A few days after publishing it, I received an email containing the French phrase, “On Ne Peut Sauver Celle Qui Ne Veut L’etre.” My school French could not suffice and I googled the phrase and also checked with my French teacher friend.

The phrase meant, “One cannot help those who cannot help (themselves).” Which is what the story really was about. Which is why I really wrote it.

Which is why i write.


The Lingering Look (of a Book Lover)

It’s no task at all. Simply take the books you don’t want and put them into the two spare boxes. But to succeed at this meant I had to be a zombie bricklayer. Pick up a book, one in each hand from the first pile. Then with closed eyes transfer to the outgoing book box.
Book Pile
Then I said to myself, “Don’t look down. Don’t make eye contact with the books.
But books tend to gaze back like long lovers.
And when it happened, I had that second and recurrent thought. “I like that book. I might need to read it sometime.”
My counter-thought. “I haven’t read that one. It’s unlikely I’ll read it now.
And then the thought trap closed shut. “I know I haven’t read it but some day I just might.”
Back and forth it went until I wore myself down. Finally, I could only complete the task the opposite way. I filled the boxes allocated for the books I wanted to retain. To overflowing. I could not fit another book.
 And then I thought. “Perhaps that paperback could just squeeze into that space between the hardbacks.
 Not a chance. No space even for a bookmark. That was the finish. I was done.
Two boxes filled. The next part should have been easier. All I had to do was lift and shift my gift to a charity book depository four train stops away. I picked up one box. Then the other. Suddenly those two boxes were leaden heavy. I couldn’t budge either of them. Spare Book Box
I then chose a course of action calculated to deceive myself.  I grabbed two large IKEA carry bags. And filled each with books. Now I could carry both over my shoulder.
Then on the street, I saw a man with two small black bags. He had just crossed the road. I recognised the bags from Abbey’s : a well known Sydney bookshop.
I thought to myself. “We have something in common”. But  the lucky man was adding. I sadly was subtracting. In truth we were opposed. I let him walk ahead of me. I tried not to imagine his joy at unpacking those bags of books.
Arriving at the station, I dumped the two bags. And sat with my back turned away from the books. But I peeked didn’t I? There was that thought again. “Perhaps I should keep Made to Stick?” I closed up the bag as the train arrived.
On the train, I ensured I sat near no one. I worried that someone would realise what I’m doing and stop me.
Until I alighted at the station. I avoided everyone and stayed unnoticed. I guarded my anonymity carefully, ensuring no one could possibly remember a man staggering with two full blue and yellow bags.
However, during the escape, I noticed a boy who was asking his mother questions about everything. I knew what would happen next. I moved quickly out of sight so he wouldn’t turn his curiousity towards me. But what I really was dreading was her answers. For she spoke with that curt finality that still irritates me even as an adult. I thought, “Perhaps a book would help her?” But that would mean I would need to look down.
Then followed the short climb up the steep street. Over the intersection was the charity’s office. But no book shed in front, or behind or on any side. I thought, putting the bags down, now that downhill trek to the station is a much better option than lugging these now even extra heavy books any further.
I decided to follow the internet directions. I looked for and found the car park. And shaded by trees was an ordinary garden shed. Unlocked. And three quarters full of books, with only some in boxes.
 I opened the door wide. I stepped back and swung one bag and then the other into the shed.
Then I stopped still. I didn’t look down. The shed smelt like a library. It was that semi fresh scent that had always carried knowledge from page to brain!
I was transfixed. I lapsed. I lost control. I looked down.
And I thought as I saw the first book, “Why would anyone throw out books on world geography? That’s fascinating!”
I shut the doors quickly before my gaze was held again.

Writing Isn’t Safe

Last week I came across this article from the Wheeler Centre by Jessie Cole which talks about the self revelation of writing fiction. As an author, I’ve had that happen to me. I didn’t pay much attention to it until this afternoon.

I’m writing about two characters. They’re not getting along so well.

I’m trying unsuccessfully to postpone the final falling out between them.Revelation

Today, sadly was the day they got into their last argument.

As the author I was clear what they were going to say and how it would end.

What really happened is that I’m crouched behind a bush, listening to these two people I know unfold themselves in front of me.

Until the argument began. It simply doesn’t go to plan. Until several pages later I realise it’s something I always wanted to be brought into the open. It’s even more confronting as its something I don’t think can be resolved. Obviously I need to write some more about that.

So Jessie Cole is right, writing fiction isn’t safe at all.

But upon reflection, neither is blogging. I just think its a safer. To begin with, I ‘m writing about people I meet and things that happen to me. I can choose to leave things in or exclude what doesn’t make me feel comfortable. But…

Upon re-reading and reflection, even that isn’t safe. Unwittingly I have exposed thoughts and feelings and emotions that I wouldn’t shout out in a crowd. I need to write some more about that.




Shoals and Reefs : Self Publishing with Euan Mitchell


Self Publishing

Literally I clicked the email link and found what I was looking for. A presentation by Euan Mitchell on self- publishing.

But it seemed too late in the afternoon to make it.

So I clicked again to book a place. Booked it.

I arrive at St Michael’s Annexe in Melbourne just after 6 o’clock.

Writers funnily enough seem to be a quiet crowd. Everyone is waiting and expectant. Euan Mitchell appears and lightens the room with a cartoon: every one in the room has a book in them (or needs it surgically removed). Finally someone understands me.

His presentation is about his self-publishing journey. Despite being in the publishing industry himself, he found it no advantage to publishing his own manuscript. That starts to confirm my worst-held fears.

He outlines the shoals and reefs that he had to navigate through and in doing so makes a map for all of us. He passes on quite a few tips and sage advice (see also Q&A with Euan Mitchell and this document) about publishers, editors, printers, agents and advertisers.

He mentions that many manuscripts aren’t published, many books don’t sell and many authors aren’t rich. For some reason I’m less pessimistic. Besides some stories just need to be told.


The Story Begins

The best option but the most difficult option appears to be self-publishing. One of his recommendations is to use people around you who know books. Suddenly two names pop into my head. This is getting better.

He suggests starting slowly and creating a network using social and existing media. And write. Better get to that.

He also has a book (self published) which summarises his ideas available from his web site.

There are questions at the end. I ask mine and get an encouraging answer. And after that all I want to do is write.