Is writing a lonely business?

Perhaps the answer to this question depends on the day you ask the writer. The answer could be a bit Cadbury’s … half full, half empty.

Today I’m going to argue that writing is not a solo sport.

You may have noticed that I really can’t draw … Those gorgeous leaves and quills and drips of ink are hand-drawn by artist Jessie Tucker. The clunky stuff that accompanies my fortnightly blogs? That’s me! I excelled myself this week, don’t you think? It actually looks a bit like a pair of hands.

The hand-drawn, home-made feel to my website and branding is important — something authentic and warm, yet skilled and artful. At the moment I can’t afford to pay an artist to illustrate each fortnightly blog. So I draw the thumbnails that go beside the words and hope no one looks too closely. In an attempt to blend my scribbling with Jessie’s art, Husband Tim sets up a little studio and photographs my drawings. Everything looks better in the right light!

I don’t mind showing my clunkiness. I think it’s important to ‘start where you are’ — in drawing, writing, surfing, public speaking, gaming, etc. As Clare Bowditch rightly says, ‘We do not come out fully formed; allow yourself an apprenticeship’.

Just how many collaborations do you have in your life?

In a recent blog post, colleague David Brewster wrote about how helping others can shift writer’s block. The chatting through of an issue, the playing around with ideas, this collaboration, often lends perspective to the mystery. A little bit like kids in the school yard, one idea builds to another and another and before you know it you have this huge cubby that starts at the base of the sappy old Macrocarpa and spreads across every single branch.

My website and branding were created by a combination of Jessie Tucker and Fiona Brand. I’ve long outsourced transcribing of interviews. My proofreading is regularly completed by Heather Kelly and I’ve just brought Richard Holt into the A story to tell team. His eye for a good story, his compassionate feedback and his own writing and editing skills make him the perfect fit. Already, he’s enjoyed engaging with a Young Adult manuscript and a poem. These are areas in which I can learn from him.

Of course, A story to tell … is all about collaboration. We work with writers and people with big ideas to turn those ideas into stories and, when they’re ready, send them into the world. Whether it’s tweaking the important pages of a financial planner’s website, developing a crime-fiction manuscript or adding the final touches to a hearty memoir, we collaborate to bring forth the best writing that person, this combination, has to offer.

During the early drafts of writing my novel, I remember feeling happily introverted. I wrote every weekday for two years, drawing on my growing capacity to find the story without actually knowing where I was going or what I was doing. Looking back I reckon I experienced flow regularly, at least weekly, often daily, because I created the conditions without even trying.

I also called on classmates at RMIT’s Professional Writing and Editing, workshopping mates and trusted readers who I knew would tell it to me straight. And, mostly, they made it fun. Life is too short and the feedback process to important for it to be wrought. It’s scary enough without your collaborators being fierce or fickle or fearful. Recently I received feedback that was accompanied by the line, ‘My feedback is always brutally honest’. It made me wonder … why the brutal? Why not simply honest?

You may not agree. You might feel you need the sound of a cracking whip. If you do, I’d love to hear from you. My next post is about feedback — the giving and receiving. I’d love your perspective on this most intense and necessary form of collaboration to add to the wisdom of Words Pouring.

 

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