What I learned at the Emerging Writers Festival

What I learned at the Emerging Writers Festival

A while back I talked at the Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne. The event was timed perfectly with the launch of my first book (I still love saying that), but this also meant that I hadn’t really had any head space for the festival before I physically turned up.

I’ve never attended anything like this before, either as a speaker or a listener, so didn’t know what to expect. But I guess I thought that I was going to pass on a little wisdom about crowdfunding. What I didn’t expect was how much wisdom I’d glean from the other speakers.

I didn’t attend that many sessions but the ones that I did had a profound effect on me. They evoked a wiggling worm can of emotions, starting with a huge funk on the first day after comparing myself to the very successful and clever Emily Maguire. The next day, my mojo returned and I was inspired after listening to the panel discussion on ‘Seven things I wish I’d known about writing’. Later still, I was sent on another downer after a particularly depressing panel session about post publishing. I finished with elation after my own speaking event and all the positive feedback. Phew!

I met and listened to some very interesting and inspiring people who had lots to say that was really worth hearing. So here are a few things I took away from the festival:

Self publishing is not a dirty word

You can feel a little bit of a poor relation when your little self-published book is sitting on a table next to some glossy mainstream tome. But a book is a book and just because someone else’s is mainstream published doesn’t necessarily mean people are going to like it more than yours.

Trying to please everyone is stupid

I’ve struggled with the fact that although my ego wants to write the next Life of Pi, my heart is drawn towards young adult fiction. I wanted to impress, for everyone to admire my writing. But I’ve come to realise that, fundamentally, I’m writing for me. I have to write something I enjoy writing and ultimately reading. If people like it, then great. If not, then at least I’ve stayed true to myself. This goes hand in hand with ‘Only write what you are passionate about’.

You don’t need to write full time

Most writers dream of a time when they can sit at their computer undisturbed for days at end. And I too have thought, “Well, I’ll start writing as soon as I have more time”. But the reality is, there never will be more time. I have to carve out chunks of writing time when I can. And in all honesty, my best creating doesn’t happen when I sit staring at the computer screen for 12 hours, but when I manage to jot something down just before my son gets up, or when I’m walking the dog on the beach.

Beware the post-publishing come-down

I’ve yet to experience this, but I can understand that after I’ve spent possibly two or more years writing a book and it finally gets published (I’m being optimistic here) there will be a certain sense of sadness. It’s good to be prepared and have a next project.

Writers write all sorts of things

Again I’ve often wondered if I should focus on one type of writing: poetry, plays, TV, film or novels. Or at least pick a genre and stop jumping from comedy to drama. But, quite frankly, I don’t want to! I like the variety. I get different things out of each type of writing and at this stage in my writing career I have no need to pigeonhole myself.

Other writers are your friends

Rather than seeing other writers as your enemies and envying their success, see them as your friends, your inspiration and, if you’re lucky, your mentors. There is enough success to go around.

Writers read

The consensus was that you can’t really be a writer unless you’re a bookworm. I firmly agree.

You don’t have to publish a book to be a writer

I definitely feel more like a ‘real writer’ since I’ve published a book, but in reality that’s my ego talking. I’ve been writing since I was six; I write every day. I simply cannot not write. But my book is not the only writing that counts. The thousands of blogs, short stories, articles, plays, poems and even emails that I’ve written are all WRITING, even though they’re only seen by a (relatively) tiny audience.

Writers write

Instead of telling people you’re a writer, BE a writer. Actually sit down and write something. The more you write, the more confident you’ll feel calling yourself a writer.

You’ll never write the perfect book

Striving for perfection is great, but it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your writing and just getting on with it. If you wrote the perfect book, would you ever write anything again? Writing is a process of constant development and it never ends!

Some of the writers that I especially enjoyed listening to include:

This is just a tiny snippet of all the thoughts buzzing in my head. It was a lot to take in and to digest. While I agree 100% with all the comments above, I also agreed with the advice that nearly every writer gave: Find your own path. There is no right way to write. Go with your heart (and a little bit of your head) and, even if you never make it to the best-seller list, you’re going to be happy with your writing life.

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