Prompted by the Panels
May 29, 2012 § 4 Comments
I’ve just spent my second consecutive night at an Emerging Writers’ Festival Industry Insider event and if I don’t write something down soon, I fear this feeling will be lost, never to be found again. I’d almost forgotten what being inspired felt like. I did have a similar experience after the Melbourne Writers Festival last year. I remember coming away from that completely convinced that if I put in the hard yards, I could do something with this writing thing. At the time, that meant me writing more regularly, and now, unfortunately it means the same. What was gained then? Was my short-lived motivation merely that, short-lived?
To be fair, at the time, I was writing frequently, only it wasn’t the kind of writing I necessarily wanted to be doing, or that I even considered writing; I was writing my thesis. There’s a part of me that has, though not always at a conscious level, considered academic writing an inferior writing form, as if it was somehow a less truthful mode of expression. My reasons for thinking this aren’t completely clear to me, but I suspect it has something to do with how restrictive I find the academic writing framework, but that’s something I’ll get more reflective about another time.
Back to the Industry Insider panel discussions! I intended to summarise the two sessions, Emerging Critics and Emerging Editors in individual posts, but that process tends to get a bit dry, despite the sessions being anything but, so I’ll just stick to relaying a few things that really resonated with me.
At yesterday’s Emerging Critics panel, Kerryn Goldsworthy said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that while the internet has made it much easier to potentially get your writing out there, it is important that you care more about your writing than the networking and don’t get distracted by it. I’m the first to admit, I’ve fallen victim to Twitter’s seductive ways. I’ve convinced myself that reblogging articles about writing is just as good as writing.
It’s research, right?
Oh, what a fool I was. Am? I haven’t quite decided yet.
I’ve become obsessed with the number of followers I have and panic when a few mysteriously vanish, even though they’re probably only spam accounts anyway. I’ve reached a point where I care more about what’s happening within the confines of the Twittersphere than what’s not happening at my desk. Needless to say, Kerryn’s comment was the reality check I needed.
In the same session, Richard Watts explained that reviewing is more than saying what you did or didn’t like about a work. It’s about identifying what did and didn’t work and why. Being able to argue your perspective is something that came up several times during the evening. It’s not enough to pass a judgement, you have to be able to back it up by way of explanation. By all means, be honest, but also be fair to your reader and the maker of the work.
Tonight, it was the editors’ turn to impart some wisdom. A lot of the advice had to do with dealing with writers and how to make the experience of editing someone’s work a pleasant one for all involved. I particularly liked what Penny Modra said about the style of writing they publish at The Thousands. Pieces are sent back with suggestions for edits if they aren’t written in a style similar to your speaking voice. If you wouldn’t say it, don’t write it.
Obviously, that’s not a rule that can be applied to all types of writing, but I couldn’t help but consider this approach in relation to my own writing. I don’t think I have a voice yet, or rather I don’t have my voice yet. The one I use everyday. The voice that’s not always serious. Integrating more of myself into my writing and letting the walls down a bit is something I have to work on.
Unfortunately, I can’t make it to the remaining Industry Insider panels this week, but they both look really useful so if you have the time, do make an effort to get to an event, whether it be a panel or another of the festival events. You can’t help but feel a little inspired afterwards.