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.

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§ 4 Responses to Prompted by the Panels

  • susie says:

    Good post Laura. I spoke to Richard Watts when we had to do that thing in whatever that subject was where we organised panels (in third year). And you know we had to do work experience and find mentors or something? God that seems like so long ago. Richard was really helpful for me, he had good advice about getting started in the arts/writing/media/radio industry. I also remember Penny being particularly knowledgeable.

    You’re right, it’s really important to remember to create as well as write things. I think that if you want to write properly you have to treat it like a job. (As Adrian would definitely say). I would love to be able to work on writing full time like we did with our thesis, but writing that I actually enjoy, like poetry or maybe start work on a novel or something. These things are what make me consider going back to university.

    I too get caught up in the stats and followers part of it. I sometimes get really invested in how many page views my blogs have, how many people subscribe to our feeds or how many people like that post. But it doesn’t seem like I am actively engaging with the audience that I am relying on a lot. So, I am going to attempt to be more engaged with people and write more posts where I engage and link back to people and just sort of nurture my networks more. For instance, commenting on people’s blogs ; )

    On a different note entirely, it’s so weird to think that it’s been over six months since our thesis were done and dusted. I feel strange about that.

    • The Prattler says:

      I can’t believe that we’ve been done with Honours for over six months, Susie! But then again, it feels like things have stagnated slightly since then, so maybe six months is believable.

      As far as the stats and followers stuff goes, I’m trying to think a little more “multiplatform” so the different spheres meet in the middle a bit better. But this space, for the time being, needs most of my attention. I like your ideas for nurturing your networks more. They make a lot of sense. It’s just the amount of work involved is a little overwhelming. Still, if you want something…

      Side note: really liked one of your more recent Tumblr notes about the two dialogues you had in one day! Your style makes me envious. 😛

  • […] signalled my first confident foray into doing stuff on my own. One of those things was attending a couple of Emerging Writers Festival events. While there, I purchased The Emerging Writer, the festival’s official publication made up of […]

  • […] year, I attended a couple of Industry Insider panels run by the Emerging Writers Festival, and this year I was back […]

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