Where to start? I know, place and time! I’ll start there.
It’s a wet Wednesday, I’m sitting in St Kilda Library scratching my head. It’s exactly 10.51am according to my laptop, and I’m browsing the back catalogue of my mind, looking for inspiration. The hum of the air-conditioner in the corner interrupts me but I soldier on, turning my attention to the job at hand. I always wanted to be a kick-ass writer. Someone like Truman Capote. Be persistently inventive, and write with clarity and regularity. A famous writer with superhero kapow! The caped crusader of the literary world. After all, the pen is mightier than the sword! To quote politician and playwright, Edward Bulwer-Lytton!
Like a coin-operated jukebox, my mind shuffles from one idea to the next. But my stylus never lands on vinyl. Nothing plays. Well, not today anyway. A gentleman squirms, as a baby cries behind me, pulling my focus away from the keyboard and starting this story. Rejection, I decide as I stare at the grey library walls, makes an ordinary writer great. I mean, you can’t have love without hate, can you? Or happiness without grief? And you can’t be a good writer without first being rejected! I fidget in my seat and type a bit, as I relive my last experience with rejection.
“It’s shit! And believe me, I’ve read a lot of shit. But this…this is really shit, Mr Anderson!”
“Thanks. It’s the first draft. I’ll keep working on it,” I smile and flick a piece of snot at the publisher’s desktop. He doesn’t see it land.
Of course, I’ve been rejected a trillion times. But does rejection make me a better writer or a persistently bad one? Oh, I know…I know exactly what you must be thinking! This try-hard writer needs a therapist. Well, I did have one, and he told me that “Writing” would be my salvation. “You must surrender to your imagination and simply write,” he said. “Write with purpose and passion. In the cold years and dark days, writing will be your viagra. Your saviour! Trust me!” I did trust him…but he lied. I type a little more. Do you see my predicament? I’ve lost the urge, I need something more now that I’m older. Can writing be ageist, I wonder?
Then I see it, written on the emblem hanging on the wall. The words, Aura – Favente – Feror. It’s a sign for sure, probably from God. It means, a breeze to help carry and support. I guess that’s what writing does, it supports us through the lows of life. Well, those who can be bothered to write regularly.
“I’ve seen you around. What do you do then?”
“Oh, I’m a writer, who simply must write!”
“Must you? Really? How often do your write?”
“It’s a good party, isn’t it? I write when I can,” I answered.
“But how often is my question?” He drinks his beer. “Once a month, twice a week, how often?”
“I only ask, because successful writers need to practice more than just when they can. Everyone knows that!”
At parties, I’m asked, “what kind of stuff do you write?” These well-meaning strangers seem to want to pigeonhole me and homogenize me like fruit in a blender. But this banana refuses to be reduced and liquefied in this way. I usually answer by saying, “I can’t be pigeonholed. My imagination won’t be pickled, put in a jar and locked away in the kitchen cupboard for later. Creatively needs freedom to grow.” Then I add, “I won’t be labelled. By the way, owning a creative mind is something you know fucking nothing about!” Sometimes, not always, they’ll finish their beer, excuse themselves, and head off to the toilet. But sometimes, they fight back!
“Well, if your imagination is that good, how come you’re at this lousy party in Fitzroy? Why aren’t you working in Hollywood? Writing film scripts for Paramount?” It’s a very good question, I agree. “Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer just at this moment,” is usually my reply.
Well, then…what makes a good writer? In my opinion, it’s the writer who takes risks, writes with clarity and isn’t frightened to offend. A good writer doesn’t seek approval from strangers at parties, they seek feedback about their work. A good writer is a great editor. They are focused and never afraid of going it alone. French playwright Moliere famously said after a few stiff drinks, “Writing is like prostitution. First, you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.” Hmm? I guess two out of three isn’t bad!
To be honest, I don’t know many kick-ass writers making money. That’s why I prefer Moliere’s other quote, although it’s not exclusively about writing. It goes something like this, “We die only once, and for such a long time.” Touché! That makes perfect sense. I must write while I can, while I’ve got time on my side. You’ve got to admire the French I thought, as I packed away my computer and left the library. They know how to make love, and that’s a good place to end a writer’s lament 😢
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