What I know about writing

When Sarah from That Space In Between mentioned she was starting a fortnightly What I Know About series and the first would be writing, I thought, Oh crap. That means I have to think of something to write. I can’t write…

What I know about writing is that sometimes the perfectionism of the true got-it-in-the-blood writer can so stifle the creative flow that they just… stop. Hit a wall. Freeze like a bunny in headlights.

The passion and need to write has always been in me. It’s a little-known fact that my first book was self-published and in the school library by the time I was eleven. Dad brought home a very special machine from work called a computer and told me that whatever I typed using the DOS-prompt screen could be printed out onto continuous-feed paper. Witchcraft!

My bestie at the time, Kirsty, had equal billing on the dust jacket. She provided the word, ‘virtually’ – a word her Dad suggested, a word we knew we HAD to use to be taken seriously as writers, a word that we both scrambled to the dictionary to find (was it spelled, ‘virchally’ or ‘vircherally’, and… what did it mean?). She also provided a real life pony as subject matter. See, the book was about a graceful horse named Tinnell (with the emphasis on the ‘ell’, not the Tin, as both my brothers used to infuriatingly get wrong), a horse who could talk. A direct rip-off of a combination of Mister Ed the TV series and Phar Lap, a movie I was enamoured with at the time, “Tinnell, the Thundering Lass” was sometimes confused for that other classic, Black Beauty. I know. Esteemed company.

Our parents encouraged and humoured us, the suggestion of a trip to the eastern suburbs office of Penguin Books was even entertained and I received a very encouraging rejection letter (awwww, my first! I should have it framed for posterity), probably from some office kid who was assigned the task of letting me down gently so as not to crush my ambition to one day be published.

I moved on from novel writing in high school to writing for the debate team. Now you really want to stuff my head down a toilet and call me a library lover, don’t you?

Look, I could give bullet-point tips that I come up with (or source and cite from elsewhere) but for me, writing has always been about passion. Expression. It is, quite literally, my lifeblood. With no fewer than three published authors in my family from generations past, how can it not be? When I read the letters of my great-great-great-great grandfather, Spencer, or the letters of my (unrelated to Spencer) great-grandfather, Edward, and the beautifully expressive way they both write to their wives, to name just two people in the family tree we are extremely lucky to learn a little about via their own words, I see that same passion. The same desire to express. And neither of these two people were the published authors.

When it’s in the blood, you don’t need How To Write tips and pointers. I don’t know how to start telling someone How To Write… it seems almost oxymoronic. But if there is just one thing I can impart that speaks to the one thing I appreciate about reading others’ writing, and the best gift a writer can give me, it is to truly


Write like nobody is going to read it


Have you written like no one is reading lately? Really?


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