Monday, June 24, 2013
I’m glad that Craig Silvey didn’t adopt that approach. Jasper Jones wouldn’t have been as good if he hadn’t first written Rhubarb. That was the part I had missed, the problem with taking advice given as an aside to a third party, there was no conversation, no depth. What I missed in the meantime was working on the Craft of writing. The mundane, the practical, the ‘how to’ part. That came later, and was harder for having laid down tools so long. Michelangelo didn’t sculpt the David the first time he played with marble. It’s a long journey, to get better, to get it right, and to get it right for your personal style. The good news however is that you can start over. But I didn’t start again when I hit twenty five. What have I got to write about? Nothing yet, I thought. Then in 1999 I swapped my legal career for a two year working holiday visa starting in London. The time out had street cred; I would be able to reapply to firms upon my return, and they would see the break as a positive, a chance to broaden my horizons. It was a permitted time out. Little did I know, I wouldn’t return to law. Nor that my planned two year time out would stretch to six. I thought of Dahl’s advice, and for the first two and a half months I kept a diary. All my life I’d kept brief diaries, but for the first time this was more of a journal, with long details of places, people and shenangins. Then, abruptly, I stopped. I was too busy having fun to write down the fun I was having. The irony. For years I’d avoided getting into a writing routine because I had nothing to write about; then once I did have plenty to write about, I was having too much fun to care. I had no ingrained writing habit, I had developed no routine, and my best intentions fell away all too soon. I wrote a few long emails to people about all the things I was doing, and soon noticed how few replied. I hadn’t yet realised that noone wants to get detailed travel journal emails. That’s the beauty of postcards, at least the egocentric hyperbole is limited to one half of an A6 piece of card. I wrote letters home and nothing more. Then, in January 2000, Something Happened. At last, a pivotal moment, a life event that gave me something special to write about. I got a job with Contiki in Europe. Making it first through an interview process that was like an interrogation, then a tough six week training camp, I was sent out on a six week tour with another first time driver – and made lots of mistakes. On paper the tour went fine, we went to all the places listed in the itinerary, but by the end the group was in-fighting and everyone was happy for it to be over, me most of all. I hoped my second tour would enable me to prove myself. Even though it was another six weeker, this time in tents, and even though we had theft, bodily injury, bitchfights, nudity, and a hospital emergency, the difference was that this group gelled. We finished the tour ‘happily sad’ – sad it was over, because it had been so much fun. From there I had shorter tours, fun, and loved every minute of it, even the challenge of dealing with the things that went wrong. Most of all I loved the camaraderie that could develop within a group, and relished my role in developing the vibe. I was hooked on being a tour manager, and I was hooked on Europe as well. When I came back to Australia it took me over a month to become normal again. Getting some sleep, and avoiding alcohol and people, were godsends. When I finally started to socialise again, I regaled people with stories of dramas and disasters from tour. Unlike my emails which were ignored, the stories were a hit. Tell me more’, friends would say. Are you going to write this down?’ asked a friend Nicole, who knew I liked to write. 'I think I will.’ I sat down and typed for a month. I came up with fifty pages of single spaced lines. All the major events that had happened in that first year of touring were there, written down while still fresh in mind. I had a plan. I’d do this at the end of every season, then write it up in a book. It’s interesting to me that it is only now, years later, that I can see the flaw in my reasoning. I’d long told anyone who would listen that I was only doing Contiki for two years. I didn’t want to spend too long away from the career ladder, and two years on top of my year in London would mean a three year career gap. So how could I write at the end of ‘every season’ if I was only going to do it for one more year? My subconscious was telling me something that I couldn't yet admit - I wasn't going to return home anytime soon. I was hooked on touring. I had become - ahem - a Road Wench.
Monday, June 17, 2013
HOW I WROTE ROAD WENCH ‘Write what you know’. Good advice. As a writer, knowledge of a subject enables you to write with authority and thus believability. Research may well be required to ensure authenticity, but knowing your subject matter already gives you a heads up on the rest. I’d always wanted to write something. The only problem was – what? I loved writing at school, but like so many people writing for enjoyment dropped away as I headed to university, swamped with assignments and more inclined to use my free time for more sociable pursuits. I moved from university into law, and the available free time reduced considerably. It didn’t bother me, as I was waiting. Surely something interesting would happen? Something that would be worth writing about. I also had another piece of advice that I had latched onto. When my sister was in Grade 7, her class won the MS Readathon Challenge. Their prize was a daytrip from their country school to Perth, and they got to meet author Roald Dahl. I was beside myself in envy. ‘It’s not fair. I’m the one who wants to be a writer,’ I whined to my mother – who, I might add, got to accompany my sister and was immune to my pleas. My sister returned, somewhat underwhelmed. ‘How was he?’ I asked, full of anticipation. Okay I guess. He was a bit grumpy.’ That took the air out of my balloon. Somewhat deflated, I picked up when mum chimed in. ‘I told him my other daughter wanted to be a writer, and asked him for his advice.’ What did he say?’ I asked, once again transfixed. He said don’t bother writing anything until you’re 25.’ Mystified but grateful, I took that snippet of advice, and used it as my get-out clause. Sure, I wanted to be a writer, but it was okay, there was no point writing anything. Roald Dahl had said so. I have a tendency to over-analyse, so I pondered on the nugget of advice and its multitude of meanings. Surely he meant that you don’t know anything about life until a quarter of a century on the planet? I decided that was it. I proceeded to live my life without giving writing another thought. After all, I was doing one of the most important things – research.