During the last month while I’ve been Established Writer-in-Residence at Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in Perth, I’ve discussed craft and lifestyle issues with writers working in many different fields. One experience we all have trouble with is when non writers assume that because your job is to put words together, you can do it at the drop of a hat.
Birthday cards and get-well cards are the most trying
We might not even know the person the card is intended for. Yet we’re still expected to come up with something witty to make the card sparkle.
Roses are red, violets are blue,
Get well or not, it’s all up to you.
Um…no. “Just dash something off.”
Susan O’Brien, a delightful and talented poet I met at Poets@KSP, said she was also told, “It doesn’t matter if the poem doesn’t rhyme.” The person asking had no idea what kind of poetry Susan writes. Didn’t matter. Just dash something off. It’s not that we don’t want to help, but it’s as difficult as anyone else would have demonstrating their trade on a whim.
Would you approach a doctor at a social gathering
and request a note for your employer?
It doesn’t matter if I’m sick or not, just dash something off. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Yet writers are constantly asked to supply original words to suit any occasion. “Don’t spend any time on it, whatever you do will be fine.” Would that our editors were equally agreeable.
Just call me Hallmark
More often than not, I agonise over words, reaching for exactly the right phrases to capture a thought or feeling. Or strive to describe a character’s situation so vividly that a reader lives it, rather than reading about it. It’s not unusual for writers to read over the previous day’s work, delete the lot of it and start again.
When I wrote my first novels, I was still a freelance writer of non fiction books and articles. Yet I managed to write five books over two years. When I decided to write novels exclusively, I looked forward to seeing my output soar. Guess what? I still wrote two to three novels a year. By then I’d used up all the plots I’d carried around in my head, and much of my own experiences. And my expectations for myself had risen.
The writing gets harder, not easier as you demand more of yourself
The act of putting the words together was less scary because I knew I could do it. But what was I to write about? The terror of the blank screen or page haunts every writer I know. I believe we write to see IF we can do it. Every book is a first book. New challenges, new pitfalls.
Roses are red, violets are…
azure, beryl, cerulean, cobalt, indigo, navy, royal, sapphire, teal, turquoise, ultramarine
Nope, no dashing off happening here. What about you?
Established Writer in Residence, Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Perth
And dashing posts off on Twitter @valerieparv