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Posts tagged ‘KSP Writers’ Centre’

What do you need in order to write?


Use whatever works for you

The author William Faulkner famously said that the tools he needed for his work were paper, tobacco, food and a little whiskey.

Among the authors I know, chocolate would be high on the list. Music, depending on what works for you – it doesn’t for me. I can’t write to music that has or had words. The nearest I can come is the formless “new age” type of music which I find very useful in freeing the muse. Yet just as many writers like to prepare a playlist related to a particular book, assembling the music on an iPod for easy access.

Then there are what I call rituals. These are the steps you find yourself taking automatically, to settle yourself and the muse down to write.

Morning pages

In “The Artist’s Way”, Julia Cameron recommended writing a few pages every morning about anything that comes to your mind, not necessarily to do with the work in progress. These morning pages can be a freeing-up activity if they work for you.

Rituals can be more mundane, such as tidying the desk, lighting scented candles or playing a game, although the latter should be done to a strict timetable or the writing session can fly by without a word being written. Voice of experience? Now why would you think that? <vbg> Just because I had to banish all forms of Solitaire off my desktop and laptop…

Do you need a particular pen for note-taking, a special colour of scribble pad, or a lucky charm? Make sure you keep them handy.


A sense of place

Sometimes a particular place gets you into the writing mindset. For some it can be the local coffee shop. For J K Rowling, it was a hotel room where she finished the last volume in the Harry Potter series. When I was Established Writer in Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre in the Perth hills, I had access to Katharine’s writing studio in the gardens. I even wrote a Tanka (Japanese lyric poem) to mark the experience:

In Katharine’s studio

I search for words.

Pine cones clatter

On to metal roof.

Awakening my muse.

Do you even know what would awaken your muse? The best way to find out is by experimenting. Try writing at different times and in different places. When you discover what works best, keep that time and place sacred and try to write there every day at the same time. Play with scented candles, music, lucky charms, until one or more “click with you, then keep them close by when you’re settling down to write.

Creative writing is not a nine-to-five activity. It’s an art form and requires respect and nurturing. May the muse be with you.


friend of the National Year of Reading 2012

 Australia Day Ambassador 2013

on Twitter @valerieparv

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You’re a writer, you can dash something off

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

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