It’s a new year (in case you missed that memo) and to some degree I feel like a new me. Nothing terribly dramatic; I’ve just had three weeks of leave and a feel reinvigorated towards my writing in a way that I haven’t in a while.
There are a number of contributing factors for this surge of creativity and focus. Firstly, a little holiday never goes astray. We drove to Sydney for a week before Christmas and it was just right. The first time I’d been up the coast road (The Great Alpine Road and then up along the south coast of NSW), I was blown away at how beautiful that part of Australia is. We stayed overnight at Merimbula at a motel that had an amazing view and had fish and chips on the beach.
There was a week of catching up with friends and family and handing out Christmas gifts at every stop. Books, Books and more Books. I might have mentioned this before, but my nieces and nephews have taken to calling me Uncle Books. I won’t lie, it’s a title I bear with pride. One thing that made me exceptionally happy, was that my eldest niece, aged nine, had spontaneously decided one day that she wanted to write a story. As she was seeing Uncle Books before Christmas, she wanted to show it to me. Delightful! It was a great story in the style of a fairy tale/fable and had a very cheeky narrator. It made me grin ceaselessly.
Post-Christmas and home again, we had two weeks of nothing. I am a big fan of the ‘Staycation’. It gives me a chance to catch up on all those little (nerdish) jobs I’ve been wanting to do for a while: Sort this, organise that, tidy up the catalogued database of our books/DVDs/CDs. You know, the important stuff.
I had time to write. I was able to finish a (very rough) re-write of a middle fiction manuscript that had been plaguing me for ages. For nearly two months I’d been stuck with the last 5000 words to write and just not knowing what to do with them. The whole things a mess, but at least it’s a complete mess. It’s now in the bottom draw to be looked at down the line.
I also had time to read. Top of the list was to catch up on my Victorian Writer magazines. I get them thanks to my membership to Writers Victoria, gifted to me last year. This was such a great gift, I have given it to myself again, renewing my membership. Foolishly, as the magazines arrive in the mail, they’d been opened and added to the pile at my bedside, but as I’d always been reading something else or starting another book, I never got around to picking one up. I have just read a year’s worth in quick succession and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t read them as they came in. They give me so much to think about. Practical advice, short fiction/non-fiction to inspire, and classifieds and opportunities that, alas, have expired due to my tardiness. From now on, they will be read, cover to cover, on the day I receive them.
One side effect of getting inspired from reading them, is that my mind won’t shut down once I turn off the light. When brain and body don’t agree on when it’s time for sleep. But it’s nothing that can’t be managed, and the ideas light the dark like Near Years fireworks. Therefore, I have had some inspiration for short stories (I’ve never had a whole lot of luck with short stories, most of my ideas come to me in novel form). And while I think one particular short story needs some work to function as a short story, the voice was there. It was so exciting and felt very different to when I’d written before.
That same voice can be applied to the re-write I’m about to do to my YA manuscript. The story was an offshoot from the novel. So now, with the Text Prize to act as both carrot and stick, I can get stuck into that. It’s been over three months since I last worked on it, so I now feel ready, armed with my new voice and a bit of clarity on how to improve it. I read this great article this morning by Max Barry. While I’m not working on a first draft, it was an important reminder that there’s always room for more editing, and that it can be a joy when you’re convinced it will make your work better.
So, if you will excuse me, I’m off to rewrite my manuscript and have it ready for submission in less than six weeks.
I hope you all had happy and relaxing and/or productive holiday seasons.