I have a very special guest today, one well known to almost every female writer in this country through her work as Historical Fiction Editor with the Australian Women Writers Challenge. You couldn’t find a bigger advocate or a more generous supporter of Australian women writers.
Normally, Theresa is the host of guest posts by other writers on her blog, but today she’s the guest on this blog. Her piece reminds us that there are many different ways of writing and that not all of them involve writing books.
‘Does being a blogger make me any less of a writer than when I was a novelist? Absolutely not.’
Theresa Smith is a writer, avid reader, keen reviewer, book collector, drinker of all tea blends originating from Earl Grey, and modern history enthusiast. She enjoys reading many genres but has a particular interest in historical fiction. As I noted above, Theresa is the Historical Fiction Editor with the Australian Women Writers Challenge.
The Bend in my Writing Road
Five years ago I wrote a novel. I had taken six months off from working while my family settled into a new town and I found myself irresistibly drawn to the keyboard, the words flying out faster than my fingers could type them. It wasn’t the first novel I had ever written; I wrote the first one while I was at university and it was terrible. Truly, it was. But this one was different, it seemed like a real story and if we fast forward to now, five published novels later, suffice to say it was real enough. Over the years I’ve had countless rejections, a couple of offers of publication that have either fallen through or been declined by myself, and many requests for full manuscripts. In the end, I self-published each novel because that’s what worked for me at the time. Each of my novels have received great reviews and while I’ve made very little money from them, this was in line with my expectations.
Towards the end of last year, I had a nearly finished fifth novel that was just awaiting a final edit and the bare bones of a sixth novel taking shape within a notebook. I had achieved so much in such a short amount of time and while on the one hand I was thrilled with what I had done, on the other, I began to feel this inexplicable barrier between myself and my keyboard. I would sit in front of it and just stare at it, not typing a single thing. I had plenty to write, ideas and words tumbling around in my head; this wasn’t writer’s block. More and more I avoided sitting down to write. In the end I had to force myself to finish the final edits on my novel, working for seventeen hours straight while my family was away on a fishing trip. I cried when I finished, not because I had finally done it and overcome whatever it was that had been holding me back. No, I cried because even though I had finished, I knew I was still a way from being completely done with it in terms of having it published and released, completely off my hands. I never wanted to work on it again but to leave it would have be an utter waste and it is, I will now acknowledge, the best novel I’ve ever written.
‘I bowed out and gave myself permission to write differently. I have never regretted this for a single moment.’
I couldn’t understand why I had such a sudden aversion to writing. Over the entire Christmas summer holiday break, usually my peak writing time, I wrote one paragraph and then deleted it. I drew up a timeline of events and wrote up the character profiles for my new novel and then stuffed the notebook into a drawer. Any time I thought of working on it I felt overwhelmed. I felt the loss deeply but could do nothing to overcome it. In the end, instead of fighting against the barrier and feeling increasingly overwhelmed, I just gave into it. I bowed out and gave myself permission to write differently. I have never regretted this for a single moment.
I joined the Australian Women Writers team as the editor for Historical Fiction, set up my own blog and began to review books on it, slowly expanding to author interviews and reflective essays. I write all the time again, every day, and I love it and thrive on the creativity that I am experiencing. I studied journalism at university but then left it behind in favour of a different career path, but this year I’ve rediscovered my love of feature writing. I can write whatever I like, publish it to my blog, and then move on to the next piece of writing. The barrier is gone and so is the crushing weight of feeling overwhelmed each time I sit down to write. In giving myself permission to write the way I want, I’ve created a new writing life for myself that I absolutely love. I am a blogger now, no longer a novelist, and I am happy, creative, and extremely satisfied. Blogging has taken the isolation away from my writing and replaced it with a community of readers and writers who are just as keen as I am to talk about books morning, noon, and night. Does being a blogger make me any less of a writer than when I was a novelist?
Absolutely not. Follow your writing dreams. Give yourself permission to write what you really want to write. And above all, write for yourself. The rest will all fall into place.