What I learnt at EWF

Photo via EWF on Facebook
I’ve always believed that I could be a writer. More than, that I’ve always believed, quite stoically, that I was going to be a writer. For years I’ve been able to stubbornly ignore all those people who wanted to tell me how hard it was going to be, how little money I would earn, how unemployed I was likely to be and resolutely solider on.
Sitting in the audience at the Emerging Writer’s Festival opening night gala last Thursday I realised that for the first time in my life all that stubborn belief wasn’t enough. For the first time, in my life I was scared.
This year I finish university. That means that next year is the real thing. I’m going to leave, after all those times I’ve talked about staying, and move to the city. And then I’m going to try and be neither unemployed nor miserable. I’m going to be a writer, full time, after all those years of dreaming about it.
When, at the age of 10, I decided I wanted to be a writer, it felt less like a choice and more like a revelation. There have been many times since then that I’ve wished I could change my mind. If only I could be a teacher or a doctor or a research biologist (which my high school biology teacher insisted I’d be great at) and still be happy. But I’ve always known that a writer is what I am, for better or for worse.
Oddly though, I’ve felt less like a writer in the last six months than I have for a very long time. I’m working at a magazine two days a week and I’ve just finished writing a 40 minute play. I am writing. And yet the dream feels further away than it has since I was 15. Lately, leaving uni and falling into a job that I love, feels impossible. Where’s that stubbornness? Where’s that ridiculous belief I’ve always had that if I try really, really hard I’ll get there?
Lately all my starry eyed optimism has tarnished.
I’ve wanted to come to the Emerging Writer’s Festival for years. But it took my boyfriend ringing me in late December and saying he’d found some crazy cheap flights to actually get me there. I’m glad he pushed me. In amongst the flurry of assignments for uni and deadlines at work, this weekend has been a tiny haven to help me remember the things that matter.
That sounds corny but I’m too tired to think beyond clichés. Somewhere amid the bustle of life I think I’ve forgotten some of the things that make me happy. I’ve forgotten how much I love talking to people about writing, how much I love listening to people talk about it. I’ve forgotten that doing things, even on the days when it’s hard, is incredibly satisfying. I’ve forgotten how much I care.
Listening to Australian Stories (a panel which looked at all the things happening in places that aren’t Melbourne) I remembered how much I care about getting writing opportunities to the people who need it. Growing up in regional NSW, no one told me that I could be a writer. I hate to think about all the other little mes, living in rural and regional areas thinking that writing is an impossible dream. Growing up like that I felt so alone. There were times when I legitimately thought that maybe I was crazy. Attending TiNA for the first time at the age of 18, I couldn’t believe how many other writers there were. There were all these other people who thought like I did, people who dreamed like I did. That changed my life.
This weekend I remembered that all over again. It matters that those people are out there, in the real world and not just on Twitter. There’s nothing quite like talking with faces and laughing and drinking cider. The internet is great but it really doesn’t replace the real world.
I remembered that things only happen if we make them happen. Making them happen is much harder than NOT making them happen. And sometimes you do things and no one comes. And sometimes it seems like more stress and angst and exhaustion than it’s really worth. Every time I’ve risked my own sanity for a project, there have been times when I wonder why the hell I do it. Why am I having an exhaustion related breakdown in a café? Why am I at Dan Murphy’s at 7am on a Saturday? Why am I still writing this stupid blog even though it’s 1am? The answer, of course, is because it matters.
I want to start doing things that matter again.
So thank you, EWF, for helping me to polish my tarnished childhood optimism and to make it all shiny and new again.

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year