By Bianca Millroy
I opened my diary the other day — for the first time in eight months — and was confronted by a wall of blank pages. From 20 March onwards, pages usually full (and I mean full) of my daily antics fell away into 80GSM oblivion.
Did I miss the forecast? Cloudy with a chance of Coronavirus?
I’m not a meteorologist or a virologist, but I theorise there are silver linings to be found.
Then I came across this: My New Year’s Resolution is to make time for writing.
That was it. No grand ambitions of awards or publishers or six-figure advances. (Of course, a book deal is the “holy grail”). Somehow, I knew 2020 was not a year to shoot for the stars.
Case in point: I lost my job in March with less than a week’s notice. Every foreseeable event (including a trip to America) was cancelled.
On the upside, I was selected as the lead editor of a new cross-genre, lighthouse-themed anthology!
With a new part-time job covering the “bare necessities”, I suddenly had three whole days a week to focus my creative energies. I had pinned down that elusive creature, TIME. And there it was, the magic vein floweth… I began to write. And read. And edit.
Soon, it was time to re-assess: Was I “on track” with my writing goals? How does one even keep track of such a shapeshifting vocation?
The light-bulb moment came in July.
Writing has always been more than a hobby; it is a business. I needed to treat it like one.
I started tracking each opportunity, from competitions to grants and residencies to publishers and agent queries, and then to major literary awards and prizes. I included criteria, deadlines, and the column “Results”. (An Excel spreadsheet means business!)
Forget Writer’s Block, I used simple arithmetic: time + bum glue = words on the page. (Ah, the wonders of bum glue. Thank you Holly Ringland and Trent Dalton!). If you don’t complete the first step, bum-on-seat, you will not pass go, you will not collect your six-figure advance or [Insert Writing Goal Here]. Bum glue is the key adhesive of writing endurance. Once you have your routine, glue your bum to that seat, and stick to it!
There’s more: It takes a village to write a book, and every author must have a “Scribe Tribe”.
Here’s how I found mine:
During a QWC workshop with A.S. (Alec) Patric last year, we were urged to join a writing group or, simply, create one! Those who put their hands up, myself included, swapped contact details. Simple as that. A year on, the Window Bay Writers (named after our favourite window bay at The Edge, SLQ) still meet and write. Another tribe of this “village” are the Brisbane Literary Mafia: wonderful writerly friends I’ve made through QWC and Avid Reader (Brisbane writers championing Brisbane writers). In fact, the forthcoming anthology I’m part of came out of last year’s GenreCon!
Voila, a village. Now, I needed some tangible results to test the endurance of this resolution.
It had only been four months, but already the spreadsheet was 50 rows deep. Under “Results” were four big “YES” outcomes, those being:
- My manuscript ‘The Solitary Light’ was shortlisted for the 2020 QLD Literary Awards
- An excerpt is now published in LIGHTHOUSE – An Anthology
- The same manuscript is currently under consideration of two agents
- I won the QWC’s Right Left Write competition for August and was longlisted for October’s Furious Fiction competition run by the Australian Writers Centre – Yay!
So, 2020 was not a year to aim for the stars.
I aimed for the moon and I got… well, the moon. But the moon is still a pretty big deal! (What’s more, it is literally an entire silver lining…)
What have I learned?
(Apart from the fact that stars are overrated…)
I have learned that “endurance” is less about “suffering” and more about making the best of every situation. Solidarity in writing is connecting with community but finding solace in solitude, (bum glue!). Words set in motion the stories that we tell one another; the meaning-making mechanism that will endure through this pandemic pandemonium…
A reflection on solitude: I must emphasise the interconnectivity between endurance and the ability to dedicate time to writing alone. When we spend time alone, left to our own thoughts and fears, we open a portal to our imagination. We can look at “aloneness” in two ways: loneliness…or, solitude. These are two very different experiences: If we are alone, do we have to feel “lonely”? At what point do we just ‘get on with it’?
Lighthouse Keepers a century ago wondered the same thing. Does this isolation get “better” with time? As with writing, Lighthouse-keeping is, after all, “Lonely, but all worthwhile,” (a quote from my AustLit project on lighthouses in literature). I’m not saying that all it takes is time alone, marathon-endurance bum glue, spreadsheets, and no excuses, (well…)
I’m challenging you to re-think and innovate on your writing resolution.
Tonight, go outside and look up at the stars going about their business in spatially distanced solitude… Then, go about your business: Write.
Endurance may not win the race, but if you achieve what you set out to, isn’t that what really matters?
Want to learn more about one of my projects? Lighthouse – An Anthology is a unique multi-genre collection of short stories that celebrate lighthouses. From sci-fi and fantasy to romance and crime – and everything in between – Lighthouse features exciting voices from emerging and established Australian writers.
Secure your copy now or find out more here