Blogger in Residence, Shu-Ling Chua reflects on the year that was 2015, and shares some of her writerly wisdom.
“It is a universal truth that we will not inspire everyone, resonate with everyone, or empower everyone. There are billions of us, and it’s unrealistic to assume that our message is meant for them all.”
I read these words on the first of January, in an email on the importance of rejection, and gave myself the permission to ‘fail’. Part of being a writer is holding onto the faith that someone out there is reading your work. My writing will never appeal to everyone but that’s okay. In fact, it’s liberating…
(Side note: if you like someone’s work, tell them so!)
In reflecting on the year I ‘became’ a writer, I want to share some personal lessons and resources.
- Identifying as a writer encourages writerly behaviour, feeding a self-fulfilling cycle. Celebrate every little success because you never know where it will take you. Being accepted for Papercuts and HARDCOPY was the moment I identified as a writer, and I almost didn’t apply. HARDCOPY was a life-changing experience and I strongly encourage everyone to apply next year. Fellow 2015 HARDCOPIER Michelle Scott Tucker captures the experience here.
- I never realised how amazingly generous the writing community is until I met other writers through HARDCOPY, the National Young Writers’ Festival, writers groups and author events. Writing need not be a lonely pursuit. If you’re following the ACTWC blog, you probably already know this. I’ve always admired (and aspire to) writing that makes a reader feel less alone. A friend once emailed me after reading my blog: “I didn’t know you were only 24, also into music, and also feel like an old person.” She made me feel less alone. Writing makes me feel less alone.
- Take inspiration from other creatives. I love the visual arts and music just as much as I love words. Seeing the early sketches for a painting reminds me that the scribbles in my notebook, the snippets of a blog post, will one day amount to more. Even a friend announcing her new store on Instagram encouraged me to challenge myself as a writer.
- Make time for self-care, relationships and a social life. You need to live in order to write. Taking care of yourself physically and mentally is important because your health is precious and also, it will help your writing. As John Marsden advised in Voiceworks’ 100th issue, “Have a rich internal life… and a rich external life doesn’t do any harm either…”
- Ask yourself: why are you writing? Because this will affect the way you approach your craft.
Like any craft, stringing words, paragraphs and chapters into the story you want to tell is a process that takes time, courage and faith. Each piece— regardless of its genre, subject or theme—gives us the confidence to stretch that little bit further.
To submit that review, short story or manuscript. To apply for that residency or fellowship. Or in my case, to write that memoir I’m still living.
To write is a privilege. A privilege not possible without the people who love, even when words fail us (and especially then). To those cheering from the sidelines, I have these words:
I’m saving the acknowledgement page for you.
- Writers’ centres—this kind of goes without saying… events, opportunities and competitions delivered weekly to your inbox, and a monthly magazine (I’m a member of three!)
- Internet—a rabbit hole of wonder and distraction… sites I return to include: Eat This Poem (highly recommend signing up to the Right Brains Society), The Writers Bloc (loved this interview with Fiona Wright), The Writer’s Edit and Aerogramme Writers’ Studio
- Books—The Emerging Writer compiled by the Emerging Writers’ Festival (an excellent must-read for any emerging Australian writer), Help! For Writers by Roy Peter Clark (210 practical solutions to problems from getting started to building a draft and making it better)
- Express Media—wonderful opportunities for young writers in Australia, from Voiceworks magazine and Buzzcuts arts reviewing to National Young Writers’ Month and the Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers
Shu-Ling Chua is a writer, reviewer, Noted festival 2016 Live Producer and HARDCOPY 2015 participant. She blogs at hello pollyanna while living the memoir she hopes to finish one day. Her work has appeared in BMA Magazine, The Victorian Writer and Scissors Paper Pen. Shu-Ling spends her free time reading (favourites include Alice Pung and Sylvia Plath), traipsing and measures her life in playlists.