by TESSA LUNNEY
I’m here to tell you one main thing:
That’s it, shoulders back, chin up, look at the sky, look at the way the jacarandas burst into blossom, the streets garlanded in purple for a fortnight, the bright leaves pushing the blooms off the tree to signal summer. Take a deep breath and keep going.
I’m here to tell you that other people don’t matter. Oh, of course, I don’t mean in the editing, in the rewrites, when you’re trying to sell the book to others – not then. But by then the book isn’t fully yours anymore. I mean in the first draft, when the characters first wake up and blink their dreams away, put on their shoes and realise… other people don’t matter then. Only you matter. Write entirely for yourself.
I’m here to tell you to be brutal. Oh, of course, I don’t mean in the first draft, that soft and magical place where something is made from nothing. I mean in the editing, in the rewrites; beat your darlings into shape and if you can’t do that, kill them. Cut paragraphs, characters, chapters, abandon novels by the side of the road. Carry only what shines. You’ll forgive the brutality. You won’t forgive yourself if you’re indulgent; be fierce.
I’m here to tell you to be patient. You can’t force the writing.
Whenever you try, you’ll just have to rewrite everything and you’ll ruin your sleep in the process. Wait until you’re ready, just wait, read some more, play with your daughter (yes, you have one), laugh with your husband (you have one of these too), and when you’re ready, it’ll come easily.
I’m here to tell you that you know how to write. It will take much, much longer than you would like – I know, as I’m not there yet, not nearly; I’m simply much closer than you. But trust yourself; you know what to do. Break down the walls that trap you, kill the voices that stop you, blast away the self-doubt that fogs your thinking. Do this with every word, every sentence, with every triumphant hour at your work. You are not your work, you are certainly not what other people think of your work, but the work sustains you and you can do it.
Keep going. Wherever it goes, go with it, and keep going.
Tessa Lunney is a novelist, poet, and occasional academic. In 2016 she won the prestigious Griffith University Josephine Ulrick Prize for Literature for ‘Chess and Dragonflies’ and the A Room Of Her Own Foundation Orlando Prize for Fiction for her story ‘Those Ebola Burners Them’. She was also the recipient of a Varuna Fellowship. In 2013, she graduated from Western Sydney University with a Doctorate of Creative Arts that explored silence in Australian war fiction. In 2014 she was awarded an Australia Council ArtStart grant for literature. Her poetry, short fiction, and reviews have been published in Best Australian Poems 2014, Southerly, Cordite,Griffith Review, and the Australian Book Review, among others.