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Real mates kick your arse when you need it

Status update: exhausted. But in a good way.

I had the chance to check out one of  my favourite buildings in Melbourne: Clyde House in Collins St.

I arrived home in the wee hours of this morning after four days in Melbourne. Last night I had about three hours consecutive sleep (which was the most in several nights thanks to a dodgy rented room in the city), due to drinking caffeine on the train. But I made it home in one piece. So that’s a win. However, after so little shuteye this post might ramble a bit. Bear with me.

The weekend kicked off on Friday arvo when coffee with friends turned into cocktails then dinner with their partners. Saturday and Sunday were spent soaking up the wisdom of YA author Ellie Marney. Yesterday was a volunteer shift at Writers Victoria, lunch with my oldest and dearest friend, a late arvo catch-up with a writer friend, then dinner with some of the Hardcopy crowd. There are photos, but the light was so red we came out looking like oompa loompas or, worse, Trump supporters.

Effectively, it was four days immersed in the writing world (plus two movies to escape the claustrophobic rented room). I went on a spending spree in Dymocks 234 Collins, which has books I don’t have to order into my comparatively minuscule local bookstore. Then I scored some freebies yesterday, bringing my total book haul to 11. I didn’t think about the challenges of lugging a suitcase full of books around the city at night. Lesson learned.

Some - not all - of the weekend's book haul.

The trip was exhausting, budget-blowing, action-packed, family-free and the professional arse-kicking I deserved and needed.

A recap for anyone who didn’t read my previous diatribe of craptitude: I had a big rejection that, on top of a truckload of shit at home and post-surgical complications, slammed me to the point where I couldn’t open my WIP. A month later I’ve looked at it long enough to submit it for another program, but that’s it.

There were, as it turns out, several of us who were similarly hit by the same rejection. Some have already come up with plans, others are considering dropping writing altogether (which they shouldn’t because they are brilliant writers and people and good things will happen). We’ve been recovering at different rates, through different methods. But talking about it among ourselves – acknowledging that this writing caper is painful at times, and giving each other permission to recognise and deal with that – has helped immensely. We tell one another to keep at it – that we can write, will be published – yet often don’t listen to our own advice. Confidence and talent are strange beasts. We recognise and encourage these in others but refuse to acknowledge we have them ourselves.

A few weeks ago I went to a writing retreat run by Cath Crowley and Alison Arnold. It was my first time writing anything since the blubbering blog post. They and the rest of the group were amazingly supportive – again, all talented writers. We talked about structure, time management and disruption. We did writing exercises. We ripped pages out of books and created word pictures. Cath and Alison also asked us to draw up a ‘world map’ of what competes with our writing, and I realised that other than writing and family (which has been bordering on a nightmare), I have nothing else. No other hobbies. I need something else with which to ‘disrupt’ my writing brain and get that creativity and confidence going. The weekend in Melbourne was part of that. It is, after all, a City of Literature.

I also realised my main obstacles were psychological – lack of confidence, fear of failure and, strangely, fear of success.

So back to the arse-kickings.

In the past month I’ve beta read a steampunk novella, contemporary YA novella, fantasy short story, adult literary novel, and a contemporary YA novel.

Friday night: A friend asked me straight out, “What’s the go with all this beta reading?” So I muttered something about feeling productive, being constantly in awe of the talented people I know, and that reading and breaking down other people’s work has made me more conscious of what I’m doing in my own. Or will be doing, when I get back to it. In truth: It’s been advanced, next-level procrastination. I’ve absolutely loved reading them and feel humbled that these authors trust me enough to value my feedback, but I need to get back in the frigging saddle instead of walking the horse around the mounting yard by the bridle.

In Ellie Marney's workshop, we came up with a huge list of local and  international YA authors. Then we added more. Gotta #LoveOzYA!

Saturday and Sunday: Ellie’s workshop got me thinking about my WIP again. I realised I could cut a second subplot. I also realised I don’t have to get back to it immediately.

One of the other participants went through Hardcopy last year. Her words to me: get out there, get your work out there, just do it. DO IT. Arse-kicking Number 2.

The points that stuck with me from the workshop were around community: Be generous, prompt and polite – the Australian industry is small, collegiate and “We grow stronger together,” Ellie said. This was proven over the weekend.

Monday: I’m both bruised and soothed by the arse-kickings I’ve received, which ranged from ‘What the f*** are you doing, you moron?’ to talking about anything but writing, encouragement to take specific paths, acknowledgement of a shared experience of post-surgery depression, and a straight out ‘What’s your plan to get back to writing?’

Some of these arse-kickings were more gentle than others; a mental hand on the shoulder and a ‘I know what you’re going through’. Some were brutal.

And it all helped, because support isn’t just offering platitudes and saying, ‘There, there. You’ll get over it.'

As I sat on the train, live tweeting to keep myself awake with my feet propped up on my suitcase to relieve the pressure of the bruises on my backside, I formulated a plan. And it doesn’t revolve around my current WIP.

A huge thanks to everyone who helped over the last three days – whether you realised it or not, you’ve pushed me ahead with a strong shove in the back or guided me forward with a warm hand in mine.

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