Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Writing Quote XI

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.
(Cyril Connolly)

Of course, what most of us aspire to be is the writer Cyril Connolly doesn't mention – the one who can write for themselves and for the public. But take a stroll around most bookshops, and it becomes pretty obvious that quality and popular are often poles apart.

In my school author talk, I always grab any opportunity to have a bit of a fun dig at the Twilight phenomenon. Yes, yes, I know that many young people who might never have picked up a book are reading Stephenie Meyer. We heard the same thing with Harry Potter. And this dig of which I speak (good-natured though it be) is often thrown back at me – usually by incensed teenaged girls – as professional envy. And sometimes the lines between that accusation and the truth can become blurry.

It would be very easy to be glib about this. 'I know money and success won't make me happy, but I wouldn't mind a chance to prove that theory for myself.' But the truth is, the uber-success of the Meyers and the Rowlings is what it is. As writers in a competetive marketplace, we choose to handle it the best way we can, which in my case is to remind myself that I am living my dream.

Recently a good friend (also a writer) had to remind me that negativity is infectious, and poisonous. And he's right. It's been the biggest single challenge of my writing career. And saying that I have no public is stretching things a little. I don't sell in vast quantities, but I sell. My books are in stores. I have some public. But I also know that I write for myself, and that's as important as anything else.

(If you're reading this via Facebook Notes: this post is redirected from my head vs desk blog.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Nursing Registration

In exactly six weeks, my registration with the Nurses and Midwives Board of NSW expires. It's been almost a year since I did my last shift, and I am no longer in the employ of any of the fine health-provision facilities whose halls I once strode. I've handed in my ID tags, my sensible shoes and all the pairs of surgical scissors I borrowed from the treatment room over the years. I've forgotten how to read an ECG, I couldn't cannulate a garden hose with a power drill, and I giggle when I hear someone use the word "infarct". So I'm not a registered nurse any more. Except that I am. While ever I am still RN11***09, I can hypothetically bail this writing caper and seek re-employment in the children's ward or emergency department of my choice.

My wife has made it very clear that even if I did need to seek other employment, she would fight tooth and nail to prevent me going back to the life of an under-paid, over-worked, under-valued shift-working registered nurse. Because it made me a far less pleasant person to be married, she tells me. To which I nod, and say, "Never mind being married to it – living it was bad enough."

I became a full-time writer quite some time ago. That is to say, I stopped being a registered nurse who liked to write, and who had a couple of published books to his name, and became a writer who occasionally worked a casual shift in an emergency department. Something changed in the way I approached my writing. I guess the short version is, I became more professional about it. It felt good.

So now I sit here, with my Renewal of Registration form on my desk before me, and I'm not going to renew it. I'm not. And it's not just the $95. In fact, that's not it at all. This is a symbolic thing. Once I drop that form into the recycling, I'm on my own. I'm a writer, and only a writer. And it feels great.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

An Eve Pownall shortlister for 2010?

Spotted in a surgery waiting room.

Brisbane Writers Festival

Ah, Brisbane. Las Vegas of the North. Home of the Broncos, Lions and Raw (?). Life-support system to the stupidest roundabout in the developed world.* Ah Brisbane, gateway to Burpengary.

To be serious for a moment, I actually do like Brisbane a great deal. In the twelve years or so that I've been going up there for work I've watched it transform from the big country town it was once known to be into a sprawling, pulsing city. With traffic. A lot of traffic. But a great many lovely people as well.

Brisbane is also home to one of the best-run writers festivals around. I spent three days up there last week, and was thoroughly impressed by the new venues (at the State Library) and the people who manage said venues. So many volunteers!

So here are some of my highlights:
  • The venues.
  • The attendees. Nice kids.
  • Catching up with some of the other writers, such as Scott Monk, James Moloney, Tristan Bancks, Sherryl Clark and Belinda Jeffreys, and the people from UQP and Random House.
  • Breakfast at the Gun Shot Cafe. Mmm, Canadian brekky.
  • Noel Pearson's slightly confusing address at the opening of the festival. There were protesters!
  • You know who you are...
  • Getting gridlocked in a stinky cab on the stupidest roundabout in the developed world.**
So a big thank you to Molly and her festival people for a great time – see you again some time, I hope.

*It has traffic lights on the roundabout itself.