You never lose it
A long time ago in another life I was a finalist for a fairly prestigious writing award, the Sydney Morning Herald Young Writer of the Year. It was 1997 and I had already had a good year, having come second in a Baulkham Hills Shire poetry competition.
Fancying myself a wordsmith, I had entered the SMH comp before but that year was determined to try for an encouragement award (one step up from a ‘participation’ award, I was assured). I submitted a piece I had written for class, though I’d worked on it a little more to refine it and promptly forgot about it in the buzz of year 11 exams.
I don’t remember how I was notified, exactly. I’m assuming my diary at the time captured the moment, but suddenly I was one of 15 finalists in the state invited to lunch for the announcement of the award. You would have figured out by now that I didn’t win but it truly didn’t matter as I had already overshot my objective to achieve an encouragement award.
(Incidentally, I met the winner Mark Bolotin several years later at a private creative open mic night called Magical Theatre held in a garage in Glebe, in Sydney’s inner west. It was the same platform that launched the indie band Richard in Your Mind. The world works in mysterious ways.)
Later that year I also took out my school’s inaugural senior creative writing award and the next year, won the senior poetry competition.
It was a couple of years later, in second year uni, when I realised that I hadn’t finished anything of quality for some time. I had a conversation with my friend, a fellow student called Justin Green (who I thought I was in love with at the time and who was the subject of much average poetry). He knew how I felt – he had been a finalist for the SMH comp in the year before I’d been – but he told me something important: “You never lose it.”
I had my annual review at work today. Four years I’ve been employed at this company. Four years in which I haven’t finished anything of quality. But I went to writing group this evening armed with a few hundred words that I’d bashed out between 5.30 and 6pm and those words were accepted. They could be worked, they could be teased into shape, according to my fellow writers (one is a Varuna scholar, she would know!). So I have faith that I will never lose it, but it’s almost like I have to set it free, let it run rampant.
On the way home I considered how many words I have typed, how many words I have had published in the years since 1997. I’m a decent magazine journo and freelancer and I’ve carved a small niche for myself in the business and project management space. All this serves someone else.
I blog and I tweet (and every night I write a longhand debrief of my day). All this has taught me is to become accustomed to writing what I feel. I want to stop this. I want to stop writing what I feel and restart writing what I imagine. Only then will I know that I haven’t lost it.
(P.S: I wrote this blog post instead of working on the second draft of my novel or the new 3,000 short story I have in the works. I do recognise the irony.)