With the vast array of literary talent at our fingertips, we’re going to be regularly calling on our Faber Academy tutors to offer up some writing tips, first up from Lisa Lang who recently taught our Facts to Fiction writing course and has this advice on being yourself.
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”
I love this advice by the dancer Martha Graham, as remembered by her friend and biographer Agnes de Mille, and I often turn to it for reassurance. Being a writer, like being a dancer, can be fraught with self-doubt. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make an impression, wanting to prove yourself, to succeed. It’s only human nature. But it’s not particularly helpful when it actually comes time to write.
What can help is tapping into the channel that Graham refers to, the rich vein of your own singular existence. By focusing too much on the outcome (be it accolades or humiliation) you can forget how unique and remarkable a human being is. When you sit down to write, there’s no one in the world who can tell the story the way you’re about to. Be open to yourself. You’re no Dostoevsky, so why not try being yourself?
Lisa Lang has written two books based on the life of eccentric Victorian bookseller E.W. Cole, the man behind Cole’s Funny Picture Book. Utopian Man, a novel, was a joint winner of the Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award, and was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and WA Premier’s Book Awards. Lisa was named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelist in 2011. She has previously taught creative writing workshops for the Northern Territory Writers’ Centre and Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre, Perth.
Find out more about Faber Academy, our tutors and their upcoming writing courses, over on the Faber Academy website: www.allenandunwin.com/faberacademy/