Author: sarah

A small passage of daily thoughts (Corona edition) 1

31 March 2020 Yesterday A and I went for our daily walk for fresh air. There were a few cars, those hard-work cars carrying men in twos. Some with the window down, banging on the side of the car door. There was no music on the radio. Sound for the sake of sound. Everyone eyes each other, necks craning as far as they’ll go; social exorcisms. It feels different from usual leering: this is small talk with strangers, talking without words. I find I want to call out ‘how are you spending your nights? What are you thinking each morning before you leave your house?’ Sometimes I pass people on the street and I just want to scream, want them to scream back, for us both to be primal, to just make noise and empty our lungs. Instead I just say, ‘hello.’ Or ‘please look after yourself.’ Everyone telling everyone to look after themselves. Is this better than screaming? Probably. A and I walked down quiet streets hand-in-hans and the sun was high above and …

Your Rejections Are Necessary

In a wooden drawer in my bedroom is a small pile of notebooks full of half-formed ideas or near-complete short stories that got the better of me. I’m positive that each time I sat down with these ideas I promised them something beyond completion, promised redrafting until I could take them no further, and then there would have been a promise to submit to a journal or a competition or maybe collect them like small sticks and present them to my agent as a surprise starter for a bonfire. What a side project they could be. But it’s rare I see any of these to completion. I used to think my wandering mind was to blame, all that boredom that eventually came from sticking to a smaller world. I used to think it was laziness. Or maybe it was guilt for most often than not, when I write these short pieces, I am at the beginning, the middle, the endlessness, of a manuscript that should have the priority. And so the story is stopped, a …

A New Series: Dreams of #1… Mannerism

Mannerism (Noun): 1 a: exaggerated or affected adherence to a particular style or manner B: often capitalised: an art style in late 16th century Europe characterised by spatial incongruity and excessive elongation go the human figures Merriam-Webster At the beginning of the year I was in London and trying to enjoy a short break from writing. By this stage I was completely over my novel-in-progress and couldn’t move myself away from the feeling that what I am writing is not only irrelevant and derivative but is already a complete creative and personal failure. Upon reflection I think it’s safe to say these overly wrought and self-loathing thoughts were partially a manifestation of creative exhaustion and so the decision to take some time away from characters and words and emotions was probably a correct thing to do for a little while: nothing helpful can be gained from telling yourself something you’re in the middle of creating is a steaming pile of dog shit. And so to London. A few weeks into my ‘I’m not physically writing …

Stigmatised Buildings

Above: I walk by this house all the time. I’d love to go inside Buildings call to you. The shape of windows, the colour of a door, the height of the roof, the patterns in timber, a romantic garden: bricked-bodies reaching out for your love. Then there are those buildings which make you grit teeth, tease the blood from your heart, this guttural sixth sense of knowing that unspeakable things have occurred behind that façade. These buildings are monuments to some of our darkest fears. Most towns have them: the witch house, the murder house, the creepy building, the haunted house, the place everyone crosses the road to avoid. Gaston Bachelard sees houses as ‘a body of images that give[s] mankind proof or illusions of stability.’ Perhaps it’s these images of unstable illusions that have always attracted me to buildings and houses, not because I am an architectural enthusiast (I know almost nothing substantial about architecture) but rather the stories that are hidden inside, the memories that exist under the floorboards. I am attracted to …

Draft Season

The transformative relief of drafting is what I look forward to the most when writing: taking small ideas, making raw words, rewriting them over and over until the project finds its true self. The beginning of things is daunting. Everything else that comes after that is hard work and the part of writing I enjoy the most. Because this is the moment you find out what you and the novel are really made of. I’m in the middle of typing up several notebooks and am amazed at how my (still unfinished) first draft has both managed to retain original structure and intent and yet has completely obliterated itself. I had no idea the project wanted to be the shape it is becoming. Recently I ran a writing workshop and afterward I was asked if I find my first drafts embarrassing. Yes, sometimes I do. But mostly I’m just glad it exists. First drafts are not publishable. Most likely the next couple aren’t either. I’ve mostly kept what I have of the first draft to myself …

Photo Reel Night #2

Most times I never know why I’ve chosen something to photograph for my novel until after the fact. That intuition. These past weeks I’ve been in the gut of novel, that space where I only take things in and think only ‘yes’ and ‘no’: would my character do this? would air like this exist in my novel? Is this the texture of fear? Is this the longest night? Is this, is this, is this? Here are some answers intuition gave:

Give yourself the future: SLV

This afternoon I explored the no-public-access belly of the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne. From the basement where they keep rare books (among some of the absolute treasures were several copies of Milton’s Paradise Lost–none of which were a first edition, first print but were early editions ( i.e. second printing from 166something), to the conservation and preservation room, the elephant lift, to a walk on top of the library’s roof. I was in a state of nerdish awe. And at some stage I realised I’d tuned into smells and sounds, begun focussing on small corners and hidden things. I was writing something for the future, those stockpile thoughts. It was another reminder to keep with curiosity, to keep exploring, keep searching for new ways to present the past. Because to be open to experience is to give yourself a future. Give yourself something to write about. And so to the stockpile:

Windows, Light, Memory #1

Tonight I was supposed to be spending time with the third project but I could only think of the novel-in-progress, of one character in particular who keeps reinventing himself every time I want to write something new. All his ways of speaking, his voice the only thing I’m capable of writing at the moment. He never leaves me. Better to leave words before they get you down. There was only one thing to do: I went into the night, went to find the things the corner of my eye might hold onto the longest, hoped some pattern would emerge so I could find my way back to the project/task at hand, tune into a voice I hadn’t been able to find for a few weeks. After 30 minutes, a pattern: light and window, people living just beyond eyesight. The way dark leads you to memory and repetition. That’s when I heard the woman’s voice, the character that has evaded me for weeks. She was back. And she was thinking in memory, was living in them, …

The Dolphin: or how my tendency to procrastinate allowed me to distill random ideas and write a short story

I was on a writing retreat at Varuna attempting to finish another draft of the manuscript that would go on to become See What I Have Done when day four arrived and I lost the will to write another word from Lizzie’s point of view. I still had three days left of the retreat ahead of me. I needed a way to procrastinate without feeling guilt. One of the writer’s at the house was working on a short story collection and had told me, ‘Short stories are like the easiest thing to write.’ Sounds perfect, I thought. That’s exactly how I’m going to spend the rest of my time here at the house. Here’s a tip I’d like to share with you about short stories: they’re not easy. They are their own art form and can take just as long to write as a novel. Sure, you could write a 3,000 word story in a single sitting but to get it right, to make it look like magic-ease takes drafting and time. They’re not for …