Writing makes me feel alive. Writing allows me to take the stories in my head, the characters in my imagination, and the feelings in my heart, and put them on the page. I can create worlds of my own. Usually, a particular character appears first – they inhabit my mind and take up space until I am compelled to begin writing about them. The stories tend to develop around the characters.
While some writers are happy to write for writing’s sake, an important part of the process for me is that others read what I’ve written, that the stories and characters and experiences speak to them and connect with them. I love hearing engaged readers discuss issues and themes prompted by my stories.
How did you come to writing?
While I have always written professional non-fiction, the joy of fiction was stimulated by a combination of turning forty and having my last child – I just decided the time was right!
What were your greatest obstacles and how did you overcome them?
One obstacle at first was that I did not have a creative writing background – many of my fellow writers have started out with experience and contacts through university or other studies. I began writing on my own, with no support networks. Looking back, I realise how difficult that was, and how much I now value these networks. But that was not an insurmountable obstacle – it just meant I had to work harder to get noticed. I joined QWC and BWF and I entered the QLA Unpublished Manuscript Award. I got involved and communicated with other writers that I admired. I became part of a writing group, and paired up with a writing buddy.
The other major obstacle for me was (and still is) being dedicated to finding the time to write. All writers have other aspects to their lives – whether that’s family commitments, work, disabilities – that encroach upon writing time. You have to be determined to fit it in, no matter what.
How do you keep yourself motivated and disciplined?
I network with other writers through social media, attending launches and events, and being involved in writing and critique groups. As much as possible, I make myself available for any opportunities to meet with readers, through book clubs, libraries, writing groups, festivals or other events. Listening to readers discuss what they enjoy about my work, and debating moral issues of the stories is my greatest motivator.
How do you manage your writing time?
I try to write every day, usually while the kids are at school. I find that if I am in the middle of a project, and leave it for a few days, it’s difficult to grasp the thread of the story again when I get back to it, so it’s good to write every day, even if it’s only a little. When I started out, I treated it much more as a hobby. Now, I treat it more like a job, and I try to bring the same commitment to my writing as I would to any other job.
Where do you write / your writing space?
Unfortunately, nowhere glamorous! A small desk in the bedroom. It’s often cluttered. I have a noticeboard in front of me where I pin quotes, inspirational messages, positive feedback, and prompts to remind me of the things I need to remember to do while I’m writing. Sometimes I write in a café for change of scenery, especially if I’m editing, or have a difficult section that I need to tackle. My dream writing room is still only a dream at the moment. But I do think you can’t be too precious about your writing space (or the noises around you, or life, generally, intruding on your writing). You need to be able to focus and write amidst clutter and activity.
What are your essential writing tools?
Laptop. Notebook that holds all my story ideas and scribbles and quotes and suggestions (currently a lovely Moleskine, a gift from one of my children, but a plain one works just as well!). Access to research, whether that be through libraries, the internet, or speaking directly to people with information and experiences that will help inform my writing. A good editor. A supportive publisher. My writing friends.
The one thing you wish you’d known when starting out?
That the hard work and anxiety writing causes is more than compensated for by the exquisite joy and satisfaction that writing brings.
What and how do you read (as a writer)?
I read widely across a range of genres. I especially enjoy literary fiction, but I love to read recommendations from other forms. I always write and publish a review about each book I read – this helps me focus as a writer. I am forced to think about – and to articulate – what works, what doesn’t, what is clumsy, what is executed well, how characters and situations engage with me, and why. I especially enjoy debut Australian fiction.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
Write. Write. Read. Write. Read some more. Write a review. Read. Write. Write. Write. Anything is better than nothing. Write something you can edit later, even if you know it’s not very good. Don’t try to write the perfect sentence, the ultimate story. Write what you can, and learn through the process.
Advice for aspiring writers?
Firstly, read widely, and secondly, network with other writers – learn from them and be generous in your support of them. Cultivate yourself to be a good literary citizen!
Cass Moriarty lives and writes in Brisbane. She has worked in public relations and marketing, and volunteered as a counsellor in child protective services. She began writing fiction after the birth of her sixth child. Cass Moriarty’s debut novel, The Promise Seed, was longlisted for the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award, and shortlisted for the 2016 People’s Choice category and the 2013 Emerging Queensland Author category in the Queensland Literary Awards. Her second novel, Parting Words, will be launched in September 2017.