Why do you write?
I really have no idea. It’s the one occupation that draws broadly enough across enough areas of interest that I don’t become bored. But who knows if that’s really the truth of it.
What were your greatest obstacles starting out? How did you overcome them?
I was really bad at writing. Seriously. I could not write elegant prose, and a lot of what I did write was confusing and overwrought. I’m acutely aware I’m not really a ‘natural’ at this. So, I got critiqued (very hard at first) and I took classes and I wrote and wrote and did all of that again. I started to get better. I’m still learning.
How do you keep yourself motivated and disciplined?
I have something internally that keeps me motivated to deliver, and external motivation just sets that into overdrive. I set my own deadlines and I manage my time to make sure those deadlines are achievable. On discipline… look, I have had years and years and years of practicing discipline, first at school and then through two huge degrees. I’m just in the wheel rut all that carved out. You have to work on discipline. It takes a while, and I started with a reasonable degree of self-commitment. I’m not the best person to ask how to achieve motivation and discipline – I suspect they are both just habits and the sooner you create that habit the sooner it becomes your norm.
How do you manage your writing time with everything else you do? How has that changed from when you were starting out?
I was working full-time when I started, so writing was a nice escape from work and I did it at night and weekends. I made time for it, and it was no pressure. No contract deadlines, no expectations.
Now, writing is my job and I have a small child, so it feels like writing is all I do in every available moment. That’s what it takes right now. How I ‘manage’ it (when I have to deliver) is that writing comes first after all the other non-negotiable stuff. Yes, the house is dirty, because neither my husband nor I spend time cleaning the stuff that can get away with it. I pay for a babysitter in the week so I can write. I actively negotiate extra time to write when my husband can be home (often nights and weekends). I can only watch TV or have genuine R&R when there’s nothing else I can do. That’s really hard. But I tell myself it’s not forever.
Where do you write? How do you arrange your working space?
Mostly, in my study at a desk that faces a window. But I also work in cafes, in libraries, in airports, at friends’ and family’s kitchen tables. Location isn’t terribly important for me. I don’t have any rituals or workspace musts.
What are your essential writing tools?
Laptop with MS Word and Excel. Sometimes a notebook. That’s it.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you were starting out as a writer?
I actually think ignorance can be good getting into writing. Older, jaded writers want to tell you about all the bad stuff before you’ve worked out if you even like the good stuff. I didn’t know an awful lot when I started out. I think it’s better that way. I was lucky to have more experienced mentors who told me things I needed to know at the right times.
What do you read and how do you read as a writer?
I read widely – romance, women’s fiction, science fiction, fantasy, non-fiction. I mostly ‘read’ in Audiobook at the moment. Reading on paper with a small child in the house is hellishly hard, because you have to stop and devote yourself to the task of reading. With an Audiobook, I can read while nursing, or getting my son to sleep, or doing the dishes. I also still occasionally make it out to the movies. In all that narrative I pay attention to things I like and how the writer is achieving them.
How do you overcome ‘writer’s block’?
I keep writing.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Be careful not to think this industry owes you anything – it doesn’t. Entitlement is not a pretty thing. Hard work and talent do not guarantee outcomes (agents, contracts, publishers, sales, etc.), and hard work is really the only part that matters. Realise that you are just starting out and might be at this for a while. Maintain graciousness. Work hard for as long as writing brings you satisfaction. Being able to finish things (the outcome of hard work) matters much more in the beginning than how lovely your ideas or prose are. You need both eventually, but if you can’t finish anything you’re not going anywhere. Work on that, first.
Charlotte Nash is the author of four romantic novels set in rural Australia (Hachette), and has been nominated for the Ditmar and Aurealis Awards for her speculative short stories. She has an eclectic past in engineering and medicine, and is a PhD candidate at UQ studying science fiction thrillers.