It’s something inherent within me. It’s something I’ve always done, even as a young child. All of my school reports dating back to grade one say that I am creative and great at making up stories, but need to focus on maths more!
How did you come to writing?
I think it came to me. I’ve always loved words and word play, rhymes, stories, fables, books, even the physical art of writing words. All languages fascinate me, the sound, the way you get your head and mouth around words and phrases, how we communicate with words. Even how we understand them before we can speak or write them.
What were your greatest obstacles starting out? How did you overcome them?
My parents told me I shouldn’t be a journalist because “newspapers were always shutting down”. They even refused to drive me to the Gold Coast for my interview for a cadetship with the Gold Coast Bulletin (I didn’t have a car or driver’s licence). Luckily one of my sisters took me. I’m pretty stubborn so I just always knew I would make a career out of writing some way or the other. Failure wasn’t an option. I can’t do anything else!
How do you keep yourself motivated and disciplined?
An undying passion for the written word, for the truth and the beauty of words. We all have our bad days when we believe we can’t write, but the best thing to do is just sit down and do it. Even if it’s bad writing, at least you are writing something. You can always go back and correct it. You can’t correct a blank page.
How do you manage your writing time with everything else you do? How has that changed from when you were starting out?
Writing is my full-time career. I started out as a newspaper reporter 27 years ago and things have changed dramatically. Once upon a time I’d go out with a photographer who took the pics. Now I have to take my own pics, and in recent years, manage all sorts of social media platforms as well. This all takes time for which you are not remunerated. But the basics of the craft haven’t changed. Get the big, hard stories out first, and the rest will follow.
Where do you write? How do you arrange your working space?
I have a home office. Sometimes I might write large creative pieces while sitting on the couch, sometimes I’ll sit on my back deck but mostly, I like the discipline of sitting in my office. My brain knows this is where work happens.
What are your essential writing tools?
A curious mind, lack of fear and old-fashioned notebook and pen (a nice inky one that assists with writing shorthand fast). My Macbook Air travels with me on overseas and domestic travel writing assignments. I love it.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you were starting out as a writer?
Not to take myself too seriously. Always take the craft and ethics seriously, but not myself.
What do you read and how do you read as a writer?
Everything. I particularly love travel bios. Still old fashioned, I love the feel of a book in my hand and the smell of its pages. The older the book, the better it smells.
How do you overcome ‘writer’s block’?
I don’t get it very often. If I do, I take it as a sign that something else is going on with me and it’s not particularly work-related. If the piece isn’t urgent, I might take a break and do something else. If I need to file soon, I just plough through it until it dissipates. It’s just fear masquerading as something more exotic.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Never give up. Don’t listen to anyone who says it’s a dying art form. If you truly love the craft you will find a way to make it work. And write with humility, humour or heart (or all three). You can’t go wrong.
Christine Retschlag is an award-winning Australian travel writer who has worked in newspapers, magazines and online for the past 27 years in Australia, Hong Kong, London and Singapore. In 2006, she won the Australian Travel Writer of the Year award for Best Trade Story as well as the Jack Butters Memorial Award for Travel Writing Excellence. In 2007 she won Best Australian Story over 1000 words and in 2014 won Best Food Travel Story. In 2016 she was named a Finalist for Best Travel Writer at the AFTA national awards; as well as a Finalist in the Brisbane Festival Gender Gaze photographic exhibition. She is the architect of the successful blog: The Global Goddess which is targeted at strong, smart, sexy and spiritual women (and the great men who love us).