I write because it helps me make sense of the world and it’s fun! Writing is a great companion and though it hasn’t made me rich, it has enriched my life immeasurably.
How did you come to writing?
I loved to write stories as a child and as a young adult I always had stories swimming around in my head, but then life got in the way. When I was pregnant with my first child I started my first novel but stopped before I got very far. Then, when my daughter was five and my son was two, I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, which reminded me of my passion for writing. That was in 2002. I’ve been writing like a fury ever since.
What were your greatest obstacles starting out? How did you overcome them?
Finding time when I had two small children was definitely an obstacle, but it taught me to write a lot in a very short amount of time – naptime! When the kids went to school I had more time. But really, the main obstacle to doing as much writing as I’d like to do is having to work for money to pay the bills.
How do you keep yourself motivated and disciplined?
I think I’m a naturally disciplined person so I just glue my bum to the seat and write until something worthwhile comes out – or not! Also, I have done a daily practice of yoga for over 24 years now, so I think the discipline of doing that has spilled over into everything else. Don’t want to do it? Conditions not perfect? Suck it up! Once you start, the momentum kicks in and it’s never as hard as you thought it would be.
How do you manage your writing time with everything else you do? How has that changed from when you were starting out?
Now I do a lot more work for money than when I had small children. I try to schedule at least two days a week when I’m able to write, but more often than not, I’m squeezing writing in between everything else, and as Toni Morrison once said, “We are traditionally rather proud of ourselves for having slipped creative work in there between the domestic chores and obligations. I’m not sure we deserve such big A-pluses for that.”
Where do you write? How do you arrange your working space?
I’ve partitioned off a section of our lounge room where I have a couple of desks and my computer. Other times I write longhand in a notebook on the veranda or in the window seat or in the garden.
What are your essential writing tools?
I have a giant screen so I can make everything huge and easy to see as I get older. But mainly I just need a smooth flowing pen and a notebook. Solitude.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you were starting out as a writer?
That I was going to have to be very, very, very patient. All the time. That I would have to really love it in order to keep going.
What do you read and how do you read as a writer?
I read a lot. Literary fiction, mainly. I like to read Australian women writers and buy their books if I can afford it. We all need to support each other. I try not to have my writer hat on when I’m reading because I like to lose myself in the world of the story. I like some historical fiction and chick lit too. I read yoga and other spiritual texts as well.
How do you overcome ‘writer’s block’?
I keep writing. Sometimes with my screen turned off so I can’t see the crap coming out. If that fails, I take myself on pleasant soul-restoring outings and give myself a holiday from trying too hard.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Do it because you love it, because it’s the most fun you can have. And whatever you do, don’t try to be ‘writerly’ – just be yourself on the page. That is your voice. Writing really fast without censoring yourself and doing that every day will help that voice come out more easily. That’s two I know, but they’re both important.
Edwina Shaw is a Brisbane writer of fiction and memoir. Her first book, Thrill Seekers, was shortlisted for the 2012 NSW Premier’s Award for New Writing. In the Dark of Night, her children’s chapter book is part of the 2016/17 Summer Reading Club national library promotion. She also teaches yoga.