I am driven to write, but I don’t always enjoy getting in the car—I find first-drafts excruciating. I write because I enjoy wrangling that first-draft into something that I’m chuffed with. Oddly enough, I write not because I enjoy it, but because I enjoy having written.
How did you come to writing?
Once upon a time my grade-six teacher handed everyone in the class a blank exercise book, instructed us to label it ‘creative writing’, then proceeded to explain the concept. While this event precedes the expression ‘Mind. Blown’, that was certainly the effect: ‘We get to make stuff up? That’s allowed? It’s ENCOURAGED?!!!’
What were your greatest obstacles starting out? How did you overcome them?
I only had garden-variety obstacles to face: inexperience and a lack of peer networks. These obstacles were overcome with watering (practice) and a bit of sunshine (exposure).
How do you keep yourself motivated and disciplined?
I maintain a mental guilt-ledger which is tied to the calendar year. It’s how I figure out if my time was (creatively) well spent.
How do you manage your writing time with everything else you do? How has that changed from when you were starting out?
At the moment I write in whatever scraps of time that remain after I have completed generic ‘life duties’. This has changed a great deal from the free time of my university days, when I’d convinced myself that I could only write if I had vast uninterrupted blocks of time. Now I’ve learned to take what creative time I can get.
Where do you write? How do you arrange your working space?
I write in a rather pedestrian office/spare room. Anyone who has seen this workspace will be in a position to confirm that the term ‘arrange’ is not really applicable here.
What are your essential writing tools?
A computer, a quiet room, and time.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you were starting out as a writer?
Much like (what I’ve heard about) childbirth, I think you’re better off not knowing about the ups and downs to come.
What do you read and how do you read as a writer?
I read fairly widely—from creative and straight-up non-fiction through to literary and genre fiction. I really only read “as a writer’’ if I’m about to embark on a journey into a new form (like that time I spent a year reading comics and graphic novels before trying my hand at making one).
How do you overcome ‘writer’s block’?
I stop consciously thinking about whatever I’m blocked on and go for a walk. Sometimes my subconscious will take over and present me with a nifty solution mid-walk. Sometimes I just get a nice walk. Win-win.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
If you have a bit of spare cash and your project is important to you, pay a professional to edit your work before you submit it (a trained professional editor—not someone who has simply anointed themselves one). Chances are you have no idea how many mistakes you’re making. Help your assessors help you!
Jackie Ryan is the writer and designer of the Aurealis Award-winning Burger Force comic book series, and the founding and commissioning editor of comedy writing collective The Fanciful Fiction Auxiliary. She holds a PhD in history and political science and is an honorary research fellow at The University of Queensland. Her book We’ll Show the World: Expo 88 will published by UQP on April 30. She was never a parliamentary speaker but she did manage to pose for a photo as one (see above).