Writing has always been my way of making sense of the world. As a child I would write whenever I was worried or sad and it would help me to figure out how I was feeling. I suppose I still do this as an adult, although I often only figure out why I’ve written a story well after I’ve finished it (and sometimes even after it’s been published).
How did you come to writing?
I’ve always written, however after university and joining the workforce I lost track of my creativity for a while. I was working as a paediatric occupational therapist when it struck me how much I loved my work and yet how unhappy I was. It took a while to realise it was because art had left my life, and in many ways it was the incredible kids and families I got to work with that lead me back to my writing. It’s no surprise to me that I now create stories for children.
What were your greatest obstacles starting out? How did you overcome them?
My greatest obstacle has always been my own self-doubt. This is an industry where you really have to be your own biggest advocate. You also have to be able to believe in yourself despite regular rejections. Neither of these things are natural skills of mine. It helps to surround yourself with positive and inspiring people – good friends keep my energy up and help me to believe in myself when I’m faltering. I am more than happy to return the favour if they’re experiencing self-doubt – I am a much better advocate of others!
How do you keep yourself motivated and disciplined?
Self-discipline has never been an issue for me – it must be that self-doubt that drives me to work so hard! I’ve actually had to work to restrict my work hours to more manageable chunks and learn how to take time off (and enjoy it). It was a tough transition to move from writing as a hobby to writing as a career – I’ve actually had to discover hobbies outside the world of writing and reading for down time…
How do you manage your writing time with everything else you do? How has that changed from when you were starting out?
The biggest shift in moving to writing full-time was realising that I would essentially be running a small business. There were a lot of new skills to learn, and managing emails, paperwork, invoicing and generating work opportunities is a huge part of my day to day hours. I try to dedicate Mondays to more business related work (which is when I’m writing this) and then also begin each day with cleaning up incidental emails that come through. The rest of my time is dedicated to writing, but also illustrating, mentoring other writers, teaching and running workshops. There’s a lot to juggle.
Where do you write? How do you arrange your working space?
I have a room dedicated to my office in my home (shared with my husband, who is a poet). I have both a writing desk and an art desk, as I am an illustrator also. They are both covered in whatever I happen to be working on at the time, plus scrap of notes, books, pictures that are currently inspiring me and (sadly) lots of paperwork.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you were starting out as a writer?
It’s ok to figure out what’s right for you, rather than always having to listen to what others says. There’s a lot of advice out there, and while you can learn from much of it, some of it is overstated or more firm than it needs to be. I was told early on that it’s impossible to get a picture book published as an unknown writer and that I should focus on my novels first. I listened to this advice for longer than I should have, when picture books have always been my passion. And luckily I proved them wrong.
How do you overcome ‘writer’s block’?
I’ve never really felt blocked, but I definitely lose energy for my work sometimes. That’s when I need to do more of the things that feed my work – take long walks, spend time with my dog and people that make me laugh, try new things, read great books, exercise, travel and just generally get out of my office.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read lots. Lots and lots and lots. And write lots, too. The more you write, the better you’ll become at using other descriptive words instead of just using ‘lots’ lots.
Katherine Battersby is the critically acclaimed author and illustrator of Little Wing and the Squish Rabbit series, which have been published in Australia, the USA and China. Her books have been shortlisted for various awards and she currently divides her time between Brisbane (Australia) and Ottawa (Canada). Visit her at: katherinebattersby.com