Honestly, if I go a day or two without writing, I start to feel stressed and sad. It’s like eating. I probably could go without it for a week, but only under very dire circumstances.
How did you come to writing?
When I was 12 a teacher told me I was ‘too old’ to be writing stories. I huffily pointed out that authors wrote as their career. To his credit, he set us some story writing assignments in class. I didn’t finish any of them. However I did start writing at least 1000 words every day when I was 13 and I have continued doing that. Learning that daily discipline was the best thing I ever did.
What were your greatest obstacles starting out? How did you overcome them?
Finding reliable resources. I lived in a small town, I didn’t have any internet at home and when I did have access to the internet, there just weren’t the resources there are now. I read every book on writing and publishing at the library, however by the time I started submitting novels, that information was all out of date. Now you can get up to date information instantly with a google search.
How do you keep yourself motivated and disciplined?
I love writing. Some people procrastinate by cleaning the house, but I procrastinate by writing something else. I’ve procrastinate-written an entire novel in 11 days because I didn’t want to work on my ‘primary’ project.
How do you manage your writing time with everything else you do? How has that changed from when you were starting out?
Generally I get the most done if I do writing first thing in the morning, then everything else when I am done. However for this to work I have to roll out of bed and go straight to the study without seeing my ‘to do’ list for the day, or I am too distracted by all the other things I know I have to do later. It’s really important I don’t have time to think before I start writing.
Where do you write? How do you arrange your working space?
I like to move around a lot. I have a study, where I do a lot of writing. Sometimes I write on the couch, my bed or outside on the patio on my day bed. However it needs to be quiet when I write.
What are your essential writing tools?
A computer or laptop and a bottle of water. I don’t listen to music when I am editing, but sometimes I will play quiet instrumental music for first drafts if it helps filter out other noises.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you were starting out as a writer?
I wish I could transfer all the networking and socialising skills I have now to myself fifteen years ago. It would have made a lot of aspects of my life easier. Networking well is really important to a writing career. Young people are often very self-absorbed and I was no exception. I wish I had made more of an effort to get to know people, listen and maintain connections.
What do you read and how do you read as a writer?
I am always looking for new authors to love. When I find someone I enjoy, I tend to go out and buy everything they ever wrote and read it all in a month. I’ve judged Aurealis the last two years and I spent a lot of time giving feedback to my peers on their writing, so it’s very difficult for me to turn off the ‘editor’ brain, which ruins some of the pleasure I used to get from reading. I read most days, but it’s often books I am judging, books I am giving feedback on or non-fiction. Reading fiction for pleasure is a little rarer for me.
How do you overcome ‘writer’s block’?
You sit down and write. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I do, however, believe in depression and fatigue, so if you really can’t write, see a medical practitioner.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Style is more important than ideas. You can sell a clichéd idea if it is written with a solid writing style. You can’t sell a brilliant idea if it is written in a poor writing style. If your goal is publication, put your time and energy into learning about, and improving, style.
Talitha Kalago lives on the beautiful Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She loves reading, video games, documentaries, horror movies and vegetable gardens. She lives with an alarming collection of previously abandoned animals that include dogs, cats, birds and snakes. There is a 23% chance she is watching a horror movie as you read this. You can find out more at: traditionalevolution.com