What is an “emerging writer”? Emerging from where? And I thought writers developed. They don’t spring upon the world fully formed. But perhaps “developing writer” doesn’t sound quite so good.
I went to the Emerging Writers Festival in Sydney yesterday. I nearly didn’t go but a friend was asking on Twitter and that put the thought in my head. I had often read about the EWF in Melbourne, where it covers a week or more of programs. Then, too, I’d been to the Sydney Writers Festival this year and was distinctly underwhelmed. The problem with the SWF is that most of the program seems to be adulation of writers, with just a fraction of the content about helping new writers.
The EWF is different. The sessions are still generally writers talking about some aspect of their craft, but it is clearly aimed at writers. The first session – which I was unavoidably late to – was “Seven Enviable Lines”. The idea was for three writers to share the seven things they wish they knew when they just got going. It was here that I discovered the value of live-tweeting. Sitting on a stool almost up the back of the room, unable to see who was speaking and not understanding what he was saying, I turned to my phone and found people clearly tweeting grabs about the event I was actually sitting in.
This was new. But it felt right. I soon referred to it as “taking notes on Twitter”.
By the third speaker, I was doing it too. Probably my favourite was when Jane Gleeson-White said “If it hurts, there is probably something in it.” Yes. If your writing can’t move you, then how can you expect it to be able to move another reader?
The second panel I went to was about writing in a digital world. I think the brief for this one was a little fuzzy. After some audience questions, it occurred to me that maybe some attendees were expecting some straightforward how-tos. The two panelists didn’t really oblige in this. They instead had a quite lively discussion about what writing means in the digital space. This was really good because they didn’t quite agree nor immediately understand each others points. A lot of the discussion was about interactivity, which is likely the next challenge for a writer accustomed to a linear narrative now having to figure out ways of allowing readers to explore in their own directions. (Curiously, this is something game designers have been figuring out for the past twenty years or more, a fact not mentioned.)
I could go on.
One thing that is really apparant, although it still took me a day to see it, is just how much information there is out there to anyone trying to become a writer. It has never been easier to source resources about how to everything and anything from generating ideas to getting your work into the hands of readers. There are more works of writing being written than every before and more people doing writing than at any prior point of history.
The emerging writer has a lot of qualities. Probably key is the ability to sift through all this to find what works for them and to understand why it works for them.
And that’s still a tough ask.