Writing is not a spectator sport – Amanda Hickie

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By Amanda Hickie

The arts have become spectator sports. We read, we watch, we peruse, we listen. And if we ‘do’, its value is measured in money or clicks or fame. And I think that’s wrong.♥

I hope everyone here thinks of reading as something to be done just because we enjoy it. (Although I do treasure the one-star review I received for Before This Is Over- ‘Did not read of my own free will.’ There’s a premise for a Stephen King novel.) There is a pure pleasure in kicking a ball around or cooking a meal for friends or watching a sunset. So why do we insist that writing has to justify itself with a purpose or an audience?

A few years ago I wrote a novel no one would publish (shameless plug – AfterZoe available on Kindle). Around that time I was sitting in a cafe talking to a friend when I heard the words come out of my mouth ‘I think I enjoy writing even more than reading these days’. And it was true, not in an arrogant, ‘my writing is good’ kind of way — because I wasn’t (and am still not) at all convinced it was. But that didn’t matter because I enjoyed it in a ‘living with these characters and exploring their world’ kind of way. I wrote the book that became Before This Is Over, in part, in the same way I’d read a new book by a favourite author — because it promised to be enjoyable.

And I’ll admit it’s sometimes not the most efficient way to write. After spending way too long on a draft of my next novel, it was pointed out to me that I’d let myself get carried away with two of the minor characters to the detriment of the rest of the book. Which was true. One of them will probably be banished from the next draft. But in the meantime, I got to hang out with them, watch them get to know each other and explore interesting ideas. They also took me to a concert by a band that doesn’t exist. It was great. You should have been there! I’m sorry no one else will meet them, and of course I wish I was further along in the new book but I wouldn’t have given up knowing them for the sake of efficiency.

When we were kids my friends and I put on plays, wrote short stories and poems and made newspapers with a print run of one – often blatantly ripped off from what we read or saw in ‘real’ books, television and film. Sometimes our parents read or watched them but mostly we did it for the doing. It was called playing. Kids today do the same thing, although it might look a bit different. If Jane Austen isn’t leading me astray, back before mass media existed for the most part you made your own entertainment. So why is creating as an adult now considered a chore, won by whoever can clock the largest word count per day?

So if you want to write about your family history or fan fiction or your life story, then you should. Everyone who feels the urge to write should, regardless of where it will go once it is made. It’s possible that no one else will read it. I personally know most of the people who read AfterZoe but that didn’t make the thrill of writing it any less. And because I enjoyed it, I wrote another – Before This Is Over — and it got published. The act of creating is an end in itself, whether you are ‘good’ at it or not. It should be done for its own sake.

Amanda Hickie grew up in Sydney, Australia. She was living in Canada in 2003 when Toronto became an epicentre of the SARS outbreak. That event sowed the seed for her novel Before This Is Over – available now. Published in Australia as An Ordinary Epidemic, the novel was longlisted for the Dobbie Award for a first published work. Amanda now lives a brisk walk from Coogee Beach in Sydney with her two computer-orientated sons and husband and two non-computer-orientated cats.


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