I feel I should mention that this is less an argumentative essay – this is why you need to do what I’m doing – and more a reflection on why I feel the way I feel.
I believe in crediting as many of the creatives as possible who are involved in allowing me to create the things I do.
It’s all the more important when those creatives have put their work (images, textures, fonts) into the world for free.
Now, I think I give back in the sense of paying forwards: a great deal of my work goes out into the world for free, too. If I were getting paid for every word I wrote, I’d be putting down the well-deserved licensing fees for the images and fonts I use. As it stands, however, I wouldn’t be earning much money from my words even if I insisted on payment (the artistic world doesn’t work that way), so in order to create I am obliged to the generosity of other creatives (who live and work in the same boat when it comes to revenue and the creative life). Creation, in fact, doesn’t happen in isolation. Sure, I can create words myself. I’m fortunate enough to be able to edit them myself (to an extent, anyway) and design books myself, but I sure as fuck can’t design a good font, print my book or pop my book in an online store without the unsung assistance from other creative people. This post would not exist without the designers and web techs who developed WordPress and the layout I use. I can make lovely documents in InDesign, but I do that on the back of the many, many designers and technicians who created the program; I do that on the back of the foundries who created the fonts I love. There’s a reason why Adobe Creative Suite costs so much money, and it’s not (just) because Adobe CS operates in the same kind of industry-standard monopoly as Microsoft Office. Consider how much a good font package alone can run for!
Excuse me for a moment, blog, while I hold conversation with the students who come after me.
Sherryl Clark asked me to write this after I expressed sadness at the lack of interest this year in Desktop Publishing and Publishing Studio classes. I am sad. This conversation happened at the launch of Platform 16, my first project credit as managing editor, a project that could not have happened without studying Publishing Studio the previous year. This post is something of a fusion of last year’s Rotunda speech, my Information Session speeches, my Litfest talk and the presentation I gave to this year’s Editing 2 students. It seems to be something I say a lot, but it also seems to be something in need of saying.
This might sound a little strange, given that I’m a novelist and short fiction writer by inclination. I’ve just finished the third draft of my novel, a project I’ve been working on for months, and by hook or crook will I see this thing published. Yes, I got a lot out of Advanced Fiction and Short Story. I’m learning a lot from Michelle in Advanced Non Fiction. My writing has improved no end by throwing myself into as many writing classes as I could squeeze into my schedule, and I don’t regret that for an instant: I know I wouldn’t have the ability to completely redraft a novel three times (and counting) without having studied Advanced Fic with Tracey. The novel I am writing today wouldn’t exist in its current shape without Myths and Symbols or Scriptwriting.
The classes I got the most from, though? The classes that have made me as a professional-to-be?
Desktop Publishing, Publishing Studio, Editing 2.
I know. They’re not about words.
They’re about liberation.
Or, rather: http://willylitfest.org.au/2014-williamstown-literary-festival-program/46-the-changing-world-of-publishing-sherryl-clark-ian-syson-kim-cook-panel/
Yes, I am doing a talking thing, and I’m very much not thinking about it at this point. That’s a valid survival mechanism, right?
(And I’ve also been asked to come in and do another talk at school with professional-level payment involved. It baffles me that I can be paid a lot more money for talking about writing and publishing than actually doing it. It also baffles me that for some reason people think I can speak well enough to other people that they ask me to do it. I stutter! I tangle my thoughts! I lose words! If you think I repeat myself a lot in my writing – and I know I do – then wait until you fucking hear me speak!)
So if I have any readers in Melbourne who don’t already know me, come along. It should be interesting, and Sherryl Clark is always worth the listen. And go to Michael Kitson’s bookseller’s panel – he’s a great guy and a great speaker!
Secondly: I want to say a most profound thank you to the people in my life who are willing and able to help financially support a creative person in the challenge of being an independent creative person. I’m thrilled, flattered and touched that you’re able to do that, and it’s been a humble lesson in the importance of giving, when and where you can, to artistic people. The rent’s got to be paid, after all, and in a society where art is financially undervalued, we are dependent on the generosity of people who buck the trend. I hope I’m soon in a position where I can pay that kindness forwards.
(And other assorted ramblings on narrative, storytelling, and representation!)
Note: Assume that ‘hero’ is a gender-neutral/non-specific word: I use it throughout in this sense. Unfortunately, it still carries the connotation of masculinity, but I don’t have another word for non-binary heroes (who are heroes, not protagonists). Also, this is long even by my standards.
In the last ten days I’ve written 48 000 words, almost a complete novella first draft (one chapter to go). It’s really a story about two characters, one who is a bitter, fragile trans man with the gift of snark and a willingness to stab first and ask questions later; and one who is an anxious non-binary person with sensory processing difficulties and a desperate yearning to believe that hir culture’s treatment of hir doesn’t constitute abuse (in the form of ableism). They team up and kick off a series that’s about the beautiful friendship of two people who’ll save each other time and time again on a quest to save the world.
(I am fascinated by the desperate lengths to which abused people will go to deny abuse is abuse – to protect and validate the attitudes and behaviours of the abuser, especially a parental-type abuser, out of love and the need to belong. Looking back, the thought of how long I spent doing this, how much I still do it, kills me. I love writing about characters who cannot simply walk away from abuse, where the walking away is complicated and tangled and messy, where it is impossible to hate a parental-abuser even though rationality says you should, because we are all children at heart who want to measure up. I endured too much because I wanted my parents to love me. I still endure too much because I want my parents to love me. It’s pathetic, it’s heartbreaking and it makes no fucking sense from the outside. It’s also real and human. It is, in fact, a sacrifice of heroic proportions – the surrender of safety, happiness and sanity in order to enable someone else’s (distorted view of) happiness. This sacrifice is all the more heroic when we consider that it is made by a child or child-figure.)
Today, I got a phone call. My course coordinator passed my name on to someone in another department who is looking for an employee to do everything I’ve spent the last six months doing, pretty much. It’s a six-month contract, two and a half days a week, at school – it couldn’t get more perfect, to be honest. This job would allow me to work part-time, to set myself up as a freelance writer part-time, to take up a unit or two in a Bachelor of Communications part-time, to take on the challenge of a large publication, to get real longer-term project experience under my belt. It’d even allow me to renew the lease on my apartment, and it would mean I don’t have to spend the next three months scrambling to find work (and applying for retail positions out of the fear I won’t find anything). Just to have someone ring up and basically cold-call me about a job is incredible.
(I’ve been finished with school for three days. I’m still working on three projects; I’m preparing for an upcoming week of book launches – my own books! I haven’t even begun to do more than think about work yet.)