Ok, so someone once told you that you bear a striking resemblance to Harper Lee and you thought yes, yes I do, and so of course the only logical thing would be to become a writer. And so that’s what you’ve decided to do. Great. Welcome. Pull up a chair. Can I get you a drink? No? Of course, me too, I never drink before midday either. Now before we go any further I’m going to get you to grab a pen, because to be a real writer you’re going to need a few things: latent carrier syphilis, a cravat and a Twitter starter account for writers (follow Stephen Fry, Benjamin Law, Marieke Hardy and current left-wing political poster boy – insert applicable name here). It would also do you good to develop an irreverence to Augustus Burroughs (e.g. he’s just like me, but I’m not gay, he’s the symbolic cock in the arse of my life), an apathetic and uneducated understanding of Cloudstreet (e.g. everyone knows it’s New Zealand’s answer to Angela’s Ashes) and an almost anecdotal dedication to Margaret Atwood (try you need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer at your next Camus cheese-and wine appreciation night). Done? Great. Now you’re a writer! Might I be so bold as to say the hard work is over? So what next? Should you start a blog? Sure, why not?….
So you’ve decided to toss acid in the face of the teen queen we like to call conventional publishing and start a blog. You call it Thinking of You, the story of a young boy spurned by his father’s love exploring his relationship with his now deceased mother, set in a seaside town. It’s a really good blog, too, so much so that after encouragement you decide to upgrade it and expand your readership. An ex of yours, who to this day believes it wasn’t cheating as long as you didn’t know about it, offers you some career advice, the only thing they’ve ever been good at getting up. They suggest funding, but what path to take? You could apply to the Australia Council which is, after all, about the promotion of new vibrant and diverse talent, which you have in spades, if you do say so yourself or you could register for Google Ads?
You decide to apply for an Australia Council Grant….
It was five months ago but you did it: you applied for an arts grant. Unfortunately, blogging isn’t recognised as a legitimate artform and your submission is denied. But hey, we encourage you to apply again in the future and might we suggest you try your hand at short stories. You can pick your sorry self up from the pub floor and apply for another grant for something else in four months? or – fuck it – just throw in the towel here. Your choice.
You apply for an arts grant, again, and you are denied, again. But hey, they encourage you to apply again and encourage you to keep writing and thus the dance begins again (if you want to apply for Google Ads go for it.) But congratulations my friend, that empty or almost chronic feeling of failure accompanied by a burning desire to keep on trucking, well, that’s the feeling of being a writer, a real writer, so don’t despair, you’re a real writer now. Go buy yourself a t-shirt! Your career begins and ends right here.
You decide to apply for Google Ads….
After carefully accessing your blog traffic with Google Ads, you finally start to see some revenue from your writing. You celebrate by buying a stamp to put on the envelope that holds the letter to your Year 10 English teacher – a rampant alcoholic and failed writer who once had an open letter published in The Sun (yes, before it amalgamated) – telling them you’ve made it, you’ve finally made it. You celebrate by writing your own open letter to the Green Guide about a recent episode of Two and a Half Men asking why a wifebeater is allowed on prime-time TV. A Herald Sun writer hits upon this small but poignant letter and they demand your resignation from The Australian, which is fine given you don’t write for The Australian, but as the writer from the Herald Sun doesn’t actually read, they weren’t to know. Bless ’em. As a result you are commissioned to write for online publication The Drum. With your Twitter followers now around the hundreds, the possibilities open up before you. You could submit an article to some indie fashion / badgesavvy culture mag – let’s just call it Spankie ? –Sign up for a radio course at some public / volunteer-funded station? or record a spoken word single of Mandy Moore’s ‘Crush’ on rhythm guitar and enter it in triple j’s Unearthed contest ?
You submit an article to Spankie, then wait for a reply. You can hear crickets in the background. You bide your time by subscribing to it, maybe they’ll notice? Nice try. Should you do the radio course while you wait? If not, your career ends here.
You decide to do a radio course at a hip volunteer station ’cause after all you have heaps of cool ideas… wait… there’s a really long waiting list. To bide your time you subscribe, maybe they’ll notice? Don’t worry, someone will die soon enough.Should you enter Triple J’s Unearthed?
Otherwise, your career ends here.
You decide to record a spoken word cover version of Mandy Moore’s underrated hit ‘Crush’ – and it’s cool now ’cause she’s married to Ryan Adams – and enter it in triple j’s Unearthed. It does so well it pretty much kicks the latest indie comedian’s single in the dick, and not only does it win but it goes on to become the number one most requested video – a homage to Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ directed by some guy who used to play the drums in Powderfinger on Rage. Invited to headline at Splendour in the Grass and various other summer festivals, you finally find the time to draft that short story you’ve been meaning to write, and then when you’ve finished writing it you decide to have a crack at a book? Wait, no, fuck that, you apply for an arts grant to write that book, like any clever sod would?
You decide to write a novel aimed at a local indie press entitled I Forgive You, the story of a young boy spurned by his mother’s love, exploring his relationship with his now deceased father and the brother he never knew he had, set to the backdrop of a once prosperous mining town. But before you do that you’ve got to complete a double shift at a Portuguese chicken family restaurant and then go to rehearsal because the band you manage is playing a venue where the boys ride fixies and the girls work in PR, and the gig is tonight and you promised them you’d be there, and then you’ve got your writers’ group like the next day and you haven’t done anything for it yet and it’s your turn to read and that girl’s going to be there, the one that’s really into Janette Winterson and Sarah Waterson, and sure she’s got a girlfriend but that’s nothing: the well-placed whisper of a Hunter S Thompson quote will wet the legs of any writer girl. Look, you’re just too busy right now living life to write about life and win the Vogel and anyway, MasterChef is about to start, so it really isn’t a good time.
Your career ends here.
Your Literary Career: Choose Your Own Adventure was published in The Reader November 2010