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Writing and design by Melissa Hill, graphic designer.

A weekend with A.S. Patrić

Wow, time flies when… well, it just flies. I know the saying is that time flies when you’re having fun, but I’m finding it just generally whizzing by lately no matter what I’m doing. What I’m trying to say is that about a month ago, I spent the weekend participating in a writing workshop with author A.S. Patrić (Alec), and I meant to say a little something about it at the time, but you know… the flying.

Writers Victoria ran this workshop and they called it “The Perfect Form of Prose Fiction: Novella Intensive”. It really wasn’t as specific as that though. We did discuss novellas a fair bit, but also short stories, and novels too. Actually, the main thing it was about really was how to start and maintain a writing practice. Advice for how to get past the roadblocks we create for ourselves. As I guess I already knew, and is true for any type of creative work, the main thing just seems to be to do the thing you say you want to do. Just do it.

Thanks Nike.

You won’t paint a picture by mooning over art supplies, you won’t write a book by reading other books – you have to actually do some stuff and accept that a lot of it will suck. But if you don’t do it, you won’t do it.

Sounds obvious, right?

Right.

But it must be easier said than done, because we don’t do it.

My husband and I both admire Alec’s work and enjoyed both his novels, Black Rock, White City and Atlantic Black. I need to follow up and read some of his earlier work, which are short stories and novellas. I have to say that I was pretty apprehensive about the workshop. Alec’s work is so literary and intelligent and he won the Miles Franklin award in 2016, so the whole prospect was thoroughly intimidating. I am not literary. I do read some literary fiction, but I also like sci-fi, some fantasy, historical fiction – this is all “genre” fiction, which often gets looked down on.

So I was a little nervous. How much “work” would there be in the workshop? Would I look ridiculous in front of the other, more experienced attendees? Well, I needn’t have worried because the vibe in the room was very welcoming and Alec is a great person to be running a workshop – speaking to each one of us individually, but turning the conversation to general themes that could benefit everyone in the room.

Alec is such an interesting person to listen to. He always wanted to be a writer and set out to do it, but it was many years before he had any work published. It’s a hard slog, getting out there. He obviously writes like a method actor – really getting right in there and inhabiting the story and the characters. He says you should be fully committed to experiencing what you’re writing – if you don’t want to go there, then you shouldn’t write about that thing. It’s an intimidating thought and to be honest, it’s left me wondering a little, “Can I even do that?” Even if I wanted to, had every intention to, could I ever be a good enough writer to really be that far into the work?

The other thing he said that stayed with me was that writing is “confusion and pain and uncertainty”. This causes me to pause a moment. Is that what I want out of life? It’s not really something you decide for yourself though is it, being creative? It’s just something you are. And I’ve mused before over what that means and why it’s difficult, so I get the statement about confusion and pain and uncertainty. I don’t know if I agree that that is the definition of a writing life. Audacious, I know, because I don’t live a writing life, but surely writing is somewhat similar to other creative pursuits? You’re always making yourself vulnerable, placing yourself under scrutiny, flirting with rejection.

But somewhere amongst all that, you are creating. Shadows can’t be cast without the light. Surely living a creative life is also beauty and colour and awareness? It’s aliveness. The clouds will come, yes, also the rain and the wind and terrible storms that clench your stomach and make you wonder why you even bother – who are you to put anything in front of another person and suggest they might be interested in it?

Yes, the storm will come, but also sea breezes, and sunshine, and maybe even rainbows.

Full disclosure: I pinched the photo of Alec from his website.