For those who haven’t plugged into the hype yet: the Emerging Writers’ Festival, the festival for writers, is coming up again this year, in the next few weeks. I’m really excited to plug into the inclusive network of writers and word artists, to recharge on inspiration, and engage in debates about the state of writing in Melbourne. I really can’t highlight it enough for writers of all levels because it is a festival about writing, the actual living and breathing practice of it, not just the finished product.
I’ve been looking through the program and trying to decide what events I really want to go to. This year is tough because I feel like I have more time, being a student and having the break between semesters, and yet I am no longer working so I am kind of broke.
But the festival and studying really compliment and reinforce each other. Studying has been really useful to focus myself on my own writing practice and the chance to give as much energy as I can to it. It is important to see that I am not studying to later become a writer once I graduate, have passed the test and learnt stuff, but I am practising now, submitting, being published and developing as I go along. Also, we will never stop learning and developing ourselves as writers.
I’ve heard some things being said around the Twittersphere and various corners of the Internet about creative writing courses, and whether or not they are useful. The debate seems timeless and will keep coming up, but I think it’s worth looking at from my perspective as a new student that’s previously been working on my writing without study.
I definitely didn’t need to study this course in order to be a writer. No publisher asks for your degree when you submit a short story, and most of what you learn is by just writing a lot and reading as much as you can. There are also many things you can’t ‘learn’ in the formal sense. But I don’t believe in this idea of innate talent and the idea that you’ve either ‘got it’ or you don’t.
The benefits of the course include being surrounded by your peers, working alongside them, developing with them, and the regular practice of writing to deadlines, workshopping, as well as some of the theory and exercises it provides. It doesn’t necessarily teach you how to write but provides you with the means to teach yourself how to write and to develop.
But I think it would be a mistake to think that developing as a writer stops at going to class, doing your assignments and maybe submitting something at the end of semester to a magazine. My first semester has been a process of discovering how my own writing practice and routine can fit into the new routine and schedule that’s been placed before me. It’s something I’m still working on, but finding that time to write your own stuff outside of the course is important as well as finding other avenues of development.
Which is where the Emerging Writers’ Festival comes back in. It’s an opportunity to surround yourself with another group of peers, of people outside of your own university, and those that have finished studying or haven’t studied in that formal sense. EWF raises issues and talks about things probably not covered in your course, or an issue covered in a new way, or from a different angle. The Town Hall conference on the first Saturday and Sunday is the premiere event of the festival and is jam-packed with ideas and inspiration.
There are also the performance events, the open mic and lots of chances to drink and chat at Rue Babelons. I will be blogging throughout the festival on the festival in general here, and then on spoken word and poetry specific things at MelbourneSpokenWord.com.
My piece ‘Occupying Writers’ will also appear in The Emerging Writer, the festival’s journal, which will be launched during the festival.