Show Your Working is a regular column exploring how some of our favourite writers get things done. This month, we take a peek into the writing routine of author Georgina Young, whose Text Prize-winning YA debut Loner is available now from Text Publishing.
What does your workspace look like?
I work at the desk of my dreams, happened upon at Vinnies last November when I decided I needed a proper desk. It has a rolling top, a rabbit warren of niches, and a set of lovely solid drawers that clunk satisfyingly into place. I was told it came from the estate of a woman who painted and took photographs. I chipped candle wax out of the shelf insets and spent a day polishing it up and grazing the backs of my hands on rusty nails. It is the most beautiful thing I own. Of course, the desk does not maketh the writer. And, let’s face it, wherever the hell you are sat becomes periphery the minute whatever you are writing starts to work. But it’s a nice place to sit down every morning and think: let’s begin.
Are you an analog or digital writer?
These days almost exclusively digital. Preliminary and concept notes are always by hand (as my shelves/boxes of notebooks will attest), but the actual writing bit is on the laptop. I do get the appeal of writing a novel by hand though. I was working in retail while writing my novel Loner, and wrote quite a bit of it in a notebook behind the counter between customers. There was less of a pressure to get it right instantly as I knew I would have to type it up anyway and could pick up anything immediately unsightly then. I look back on that process fondly, if only because I now probably spend too much of the day sitting and staring at a screen.
I’m very mathematical in my approach to writing and life. I’m all about dates and word counts and knowing exactly what happened when.
What sort of software and hardware do you use to get your work done?
I use Microsoft Word. I was unaware alternate word processing software existed until I was recently asked which I use. Back in the day on the family desktop it was (still is) Word 2003, these days I’ve moved up in the world and am rocking 2011. I studied design at uni and am a typographer at heart, so have been known to restructure sentences just so they look nice on the page. Also from that time I have a big ol’ library of typefaces, and every writing project begins with me picking between Garamond or Caslon or whatever serif font I’m mad on currently. All of which takes place on my hefty seven-year-old Mac (because design student = cult of Apple), which is a pain to lug anywhere but has a nice big screen and most importantly, iMovie, which has enabled me to make a whole series of melodramatic music videos over the years for both fun and assessment.
Describe your writing practice?
I thrive on routine, so for me it’s getting up in the morning and just doing the thing. I have never been able to work in the evening—I was never one of those people who could stay up all night writing essays. Basically, beyond 4 pm, I will turn belligerent or dismayed. I do as much as I can in the morning and middle of the day. I just write and write as much as possible and try to stop myself from coming to the conclusion that I am completely wasting my time. I like to get a first draft done and then let it sit. I am a planner. Hell yes, I am. Having complete and utter control over narrative is probably why I write to begin with. For me, it simply makes it easier. I like knowing exactly what’s going to happen and how much I’ve done and how much is coming. I’m very mathematical in my approach to writing and life. I’m all about dates and word counts and knowing exactly what happened when.
Has your writing practice changed over the years? If so, how?
For sure. From penning down ideas on paper napkins before tennis lessons, big cardboard narrative sheets, medieval sagas writ at the family computer, spending an entire winter school break at the corner desk in my room with the same Eric Hutchinson CD on in the background, to the relative routine of now. I’ve always just written in whatever way suited me at the time. Last year, I got so used to sitting at the kitchen table with the digital drift of the Jonas Brothers from my sister studying in the next room, that when she went away on holiday I found it difficult to write. A couple of years ago I found it very conducive to go to a library to write, because it forced me to do the work and it established a proper routine and environment for my practice. I think that really helped me in forging my personal discipline so that now I can achieve that same ethic at home.
I don’t know if you can force inspiration, but you can certainly encourage it by consuming avidly and widely, and then thinking about what you’ve consumed.
How do you encourage inspiration to strike?
I don’t know. Consumerism as creation? Isn’t that the postmodern way? Now that I’m properly thining about it, I feel like a lot of my ideas happen when I’m absorbing other media. The moment after you consume something when you think, but what if it was like this? What if this was the focus? I don’t know if you can force inspiration, but you can certainly encourage it by consuming avidly and widely. Consume the hell out of anything you can. And then think about what you’ve consumed. I love learning things. Encountering new information and concepts is rad. Particularly when you pick up a book and you learn about something you never would’ve taken an interest in otherwise.
At the other end of the process, I think I am a lot more successful with finishing novels than I used to be simply because I have learnt to dismiss (or at least acknowledge and put aside) my uncertainties. I just remind myself that I always feel that doubt, and whatever I have written always looks better the following day. My big turning point was seeing Tim Winton speak at a bookshop a few years ago and he said something along the lines of ‘if you want to write, write’. Basically, a revelation. If it’s going to be your work, you’ve got to treat it like your work. Do the thing. You can always make it better later.
Loner is available now at your local independent bookseller.
Looking to kickstart your own writing practice? Check out our range of online Writers’ Workshops, with a great range of courses designed for writers across all genres and skill levels.