I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I always assumed it would be children’s books because that’s what my late mum wrote and I worshipped her. I spent a lot of time frustrated by my dream because I had no idea how a short story worked. I tried and tried and tried to write something decent in school but it wasn’t natural. My attempts were appalling and unenjoyable. How am I supposed to be a writer if I don’t like it? I always liked writing assignments for science and humanities subjects at school. I would spend hours reading and working out the argument I was trying to make. I loved it. My favourite was the Wuthering Heights book review. I didn’t read the book because I was too busy reading Gone with the Wind and the due date crept up. Not being allowed an extension, I watched the movie then juxtaposed it with Gone with the Wind. I got an A. I couldn’t believe the luck of it, but it hooked me. This is how I loved to write, but it wasn’t stories so I wasn’t going to be a writer. I initially became a history teacher so I could keep writing and reading history for a career (bad reason to teach by the way). I wrote essays for four years of my undergraduate and two years (part-time) in my Masters. I was fascinated by how you could string points together to make an argument. I learnt and wrote about Australian spies; argued about Ned Kelly’s validity as an Australian hero; aced a Nietzsche essay I wasn’t prepared for (I studied Marx for the test) by comparing and contrasting Hitler and Stalin’s ideologies; suggested Brad Pitt was a part of a masculinity economy; linked the Apostle Paul to Jane Austin and Cuban cigar factory workers; and became fascinated with Real Politik and popularism in Australian politics. But it wasn’t stories so I wasn’t writing.
I come from a family of journalists and public relations officers. My grandfather, Tarboy, wrote for The Land and has been compared favourably with the bulletin balladeers like Henry Lawson, Banjo Patterson and Breaker Morant. My Great and great (but not in name) uncles wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald. My uncle and cousin do great public relations work. So great that my uncle actually introduced my to my university’s Academic Probate at my graduation because they had worked together. That’s old school networking at its best! I thought that maybe journalism was a way to becoming a writer. I tried it during some time off from teaching, but it didn’t resonate. I was so disappointed I wouldn’t be that type of writer either. I taught children for many years how to write essays and reports. I taught them to read their criteria sheets to make sure they were sticking to the topic, paragraphing for logical development of argument. I told them the essay writing techniques like compare and contrast were the key to success when done well. I taught that when fiction doesn’t come naturally, when given the choice, essays were easier because the rules were clear. But even though fiction and non-fiction writing were clear options for testing writing ability in the end of Year 12 testing, still I didn’t realise I was, in fact, a writer. It took me until half-way through my PhD to realise that I am a writer. Not learning to be one. Am. That a career can be made from writing. In fact, academia is a career grounded and built on writing. I often think about where I would go to soak in writers that had gone before. In my old mindset, I would have gone to Yorkshire to soak in the Brontes. Now I think I would go to Berlin. To soak in Martin Luther who invented the Masters degree, Marx, Einstein, and the Berlin secondhand book sellers still raising money to replace the library the Nazis burnt. A library that is/was full of essays. Its taken a long time for me to realise I have realised my dream. What is writing for you?