A few days ago, on the first of August, Writers in the Attic turned one year old!
Just over a year ago I tentatively approached a couple of writers and asked them to pen an essay about what being a writer meant to them. I certainly didn’t expect it would still be going a year later, with no signs of slowing down!
When I started the series, I had no idea how much interest there would be nor how long it might last. I hoped for half-a-dozen or so posts, and then I thought readers and writers might get bored and the enthusiasm would wane. But I underestimated the generosity of writers and how giving of their writing time they would be.
The thought for the series came one day when I was walking the dogs and listening to a podcast about writing. I wish I could remember the name of the author or even the podcast I was listening to, but all I remember is that it was a middle-aged, female author talking about how hard it is to come to writing later in life, and how emerging writers’ festivals, residencies and awards are often aimed at the under-35s, yet there are many emerging writers who are older.
As someone who started to write only seven years ago, at the mature age of 43, the author’s words resonated with me. It’s a completely different experience coming to writing when you’re older. I’d been established in another career, in which I had a degree and a level of expertise, and it was hard to go back to the beginning in a new career and start all over again. Most of the time I try to ignore my age, but sometimes when I look at the unlined faces of other emerging writers who, I might add, aren’t much older than my children, I feel matronly and old, and somewhat discouraged to be this age and wearing ‘L’ plates.
So as I listened to the author on the podcast, the idea came to ask writers of varying ages what it felt like to be writing at that age. My first guest was Marlish Glorie, who wrote about being a writer at 60. I also asked Maureen Helen about being a writer when approaching 80 and Emily Paull about writing in your twenties.
I didn’t limit writers to the topic of age, but let them choose their own subjects. Some wrote about fitting writing in and around other careers: Michelle Johnston wrote about being a doctor and a writer, Elisabeth Hanscombe on being a psychologist and a writer, and Joyce Mathers spoke of the importance of writing in her job as a celebrant.
Some writers wrote about the difficulty they had calling themselves writers: Shannon Meyerkort confessed to not feeling like a ‘real’ writer because of the piecemeal nature of her writing, Tabetha Rogers-Beggs wrote about squeezing writing into a busy life of work and mothering, and Teena Raffa-Mulligan talked about accepting a life of writing in fragments. Monique Mulligan wrote about feelings of vulnerability when exposing herself through her writing,
Many writers talked about writing as way of processing traumatic events. Glenda Janes called writing her saving grace, Camilla Hullick wrote about how it helped ease loneliness, and Nicole McAlinden wrote of how writing helped her cope with the illness of a family member.
Many have written very personally: Jessica Gately wrote about how much her fictional character is part of herself, and Lauren Keegan showed us her resilience in the face of repeated rejection. Rachel Nightingale and Anthea Hodgson wrote poignantly about the influence their fathers’ deaths have had on their writing.
There are essays on writing historical fiction (Deb Burrows) and romance (Vikki Holstein and Lily Malone), on being dyslexic and writing (Robin Riedstra), writing tips (Eliza Henry-Jones and Cait Gordon), on writing with babies and children (Natasha Lester and Rebecca Freeman), on being a self-published author (Helen Jones), on taking a circuitous pathway to creative writing (Deb Wain, Maureen Eppen and Denise Mills), and on coming to writing later in life (Jean J McLeod and Marie McLean).
There are many more beautiful essays and I can’t name them all here, nor can I do their authors justice with my summaries. Some have made me laugh out loud; some have made me weep. Most have been deeply personal and often after I’ve read a post, I’ve been rendered speechless.
To all who have contributed, thank you so much for stepping into the attic and writing about yourself and your life. Writers are the best people—I’m yet to find another group of professionals so generous and willing to share their experiences and help each other.
Thank you, too, to everyone who’s read these pieces. Continue to watch this space because there’s plenty more to come!
I hope this has inspired you to write for Writers in the Attic. The topic is anything to do with writing—your writing life, what writing means to you, or what has influenced your writing. 600-1000 words is a good length, and I acknowledge the time and effort involved in writing these pieces by sending a small gift as a thank you.
Please keep the essays coming!
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact me here.