a week at varuna
This short introduces a new treatment for the crop of videos I’ve been cultivating over the last couple of years. Lately I’ve been feeling the need to create a seperate place to indulge my video fettish free of the literary stuff. So with no better ideas, I created a new blog: One hundred cups of coffee
The premise is pretty simple; a video blog to document my attempts to be more creative, more often through one hundred coffees in one hundred different places – each a catalyst for doing, creating and experiencing something new.
100cupscoffee.com is a place for me to hone my video skills while keeping focused on the prime objective: creativity. So if you’re into video (not that kind of video), take a look, and let me know what you think (over there, not here).
And while I have you, here’s 9 things (I couldn’t find the 10th) I learnt about myself while writing at Varuna.
1. Every first draft feels just as hard as the last.
My first draft of the story I worked on at Varuna sounded absolutely terrible; it took three complete re-writes for the ‘truth’ or purpose of the story to become clear. I could not have written the same story first time. From here on I’m going to take comfort that hating the first draft of anything I write is normal.
2. Listening to music helps me write.
I listened to the soundtrack to The Road and The Assassination of Jesse James almost exlcusively while writing at Varuna. It kept me focused and in a certain “mood” – which I think helped develop the piece thematically. Even amongst total silence, listening to music helps me to zone out of the real world and keep me focused on the task at hand.
3. It is possible to do two creative things at once.
In my case writing and videography. But there is a fine balance. In order to get anything done at Varuna I had to set aside time for just writing, and time just for the camera. Timelapses are good for this as you have to leave your camera alone for extended periods of time. Also, it is difficult to clear your head with a camera in your hand. Going for a walk with a camera meant I was constantly searching for a picture to take, rather than zoning out. Writing is all about achieving appropriate levels of ‘zone’.
4. Talking through a story helps.
Talking to other writers or readers about a story helps me to think about what I could be doing with a story, whilst getting line by line edits doesn’t necessarily help me at the early stages. In fact, if things aren’t past the third or fourth draft, there is no point showing it to anyone as I’ll probably change it all anyway. Talking helps though.
5. It doesn’t matter which program you write in.
Unfortunately, the process of writing does not get any easier or harder by switching to a new word processor. Though Scrivener is quite clever.
6. Go to the end before turning around.
Even if my ending totally blows, it’s still better for me to race to the end as by getting there I usually discover how things should actually start. Without at least touching the end, it is difficult to gauge the dimensions of your work, without knowing the dimensions of something it is difficult to see it whole.
7. There’s a difference between teaching a writer and developing a writer.
Both have their place. A writer does not always need to be told what to do, he/she often just needs to be guided, conversed with, encouraged, supported. If one hits a dead end in their work, a teacher would give them tips on how to fix the dead end. But a mentor would show them the space on the book shelf where the writer can find their own answers.
8. I can be disciplined and sit down to write, and enjoy it, for more than 2 hours.
For more that 4 hours in fact. This does not happen necessarily for the first draft, but each successive draft promises more and more. Even with a full time job, writing is possible. Get through the first draft by working day to day, committing time to write, then set aside a day on the weekend to refine the draft.
9. Imitating others can help you find your style.
When I have a story idea in rough draft form I’ll often refine it against the structure of another piece I have enjoyed. I find that while in the early stages I mimic the style and even the content closely, each successive draft feels more like my own. You might think this is cheating, but what do you think genre fiction is all about?
Thanks to the teams at Text Publishing and Griffith Review for providing me the chance to stay at Varuna. And thanks also to the Varuna Team for making my stay so comfortable. Hope to be back soon for another round.