Blog 19

Observations, Aphorisms and Rules for Writing

We asked a couple of our Issue 5 writers, “How much of an island are you when it comes to your writing? Are you part of a writers group, do you seek feedback on your work, or do you predominantly work alone? Do you have a writing mentor?” In the first piece, Community & Positive Black Holes, Kathie Giorgio shared her love for her writing community that she founded and directs.

In this second post, Sian Robynsauthor of ‘I Guess This Is It’ shares her thoughts on writing solo and with a community. Sian is a PhD candidate in literary translation studies at Victoria University of Wellington, where she is working on an annotated translation of Le Complexe de Caliban by the French writer Linda Lê. Sian has worked as a journalist, a press secretary and public sector communications manager (with an emphasis on economic development and innovation policy) and has finally got round to calling herself a writer. Her translation of Linda Lê’s Conte de l’amour bifrons will be published by Mākaro Press in Wellington in 2016.

Observations, Aphorisms and Rules for Writing

The question was, “How much of an island are you as a writer?” And as I began thinking about it my internet feed filled itself with observations, aphorisms and Rules for Writing. Here’s one from the Swiss writer Robert Walser: “Anything great and bold must be brought about in secrecy and silence, or it perishes and falls away, and the fire that was awakened dies.”

shells (1)

Then there’s Walter Benjamin who, in the second of his thirteen theses on writing tells us we may talk about what we’ve written but mustn’t read from it while it’s still a work in progress. “Every gratification procured in this way will slacken your tempo. If this regime is followed, the growing desire to communicate will become in the end a motor for completion.” (He also recommends treats at key milestones and an abundance of good quality papers, pens and inks.)

pebbles - headland

Pithiest of all, as you’d expect, is Stephen King’s advice – to write with the door closed and to rewrite with it open. I like this. It sits nicely beside the advice they give you in post-grad orientation programmes, that writing is thinking on paper. Who can think clearly when the world is tugging at your clothes, saying that sentence is too long (which in my case, it probably is), that bit’s confusing, why don’t you do this, you should do that…I need to think with the door closed. Once I know what I think, once I know what the story looks like, what it wants to look like, I’m ready to open it, to share it with my writing group and trusted reader.

Island Bay, Wellington

So yes, I’m an island when it comes to first and second drafts. But not an isolated pimple of rock in the middle of the ocean, blasted by storms, spattered by guano and littered with the skeletons of lost sailors. More an island in an archipelago, within easy reach of other islands. Or perhaps one of those islands just a little way offshore, that seems to move closer to land as the light and the tides and the weather change.

 

Read 'I Guess This Is It’ and other stories by talented New Zealand and international authors in Issue 5.




Sian Robyns

Sian Robyns is a PhD candidate in literary translation studies at Victoria University of Wellington, where she is working on an annotated translation of Le Complexe de Caliban by the French writer Linda Lê. Sian has worked as a journalist, a press secretary and public sector communications manager and has finally got round to calling herself a writer. Her translation of Linda Lê's Conte de l'amour bifrons will be published by Mākaro Press in Wellington in 2016.

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