Getting unstuck

Oct 03, 2018

So, I got stuck with my manuscript.

Dealt with some setbacks, had a bit of a mental health crash, kept trying to push through and remain totally immersed in the project, stubborn and determined as per usual. I’m a definite multitasker (often distracted, always a million things on the go), nevertheless, in matters of writing, I’ve only ever been able to manage one thing at a time.

Until now.

Two big things happened this year to counter my second book syndrome slump (Bram Presser, you say it so well).

First, I went back to my (very part time) study at RMIT PWE, firstly doing Short Fiction with the marvellous Ania Walwicz and now, Writing for Children with Clare Renner and Sue de Gennaro.

It’s been wonderful. It’s ridiculous that I sit at events, festivals and author talks madly trying to tweet the amazing words of wisdom I’m hearing, yet I never tweet from RMIT’s Building 94 where I’ve learned so much. I would stay in the course forever if they’d let me.

As a result of this semester’s course, I’m currently working on writing a couple of picture book manuscripts and a middle grade novel (see – three different projects on the go!) and loving reading to the kids with a brain full of new insights about the art and mechanics of writing great literature for children. It is the hardest writing I’ve ever done. I’ve learned so much about voice and shape and plot and language. They are lessons I’ll take into all of my writing from now on.

Second big thing – I collaborated with my friend Katherine Collette to make a podcast. The First Time podcast is about the first time you publish a book. In it, Katherine and I talk, angst, question and mull over different aspects of what it’s like to write your first book, then to have it go out into the world. Katherine’s been ridiculously brave in sharing all her feels in the lead up to (and after!) the release of her debut book, The Helpline, and I’ve been reflecting on my experience with Skylarking and what I’ve learnt since then. The best bit – we asked a whole lot of amazing Australian writers and industry people to talk to us about their first time publishing experiences (people like Claire G Coleman, Melanie Cheng, agent Jacinta di Mase  Penni Russon, Graeme Simsion & Toni Jordan to name a few), and they all said yes! I’ve learned SO much – about writing and publishing and podcasting but also about creative collaborations, and how it feels to MAKE something we think is important and to share it. I’m super proud of what we’ve done.

Some days, deep in the multitask of grant applications and social media accounts and juggling all of normal life plus trying to earn money and be a good parent and the rest, I’ve considered that maybe all of these projects are just a really extreme form of procrastination and me avoiding my novel.

And they are, kind of.

But they’ve also filled me up. And given me and my manuscript much needed time away from each other. Every interview, class, new book recommendation, scribbled note and deep Google dive has led me to ideas and advice and techniques and words I’ve not considered before. Quietly, in the background, these thoughts have moved and shifted and regrouped in my brain, and when I recently went back to the draft, I found that I could see more clearly. That I know now what it is the book wants to be.

Instead of hunkering down and pummelling away at the draft in solitude, I turned in the other direction, away from the book, putting my energy into new projects and the writing community with all the wisdom and generosity that wonderful bunch of humans have to share.

And, in the end, I reckon both the book and I are all the better for it.

May your stuck stuff get similarly unstuck xx


Bram Presser

Bram Presser

Kate, this is just great! And might actually contain the solution to my big problem. I’ve been so singly focused on the next book, and crippled by the thought of writing it, that I seem to have forgotten there are other worthwhile pursuits that I could explore while allowing it to percolate. Thanks! Time to explore my options.
Oh, and by the by, your podcast rules.

October 6, 2018 at 4:48 am

Kate’s first book, SKYLARKING was published in Australia by Black Inc. in 2016 and in the UK by Legend Press in 2017. Her second THE MOTHER FAULT is published in Australia by Simon & Schuster in 2020 and in the UK by Harper Collins UK in 2021. Kate’s third novel, THE HUMMINGBIRD EFFECT was published in Australia by Simon & Schuster in August 2023.

Stay in touch with Kate via her newsletter, The Bowerbird.