Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Steven O’Connor – Writing – Talk about it. Shout about it. Live it

Writing – Talk about it. Shout about it. Live it

by Steven O’Connor

I want to start by telling you a bit about myself.

In the seventies, my family migrated to a certain place I will call – being polite – unwelcoming. I was twelve. It wasn’t just a shift between two Western countries, from Great Britain to Australia; it was also an adjustment from a modern, metropolitan lifestyle to a slow existence in a hot, semi-industrialized country town.

The youth population of the town tended to regard any long-haired teenagers from overseas (let alone into music … Bowie, T. Rex) as in urgent need of bashing up. I spent every waking moment trying to imagine what my life should have been like, and growing angrier and angrier.

I’m sure most teenagers faced with migration would experience similar difficulties and I won’t dwell on it here. I only mention it because this is why I began to write in secret.

At the heart of this secrecy was a fear of yet more ridicule and abuse from others. Exposure. I was an adolescent living in a constant state of vulnerability. And I was in a family whose other members were distracted by their own issues associated with being in a new country. (Ironically, the one person in the family who had wanted to migrate, my father, died shortly after settling in the country.)

Keeping something secret about yourself can have significant implications. For me, it was behind why I never pursued a writing career, or sought out another person, a mentor perhaps. How wonderful that might have been.

Escaping to the bigger Australian city of Melbourne in the eighties was a good thing, but even so I continued to keep my writing hidden. I rarely submitted anything to competitions or journals, even though, when I did, I experienced a degree of success. Writing was an important part of my identity, and yet, if I’d stopped, no one would have noticed.

Like all older writers, I have hundreds of thousands of words buried in various places throughout the house. Under my bed, at the back of bookshelves, in boxes in the attic. It feels as if my words trail behind me back through the years, reaching through the nineties and the eighties to the seventies. No doubt a lot of it I should get rid of. But maybe I’d find some gems, if I sat down and went through it all, and luck was with me. They exist on handwritten scraps of paper and in notebooks, on typed, dusty manuscripts (from the heavy, so-called portable Olivetti typewriters with their messy ribbons), in WordPerfect files encoded into the flimsy plastic of large floppy discs (saved by my monochrome Amstrad word processor), in MSWord files on minidisks and, today, backed up on a portable hard drive that I know to keep separate from the computer.

I grew up on vintage sci-fi TV shows, watching the likes of Dr Who and Star Trek from their very start (and I do mean very start). I also embarked on a professional Social Work career in the early eighties. Hence themes of illness, addiction, recovery, mental health and wellbeing are just as present in my stories as spaceships, robots, aliens, dragons, aliens and a host of unimaginable creatures. And in all this time – 70s, 80s and 90s – keeping it to myself.

I am happy to report, I finally opened up as a writer in the year 2000. I could dig up the exact date if I wanted to – I just did: Monday, 10 January 2000. The day I enrolled in a tertiary writing and editing course. I have my mother to thank for that. At her suggestion, we enrolled together in a college in the heart of the city, amongst the alley cafes. I have never been closer to my mother than in the years she has now also become my writing buddy. (Good on you, writing, for giving me that.) She has successfully published two autobiographies (I’m briefly in the second as a child) and has a third, a novel, on the way. And I wrote my first published novel in year one of those studies.

So don’t keep your passion private. Do you want to get good at something, make it an important part of your life? Then don’t quietly beaver away for years in a back room, never telling anybody. That’s fooling no one but yourself.

Nothing grows in darkness.

Whatever your passion is. Talk about it. Shout about it. Live it.

Steven O’Connor writes young adult fiction with a futuristic bent. His writing is influenced by Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Blade Runner, Dr Who, and just about every sci-fi film and TV show you could possibly think of. His EleMental and MonuMental ebooks are available through Amazon.


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Genre – Young Adult / Science Fiction

Rating –PG

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