Hey hey cHEwY gum gums

I went to Parramatta Artist Studios for their bi-monthly series, Studio stories. I wanted to see my beloved writing pal, Alice Pung, who gave me my first big break back in 2008. Funny enough, this was another Sydney Writers Festival event. We first met at the launch of Growing Up Asian in Australia down at Welsh Bay during the Sydney Writers Festival haha. Yes, I literally have a bookish crush on her.

8 years later, Alice is still glowing and joyous as always, and it was a pleasure to see her read from her latest novel, Laurinda, which won the NSW Premier’s Award for YA. Anyhow, during Q and A, an aspiring writer from the audience the panel about how each writer balanced having a real job and writing. It brought me back to my early days, where I split my week until teaching part time and writing at home. I mean, full time teaching drained my creative energy, so I needed a balance where I was still getting money to supplement my writing.

So am I a full time writer? Kinda. I mean, I spend half of my year visiting schools, conferences and festivals…doing talks and workshops is my money job. But I gotta say, it sure doesn’t feel like a job. And I get to wear cartoon shirts to work haha.

Alice Pung said that she likes having some work in between her writing. If she dedicated all her time to it, she would feel less productive. I feel the same way. I like coming back from a week or two of school visits, hungry to work on my next novel. I have spent many school summer holidays in January, with hopes of smashing through heaps of words and never getting there…because it feels like time is infinite. But there’s always a tension between writing and doing other work.

Poet, Maryam Azam said that you will find time for it. If you love it that much, then you will make pockets of time. She juggles full time teaching and uses those school holidays wisely. I guess if you do have limited time, then it does really become valuable. I know authors who when they have kids, wake up early or find an quiet hour to smash out some words and you know, you just get in the zone quicker.

Then it moved to discipline. Do you wait for inspiration? I never did. I think writing is like exercise, you gotta keep doing it. Sure, I have dud days, but I’m still in front of the screen, writing something. Even if it’s editing or writing a blog like this, it’s writing.

Peter went to say that he doesn’t believe in inspiration. It’s all about your intention to write. And I agree with him there. Writers block doesn’t really exist. I tell kids that if you’re truly stuck, walk away, play some games, whatever. It will come to you eventually. Maryam said inspiration is like clarity of thought and you got to make it a habit. Inspiration as a habit? Yeah, it’s true. Writers never switch off. Anyone or anything can become an idea for a joke or story for me. Nobody is zapped into being a writer, it’s a muscle that gets trained over and over again.

Finally, to be a writer, you gotta live. Have experiences. Meet people. And yes…get inspired, just like I did with this blog because I had to punch out these words.

I remember those days when I first started, writing, teaching, meeting new groups of people, learning from other writers, living out my crazy life.

Because like Peter said, writing can’t not work for me.

I find that truly inspiring.


About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree

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