“I will never study writing. Ever.”
If anyone asks me if I’ve formally studied creative writing (an undergraduate or postgraduate degree or Masters), that’s what I tell them.
It’s a falsehood really, because that’s all I’ve done for the past twenty years (I do have a study-at-home Diploma in Novel Writing, but that’s going back years now). I’ve devoured non-fiction books on how to write fiction, and the advent of the Kindle has been my gateway to my self-paced studies. The Kindle has saved me hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on postage of hard cover books to Australia.
Really, I’ll never study writing.
Perhaps what I mean to say I’ll never sit in a lecture theatre to take notes on the writing craft, I’ll never submit an assignment minutes before the due date, and I’ll never – ever, ever, ever – cram for an exam on creative writing. I just can’t see myself formally studying what I love to do at my own pace.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe wholeheartedly in education. I have a bachelor’s degree, two Diplomas and a Masters – in IT and Management. I’ve studied hard and long and forever in these fields. So much study, I’m probably burnt out. I’m an IT Project Manager by profession in an Australian University and I love my job. For some, writing is a job. It’s a full-time, well paid job. I don’t discount that one day I’d love to be in a similar position – at the very least supplementing my income with that of published novels – but for me, writing is about the journey, not the destination.
And that’s why it’s taken me twenty years to learn all about it, at my own pace.
I knew I wanted to write when I was in primary school (most writers do). I have the evidence, recently surfaced in boxes as I’ve moved house. I have picture books I’ve hand written and illustrated, with little gold stickers that tell me I’d won first place. I have notebooks full of stories and poetry (some particularly bad rip-offs of Enid Blyton). I have a library of Jackie Collins’ novels, because that’s the writer I wanted to emulate when I was younger (we all need to start somewhere, but maybe I was just as in love with her glorious real-life mansion, as I was with her success).
I wanted to become a journalist when I was in high school. I had a driving desire to advocate for people, tell the truth on their behalf, and generally fix the world. But that soon changed when I realised that journalism might mean brutalistic reporting techniques to get that sought after story. And I was an introvert. Really, I couldn’t imagine interrogating anyone for the ‘truth’. So I went on to study management, marry, have three beautiful children (who are all teenagers now), work full time while
studying part time…a wonderful and blessed journey, really…but my writing sat on the back burner.
I’ve dedicated myself to it solely for the past five years (to make up for lost time), while doing all the
above, and I’ve had an absolute blast. Writing has taken me to the Blue Mountains, New York, Bundaberg, and the Brisbane Writers Festival. I have a literary agent, and over 30 short stories published. I’ve written five novels, and all while meeting the most passionate and amazing people. Could I have managed formal studies in creative fiction writing in this time? Would I be a better writer if I had? Does part of me regret not obtaining formal qualifications in doing what I love?
The world is my learning platform. I write my stories, submit them for feedback in supportive critique
groups, and learn from the feedback, alongside the rejections and acceptances. I also observe. I watch the people around me, hear their personal stories, feel what they feel, live vicariously through these people, including my teenagers, and remember my own past, and my journey, and all the joys and tribulations.
That’s how I’ve learned to write. Self-paced and lots of practice. It may take me longer to grasp the
craft, but then, I am all about enjoying the journey.
Tamara’s short stories have been published in Australian and USA anthologies, including Queen of Crime 2013, Tincture Journal and Rock Bottom, and have placed in several short story competitions, including the Glass Woman Prize.
In 2011, Tamara was awarded a Fellowship by Eleanor Dark Foundation and stayed at the Varuna Writers’ House where she was mentored by Australian crime author Marele Day. Tamara has authored crime fiction and young adult speculative fiction novels.
By profession, Tamara is an Information Technology Project Manager and resides in Brisbane with her husband and three children. Tamara is active in a number of writing groups and has served as Vice President
of the Fellowship of Australian Writers Queensland (FAWQ), and Senior Editor of Compose Online Journal.
Tamara also knows never to say never, so while this article represents her point of view at this time, she is a fiend for learning and doing, and maybe creative writing will find her in a University lecture theatre – one day. Just not right now.