The winner of the Australian/Vogel Literary Award was announced today and congratulations go to Rohan Wilson, 34, for his novel The Roving Party. Set in 1829 it’s the story of John Batman and his group of convicts and trackers, based on fact but fictionalised.
In an interview with The Mercury Wilson said: “I was never in doubt about the story – I always knew the story needed to be told and that people would be interested in it – it was just whether I had the ability to bring it all together and pull it off.
A lot of times I didn’t think I did – but it’s one of those things – if you set your mind to it and work at it, eventually you can drag yourself up to a level that’s passable.”
Wilson has clearly written something more than passable and has won the $30,000 award to prove it. But what he did in order to get himself there was believe – in himself, his story and in his writing. Of course there were moments, probably many of them, when like all of us he had serious doubts, but he forged on regardless with a strong underlying belief in what he was doing and that he could “pull it off”.
As writers we all need to have that belief. We need to keep reminding ourselves that we are capable of learning, of improving, of writing stories that people will want to read. And we need to believe that the story we are telling is important – whether the purpose is to entertain, examine, investigate, create a work of art, or all of the above. There will be many times when that belief is challenged: each time we receive less than glowing feedback or an out-and-out rejection; each time we read the story over and curse ourselves for being so laughably untalented. These challenges will come time and time again. There will be many times when you will be despondent and doubt yourself but if you keep coming back to all the things you love about writing and if you hold on to that core belief that what you are writing is important you will be able to meet them.
How do you maintain that belief? For me it’s about loving the process, being inspired by the act of creating something from a blank page, something that can be worked on, improved and hopefully made more beautiful. And it’s about remembering why I write: to unravel the mystery of who I am and to discover who I might be.
In the words of Annie Dillard (The Writing Life):
At it’s best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then – and only then – it is handed to you. From the corner of your eye you see motion. Something is moving through the air and headed your way. It is a parcel bound in ribbons and bows; it has two white wings. It flies directly at you; you can read your name on it. If it were a baseball you would hit it out of the park. It is that one pitch in a thousand you see in slow motion; its wings beat slowly as a hawk’s.
How do you hold onto your belief in your writing?
Click here for an interview with Rohan Wilson: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/vogel-winners-trip-to-heart-of-darkness/story-e6frg6nf-1226045868394