1. It’s not a life. It’s a profession, a hobby, an activity or an obsession. Life goes on regardless of it. In fact, life doesn’t care whether I write or not. Thank you life.
2. If I desperately have to compare myself with other writers, I must not compare reviews, sales or bank accounts. I can compare writing styles, personal manners, mental health and the respect in which they are held. Or maybe their haircuts.
3. There’s no such thing as the ‘writing community’. There are only other writers. Some of them are high quality people, but the ‘writing community’ won’t come to my rescue or sit down around the fire and play guitar with me when I’m sad.
4. It’s okay to head to the bar without speaking when someone says, “Yeah, but J. K. Rowling was rejected heaps of times too!” It’s also okay to answer ‘yes’ to someone you meet at a party who asks, “Would I know your name?” Because, chances are, you’ve just told them your name. The same one you’d have even if you weren’t a writer.
5. Reading is so much more enjoyable than writing. But writing makes up for it by sometimes making you feel as you’re in the midst of it – that you’re being warmed by the flame that made the world.
6. I have to set specific, measurable and achievable goals for my writing. It’s the only way I can get off the success/failure seesaw. And a year is short. A decade gives me room to move.
7. If I want to make loads of cash, I might. I only have to look at writing that makes loads of cash and try to emulate it. But that might mean giving up writing the way I do. And I might miss out on that aforementioned flame, which is worth more to me than a brand new Beamer. But a ’71 Monaro might change my mind.
8. Writing can be therapy. That writing is best kept to myself. Writing can be therapy and art. I should share that writing even if it takes negotiation with myself, my family or my friends.
9. My mum doesn’t like everything I write. Neither does my father. Nor my brother. My brother said, upon reading my short fiction book, “Well, it was great. It cured my insomnia.” Now there’s a note for my next cover blurb.
10. There are more than ten things I’ve learnt: I’ve come to understand that there is no such thing as the writing life, just life with writing in it.
11. A middle initial between my two names won’t make me write better.
11.1. Despite what it says on my website, I am not a writer. I’m someone who writes. Giving up wanting to be a ‘writer’ (i.e. my image of what a successful writer is) has been the best thing for me and my writing.
Paul Mitchell is a Melbourne writer. His poetry book Standard Variation (Walleah Press, 2014) was reviewed favourably in The Australian so now would be a good time to buy it. In October, he also had a play called Ragdoll performed as part of ‘DarkLight’, Melbourne Writers’ Theatre/Wayne Pearn’s season of one-act plays at La Mama Courthouse, Carlton.