How I Became A Published Creative Writer
WORDS BY SHALINI SEN
Uni is hard. There, I said it! It’s hard and overwhelming and generally doesn’t leave me with much time to have a meaningful social life. I live under the constant cloud of assignments – usually in the form of critical essays and reflections – and let’s face it, these essays can suck all the joy out of writing. I’m carefully choosing words to sounds smart, rethinking sentence structure to meet lofty academic standards and poring over reference lists to avoid plagiarism. So why would someone in their right mind take on more writing, especially if they can’t get extra credit for it. That’s where my mind went when last year’s student anthology was announced.
As lovely as it sounded to be published in the anthology and have others read my musings, the crazy uni schedule did not make allowances for me to let my mind wander down imaginary paths of whimsy to come up with a piece of writing worthy of a USyd anthology. I was already spending every waking minute writing essays for various units – and hating it. Imagination, creativity and artistic liberty had left the building many moons ago, and in its wake had left behind the stodgy vocabulary of academic writing.
But come July 2017, the clouds of academia started to clear and the bright blue skies of inspiration began to emerge. Away from the gloom of critical thinking and reflective analyses, my mind could gallop across meadows of imagination – wild, untamed and free. Potential and possibilities peeked out of every encounter and experience, and I knew only one way to capture these moments – putting it all down on paper.
Nothing is too trivial when your mind is at ease. The nutty undertones of a new wine, a rain-drenched first date, the faces of people waiting at an airport – there’s a life and a story behind all of it, and all I had to do was let it all sink in and let the Gods of writing take over. I assigned names to strangers, concocted words to breathe meaning into the meaningless, and had conversations with the stuffed koala sitting on my couch. Yes, whimsical things give me indescribable joy.
So here I was, the same person who did not want to write another word after the semester was over, tapping away at my keypad and creating stories out of the vast nothing. Stories that could possibly find a new home in the anthology that I had shunned for many months now. But was I ready to unleash my crazy on a team of editors who were also classmates, group members and friends? Probably not. But, believe me when I say they’re probably all members of the quirky misfits club who write tearful farewell stories to their favourite shoes. (Yes, that’s what I wrote about). So I took a leap of faith and sent in one of my pieces.
Submitting my short story to them was an exercise in mutual admiration and creating warm, tingly feelings. All word nerds like myself, they welcomed me into their club and gave editorial direction to my writing that took my story from chatter in the void, to a soulful and unconventional story of love and friendship. And a few months later, there it was – a little piece of my life immortalised in the student anthology. Those dark printed letters spelling out my name, and all the words that my heart and brain had sewn together – out there for the people to read and feel. I had allowed myself to step into the great cosmos and now I was a part of it.
So, as a new July prepares to dawn over us all, it’s time to shed those shackles of academic essays and venture into new, unexplored realms of the mind and heart. Maybe it’ll result in another story for the new anthology this year. Maybe not. But I know I’ll be letting the joys of writing take over soon. Will you?
The 2018 Sydney Uni Student Anthology is open for submissions. This year's theme is Power. Send in your works here.