Semester One

I'm doing a writing degree.

It seems odd to say that, given how slack I've been with my blog. I'm training to write professionally, and yet I can't even manage to keep a blog going. Definitely something to remedy.

I am finding uni to be incredibly enlightening. Going back into a situation I thought I'd left behind years ago  is so weird. I'm 28, and I'm surrounded by people 10 years younger than me. It's surreal seeing the uni experience through the lens of an adult. Part of it, I think, is that the teachers at QUT are infinitely nicer than the ones I had at Griffith. Most of it comes from the fact I'm a far different person. I was, at times at least, scared of my Griffith lecturers and tute teachers. At times they were downright horrible.

My teachers this year have inspired me so much. They've been quick to offer advice, quick to share a joke, and quick to make me feel like this was the absolute right step to take. It's surprising to admit, but I'm going to miss them. And my tute groups. The most fabulous thing about this degree is that no one cares about ages or what clothes you're wearing, or any of the crap that seemed so important last time. They care if you can write. They care about what you want to go on to do and be. And it's meant having to be completely open and honest. 6 months in, and I know more about the direction I want to travel in than I did in years of trying to figure it out on my own.

I ended up hating Griffith with every fibre of my being. But QUT is like finding my tribe.

I made a decision at the start of the degree to be completely open and honest about my bipolar. I've gotten so tired of that little seed of doubt that comes from hiding my illness, and worrying what will happen when someone finds out. Sooner or later, all secrets come out. It's weird; a lot of my high school and Griffith friends bailed the second they heard. But being open and upfront has meant that no one really cares. It makes it easier to be able to say 'I'm sorry, but right now I'm not able to help you', and easier for people to accept that boundary.

I decided to push the envelope this semester with my writing. Instead of just writing randomly, I wrote from life. I made myself vulnerable on the page, which is terrifying when that page is getting critiqued. I've made a commitment to one idea: if I'm not terrified, I'm not doing it right. It's scary to hand something over to a group for feedback. It's scary to give feedback, especially if you have to recommend changes. It's scary to throw myself into the deep end with writing genres I've never tried before. It's scary to experiment, to offer a piece of my heart up and risk rejection, or being told it's not right. It's scary to try new things and know that it'll take heaps of practise to get the hang of the genre, and to make my work not suck. But it's what I think I need to do. I have three years, four if I do Honours, to move from where I am now. I have three years of learning, and then I'm trying to get work. I'm worried that if I play it safe, and if I stick to the areas I know, I'm limiting myself.

One of the most terrifying decisions was to write a piece that was very firmly based on real life experiences. I sat, talking to my teacher at the end of a tute, and laying it all out. I was scared that I was too vulnerable, that my family would be pissed if they ever found it, that there's something painful about offering up a piece of your heart to be graded. I told him that I was once told that I bleed from the wrist onto the page, but I was scared I'd hit an artery this time. He grinned, and he taught me an incredibly valuable lesson. All writers bleed onto the page. The great writers learn to control the blood flow, learn to control how much blood they put onto the page. Which, I know, is gross imagery. But it boils down to a really important idea. Whether you're an artist, musician or writer, you put a piece of yourself into what you create, whether you mean to or not. Accidental or deliberate, it's still gonna happen.

It means you have two choices. Number one, you can put all of yourself out there and hope for the best. But the problem with putting all of yourself onto the canvas, page, or audio file is that it's emotionally draining. You can't keep it up long term. Worse, that much emotion and self reflection can scare people off, and if there are criticisms, it's very hard to differentiate between people not liking the work and people not liking you. Number two, you can learn to decide how much of yourself goes into your work. It can be as simple as connecting with a strong emotion you felt years ago, or a story you lived through. You can learn to connect with an emotion without drowning in it, without scrawling your life story onto your creation for others to see. That's what I want to do over these three years. I want to learn to control the blood flow. And I can't do that while playing it safe.

It's going to be an interesting three years.

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