Having an impossible writing goal – and then being crazy ( and dumb enough) to believe in it – can achieve writing impossibility. I should know.
When I wrote my first book – “Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi” – I had a boss. I was a fulltime employed writer. I got paid to research, interview, write, rewrite and write some more. I even got MCDonalds vouchers which were a huge help with conning children into supporting their mother’s writing aspirations. If you all just leave me alone locked here in my study all day, I’ll buy Combos for dinner! My boss bought me a shiny new laptop, interview recording gear, boxes of A4 paper waiting for words, ink cartridges, and put petrol in my car. He paid for my trips to American Samoa so that I could meet an amazing group of survivors. I had a research assistant, and use of fully funded transcription services. It was virtually impossible to be frozen with writer’s block during the frantic 8 months that it took to research, write and rewrite the tsunami book. Why? Because I had no excuses for it. I had only huge amounts of accountability riding on me. Not just to my employer who had commissioned the book, but also to the people who had shared their stories with me, fully entrusting that they would make their way into a book which would adequately honor their experiences. And then when the Australian government Aid Program joined the party by generously offering $120,000 ST to pay for the book printing… aaargh talk about pressure.
But it was a pressure which worked for me. The literary legend Albert Wendt spoke at the NZ Book launch and called Joe Keil’s decision to have a record written of the 29/09 disaster “a recklessly bold one”. He went on to say Joe was “even more reckless when he decided to ask Lani Young, a writer who’d never written a book before, to write that story and do so within the period of a year! I’ve been writing for almost fifty years, but I would never have accepted such an assignment! Like I was in my youthful and foolishly brave 30s, Lani accepted the challenge” (Because Albert is a very nice man and also a teensie bit related to me he then added), “and I bow to her for doing so and for succeeding so magnificently.”
The literary legend was right about one thing definitely – I agreed to write a book (that has been described as ‘a bit of a tome’) in only several months because I was an inexperienced ignorant idiot. I didnt know it was supposed to be impossible since I’d never written any kind of book before.(Not only can ignorance be bliss – it can also bring about ‘impossible’ results.)
For me as a writer, the most powerful thing that doing the Galu Afi project has done – is show me that I can write a book. Finish a book. Sounds simplistic, I know, but it was an almost moon-moving revelation. In the 8 months since the release of ‘Pacific Tsunami’, I have completed my first novel of fiction ‘Telesa – The Covenant Keeper.’, started on the second in the series, completed a collection of short stories and submitted it for publication, written more children’s stories for the school journal series and increased my blog output by 200%. There are days when discouragement digs deep. When I’m sitting all by my lonesome, staring at my latest draft and thinking – what the hell am I doing wasting my time on this crap? Nobody’s gonna like it. Nobody in their right mind is going to read it. You need to go get a real job. At Subway… And then i catch sight of the red wave of fire cover of ‘Pacifc Tsunami Galu Afi’. Or read through my acceptance email from a real live publisher who is willing to pay actual cash for my work. Or someone leaves me an awesome comment on the blog that makes me laugh. And discouragement takes a back seat and writing can flow again.
I am grateful that people believed in my writing waaaay before I did – from english teachers back in the day…to my dad who patiently waited for me to get my writing butt into gear…to my ex-students who generously promote my writing on their blogs, websites and chat groups. I am hugely grateful to Joe Keil, that he could believe a book was possible from me – even before I knew it was. Now I have no excuse for not finishing my ‘Telesa’ YA paranormal fantasy romance series and getting it out into the reading world.
Yes, I am a writer who has set myself some more impossible writing goals. I am ‘Youthful and foolishly brave’. Writing recklessly. That’s me.