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Eleanor Limprecht: All That Matters is Finding the Words

It is strange work writing novels, immersing yourself in imaginary worlds for years and following threads which take you strange and unexpected places.

There are days when I am writing and I feel pulled towards the journalism of my twenties, and other days when I feel more like a fortune teller. I wake and write down dreams, thinking: that has to go in my book. But I do the same reading reference works, stumbling across some extraordinary fact that I must knit in.

I have had the rare luxury of a two-week residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writer’s Centre in the Perth Hills and my cabin among pines and gums, among the ringneck parrots and rustling quendas, clever magpies and cheeky galahs is where I’m writing this – halfway through my second week, with a first draft of my next novel well in sight. It is not quiet here: besides the birds there are the juddering jake brakes of road trains on the Great Eastern Highway, less than a hundred metres from the front door. We’re beneath a flight path to Perth Airport, there’s a rooster that crows early and late, and then there are the almost horsey sounds of the West Australian black cockatoos – an avian high-pitched neigh. Oh, and the ringnecks, which are also known as 28s because that is what their call sounds like – ‘twenty-eight, twenty-eight’.

There is only so long my body will sit at a desk, and so when I’m not here writing or in the comfortable red recliner reading, I have been slowly running the trails of the nearby John Forrest National Park, stopping to gawk at a small kangaroo with white above its eyes and veined ears, or the black cockatoos shredding trees, screamed at in turns by flocks of galahs. Or I’ve been walking uphill three kilometres to the Bilgoman Aquatic Centre, so sweaty and hot by the time I get there that the pool feels like a silky cool embrace.

One of my characters is a swimmer and I keep hoping that her fictional talents will merge with my own, but the truth is I flail in the water, my legs drag and my mouth sputters. I imagine gliding like a fish, cutting through the water like the sharp hull of a sailboat. Instead, strangers stop to proffer stroke advice. I nod, smile, and persist. The best part of a swim is the coolness of my skin, the tiredness of my whole body when I emerge and take the bus back down the hill.

The best part of any writing residency is the time to think when you would normally be cooking dinners, calling doctor surgeries, grocery shopping or composing emails, and it is the staring out the window that I cherish most. Just in front of my desk is a wandoo gum with a bees’ nest in the hollow, and all day these golden bees dart through the air, catching the light on their wings. At night, the sky toward Perth turns lurid orange, edged with purple, like one of the sweatshirts my Grandma Lorraine used to wear. If you stand just in front of the cabin up the hill from mine you can see the skyline of Perth, the black skyscrapers against the orange sky. I prefer the view from my desk, the now sleeping bees and the branches and leaves, edged in dying light.

I don’t know what this book will be, whether or not it will come together, whether or not it will succeed, but I’m finding the rhythm again of just being a writer, keeping the outside world at bay. And somehow none of it matters when I watch a magpie drink in the morning from the birdbath, his neck dipping and arcing, his fierce thirst slaked.

All that matters is finding the words. My top ten tips for writing:

  1. Take a break from social media.

  2. Turn off the Wi-Fi and your phone.

  3. Stare out the window.

  4. Write in bed when you wake up in the morning, before you’ve done anything else.

  5. Make notes when you finish writing for the day about what you will write tomorrow.

  6. Allow for shitty first drafts.

  7. Spend more time writing than talking about writing

  8. Read read read read read read.

  9. Keep a notebook about your writing project where you write ideas and impressions, draw, glue in pictures, make it playful.

  10. Go for a walk.

Eleanor Limprecht, Established Writer-in-Residence - December 2022


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