Jacinta Dietrich: What an Absolute Gift
My time at KSP was, with no exaggeration or hyperbole, life-changing.
I gained so much from this fellowship and I think I’ll feel the ripple effects for a long time still. Aldridge cabin will always hold a special place in my heart.
My two weeks at KSP was the first time I had been able to focus wholeheartedly on writing and editing for a chunk of time. What an absolute gift. To have the space to let the story unravel, to let the characters pour out, to have the world of the book collapse and rebuild itself in front of me – I’ll never be able to accurately express my emotions and gratitude.
Not only was it validating because I had been selected from numerous applications and because an organisation that focused on supporting great writing had seen potential in me and my story, but it gave me a moment to think about myself as a writer. When people ask what I do for work, I answer with almost anything other than writer because I’m not sure I’ve earned that title for myself yet. But KSP pushed me a little closer to seeing myself in that light.
After accepting my place at KSP, I was so worried about how it was going to play out. What if I got over there and realised I didn’t know what I was doing? What if I got over there and all my ideas left me? Or worst of all, what if I got over there and found myself hating working on this project or writing full-time? Everyone kept asking if I was excited, and I was, but I didn’t know how to express the fear and panic I felt smothering my excitement, nor did I want to articulate it to anyone and seem ungrateful for the incredible privilege I’d been offered.
When I arrived, I didn’t leave my cabin for five days. My neurodivergent brain needed to settle into the new environment before I felt comfortable exploring further. But alongside that, I was also so wrapped up in my project that I felt no need to leave. For the first time ever, I was chopping huge parts out of a project because I knew I had the time to replace them with something better. I took my fantasy world back to basics and built it from scratch again with a level of detail I would never have been able to achieve while stealing time here and there during the normal work week. I strengthened my characters and their arcs, dived even deeper into their internal narrative and am so proud of who they have become and what they will hopefully mean for neurodivergent representation.
While most people have been shocked by my isolation, I’m so grateful that KSP made it possible for me to undertake this fellowship on my own terms. I was able to eat my safe foods, feel comfortable in my space and meet my fellow residents when I felt calm and relaxed and ready. KSP also smashed my fears out of the water. Turns out I did know what I was doing and simply hadn’t had the time to execute it. Instead of losing all my ideas, I was flooded with so many that I planned out four more books for my characters. And instead of wanting to give up writing completely, I was reminded of how much I love it, how much energy and satisfaction it gives me and how desperately I want to do this as my job for the rest of my life.
Top Ten Tips
1. Write what you love. If you love it, it is so much more likely that someone else is going to feel that passion and love it too. There is no point writing something that doesn’t set you on fire with joy or excitement.
2. Be thoughtful. Think deeply about what it is you want to put out into the world and why.
3. Be purposeful. Consider your characters, your biases and anything else that might leak in. Choose carefully what you want to say and how you want to say it.
4. Use a whiteboard. I was never a whiteboard user before KSP and now I am obsessed. The freedom to unravel your problems, snap a photo and then wipe them away is amazing.
5. Write too much. This is advice I have been regularly given since I tend to jump over gaps when I reach them. But it is always easier to trim back a story than it is to keep fleshing out the missing bits.
6. Let things go. Sometimes the parts that you think are integral to the story, the character, the sentence, are the parts that are holding you back from getting to the heart of what it really is.
7. Let yourself run away with ideas. Sometimes a tangent can feel like a pointless frustration but if you give in and let your brain wander, it could be your next project, your next book, your next sequel. You never know if you don’t follow.
8. Do what you need to do to let the writing happen. If that’s eating super easy meals on writing days, if that’s having three different drinks on your desk because you need the variety and to also stay hydrated, or if that’s to pull your hoodie up over your face and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist for a bit, do it!
9. Let the computer read your work to you. Yes it will absolutely butcher some parts and the pronunciation can get super weird, but it also helps you to hear your writing in a different way and spot things that you might not hear if you’re reading it to yourself or reading it aloud.
10. Follow your own routine. This one is purely for me on writing retreats or dedicated writing days as it doesn’t fit in with ‘the real world’ very well, but when you have that dedicated writing time it is your own time. Eat when you want to. Write when you want to. Take a walk when you want to. Sleep when you want to. You need balance during this time so listen to your body and follow its lead. The most annoying thing is stopping a writing flow because its ‘lunch time’.
Jacinta Dietrich - KSP Fellow, February 2023