Josephine Taylor: dream big!
Josephine was staying at KSP as a 2022 Emerging Writer-in-Residence.
I arrived for my residency fully expecting to be writing without pause for three weeks, imagining I might bust out a whole first draft of my second novel, working title the gene detective. Other writers had done this, after all, and the ideas had been brewing in me for months – even years – this fictional post-apocalyptic world and its feisty protagonist, just waiting for an outlet. But even though I was delighted to be again ensconced in a wonderful KSP cabin, to be alone and in a space provided with the sole purpose of aiding my thinking and writing, the words would not come, and all I could feel and see around me was struggle.
I’d arrived brewing an infection and with low energy levels, and I began antibiotics on the second day of my residency. The house was quiet, with groups only just starting up for the year; summer blasted the hills with wave after scorching wave; full-grown bushes and trees wilted and began to brown; the empty streets and blistering paths gave little solace on my evening walks; even the friendly bottle-o on Old York Road seemed to have shut for good. At times I felt like the only person in a world outside of my reckoning, and when I battled with the writing, tried to force out sentences of my gene detective’s life and narrative struggle, each one only raised more questions. What exactly was the nature of this world in which she lived?
I was getting nowhere.
It wasn’t until towards the end of the first week that I began to surrender, and to realise I had to create a world from scratch, pulling the post-apocalyptic vibe from where I’d projected it onto my surroundings and placing it into words – words that may never end up in the manuscript but which placed the bedrock for what was to come. The work still ground along, snail-paced and each word hard fought, but slowly a world materialised, seventy-five years into the future, and from that grew the first scenes, my gene detective finally living convincingly within the world created.
Now life eased. The second week opened with solid rain; the house came to life with groups, writing and shared feedback; evening walks revisited what was now familiar and comforting; I discovered new cafes and restaurants, replacing those that had disappeared; and my body slowly overcame its lingering infection. In the third week I was joined in the other two cabins by KSP Fellows, and my writing segued into something approaching ‘standard’ process, scenes now opportunities to plant narrative seeds and develop the character of my gene detective, and notes of joy and enthusiasm sounding spontaneously.
It would be easy to say my real writing work began at the beginning of the second week, taking off in the third, but that’s not true. My real work began from the moment I arrived at KSP, in brewing all the feelings and experiences needed to create a complex and convincing world. In fact I’d say that Katharine’s Place gave me exactly what I needed in my creative process. If this blasted grimy world and my gene detective’s experiences were going to be a struggle, it had to come from me. I had to know it, feel it, for the world and narrative I was creating to be both plausible and compelling.
So I’m grateful for the struggle and its aftermath, and grateful to KSP for every moment, difficult or joyous – viva the writing life!
Writing practice top ten tips:
1. Trust your creative process, even if (especially if!) it involves struggle.
2. Believe in your capacity to create a substantial work.
3. Believe in what you are writing – the world and characters you are creating.
4. Prioritise your primary writing project ahead of other work, including writing or editing.
5. Take regular walks or equivalent exercise; there’s something about rhythm that loosens words and
6. Only share your ongoing project with one or two trusted people to avoid confusion.
7. Allow your primary project the time it needs
8. Write what you want to write, not what you think will be popular or marketable.
9. Turn off external distractions and notifications during dedicated writing periods.
10. Dream big! You can follow Josephine on instagram.