Why did you start writing?
Well, that’s an excellent question.
Writing to me has always been my about self-expression. Through my eyes it’s a tapestry of emotion: love, hope, joy and guilt.
It had always been like that. What was I doing with my life? My parents had wanted success out of me, but here I’m trying to prove something through my inaction.
I took an Arts degree—useless. I majored in extended literary studies and creative writing—useless.
To them, I wasn’t, and still aren’t doing anything worthwhile.
What do I think I’m doing you might ask. I think of it as finding my voice; this was my way of showing love—doing what I love. I may not be the most vocal of sons when it comes to standing against my parents, but I am sure I will find my success in life through writing. That’s how I got into writing.
When did you first start writing?
I wrote my first story in grade one, but my interest existed from a year prior, Prep or preparation class they call it in Australia.
Then, at the age of six, I encountered an educational publisher at the Black Dog.
I was too young at the time to understand what was happening but my parents gave their consent, and I loved it all the same. I read a book they gave me, a children’s picture book and the publisher wanted photos. So I was posted in front of lights, and cameras. I wore clothes that weren’t mine and yes, makeup.
It was worth it in the end, and I was written in as a much more palatable character. The name they gave me was both conformist to its mostly European demographic but also terribly strange.
I was Nigel Clapfish and here are some pictures from below.
That was my first taste of writing in action, and I loved every second of it. I wrote my first picture book in prep, and I drew trains, and cars, tanks and bombs.
It was all very new to me, and I loved it.
How did you first start writing?
I first started writing for others, either because I was asked to (homework) or because I wanted to. There were a lot of creative writing projects from when I was young. One of my English teachers was a student under John Marsden, the Australian author of the Tomorrow series.
Every second assignment was a creative one. From there my interest peaked. Perhaps I had always considered the possibility of being an author, but it was here that I first seriously considered it. I began writing fantasies, long epics that broke a hundred thousand words and never finished. I wrote about my friends, and I wrote about my dreams.
I still have works from grade five, but I’ve lost all those from before. Some of these were humour pieces, and there were romances and adventures. I wrote everything except gothic, psychological and detective fiction.
It wasn’t until much later that I began experimenting with voice, and distinct characterisation.
How did you break it to your parents you wanted to write?
I never did, not direct at least.
When high was ending, they asked the question that all teens dreaded.
What course are you going to take? What degree are you going to do?
TAFE was never an option, so I never had an opportunity to pursue a dedicated creative writing course there. As mentioned earlier, I attended a private school, and my parents expected many things from me. I was going to university no matter.
So I looked up the first course that held creative writing, and it was an Arts degree. I told my parents I wanted to do Journalism, not English or creative writing as I had already planned.
It wasn’t all deceit. I did try Journalism, but it wasn’t the unit for me.
Along the way, it became apparent to them that my heart was in writing, and they still don’t agree. They have said many hurtful things to me, but I think there is a way that they can believe.
What did creative writing in university teach you?
Nothing. I’ll be honest; it was a relatively useless for a double major. Everything I learnt about story writing I already knew from primary school and senior school.
What it did give me, however, was a platform to measure my skills. My peers I met there was dedicated and a dreamer like me. I didn’t measure up to them very well, and my grades were abysmal.
What I did get out of it was a wealth of connections and a writing group that I never maintained.
Oh and the idea for my first novel.
I would say to anyone taking the course, to endeavour to maintain their connections. Not only do you meet an amazing group of like-minded individuals, but for those of you less conceited that I, you could create a writing group and share each other’s work.
What would you say to those who want to make writing a career?
You have to be serious about writing, and you have to write every day.
And not just on your novel idea, you have to be willing to work with others, read their works and disseminate ideas. What better way to inspire ourselves but through the success of others?
Nam Nguyen us a university graduate that is out of work and currently tutoring English. In his words, “no hope of success in life”, he is currently looking for literacy volunteering opportunities and any suggestions will help. You can read an excerpt from the novel he’s working on here.
Nam is always willing to help. If you have an idea or a topic you would like him to fictionalise, leave your suggestions and support below. You may also contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.