What are Writing Festivals For

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Today is the final day of the Emerging Writers’ Festival 2015.

After two major Australian writers festivals and a few thousand dollars later, all I’m left with a pile of books I might never get time to read and a whole heap of already fading memories.

As I sit at my desk in the last of my clean clothes and look down at my half-unpacked bag spewing with notes, dirty washing, receipts and signed books, I can’t help wondering what writing festivals are actually for.

Was it all worth it?

Would I be the person (writer) I am today if I didn’t go?  Can writers actually afford to go to festivals? Or are they for fans and readers?  The crowd at the Sydney Writers Festival was mostly middle aged women and very old men.

Firstly, I need to talk about the practicalities of money.  In the first few days of the Sydney Writers Festival, I had already spent my rent on events and books.  I dipped into my saving to ensure I had a home to come back to after the Writing Festivals were over.  Sure, that was my choice, of course.  But I wonder how many other writers simply could not afford to attend a writers festival.

Secondly, there are so many events on during writers festivals that it is quite overwhelming.  I wondered what organisers were thinking putting events on throughout the day, multiple events on at the same time and then night celebrations and talks and interviews.  How many things could one person get to?  I went to many things and am completely exhausted.

During the Writers Festivals, I convinced myself that writing should and will now be my ‘soul’ focus.  Now that I am home again and back in my regular life, I am reminded of how many other things are a priority in my life.

Fellow panellist Sam Van Sweden wrote a GREAT PIECE on the Emerging writers Festival on inspiration and doubt and what we gain from attending festivals.

‘Proof that people can create great work and refuse to let life get in the way of that – that makes me believe that I can do it myself. I think it makes everyone believe that it’s all more possible – and that’s the infectious nature of this conference.’

Inspiration was not lacking at this year’s Emerging Writers Festival. But like a drug, each time I need more and more.  What inspired me two years ago was not enough to get me excited this year.  I needed something bigger, more tangible to take home.

What did I come home with?  I came home with one simple truth that I did not know before I left.

People can become writers.

People can become writers, they do it every day.  Writing is a career and it makes people money.  Writing is a habit and profession and a way of life and everyday people choose it.

When I am away from the Writing community, sitting in my office trying to type on my lonely computer, I can get very disheartened at the possibility of a writing life.  When I am on my own it is easy to convince myself it will never happen, that I am wasting my time, that no one really writes for a living.  But they do.

Was it all worth, these Writing Festivals.  Yes.  It certainly was.  I am just tired and need to sleep and do some washing.  I am in the post-festival blues, I’m coming down after an incredible experience.

Would I be the person I am today if I didn’t go to those writing festivals?  Of course not.  I am just tired and need to sleep and do some washing.


by Meg

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