Monday, 13 August 2012


While studying writing at university, one of my teachers announced that his first novel was to be published soon. I congratulated him, of course, and then I said “it must be great to be validated.” I didn’t say it was great for his work to be validated, but for him to be.  Years later I found myself reminiscing about that day and I realised just how mistaken I’d been – validation doesn’t come from winning the approval of others. It’s something we must all find within ourselves.

I’ve always suffered from a lack of confidence. I imagine it was even there the moment I was born, because it’s been my constant companion as far back as I can remember. For some unknown reason I’ve never felt completely comfortable being me. Growing up, (especially once adolescence hit) I often hid my true self from others, convinced that I had very little to offer. I actually started to believe that my own worth was not as important as everyone else’s. I put other people’s needs ahead of my own and I desperately searched for a way to validate my own existence. It never once occurred to me that I was already enough.

So you see, when I decided to become a writer I had already placed a great expectation upon it. I believed that once an editor agreed to publish my work, I would finally find the approval I so needed. Once everyone else loved me, I reasoned, I would then be able to love myself.

When agents and publishers rejected my novel I took it personally. I wasn’t able to separate myself from my work. It wasn’t my work they didn’t like, it was me. Or so I believed. Whatever amount of joy and self-worth my writing had slowly begun to foster in me fragmented with each rejection. My confidence took yet another beating. I pursued other interests and let my writing slide away.

In hindsight, this self-imposed hiatus from writing would prove to be just what I needed. Without the pressure to prove myself, I was able to step back and take a long hard look at the person I was allowing myself to be. I’d had enough of disapproval and criticism. I decided to focus on my strengths, and I realised that my weaknesses didn’t make me any less worthy than others. My weaknesses were a part of me, but I would not let them define me.

As I was doing all this soul-searching a transformation was occurring in the publishing world as well. Independent authors were choosing to publish their own books, as the growth of print-on-demand and ebook technologies were making this a very real possibility. I re-evaluated why I had chosen to become a writer in the first place and was reminded of my simple desire to create. I discovered I was no longer desperate for external validation. Now I wanted to validate myself, by focussing on my goal to be a published author and using my skills to achieve it.

I realised my achievements weren’t reliant on someone out there giving me a break and saying yes to my work. It was up to me to say yes to myself! So I self-published my novel, and now it sits proudly on my shelf. What joy to hold my novel in my hands, as a finished product, knowing that it all came down to me. I have achieved my dream to be a published novelist, all because I gave myself permission to approve of my own creative work. Freed from the shackles of my computer hard drive, my novel is out there living its life. And people are reading it. That’s an added bonus! :-) 
As for me, I learnt a valuable lesson. To validate oneself, rather than waiting for others to do it for you, is very empowering. It’s allowed me to succeed in the only way that really matters – I’m now proud to be me.     

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Book Review: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

'School is over, and Lucy has the perfect way to celebrate: tonight she's going to find Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work appears all over the city. Somewhere in the glassy darkness, he's out there, spraying colour, birds and blue sky on the night. And Lucy knows that a guy who paints like Shadow is someone she could fall for - really fall for.
The last person Lucy wants to spend this night with is Ed, the guy she's managed to avoid since punching him in the nose on the most awkward date of her life. But when Ed tells Lucy he knows where to find Shadow, the two of them are suddenly on an all-night search to places where Shadow's pieces of heartbreak and escape echo off the city walls. And what Lucy can't see is the one thing that's right before her eyes.'

Continuing on with my AWW2012 Challenge I read Cath Crowley's Graffiti Moon. This novel is essentially a YA love story set on one night in Melbourne. But it is also much more than that. Graffiti Moon is like one long work of art. It is obvious that Crowley views the world from an artistic perspective; she is very creative and thoughtful, and her language is richly descriptive. It's no wonder this book won the Prime Minister's Literary Award.

I almost finished this book in one sitting. It is an easy read, not because it has no depth, but in fact for the opposite reason - the story is so beautifully written and the characters so wonderfully intriguing that you just can not put the book down. Just like Lucy and Ed, I spent a night wandering in the delicious world of art; Crowley manages to take the reader fully into this world so we are experiencing every single detail, feeling, event.    

I know teenagers (especially artistic teens) would adore this story of late night antics and the search for love. Reading the book reminded me of just how deeply we feel things as teenagers - those first feelings of love are often so overwhelmingly delightful. I could understand Lucy longing to meet the mysterious Shadow. I could relate to her desire to kiss the artist whose work spoke so directly, and eloquently, to her heart and soul. I remember getting lost in those innocent, yet all-encompassing, flushes of teenage love. Crowley's prose transported me back to that time.

My favourite section of the book occurs when Lucy and Ed are looking at Shadow's paintings at the train yard. Lucy talks about her own art work - her memory bottles - and she draws some for Ed to see. I loved Crowley's language here - "Some of her bottles are smooth half-moons, curling at one end so they can hook on to other bottles. Some are misshapen suns that narrow and rise into one long, thin line of light. Some open at the end like trumpets, some in a twist of curls that make me think of a circus." 

Graffiti Moon is a touching story of first love. It is also a story about the attempt teenagers make to try and discover their identity and find their confidence when they're on the threshold of adulthood. The characters will stay with you and Crowley's lyrical descriptions will captivate you. It's a truely wonderful book.