Tuesday, November 8, 2022

DO THE MAHI: Guest Post by Jacqueline Bublitz

Jacqueline Bublitz: 
Do the Mahi
1. (verb) (-a,-ngia) to work, do, perform, make, accomplish, practise, raise (money).
Source: Te Aka Māori Dictionary
As a debut author, I’ve often stumbled when asked for advice around establishing a writing routine. I would genuinely love to offer tips to anyone as inexperienced in the art of finishing a manuscript as I once was, but the truth is, when I started writing, I was totally winging it. Doing whatever worked to get the words out. Without a deadline, without an agent – without anybody – asking for my work back then, the manuscript that eventually became Before You Knew My Name was a true labour of love. And if I had any routine, it was simply making sure I remembered it was love that kept bringing me back to that blinking cursor, that blank page, every day.
To keep the romance alive, I wrote in places that made me happy. In the dunes at my local beach in New Zealand, concocting temporary shades for my laptop out of sarongs and towels. Sipping vodka martinis at my favorite cocktail bar, and in bed, wearing a silk robe and my nicest perfume. Desk and ergonomic chairs were for my day job; I worked on my manuscript like we had gone on an endless vacation together (and yep, that might be why it took me seven years to finish).
Flash forward, and I do have deadlines. An agent, and a fair few other people asking for (i.e., waiting on) my work. I still love what I do, perhaps even more. But, like the raising of children, it’s become apparent that some form of structure is important. I’ve tried to become a plotter. I’ve tried writing for a set number of hours, or at a certain time. I’ve tried listening to that music they say is good for concentration, and I’ve tried stepping away when the words get blocked, before blocking social media, friends, my desire for wine, in return. 
In short, I’ve tried to take my job seriously.
But here’s the catch. As a crime writer, I spend a lot of time learning about, and then attempting to communicate, the worst of what people can do to each other. Maybe 10% of the research I do actually makes it onto the page, but the full 100% lives rent free in my head. I’ve had harder jobs, physically and mentally, for sure. But emotionally, writing about all the ways that the powerful abuse the power-less can really take it out of me. It’s serious stuff.
So, I think I was onto something in those early days, when I wrote in places that made me happy. When I wore pretty robes and lovely perfume. I can have my post-it notes and spreadsheets, my daily word count and my count of hours, but ultimately, the real discipline is refusing to look away from the things I’m writing about – and remembering why I wanted to shine a light on them in the first place. 
Turns out, there’s nothing routine about what we writers are trying to achieve. My advice then, goes back to the beginning of my writing career. Simply show up and do the mahi – the work – in a way that works for you. 
And if you can do it while smelling delicious, even better.

Jacqueline Bublitz is a Kiwi-Melburnian crime writer, feminist, and arachnophobe. She wrote her award-winning debut novel Before You Knew My Name after spending a summer in New York City, a place she considers her home (very far) away from home. 

No comments: