Scissors, Paper Write


I was chatting to my uber-talented friend, Felicity Coonan*, Art Director at Animal Logic, about my starting point for writing. ‘That’s just like a Production Designer,’ she commented.

I’d never really thought about it in that way, but I realised she was absolutely correct. As a writer/author, I am also my works’ production designer. I create the world my characters will brreathe life into and roam freely around. Just as Felicity created the world of the owls for her film, The Legend of the Guardians, The Owls of Ga’hoole.

I’d love to be able to say that I developed this technique myself, but I was introduced to this wonderful approach by the equally uber-talented Margo Lanagan**. Margo introduced me to the scrapbook one Sunday, sitting around a table in Petersham with a small group of writers ( I will write about the importance of being part of a writers group, but that’s a whole post in itself!).

On the table were magazines, art journals, papers, scissors, glue and the empty scrapbook I’d been asked to bring along by another uber-talented woman, Jan Cornall*** (are you getting a theme here?) I looked through Margo’s scrapbooks filled with images of seals, kelp forests, water and misty, mystical images. Although none of them ‘spoke’ to me, understandable as I wasn’t writing about selkies, the process did.



Soon, I was cutting and pasting. Scouring magazines, papers, journals and the free postcard stand at cafe for an image that I related to. I found my characters lurking in Vanity Fair, Who Weekly, Marie Clair and the Sydney Morning herald. I then took it a step further and added fabric swatches, found scents, did numerous location scouts searching for the right house, the right cafe, the right apartment block and photographed them for my scrapbook. I created the world, a visual landscape for my chartacters to breathe life into.



I started other scrapbooks of various images that appealed to me. These books, along with my notebooks and love of the Evernote App, have become as essential to my writing process as my pen/pencil and Moleskine exercise books.



As I went further along the writing process, I would refer to my scrapbook often. Sometimes just to get the right feel, sometimes for a specific accessory, outfit, or hairstyle. Sometimes when I’m stuck, I’ll flick through it, and visiting the world might kickstart a thought, an idea.

Writing isn’t always about the physical act of writing. The thinking,  the visualisation of your world, your characters’ world, the walks when you let your thoughts roam, are all ‘writing’. It’s about finding what works and using it.




*Felicity Coonan has worked on films as diverse Happy Feet, Three Hundred and most recently, The Great Gatsby

**Margo Lanagan is an Australian writer of YA and Short Stories and a multi-award winner. Her novel , Sea Hearts, was short-listed for this year’s Stella Prize and is about the selkies. It’s beautiful, as are all her novels.

***Jan Cornall is a fabulous mentor, writer, performance artist. Her website is – Writers’ Journey

On Silence

We live in a noisy world. And we fill our worlds with noise.

In our homes there is the TV, music, radio, the temptation of youtube and the ever present phone. We exercise to music, even when walking or running people have headphones in listening to music or podcasts. At the massage therapists, the beauty therapist or hairdresser there is noise and music. Even my doctor’s waiting room has the gentle trickle of a water feature and Enya-esque muzak wafting around the non too sterile environment.

When, I wonder, do people think? When can you sit with your thoughts, allow them to develop, mature, take you away on an adventure, or blossom into ideas worth nurturing? How do you hear the voice of a character or even process your daily life if you don’t give yourself a break from the strident feedback that surrounds us?

I love quiet, solitude and silence. When I walk, I walk without an iPod and let my thoughts undulate and meander to the pace of my walk. I sit in quiet when I write, not even gentle music ripples through the background. It’s the only way I can listen to my thoughts undisturbed, without the rhythm of the music forming, infusing my writing.

I think. It may look like a blank stare, and sometimes it is, but the time to just be is precious.

I was inspired to write about this by this wonderful video, posted by my friend and writing mentor Jan Cornall – I’m very good at distracting myself with the silent distractions of Facebook and Twitter!