What first drew you to the essay form?
As a teenager I realised that I preferred the essays of some canonical 20th-century writers – Albert Camus and George Orwell come to mind – to their fiction. (Also, Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, though in her case the fiction is equally great.) I liked to follow the writer’s own thoughts, and I am still drawn, as both a reader and a writer, to the space that an essay can create for thinking aloud on the page.
You’ve spoken before about the importance of collaboration and feedback in creative work. What would you tell aspiring writers who are reluctant to share their work?
Be assured that everyone is equally scared! Even experienced writers can struggle with sharing their work, because this act makes all writers feel vulnerable. But it’s worth remembering that the vast majority of your readers, teachers and editors want your writing to be as good as it can be. They’re not there to tear it down or make you feel bad (and if they do these things, walk away). Other people will find things in your work – the weaknesses, but also the strengths – that you’re too close to see.
The old cliché rings true: good writers are enthusiastic readers. What are you currently reading?
I’m currently re-reading Jon McGregor’s most recent novel, Reservoir 13. He’s one of my favourite contemporary fiction writers, and I really believe that all writers, no matter their speciality, should read across forms. I wanted to re-read this novel because I’m working on a non-fiction manuscript – really a book-length lyric essay – that incorporates repetition as a formal method, which is something this novel does really beautifully. I’m trying to learn from it.
Anwen Crawford is a Sydney-based writer and critic. She is the music critic for the Monthly, and her essays have appeared in publications including Best Australian Essays, the New Yorker, Meanjin and Sydney Review of Books. She was awarded the 2016-17 NSW Writer’s Fellowship and was the 2017-18 UTS Writer in Residence. Her book, Live Through This (2015), is published by Bloomsbury, and her second book of non-fiction, Kindred, is forthcoming from Giramondo.