Lee Kofman on Pushing Through Writers’ Block
There’s this really beautiful idea that writers need to clear the decks, go somewhere else in solitude, and then the writing will happen. And it often does, but I think it mostly does when we actually keep doing real practice. So says author Lee Kofman in her podcast with “The Garrett” at https://thegarretpodcast.com/lee-kofman-writing-honestly-reading-writer/
In January 2022 I was lucky enough to win a Fellowship from NTArts for a fortnight’s residency at Varuna, the famous Writers’ House in Katoomba. Besides feeling honoured and a little overawed, or perhaps because of the pressure to produce, I was struck with writers’ block for the first week of my residency. Like many writers I experience the impostor syndrome every day, but never more so than in the company of other successful writers who seem to pour out words on demand. Here I must stress that all pressure came from my inner critic, never from the wonderful and understanding staff at Varuna.
Fortunately I recovered enough confidence in the second week of my residency to begin work on my next novel, and even to share the first 5,000 words with my fellow writers around a cosy fire in Varuna’s book-lined living room. I was buoyed up by their responses, and am ever grateful to Varuna for feeding me, housing me in their beautiful Jerra studio, and giving me the chance to feel like a real writer.
Here’s how Lee describes her first experience at Varuna, which closely echoes my own:
When I went to Varuna, the first few visits I made the common mistake of beginning writers, or blocked writers like myself, I was not the beginning but blocked, so I was very busy with lots of honourable things; my husband, work, to study. And I forgot what… Actually, sorry, just to go back to this idea of writing three or four times a week, all we really need is about an hour, I think, to keep this sort creative juices flowing. I was not in touch with what I was doing at all. I had this dream, ‘I’ll get to Varuna, I’ll have two weeks, I’ll do it all.’
I didn’t do anything. The world just wasn’t there. I just was not connected to it. So I think over the years I worked it out, that if I want to get the most out of any writing residency… Because I mean, Varuna is a special place in my heart, I still think it’s the best residency in Australia.
One of the best kept secrets in Varuna is that a lot of people who come there, they don’t necessarily write, at least not on all visits. And I admit, I came across quite a few people like myself, but unfortunately not in those times when I was blocked. When I was blocked, every time I was blocked, I actually ended up spending the time in Varuna with the most prolific writers who wrote pages and pages every day. There’s this really beautiful idea that writers need to clear the decks, go somewhere else in solitude, and then the writing will happen. And it often does, but I think it mostly does when we actually keep doing real practice.
Extract from Podcast “The Garrett: Writers on Writing”