Chloe Higgins has a PhD in Creative Writing and undertook a writers retreat. Despite (or perhaps enhanced by) her formal studies in writing creatively, she managed to write 30,000 words in 30 days after being inspired by that retreat. She had laboured writing a book beforehand and failed to meet with success. Once completed, she submitted her fresh work to a publisher, and was published, winning awards for her book. “The Girls” tells the story of her experience of dealing with the death of her two sisters in a tragic car accident. Memoirs are often painful and illuminating.
I’ve sat in on many Zoom-type workshops, seminars and classes over the period of the pandemic. Most of those have been either writing sessions (it helps to have some company when you’re writing sometimes), or have been topic or skill driven writing content. I signed up for a session by Chloe which she offered gratis as a segue into her paid courses.
The appeal of attending this was that it was based on the nuances of the inner world of the writer. It encapsulates what Chloe learned from both her academic studies and more importantly consequent to her retreat. The number of attendees attested to the need for such a session.
As a group we were invited to pen our thoughts on some key questions which Chloe asked as a lead-in to her beliefs about writing. For one, when we write we tend to let our head interfere so that we have our piece sound right, look right, meet standards etc. Chloe posits to write from the body with emotion and authenticity and heart.
Ritualising your writing is a practice writer after writer espouses. Chloe Higgins gave sound explanations of the value of doing this and went through the yin and yang benefits of having a structure eg the elements of a space, a time, a day as well as the less looked at elements such as boundaries and expectations we set ourselves either consciously or unconsciously.
Consider your writing routine now, or lack of it. Do you write on specific days and times of the day or ad hoc? How do you manage disruptions and distractions, are you clear on what you will be writing about, are you bounded by word counts or page counts or productive time, what is the physical space like where you write and is your desk laid out ready?
Is there value in writing in nature, intuitively? Is perfectionism hampering you – accept the benefit of sloppy first drafts, write from your heart more than your head, focus on the process rather than the product? When writing how do you handle triggers? Avoid being judgmental of your writing and recognise that the emotion you feel needs to fuel the page. Notice the relationship between what ends up on the page and what happens in real life – does it mirror? Do you find yourself avoiding writing certain tings or covering certain topics? Consider raising questions about these areas rather than trying to explain them and giving a solution.
Chloe Higgins encourages you to think about serving yourself first by writing rather than focusing on the reader.
All humans and so all writers suffer from limiting beliefs. We have expectations of ourselves in terms of the quality of work we produce, about our discipline or consistency, that we can only write when our muse inspires us. Chloe invites you to think about writing practice as training a muscle. Build the habit of writing (even rubbish) over time and your words will come more easily and in better form.
A final thought Chloe left us with was the journey from writing to publishing. Starter writers see the flow as directly from one to the other: you write your book and then it gets published. Those who’ve been in the game longer notice the journey is wide between the two events. It’s like a mountain range, up and down. Chloe argues that every hour of writing she does results in ten hours of editing.
As a memoirist, Chloe posits that memoir is about writing your way to radical self responsibility. Quite often when we begin to write we point the finger outwards, blaming others for what was done or not done, said or not said, making excuses for why things turned out the way they did. Instead, point the finger inwards. Focus on writing about what you have control over and where your boundaries are. It becomes a journey of self-discovery and if you’re truly in the mode of writing from your heart authentically and intuitively then what to write about doesn’t become an issue – the topic chooses itself. When you sit down to write, ask yourself ‘what is the most urgent thing to write about for my body?’ – you might be surprised about what turns up on the page.
Overall, it was a refreshing session, different from the norm and wholly practising what Chloe preaches ie writing from within rather than from the head. Timing doesn’t allow me to take on her full class right now but I will keep an eye out for when she runs it again. Even though I tend not to write memoir, I can see the value in her approach and she has a gentle guiding style that will enable writers to explore beyond where they normally go.
Find out more about Chloe’s classes here – https://chloemareehiggins.com/study-with-me
Chloe Maree Higgins is a writer, and the Director and founder of Wollongong Writers Festival. She lives and works between Wollongong and Western Sydney. Her writing explores grief, guilt gender, socially-stigmatised sex, family dynamics, authenticity and communication.
NB this is not a sponsored post, simply a recording of notes from attending a one-hour session titled “How to Make Writing Pleasurable” by Chloe Higgins.