Vomiting forms part of unusual writers' workshop

Author Chloe Higgins finds vomiting really helps the writing process.

Fully sick: Author Chloe Higgins prepares for her writing workshop where she will talk about the merits of "vomiting" a novella. Picture: Robert Peet

Fully sick: Author Chloe Higgins prepares for her writing workshop where she will talk about the merits of "vomiting" a novella. Picture: Robert Peet

But it’s not in the way you’re probably thinking.

For Higgins “vomiting” means to stop procrastinating and get busy putting words on the page.

“Sometimes we label it other things – we call it priorities or a lack of time or whatever – but I find when you really drill down with people what it comes down to is self-doubt,” Higgins says.

“So ‘vomiting’ work for me is about turning off that internal editor, that internal critic and letting the work come out even when you think it’s shit, letting it come out regardless and just getting a first draft down on the page.”

It’s a method Higgins has used herself to silence the doubting voices in her head saying it’s too hard and that she shouldn’t bother.

She’s just finished writing her first novel and, before that, penned a novella every year for five years; she says the “vomiting” method was the only way she would have managed to get through all that.

Higgins, founder of the Wollongong Writers Festival, is holding a workshop called How to Vomit a Novella, where she will share some tips on cranking out the first draft of a 12,000-word story.

At the start people might see the 12,000-word mark as an insurmountable barrier but Higgins says the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing it can make writing suddenly seem easier.

“It’s like middle-distance running,” she says.

“You can slog away, trying to hit three kilometres for years but that one time you push yourself to do six kilometres ever after your three kays is easier,” she says.

As well as the idea of just getting words on the page, Higgins will also be talking about the importance of discipline and of breaking the 12,000-word target into manageable targets.

“What we do in the workshop is break down a 12,000 novella into bite-sized chunks,” she says.

Those chunks are 500 words a day – stick to that target and, in 24 days, you’ve got the first draft of a novella.

The workshop is on February 18. Visit wildrumpus.com.au for more information.

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