Spineless Wonders asks Anna Couani
The piece called The Old Manuscript was inspired by two things, one was a sculpture I saw in the 2012 Sculpture by the Sea show in Bondi and the other was thoughts about an unfinished manuscript I started writing many years ago which is partly about the Greek Australian community in Sydney in the 1960′s.
2.Tell us about that process. (Do you start sparse and widen out, or do you write down every possible association and cut back? Do you research the subject matter you are writing about? Is it pure intuition?) Take us through an example if you want.
I always start with an idea and start researching it. In this case I started researching the sculpture 11:11 and the topic that the sculptor used. Initially I just liked the appearance of the sculpture but I found that the sculptor saw the work as having a particular numerological significance so then I followed that trail and found it led to some unusual political activists who were operating in the 1960′s.They entertained various political conspiracy theories and this reminded me of the fiction manuscript I had started that is loosely about the infiltration of the Sydney Greek community by ASIO. I widen my possibilities initially but write quite sparsely, then edit, mostly by deletion. You can also write a piece as prose and then change it into poetry or vice versa.
3.What advice do you have for other writers ? about the first or last line? About how to choose the title? Do you follow any rules?
I don’t follow any rules. You might start with something but then start moving parts of the piece around or deleting things. Each piece of writing has it’s own shape. A title can be anything you want but I think it should have some connection to the piece. But after you’ve been writing for a while, you tend to repeat patterns of behaviour or writing processes. I need for my pieces to have some kind of odd connections.
4. Who or what inspires your writing?
The idea for writing can come from anywhere but I think that other writers or film makers are the most useful source of ideas. I always start with ideas and tend to think formally, even if some content I use has emotive qualities. I think it’s necessary to be able to step back from your work to be able to edit it.
5. Tell us what do you do if you haven’t written anything in a while and you want to get started writing again? Could you share your favourite writing exercise with our readers?
I don’t do writing exercises but I do give them to my students. One nice exercise is to take a line from somewhere, some poem or other text. I tell them to use the line in a prose piece. Sometimes I give them another variable like a journey or some change. The students have produced some very nice results that I wouldn’t call exercises but would call pieces of writing. For myself, I can write on demand but the thinking processes require time and sometimes full time work gets in the road. I spend masses of time reading student texts and sometimes need a break from print.