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Writing your Story: Kylie on the power of finding your voice

Words carry weight, and Kylie wields hers with a quiet and unapologetic strength. In a space meant for beautiful pictures, she also creates stunning imagery through her writing. So many of us shy away from baring our souls, perhaps afraid to drop the carefully constructed shields that we rely on to protect us from a harsh reality, but Kylie lays her emotions bare on the page.

From her thoughts on feminism, loss, and mental health issues to the treatment of indigenous people in Australia, she never shies away from difficult subject matter. Kylie’s blog is full of her travels but, unlike a travel blog in the traditional sense, hers is more a collection of personal stories about her own journey. The landmarks and towns that she describes are there on a map for anyone to see, clearly marked in black and white, but the road she travels is inwards and uniquely personal.

A pristine computer screen seems somehow the wrong way to read Kylie’s work; it feels more suited to the worn spine, dog-eared corners and tea stains of a beloved book, always there when you need the literary version of a welcoming hug. Here, she talks about her path to becoming a writer, her inspirations, and what to do when the words refuse to come.

The journey to becoming a writer

Kylie, for those of us that know you from your Instagram, do you consider yourself to be more a photographer or a writer?

Absolutely a writer first, although photography came before writing in a way. I started learning to take photos a few years back when I looked at my dismal travel snaps from three months of backpacking solo around Europe. After that, I vowed to learn to do these beautiful places justice so started trying to improve my photography first. I added words to my instagram posts later, but I see the world in stories, in words. I always have.

Tell us a little more about the path that led you to writing.

As far back I can remember I wrote. In fact, I remember learning to craft a sentence in infants at school. I remember the little white word cards we used and how we slid them around, and how I loved the way they felt. Holding words in my hands in kindergarten wearing my musty green school jumper – still damp from rain on the way to school – is one of my earliest memories.

That said, I kept my words to myself and didn’t start sharing them until my sister died suddenly in February, 2016. It is a very long story, one I’ve not yet told, and we were estranged at the time. That kind of grief lodges in your bones – it has to find a way out. I started sharing bits and pieces of that pain on Instagram and people started telling me I could write. With that encouragement I got braver, went deeper, and people were more and more encouraging. When it comes to being a writer – in the sense that I write things for other’s to read – that began on February 13th, 2016. The day my sister passed. I wrote it immediately. It demanded expression.

There is a clear line on my Instagram that marks my Before and After.

Sunlight breaks through the bars of a bathroom window photography
Photo Credit: @onethousandwordsorless

 

Inspiration & Challenges

Where you do you get your inspiration from?

Always, always, always it comes from letting myself fully feel something. Happy, sad, good or bad. Writing is a way of containing that. I am feeling it fully in order to write it truthfully. This stops me wallowing in the sad and bad. Feel it, write it, let it go.

And observation – life is full of stories. Right now, I am watching a boy on my bus home every day. He is a shining light of kindness and generosity and I watch him talking to his friend with a grace that is well beyond his years. He has maturity I wish I possessed, and he’s maybe only 16 years old. He’ll appear somewhere soon, that boy on the bus. I adore him.

Kylie on writing: Happy, sad, good or bad. Writing is a way of containing that. I am feeling it fully in order to write it truthfully.Click To Tweet

 

How do you deal with the challenge of finding time to write in day to day life?

I work full time Monday to Friday in the 9 to 5 rat race. It is hard to find time for writing and photography, but especially the travel photography & writing I like to do, which is to nestle into a place, feel out it’s light, cracks, crevices. Sense the way it moves, the rhythm of a place, observing the way it’s light rises and falls.

Rushing is not conducive to the way my creative muse likes to ebb and flow. If I don’t give it space to move and room to breathe it stops talking to me. This is a challenge I am currently working on as I’ve been blocked for some time.

I am listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast Magic Lessons for some ideas on finding that creative space again in the pace full-time working requires me to move at. In one episode she suggests doing 10% less and seeing what happens. So far that seems to have worked and I’ve got a bunch of story ideas starting to open after only a few days of it. I’ve recorded that experience here on a blog post.

Things are starting to flow again and it feels good to be seeing and hearing the world as a story once more. It is like coming home after a long trip. This is why I noticed the boy on the bus. I was doing 10% less and not trying to cram in some work on the bus trip so I saw him.

A father and son walk under a bridge beside water urban photography
Photo Credit: @onethousandwordsorless

 

Writing Resources

Who are your favourite authors and writers at the moment?

I am stupidly and madly in love with Miriam Toews. My bookclub read All My Puny Sorrows as our first selection and it blew me away. She writes such ordinary moments with incredible humanity and insight into the human condition. Magical.

I also just finished Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – holy shit what a book. She managed to bite off so many issues for women, issues around race, cultural identity and put them all in one book with such clarity, grace and exquisite writing. It is a remarkable feat.

I don’t tend to have favourite authors, I love anything with good honest writing and a great narrative.

Lyricists are among my favourite writers. They jam exquisite story telling into the space of a song, and that is hard, to capture a piece of the human condition so well in such a short word count. Springsteen is my absolute favourite, he is a master lyricist – he gets to the heart of a thing in every song.

Top 3 writing resources

The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne – there’s a book, a podcast and a website. They taught me narrative. If you can write beautifully line by line but can’t weave your writing into a story then this is the resource I recommend.

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

A good bloody Thesaurus: excellent for a starting point to find a new way to tell a cliché

 

Advice on Writing

Do you have any words of advice for women struggling to start writing?

Go watch Staceyann Chin’s My First Period – then do what her mother gave her permission to do. Tell your fucking story like it matters – because it does.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

It is from Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird. I am hacking at her beautiful words here when I paraphrase but here is my summary: if you want to avoid libel write him with a tiny penis.

Change this and change that if you must, but always remember to include the tiny penis, and perhaps a leaning to anti-Semitism. He’s not going to tell anyone it is him.

Travel writer and blogger Kylie sits on a rock overlooking the ocean with a rainbow in the distance on writing
Photo Credit: @onethousandwordsorless

Your writing voice

What’s your favourite piece of your own writing and why?

My post on my visit to Mungo National Park called Time Travel Through Outback Australia: the hidden bones of a lake with no water.

This was a hard piece to write because I wrote it in Dreamtime which is not linear and wrote it for a Western white audience used to linear narrative. It took me a long time and I crafted and crafted and crafted it. I am proud of  it, and proud to be part of a narrative that reframes Aboriginal Culture as something Australian’s should be very proud of.

Finally, tell us the causes that you’re passionate about.

Speaking out about the rampant racism in Australia against Aboriginal People. Reframing the story of Aboriginal Culture as something we should be immensely proud of. Telling the truth about what happened here and what continues to happen here to this remarkable culture. And to do it until this country acknowledges the truth of our past and that being white Australian is not a heritage we should be proud of. Controversial, I’m sure I’ll get some shit for that last bit. It’s minute in comparison to the shit inflicted on Australian Aboriginal people on a daily basis.

A woman’s right to walk down the street and not feel threatened. Telling the truth about what it is like to be female in a patriarchy. How frightening that can be.

Mental health advocacy. This is new and something I only recently started talking about. It has been something that has always been a private struggle. I worked in trauma and therapeutic care for many years, and the public perceptions are still so wildly inaccurate. I plan on more posts and content related to that. You are not broken, your brain is not broken. Modern society is broken. We are not supposed to live in isolated pods separated from a sense of community.

These are three causes that need all available voices. If you believe in them, stand up and be counted.

Kylie’s Blog | Instagram | Facebook | Steemit

Other projects Women Creating | Lady Bits Bookclub

3 Comments

  • Markus O. Gross

    Great interview, Kylie. I understand your beautiful words and pics even better now. I think I’ll try the 10%-rule you described. At the moment, my life needs some slowing down too.

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