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mindshare Creative Writing 2022 Award Winner: Isaac Edward

Isaac Edward studied Teaching and Arts at Adelaide University with a major in English… and a major crush on creative writing. Whilst developing as a creative Isaac has designed and managed streetwear brands, put on hybrid arts events, promoted young local artists, collaborated with poetry appearing on custom garments, directed photoshoots, music videos and of course he has been feverishly writing! Isaac’s writing aims to explore the deeper human challenges that we can’t as easily discuss with others.

Isaac is the winner of the 2022 mindshare Creative Writing Published Writing award for ‘Frosty’.

What does this win for your writing mean to you?

This writing win means a lot to me. Like most writers, and especially so when starting out, the writing process is isolated. Within that isolation it’s hard to feel an objective sense of the quality of your writing and the craft of your pieces. It’s not really about winning, but it’s about validation for all the work I’ve been putting in behind the scenes and it’s about the encouragement that there’s something here that is worth nurturing.

What inspired your winning work?

I started by thinking strategically about the challenge itself. How can you take the readers on a journey and explore something authentic about mental health in under 1000 words without just ‘telling’ the reader or lecturing them? To me the answer was that you needed a closed, impactful scene with some sense of mystery, and you needed a piece of symbolism or meaning to reveal itself only fully, right at the end. From this point, and from considering the limitations, the process began of brainstorming different ways I could create a poignant piece. I desperately wanted to avoid…. desperately obvious writing. I also didn’t want to get lost in any overly autobiographical elements and thought that the way people relate to pets often says something about their thoughts or behaviours and so the story developed around a dog called ‘Frosty.’

What drives you to write?

It is a compulsion in a way, a part of expressing creativity that I feel I need to do. Bukowski said, “if it doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don’t do it.” At various times, when life has gotten in the way of writing or creativity, I’ve felt that. It’s an act of cleansing and to me it’s exciting pursuing the creation of writing that could reach or impact somebody with simply a keyboard and a word document. I think on a different level it’s also about having fun with words, exploring the inner mind, and joining a community (writers) that champion thought above materialism or vanity.

How do you incorporate writing into the rest of your life?

It’s not always an easy juggle. As a teacher I’m extremely busy and often can’t write in busy periods of marking student work, however I try to write in small chunks at night when the house is quiet, and I focus on bigger projects on term breaks. If I’m flat-out, even developing a thought routine of going for late night walks by myself is productive as I find my mind gets into a rhythm of ideation and then trying to sculpt those ideas and consider them. This way I’m developing a concept without much time involved so that when a break comes up, I can start, the thinking and planning is already done.

Which other writers have inspired or influenced your work?

I’m inspired by writers that have an authentic voice or writers that love to embed philosophy or concepts into their pieces. So, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in The Rye was a revelation for me in the way he wrote Holden and the insightful way he had this character narrate with such unique honesty. I also love Hunter S. Thompson and recently found the densely packed, intelligent prose and charisma of Paul Beatty to be refreshing and inspiring. Albert Camus, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley are also writers that have hooked me into their pages. Outside of conventional authors I listen to a lot of Hip Hop music and love lyricists like Pulitzer Prize winner, Kendrick Lamar

Have you faced any barriers establishing yourself as a writer, and if yes, how have you overcome them?

I think one of the biggest barriers that I have and still face as a writer is providing myself time. Stephen King said that “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” These are time-consuming pursuits, but I have been overcoming the challenge by looking at where I spend time and shifting things around writing and reading so that it is more of a priority. I think having the courage to tell people that it is something important to you is also beneficial so that they can respect the space you give writing. Winning this award also helps legitimise the time I’ve been putting into writing, so I think moving forward it will be even easier to establish the routine and sanctity of more writing and reading time.

What are you hoping to achieve with your writing?

I would love to have a novel published, that is my main writing goal. More specifically, I want to inspire the English students that I teach to show them how passionate I am about what I teach and how valuable writing is. The current novel I’m working on is about young people struggling to find their way under the weight of expectation and the dominant narratives around success in educational institutions. I would love to be able to put a writing project out into the world one day that helps young people (or those young at heart) to help find themselves and to find hope through a novel that speaks to their experience or struggle. I think that the Australian literary landscape needs new voices and writers to reach new readers.

What advice would you give other writers who are just starting out?

I would tell them to read ‘On Writing: A memoir of the craft by Stephen King.’ His book is both engaging and very practical, as it is focused on his writing practice, he doesn’t give you abstract notions of what may or may not work, he gets to the point and explains what has worked for him and why. I would also tell them to google the average age of a debut novelist and to take a deep breath. You have time. The first thing you write will probably be pretentious overladen prose or underwritten and skeletal, over time and with practice you’ll start to subconsciously know the balance.

Keep an eye on self-publishing and digital publishing culture because it’s an interesting time to be in the writing space, so much is changing, gatekeepers are being bypassed and authors are finding subgenres and niche audiences online. If we ever cross paths, say hello, we are kindred spirits, and we’ll have a kaleidoscopic conversation. We won’t need to dull our words and thoughts down to the last repository of civilisation-talking about the weather. Lastly, I would congratulate them on having the absolutely fantastic taste to want to write and I would say, just get started and don’t let anyone stop you!

You can learn more about Isaac through his Artist Profile here. He also has a creative Instagram page: @swordsandcottoncreative

Read our interview with another mindshare Creative Writing 2022 award winner, Anita, here.