LUCY’S TOP WRITING TIP: Always maintain back-up copies on a separate hard drive. Give your editor’s advice due consideration and defer to them. Enjoy what you write by pursuing your ideas like a lover pursuing the beloved and if you lose your passion for your subject, refresh the romance by taking a break, a temporary separation while you spend enough time elsewhere forgetting the reasons why you’re bored, irritated or otherwise over it. Above all, respect yourself by honouring your muse. Check out her website at www.lucydesoto.com
Lucy Desoto was raised in Sydney’s Western suburbs in the 1960s and ’70s and graduated with the Higher School Certificate in 1977 from Sydney’s Fort Street High School. After suspending studies for a Bachelor of Arts in 1979, she went on to become went on to become the editor of the Sydney University Union Recorder while writing songs and playing in inner city pubs in The Living Daylights, her first band. Inspired by the song, Lucy took a walk on the wild side, playing the blues and rock music in bands with various line-ups around the country throughout the 1980s and throughout her life so far. Lucy returned to Sydney University in 1997 and graduated with a first class honours degree in Media Arts in 2000. In 2002, she was awarded a Commonwealth stipend to undertake a Doctorate of Creative Arts at the University of Technology, Sydney. Her doctoral thesis focused on the modes and influence of unofficial cultural practice in Australian history. In 2007 the production component of her doctoral work, a documentary film titled, Rock ’n’ Roll Outlaw, was invited to screen at The Melbourne International Film Festival to wide acclaim. The film was dedicated to her partner of 22 years, an Australian rock musician of renown, the late Pete Wells who died in 2006. Lucy with her band, The Handsome Devils continued to play in inner city bars and pubs in Sydney until her decision to re-locate to Alice Springs in 2013, where she wrote the book Australia Rocks, her first commercially published work.
Why do you write? Like a composer or any artist, for me the creative process gives life its meaning and like a mountaineer or a marathon runner, I enjoy the challenge. Writing is an immersive experience, so I think, like most people who write, you have to be comfortable in your own skin and with your own company so you can get to that place where you’re just working in the moment, forgetting the time and just spinning a yarn for yourself, and maybe to share with others.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I don’t know what I’d be doing otherwise. Maybe I’d be a statistic in a mental health ward. There’s an old Zen Buddhist saying, goes something like “fetching water, chopping wood”. To me it doesn’t matter what you’re doing – whether it’s writing or serving in a bar or washing cars or traveling the world in a rock band, the simple things in life are the main things to be doing well and the rest will follow – basic self-respect, care for others, cook, clean, work, play, sleep…enlightenment.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Time. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I spent a lot of time researching and writing material that was never published, but if you have the capacity for working without an eye on any particular outcome, and a willingness to develop the virtue of patience, then while you use your obstacle to write, then your toughest obstacle to becoming published passes of itself.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Deep listening. Australian Indigenous writer Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann speaks of deep listening as a way of being that is similar to a state of contemplation. In her language, the term is “dadirri”. From what I understand, that’s a big part of human perception, the way to wholeness, and through being able to listen deeply to the silence within, you can gain access to a kind of gateway to soulfulness. That’s where you can begin to listen to your muse. As an adult, that essentially is the best, most comfortable and rewarding place to be, but that’s just me.
—the worst? Poverty. Living below the breadline is no fun, and being forced to do time working for a pittance is hard on your mental health. Australian writers and artists are among the least valued in the world. It’s a disgrace, but these days it’s part of the national agenda. Being a true Australian means you’ll cast your vote for living in an economy rather than a society. Now more than ever we’re encouraged to celebrate and support a lack of imagination, narrow-mindedness and shallow voracity as a matter of national policy and pride. Corporate culture is pitiless infection.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’m not sure I understand this question because I could be wrong but I think the assumption is that there’s something in particular that I could do in the past, and that would adjust things so that the present would be different, and not just different, but better. If I were starting out as a writer now, how would I benefit from hindsight by doing something differently? And my answer to that is, the whole process is so organic that if you did something differently it would all be different – not necessarily better, but not the same as it is. I don’t think I’d do anything differently because it is what it is.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish someone had told me a beautiful secret, full of rich insights and practical advice that I could simply adopt as a way of life that would make everything feel like an effortless ecstatic dream, while in reality I became healthier, wealthier and wiser with each passing day. I didn’t really set out to become an author, to be honest. I enjoy writing and I enjoy the research process but I didn’t give a thought to ‘becoming an author’. I just followed the shape of the book project as it emerged from day to day and now there’s a lovely book that I wrote, and I’m very happy I did it, because it seems a lot of people are very pleased with the result.
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
“Life is mainly froth and bubble/Two things stand like stone.
Kindness in another’s trouble/Courage in your own.”
These are the words my father would often recite in a philosophical tone and never with any sense of irony, and with such regularity that they’ve stuck to me like a tattoo on my memory. They were written by the Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon sometime in the 1850s and come from his poem “Ye Wearie Wayfarer”. I think my grandfather passed the words down to my father, and they’ve now become a familiar part of the family conversation – like an old saying.
Remembering the Music of the 1950s to 1990s
by Lucy Desoto