S L Lim was born in Singapore and moved to Sydney as a child. They don’t eat animals. They hate heterosexuality, the gender binary, the energy industry, other industries, racism, sexism, progressive politics as an aesthetic/lifestyle signifier as opposed to a material engagement with injustice and power, including in one’s own life; getting up in the morning, the requirement to exchange one’s labour in return for a wage, and people who casually mention they are better than you. They like stickers, food, pretty yet inexpensive stationery, mathematical approaches to vegan baking, direct action, quiet people with an ironical yet wise approach to life, noisy apparent assholes with good hearts, queerness, tendentious takes, mutual care, mutual accountability and mutual aid. They like to read blender reviews online where the reviewer obviously had totally insane expectations for the blender. Sunsets are beautiful. Borders are violence. Vaginal orgasm is a mass hysterical survival response.
Why do you write? I would like to create beautiful things of lasting value which is independent of my existence as a person.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The pleasure of naming a phenomenon, concept or experience that went previously unarticulated.
—the worst? Oscillations between megalomania and self-abnegation.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Start earlier, work harder.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? In terms of the writing: there is no secret. Do the work and keep doing it. In terms of getting published: treat this as its own skill quite separate from the writing itself.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? Regard human systems as comprehensible and problems as solvable.
What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Write. Read very carefully. Hang out with dead people. Keep writing. Be hard on your own work. Find persons whose judgement you trust and make use of their intelligence and kindness.
How important is social media to you as an author? I regret cruelty and loss and time and holding on to friendship and to love as it curdled into indifference but I regret NOT ONE SECOND of the time I have spent on the internet.
Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? By reminding myself the obstacles that exist to prevent me from writing today will still exist tomorrow so if I don’t write today I probably won’t write tomorrow and this will go on for a while and then I’ll die.
How do you deal with rejection? Lying face down on the carpet. One aspect I struggled with during years of feeling like a waste of space, a pool of sentient mush dissolving on the bathmat, was the realisation everyone gets rejected, a lot. If I were a brilliant misunderstood genius I would probably be getting a lot of rejections. And if I were a self-deluding hack… the exact same thing would be occurring. There was no way of evaluating which particular universe I was living in.
Come to that, I still don’t know. Am I any good? Are you? Is what? Are unicorns hollow? Just because a question can be formulated grammatically doesn’t mean it has an answer. The trouble with this approach is it tends towards the conclusion literally nothing means anything. This isn’t untrue, exactly, but it doesn’t help you get out of bed, and I need all the help that I can get.
So maybe a better approach is to remember publication is not the only market of merit; there is a huge amount of structural unfairness and just randomness. But there are also ways you can improve your chances, like getting better at your craft and submitting your work to lots of publishers and agents.
My advice, if you were asking for it, is: do the thing you’ve got to do, because you do, and… well, that’s it, really. Good luck.
In three words, how would you describe your writing? It’s getting better.
If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Kim Stanley Robinson. I want to go hiking with him and either talk about Buddhism or not talk at all but simultaneously look at things like lichens and go ‘hmm’ so we understand we both appreciate this sublime phenomenon and are experiencing it in a manner both collective and solitary.
by SL Lim
This is a story of a friendship so connected that without it one is not whole but lost.
Middle-class, clever and white, Nick is a child of privilege while his best friend Andie is the daughter of Indo-Chinese refugees. Despite their very different backgrounds, they share a conviction they can change the world for the better.
At the outset, Nick is pushing papers in a dead-end job while Andie is embarking on a secular crusade against world poverty. This generates conflict with her white husband Benjamin, who feels that Australians should come first. Meanwhile, Andie’s cousin, the teenage Tony is burdened by his parents’ traumatic past and impossible expectations. To their dismay, he finds solace in radical faith.
S.L. Lim acutely captures the dreams and disaffections of a millennial generation. Real Differences is an emotionally resonant novel about idealism, ethical ambition, and love, filled with unforgettable characters. It ultimately asks us the most important question of all: What is our life for?
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