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Pick Your Path

25 Jan 2024

Which road will you take? Where will it lead you? Musician and writer Kathryn van Beek has made it her business to open up a world of possibilities to her readers - and gives her younger self plenty of options when passing on pearls of wisdom.

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Kathryn van Beek

Kathryn van Beek has had two main paths on her creative journey - one as a musician who has played bass for local bands like Peachy Keen and Jonnie Rose - and one as an author who has written plays, songs, children’s books, short stories and essays, earning her the Robert Burns Fellowship and seeing her complete a doctorate from the International Institute of Modern Letters on the topic of writing for positive change.

Most recently, she's put her skills into creating a free online click-a-path adventure called The ManyEnding Story - a Laura Solomon Prize-shortlisted coming-of-age story (for grown-ups) that's all about the choices we make and the consequences of those choices - with 25 different ending possibilities.

It seems a good opportunity for van Beek to take a look back on her own road to where she is now - and offer some advice to her younger self.

 

Kia ora Kathryn,

Congratulations on finishing your master’s degree! What will you do next?

  1. Get a series of increasingly strange part-time jobs, squander opportunities, give up writing in favour of playing in bands, and then spend a torturous decade trying to find your place in the literary scene?
  2. Join the New Zealand Society of Authors, get a mentor, hone your craft, join a writing group, read every good book ever written, and become Aotearoa’s latest wunderkind?  

I’m sorry to say you’ll choose A – not that it’s really a choice, you just don't know there are other options. 

Peachy Keen.jpg
Kathryn van Beek (lying on floor) as part of Peachy Keen. Photo:  Jonnie Brugh.

Not to worry! By choosing A, you’ll meet your lovely husband, end up with a famous cat, and build a great life with the two of them. 

Here’s my advice as you continue along your path...

Keep on working for free

All those gigs you’re putting on will give you the skills to land a decent day job. Plus, it’s fun!

Stop working for free!

Feeling a bit lost? Writing random things for random places for random (zero) amounts of money? 

Step away from the keyboard! This time would be better spent working out what you want to write and why, researching the industry, or just lying under a tree and looking up at the sky.  

Book cover.jpg

Harness your 'eldest daughter' energy

You can’t swing a tote bag without hitting at least three other writers - all of whom are working just as hard as you are, in a field with few opportunities to go around.

Sometimes you have to make your own luck, and you’ll do a good job of this by running your own crowdfunding campaigns and self-publishing some of your own work. 

Admittedly this is all a bit of a nightmare, but it will eventually lead to other opportunities. 

Let go of your 'eldest daughter' energy!

Relax. And remember Liz Gilbert’s advice: “It’s better to be a trickster than a martyr”. 

Find some likeminded nerds

I know, the word “networking” makes you want to vomit. 

But networking doesn’t have to be about schmoozing powerful gatekeepers, it can simply be making friends with fellow geeks. Joining a writing group or class is a great way to find “your people”, and collaborating with other writers will be heaps of fun. 

You can also find kindred spirits in books – try bell hooks, Greta Gaard, Jane Alison and Audre Lorde. 

 

Oh, one last thing. In the summer of 2011, don’t eat that tempeh burger.

Good luck out there!