On Being A N00b

Last year, if:book challenged twelve Australian writers to step outside their comfort zone and try a new professional experience – something related to your craft that they have never tried before, whether it’s tool or a technique at the cutting edge or whether it has been around for centuries. Change tools for storytelling, change routine, learn a new form, engage with parts of the wider industry. See what happens and report back.

We called the project The N00bz.

Some authors we caught at the right moment. Sean Williams reported back on his participation in a sleep study and observed its effect on his creativity. Sophie Masson was in the early stages of establishing her own independent press. Jeff Sparrow found himself at a loose end between books. Emily Stewart had already decided to give away her library. Greg Field was closing his bookshop.

Other authors were prompted by the proposal to suggest their own experiments. Romy Ash tackled storytelling with a 140-character limit. James Bradley wanted to create a graphic novel. And Carmel Bird had been wondering what to do with her rights for Dear Reader. In these cases, we were more than happy to provide the excuse to follow through.

The results are by turns insightful and amusing if, just occasionally, a bit harrowing.

For some writers, their experience as a n00b heralded permanent change. Setting up your own press, leaving your previous career behind, and giving away your library are not experiences that can be undone as easily as command-z. But the intention of The N00bz was not to bring about permanent change necessarily. I have barely touched a typewriter since my experiment, I’m pretty sure Benjamin Law hasn’t had much call for his shorthand, and I can almost guarantee Marvel Comics hasn’t got Ronnie Scott on speed dial—yet. This is the nature of trying something new. Sometimes it changes you in obvious ways, sometimes change is much more understated. Being a n00b means stepping outside your typical routine and finding a new perspective and it’s this perspective that stays with you, even if you don’t end up encoding your own ebooks.

Being a n00b demands open-mindedness and a willingness to test, experiment—and sometimes fail. Of course these laudable qualities are not restricted to writers or to this strange business of sharing stories. So as much as this is a collection of writing about writing (a very meta topic, I know), it also documents pure curiosity and the quest to continually improve.

For my money, I hope I will always be a n00b.


The N00bz: New Adventures in Literature is available now from Editia.