RMIT Gazette: On being taught

Olivia Morffew  

The RMIT Gazette is a dynamic daily newspaper produced, published and distributed around Melbourne during the Emerging Writers’ Festival. We’ll publish the Gazette’s top stories online during the festival.

High school

There was a girl. She read a book, had a bizarre dream, and proceeded to write her first story. Her imagination knew no bounds and her fingers tapped at her keyboard. She began crafting stories from a never-ending stream of creativity.


A romanticised idea of being a writer, with thoughts of her debut novel—a bestseller with her name printed across the spine of a beautiful hardcover jacket. Of course, those were merely thoughts. Instead of selling what she thought was a poetically written manuscript—filled with fantasy and teenage romance—she enrolled into a Creative Writing bachelor degree. She had to write three pieces to be accepted into RMIT University, one of the top writing programs in Australia. She had talent. She was one of the best, until she was taught how to write.

First year

Four distinct types of prose—non-fiction, fiction, poetry and screenwriting—with four different grades that made her feel elated, then frustrated. With criticism came a learning curve. She was taught things that she never considered, because, you see, she was an excellent writer. She was taught adverbs cursed your piece, show don’t tell, and that a combination of a Plotter and a Pantser was normal.

Second year

Screen and novel writing—two different platforms for two different ideas. She learnt the mechanics of screenwriting, taught that headings for each scene should encompass EXT or INT, framed by MIDNIGHT or MIDDAY. She utilised what she was taught, her creative prowess shone, and she succeeded. Fiction was another story. It was her preferred platform for prose. Things like voice and tone, syntax and word choice, pacing and plot, overwhelmed her. In her romanticised world—where she was rolling in royalties—she never considered the technicalities of her own writing. She breathed in science fiction and fantasy, exhaling a fantastical world for her eyes only.

Third year

Experimenting with genre. It went to shit. She wrote urban science fiction and fantasy, and loathed the workshopping process. No one was there to explain how to not hate your work. She was already well into her work, she was taught how to enhance the prose and make it the best she could for submission.

Weeks after assessment. A new idea, a greater scope. A concept so inherently her, that she taught herself it was okay to begin something new and scrap something old. At panels she listened to authors and learnt there’s a join-the-dotser writer, something she identified with. She went home and wrote to her heart’s content.


She reads what she wrote and writes what she reads, fusing the genres she loves, crafting young adult literature. There’s no singular way of how to write, that much is clear to her now. Ten thousand words and a Pinterest account later, she sends off excerpts to sing and grin about. The girl with the romanticised idea of writing, becomes the woman developing her practice as an emerging author. Writing isn’t a chore for her, not with the rush of her fingers flying across the keys in an adrenaline she thought was lost. When she listens to authors or experiments with words and syntax, she takes it all on board. She is her own teacher now.

Read more from the Gazette here.