Amie McNee is an unpublished author. For now anyway. But she believes there is still so much to be shared about her writing and her journey that just isn’t being said in the writing community. “I endeavour to create spaces where we can freely explore all angles of artistic living, from the loneliness, the financial troubles and shame. All the way to the magic and rebellious liberty that comes from taking a creative journey and taking it seriously,” she says in her About section on her website. With a degree in history, specializing in medieval sexuality and pornography, Amie has written two books already and is currently working on her third, which integrates her understanding of the medical experience, as does her second book.
I reached out to Amie to speak to our writing community about her podcast, what it means to have a creative life, sharing your experience while still “in the fire” and importance of an artistic community. She was so thorough and honest in this interview and I hope you get as much out of her words and advice as I did.
I absolutely love your idea of creating a platform to share the rejection, the trials and the life of the unpublished writer with your new podcast, “Unpublished.” How is it going so far? Did you have any experience with podcasting before this project?
I am enjoying it so much! I've never done a podcast before, so it is a very new experience. Hopefully the more I do it, the more I'll relax and feel comfortable talking to the microphone, but it is such a joy speaking about these important topics! It is allowing me to own my story and take pride in my rejections and challenges. Speaking our stories to others is so important. It eradicates shame and allows us to take ownership of our creative journey. I am so thankful for those who take time to listen, and I cannot wait to begin recording other people's stories!
I completely related to your story of working in an office, thinking you will have time to write all the time while being paid, but then not being able to access your creative self within that space. (Just last month, I actually quit a job just like this!)
How important do you believe the right space and routine is to your writing process?
Personally, I think it is nearly impossible to create without the right environment. The office environment is so often a space that actively devalues creative living, it does not encourage independent thought and it certainly does not encourage creativity and freedom of expression. For me, I need the right environment to write. I just need the space to breath and feel like I can be myself. In regards to routine, I think everyone is different. Some people thrive off writing at random times every day, chopping and changing and fitting it in whenever they can. I envy and respect these type of people! But I do think most of us need to know that every day we wake up at seven and we write for an hour. I personally write in the mornings every week day and it keeps me accountable.
Can you speak about your current writing projects? What kind of writing do you do most often?
At the moment I am writing a historical fiction novel. I did my degree in medieval history, so I have a thousand stories running around my head to do with the 16th century. This one is about a coven of witches, in a time where witches were accepted and thrived within english communities. It is only about half way done, and to be honest I am at a bit of a stalling point, nothing is flowing easily. So I am taking a short break, to see if it opens up any doors. In the mean time, I am submitting my completed manuscript to agencies and publishers. She is also a historical fiction novel. So you could say hist-fic is my jam. But I've also written a fantasy!
In your podcast, you mention being vulnerable by sharing experiences while you are “in the fire” or in the middle of your writing projects. Can you talk about why that vulnerability is so important to you?
This is such an important question. I think there are hundreds of important reasons to be vulnerable, but for me the most important part of vulnerability is that it allows us to own our story. I still, to this day, lie when someone asks me what I do. I work at a cafe, is a common reply. It’s just easier, I don’t have to explain myself.
But every time I put up this armour and ‘protect’ myself, I realise that in actual fact I am hurting myself. Deeply. I am denying myself my own truth. I am telling myself that I am ashamed of myself. When I am vulnerable, I own myself, and I own my story.
The common thread of conversation goes like this. (Also wtf, I can’t believe how many people ask me what I do. Why are we so obsessed with this question?)
“What do you do?”
“I’m a writer!”
“Cool! What do you write?”
“Wow, are you published?”
Pause as they try to understand how I could be supporting myself, or why I call writing my job when I clearly don’t make any money of off it. I summon energy to be vulnerable.
“My partner and my family have been supporting me as I finish off my latest novel and send it off to publishers.”
To be clear, I don’t owe anyone this explanation. But for me, being vulnerable like this allows me to OWN my own story. To take pride in this part of my life. Instead of avoiding it all together and hiding it in shame.
Why do you think we only hear about the published or established author and less about everything that happens in between? Why does it seem like there is so much ambiguity to the success of a writer?
Successful people have a louder voice. It’s an unfortunate truth. It means we never hear about the process, the pain, magic and resilience of those on the journey. I am endeavouring to change this with Unpublished, and Inspired to Write. I think with social media so many more of us have the ability to share our voice. We need to share the journey as we begin it, get confused upon it, stumble, stop, restart and fall flat on our faces on it. We need to see the whole creative journey, not just the published book on the shelf.
If you could speak to your younger self, what is some advice or tips about writing you would give?
Practical advice: Do not stop and rewrite ANYTHING in your first draft. Don't even think about it. My first book took four years because of this habit. My second book took six months. It has been my biggest lesson.
Emotional / Spiritual / Journey advice: This is going to be much harder than you can imagine. But you are much, much stronger than you realise. By choosing to live a creative life you are not doing anything wrong. You are not making a bad decision. You are not lazy or bad for wanting to do this. The shame you will feel for wanting to create is not deserved.
What do you hope or goal for your “Unpublished” community? Why do you think having a sense of community is so important for writers and artists alike?
Art can be lonely. It is a journey we take that is against the societal grain. It can feel like walking against a strong tide, or a mass of people. I want Unpublished to open our eyes to all the other artists who are doing what we are doing, sitting alone in their working spaces telling stories. I want us all to feel bonded and less alone. I want us all to realise that what we are doing is MAGIC, and so very important to creating a better world. I want to eliminate any shame or loneliness in being head over heals for telling stories.
What is the best advice you have heard about writing, either from another writer or someone along your creative journey?
At the moment I’m Austin Kleon MAD. He writes books about creative living.
I just read on his instagram a quote that said:
Don’t make a living.
Make a life.
That’s what I am trying to do. That’s what creative living is.
What are you currently reading? Do you read often? Does this influence your work?
I’m currently reading Yuval Noah Harari’s book 21 lessons for the 21st century, and Clementine Ford’s book Boy’s will be Boys. I highly recommend both authors. For the last few years I’ve been very into non fiction. Is that taboo for a fiction writer to say? I find it easier to consume, especially when I’m deep into the creative process of writing my first draft. I find writing fiction and reading fiction at the same time hard. When I edit or I’m on holidays I get into my fiction a lot more. I love pretty much all genres, the last book I read was Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman. That woman wrote one hell of a book.