Review: Write Way Home by Hedley Derenzie

Liza Dezfouli

A good read for all writers at any stage. Hedley Derenzie's Write Way Home will get you writing.
Review: Write Way Home by Hedley Derenzie

Cover art Write Way Home by Hedley Derenzie.

Pulling yourself together after a failed suicide attempt was never going to be easy. Write Way Home is the book author Hedley Derenzie needed to write after nearly giving up on life. This memoir is the result of the creative challenge Derenzie set for herself, namely, to write 2000 words a day for thirty-one days, no matter what. That decision becomes a locus for her sense of self, an anchor, her raision-d’ệtre, and her openess in this work is affecting.

Write Way Home documents the effect of this sustained writing practice on her psychology and her creativity. Derenzie's observations and self-awareness on her journey of self-exploration will be familiar to anyone who writes, or who has tried to. It’s well-known amongst creative types, amongst writers especially, just how diminished, how horrible one can come to feel while pushing through a project to completion. Writing is often torturous work. It’s hard to explain this to people not driven to write but it can take every iota of grit and self-belief you possess to finish what you start. Write Way Home is an admirable achievement given its provenance and is a reminder that having already successfully published a book or two doesn’t provide one with any security in one’s ongoing creativity. (I remember Kate Grenville talking about the enormous pressure to live up to herself after publishing her first book.)

Write Way Home is a self-help memoir without gushiness; it's informed by daily lived experience rather than by ideas alone. The book is structured so that each day is written up as a mini-chapter headed Insight of the Day. Derenzie’s observations include a growing awareness of the sheer thrill of being alive in the world after a narrow escape; the meaning she makes out of small events and details support her commitment to her work. Although I found Derenzie’s regular consulting of a dream interpretation app asinine, she’s pretty sensible for someone who believes that life ‘is a conversation with the Universe, which is always communicating with us through signs and symbols, situations and events.’ (‘Superstitious’ is an unkind word; I won’t use it.)

It must be said that Derenzie enjoys a privileged position while writing this book – not needing to work to maintain her Sydney lifestyle while writing her 2000 words a day. Many of her days (when not writing) seem to be spent taking walks and having philosophical conversations with friends in cafés. And she can afford to stay at the Windsor during a trip to Melbourne and catch taxis about. Those less fortunate might almost be inclined to have unworthy thoughts about this degree of freedom. However, the point Derenzie demonstrates regularly is that, regardless of your circumstances, writing is bloody hard work and you need to stick at it. We're skilled at finding excuses for not doing the things we say we want to do, and Derenzie’s  moments of self-awareness regarding this ring a familiar tune.

Derenzie didn’t start out intending to publish all those accumulated words but I, for one, am glad she did. Write Way Home's a good read. The prose is fine except for a modifier dangled at the bottom of page 35 – inexcusable in a book about writing. Nor am I convinced by ‘the kookaburra, known as the Goo-goor-gaga, or the laughing jackass’ on page 93; is she suggesting the Indigenous name might mean ‘laughing jackass’? Hardly. (Hedley, if you’re reading this … One of the best writers on the craft of writing is UK author A.L. Kennedy. All writers ought to read her book On Writing.)

After reading Write Way Home I was inspired to do the same thing: write 2000 words a day for a month. I managed three days.

3½ stars ★★★☆

Write Way Home

By Hedley Derenzie

United Book Distributors

Format: Paperback

Pub date: May 2018

Imprint: XOUM

ISBN: 9781925589214

Page extent: 288 pp

Trim: 234 x 153 mm

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Liza Dezfouli reviews live performance, film, books and occasionally music. She writes a blog under her own name and another, somewhat less-measured one called WhenMrWrongfeelsSoRight. She writes for performance every now and then, and can occasionally be seen on stage or in short films. An avid arts glutton, she's consistently thrilled by the talent abounding in her adopted city of Melbourne. For more: www.lizadezfouli.com.

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