Working with Words: Victoria Hannan
Victoria Hannan is a writer, photographer and creative director living in Melbourne. She spoke with us about an alternate life as a fisherman, the utility of the Pomodoro Technique and a Romeo and Juliet-themed water ballet.
What was the first piece of writing that made you laugh or cry?
I read a lot of those R.L. Stine Fear Street books when I was young, which weren’t really tear jerkers (and, in retrospect, were pretty problematic).
I rarely cry when I read. I don’t often cry during films either. I went to see Titanic when I was at high school and all my friends cried when Leo died, but I laughed. They all called me heartless but I just thought it was stupid. Why didn’t she scooch over and let him on that piece of wood?
Did you write during your childhood and during your teenage years?
I used to write a lot of joke letters to my friends and, sometimes, their parents. I’d pretend I was the principal and they were in trouble for something ridiculous or embarrassing. I never posted them.
I went to see Titanic when I was at high school and all my friends cried when Leo died but I laughed.
I got to help write the story of the (Baz Luhrmann’s) Romeo and Juliet-themed water ballet my Year 11 class performed at the swimming carnival that year. I had a grand artistic vision that it should end with all 60 of us playing dead and floating face down in the pool. For some reason everyone listened to me. This is probably my proudest achievement.
What day jobs have you held throughout your life, and how have those experiences influenced your writing?
I started working as a copywriter a year after I graduated from university. Undoubtedly, it’s made me a better, more disciplined writer and taught me how to establish and maintain a voice.
Often, if I’m stuck, I’ll write myself a brief and give myself a deadline – treat writing fiction like writing copy (fiction in its own way).
If you weren’t writing, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
I took a careers quiz when I was at school and it told me I should be a writer, a judge or a fisherman. So I guess I’d be out there on a boat somewhere with windswept hair and calloused hands. I sometimes regret my choices.
What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about writing?
The best advice I’ve received is that you just have to do the work. It’s not groundbreaking in any way but it’s the thing I tell myself most often.
In many ways, all writing advice is bad advice ... You just need to find what’s right for you and then do the damn work.
In many ways, all writing advice is bad advice. It’s so easy to worry about whether you’re doing it the 'right' way. You just need to find what’s right for you and then do the damn work.
Which classic book/play/film/TV show do you consider overrated?
I don’t think it’s fair to say that anything is overrated if other people find value in it. Except, perhaps, the novels of Dan Brown.
Do you have any strange writing habits, customs or superstitions?
I’ve learnt that I can write a thousand words in 56 minutes if I really put my mind to it. I used this jacked up Pomodoro Technique to write the second draft of Kokomo in three weeks.
In breaks between writing, I’ll watch Saturday Night Live or Tim and Eric clips on YouTube to reset my brain. They’re especially helpful if I’m writing about grief or trauma, which I do, often.
Also, writing makes me really thirsty. Like three litres of water a day thirsty. I’ll often find if I’ve hit a wall it’s because I haven’t drunk enough water.
Have you written anything in the past that you now wish you could go back and change?
Everything. I’m definitely going to go back and re-write all my answers to these questions at least a couple of times.
Which artist, writer or character would you most like to have dinner with?
I think I’d find a dinner like that too stressful. Imagine sharing even one course with Jesus, Beyoncé and Salman Rushdie. Awful! I’d much rather just have dinner with a big group of my friends.