2024 Stella Prize Longlist: Reflections
Alexis Wright

What Praiseworthy showed me about writing

Alexis Wright speaks about her literary vision for Praiseworthy and the challenges of writing a book that couldn’t be contained or restrained.

Writing my latest work Praiseworthy has given me a deeper understanding of the importance of following a literary vision. In this work, I had to challenge myself to follow a literary vision that refused to be contained or restrained. I had to create a story on a larger scale – the scope and breadth of which would do justice to the enormity and urgency of what is happening in our world.   

In writing this book I have learnt the importance in taking the path you have chosen to take as a writer, and to become the writer you need to be. You must write about what you feel passionately.  You must continue writing in this way without compromise or distraction about what does not fall into this realm.  Stay true to your vision.

In Praiseworthy, I needed to reach greater levels of patience than what I had already established in my other works which had a long and demanding creative process. Early in life I learnt some valuable lessons from my elders about patience and dedication. I saw how they taught young people to think carefully and deeply, and to use mental agility to carry out responsibilities in accordance with our laws and culture.

This has enabled us to survive for thousands of years in this continent. In developing Praiseworthy, I knew I would require a large-scale canvas because of the very serious questions it was asking – questions about the ability of Aboriginal people to survive on our homelands in a future of Global emergencies. Praiseworthy needed its own tone and style – to strike a different chord, which reflected the rhythms and music of our country.  I had to develop a language and dramatic purpose which spoke to the universalities of how we are interconnected and related throughout the world.

To sustain a work of the scale of Praiseworthy requires enormous levels of energy, determination and endurance – using the power of the mind to stay focussed on building greater imaginary possibilities.

Praiseworthy

Writing Praiseworthy challenged me to go further than I have ever done before. I realised that there are no limits for what literature can explore, not just for the literary world, but to play its part in a world needing to find a way to survive in the future.   

Most of all, I learnt that to sustain a work of the scale of Praiseworthy requires enormous levels of energy, determination and endurance – using the power of the mind to stay focussed on building greater imaginary possibilities, and never giving up until the work is completed, and somehow, represents the vision of what it is meant to say.

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