3 November 2017

Meet the 2017 Scribe Nonfiction Prize Shortlist – Nicola Nixon

In the lead up to announcing The 2017 Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers, we’re introducing you to every name and face on the shortlist. These are some of the brightest nonfiction minds in the country and they’re all aged 30 and under. Read their profiles on the Express Media blog to learn more about their writing journeys, love of nonfiction and their tips and tricks to writing the best real-life stories.

Nicola Nixon, 20, Queensland


Why do you write nonfiction?

I write nonfiction because I don’t understand metaphors.

Tell us a bit about your submission to the Scribe Prize…

My submission to the Scribe Prize is about my OCD and anxiety. One of the ways my compulsions
manifest is through extreme distress when touching people—to the point where I’m basically
unable to touch people—and this makes it incredibly difficult to build relationships, especially
intimate ones. This piece explores the ways my compulsions and anxiety have affected my
relationship with my boyfriend. It also looks at first relationships and the fears and anxieties that go
along with that, as well as what makes a relationship normal, or whether there is any such thing.

Why did you choose to write on this subject?

When I was first coming to terms with what I had been diagnosed with, I found reading essays and
memoir about mental health issues very helpful. I didn’t feel so isolated when I was reading what
other people had written, and those works helped me to understand that I could get better, that I
deserved to get better.

But even then the books I was reading were about anxiety and depression, and I struggled to find
people talking about OCD or any of the other many mental illnesses, such as bipolar,
schizophrenia, or borderline personality disorder. It took a lot of encouraging from other people
before I felt that I could, or even should, write on this subject.

I think a lot of us who are ill are scared that if we write what we experience we’ll be judged, or
hated, or rejected by everyone around us. When I first showed what I’d written to people, they
called me brave. I didn’t feel brave; I felt unmasked. But the truth is nobody judged me or treated
me any differently, and I think it’s really important that more of us start talking about what we’re
experiencing because the more we talk or write about it, the easier it will be for others to
understand what’s happening to them.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

The best piece of writing advice I’ve ever received is to write what you want to read. I feel like a lot
of young writers get caught up in what the journals and the awards want (i.e. Capital L Literature),
and somewhere along the way we lose sight of what made us excited to read and excited to write. I
think we should worry less about the writing that is being published and write what we think should
be published.