In 1880 Will Lawson's family migrated from England to New Zealand. In 1884 his father was transferred to Brisbane, where Lawson completed his education at Brisbane Grammar School. His recreational time was spent horseriding and sailing.
In 1892 Lawson returned to New Zealand, taking up residence in Wellington. He lived in New Zealand for about 20 years, working as a clerk for an insurance company and contributing verse to the Bulletin and other Australian papers. He was inspired by Henry Lawson. In 1912 he moved to Sydney and worked as a journalist for the Evening News, and continued to publish in the Bulletin and the Lone Hand. In 1923 he joined the staff of Smith'sWeekly. In the following decade he lived in both Sydney and New Zealand, working as a journalist, publicist and travel agent. He was a member of Sydney's bohemian circles, and a friend of writers and artists such as Roderic Quinn, Edward and Will Dyson, Percy Lindsay, Randolph Bedford and Livingston Hopkins.
In 1938 Lawson was granted a Commonwealth literary pension. He was an active member of the Fellowship of Australian Writers. In 1942 his wife left him, and he then lived with Henry Lawson's widow Bertha, until her death in 1957; together they wrote My HenryLawson (1943). He wrote numerous ballads, mainly about sea-faring and the Australian bush, and published six collections. The same themes are also evident in his novels, of which he published several. He also wrote several descriptive and historical works about New Zealand and Australia. The best-known of these are Harpoons Ahoy (1938) and Blue Gum Clippers and Whale Ships of Tasmania (1949).