Category Archives: Books

O- Optimism…A-Z Challenge

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

– Oscar Wilde

Welcome to the latest installment in my series of Motivational Quotes for writers. We’re moving quickly through the alphabet and now we’re already up to O. The word for today is Optimism, which I believe is an important ingredient for getting that book project finished. After all, if you don’t believe you’re good enough and have what it takes to get through to the end, why get started at all? You’d be much better off staying in your day job.

Here’s a few more quotes I came across:

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an

optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

– Winston Churchill

 

“Life is too short to spend your precious time trying to

convince a person who wants to live in gloom and doom

otherwise. Give lifting that person your best shot, but

don’t hang around long enough for his or her bad

attitude to pull you down. Instead, surround yourself

with optimistic people.”

– Zig Ziglar

However, how do we retain our optimism in the face of repeated knock backs and defeats?

  1. Believe in yourself.
  2. Break the task down into smaller, more achievable chunks.
  3. Take some classes and skill up.
  4. Ask someone we trust for advice.
  5. Keep thinking laterally and looking for the opportunity. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.
  6. Keep writing. Set yourself a daily word limit to reach or a length of time to write. I don’t do this but I’ve read this recommendation a lot.
  7. Read some books, watch some people. Open your eyes and ears and constantly be on the look out for new ideas, observations, details which could help a story along down the track.
  8. Keep a small notebook for ideas with you.

I hope this encourages you all to feel more optimistic and positive about your writing and now we all just need to get out there and do it!

Do you have anything else to add? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

N-Never Give Up: Motivational Quotes.

“Never Never give up.”

– Winston Churchill.

Welcome to the latest installment in my series of Motivation Quotes for writers as part of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

The timing of this quote is pure coincidence. However, yesterday when this should’ve gone up, the world watched on in abject horror as those blazing orange flames engulfed historic Notre Dame Cathedral. As I and millions like me, watched on in shock and abject horror, the fire department fought that blaze with everything they had and more and they managed to salvage more of the cathedral than I ever thought was possible. Confirmation…never give up!

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.

Some come from ahead and some come from behind.

But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my

troubles are going to have troubles with me!”

― Dr. Seuss

All too often, we hear the most incredible stories of overcoming illness, disability, terrible accidents and even going as far as conquering Everest, the mighty mountain herself.

However, I also somewhat disagree with Winston Churchill. While never giving up might be good political rhetoric, sometimes we need to give up, walk away and try something else. Perhaps, devoting a year or so to writing that book, isn’t worth the investment either in time or money. We need to be strategic, and try to see the bigger picture and no be so focused on the goal that there is no plan B.

With this in mind, I’ve included the following quotes:

“Failed plans should not be interpreted as a failed

vision. Visions don’t change, they are only refined.

Plans rarely stay the same, and are scrapped or

adjusted as needed. Be stubborn about the vision, but

flexible with your plan.”

John C. Maxwell

“Throwing your heart into something is great, but

when any one thing becomes all that you stand for,

you’re vulnerable to an identity crisis when you pivot

to a Plan B.”

― Reid Hoffman, The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career

 

“Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”

Mike Tyson

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

M- Mountain…Motivational Quotes A-Z Challenge.

“You’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting,

So… get on your way!”

― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

As I launch into my latest contribution to my series of Motivational Quotes for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, I’m asking…What does a mountain mean to a writer?

I’m not sure if this is any different to what it means to a great adventurer like Sir Edmund Hilary, or even a toddler seeing a relatively small hill which seems like a mountain to them. However, a mountain represents inspiration, challenge, stretching yourself, great physical beauty as well as mystery even horror.

It is important to keep all these characteristics of the mountain in mind as we face our mountains through life, and not only in our writing or other creative endeavors. That way, we still appreciate the awesome beauty of the mountain while we’re almost dying gasping with everything we’ve got, as we struggle clawing our way towards the summit.

“The way up to the top of the mountain is always longer than you think.

Don’t fool yourself, the moment will arrive when what seemed so near

is still very far.”

– Paulo Coelho

Another interesting thing about people, is that we seek mountains out. We’re not content to simply keep walking along the flat, and strangely seek to stretch ourselves well beyond anything we thought possible.  We like to push ourselves. Indeed, that could well be a need, and part of what makes us human.

Above the trees

a mountain has melted

into haze

Michael McClintock

However, mountains can be more than challenging. Indeed they can be deadly. More than 296 people have died trying to conquer Everest. Although Sir Edmund Hilary was the first to climb it, he didn’t advocate conquering at any cost:

“Human life is far more important than just getting to the top of a mountain.”

– Edmund Hillary

Taikan-Yokoyama-Mount-Penglai

However, mountains aren’t just for climbing. They’re for painting, photography or simply dreaming and wandering. They don’t have to be a verb. They can just be.

On a less inspirational note, most writers would be familiar with having mountains of paperwork. After all, that’s what a book is. It’s a pile of paperwork either glued or stapled together and if we keep climbing and conquering these mountains, our name will be on the cover and on the spine.

Best wishes,

Rowena

J: Journey…

Welcome back to my series of Motivational Quotes for writers and creatives working on large projects, such as writing a book. This is series is part of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge where we write our way through the alphabet to a theme. Today, we’ve reached the Letter J and I’ve chosen a quote which focuses on the journey. No doubt, you probably know it, but it’s always good to be reminded:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Lao Tzu

Over the last few years, the word “journey” has been seriously over-used and has lost a lot of its magic. However, just because the word is tired, doesn’t mean that the nature of a journey has changed what with its changes of scenery, challenges, ups and downs and inherent movement from a beginning, through the middle and to the end. Of course, this progression could well be chopped and changed around when it comes to writing about it. However, one of the important things about a journey is that it needs to be lived.

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I’m always intrigued whenever I see these snail markings squiggling through the local rock pools. Well, it actually looks like the limpets in the photograph have made that journey.  

The quote from Lao Tzu is one of my all time favourites, and I often remind myself that the hardest part about achieving anything is usually getting started and taking that first step. Somehow, it seems to get easier once you’re actually moving, gain momentum and are on your way.

This quote is also a reminder not to let the enormity of what lies ahead, defeat you. Just get started putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll get there eventually.

Keep Going!

Obviously, to reach your destination you also need to keep going long after you’ve taken that initial step. After all, we’re talking about a journey of a thousand miles. That’s a long journey. It’s not a journey of one step and you’re already there to reach out and grab hold of your prize.

Isn’t it amazing how much you can get out of that one simple sentence?!!

Very great wisdom indeed!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

F- Finish…Motivational Writing Quotes A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to the latest installment in my Motivational Quotes for Writers and Creatives for the April Blogging A-Z Challenge. While I could’ve addressed failure, instead I decided to focus (There we go. Another F word) on reaching the finish line. What you decide to call your finish line will vary. It might mean completing your first draft before you have it edited. Or, you might see it as the finished product hot off the printing presses with your name and title on the spine and cover. You book is ready for the world, not just for the shelf.

Contrary to my advice in the previous post recommending balance and including exercise as part of your writing routine, I really loved this quote which really is a big part of crossing the finish line:

“You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed.”

― John Irving, The Hotel New Hampshire

However, obsession also needs to be harnessed, directed not only towards reaching the finish line, but also towards producing a body of work which is worth finishing. After all, if your writing’s rubbish, the sooner you finish up and even thrown it out, the better. You can start on something else. Not every idea is a winner. As a writer, you should never feel bound to finish everything you start. Writing a book involves significant hard work and sacrifice, and personally it needs to be worthwhile. Not necessarily in a commercial sense, but at least as something you can be personally proud of. Here, I’m not talking about people who are just getting started, but those of us who have done the hard yards and are ready or even long overdue to go for gold.

That’s where this quote from John Frank Tesh (born July 9, 1952) American pianist, composer of pop music, radio host and television presenter comes in:

“The world is full of people who have dreams

of playing at Carnegie Hall, of running a

marathon, and of owning their own business.

The difference between the people who make it

across the finish line and everyone else is one

simple thing: an action plan.”

John Tesh

Having a plan…in my limited experience, this is what has worked for me. Perhaps, you’ve heard the terms “planner” vs “pantser”. You could probably worked out that a pantser writes by the seat of their pants, and has no plan. Let’s the writing find its own way.

This is how I usually write, which brings great spontaneity and raw emotions, but I’ve found it hard to shift across into writing a book. I’ve needed a plan. Perhaps, not a rigid, inflexible plan, but at least some scaffolding to give me a sense of direction. I am currently writing biographical short fiction and working towards a compilation of around 30 stories. I have a list of people I’m exploring and why they’ve been chosen, which provides a focal point. However, beyond that I’m back to my panster ways. I’m currently hopping around the list in no particular order as each of the characters or their place in history, speaks to me. So far, this fusion is working really well and I can really see myself reaching the finish line. 

Before I head off, I thought I’d leave you with this quote to stew on: 

“The thing about finishing a story is that

finishing is really only the beginning.”

― William Herring

What are your thoughts about that? I’d love to know!

Best wishes,

Rowena

B – Writer’s Block…Quotes A-Z April Challenge.

“I deal with writer’s block by lowering my expectations.

I think the trouble starts when you sit down to write

and imagine that you will achieve something magical

and magnificent — and when you don’t, panic sets in.

The solution is never to sit down and imagine that you

will achieve something magical and magnificent. I write

a little bit, almost every day, and if it results in two or

three or (on a good day) four good paragraphs, I

consider myself a lucky man. Never try to be the hare.

All hail the tortoise.”

― Malcolm Gladwell

My theme for this year’s A-Z April Blogging Challenge is motivational quotes for writers and creatives working on ambitious, long term projects like writing a book.

Today, we address B for Writer’s Block.

Not unsurprisingly, Writer’s Block is almost synonymous with writing and volumes have been written about strategies for overcoming block and keeping the flow going and even overflowing.

What doesn’t get talked about and is equally important for many writers and creatives, is creative overflow. I’m not sure if you’ve ever experienced overflow but it’s when the creativity takes off and becomes all consuming, making it difficult to attend to the necessities of life and especially switching the idea off, slowing your brain down and trying to to get to sleep.

The aim therefore, especially when you’re working on a big, long term project like writing a novel or any kind of book, is to somehow tread the balance between the two. Stimulate yourself enough to get things moving, but if you’re prone to overflow, you might need to take deliberate steps to de-stimulate yourself. I find going for a walk can help keep myself on an even keel.

I also liked the above quote from Malcolm Gladwell because I think anyone trying to write a book has to have high expectations, yet at the same time lower those expectations to get through all the grind which goes along with it and to ride through the ups and downs involved.

By the way, I strongly recommend reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Outliers. The really spoke to me, was the 10,000 hour rule which argues that 10,000 hours of considered practice are required to reach the top of your field. Or, as we have always been told: “practice makes perfect”.

How to you deal with writer’s block? Have you ever experienced writer’s overflow? I’d love to hear from you. 

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Our Visit to Charlie & the Chocolate Factory… the Musical.

On Tuesday, my daughter and I ventured into Sydney with a group from her dance school to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…the Musical. Being a Roald Dahl tragic and chocolate lover, this musical was a must see.

amelia and karina

My daughter with her dance teacher, Miss Karina Russell, at stage door after the performance.

However this production had an added attraction. Miss Karina Russell, our dance teacher, was playing Veruca Salt. That’s right. She was playing that awful rich brat of rich brats who I remember so clearly demanding: “I want an Oompah Loompah and I want it NOW!!” However, that’s not all. We’d already seen her costume when the cast performed at Carols in the Domain and she’s wearing  what looks like a double-yoker of a tutu, a double-decker tiara, a faux mink jacket and pointe shoes and she actually manages to get some ballet in before she meets her demise. She looks amazing. Indeed, all the costumes were fantastic. However, that’s all I’m going to say about the show other than, you should try and see it.

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Does doing adult dance classes make me the ultimate dance Mum? After years of driving my daughter to classes and concerts, I suddenly wanted to get out of the chair and have a go myself and I loved it. Found them so invigorating and creatively it blew me away.

However, if we go back to the title, you’ll see that this post addresses our visit to the musical, and it is in no way intended to be a review of the show. Rather, this is more of a review of how yours truly can complicate matters and achieve the extraordinary without even leaving her seat. It also looks at my personal connection with Roald Dahl. I know that might sound a bit full of myself and you’re probably wondering what this mad Australian woman has in common with Roald Dahl the literary genius. “Tell ‘er she’s dreaming!” Well, I’ll get to that.

inside the theatre

Inside the theatre.

If you know anything about me at all, you’ll know that when my daughter and I went to see Charlie & the Chocolate Factory- the Musical, that it had to be out of the ordinary. That since we don’t do anything via the road well-travelled, that we’d wind up on our own trajectory.

Firstly, as I explained, OUR dance teacher, Miss Karina Russell, is playing Veruca Salt. Yes, that’s correct. Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. She is OUR dance teacher. I know that probably sounds preposterous… Rowena learning dance when I have a debilitating cocktail of significant disabilities/chronic illnesses (hydrocephalus, dermatomyositis and Institital Lung Disease). However, somehow I found a pathway through and around all of that to take adult dance classes at the same studio as my daughter, Dancin Mates, here on the NSW Central Coast. I did some sessions of lyrical and contemporary dance with Miss Karina a few years ago. Moreover, in addition to the steps, she took us on a journey through how contemporary and lyrical dance rose out of the relative straight-jacket of classical ballet and introduced me to a range of choreographers and their philosophies. Naturally, this was of particular interest to me as a writer, and I’d go home and Google them all. Of course, Miss Karina asked me if I watched them dance. Of course not. I was interested in the words.

stage door

Stage Door

Secondly, while we were sitting in our seats waiting for the curtain to rise, we had a drama of our own.  While it’s our role as audience to sit in our seats while the performance is on stage, yours truly took off her glasses for a group photo, and put them on the floor under her seat. Of course, you know what happens next, don’t you?!! They disappeared. In a truly farcical “only you, Rowena” way, my glasses vanished. So, I start blindly groping under my seat probing through the dark like my fingers have eyes. Yet, on the first couple of sweeps, nothing. My daughter is sitting next to me, she gets recruited and switches on the torch on her phone. Tips out all our merchandise and starts going through our backpack (which was packed with the kitchen sink) searching for them. Nothing. Although I lose my glasses almost every morning under my bed and always find them, I’m now starting to panic. Really panic. Here we are on our musical theatre experience of a lifetime, and I’m not going to see anything at all. CATASTROPHE!! Of course, I didn’t want to alert the rest of our group. I didn’t want to be the problem child, especially when I was one of the parents. However, just as mysteriously as my glasses vanished, they returned. They must’ve gone off in the Tardis and returned.

Anyway, as I said, our experience of Charlie & the Chocolate Factory…the Musical was unique and treading down roads few have trod.

This takes me onto Roald Dahl and my incredibly personal connection to the man. While we know his books, Roald Dahl himself is an enigma of his own making. Indeed, when it comes to getting to know Roald Dahl, he’s quite the slippery fish.

I first started researching Roald Dahl a few years ago, when I included him in my blogging series: Letters to Dead Poets Letter to Roald Dahl. What particularly attracted me to Roald Dahl the man was our shared experience of going through a major neurological event and how that impacts on just about every part of your being.

Roald Dahl plane

Roald Dahl with his plane.

You see, during WWII, Roald Dahl was a pilot in the Air Force and he fractured his skull when his plane crashed and experienced personality changes as a result. Indeed, it was after this accident that Roald Dahl started writing and left behind his job working as an engineer for Shell. His biographer, Donald Sturrock, wrote:

“A monumental bash on the head” was how Dahl once described this accident in the Western Desert, claiming that it directly led to his becoming a writer. This was not just because his first published piece of writing was a semi-fictionalised account of the crash, but also because he suspected that the brain injuries which he received there had materially altered his personality and inclined him to creative writing.”

His daughter Ophelia recalled her father’s fascination with tales of people who had experienced dramatic psychological and physiological changes – such as losing or recovering sight – after suffering a blow to the head. He also told her that he was convinced something of this sort had happened to him, as it explained why a budding corporate businessman working for Shell, without any particular artistic ambition, was transformed into someone with a burning need to write and tell stories. This hypothesis was doubtless attractive, too, because it pushed potentially more complex psychological issues about the sources of his desire to write into the background.

Nowadays doctors might well have diagnosed Dahl as suffering from what is called post-concussive syndrome. The initial symptoms of this condition are normally forgetfulness, irritability, an inability to concentrate and severe headaches. Dahl suffered from all of these. In some patients the symptoms disappear, but leave behind longer-lasting behavioural changes, which are usually associated with mood swings and an increased lack of inhibition. In some cases, too, it can also result in a fundamental alteration of the perception of the self.1.”

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Roald Dahl with wife actress Patricia Neal

However, that was not the end of Roald Dahl’s involvement with the neuro ward. 5th December, 1960 Roald Dahl’s son Theo was out walking with his nanny when a taxi veered into his pram and he was thrown into the air and landed head first onto the pavement fracturing his skull. Moreover, Theo also developed hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain and was given emergency brain surgery where they inserted a shunt. However, shunts were particularly unreliable back then and were notorious for getting blocked. This required a surgical fix, and there were serious concerns about how these surguries would affect Theo’s cognitive development. I remember how my Dad rallied when my shunt blocked, and how Dads can be a mighty force fighting to save their child no matter how old they are. So, I wasn’t surprised that Roald Dahl decided to take matters into his own hands. Dahl recruited the guy who made the hydraulic petrol pumps for his model planes and Theo’s paediatirican and togehter they developed a new shunt which saved thousands of lives, before it was superceded.

Then, as if the Dahl family hadn’t already seen enough of the neurology ward, in February 1965 his wife Patricia Neal suffered a severe stroke after an aneurism burst while she was pregnant with their fourth child, Sophie. She spent three weeks in a coma and then Roald Dahl devised a grueling rehabilitation program, which saw her return to the screen.  However, that is a story in itself.

Rowena camera 2

Who would’ve thought that a secret harbour was inside my head?(Hydrocephalus)

As you may be aware, I was born with hydrocephalus after Mum had a very difficult birth (not unsurprisingly I was facing the wrong way something which hasn’t changed unfortunately). However, for some reason it lay dormant like a volcano until my mid-twenties, when for some strange reason whatever had been compensating for the presence of this harbour in my head stopped and within about a six to twelve month period it blew its stack. Indeed, just about the only symptoms I had growing up was being a bit clumsy, rather extroverted and impulsive and having difficulty finding a hat which fit. It was only when I was 26 and a sense of vertigo I’d had after a bad flu didn’t clear up that I went back to the family GP who’d been treating me since I was 12, and the long and short of that, was that I was diagnosed with Dandy Walker Syndrome, a variation of hydrocephalus. After a grueling six months where I rapidly went down hill, I had brain surgery in July 1997, where they inserted a shunt. I was off to rehab for 6 months as an outpatient and left wondering if I would ever reclaim my life. The impact of all of this was like being struck by a bomb only I could never see or confront my enemy and it took a few years to feel vaguely myself again.

So, rewinding back to 1997 in Perth’s Mount Hospital, you have a young Australian woman who experienced a reversal of Roald Dahl’s big bang. Instead of having all my neurons suddenly switched up at once, mine were all switched down just as suddenly, when the shunt was put in. I very distinctly remember waking up from surgery and feeling like someone had turned down the lights. Not in terms of what I could see or hear, but I guess something along the lines of how I processed everything. I felt very, very quiet. This wasn’t, I believe, something which was apparent to those around me and I am still to this day, an extrovert and I’m sure countless people are still trying to tone me down. This was all about how I felt inside myself. Naturally, when I read about Roald Dahl’s experience, I understood what he went through immediately. Wished I could talk with him about it.

There is so much more which could be said about how personal tragedy shaped Roald Dahl’s writing. However, that will be another post. However, I hope this might encourage people who have experienced an adverse neurological event, that there is hope. That the light can switch back on. Never give up. You might even become a best-selling author, especially if you actually get your book finished!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Here’s a link to my Letter to Roald Dahl from my Letters to Dead Poets series: Roald Dahl: Letters to Dead Poets

And Roald Dahl’s Fictional Reply

Sources

Roald Dahl: The Plane Crash Which Gave Birth to A Writer

Donald Sturrock, Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl.

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Heading Home. This is outside Sydney’s historic Central Railway.