Tag Archives: writing tips

Welcome Back Desk.

After writing on my laptop in the loungeroom for goodness knows how long, yesterday I finally migrated back to my desk. It’s been such a good move, and I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Almost as soon as I pressed the power button, I could feel my thoughts sharpening and my entire being was ready for action in a way I haven’t experienced for such a long time. Could it be that this small step for Rowena, could be the impetus to finally get the book project done? Right now, I think it could, and I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. At the same time, we have reverse cycle air-conditioning in the loungeroom and the office is a freezer in Winter and a furnace in Summer.  So, I usually retreat there from the elements, as well as trying to be more social with the family. The desk is much quieter, but it’s also solitary and I am not an island.

The other reason that I wasn’t writing at my desk was also pretty straightforward. Like so many desks and flat surfaces, my desk had become a dumping ground for just about anything and a breeding ground for paperwork. Indeed, it was something like a farm barn overrun by cats with people constantly driving by and dumping more. I needed to erect a large sign:  KEEP OUT. TRESSPASSERS WILL BE EXTERMINATED. However, knowing the folk around here, it wouldn’t make a difference. Mummy’s Desk is not a sacred site. The dumping would continue regardless.

This whole very simple experience at home, has cast a different light on that whole philosophy of: “life is not a journey. It’s a destination.”

As someone who frequently doesn’t make it to their destination, I love this point of view.  It’s also a great philosophy for a creative, because so often what you find along the way, could well transcend your original plans. I particularly love heading to Sydney’s Surry Hills, and wandering through the streets, staring through the lens and finding such treasure! However, these spontaneous discoveries are very different from being unable to use my much faster desktop computer and desk space, because it’s bogged down in stuff. That’s not a destination. More of a catastrophic mess…a disaster zone. Hazmat required.

However, there are times you need to reach your destination, and some of those times, you even need to get there as quickly as possible

So, my whole experience with my desk challenges that philosophy, showing how it can be used as a cop out, as a justification for one of a writer’s greatest sins…procrastination and its twin…distraction.

Indeed, even research, which is ostensibly a means of reaching the destination, can become an end in itself, preventing the completion of the original project. Moreover, much of my research just remains a pile of rubble in my head, aside from telling the odd story at the family Christmas party. It never comes out in any usable form.

This brings me back to my desk.

I don’t know about you, but working from my desk feels a lot more like WORK. I immediately felt more organized and “on the job”. Although I can and do write anywhere, I am starting to wonder whether I’m paying too big a price for not writing at my desk, and that it is the best place for me to rev up the writing several notches, and finally get these big writing projects knocked off. There’s quite a swag of them.

At the moment, I’m researching and writing the story of my 4th Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan, who migrated from famine-torn Ireland, out to Australia under the Earl Grey Scheme. She was among a group of young women known collectively as “Irish famine orphans”, who were sent out here in part of relieve the financial burden back in Ireland, but also to redress the gender imbalance in the Australian colonies. I first found out about Bridget from her daughter’s birth certificate, which had been sitting in the safe at the family business for over a hundred years. I found the rest out, when a random Google search found Bridget on the  Irish Famine Orphans Database and the facts matched up.

For the past few years, I’ve pictured Bridget as a woman without a face, framed by a white bonnet. Yet, I’ve also wondered whether she looked like her daughter, Charlotte as I do have a handful of photos of her as a young woman. That’s something. More than something perhaps. Although I knew Bridget had married George Merrit and they’d had six kids, that’s about all I knew about Bridget Donovan. Despite my most dogged efforts to fill in even just a bit of her face, she didn’t want to be found.

However, recently I was contacted by a researcher who told me 2-3  of Bridget’s sons married Aboriginal women. This look me back into the online newspapers, and found an actual mention of George and Bridget running a store at Avisford on the Meroo Goldfields, near Mudgee. This was gold.  I’m now going to be chipping away at that, starting with a time line and a photo board. Hopefully, some sort of scaffold or framework will help give this project legs and the kind of solid foundations required for it to take off.

Meanwhile, I’m back on the laptop in the loungeroom. Microsoft Word needed updating and my trust Systems Administrator’s at work. I also just caught a puppy running out of my bedroom with my pink Ug boot. Seems no matter when or where I write, I’m fraught with interruptions, but I’d rather that than being an island.

Where do you do your best writing?

xx Rowena

 

 

Creative Inspiration…Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies

As I mentioned in my last post, I am currently reading Tim Harford’s: Messy: How to be Creative & Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World.

In Chapter 1 on Creativity, Harford introduced me to “Oblique Strategies”. They are intended as a creative tool for musicians and were developed by legendary producer Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt – the pair originally both came up with the same idea independently in 1975, and joined forces to make it a reality.

Oblique Strategies is a deck of cards, about 7×9 cm in size, supplied in a small black box labelled “OBLIQUE STRATEGIES”. The cards themselves are black on one side, white on the other, and have obscure, cryptic aphorisms printed on the front in small letters.

Eno’s own description explains the idea very well:

“The Oblique Strategies evolved from me being in a number of working situations when the panic of the situation – particularly in studios – tended to make me quickly forget that there were others ways of working and that there were tangential ways of attacking problems that were in many senses more interesting than the direct head-on approach. If you’re in a panic, you tend to take the head-on approach because it seems to be the one that’s going to yield the best results Of course, that often isn’t the case – it’s just the most obvious and – apparently – reliable method. The function of the Oblique Strategies was, initially, to serve as a series of prompts which said, “Don’t forget that you could adopt *this* attitude,” or “Don’t forget you could adopt *that* attitude.”

Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies – the Ultimate Music Production Tool

By the way, Brian Eno had found fame as Roxy Music’s crazy Keyboard player and had also created a new sonic aesthetic called ambient music.bowie-heroesEno used the cards in song writing sessions in Berlin with David Bowie and Tony Visconti and Messy tells how “the strange chaotic working process produced two of the decades most critically acclaimed albums, Low and Heroes, along with Iggy Pop’s most respected work, The Idiot and Lust for Life, which Bowie co-wrote and benefited from the same messy approach.”

Here’s a few examples of what’s written on the cards:

  • Use an old idea.
  • State the problem in words as clearly as possible.
  • Only one element of each kind.
  • What would your closest friend do?
  • What to increase? What to reduce?
  • Are there sections? Consider transitions.
  • Try faking it!
  • Honour thy error as a hidden intention.
  • Ask your body.
  • Work at a different speed.

Have you ever tried using the Oblique Strategy cards?

I am thinking about buying a pack but will make a few of my own cards first and see how it goes.

I’d be interested in your feedback.

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share October 30, 2016.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share.

It’s already Sunday night for me and Monday’s looming ahead like a dreadful hangover. So, no coffee for me tonight and I recommend you also join me for something decaf.

How was your week? I hope things went well!

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This week I decided to package up the sunflower seeds and drove them up to show my daughter’s class. As her school is a 45 minute drive away, I carefully put the sunflower seedlings in a cardboard box and secured them with the seat belt. I wasn’t taking any chances. They arrived safely and I was quite thrilled with how the talks went. I spoke to my daughter’s class and the one next door largely about the importance of acts of kindness and how it only takes a small gesture to show we care. I spoke about how the journalist and photographer who salvaged the seeds from the war zone and brought them back to Australia via quarantine, took great risks so the family and friends of the MH17 tragedy could have a special reminder of their loves ones.

Wednesday, I attended the funeral of an absolutely beautiful lady from our Church. She was in her mid-70s and has been fighting cancer for about 6 years. Now, I can tell that she really fought that cancer like Gethsemane Sam with both barrels blazing. Yet, all that time she continued to look after her disabled daughter and be an active member of her family as well as the Church. She was well known for her cooking and made us a few meals when I’ve been sick as well as helping out with the kids through an after school kids’ club. There were times I used to drop them off and go straight home to bed and sleep the entire time they were gone. I really wasn’t well. So, you could well imagine what she meant to me and how much I loved and appreciated her from the bottom of my heart. I truly wish I could be more like her and fill her shoes. It’s rather intimidating, but I think people can pick up when your intentions were good even when your efforts fall short.

Thursday night, dancing started up for another term. Instead of ballet this term, our adult class is doing lyrical dance. No, this isn’t where you start singing as you dance around the room. Lyrical dance is a style that combines ballet and jazz dancing techniques. It is performed to music with lyrics so that it inspires expression of strong emotions the choreographer feels from the lyrics of the song. This style concentrates on an individual approach and expressiveness of such emotions as love, joy, and anger. It does not concentrate on the dancer’s precision of movement. http://www.omahaschoolofmusicanddance.com/what-is-lyrical-dance-15-interesting-facts-about-this-contemporary-style/

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The Scene of the Murder in Balmain.

Yesterday, I attended the awards ceremony for the local short story competition I entered a few months ago. I’d written a short story based on a murder in Sydney’s Balmain in 1903 and it had repressed memory and what I thought were some clever ideas and yet it didn’t even rate an Honorable Mention. I have to be honest and say I was pretty upset by the result but I’ve since revisited it and read more about writing short stories and have identified some changes.

How was your week? I hope it went well and that you also have a great week ahead.

xx Rowena

Rejection…It’s a Short Story.

Rejection..it’s the ugly side of being a writer.Not only that, it hurts…like a knife stabbed deep in our heart and twisted round and round and round by some sadist who doesn’t care about our fragile self-esteem.

Anyway, as much as we hate it and as much as it hurts, we are not on our own. Indeed, tales abound of very successful authors receiving multitudinous rejections. William Golding published his first novel, Lord of the Flies, after 21 rejections. Beatrix Potter decided to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit after rejection letters started to pile up. The original run was 250 copies; the book has now sold over 45 million copies.  J.K. Rowling, the great literary success story, failed to sell Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to 12 different publishers until the daughter of an editor at Bloomsbury Publishing took an interest in it. Harry Potter is now worth at least $15 billion. Stephen King sounds downright proud of the number of times he was rejected as a young writer. In his On Writing, he says he pinned every rejection letter he received to his wall with a nail. “By the time I was fourteen,” he continues, “the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”

 

So, when I share my heartfelt angst over my latest rejection, at least I know I’m not alone and I keep some pretty good company.

balmain2

The Actual Murder Scene.

A few months ago, I entered a local short story competition. I only had a few days to put my entry together and decided to base it on a murder story I’d stumbled across doing my family history research.It’s set in the Sydney Harbour suburb of Balmain, which was historically quite a rough, working class suburb. I still haven’t been able to establish whether I’m related to these people thanks to a very frustrating dead end I’m unable to shift.

Anyway, after waiting several months for the outcome of the competition, the award ceremony was held yesterday and a room full of hopefuls all sat in their seats with great expectations and for most of us, pending disappointment.

However, I wasn’t expecting disappointment or rejection. I was pretty pleased with my entry and thought I was a strong contender. I was sitting in my seat with sweaty palms and almost making myself ill with stress. I wondered whether it would be better to win a Highly Commended just to put me out of my misery. The list of winners was thinning out and someone else’s name was read out instead of my own, I was gutted. Emotionally kicked in the guts.

While many would say my heartbroken angst was an over-reaction, and that I should have taken it as a sign of failure as a writer, but when you’re trying to make it on the international scene and you can’t crack the local market, you’re hardly going to be all smiles doing the happy dance, are you?!!

Well, to be fair to myself, I don’t write short stories and I had to get my entry together in a couple of days. So, I clearly could’ve used more time. Moreover, once I’d got home and looked up characteristics of the short story, I realised that my story actually needed a lot of work, especially when it came to structure. I’m quite the panster (person who writes by the seat of their pants and by contrast isn’t a planner) and a bit of structure and planning could well be added to the mix.

I posted the story today in its original format today and you can read it here: The Secret. I’d really appreciate your feedback. I’ve decided to make quite a few changes so please don’t hold back.

How do you deal with writing rejection?

Personally, I’m trying my best to be pro-active and learn from the experience. Rework it. Not just file it in the waste paper basket out of hurt disgust and despair.

After all, there’s always next year.

xx Rowena

PS if you want to see a great image for rejection, click here: http://rejectiondigest.weebly.com/

 

 

 

 

There are always two sides to a coin

I found this post very helpful and I’m reblogging it as much to remind myself! xx Rowena

creativityamongdigitalchaos

Lets face it. It’s not always that you can flip on your creative hat and like a magician, pull out fascinating ideas like bunnies or birds or a multi colored trail of knotted scarves. It takes time and sometimes a good deal of exercising your creative muscles before you can land upon your big idea and even though it might seem like hard work (though creative people will not agree! they love the process.) it is likely that every now and then we reach a stumbling block that somehow refuses to budge from our path. So today I would like to talk about an interesting exercise to help clear that block so we can continue our journey down the creative path.

We all know what a huge role perspective plays in the way we view and experience life. Our perspective is also likely to affect the way we think and conceive ideas…

View original post 1,035 more words

Writing…Is “procrastination” really a sin?

As a writer and creative, are you meant to go down the direct route, immediately producing that book in record-breaking time? Or, is so-called “procrastination” part of the creative process…a required element to add to the quality  and longevity of your work?After all, as creative guru John Lennon once said: “Life is lived while busy making other plans”.

These contradictions often go into battle at the back of my head and I’m constantly coming across this tension in other writers as well.

Recently, I was reminded of this tension reading this quote by Moliere:

“The trees that are slow to grow, bear the best fruit.”

– Moliere

However, is this true? Or, is it just a nice saying?

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The Mighty Oak

I consulted the Google oracle to see what its great wisdom revealed and found this research report by Bryan Black, an assistant professor of forestry at Oregon State University, who works out of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore.  His research shows that even within a species, the oldest  trees grow the slowest, even as youngsters.

“Faster growing trees may put all of their energy into growth and burn out before they can achieve really old age,” he said. “Slow-growing trees may invest a lot in producing strong wood and defense mechanisms against insects and disease and never rise above the forest canopy.”

Rapidly growing trees may occupy space more quickly, reach sexual maturity earlier, and are more prone to frequent, catastrophic disturbances, including flood, fire and windstorms, Black said. They also die at a younger age. Meanwhile, the slower growing trees channel their energy into structural support and defense compounds, don’t burn out from reproducing, and slowly-but-surely outpace their mercurial cousins.http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2009/feb/study-finds-oldest-trees-grow-slowest-%E2%80%93-even-youngsters

oak-440px-cork_oak_trunk_section

So, this research suggests slow and steady ultimately wins the race. Well, that is, if being a long-lived tree is your goal.

While  I feel pressured to get that book out there, I have benefited from taking the extra time. I have grown so much as writer through the hours I am putting into my blog  and have found my voice. Even more importantly, I have been dialoguing and chatting with my readers, while also reading and responding to their work. Through these exchanges, I’ve been unconsciously fine tuning my story. It might be taking me longer to write the book and it might even be taking me away from it, but I know that what I’ll write now will be much more relevant. It has to be. After all, I’ve spent the last 4 years listening as well as writing. Moreover, being able to hear readers before I write the book project, has to be revolutionary.

However, it takes a lot of courage to take your time writing the book. There’s so much pressure to publish just to gain any kind of credibility. You’re not a real writer until you’ve actually published the book…any book!

Yet, isn’t the ultimate credibility writing something worth reading? Writing something which changes your readers lives and minds and inspires them in some way? I’m sure that doesn’t happen overnight just  like quality plants don’t mature overnight either.

Indeed, we’ve all seen backyard domination by the mighty weed. Is that what we want from our modern literature?

So, while I think there is a place for writing, writing, writing and getting that book out ASAP, I’m still a believer in “slow and steady wins the race”. That the tortoise will ultimately take out the hare but the tortoise still needs to make it through to the finish line.

That’s something I need to work a lot harder on.

What are your thoughts?

xx Rowena

 

tortoise_and_hare

And so the race begins…

 

 

How To Structure A Novel from Daily Write.

Here on Daily (w)rite, author and editor Michael Dellert has spoken about how start a novel, a post that continues to be popular. Today he’s here to talk about story structure, with fantastic tips on how to structure a novel, some of which I highlight below for you in blue. ——————– Romance of EowainMany writers…

via How to Structure a Novel #Writetip — Daily (w)rite