Deadlines: whooshing or otherwise?

An oft quoted phrase attributed to Douglas Adams is “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” I’m not sure if it is emblematic of my tendency to comply, but deadlines tend to translate into results for me.

A simple example would be my blog posts. I made a decision before I started to blog that I would try to write two posts a week. This was based on wanting to write about the Blue Mountains area in particular, effectively from the viewpoint of being a tourist in my adopted home, but I also wanted to explore writing habits and practices. Occasionally I have meandered off the track at times, but in essence this remains the focus for my blogging.

There have been times when I have faced the blank page, bereft of thoughts let alone ideas. But so far – touch wood – I have managed to come up with something before each due date. There are times when there is an abundance of ideas for one theme but not the other, reflective perhaps of where my mind is at that point of time. These ideas are captured and explored when time allows. Having a writing rhythm helps, and I know that it is preferable to have a draft, no matter how insignificant or rough, which can be expanded and edited at least a day or two before I’m due to post. There are times though when it is more of a last minute dash to get the words down.

My blogging schedule is self-imposed, but I try to apply the same discipline to writing competition deadlines. I keep an eye out for upcoming competitions and jot down key details on a whiteboard so I can submit a piece if appropriate. When I first started to mix with other writers, I was fortunate to meet an accomplished and prolific poet and short story writer in the central west. He invited me around for a chat one afternoon and showed me how he kept a stack of polished works ready for upcoming competitions, and explained how he would write new pieces for competition themes when necessary. A piece might not succeed in one competition but could place or win in another. The key was to be ready to meet the deadline and to adhere to the competition entry requirements.

Due to time constraints I am selective about the competitions I enter, but I find that deadlines hold me accountable and encourage me to produce and polish a piece for submission, rather than just scratching in the margins of a writing life.

What do writing deadlines mean to you?

[Photo: old typewriter]

Advertisements

Scratchings from a writing notebook

I have managed to fill one of my writing notebooks. Well, all except for a few spare lines here and there. I have another book ready to go, but I’m still a bit reluctant to leave this one behind. It has travelled with me for the best part of a year, ready to capture stray thoughts and story ideas and the random bits that have been gathered along the way.

As I flick through the pages, I can see my initial thoughts around starting a blog and snippets stuck in from articles in the local paper that caught my eye. This includes a small poem published in an attempt to reconnect with a fleeting encounter:

The Station Bar across the space, a Sunday night’s caprice of fate, a laugh a dance a kiss would seal, my blighted sleep the feelings real. Explorers falls your lift to home, my spirits sag no name no phone, Monday morning Mudgee calls, my perfidy its just reward. If status quo be mine to keep, your eyes your smile your touch of cheek, forever lost and never found, the universe its secret sound.

Did they ever reconnect? Did he/she read the poem tucked into the personal notices and reply? I’d really like to know.

There are notes from books and articles that I’ve read whilst writing blogs with historical elements. There are random titles for story or blog ideas, some ticked off as I’ve written them. Others remain, ready to prompt me in the future. The pages are dotted with words that I have come across and need to look up, as well as questions to myself such as ‘what is pig iron?’  It’s the crude iron formed from a smelting furnace, shaped into rectangle blocks. Old photos of the Blasting Furnace at Lithgow had scores of the blocks.

Song titles feature quite a bit, as do snippets of lyrics. One favourite is ‘I started out with nothin’, I’ve still got most of it left’ by Seasick Steve. It made me laugh out loud when I heard it one night on the local radio station segment called Random Groove.

Instructions are also littered throughout, reminding me to take care of certain writing matters. There are prompts that I’ve read in different places, as well as snippets of conversation that I’ve heard whilst eavesdropping. This may not seem like much but these glimmers often reemerge in short stories or longer pieces. There are also pages when I’ve written an idea out, sketching the rough format for a piece with imagery that is vivid at the time, but may be lost if not recorded somewhere.

Short stories are there, in their entirety or sometimes just the beginning, or some other part if I’m wrestling with wording and need to slow the writing process down. There are sticky notes and dot points. Lots of dot points.

I was thinking of moving the unfinished or incomplete bits over to my new book but I think it would be best to leave it as is, and return to the old book for inspiration when I need it.

How do you keep track of ideas that you gather along the way?

[Photo of one of the many wonderful miniature paintings in the Secret Lane in Lithgow]

Blogging – what, why and where?

I was recently asked to put some words together in response to this question for a post on the Writers in the Mist blog. This blog is hosted and managed by the fabulous staff at the Blue Mountains City Library, and includes pieces contributed by my local writing group.

One of my fellow writers, Therese Doherty, also responded to the call and you can find her interesting and thoughtful response here. Therese’s blog – Offerings from the Wellspring – can be found here. The byline for this great blog is ‘creativity and connection in a living world’ and her posts are beautifully written, considered and encourage deeper reflection.

The Blue Mountains City Library also has a blog for readers – Readers in the Mist. There are book reviews, articles, news and entertaining infographics like the one in this post.

So below is my response to why I blog, and the original post can be found here.

Why did I start a blog?

Earlier this year I gave some serious thought about what mattered most to me and creativity was high on the list. I thought starting a blog would offer a creative outlet as well as creating discipline with regular posting – it would help me to write more. Which it does!

Why did I choose the theme I did?

I thought about what I liked in other blogs and what I wanted to blog about. It came down to wanting to share aspects of mountain life as well as writing about writing. So the Monday posts are about musings from the mountains, and the writing related posts appear on Thursdays.

How often do I blog?

Twice a week. This did feel a bit ambitious at first but I have found a rhythm and actively seek new material and experiences to blog about, which fuels my creativity, which creates more blog material! Before I started I made a list of possible blog topics and I keep adding to this as the ideas roll in. I keep the blogs short – usually around 400 words – which also keeps it manageable.

Why did I choose this blog site?

My blog is on WordPress.com. I set up a blog for serial fiction there a few years back and found the site easy to use. It works well across devices which is handy as I travel a bit for work and write a lot on my tablet and phone.

What is it like to get feedback on posts?

It’s really encouraging. I have received some great feedback and it is interesting to take a step back and review what generates a higher response. One of my best posts was a writing book review (Still Life with Teapot) and anything that includes a reference to writing morning pages usually gets some feedback. I am still learning but putting in lots of tags definitely helps. I also enjoy reading and following other blogs, and provide feedback too as I know it makes my day to know that someone has taken the time to read my blog.

Tips for new bloggers?

Content matters most. Blogs are a great way to get your voice and your interests across. Some will get a better response than others, and it is important to read what others are writing too. I have come across some really great blog posts and found inspiration and learned a lot from more experienced bloggers. I now feel more engaged as an active writer in a virtual community.

If you are thinking about blogging, I’d encourage you to give it a go. There are many benefits to creating, writing and putting your work out there, and to be an active part in a writing community whether it’s local or online or a happy mix of the two.

Why do you blog?

[Photo: dog in a bathtub reading The Land for some inexplicable reason atop the newsagency at Gunning, NSW]