On The Joys of the Written Word

Recently I had my blog posts for 2017 printed. My usual process is to print off a draft copy, edit, reprint, edit and hopefully have a final version of the post that I’m happy with. This copy, in a rough black and white form, is kept in a folder. Occasionally I go back and reprint a post in colour, especially now that I am using more photos in my posts.

Last year I looked into having some of my posts published in a format that I could keep handy. I ended up having three small books printed: one for my alphabet adventures, one for mountain musings and the final one on words and creativity. They were in A5 size, soft covered and a delight to receive. It really was a different experience to see the posts arranged in order, especially as when I was writing them I was alternating between topics.

Months pass by and many blog posts later, I thought it would be good to have a copy of the posts from 2017 in a single volume. One of the things about content is that it accumulates. There are times when something comes to my attention and I remember that I’ve written a post on that topic. WordPress is great with the ability to search a blog using a keyword and it is easy to be reacquainted with something that has been written previously. But in this format, the posts are still, well, virtual. Being able to flick through a body of work with it in hand is a different experience to scrolling through links online.

So I had a look through the BlookUp site and selected a hardcover book style to hold a year’s worth of words. It is simple to export the posts from a set period, and there is some scope for editing the content for things like formatting errors. I then designed the front and back cover, adding a little content and photographs, and saved the work. I thought it best to leave it overnight as I contemplated the cost for the physical printing and postage from France. Was it self-indulgent to go down this path?

The next day I felt no different. A cursory glance through the book content – I had amended what I could, within reason – and I proceeded to order the book. The timeframe for delivery was 15 days which I thought was generous. The last order had taken seemingly ages to arrive, but this time I had the book in my hands within a fortnight. Not bad considering it had to be printed and sent to Australia.

It is perfect. Well, I should say that any errors in the book are mine as my hastiness in editing and ordering could have been tempered a little. But it is hard to convey the buzz I felt when holding this book which represented a year of words and photos that meant something to me. The pages are glossy and the photos pop with colour. Already I am looking to my 2018 edition, and I haven’t finished the year off yet!

My learnings would be to run a draft copy and really look closely at the formatting of quotes and poems in particular. I had picked up one photo as a header early in 2017 but couldn’t work out how to fix it without updating the post itself and running the export again. At the time it was too much effort. I might take a bit more time with it next year.

But to say I’m really impressed with the results is an understatement.

Do you keep a copy of any of your favourite posts?

{Photo: front cover of blog book for 2017}

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One Change to Your Writing World

Deadlines are a motivator for me, reliably generating action. About a year ago I enrolled in an online course about making time to write with content access for 12 months. I’m not quite sure how but I managed to forget about it entirely until about three weeks before it was to expire. In my mind I’d been moaning about not having time to write. If only I’d made the time to do the course earlier …

With writing courses there are usually actions that can be incorporated into existing routines. As I worked through the course, I thought about how I could mix up my process to reclaim the sense of joy that writing provides in my life. One of the last sections was about tools to help you write, including a tip to check out available writing applications. I have tried many apps but find that writing in Word or Pages, with using Scrivener for larger pieces, works well enough. I can synchronise through the cloud and over time it has become easier to track down documents, regardless of the application used to create them.

One of the icons that popped up for writing applications was Ulysses. I had seen it before but it didn’t appeal at the time. Upon revisiting it, I saw there was a 14 day trial available. The online reviews were largely positive and upfront about the differences compared to traditional word-processing applications. There was talk of markdown and coding along with an assurance that it wasn’t critical to get too involved in this side.

What appealed was writing across my phone, tablet and laptop with automatic synchronisation. The ability to export in various formats was attractive, as was the option to export straight into WordPress. Whilst I can use the draft blog post section in WordPress, the idea of having draft posts in the one spot but sortable by keywords or groups suits the way my mind works.

So I’m giving it a go. Whilst I don’t want an endless proliferation of programs and platforms to write on, this meets my current needs as I’m working on a number of short stories, blog posts, and a couple of longer pieces. I can easily see work in progress, and move around projects without jumping between applications. There is a very simple writing environment which also helps to focus on the task at hand.

By taking on this suggestion I have had a burst of writing activity. Whether it is sustainable will tell over time. For now, I’m glad that shaking up my routine has lead to a feeling of reconnection with the world of writing.

When was the last time you made a single change to your writing?

[Photo: butterfly in the garden]

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]

Looking Forward Looking Back*

With the end of the year approaching at speed, my mind tends to busy itself with thoughts about what I would like to work towards in the new year, as well as what was achieved in the past 12 months. It is too early for New Year resolutions, and I have learnt that having grand plans to change my life significantly as at 1 January tends to end in disappointment. What works better for me is to have a list of goals to work towards, with timeframes if appropriate, that I can refer to as needed. Although it is only early December, one of my friends was telling me recently of a raft of things that she has planned for 2017 which made me feel a bit remiss as I haven’t had or made the time to do so.

But first I wanted to outline a few of the significant changes that I’ve made in my life this year from a creativity perspective. Once changes are made it can be easy to overlook them as they become the norm, but creating change can be difficult and the effort required is worthy of acknowledgement. The top three changes I have made in terms of my creativity are:

  1. Honouring creative time: having rituals has helped this change. I write each morning before I head to work, and this alone reminds me that writing matters to me. I have also put time aside for writing and turned up at my desk. In a world of distractions and other demands, this is harder than it would seem but reminding myself that it is impossible to edit a blank page helps to get me writing.
  2. Making time to write. One of my best ideas this year was to take advantage of flexible working options in my job to book in a dozen days off, scattered throughout the year. These days have saved my sanity and contributed to greater creative output in various ways. I have also used these days to go on adventures which have in turn fed my creative output and my spirit. It has been a critical change and I have booked a stack of days for 2017 as it has been beneficial in so many ways.
  3. Blogging. I had wanted to blog for a long time before I took the plunge earlier this year. The main impetus was that I thought it would make me write more, and write consistently, and this has definitely been the case. The benefits to blogging are numerous and something that I will explore further in another post. Apart from the output – idea creation, writing, editing – there is also the feedback and interaction with other bloggers and readers which has been an absolute highlight of my year.

So with this creativity behind me, what will I be working towards in 2017? Again I will stick with three main thoughts. 

  1. Finishing the novel. I am in the edit phase at the moment and whilst there is work to do I am chipping away at it.
  2. Short stories. I want to continue writing short stories after polishing a few of them this year. There is an online course next year through the NSW Writers’ Centre which includes developing stories and critiquing to the point of submission. I have enrolled and am ready to take my stories to the next level.
  3. Keep having creative adventures. That might sound trite, but by making a conscious effort to pay more attention to what is happening around me, my creative output has significantly increased. This hasn’t just been blog based, although regular posting and the alphabetical adventures of I Spy have helped. I feel more engaged with what is happening, and more alert to creative opportunities.

Have you been reflecting on your creative output as the year end approaches? And do you have any creative plans for 2017?

*Taken from song title by Slim Dusty

[Photo: Newport Beach]

 

Blogs I Enjoy

In last week’s post, I wrote about the reasons why I blog. Like most people, I read blogs for a long time before ever considering that I would write one. These days I am reading more blogs than before, and for different reasons. It made me think about the blogs that I really enjoy and why.

Newtown Review of Books

There are often really interesting book reviews posted on this blog. I used to cherry pick the books that sounded like they were up my alley, but over time I’ve discovered lots of great books and interesting writers by reading the posts regardless of whether they are in an area or genre I would normally lean towards. The reviews are well written and informative, and I have picked up many useful recommendations from this blog.

The Godfather: Peter Corris

This blog, also hosted through Newtown Review of Books, is by the oft-named Godfather of Australian crime. Corris is a prolific writer and is best known for his series of Cliff Hardy books. Hardy is a Sydney private investigator and the books are engaging with Sydney and its surrounding areas forming a characteristic background. The weekly blog covers a wide range of topics, from music to books to memoir, and is always enjoyable.

Meet Me At Mikes

I mentioned Pip Lincolne’s blog last week as it has started me off on an I spy hunt. Pip is a well-known Australian blogger and craft creator. Her regular posts contain warmth and humour, a ray of sunshine in your inbox.

Quiet Revolution

This is a fairly recent find, and it may have come about after I posted a review of Quiet by Susan Cain. This blog is for introverts, and there are regular postings and articles about how to survive and thrive as an introvert. There was a recent two-post special on creating the creative space as an introvert which I will return to at a later date.

In addition to these blogs, there are an increasing number of blogs that I am following as part of the wider blogging community on WordPress. These include – but are not limited to – the following:

Autumn: for her thought provoking posts on all matter of things, and especially for her Whacky Wednesday posts.

Real life of a MSW: a mix of posts across professional life, home life, cooking and current affairs, this blog often gets me thinking deeper on issues.

La Tour Abolie: lyrical writing across a range of topics, interspersed with humour and warmth. Always a delight.

Barbara Ann Paper Arts: I came across one of Barbara’s beautiful cards online and am so glad I did as her posts are worth lingering over. Whilst not especially crafty myself, I take delight in seeing her creations and getting a glimpse into what is required to create these cards and other creative projects.

Edge of the Bell Curve: a lyrical mixture of poetry and the challenges of real life. As the online magazine Algebra of Owls grows, this blog often provides insight into what goes on behind the scenes of creative publication.

Muddling through my Middle Age: these blog posts cover a range of topics and delve a little deeper on issues such as friendship, blogging and changes over time.

Suzanne Rogerson: this blog offers lots of interesting information about the process of self-publishing as well as fantastic photos. A visual delight.

Every time I open my mouth some idiot starts talking!: the name alone of this blog is irresistible to me, but the content is also well worth the reading time.

What blogs do you love?

[Photo: garden at Everglades, Leura]

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]