The Writing Zone

Everyone has their own way of focusing as they prepare to write. Some people go for a walk first, swim or read. Others just settle at their computer and head into the next chapter. Whatever the chosen route into our work, we all have days when achieving focus is difficult.

Take heart; there are steps we can take to successfully enter and remain in the Writing Zone – that state where there is only you and your work, and you become as one lost in the journey of creation.

Early last year, I posted a blog about how we can act mindlessly when we’re overloaded, stressed or distracted. The example I gave from my life involved a batch of x-rays skyrocketing from the roof of my car, where I’d inadvertently left them days earlier, and the more mindful actions of the good Samaritan who went to great lengths to restore them to me. You can read this Musings blog Here.

When we act mindlessly, we’re not concentrating; not focused on the present, but distracted by past and/or future events. We’re operating ‘on automatic’, with little or no intellectual effort. We’re paying no attention to dangers or outcomes, or anything else related to the task at hand.

Conversely, when we act mindfully, we’re living in a conscious way. We’re ‘awake’ to reality, acutely aware of our surroundings, and more able to take in details. We can muster increased concentration and focus. Problems become opportunities and we can make conscious decisions for the most satisfactory outcomes.

The aim of mindfulness is to be fully present and focused. When we operate in the moment, we’re removed from before and after the now. We’re able to access a deep well of creative awareness with a clear mind, acute senses, more accessible and accurate memory, and unimpeded flowing thoughts.

I like to think of focusing on mindfulness as similar to putting on glasses for the first time – everything is clearer, details are sharper.

Mindfulness is useful at every level of the writing process. Decisions about where and when we write, how we ensure uninterrupted work time, how we clarify our writing goals, how we ensure we’ll stay on track, and how and where we’ll do our research, are just some of the questions we need to approach up front with clarity.

Then there is the transition from preparation to the writing itself. This is when we need to ‘get into the zone’, by letting go of anything crowding our minds from our pre-work activities or even our preconceptions about our work.

It isn’t possible to be centred while being hindered by self-doubt, self-judgement and/or the things we use to avoid writing… like telling ourselves writing is a waste of time, we’re too busy, and no one would be interested anyway; distracting ourselves by watching television, cleaning out cupboards, or anything else that feeds procrastination or impedes clarity.

If you are plagued in this way, considering the concepts highlighted in my blog Writer’s Block – Part C may release you to re-focus and take advantage of mindfulness techniques.

You can return to these questions at any time if you feel the need, but once you’re through them and feel ready to write, move on to mind-clearing and grounding exercises that will take you into the writing zone.

A simple clearing exercise can be found Here. Use this as a starting point, and watch for more techniques as they are posted.

 

This Blog relates to Writing Exercise #24 ~ Clearing The Mind and Writing Tip #23.

 

Next Blog: Mindful Writing

 

I would value your thoughts and feedback in the Comments section, which can be found at the end of each post.

 

If you would like to be notified each time I post on my website, please enter your email address under the heading Follow My Blog, on the bottom of the right-hand column on any page. Your email address will not be passed on to any third party and no other information is required. This is a free service to ensure you don’t miss new posts.

Lesson Learned…

In keeping with tradition and good business practise, January was laden with much talk about goals. I’m as tired of the subject as everyone else, but I decided to share my 2018 goal gaff.

We talk ad infinitum about the key elements of setting goals, the need to set SMART goals and the way to approach the task. In earlier blogs (see below), I’ve suggested reflection on what has been and reinforcing the writing goals you’ve made to help you bring them to fruition.

Towards the end of 2017, I went through the process of setting writing goals for the following months. I was careful to keep my commitment to realistic and achievable tasks, then set about working towards fulfilling them.

Parallel to this work focus, my fiancé of five years and I were discussing how to prioritise the items on our outstanding wish list. ‘Which of these could we bear to not happen?’ I said, pointing to the list.

‘Get married’, we answered in unison and laughed conspiratorially.

‘This is the year of the wedding then’, Ron said.

It was fifty-three years since we met and almost forty-nine from when we parted in the late 1960s. It was time…

I continued to seek feedback on my memoir manuscript from various sources and did significant re-writing as planned, which we thought was appropriate given that the memoir tells our story. In June and July we house-sat on the Central Coast, which allowed me to fulfil a commitment to speak at some writing groups, participate in other writing activities and continue to fine-tune my manuscript. August was a trip to another of my old environs, again for writing activities.

Mid-August the kaleidoscope of wedding paraphernalia tightened and almost all writing stopped. Who would have thought organising a gathering of nine (including us and the celebrant!) would have almost as many facets as planning a wedding for fifty+ guests? Well, maybe not… but there was a lot to do. The legal formalities were still necessary and there were celebrant meetings, official forms to complete, questionnaires to pore over, music to choose and vows to write.

We needed to outfit ourselves in suitable garb (no mean feat, given our age and shape, and the lack of formal wear for sale/hire in our area). I booked a hairdresser, photographer and restaurant… then we filled a storage shed with furniture and possessions from our home and turned the loungeroom into our wedding venue.

Kathryn
Kathryn, Ron and Hayley

Ron and Kathryn

By the time the wedding and honeymoon were over, it was just weeks until Christmas… and time to reflect on the year. My personal life scored well, my writing life – not so much. I had plunged into the wedding bubble and set everything else aside.

Appropriate? Yes. Necessary? Yes. Regrets? No.

Satisfied with writing productivity for the year? No… but that wasn’t because I got married – not directly. Had I taken the wedding into consideration when setting my writing goals, I wouldn’t have expected so much from myself. Even if I reassessed my writing goals after deciding what else was on the agenda for the year, I would have pulled back my expectations.

In isolation, my writing goals were realistic, but they became unachievable when coupled with such a major personal event as a wedding.

Lesson learned…

This year I took personal goals and writing goals into consideration at the same time. I usually do, but somehow missed this point last time around, possibly because exciting things were happening in both spheres and I just launched ahead.

My two paths collided as the months passed and, in the whirlwind of preparing for marriage and trying to keep up with everything, I forgot to take my own advice to review my writing goals and make adjustments to my plans. Instead, these happened by default. The outcome was probably similar, but stress levels could have been reduced and satisfaction increased.

This is an extract from my Blog ~ Are You On Track? ~ the advice I didn’t heed…

> Undertake regular reviews (monthly or quarterly perhaps) to help you stick to your plan/timeline. Ask yourself questions like… Am I on track? If not, where did I slip behind and what do I need to do to get back on track? Do I need to adjust my schedule or anything else to make my writing time more productive?

> Be prepared to re-assess your goals… a decision to change direction is not necessarily a failure – it may be an indication of development due to a change of priorities, information, interest, circumstances, or similar.

While berating myself, I must remember there were some writing achievements along the way and those targets not yet fulfilled are still opportunities.

I am doing better this year, with balanced goals in place and a productive January behind me. Reviewing my progress will be high on my agenda through to December, with the determination of one seeking successful outcomes.

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This post also relates to my Blogs ~ Prepare To Set Writing Goals That Can Succeed, Construct Writing Goals That Can Succeed, Turn The Opportunity To Succeed Into Success and Reinforcing Your Writing Goals… also Tip #19, Tip #22 and Writing Exercise #23 ~ Reinforce Your Writing Goals.

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I would value your thoughts and feedback in the Comments section, which can be found at the end of each post.

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If you would like to be notified each time I post on my website, please enter your email address under the heading Follow My Blog, on the bottom of the right-hand column on any page. Your email address will not be passed on to any third party and no other information is required. This is a free service to ensure you don’t miss new posts.

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Reinforcing Your Writing Goals

Over the years, I spent many festive seasons alone and grew to enjoy them, with my own special but very loose routine. Christmas morning… sleep in, read/write in bed, doze, raid the fridge, read/write some more, shower and then go for a long walk. By then, it was at least mid-afternoon. New Year’s Eve… bathe by candle-light with relaxing music, while clarifying my hopes for the following twelve months. New Year’s Day… find pictures, words, or objects to represent what I wanted to come to fruition, then spend hours making a collage to hang where my eyes would regularly rest on it to reinforce the power of manifestation.

Such was the mood I created on New Year’s Eve twenty years ago, that my list of hopes for the coming year developed into a poem before midnight. The resulting collage grew to cover four sheets of coloured cardboard of the standard size carried by newsagencies. I cleared the wall and hung the huge poster at the foot of my bed, where I would see it before I fell asleep at night and first thing each morning.

Many of the wishes were granted during that year, mostly because I focussed on achieving the outcomes I wanted… but others seemed to be the result of the goodwill of the universe, or as some would say, by the alignment of the planets.

Although a bit dilapidated from being folded, stored and carried around through several house-moves, I still have that collage. Some of my hopes represented on it are still manifesting, even if in slightly different ways. For instance, I’d pasted this photograph of myself on my creation, because it reminded me of the deep love that was between myself and the photographer. He was long gone from my life and I had married and divorced someone else, but I wanted to find another love such as ours.

Woody Head NSW – 1968

That connection with a new person eluded me year-in and year-out, but then the tide turned. Due to surprising life changes, the photographer is back in my life and our love is even deeper and richer than in our youth.

The universe works in mysterious ways!

What is stopping any of us from using this principle to reinforce our writing goals?

The answer is quite simple… Nothing!

By surrounding our dreams with energy – that of the universe and our own action – we multiply the possibility of creating the desired outcome.

The message is strong –

  • Make clear decisions about your writing intentions for 2019
  • Make a commitment to yourself that you will achieve these goals (a collage is one way to do this)
  • Plan what action/s you need to take to turn each dream into a reality
  • Take action!
  • Trust the universe to deliver your dreams…

This is a simplified list. You can expand on the process of goal-setting for your writing by reading my previous Blogs ~ Prepare To Set Writing Goals That Can Succeed, Construct Writing Goals That Can Succeed,  Turn The Opportunity To Succeed Into Success and Are You On Track?                                                                                          

You may also find it helpful to do Writing Exercise #23 ~ Reinforce Your Writing Goals.

What other strategies have you used to set, reinforce and manifest your writing goals?

I would value your thoughts and feedback in the Comments section, which can be found at the end of each post.

If you would like to be notified each time I post on my website, please enter your email address under the heading Follow My Blog, on the bottom of the right-hand column on any page. Your email address will not be passed on to any third party and no other information is required. This is a free service to ensure you don’t miss new posts.

Front Matter Matters

I am often asked about the pages in a book that precede the main content, and their characteristics. With the most recent request – to explain the difference between a Foreword and an Introduction in a non-fiction book – I decided it was time to tackle the subject of Front Matter in this blog.     

Sections that make up the Front Matter include:
  • Half Title Page – the main title, without the subtitle or the author’s name.
  • Title Page – full title, including subtitle and author’s name/illustrator’s name.
  • Publication Page – Publisher’s details, copyright information, date of publication, ISBN, and so on.
  • Acknowledgements.
  • Contents Page.

There may also be a Dedication Page, a page with a relevant Quotation, Illustrations/Photographs, Tables of Figures or Abbreviations… however, the latter may be in the End Matter at the back of the book, with the Appendices, Bibliography and the author’s photo and details.

These parts of the Front Matter are relatively self-explanatory. I laid them out first for clarification before moving on to the big three headings that tend to cause the most confusion – Foreword, Preface, and Introduction.

Foreword:

The Foreword of a book is written by someone other than the author. This is usually someone well-known in the field of the subject matter, or at least more recognisable than the author. At the very least, the person writing the Foreword needs to know the author and be well-acquainted with their work. This is so they can proclaim the suitability of the author to have written that particular book, citing specific credentials where appropriate.

It is not unusual for the Foreword-writer to begin by establishing their own credibility to gain the reader’s confidence in what they write about the author and their work. They may also explain the connection between themselves and the book author, or the content of the book.

The main purpose of the Foreword is to introduce the author to the reader and endorse the value of the work the author has crafted.

The premise to be explored, the question to be answered, or the problem that the author is attempting to solve, may be outlined in the Foreword. This highlights what the reader will gain from reading the book. The addition of short anecdotes, and examples that illustrate the theme of the book, aim to ensure a connection to readers’ everyday lives.

The Foreword should entice readers – to purchase the book if they haven’t already, or to read on if they have. It offers supportive information relevant to the book content, without giving too much away.

Like the book’s content, the Foreword is written to the target audience, in conversational and personal tones. The use of simple, tight writing, which brings the piece full-circle, will ensure cohesiveness and keep the reader engaged to the end.

The length of a Foreword is usually between 750 and 1500 words. It is always signed by the person who wrote it, with their title (where applicable) and the date added.

Preface:

The Preface is written by the author. It is like a letter from the author to the readers who traverse the pages laid out before them.

The purpose of the Preface is largely to share with readers how the book came about and the author’s experience of writing it… and to connect with them on a personal level.

Typically, the author will write of the reason they wrote that particular book… why it is important, where the idea came from, what their motivation was, why they wrote it from the perspective they have taken, and what themes are explored in the book.

The author may tell of the journey of writing the book… what they learned, how they felt, what insights they may have had, and how they improved as a writer and personally as a result of the research and writing.

Practical information may be included. For example, any problems encountered while researching/writing the book, could be discussed along with how the author overcame these difficulties.

The length of time taken from idea to publication is sometimes shared in the Preface.

The author signs and dates the Preface.

Introduction:

The Introduction to a book is written by the author. It is more business-like and has more depth than either the Foreword or Preface.

The role of the Introduction is to introduce the content of the book and put forward any details that may enhance the reader’s experience of reading the book. It may give some background information, describe the author’s goals, and the purpose and scope of the book.

This is where the author is apt to present any information essential to the main text, that doesn’t belong in the text itself and is not contained in either the Foreword or the Premise. For example, in order to understand the content, the reader may need to know specifics about the ethos of the time period the author is exploring in the work… or to be able to appreciate the challenges of sailing solo around the world, the author would benefit by first understanding something about sailing paraphernalia and how to read nautical charts.

The Introduction may include what the reader can expect from the book. There may be brief explanatory notes, the author’s thoughts on the benefits the reader will gain, and how to get the most out of the following pages.

A well-written Introduction is succinct and interesting. It will leave the reader wanting more and feeling ready to delve into the body of the text.

Not every book has all three of these sections – Foreword, Preface and Introduction. I have based the above on what I understand of traditional conventions. These generally remain in place, however the content of the book and individual circumstances sometimes lead to some variation. For example, there may not be an Introduction and a small amount of information that would otherwise be in the Introduction may be infused into the Preface, or the reverse may be the choice of the author.

Whatever you’re writing, consider carefully what to include in the Front Matter and don’t overload it with information that either belongs in the main text or doesn’t belong in your book at all.

I would value your thoughts and feedback in the Comments section on this page.

Asking Questions

In a recent post, I wrote about the role of questions in the writing process… from decision-making about what to write, through the research and planning stages, during the writing itself, and on to the marketing and promotional stages.

Now it’s time to consider how to word questions for the most effective results in different situations – beginning an interview, probing for more information, clarifying what has been said, or reflecting and closing at the end of an interview.

Questions fall into two categories – Closed Questions and Open Questions.

Closed Questions are those that can be answered with a single word or short phrase… yes, no, a name, a place, a time, a colour, and so on.

Open Questions encourage longer answers filled with information, thoughts, feelings, interests, ideas, and more.

The first word in a question can set it on a course to either a one-word answer, which can have a finality about it, or a more pondered and expansive answer.

Closed Questions tend to begin with words such as: Are…? Did…? Do…? Have…? Who…? When…? Where…? What…? Which…? A conversation or interview quickly becomes stilted and dries up, if a sequence of closed questions is asked.

Open Questions typically begin with words like: How…? Why…? What…? Which…? And Indirect Open Questions can start with: Tell me about… Describe…

Notice that What…? has a foot in both camps. It can be used in either closed or open questions. For example, ‘What time is it?’ is a closed question and only demands a one-word answer, while ‘What was it like to grow up there?’ is designed to elicit more information and would usually bring a longer answer.

Always remember these first words are a guide only. Thoughtful word choices can lead to more flexible answers to questions across categories. Take the word How…? as a beginning word, for instance. How…? usually sits on the open questions list, for questions like, ‘How do you think that would be different from the first time…?’ However, it is conceivable that one might simply ask, ‘How old is Joe?’ which is a closed question.

Familiarise yourself with the typical first words for both categories, but don’t get too hung-up on them. The important thing is to know one from the other, recognise when you’re using them, and make choices about which kind of question will serve you best in any situation.

Closed Questions and Open Questions each have a role to play in our writing life. With an understanding of their characteristic differences, it’s easy to decide how they might be used to advantage.

Closed Questions…
  • when you first meet a person, to put them at ease and avoid overwhelming them
  • when you want a quick, factual answer
  • when gathering data
  • when compiling multiple-choice questionnaires
  • when an interviewee goes off track and you want to re-focus
  • for clarification.
Open Questions …
  • encourage people to be more open
  • allow people to reveal more, or less, of themselves, depending on their comfort level
  • stimulate reflection
  • increase the likelihood of expansion on a subject
  • allow you to go deeper into a subject
  • allow you to learn more than anticipated
  • can lead to surprise revelations
  • lead to deeper connections between people
  • create more understanding
  • lead to a more satisfying experience for both parties

While closed questions are useful, open questions are usually more fruitful. A good rule of thumb is to ask open questions unless a closed question is more appropriate in the circumstances.

Think about the purpose of each question and the characteristics of both styles of questioning, then formulate each question accordingly. Consider following closed questions with open questions, to keep conversations/interviews flowing without making others feel uncomfortable.

 

This post relates to ~ Blog Pondering Questions, Exercises # 21 Questions and Writing and # 22 Interview Questions, and Tip # 21.

 

I would value your thoughts and feedback in the Comments section, which can be found at the end of each post.

If you would like to be notified each time I post on my website, please enter your email address under the heading Follow My Blog, on the bottom of the right-hand column on any page. Your email address will not be passed on to any third party and no other information is required. This is a free service to ensure you don’t miss new posts.

Pondering Questions

How do questions figure in the writing process?

The answer is, they have many uses… one of which is as an Opening, just like the question above. An opening question is designed to entice the reader by creating interest, to give some information and to engage the reader’s imagination, thus drawing them in.

A reader’s attention can similarly be baited by a well-worded question at the beginning or end of the Back-cover Blurb on a book, and on Promotional Material.

Asking questions is a good way to Explore Ideas for a New Writing Project. You might ask yourself… What do I want to write about? What am I passionate about? What do I want to say to the world? What is the underlying story?

Research relies on questions. It involves investigation, exploration, examination and enquiry, all of which require the use of questions. What has already been written that relates to my project? What can I learn from these titles? Does it make my intended work redundant? Could it enhance what I’m planning? Who are specialists in this field? Who would be an appropriate person to interview to get the most useful information for my project? What do I know/can I learn about this person and their work before the interview?

Interviews are micro-worlds of questions; designed to obtain and clarify information, learn from the interviewee, hear their thoughts and opinions. There are also ice-breaking questions; designed to put the interviewee at ease, and to lead into the heart of the interview.

During Planning, writers ask questions of themselves when making decisions about the Setting, Character Development, Plot Development, Point-of-View, and so on. This is where my favourite question comes into the equation. The What if…? question is useful when you’re at an impasse and/or when you want to expand. It floods your mind with a myriad of possibilities, leaving you with choices you may otherwise not imagine. What if…  I set this story in a prison, an apartment building, an isolated community, under the sea…? What if… the main character was secretly rich, a prince, warlord, a street person in 1828 Birmingham, a miner…? What if… the antagonist was the main character’s guardian, or best friend with a dual personality…? What if… this happened, or that happened…? What if… the story was written from the point-of-view of the villain, or a dead victim…? And so on… Each of these options would bring vastly different dynamics to a story, as will others that flood to the page any time the What if…? question is asked.

As writers, we Highlight the big questions of life and the universe in one way or another. We question, hypothesise, discuss, and suggest solutions and sometimes produce answers.

As Memoirists, we question and Explore aspects of our lives… to Make Sense of them and Put them Into Perspective.

As with any topic, the list of uses of questions in the writing process gets longer the deeper we go… by asking questions of course!

More on questions and questioning in my next post…

 

This post relates to ~ Exercise # 21 Questions and Writing

 

I would value your thoughts and feedback in the Comments section, which can be found at the end of each post.

 

If you would like to be notified each time I post on my website, please enter your email address under the heading Follow My Blog, on the bottom of the right-hand column on any page. Your email address will only be used for this requested notification and no other information is required. This is a free service to ensure you don’t miss new posts.

Exciting Announcement

Regular visitors to my writing site will notice minor changes and some additions over the coming weeks.

When the site was set-up in August 2016, I kept its structure simple to give myself time to learn about its operation as I went. My partner, an electronics engineer, took the reins as the lead administrator and has supported and guided me along the way.

Now, the time has come to add features to make the site more interesting to those who already follow my Blog, Writing Tips and Writing Exercises… and accessible and enticing to those who are new to the site.

Categories already on the site remain, albeit with slight editing of menu-button titles and a small rearrangement of order. These adjustments have been made to allow extra buttons in the same space.

Two new menu-buttons have been added:

The first, Kathryn’s Corner, has been created to provide a space for my personal writing, as opposed to writing about all things writing which will continue to be posted in this blog. Kathryn’s Corner features a drop-down menu, dividing my work into sub-categories such as: Musings… Poetry… Prose… Posters… Other sub-categories will likely evolve, but these will suffice initially.

The second, Gallery, will feature photos of my writing journey, and my writing students and writer-friends… all of which overlap in one way or another. Some form of sub-categories will no-doubt evolve here too, and I suspect there may be some shuffling before they find their natural angle of repose.

By the time this announcement is posted, some of these new functions will be operational. The remainder will follow shortly, and new material will be added gradually. Thank you for your patience… please re-visit the site and watch these developments unfold.

I hope you enjoy the additions and what they bring to you over time. I would value your thoughts and feedback in the Comments section, which can be found at the top or the end of each posting.

If you would like to be notified each time I post on my website, please enter your email address under the heading Follow My Blog, on the bottom of the right-hand column on any page. Your email address will only be used to provide this notification and no other information is required. This is a free service to ensure you don’t miss any new post.

 

This Blog relates to all sections of my website: www.kathryncoughran.com, particularly Kathryn’s Corner and Gallery.

Poetry Readings In The Nineties

Sue Hicks, co-founder – with Danny Gardner – of Live Poets Society at North Sydney, now lives in the UK. She recently posted on Facebook that she’d made a photo-collage for Dulcie Meddows, a brilliant poet with several books to her credit. I was saddened to learn Dulcie has dementia, but pleased she lives in a place she enjoys, surrounded by caring people – including a priest who reads her own books to her – and I’m told she is up and about, busy with movies and activities.

Dulcie Meddows at the launch of her first book Poems, December 1992

Sue’s post catapulted me on another sentimental writer’s journey – reliving the wonderful poetry scene in Sydney and the Blue Mountains in the nineties.

I was somewhat of a novice and quite shy when I came to this vibrant hive of literary activity. Writing had always been part of my life; I’d belonged to writers’ groups and organisations, studied writing, written articles for local newspapers in various areas I’d lived and published short stories and poems. But the only time I’d read my work publicly was in small workshops with people I knew.

A friend invited me to Live Poets, saying ‘You don’t have to read your work if you don’t want to’. But I was seduced by the energy and camaraderie, and soon found myself delivering the poem I’d tucked in my pocket ‘just in case’. On that first night, I met stalwarts like Sue and Danny, and of course Dulcie. The sense of connection and freedom I experienced with that first reading of my work, gave me such elation I travelled from the Blue Mountains to the venue one night every month to participate.

Entranced by this new world, I established Poetry Plus, a reading and performance venue in Springwood in the mountains. Several North Sydney poets attended our Sunday afternoon sessions and many poets travelled down the mountain to share their work on a regular basis.

These were joyful and expansive times for me, personally and in the development of my writing muse. Despite working full-time, managing Poetry Plus and attending Live Poets, I attended other poetry readings – Poetry In The Park, Poetry Picnic, PIE, Poetry At The Parakeet, and Trevar Langland’s venue at Blacktown. I also attended regional poetry conferences and represented the Blue Mountains at a Sydney Writers’ Festival event at the Opera House in 1995, where I read from my then new book Family Matters.

Dulcie Meddows was the first Guest Poet at Poetry Plus in June 1992 and the last in late 1997.

 

Dulcie Meddows

at

Poetry Plus

 

Dulcie and I each hosted radio programs for writers, as did Don Saunders who was a regular participant at Poetry Plus. I was guest poet on Dulcie’s Australian Made Poetry on 2NBC-FM several times and on Don’s Pictures Of Poetry twice, and two other radio programs at 2BLU-FM… where my own Poetry Plus On The Air was produced.

These programs showcased one poet and their work for half an hour each week, then Dulcie took this a step further when 2NBC produced a longer (perhaps two hours) program at the top of Centre Point Tower in the heart of Sydney, featuring several poets. I was lucky enough to be one of these poets, and you’ll spot me waiting anxiously in the background for my turn… in this snap of Dulcie doing what she loved to do best – bring poetry to the world.

Dulcie Meddows hosting Poetry In The Air at Centre Point Tower Sydney, 1993

Along the way, there were articles written about poetry venues and published in entertainment magazines, inclusions in anthologies, book launches, play readings and productions, and congregating in cafes after Live Poets or my home after Poetry Plus, where there was fine food, more poetry and much joviality.

Rex Hockey and Dulcie Meddows rehearsing Aiding Others, a play I wrote and produced in 1993

Dulcie Meddows reading her work at my home after Poetry Plus, 1992

During the nineties, I blossomed from an unseasoned writer holding my work close to my chest, to an active member of the writing community and a facilitator of the exposure of other writers’ work.

Dulcie Meddows was with me all the way, as were Sue Hicks and many others. Twenty years later, they continue to stimulate connections between writers. Sue’s love for Dulcie, her collage gift and her posts about it, led to me seeking out several people I knew back then who have moved in various directions in the meantime.

My nostalgic exploration of those years has underlined the extreme value of friendships with kindred writers and of taking our work into the public arena. It has also prompted me to share this leg of my writer’s journey with you and I hope this in turn will give you the courage to take the next step on your journey… whatever that may be.

Danny Gardner still facilitates Live Poets Society at North Sydney and there are several other reading venues around Sydney and in country areas. I would encourage any writer who has not yet read their work publicly to attend one of these venues, even if as a listener initially – but don’t forget to tuck a poem in your pocket ‘just in case’…

Dulcie Meddow’s first book Poems was published by Gavemer Publishing in St Leonards, Sydney. Several of her other books are available from Learn-em Books Pty Ltd Sydney and Kindamindi Publishing at http://www.kindamindi.com.au/ and individual poems are on www.youtube.com.

 

This Blog relates to my Blogs Reconnections and Hidden Stories Lurk In Photograph Albums, Writing Tip #16, Writing Tip #17 and Writing Tip #18 and Writing Exercise #16~ Journey Into A Photograph.

 

Please share your thoughts in the Comments section…

 

Are You On Track?

Last December and January, I wrote three blogs about setting yearly writing goals. After discussing preparation, focusing on what you want to achieve, and how to construct achievable goals, I moved on to how to succeed in bringing these goals to fruition.

One suggestion I made was to review your progress monthly and/or quarterly. With September drawing to a close and three-quarters of the year behind us, I’m checking in to remind you it’s time for the all-important review that will take you into the last few months of the year.

Whether or not you’ve managed to review your goals thus far, doing so now will set you up for a rewarding finish to 2017 and lay the foundations for success in 2018.

If you’ve met all the writing goals you set for January-September, you’ve done brilliantly and deserve accolades. You will be ready for the challenge of the next three months. However, it is still a good idea to consider your goals for the remainder of the year and whether they are still appropriate for your overall writing ambitions.

Don’t despair if, like me, you didn’t quite make your end-of-September target. There are many reasons this can happen, from over-ambition and under-estimation to influences that are out of your control. Writer’s block may have stalked you for one or more reasons. Or, perhaps you’ve been ill, or your family has been in crisis. These are not excuses, but real-life events that take time, effort and energy away from life in general, and writing and other creative pursuits in particular.

Regardless of how you performed during the last nine months, a review can be helpful ~

>  Begin by checking off your achievements and placing them on your Achievements List, if you have one. If you haven’t, use your successes so far this year to begin one.

>  Check if the remaining goals are still relevant and re-write any that need alteration.

>  Prioritise all goals that are left on your 2017 list.

>  Make sure they remain achievable by the end of the year, taking your other commitments into consideration.

>  Move any goals that cannot be achieved by the end of the year to your Reserve List if you have one. Otherwise, create one now to serve as the basis for planning your writing for 2018.

>  The goals that remain on your 2017 list are the framework for your writing over the next three months.

>  Run these goals through the SMART goals test – check that they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic/relevant and Time-bound – and make any necessary adjustments.

A review such as this is like picking yourself up, turning yourself around and plonking yourself down facing in the right direction for what you plan to achieve.

Some of you will land in the same spot as you were before the review, and will continue your journey having confirmed you’re on the right track. Others will be in a different position with more clarity than before, and will move forward with renewed confidence.

Either way, this will enrich your writing experience and enhance your achievements over the next three months.

 

This Blog relates to Blogs ~ Prepare To Set Writing Goals That Can Succeed, Construct Writing Goals That Can Succeed and Turn The Opportunity To Succeed Into Success.                                                                                  

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Reconnecting…

This writer’s recent journey has been flooded with reconnections.

There were the contacts I had with family members and friends as a result of events that surrounded us in recent months. While these were traumatic circumstances, the connections were heart-warming, full of stories and the sharing of photographs. Many shared memories, rekindled links with cousins not seen for decades, and friendships from the past were blessings among the sadness… and are definitely teasing my writing muse.

Writing Friends.

The next leg of my journey was time spent with writing friends on the Central Coast. First, I spent an afternoon with the talented members of Wyong Writers, many of whom are old friends from when I lived in that area and facilitated workshops for them for more than a decade. Our discussion on my recent visit centred around writer’s block… what it is, possible causes, personal experiences, writing-associated activities to do while blocked and to rejuvenate the writer within… and all things necessary for reconnecting with writing. I came away inspired, as I always do when I meet with these writers.

Then there was a day with some of my long-term students, discussing their current writing projects and having a good old catch-up. We were all reconnecting with each other and the progress of our work. Another inspiring day, and for me a rewarding experience to see ideas that were once dreams and possible story-lines taking shape into manuscripts, and in some cases published books.

Brunch with the lovely Sarah Barrie was next. Sarah has had huge success in the Rural and Contemporary Romance/Suspense genres, being one of the top ten breakthrough authors in 2014 with Secrets of Whitewater Creek and with her latest book Promise of Hunters Ridge currently one of the top ten best-selling romance category books in Australia. Two of her books have reached the finals of The Ruby Australian Romance of the Year Awards and three have made it to the finals of the Australian Romance Readers Association Awards for Favourite Romantic Suspense.  Our morning was filled with great food and stimulating conversation about all things writing and getting published, in relaxing surrounds at Norah Head, followed by a gift of the most stunning orchid I’ve ever seen.

A few days later, it was coffee at The Entrance with Mei-ling Venning, president of Wyong Writers, where we discussed the use of photographs to enrich writing… among other writing-related topics. Mei-Ling has won writing competitions, had her plays performed, and her book Pelican Bay was published last year.

On the return journey, I visited writing friends from my Blue Mountains days. The elderly gentleman who gave me feedback on my writing in earlier years, enjoyed a day out from his nursing home… lunch and shopping, followed by maintenance on his computer so he can edit his son’s manuscripts. My friend may be eighty-nine, but the writer in him is still alive and well!

Then I visited my long-time friend, Bea, in the picturesque locale of Isabella, where we discussed several topics – too many for the short time we had – and she read parts of my manuscript and gave me encouraging feedback.

It was fitting that this was my last stop before home and my return to serious work. Within hours of settling back in after the unhappy events in my family and the sentimental journey of reconnections, I was back at my computer. Connecting again with all these wonderful people was the impetus for my readiness to reconnect with my memoir and I have now finished the significant re-write I began earlier in the year.

The manuscript is getting close to being fully cooked and I am excited at the prospect of the next stage.

 

This Blog relates to my Blogs Hidden Stories Lurk In Photograph Albums and A Telling Example, Writing Tip #16 and Writing Tip #17, and Writing Exercise #16~ Journey Into A Photograph and Writing Exercise #17 ~ Take Five Words                                                                                   

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