Monthly Archives: July 2010

On Writers’ Block

One of the things about being a part-time writer, full time employee, dad, maintenance man, dog walker and Minister for Fun and Recreation, is that sooner or later something has to give.  This week it was my writing.

Now, I’ve never really been a big believer in Writers Block, the name given to the syndrome which paralyses a writers’ ability to produce good copy, but this week, I’ve had a rethink on the matter. 

Pressing concerns, numerous interruptions, school holidays and a head cold have plagued what little time I usually reserve for my ‘fun’ time (scribbling, and researching).  But what really hurt was when I did manage to sit down at my computer desk, pen in hand, and monitor warmed up and raring to go, nothing happened…  it was a profound shock to be ‘wordless’. 

Now, in addition to a weekly newspaper column, I try to write 3 blogs per week, a few emails, some forum entries (Hi Ladies!), as well as jot down some more notes for one of my novels.  I have never been at loss for a direction, motivation, or words when it comes to writing, but this week I was. 

Worse, as I started to think about my column deadline, panic set in.  Now, I usually keep a couple of columns in reserve for just such an event, but in recent weeks I used them in order to focus my full attention on painting inside our house.  And this week, I decided to try a more topical, up to the minute subject, which added a little more pressure to my deadline. 

Normally I write about things or experiences that have amused, irritated, titillated or intrigued me, then add my own unique spin, a couple of quirky jokes and voila. 

Well, the topic certainly irritated me, and I had an angle, but I couldn’t wrestle it into the required shape.  Usually I do a ‘word / brain dump’ of about a thousand words, which takes an hour or so, then I start the laborious task of refining and trimming.  After 4, sometimes more, hours (over a period of a couple of days), and numerous edits, cuts, pastes, deletes, re-shuffles and re-reads the column is reduced to approx. 400 words, and when I am happy with it, I fire it off via email to the editor of my local paper, make the required note in an Excel spreadsheet, and the next time I see it, it’s on the printed page next to my grinning mug.  But this week…

But this week, I had to force myself to sit at my computer in spite of the runny nose, the non-stop ringing of phones, and sheer tiredness, and just type.  I really churned out some crap.  Well, crappier than normal!  And just as I was about to abandon all hope, inspiration struck, with just one sentence, and I was away.  Bit by bit I managed to build a column I was happy with, and after many more hours filed it away for a final review, which it will get tomorrow before I send it off. 

I have had a complete re-think about writers’ block, and am prepared to say now that ‘Yes, it does exist.’  I don’t have all the answers to overcoming it, but certainly sticking your bum in a chair and typing anything that comes to mind does help. 

Perhaps a time may come when the words will completely fail me, and my motivation dries up, but until then, I’ll continue to hammer away every day, regardless of how good or bad my scribbling is.  Failing that, I could opt for long moonlit walks along crashing sea shores… it might not get me writing, but it would be a pleasant change 🙂

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Filed under Becoming a Full Time Writer, Writing

Toy Story 3 in 3D! Now with MORE Popcorn!!

In my last movie review blog I had a bit of a whinge about how we here in the ‘boonies’ don’t get the latest and greatest, ‘Mickey Mouse’, whizz bang technology when it comes to new release 3D movies.  Well, it has been said before, but for those of you who missed it, I will repeat it again (possibly not for the last time):  I am – an Idiot 😦 

Apparently Avatar has been released here in 3D, and Toy Story 3 is the latest show to go ‘fuzzy’ before our very eyes in order to enhance the viewing experience of Gladstone’s movie going public.

So, the other day The Littlest Princess and I fought our way through the carpark for the morning matinee, and prised open the cinema doors to discover that of the 30 000 people living in Gladstone, some 600 000 of them, had the same idea as us that day, and were patiently waiting in a line longer than any of those found in theme parks around the world.

We battled our way back to the car and drove home.  Later that day we returned, and there was still a sizable crowd but not as bad as the morning matinee’s.  Sloughing through the piles of knee deep popcorn that had been spilled throughout the foyer and beyond, we purchased a couple of tickets to a movie I didn’t particularly want to see – Toy Story in 3D.

Well it was great.  It really was.  We laughed, we sat thrilled, and some folks even shed a tear at times (not me though, because I’m a big tough bugger and I don’t cry… I just had sore eyes from looking through the 3D glasses…)

Anyway, after the film we were the last to leave (again), and as we waddled down the corridor to where the family chariot awaited, TLP looked up and said, “I really, really, really want that movie for my birthday Dad!” 

Which gives Toy Story 3 a ‘5 thumbs up’ rating from her.  I’ll lift ‘4 thumbs up’, it was pretty good, but the daycare centre scenes and attitudes were a little too close to the bone for me; it reminded me of work and some of the people there 🙂 

I’ve no doubt it will be another movie playing on the continual loop at home in the near future… not a bad thing.

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Mondays’ Column – Phone Phun! 5.6.10

“Hello, we’re not in right now,” said a well spoken American chap, “but if you leave your name and number, we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”  I hung up perplexed.  Who was he, and why was he on my Auntie’s answering machine?  Was there something important she had forgotten to tell us?   

Then I started hearing him on other answering machines.  ‘He’s certainly getting around,’ I thought, as I hung up on him yet again.  Turns out that Yankee Doodle’s voice is the one that comes with most answering machines these days.  I’m not a fan; I prefer the personal touch when it comes to recorded phone messages.  So if you ring our place, you’ll hear a message taped by Long Suffering Wife.  It was a duty that had originally been entrusted to me; a person who bores very easily.

It wasn’t long before I grew weary of the standard answering machine greeting, and started recording messages that were a little more ‘interesting’, eg:

“Huwwo, this is Elmer Fudd, I’m out hunting wascally wabbits.  Pwease weave a message at the sound of the shotgun bwast.” 

“You have called Darth Vader…. I’m currently out of the galaxy… Leave your message… at the sound of the exploding planet… you rebel scum!”

“I had a ‘hunch’ you would call Notre Dame Cathedral.  Sthpeak when the bell stopsth tolling.  The Bells! The Bells!  Oh, sanctuary!” 

“Count Dracula is not in his crypt.  Please leave your details after the bat squeak, and Igor will relay your message to me before dawn.”    

Our answering machine was soon filled with messages like: “Funnee Guy!”  and, “A friend of a friend of my friend gave me your number; can you do a message for my machine?”  or, the ever popular, “You’re a deadset goose mate!” All from total strangers; some of them living interstate!  Oddly enough, the only people not leaving messages were family and friends. 

My glittering career as an answering machine recording artist came to a screaming halt the day Long Suffering Wife rang home and heard this:  

“Hurro capitarist pig, this Chairman Mao.  Prease reave message, or I send Red Army!”

But she can’t guard the machine forever, and I’ve got a ripper idea for a ‘Lord of the Rings’ message, although I’m going to need some help.  Hopefully that well spoken American chap will call me back soon.

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Filed under Columns, Writing

The Best Book on Writing I’ve ever Read!

And it is: Techniques of the Selling Writer, by Dwight V. Swain. 

Don't 'Click to Look Inside', because it won't work. If you do wish to see what lies behind the cover, pop over to Amazon 🙂

After a lifetime of writing, then teaching others to write, and write well (well enough to win awards, or have their stories turned into movies) Dwight wrote a book on the subject of writing. 

To say it covers everything a budding author needs to know is an understatement.  Written well before the digital age really took off, there are still plenty of references to typewriters; well, it was first published in 1965!  But the rest of the information remains very relevant to anyone wishing to write their first novel. 

Over the past 10 or so years, I have devoured books on writing, many of them carry much the same information, but in each of them there is some gem, some little nugget of gold, which made the effort of reading them worth it. 

Dwight’s book is different.  It is logical, practical and factual, and chock full of nuggets, each one he has earned the hard way throughout his life as a paperback writer. 

He clearly explains how to create believable characters, how to keep the reader reading by creating scenes and sequels, and helps you to dig into each of your characters motivations. 

As well as the mechanics of story telling, he covers some excellent advice re: the lifestyle of the budding author, tips and tricks to keep you writing, and shares many useful examples from his own, and other writers’, experiences:

On going from reading to writing: You can walk on carpets all your life, but if you were asked to make one from scratch, could you?

On persistence:  Don’t bite of more than you can chew. Do what you can when you can.  Too many writers suffer from that initial burst of enthusiasm before crashing and burning by trying to do too much too quickly (this also applies to diets and exercise!)

After reading Dwight’s book, and filling my notebook with several pages of hastily scrawled notes, I have been able to see some obvious holes in my work which I can now rectify. 

I’d heartily recommend this book to anyone who is keen on learning the craft of writing, as well as picking up some solid, down to earth lifestyle tips.

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