What Valuable Lesson Have You Learnt Since You Started Writing?

It’s the start of another month, so it’s time once again for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), a blog hop to share and encourage other writers.

When we first start out as writers, there are plenty of valuable lessons we need to learn. These include rejection, criticism and continually practicing our craft; however I think one of the most valuable lessons I have learnt since I started writing is getting my ideas down on paper.

I first started writing during my teenage years when I was in High School. During those early years, I was like an addict. Story ideas would appear and I felt the need to write the whole thing in its entirety in novel form, until the excitement fizzled out and I was onto the next ‘high’ (hardly surprising). Sometimes when an idea appeared, I didn’t write it down, foolishly believing that I would remember it. Sometimes I did, but others disappeared completely.

Ideas for stories can tend to turn up when we least expect it, making it difficult to get pen and paper (really, what is it about having a shower?) Other times, we can be scrambling to get just one little spark of an idea, which is lovingly referred to as writer’s block.

The interesting thing is that the more you write, the more ideas you tend to come up with (perhaps this is why some famous authors don’t believe in writer’s block). It’s getting them written down that can become an issue. Some authors have pens and notebooks scattered throughout their house and in their handbag for whenever an idea strikes. Over the years, I have learnt to use a similar tactic – grab a pen and paper quick sticks and write the idea down and make sure it makes some kind of sense for when you go over it.

In order for us to write, either fiction or non-fiction, we need ideas and plenty of them if we really want to succeed as writers. Of-course life would be a bit simpler if we had one of Dumbledore’s pensieves!

What is one valuable lesson you’ve learnt since you started writing? Do you have trouble coming up with ideas? How do you get your ideas down? Do you get ideas when you’re in the bath/shower and find that particularly annoying?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing and the Keeping of Secrets.

How good are you at keeping secrets? Some people can hold a secret for weeks or possibly months before feeling the need to tell someone, while others can keep a secret to themselves an entire lifetime.

People keep secrets for a multitude of reasons. Shame, guilt, fear are just some examples. Sometimes we have been hurt so much that we keep it locked away in the back of our minds, trying desperately to block the pain away. Some experts believe that our greatest fear is not death, but humiliation and judgement. We are afraid of being rejected, of being kicked out of the social group. We are afraid of being abandoned. We keep secrets in order to ‘keep the peace’.

Certainly there can be times when we feel that some things are personal and nobody else’s business (hello, social media), but there can also be times when keeping secrets can affect our physical and mental health. We may feel vulnerable if we expose ourselves to others. We don’t open ourselves up and try to seek the help we need. In some cases this may be caused by a lack of trust in others.

Recently, I began thinking about secrets and it suddenly occurred to me that I have been keeping a secret from those closest to me. In fact, when I come to think about it, I don’t think many people know about it all. An event took place in my life a long time ago that I have since buried quite deep, but the memory is still there. Sometimes I see or hear something that reminds me and the memory of it all comes flooding back and it can be incredibly strong.

I guess this is one of the reasons why I turn to writing; I can open myself up and ‘bleed’ upon the page. Writing allows me the freedom to put my thoughts down on paper and express any feelings I may otherwise find difficult. Writing can force you to be honest with yourself. It is believed that for some people, writing can help with the healing process. Even for non-writers, keeping a journal can be good for your mental health, such as depression.

I’m currently working my way through my first novel that I wrote some years ago. It’s one of those stories that keeps coming back to me; that needs to be told simply because the initial spark for this novel has been that ‘little secret’ (and keeping secrets can be a good plot device). It needs quite a bit of work and I know I have been avoiding it for some time. I guess like many of us, I have to face my daemons someday. I guess the time has finally arrived.

Have you got a secret you’ve never shared with anyone? Do you find writing helps you with the healing process? How good are you at keeping secrets? Do you think some things are better left unsaid?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Back to the 80s: M is for Midnight Oil.

This week I’ll be continuing with my A-Z Challenge of 1980s music and this week is brought to you by the letter M. The letter M gets a big ‘Yay!’ from me, because I’ll be talking about my favourite band – Midnight Oil.

I became a fan back in the early 1980s when I was in High School (*cough*) and bought practically every album. Even though they were my favourite, I never did get to see them live, so I was stoked to hear the announcement earlier this year of them reforming and doing tours. I was anxious to get hold of a ticket to see them at their Sydney concert and I was fortunate to become a ticket holder. So, hubby and I will be going to Sydney in November to see them live and as it’s the time of my birthday, it will be the best birthday present ever! 🙂

Formed in 1975, Midnight Oil were a pub band; mainly playing in Narrabeen in Sydney’s northern beaches. Despite receiving next to no commercial radio support, their first album, released in 1978, made it in the Australian Top 50. By the time of the release of their third album, the pub rock scene was at its height and Midnight Oil were playing to packed houses. Released in 1982, Midnight Oil’s next album 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 became a huge success in Australia and stayed in the charts in excess of 200 weeks. By this time Midnight Oil were well known for their support of environmental and social justice issues.

In 1986, they toured the Australian outback with the Warumpi band, which became known as the ‘Blackfella/Whitefella’ tour. The release of their album Diesel and Dust in 1987 gave them international recognition. Midnight Oil would tour the United States, and in 1990 played outside the Exxon office in New York in order to draw attention to the environmental disaster caused by the oil tanker Exxon Valdez. In 2000, the band performed at the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games with the word ‘Sorry’ emblazoned across their clothing, in reference to the Stolen Generation.

The band officially disbanded in 2002 when lead singer, Peter Garrett, announced his departure to pursue a career in politics. Since then, Midnight Oil has remained a cultural icon. ‘Power and the Passion’ and ‘Beds are Burning’ were listed in the Top 30 Best Australian songs of all time; the band has won 11 ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Awards and has been inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.

Other bands formed or who had hits in the 1980s starting with the letter M include:- Men at Work, (The) Models, Machinations, Mental as Anything, Mondo Rock, Madness, Moving Pictures.

Do you have a favourite band that you have never seen? What other bands of the 1980s that begin with the letter M can you think of?

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Why New Writers Should Consider Blogging.

Over the past few months, I have been hearing a lot from other authors about the need for a blog. Some believe that it’s just not worth it; that they are better off staying with social networks like Facebook, or that it takes too much time and effort, which would be better put towards writing. I understand their reasoning as I’ve been there before. I’ve been blogging on and off now for eight years and I’ve often wondered why I even bother. However, over that same length of time I have been reading popular blogs within the writing community and books on the subject. Recently I also attended some social media courses, including one on blogging.

Here are five reasons why I believe new writers should seriously consider blogging:-

1. Blogging Helps Create Your Own Community

A blog helps you to break out of your comfort zone and puts your writing ‘out there’. Readers of your blog, whether they are other writers, bloggers or future book readers become a part of your community. As a solitary pursuit, it’s comforting to know that you are communicating with others and forming friendships. Years ago, I joined a blog hop community that has since folded, but I have remained friends with people I met back then (some of whom have become my beta readers). More recently I have joined the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, another blog hop, and have made some new friends. Because you’ve created a community, when you are ready to publish your books, you’ll already have their support to cheer you on and help spread the word (and word of mouth sells books more than anything else).

2. A Blog Secures Your Place on the Internet

Don’t rely too much on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter when trying to secure your place on the internet. They have a tendency to change things and may even become obsolete in years to come. Having your own space on the internet is safer. Just like having your own website, you control your blog’s content, how it looks, etc. Claim your piece of internet real estate by buying your domain name. Not only does it help you get your name out there, it also proves you are serious when it comes to your writing future.

3. Blogging Allows You to Focus on Your Genre/Niche

I have found that as a fiction writer, blogging helps me to focus on my writing genre and can write blog posts accordingly. Blogging about your genre/niche helps to ‘test the waters’. Is your genre popular? Are your readers interested in your research? By focusing on your genre/niche, you are also focusing on your target audience and what appeals to them.

4. Blogging Helps You Get Used to Working to Deadlines

Whether you plan to publish traditionally or self-publish, you need to get used to working to deadlines. When you blog, you need to set yourself to a schedule and preferably it needs to be one which suits you (even once a week is acceptable). When you have subscribers, your readers rely on you to be consistent, so you need to be someone they can trust. Getting used to deadlines now will help you when the time comes to publish your first book. Google counts attendance, so the more you blog, the more your name gets out there.

5. Blogging Gets You Writing

My husband once told me blogging is not writing. I scratched my head on that one until I realised that what he meant to say was I always wanted to be a fiction writer, not a blogger. That’s true, however, blogging is still writing and it helps to test out our writing skills. Experimenting and trying different writing styles helps to make you a better writer. It may even lead to a different career path!

As you can see, creating a blog makes a lot of sense. The trouble I think some writers have is that they don’t know what to write about. I’ve had this problem too, but when you really stop to think about it, there are plenty of things to blog about (Anne R Allen has a helpful post to get you started). And when this happens, blogging becomes less of a chore and can be a lot of fun. And isn’t this what writing is all about? 🙂

* * * * *

While we’re on the subject of blogging, I have been nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award. It took me completely by surprise, so many thanks goes to Ronel the Mythmaker for thinking that my blog is worthy enough! It’s been a long time since I’ve had a blog award, so I appreciate the recognition.

“Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates, it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion.

I have also been nominated for The Versatile Blogger Award. To receive two awards in a matter of weeks comes as another pleasant surprise. It’s a recognition of all the work that goes into blogging (and yes, at times it can become consuming), so many thanks to Adam! It’s good to know that our blogging efforts are appreciated.

The Vesatile Blogger Award was created to feature and recognise blogs that have unique content, high quality writing and fantastic photos. The webpage about the Versatile Blogger Award says:

Honor those bloggers who bring something special to your life whether every day or only now and then.

Receiving these two awards goes to show that blogging is not always a complete waste of time. Others recognise our efforts and appreciate what we do. Blogging may not be for everyone and we don’t know until we try. But if we are consistent, make it fun and make friendships along the way, then blogging can be an enormous benefit to us as writers in the long run.

Do you blog and if so, what has been the best part of blogging for you? Do you dislike blogging and what don’t you like about it? Do you think blogging takes too much time away from our ‘real’ writing? How do you balance writing with blogging?

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Main image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing: Focus on the Positive.

Recently in a blog post for the Insecure Writers Support Group, there was discussion regarding the thought of quitting the writing life. Quitting because our work gets rejected, because we think what we are writing is rubbish and because we feel we are not going to make it as a writer. But despite all of that, a lot of us still keep going.

Rejections can hurt. I know; I’ve been there too. For me, sending my work out is the hardest part when it comes to this writing process. I’ve entered competitions, sent my short stories to magazines, and more often than not, hear nothing but crickets in reply. Rejections can be seen as a learning curve, because the more effort we put into our craft and the more times we send our work out, eventually, we begin to see some progress.

One of the first pieces I ever had published was regarding the birth of my first child. I had sent it off without giving it a second thought and was pleasantly surprised to receive a cheque and a couple of copies of the magazine as payment with my piece inside. About eight years ago, I submitted a couple of chapters of my first novel to a competition and became one of six successful applicants. The prize was attendance at a writer’s festival, with meals and accommodation paid for, as well as a writer’s workshop. Of-course, opportunities like these would never have happened if I gave up.

There can be a lot of toxic people out there too. People who don’t want you to pursue writing and/or become successful. Speaking from personal experience, it’s hurtful when those toxic people are members of your own family. Because of my obstinate nature, I saw this as a challenge and began doing courses, where I received positive feedback. It was this that kept me going. If you are surrounded by toxic people, you need to do something similar or join a writing group and/or be part of the writing community online.

I think it’s easy to be discouraged when we receive negative feedback. Sometimes, it’s as if we are expecting it! If we tell ourselves we’re not good enough often enough, we begin to believe it. So, when we begin to receive positive feedback, we can be pleasantly surprised and I think they stay in our minds a heck of a lot longer. Write them down if necessary, but keep them safe and close to you, maybe even pinned to your wall at your desk. Since I began this writing journey, these are the ones that stick out the most for me over the years:-

You have great potential. Something I don’t say to just anyone.

I can see this story as a film.

This is like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Your writing is macabre.

This is great – no, brilliant!

You’ll get published one day. It’s just a matter of when.

I really like this. I think it’s the best thing you’ve written so far.

Some years ago, a clairvoyant once told me that I would make money from my writing. Now, whether you believe in fortune telling or not, you have to admit that saying such a thing to a writer is a positive thought. 😉

Praise for our writing is encouraging and despite all the rejections and disappointments we may get (and we will), we can always refer to the times when we have been given those small words of hope. It’s little things like these that keep us going.

What keeps you going as a writer? What is the nicest thing someone has said to you about your writing? Do you have toxic people in your life? Do you find it difficult to send your work out?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Feud: Bette & Joan.

I love old movies, especially those around the time of what’s known to be the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’. Call me old fashioned, but stories really mattered back then. It may sound strange, but thanks to such films, it was these that made me a writer in the first place. Because of such an upbringing, I recently watched the television show Feud: Bette & Joan.

I was fortunate enough to have seen the movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane before the show began. It was one of those films that I had always heard about, but never actually took the time to watch. I was glad I did because not only was it a good movie, but it played an important part in Bette & Joan.

I had known of an existing feud between these two actresses, but never understood the reasoning behind it all. Naturally, this show went into that, as well as the personal lives behind the two of them, and what goes on behind the screens within the movie studios. The show also acted as part documentary, where other actresses were questioned regarding the Bette & Joan relationship. One actress questioned included Olivia de Havilland (played by Catherine Zeta Jones), which also hinted at the feud between her and her sister Joan Fontaine. I became interested in that relationship and began to wonder if a show would be made regarding their own feud.

This is a great production; the sets, the fashion, the makeup. I can’t fault the detail that went into it. And above all, of–course was the acting. Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon were brilliant in their roles as Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. It was certainly creepy watching Susan Sarandon play Bette Davis in her role in Baby Jane – between her performance and the talents of the makeup artists it was truly frightening (and I mean that in good way). Despite their tough exteriors, Bette & Joan explored the vulnerabilities of both actresses, thus putting a more human face on both of these icons.

Throughout the show, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for poor Mamacita, Joan Crawford’s housekeeper (played by Jackie Hoffman), who is a great character and very loyal. I was also surprised to see Judy Davis and I had to look twice (sorry, but I still picture her as Sybylla in My Brilliant Career), but it just goes to show how versatile an actress she truly is.

With shows like Feud: Bette & Joan, I’d like to think that we are now facing the ‘Golden Age’ of television.

Did you watch Feud: Bette & Joan? Were you impressed with it as much as I was? Do you think we are currently facing the ‘Golden Age’ of television? What show/s have you watched recently that impressed you? Did you grow up watching old movies?

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Writers: Did You Ever Say ‘I Quit?

This month I’m back posting for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG). After posting last month, I noticed my name was not on the list. I didn’t think I had broken the rules, so a glitch, perhaps? Anyway, I’ve put my name back on the list, so you can’t get rid of me that easily, guys. 😉

When it comes to writing have I ever said ‘I quit?’ Absolutely! So many times over the years, in fact I’ve lost count. Every time I feel like throwing in the towel over this whole writing thing, it is always because of one reason above all others; the feeling that I am never good enough. Self-doubt gradually creeps in and takes over all reasoning. This in turn leads to depression and eating a whole lot of chocolate to make me feel better.

The reason I encounter those self-doubts to begin with is simply because I compare myself to other writers. I read the end result of all their years of hard work in a finished product and know I can never write like that. I can read pages or paragraphs of beautiful description and feel way out of my league. I see other people’s success as authors – all the books they have published and their many loyal readers, and I think of all the work that is required to get to that level. Yes, it can be very depressing and even in recent months I’ve encountered it once again. As timing would have it, I read a blog post by Kristen Lamb recently regarding this very issue.

The thing is that despite all of this, I keep coming back to writing. Why? I guess it’s because I can’t turn my imagination off. I think of other ‘real’ jobs I could be doing instead, but I have characters in my head that speak to me, wanting their stories to be told (yes, that’s cloud cuckoo-land right there). Writing is my creative outlet and the best way I know how to communicate to others (I’m uncomfortable talking to people).

These days, when I begin to compare myself to other writers I may feel down in the dumps for a little while, but I learn from it and move on. I find that by seeing other people’s success it helps to motivate me to keep on going. And that can only be a good thing. 😉

Did you ever say ‘I quit’? What happened to make you come back to writing? Do you feel like giving up because you’re not ‘good enough’? Do you learn from other writer’s success?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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