Writing is Great Therapy – Haikus and Journey Notes

I woke this morning with a feeling of dread and impending doom – couldn’t pin down why. I expect you’ve felt it yourself on occasion – like you’re standing on the edge of a cliff with a strong wind at your back. Here’s a Haiku to explain what I mean:


Tendrils reach through dreams
Sticky fingers on your soul
Wake up to what’s real

No… that doesn’t really describe it. It’s more like this:

Crow roosts on your dreams
Dread, the oil slick on your soul
Messenger from Hell

Still not right. Too dark. The dread always lifts when you get up and move, write and create, breathe and grow back into your skin after a restless night. So this is closer:

Black oceans below
Dreams beam sunshine on shadows
Water wings – dive in.


Journey Note for Writers: Writing is a great therapy. Use it.


Screw Plan B!

If you’re working on your first book/film/creative “thing”, at some point you’ll send it to an expert (or a buyer) who, you hope, will be instrumental in getting you published, on the big screen or otherwise into  the world.

While you wait for their verdict, you might find yourself in a form of limbo because (in your view) their view might be the thing that determines what direction you take next:

Plan A – Living the dream!
Plan B – Self-publish… trash the project… hide out in Bali… qualify as a shrink… start a finger painting club… become a monk…

If your expert declares that your work is “Genius and Ready To Go!” then Plan A it is. But if the verdict is slightly south of average, you might think you have no choice but to move to Plan B.

You’re a realist, right? Especially if you have a family to support. But you’re also a dreamer. So your thinking might go something like this:

“I have a dream to be a best selling writer/director/artist… AND I have a family to support. I don’t have a trust fund, so I have to earn a living while I create my magic. HOWEVER, I need time and mental space to create said magic, BUT I can’t spend an unknown length of time walking the tightrope between a practical job and creating my dream. SO, what to do?”

Do you create a Plan B in case your art is kicked back? Do you go to Plan B even though every minute you spend on Plan B saps the core out your soul?

What if you took the chance and focused completely and unflinchingly on Plan A? What if Plan B never entered your head? Would you write/paint/create in a different way if there was no Plan B? Would Plan A be better, smarter and more determined? If there was no Plan B, would you find a way for Plan A to work no matter what?

I think, when we give ourselves an out, we’ve already decided to quit. So no Plan B.

Be Brave, folks. Stick with it.


LOVE writing? LOVE feedback! 5 ways to get the most out of it

Be brave. Pick a tough editor. The feedback will do your book good!

Feedback from a professional is the lifeblood of great writing. You can spend years on what you think is an absolute marvel but without feedback from people who know what they’re talking about (not your mother, best buddy or 3rd cousin Jethro) you’ll never know if there are gaps in your plot or holes in your characters. All you’ll know – if you put the book to market without feedback – is that people aren’t responding to it. You’ll know that something is wrong, but you won’t know what.

Now of course, sending your novel or short story to a ruthless, picky professional can be damn scary, but if you’re scared to send it out to ONE person to read critically, how do you think you’ll handle putting that same work online or on Amazon for it be shredded – or even worse – ignored by the public!?

You have to grow to LOVE feedback. Seek it out. Find the toughest, meanest, glass-eyed editors and beg them to leave mercy at the door! Don’t ask people who love you for feedback. Your mother will tell you it’s wonderful. Your best buddy will take pity on you and get you drunk. Your 3rd cousin, Jethro will probably ask for a loan.

Go to the professionals. Ask for honest feedback. Then do the following to make sure you can do something with it:

ONE: Let your book go. You have to. Once you hand it over to a professional, you need to detach yourself from it. If you don’t, the feedback you get might feel horribly personal. But when an editor says – your characters are weak and limp. She really is saying YOUR CHARACTERS are weak and limp. Not you. But if you are too entwined with your book, you’ll risk taking feedback personally and it could break you.

TWO: Listen! This is important. Really listen to what a good editor has to say. These people have read, reviewed, studied, considered, edited, re-written hundreds of books and short stories. You have written… what? How many? One? Three? Maybe 10 if you’re on a roll? A professional editor knows their beans. Listen to them.

THREE: Take their recommendations seriously. Don’t just THINK about them. Implement them. What’s the point of great feedback if you’re going to ignore it?

FOUR: Think for yourself. On one hand I say listen and take the editor’s recommendations seriously, but you also need to think for yourself. The very first novel I wrote (never published – still on a shelf) I included every suggestion the editor made. It ended up not sounding like me at all. So listen to everything, then do rewrites based on the feedback, not mindlessly including it.

FIVE: Make sure you give your best work to the editor. Don’t give your book or short story to an editor because you can’t work out what to do next. If your plot or characters are broken, do the work, fix them, then get the editor in. Your name will be on the cover after all.

Bottom line… Grow a thick skin! Feedback is part of the process. Don’t shortcut the process.

Happy growth spurt today!

If you’re a writer, eat the frog first!

If you're a writer, eat the frog first!I could write a 2000 word blog about this (Brian Tracy wrote a whole book!), but I’m going to be brief so you can get on with things. If you want to achieve the important things in your life (including being the writer you want to be), eat the frog first!

Do what’s difficult. Do what you’ve been avoiding. Do what you’re scared to do. Do what will honestly move you forward.

Look at everything you want to do today, pick the thing that will actually lead you to achieving your goal, do that first (no matter how hard/scary it is), then get on with the rest of it.

So if you’re selling something (book, short story, article, pot plant) and can’t seem to get started – make selling it the first thing you do. Don’t mess about with emails and internet research and other such excuses. Pick up the phone.

If you want to get fit but would rather have cream cakes for breakfast – get to the gym first. Don’t go shopping for new gym gear.

If you’re writing and have been putting it off – get your words in first. Leave social media and emails until later in the day. Why? Because once you’ve eaten the frog, you’ll actually have something to talk about and contribute.

For more about eating frogs, have a read of Brian Tracy’s book “Eat That Frog”.

Damn delicious, I promise you.

You’re writing a novel, so why bother with short stories?

A short story or two could be the solution to all your writing issues!Whether you’re in the thick of writing your novel, working hard at starting it, stuck in writer’s block or dreaming about your career as an author, you might find some answers in the unlikely lap of a short story or two.

But why take the time (that you probably don’t have) and effort (that’s dwindled to a puddle) to write a short story when every moment of your day is absorbed by either working on or freaking out over your novel???

In no particular order… 11 ways a short story can make you a better writer

ONE: Short stories are quick to write. If you’re stuck on your novel and need a distraction, pick a character and genre you’d never normally write in and blast a story out. You’ll be surprised how many rusted bolts that loosens up.

TWO: Short stories are an amazing way to develop a character. If yours are feeling a little two dimensional, pick an era in their lives (outwith the timeline of your novel) and write a short story about that. It will give you incredible insight into their back story and might reveal a few things about them that you didn’t know.

THREE: If getting your stuff out there seems terrifying, write a dozen short stories (at least) then send them ALL out for sale. Not competition. SALE. You’ll soon feel comfortable sending your work out, writing cover letters, finding the right publications and feeling OK if they say no. Why? Because if they do come back unaccepted, you tweak it and send it out again!

FOUR: Short stories are perfect for developing and experimenting with story worlds. Write a short story titled “A day in the life of a lizard in my story world”. You’ll be surprised what you find out. Most of the time you view your world from character head height. What happens on the street? What do things look like from the ground up? What does your world look like from a totally different angle? If your main characters are very rich, write a short story about someone in your world who is very poor.

FIVE: Use short stories to fix your writing challenges. If you have a problem with good dialogue, write short stories packed with it. If narrative is an issue, write one with narrative only. Whatever your writing weakness, use short stories to work it. Once you’re done, send a few into competitions that offer a review. Get feedback from professionals, rewrite based on the feedback, then send it out for SALE!

SIX: If you can’t think of anything to write, then write a short story that starts with your name. Don’t plan. Don’t think. Just free flow. It won’t take much time and it’ll get things going.

SEVEN: Practice your editing skills. A novel is a mammoth thing to edit. More often than not it takes way longer than we expect, and certainly longer than we’d like! Get better at it. Write short stories, edit them well, then send them out into the world.

EIGHT: When you send your novel out, you’re at the mercy of other people’s schedules. If all you’re doing is waiting to hear back about ONE piece of work, you’re likely to crash and burn when/if you get a no. But if you always have multiple bits of work in the market, getting a no won’t have that much impact on your soul. You’ll have a bunch of other pieces of work out there. So rework what came back, and send it out again.

NINE: They’re fun! There isn’t a huge investment of time. You can write flash fiction if you like. A mere 500 words. When things are getting too serious, look around the space you’re in, pick 3 words and write a story that incorporates them. Make is as crazy and ridiculous as you can. Make yourself laugh! Then, if you like it, edit it and send it out to WORK!

TEN: Short stories allow you to build a great portfolio. One day, when you have a bunch of stories you love, you can gather them all together and publish a compilation. Never a word wasted.

ELEVEN: One of a writer’s fears it the notion of spending years on something that doesn’t go anywhere. A short story will give you a reprieve from that. Spend an hour or two writing it (1500-2000 words) then a week or so to edit and stew, then send it out. Use this little tool to beat your writing fears whether they stem from the quality of your work to judgement of it. Sod it. Put it out there anyway. What’s the worst that can happen? Oh… say it ain’t so… you might actually get really good at it and get result. RESULTS!

There are 11 reasons to write short stories. Any more? Let me know…

Happy writing today!

Seriously? Fear is your excuse?

Fear is a lousy excuse not to write!Fear is all fine and useful if you’re using it to sharpen your senses and hone your survival skills. But the fear we experience as writers has nothing to do with battling the elements or making it through Christmas with the in-laws.

The fear we feel as writers is couched in personal insecurity and illusion.

It’s when our imagination, which should serve us so well, turns into the enemy at the gates. We have absolutely no evidence for what we fear. We just fear it will happen to us.

So let’s take a moment to look at the terrors that keep writers awake on dark and stormy nights:

People might not like our work
No kidding Batman. Give me the title of a single book that someone hasn’t trashed. Everything from the Bible to the Da Vinci Code has had its critics. Criticize is what we do as a species. That’s a fact. Like gravity. You scared of gravity? No? Then don’t be scared of some people not liking your book.

People might not like it because it really is crap
What if I write my novel and find I actually can’t write at all? – Ooh! The horror of admitting a personal limitation. This is actually a really great awareness to have. If you never have any doubts about the quality of your writing, then you will not strive to improve. Here’s the Catch 22 – for as long as you don’t write, you’ll never improve. Writing is one task that you have to do to get better at. Oh heavens above, this sounds so obvious. And when you say it to yourself, you know it’s obvious. But when you’re in the midst of writer’s block the obvious often seems coated in cryptic. So do this…. first, write for the bin, second, for a month or two, or however long you like, do nothing except write a personal journal or emails to friends. Now, when you do this, don’t just bash out words. Think about what you’re writing, edit it, craft it. Tell the story of your day; how you felt, what you did. Aim to transport your reader. Write from your heart as only you can. Instead of creating a basic journal entry, write it in third person and turn it into a bit of a tale. “Julie Pilonski (substitute your name) woke with the alarm clock lying dead on the floor beside her. Silence. Silence was nice. Silence and the sun streaming through her bedroom window? Shit! Late!…” Edit it. Work it until you like it. Once you’re happy with your journal tales, start creating emails to friends and family. Don’t just spit them out. Hone your craft whenever you write. When you’re happy, press send. Oh hell yes! Look at that. You’re published! If you worry about the quality of your writing, do something about it.

Even if it’s good it might never get published. Or if it does, it might not sell, and if it does sell, it might not sell enough for me to make a living out of it. Oh heavens save us. Bring out the prescription pills, razor blades, bulldozer and wooden box
Get a grip. My husband has a story he tells whenever I spout this nonsense. “Paddy and Mick”: Paddy needs a shovel to dig up his garden and he knows Mick has one. So on a fine sunny morning he sets off out his front door and down his garden path to ask Mick for a loan of his shovel. As Paddy reaches the road, however, he remembers the last time he asked Mick for something. Mick bitched and complained and generally made the whole experience a misery. Paddy shrugs the memory off and keeps walking. However, when he gets a mile down the road he remembers another time he asked Mick for the loan of some sugar and did Paddy hear the end of that? Hell no. By now, Paddy is getting a little tense. His fists balled into bundles, his back tightened to a rigid mass and a deep frown digging furrows on his head. He walks that little bit faster as he remembers yet another time he asked Mick for the loan of his tractor and the argument that followed. By now, Paddy has sweat dripping down his face, his gut is a turmoil of acid strong enough to dissolve a badger at fifty feet. He storms up to Mick’s door and bangs loudly. A minute later Mick swings the door open and beams at Paddy: “Well hello, Paddy. How are you doing?” Paddy glowers at Mick. “Shove your shovel up your arse!” he bellows, and stalks off. Point being: It’s easy to talk yourself out of what you want by assuming what might or might not happen.

I could work on something for a year and it might or might not go anywhere
Fine. True. This is a fickle business full of subjective opinions. However, if you start now, you’ll know the outcome in a year. If you hum and ha and mess about, it might be two or five or ten years before you know whether it’ll come to anything. So just get on with it!

Fear is just one of your demons playing silly buggers with your head.

Happy writing today.