What's the good of writing a blog if you don't post it?

Last month I wrote this blog but forgot to publish it. That’s my life in the constant ebb and flow of travel. Also I’ve been editing my novel Outback Promise when we’ve stopped long enough to set up my computer for more than an hour at a time.

Here’s what I wrote in June. I’ll write this month’s and put it up later in a week or so. It’s important to stay in practice. But more about that later.

June 8th, 2015: I’m in Australia for five months. In the past week alone my husband and I have driven over 1,800 kilometres, visited a dozen national and state parks—more or less—and spent nights in five different locations. This is a holiday right?

Yes and no.

Yes because I’m seeing exciting places that I may never see again.

No because I can’t stop working. My work, of course, is writing.

Writing is also my obsession and compulsion.

And here’s what happens if I let it slide for a day or two: I lose track of my characters. They wander off and have conversations without me. When I get back to the keyboard, they’ve clammed up.

“You weren’t here to listen? Did you expect us to wait until you were ready?” they ask.

Then I have to tease them back to life, work with them until they’re ready to share their secrets again.

They don’t arrive on the page, fully formed. It’s up to me to perform the small acts daily that bring them to life.

What happens when you step away from your keyboard? What takes you away from your work? What brings you back?

Who's your worst enemy?

My agenda today: write a short story, write some flash fiction, and polish the current work-in-progress. I also needed to unpack one more box in the basement, reconcile the last two months’ bank statements, etc. I started with the domestic chores, which may not come as an enormous surprise.

Because of that decision, some of my ambitious writing plans have slipped onto tomorrow’s list. As Fran Lebowitz put it: The act of writing puts you in confrontation with yourself, which is why I think writers assiduously avoid writing.

Of course this type of self-sabotage isn’t unique to writers but I think many of us are masters at it, because of the way writing moves us outside our comfort zones. That can be scary. So we do the things we’re good at and comfortable with.

If we don’t try, we can’t fail.

If we go to a writing group where we are asked to share our work, we simply pass. Maybe we wrote something really good last time and we want to be remembered for that.

Coasting on past victories is stagnation, pure and simple. Playing small like that doesn’t serve the world, to quote Marianne Williamson. I’m too smart to stand in my own way but I do it, all too often. To be a better writer I need to use willpower and discipline to build bridges between my goals and my accomplishments. I have to practice that every day but it can be the hardest thing to do: silence off the external noise and write. Too often I am my own worst enemy.

What is the hardest part of writing for you? When the dull domestic world wants your time and energy, how do you turn off that sense of duty?


Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Arch Enemy’s Angela Gossow 2009 by Roman Hornik



Are you making time?

In all our deeds the proper value and respect for time determines success or failure, according to Malcolm X.

In 2014:

  • My YA novel Lockdown will be released in the spring. Before that happens, a press kit and a book launch must be organized.
  • My epic Australian novel is shaping up and should be moved to submission-ready status.
  • The Young Writers Club remains stronger than ever and still demands lots of time and preparation.
  • I have a handful of short stories to polish.
  • This writing blog and the earthquake blog must be maintained.
  • A rough draft of a new YA novel needs a month or more of work.

Word count: 370                                                                              Reading time: 1-2 minutes

Behind the scenes there are major changes going on in my personal life that wake me early every morning and occupy me until I drop into bed, late every night.

How easy it would be, in the midst of all this busyness, to think, “I’ll find time to write something new tomorrow.” Time is a slippery thing: one unproductive day becomes seven. A week drifts into a month. Experience warns me that if I let things slide, soon I won’t have created anything new in recent memory.

This year I will make time (because no one finds it) for all the competing priorities. Otherwise starting a new project, or even advancing a half-finished one, seems as feasible as scaling Mt. Everest. To avoid this pitfall, I will shake myself and remember that the only way to get things done is to quit talking about them and just do them.

A goal without a date is just a dream said Milton H. Erickson. So, before the days disappear like cherry blossoms in spring, I’m going to set deadlines and try to avoid the whooshing sound as they fly past. (with thanks to Douglas Adams). I don’t want 2014’s goals to end up as unrealized dreams. I have a calendar. I have dates for each goal. I really, really intend to stick with it. Unless, of course, there is another cute dog or cat video on YouTube…..

What are you doing this year to master the gift of time? Have you recorded your writing goals? Are they broken into small increments that aren’t overwhelming?

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Wanduhr in Deutschland. Es ist 15:00 Uhr.

What are you talking about?


Recently I went to see Neil Gaiman at the Vogue. It was festival seating so we arrived almost an hour ahead of time and stood patiently amidst the cigarette butts, blobs of gum, and other detritus that are now a permanent part of the Vancouver cityscape.

Word count: 452  Reading time: 1-2 minutes

The woman in front of me talked, at a high decibel level, about her writing. She spoke in great detail about her characters and plot. Given her volume and side glances, I was sure she wanted to be listened to so, of course, I obliged. All the while I kept thinking about William Baldwin’s adage: empty vessels make the most noise. I wondered if she had actually written a word or if she just loved to contemplate the novel she might one day complete.

The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club. That’s the way I feel about writing. If I talk about what I’m doing with more than a very few people, it seems to dissipate before my very eyes, like a breath on a cold winter’s day. It’s as if I’m showing people how the smoke and mirrors work when I don’t actually know yet because I haven’t choreographed the entire magic show.

Years ago, a friend of mine wouldn’t buy a single thing for her first baby’s nursery before the birth because she thought it was bad luck. Somehow preparing for the baby would jinx its healthy arrival. I hold a similar belief about my novels and short stories. If too many people know about them, the spell will be broken and the spark that keeps them alive will be extinguished by the constant breeze of my voice talking about them.

In Gaiman’s The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, the protagonist (who is either unnamed or called George – read and decide for yourself) as an adult artist (unspecified discipline) says his work is doing fine thank you. [I] never know how to talk about what I do. If I could talk about it, I would not have to do it.

That’s the way I feel every time someone says, ‘So. How is your writing going?’ I mumble a vague comment and then redirect the conversation to something about them. That usually silences any further questions.

Howard Ogden said writing is like sex: you should do it, not talk about it. Did he say that because he is as superstitious as I am? Or does he just want to be spared long-winded descriptions of stories that may never be fully realized?

What about you? Can you talk about your writing at length without harming it? Or do you need to be near completion before you share the treasure?

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Picture from Wikimedia Commons: Shhhh by Norrie Adamson