Where my writing is pulling me lately

I have a love hate relationship with blogging. It comes in fits and spurts. I genuinely love writing, so blogging seems a natural hobby to have. Except that it isn’t. Most days, thinking of a blog post feels like hard work. I already have enough on my plate with trying to think of words to put into my second manuscript now that my first is out on submission. I also deal with words most days of the week through my day job, and when I’m not working in one capacity or another, I’m probably trying to tackle my ever growing TBR (To Be Read) pile.

I know I’m not the only writer to suffer from these problems, and really it’s not a problem in the grand scheme of things. Yes, having an active blog would make my engagement as a writer and potential author easier. I would probably be able to grow my audience if I posted more regularly and that would mean more people to know about and buy my book when (not if) it eventually comes out. I’ve just never been one of those people who can blog when there’s nothing to say. It takes a certain level of training to be able to think up and fire off creative writing every day.

The other thing I have been putting my focus towards lately is a course in Copywriting through the Australian Writers Centre. For a long time I’ve fancied that one day I will quit my ‘normal’ job and go out on my own as a freelance writer. The only thing is, as aforementioned, I don’t seem to have the stamina for thinking up and evidently pitching idea after idea to publications, in order to make any sort of living. That’s a bit of a problem if I ever want to freelance.

In truth, I like that I channel my creative words into my novels. It’s what I am most passionate about. I also really enjoy reworking other people’s words. I always have. (Maybe it’s that little bit of control freak in me?) In another life, perhaps I would have pursued a career in editing, and maybe I still will. I have such a keen eye for detail that I actually enjoy proofreading and editing other people’s work. I don’t consider myself a perfectionist, but I do like to read good quality content. Sloppy mistakes hurt my soul – but hey, we ALL make them. I’m not about shaming people if they don’t have a strong grasp on grammar or have a tendency to make silly mistakes. If everyone was perfect there’d be no reason for editors. And I love editors.

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When I saw the copywriting course advertised through AWC, I thought why not give it a go? It’s creative writing, but with the theme/facts already at hand. No need to scrounge around thinking of the angle or the story. It’s about taking the facts and presenting them in an interesting and saleable way.

We are actually surrounded by copy. It’s in just about everything we read and look at every day. That brochure on the table of a coffee shop, the annoying pop up internet ads, newsletters, blog posts, traditional ads, they’re all copy. Surely I’m not the only one who gets annoyed when copy is riddled with mistakes or simply doesn’t sound right?

I didn’t think so.

A good copy writer will be able to take a creative brief and pull something together that a client will want to use. I’m hoping that’s what this course will give me. The skills and confidence to put myself out there and get behind all that copy we see day to day.

After all, I’ve been perfecting other people’s copy for more than a decade now. It’s about time I started writing it myself.

If you’d like to know more about copywriting or any of my other freelance work, contact me here.

 

Garden Update: Summer 2018

The first thing I did in our yard when we moved into our new home was to set up raised garden beds. Despite having half an acre of land at our disposal, the soil isn’t all that great and raised beds seemed like the perfect, easy way to satiate my love for growing and making things from scratch.

Three years on, the raised beds have evolved and multiplied, and we also have a working compost that provides a wonderful boost of nutrients each time I replant a bed.

Last year I resolved to step up my gardening game and grow plants from seeds only. Part of the appeal of growing your own food is the money that it saves. While buying seedlings is convenient and cheaper than buying from the supermarket, I knew there was more benefits to be had from the seeds.

I’m so pleased and proud to say that my first attempt at growing from seeds has been a roaring success! While not everything I started out in the trays of seed raising mix survived the transfer to the bigger plot, the majority did and I’m already beginning to harvest the fruits and veggies of my labours!

I’ve taken a few snaps of my burgeoning garden, which includes tomatoes, sweet corn, zucchini, beetroot, swiss chard, mixed lettuce, chilli, capsicum and some surprising (and random) plants that have popped up thanks to the compost, including pumpkin!

My next challenge is to learn how to harvest and save the seeds from these plants for next year. If you have any tips or information on how to do this, please do let me know in the comments.

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And some bonus pictures from the garden…

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Weekend Wanderings: Library Up Late

On Friday night, my girlfriend and I headed to a not-so-local library (about 40km from my house) to attend an event titled ‘Grown Up Story Time’.

I’m told the Tea Tree Gully Library does events quite regularly, and they sure do them well! When my friend forwarded the event details to me, which promised mulled wine, buttered rum, craft and stories, I could hardly stifle my excitement. Plus, it was on a Friday night which meant I could cash in one of my 627 I O U’s for a night out, while Dad stayed home on parenting duty.

I arrived a few minutes late having misread my GPS instructions and getting caught in a loop of traffic lights, with no suitable U turn facilities in sight. When I finally arrived, it  felt weird and rebellious to be walking into a library after dark. Sort of like how I imagined, as a kid, being locked in a department store overnight would feel.

Fortunately, we weren’t the only ones to happen upon this wondrous event. The place was packed, with seemingly every available chair occupied. The organisers pulled some arm chairs around the back of the crowd for us, handed over some crayons and a blank picture to colour, which we struggled to fit on the tiny table alongside our mulled and sparkling wines.

We got to work colouring and waited for the stories to begin. Two of the librarians sat at the front of the room and read from a couple of the ‘Ladybird Books‘ for adults. If you’re not familiar with these gems, they are tongue-in-cheek manuals for dealing with every-day challenges, illustrated in the traditional vintage Ladybird style. We were treated to The Hangover and The Mid Life Crisis.  We sang nursery rhymes with the words adapted, and listened to some poems with cheeky rhymes.

Our two hours of library frivolity absolutely flew by. It was a wonderful event, hosted by a great community library which seems to have an emphasis on engaging people of all ages. This is a library that is not just about books, but about community. Not just about education, but about fun.

I hope to see more libraries thinking outside of the square and engaging their communities in fun and interesting ways, like this. Thanks TTG Library!

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My new home office space

We’ve been in our house for nearly three years, and until just this week, our home office/study was really just a junk room with a book case and a desk.

As you can imagine, clutter and junk doesn’t exactly lend itself to motivation or clear thinking.

For a long time we’ve been talking about getting it set up properly. When we were in the planning stages of building the house we went to a well known cabinet maker and requested a quote for a built in desk with surrounding book case and shelves. We were quite willing to spend a lot of money to get it done, but I suspect the woman who sketched up our plans thought we were just wasting her time. They never came through with the quote and once the building process started, it became the least of our worries.

Now that I’ve returned to work part time from maternity leave, with some days working from home, it seemed an opportune time to get the office set up. We took a trip to Bunnings and picked out a 2.2 metre timber bench top. It’s big enough to seat two quite comfortably, with space to spread out. I also nabbed two trestle legs from Ikea, (on sale for $9.99 each) and we bought the chairs from Kmart.

Put it all together and we’ve created an affordable, modern and clean space with light, natural finishes. A place that I actually enjoy being in and can see myself getting a lot of writing done.

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I particularly love the raw timber and monochrome look, so am thrilled with how it turned out.

 

 

Weekend Wanderings – June Long Weekend

We’re just off the back of a long weekend here in South Australia, for the Queen’s Birthday. Thanks Liz! It’s the pay-off we get for continuing to fall under the monarchy as opposed to putting our big-girl pants on and becoming a republic.

Though I didn’t technically get a ‘day off’ because I don’t work on Monday’s (not in any paid capacity at least), I did take the day off of my usual writing schedule (usually Monday-Friday). I made a conscious decision to immerse myself in my family, and revel in having my husband home for an extra day out of the week. When your usual company is a 10 month old who spends his days drooling, eating and sleeping, having extra ‘adult time’ becomes a prized commodity.

We’d been away for a night visiting my in-laws on the Saturday, and we decided to use Sunday and Monday to get some long overdue projects finished in the garden. You see, I’ve been without a vegetable garden for about 6 months now. Something I never thought would happen once I’d finally got them planted up when we moved into the house in late 2014.

Any pretense of a summer patch was disassembled when we went overseas for the month of December 2016. I didn’t plant anything knowing I wouldn’t be home to water for that time, and there was no way we could rely on any sort of rainfall to get us through. Couple that with the fact that my raised beds made from hay bales were in desperate need of replacing, we made the decision to pull them up and replace them with something more permanent.

Here we are 6 months later and only just managing to fit the pallet beds my brother made with interior walls, ready for soil. So, two of the four I had envisioned are now done and ready for planting. We also constructed some steps to lead down into our garden, which you can see in the background of the below picture. These still need to be filled, but after 2.5 years living on a hill with a slope down to our garden, this progress feels like a win.

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Though I had a jolly time playing with the drill and other tools, that one day off of my routine set me into a mini motivational melt down, meaning I didn’t really get anything written on my manuscript until Thursday. Though it’s only three days that I’ve deviated from my schedule, it feels like an inconceivable loss. If I want to meet my target of completing this draft by 30 October, I’ll need to up my minimum word count, or pick up an extra day of writing. None of this is catastrophic, and I don’t regret spending the day the way I did.

It just occurs to me that, in all aspects of work, schedule slippage occurs. But for a writer, it really is up to us to keep on top of our own milestones and deadlines.

I’m determined to meet my self-imposed deadline, because if I end up getting published, the deadlines will no longer be self-imposed.

What would you do if you weren’t doing this?

It’s a common and seemingly innocent question, whatever its form. What’s your dream job? What would you rather be doing? It’s a conversation often bouncing around a dinner party or over drinks. How often do people reply with “This, here. What I’m doing now.” Very few I would imagine? Most likely, people rattle off glamorous ideals about travel, loads of money, freedom and flexibility, fame and infamy.

For me, the answer has always been: I would write.

However, it has taken me far too long to take ownership over this dream. I distinctly remember the first time I let myself tell someone outside of my family that I wanted to be a writer. I remember it clearly because it was the same night my brother called me to tell me he had cancer.

I was sitting in the alfresco of a Sydney restaurant, overlooking the river. I was dining with some of my colleagues, the CEO, a Board member and his wife. It was yet another work trip, where the wine was inevitably flowing and the food was delicious. When my phone started buzzing I excused myself to answer it. I stepped away from the table and walked towards the riverbank. My brother told me his results had come back; he had cancer.

He was stoic. I was trembling, the tears brimmed my eyes. When he rang off I wiped at my eyes, facing the water, not ready to walk back to the table. A part of me was annoyed that he’d told me now, while I was away for work. How could I possibly compose myself in front of all these important people, whom I was trying to impress with my professionalism, my wit and my charm?

Thankfully no-one asked me about the call when I returned to my seat. They graciously ignored my glazed eyes and sombre mood. I drank my wine and picked at my food. When the plates were taken away the conversation kicked on. Someone asked “What would you do if you weren’t doing this job?”

I don’t recall what the others said. I only remember when they all turned to me, anticipating my response. My heart leapt into my throat and my palms became slick with sweat. Maybe it was the wine? Maybe it was the news I’d just received? Whatever it was, I suddenly felt brave, though I didn’t sound it when I said, “I would be a writer. Of like, novels.” I paused, looking down into my lap, waiting for them to laugh at me.

But then, they didn’t.

For the most part the conversation went on. No one batted an eyelid really. Certainly no one laughed or made fun of me. I think they may even have smiled and nodded. Perhaps this wasn’t such a crazy idea after all? Perhaps I really could write a book?

That first step was like leaping from a cliff for me. It felt dangerous, risky but also carefree and wild. Why is it that we are so afraid to own our hearts? To let the world know that we have a dream, and it may be fraught with hardship and paved with failure, but hey, what goal isn’t worth a bit of pain and a lot of hard work?

Many years later, I’ve come to realise that saying those words out loud was only the opening of what is proving to be a very deep, very dark and seemingly endless rabbit hole. But with each step I get a little more brave and a little bit closer to realising my dream.

Now, rather than shying away from it, I’m grabbing my dream by its metaphorical horns and facing it head on. In April I’ll be attending a five day intensive masterclass with Fiona McIntosh, which promises to be both challenging and inspiring. I’ve already sent my first 10 novel pages and synopsis to Fiona for review in the lead up to our one-on-one session, where I’ll receive her critique. I’ve also learnt that on Day 4, we’ll all be required to pitch our novels to a representative from Simon and Schuster.

Yep, I’m terrified. But when the horns are pointed your way, you just have to hold on tight.

NB: The cancer was successfully removed and my brother is cancer free 😀