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Distractions and Other Demands
Category: Writing
Tags: writing deadlines writers abroad writing fiction


Do you find yourself at the end of the week, wishing that you could start again?

I do on a regular basis. I have many plans about how much I’ll get done, write it all down, usually in a million places. Then I get to the end of the week and find that I still have most of my plans outstanding. Is it me? My organisational skills are good and I’ve spent years being organised in a job in the real world so what is going on? Having pondered this for a time this afternoon (when in fact I’d allocated a couple of hours editing short stories) I have concluded that there are several reasons.

  1. I enjoy the ‘process’ of organising a little too much and so spend most of the week doing that. I love to make lists about lists, file things, make new labels, and sift through drawers marvelling at the things I find in them. However, this process does uncover some forgotten piece of work or an outline, so not all is lost and I find something else to put on the list.
  2. The other problem is the size and number of the “To Do’s” I set myself. I know from years of managing projects, that you should break things down into manageable tasks. ‘You can’t eat an elephant in one go’ a manager used to dictate on a too regular basis. But I know that it’s true. So why do I set myself the ‘task’ of editing an 80,000 word novel in an afternoon? As well as do major reviews of the three other novels of similar wordage I have lurking in my action file. So I find myself messing about, sending emails, playing games of tranquillising sheep (thanks to Writers Abroad member, Rob, a lovely diversion) and having conversations with my dog who sits patiently by my side huffing and puffing, thinking only of ‘walkies.’
  3. The ‘real world’ had its own particular constraints and boundaries.  I suppose when you get down to the nitty gritty, the real world paid my wages. When you work for yourself and you work at home, it is (for me anyway) a little more difficult to be focused on the task. I know it’s more important - for no-one is going to pay me for doing nothing, but I’m not. Doing nothing. I am just not doing what I set out to do. And there is no way I’m ever going back out into the real world.
  4. The fourth reason I could provide is that I just have too much to do (haven’t we all?) There is so much advice about looking at how you spend your time and sifting out the ‘unimportant’ things. There isn’t any of it that I could jettison, or would want to for that matter. So I don’t think I’m going to do a feng shui with my to do list.  I get a great sense of achievement when I have completed things. And I do get lots of things done, mostly things that are not on my list but needed doing anyway. Last week I submitted a short story, I blogged about the work on my novel, I Monday Mused, submitted revisions, provided critiques at Writers Abroad and carried out my duties as editor for two international academic journals. And also the found time to walk the dog, get jobs in the garden done before the rainfall and read a couple of novels.

So what am I going to do differently? Well, I’ll never stop making lists that’s for sure, as you can see. I’m going to think hard and long about it (moments probably) and shall probably do the same again and again. But maybe I’ll think a little differently about the end of the week, concentrate on things I have done, rather than on those I haven’t. It is all a matter of perspective. And I'm going to learn to dance in the rain...

Love or mere infatuation?
Category: Writing

Love or mere infatuation?

I know at least some of the members at WA have been considering the eBook reader issue (while others have vowed that they will never give in). So I thought I’d take this opportunity to introduce you to the new love of my life - my kindle.

Amazon has become my best friend since moving abroad. Without it, I’m not even convinced I could have stayed the course. I need books. They are not something I can take or leave, they are essential to my existence, and I’m sure that’s the case with all of us. So Amazon was a lifeline. But you have to pay postage on Amazon, quite hefty when you live abroad. You also have to wait for your delivery, and sometimes you have to accept that parcels are never going to arrive (I’m pretty certain our 90 year old post mistress burns parcels in the winter to keep warm!).

With Kindle, your book is with you in seconds, magically plucked out of cyberspace and delivered to your reader. You don’t even have to connect to the internet.

So what’s the reading experience like?


That’s an objective opinion - honest. The kindle is about the size of a small paperback. So it’s easy to hold, and the size gives a sort of comfortable familiarity. You don’t even have to move your hands to turn the pages; just flick a button, conveniently situated on the side. The book always opens at the page you left it. The screen is easy to read, not like the glare of a computer. If your eyesight is bad, you can change the font size. And if you’re feeling lazy, the text to speech function will even read your story to you.

So now, I should perhaps talk about the downsides.

Sorry – can’t think of any.

Okay, I’ll try a little harder.

My kindle seems incredible small and fragile. I’m sure if I dropped it on the tiled floor it would all be over. I find I want to hug it close all the time and keep it safe. I intend to buy a hot pink leather cover to keep it snug and warm at night.

Also, the kindle ereader prefers kindle books. And while it will read PDF formats, so it is possible to buy books from other places than Amazon, all the functions don’t necessarily work. Not really an issue if you just want to read the book.

Finally, I think the biggest problem for me is – it’s just too easy to spend money. They call it one click shopping, and there, at the press of a button, you’ve spent another £5 you didn’t really have. I’m going to have to learn restraint, never one of my strong points.


So would I recommend it – a definite yes!

It’s not the same as reading a book. But it is possible to adjust to change. When I first started writing, most was done in longhand, and I have piles of notebooks full of hand written stories. But I’ve just realized that I’ve been using the same notebook now since January, and it’s still only half-full. I used to have to print everything in order to edit or critique. These days my printer stands idle.

So is this love or mere infatuation?

I think it’s love.





Stuck? Bogged down? No fresh ideas? Me too, well I was until last week when the book I was reading threw up several ideas in the course of a single chapter.

            I had been struggling for a plot for two different competitions I wanted to enter and having abandoned the blank computer screen in frustration I took up my book.  By chance the phrase “black angels” jumped out at me as an idea for a ghost story and then a phrase about time being in a time loop gave me the idea for a second story. The book was ditched and I hastily scratched some notes and a story plan, to be written up properly during the week.

            So where can you get ideas if nothing comes to mind. Some of the following have provided inspiration for me in the past:

  1. Listen to conversations. Easier said than done if you live in a country where people don’t speak English, but there is always the radio or the TV or films, or watch what they are doing, their body language.
  2. Look at news stories on television or skim headlines in the paper or on the Internet.
  3. Recycle an idea – yours or someone else. They say there are only so many plots in the world, so change enough to make yours a little different.
  4. Use a difficult situation you’ve been in recently. An embarrassing moment when you don’t have money for something, or a comment you’ve made that maybe you shouldn’t have done.
  5. Use a theme – this is something I often do. Take an idea like revenge or anger and work an idea up around it.
  6. What if … you saw a ghost, your bank crashed, or your son failed his A levels (you can tell where I’ve been this summer…)
  7. Try using an object or several objects and writing a story with, say a hammer, a doll and an old building in it.
  8. Read – let your mind wander, and you might find something in the text.


For myself I’m back to my book for the evening.  I need some inspiration for a competition next week…


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