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What Made Me Need to Write
Category: Writing
Tags: Motivation Inspiration Family History

What motivated you to write?

They do say a picture speaks a thousand words. But we are writers, we have thousands, nay hundreds of thousands of words to share. Sometimes though the pictures speak to us like no words can. They hold a universal language.

They can also be the inspiration behind our writing, canít they?† At this time of the year I am inclined to think again to what inspired me to get back to writing. It was in the mid 1990s. I had received my birth fatherís military file from Ottawa - not available until 50 years after his death.

There were over 300 pages of copies of telegrams, of reports, of hand written notes. But just one photo:

My father, FJ Roberts†RCAF. Before his promotion to Pilot Officer.

Before being awarded the DFM for courage.

He was a Sgt. then in the RCAF, before he embarked for England for further training and to join RAF 103 Squadron at Elsham Wolds Lincolnshire. Part of Bomber Command in WWII.

Photo courtesy Ed Suarez (RIP Eddie).

RAF 103 Sqadron Elsham Wolds.

My father is the tall guy beneath the second prop. from the left.

This (very large) photo was sent to me by a survivor who knew my father well.

I visited what was left of the base over twenty years ago. I stood in the remains of the mess hut. I could hear the clamouring of voices having breakfast after returning from a night mission.† I still have a chunk of the old runway from which the Lancasters took off on their night raids. The crews all so very young.

I met with the elderly lady whose job it was to hand out the emergency kits. She knew my father as one of those young boys. She had many stories to tell and gave me this:

Photo courtesy J. Rooke (RIP Joan).

The crew of the Lancaster JB400/401 in 1943.

My father back row far left with the big ears.

The Lancaster took off from Elsham Wolds on 2 December 1943

and never returned.


It was this experience that cause me to begin writing, creatively, after a long career in only writing technical documentation.

My first book evolved into more fiction than fact and I rewrote it during my first Nano. I have done nothing with it. I have no desire to do so. But writing it did two things. I was able to lay my thoughts down in print. And it got me writing again. Now there is no stopping me.

75 years ago, 5 days after I was born, my father died along with the entire crew of his Lancaster in the 5th Berlin Raid. They are together in a collective grave in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Charlottenburg, Berlin.

Box of Inspirations
Category: Writing
Tags: inspiration artefacts writing memoir aids

Box of inspirations

Iím in the process of decluttering. Sorting out a lifetimeís accumulated junk. Wondering why on earth I have held on to so much stuff for so long.

But itís not hard to hang on to the implements with which youíve written so many words through your life: notes, letters (many many letters), cheques, contracts, shopping lists, thoughts, story ideas - the stories themselves, poems, and reminders.†

Rifling through my box of pencils I can remember where I was and what was going on in my life just by holding each one.

Do you remember when I used my big bulging button tin as my inspiration for my 2014 nano novel? It wasnít a personal memoir, but I used it to help my protagonist (with dementia) remember poignant moments in her life.†

And so it is with these pens and pencils. In just the first handful I see the gold Sheaffer fountain pen I had for signing contracts when I was an IT consultant.† Thereís the ICL training pencil from fabulous programming courses at ICL Beaumont near Windsor many years ago (oh those wonderful work colleagues.) And a multitude from hotels across the globe (oh those trips.) So many memories are all buried here in this clutch of pens and pencils.

Then there is this - the pencil from the Public Record Office in Kew where, in the early 1990s, I researched my mysterious father. This was before access to wartime records via the internet. This was when you had an appointment at the Public Record Office in Kew, were given a pencil (and only a pencil) with which to make notes. When requests were sent to the archives. When you waited for old yellowing original hand written files to be Ďbrought upí. This was when I found what happened to my father, Pilot Officer† FJ Roberts RCAF DFM (the medal of courage), when he and fellow crew members were shot down in their Lancaster JB400 (L for La Loupe) of RAF 103 Squadron. It was the 5th Berlin Raid. I was five days old. And he was just 22.†

And this is why I took up writing again.

Do you have an old pencil box filled with memories?† With inspirations??

Writing Books Tags: Writing reference books

Bloggers Block = Spring Cleaning

Itís the truth, Iím spring cleaning because Iíve no idea what to blog about - I know, I know, I recently wrote a poem about finding happiness by clearing out clutter - but hey, wait a minute now, whatís all this? I'm emptying one of many bookcases. And before I reach for that vacuum cleaner with the special book-cleaning nozzle I am lost....

I honestly cannot remember the last time I turned one page of these books. And look at the treasure trove they are. Is it becoming just too easy to google every question? †

Does advice like this still hold true in today's edgy world of writing?

Does the 1913 Quiller lecture to 'Gentlemen' come across as far too stuffy, far too out of date?

Picasso, before he 'did his own thing', studied the 'right way' to do it then went ahead and broke all the rules. Successfully. Should we follow Picasso's example?

And what of the rules? and the rights and wrongs of how to send in query letters, how to pitch the publisher, how to... how to... how to... Or are the clever folks writing and publishing these editions the ones who have got it right by making money out of us who feel we continually need to check - that we have it right?

Of course, I still get tempted to splash out on the latest writing book. †This one is the result of the dangers of having an amazon wishlist.

The images above are the tip of my writing books iceberg - but deep beneath is this one from 1886.

It was obviously popular and useful in its day. †I'm still discovering really good advice too.

How many Ďon writingí books do you have weighing down your bookshelves?† And how frequently do you refer to them?

It is going to take some motivation to get me back into the spring cleaning.

Instead I will gently turn the delicate pages of The Spelling Book Superceded 1886 and imagine the owner, one, Henrietta Bichard, consulting it as she worked on her writing.


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