Parking the ERV

I’m on a mission… to park the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV). Why don’t I have time to write? Because I don’t make it a priority.

In fact, I don’t make anything about me a priority. Writing, eating well, exercising, downtime, time with people I love, FUN. Oh yes, I do all that, in between the other bits. Jammed in between.

But mostly I’m tearing down life’s highway, sirens blaring, to fix a real or imagined emergency. I don’t actually stop to question if it is an emergency, I just jump right in the ERV and go…

Which leaves me existing in the future – the “one day” when life will be calm and rational, and I’ll have the time to do all those things I’ve been putting off (or stuffing, half finished, in the bottom drawer).

So the brakes are on. I’ve already started encouraging my kids to start solving their own problems – or at least, not make mama the first call before they’ve put their own brains in gear.

And I’m taking lunch breaks. Yes, in this mad crazy year, when I’m grateful to be so busy in my business, I still need to breath – and eat – and occasionally do yoga.

I’m also stopping the multi-tasking. Being present and focused is actually working – and it’s reducing my anxiety levels. So is not always being connected.

The secret is to check in with yourself regularly – or so I’ve discovered. Who would’ve thought you’d have to remind yourself to breath, or walk, or listen, or think.

Or to remind yourself of something so obvious: who’s going to make your life happen – and when – if you don’t?

Accountability works…

We hear it all the time… if you want to do something (like exercise every day, or lose weight…or write) make a public commitment. Because you can’t help but hold yourself accountable.

Well, it works. It really does something to your brain. How do I know? In a post this week, I talked about snatching time to write and mentioned (rather foolishly, I thought) that I was going to do it this week.

Of course, I didn’t believe myself – knowing I had another mad week to contend with (I blame us all racing to the end of the Mayan calendar!).

But something strange happened. It kept niggling at me. ‘It’s Tuesday, girl. You haven’t written yet’ … ‘no, writing articles for your clients doesn’t count’… ‘It’s Wednesday. Just do it already’. So this morning, when I realised I was busily avoiding doing it, I gritted my teeth and said, right, only half an hour.

About 55 minutes later, I snapped the lid of my laptop shut and – yes, I admit it – felt pretty pleased with myself. I did it. I beat la résistance. So I’m an accountability convert. And apparently it takes two weeks to form a habit.

Watch this space…


If you’re waiting for those big blocks of time to magically appear so you can write your novel, then you may die with the music (your story) inside you.

Let’s face it, it’s never the right time. While we might dream of a year in Provence to pen our masterpiece, most of us have so many competing priorities, it’s a miracle we get through each week…

Joseph Heller would never have written his famous satirical, anti-war novel Catch-22 (the one that influenced Robert Altman’s comedy M*A*S*H) if he’d waited for the right time. He was employed as an ad copywriter by day and worked on Catch 22 in the evenings – or sometimes (I’ve heard) just in short snatches in the morning.

Writers like Heller remind me that writing is more about chipping away than blitzing it. Can you find half an hour 3-4 times this week and give it a go? I’m going to try… (there goes faffbook this week…)

One of the things we often forget when we’re writing, is our readers. And when writing for children this is even more important – because they just don’t read like us, or even like each other.

Something I’m working on at the moment is aimed at a primary school level. I thought it was working well. My eleven-year-old had read it and thought it was great. So I gave it to my eight-year-old reader. She loved the story too, but some of the sentences were just too long for her. She worked her way through, but the humour was lost with the effort it took to get through the sentences. It made her want to take a break – and that’s not the effect I wanted.

So who is my real target audience? They’re both in primary school, but their reading abilities are quite different due to their ages.

My novel is really aimed at an eight-year-old – so back to the drawing board for me. Sharper, shorter sentences are required.

The moral of the story? If your novel’s aimed at an eight-year-old, find yourself an eight-year-old to read it – if you can.

It could be a real eye opener.


celebrate your achievements... even the little ones

It’s Friday – so we’re celebrating. We’ve decided to STOP beating ourselves up about all the things we don’t achieve, and start celebrating the things we do.

Even the little things. Like getting through a week that’s left us feeling more like an Emergency Response Team than a couple of writers…

So in the spirit of kindness (to ourselves), here’s some of the things we’ve achieved lately:

  • We’ve written three blog posts… (a new world record for us!)
  • We’ve (almost) finished the ‘Bible’ for our children’s TV series. Just a couple of tweaks and we’re done
  • Louise is midway through a complete re-write of that dusty old manuscript (and it’s come full circle, back to the original story after a detour…of about two years)
  • Sandra has finished an early reader manuscript and it’s ‘incubating’ – along with lots of new ideas
  • We’ve been madly tech-editing a huge pre-feasibility study – we call it therapy (so does our Bank Manager. He’s feeling much better.)
  • We’ve both been working on our family businesses (instead of avoiding them)
  • We’ve both got a clearer picture of our goals
  • We’ve taken time to hang out with our blokes and our kids
  • We’ve fitted in some ‘me time’ (surprisingly) and even booked ourselves some indulgent moments (mine was the most delicious Thai foot massage yesterday, mmmmm).

I think that’s pretty good for one mad week. What have you achieved this week? Written 500 words or more, started working on that website you’ve been thinking about, gone for a run or to the gym, written a blog post? Whatever it is – big or small – it’s a celebration.


Louise and Sandra

Inspire yourself

As the song goes – some days are diamonds, some days are stones. (Well I hope that’s how it goes. I’ve only just convinced my daughter that the words to another song are ‘Deep Water’ rather than the ‘Pete Waller’ she was singing.)

Yesterday was a stones kinda day.

But today is better. Why? I think it’s all about your mental approach and having a system to deal with these things and get yourself back on course.

For me, one of the first things I try to do is get my mind thinking in a way that’s helpful to me. I picked up one of the many, many inspirational books on my shelf and looked for help. The first page asked, ‘Where will you be five years from today?’ (It happens to be the name of the book too.) It was all I needed. That one line gave me my problem and my cure.

Problem – I’m not exactly where I want to be.

Cure – Make a plan to get there.

The other thing was that it reminded me that I had made a plan, I had been sticking to it, and I am slowly getting there.

Where I want to be is published in fiction. Where I am, is writing stuff for other people to make money. (A good substitute, because I do like eating and paying my bills.)

My plan is to give myself two years to continue this way, keep finishing all my half-done projects and put them out there. I’m not starting another new thing until they’re done. Everything new gets jotted down and stuck into the ideas file.

It didn’t turn my day into a diamond, but it made it possible for me to keep on going rather than getting stuck in a rut.

So next time your day is stones, inspire yourself. You know what to do. You’ve done it before. You will do it again.

And finally, here’s another piece of inspiration from the 5 book – Give yourself permission to aim high in work and life. Take time to dream and plan.


Many writers will tell you that you need to write every day. It’s something I beat myself up about regularly. (Just add it to the list. I’ll do anything to procrastinate a little longer.)

A perhaps slightly lesser known piece of advice is to begin typing something that’s already been written. You know, you grab a piece of writing – yours, or a copy of War and Peace you happen to have lying around – and you simply type it out. The idea is that eventually your mind will begin to wonder towards its creative side and you’ll start typing some new words. Your new words.

I guess it’s a kind of, ‘if you build it they will come’ thing. You’re saying to your brain, ‘Okay, I’m here at my desk. My fingers are typing away. Now bring it on.’

On most days I do write a lot of words, but very few of them are for me or my creative works. But you know, somehow, even the act of writing and editing technical documents, business copy and all the rest of it does help me in my own daily writing. I mean, I don’t want to pump out garbage on any job I’m doing. So I try to be as creative as possible within the confines of the work. And by taking this approach, it means I rarely have the problem of sitting down and confronting a blank page.

When I reach for my creative work, all those hours of writing other people’s stuff have been my training. My mind and body have been here before. They know what has to be done.

You can do it too. The secret of success is it to keep it simple and start slowly.

If you hadn’t walked further than your letter box for years you wouldn’t expect to compete in a marathon. Writing’s no different. If you’re a really unfit writer, use somebody else’s words to get you going and get your body used to the idea of sitting and typing words.

It might be the ultimate cheat, but hey, whatever works – right?