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This cartoon is by Dave Walker.

Thanks to Naomi Dunford at Ittybiz, and her insightful newsletter, I’ve been motivated to get my act together. As usual, my paid work is all filed and prioritised but my personal work is a mess.

So I went through all the dark and dusty cupboards on my hard drive and discovered a far more significant body of work than I ever imagined I had. And most of it was, you guessed it, unfinished. But most of it was almost finished. What a waste.

I made up a new folder on my desktop (so it couldn’t escape my eye) and put everything in there. Then I went through it all and chose the smallest (word count wise) project I had and I finished it.

Now I have an early reader manuscript sitting on my desktop. I’m going to let it brew for a week before I look at it again and get it ready to submit.

The amazing thing was – it was so easy. And now I’m feeling great about my writing, instead of feeling like I’m failing.

If you want to feel great about your own writing, go finish that short story, essay idea, whatever it is. Choose the one you know is going to be easiest and stick with it until it’s done. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do it in a day. It might take a week, it might take a month. But make that project your priority whenever you do have some time to spare. If you have other ideas, jot them down and stick them in an idea file for later.

They’ll still be waiting there in that dusty cupboard when you’re done. But in front of you, you just might have a shiny new manuscript as well.

How to make progress

Start. Do anything. Do something. Act.

If you can do one small thing today, you are one step closer to your goal.

Do you have a goal?

Perhaps today is the day you work out what your goal is. Because that is enough to take you one step ahead and how to make progress. (Well don’t just sit there. Get a piece of paper and do it now.)

Pitch (im)perfect

What happens when you put yourself out there – and your ‘baby’ (non-fiction book idea, fiction manuscript, idea for a tv series or screenplay, whatever it is) – and not only does your pitch fail, but you get the distinct impression you should really crawl back in your hole and stay there? It happened to me this week – and, not surprisingly for a sensitive creative type (read neurotic!), it really knocked me around.

All the crappy things in your head come up – things about self-worth, past failures (somehow your successes diminish at a rapid rate) and whether you should give up now, because rejection really hurts (ouch!).

So, after a quiet meltdown, I realised some ‘deconstruction’ was needed! I’d written a blog recently: The Upside of Failure, so I decided to take my own advice. And I know my writerly readers out there will relate to this, because we have to risk exposure and rejection in order to reach for that elusive publication dream. Here’s the lessons I took out of my failure:

  1. Hold things lightly. Don’t wrap up your entire self worth with the outcome. Because it may just be that you don’t appeal to that person’s area of interest or taste.
  2. Take risks – but take the risks that involve reaching for your dream, not the risks that are about things you don’t care enough about, don’t really want to do, and aren’t worth wasting your precious energy on (like thinking you need to go for a particular job to be seen as successful, even if you know you’d absolutely hate it!)
  3. Before you give up – work out whether you’re just going through a dip (so it’s worth sticking at it) or whether you’re actually on the wrong track and headed for a dead end (Seth Godin’s The Dip is a must read…)
  4. Work on the things you can change, but hang onto the things that are essential to who you are (aka authentically you). Don’t change you to fit anyone’s mould or idea of success.
  5. Take lessons from failures, then let them go (the failures, not the lessons)
  6. Last but not least: stop doing what what you do (paint, write, create) just to get a result (like publication or money). Create from the heart. Do it because you love to do it and it’s vital to your wellbeing. Love the process, and you are already a success… the money and recognition will be a (nice) bonus.

And remember, some people are just plain rude. Their ignorance is a reflection on them, not you. If all else fails, crank up a Alanis Morrissette’s I see right through you and sing your heart out. You’re not the first one to feel these things, and you won’t be the last. It’s what you do with how you feel that matters.

So power up your dreams and go for it… I know I am.

Lou x

When you look back at the year that’s just flown past, what do you remember?

The birth of a child or a grandchild, getting a new job, going to a rock concert or a festival, buying a house or car, getting married – or divorced, losing someone you love, getting a new dog or cat, losing weight, getting published…

Big moments and big changes might get all the attention, but it’s those trillions of little moments that really make up your year — and your life. So as Christmas approaches and everything’s a little bit manic, stop and breathe. And be in every moment.

This second. This place. This body. This… is your life.

And we’ll leave you with this: Rob Thomas – Little Wonders. Have a wonderful silly season… talk to you soon.

Louise & Sandra x

I’m an avid people watcher, and I love walking and taking in the signs of life around me. I just can’t help myself. An old man with a fascinating face, kids playing up in a skate park, a mother trying to calm her three year old down (who hasn’t worked out that Santa delivers on Christmas Eve), a young girl hurrying home in the dark, a couple having dinner – and not much conversation…

There are so many places and people and stories, and so much body language, to capture. And I’m going to wish I could remember them one day… when the muse is out to lunch and I’m in need of some inspiration.

But the problem I have is getting them down and keeping them sorted. I have snatches of stuff all over the place, more lost than found. So today I bought myself a sexy notebook, and I’m going to take it with me everywhere. No, it’s not an iPad(although I do have a lot of notes in my iPhone!) and it’s not a voice recorder (because, let’s face it, talking to yourself just feels stupid).

It’s just a simple notebook, and I’ve already written a scene snatch and character notes. It’s a bit like incidental exercise – a bit here and there adds up.

So I’m not going to write my to do list in it, or use if for shopping lists or work notes. This is, for once, just about characters, scenes and conversations. Whatever catches my attention, wherever I am.

It’s a step towards getting my focus on my writing again, and not coming up with all those ‘time-poor’ excuses. And catching my thoughts, for later.

How do you keep your scribbles and thoughts together? We’d love to know…

It took me years to say “I’m a writer”. Now that I finally do it, I find it’s more of a liability… especially when you put it down as your occupation on a form. 

And not just because bank managers don’t feel comfortable lending you large quantities of money (unless you’re in the Rich & Famous Writerly Category, in which case you wouldn’t be reading this – or asking your bank manager for money).

No, I’m talking about those medical forms where you have to remember every major operation and minor hiccup since you were a toddler. Which gets harder every year. I used to write ‘Business Communicator’ because that’s what I do. Now I’m too lazy and just put ‘writer’, because that’s also what I do.

Big mistake. Last week I went to a doctor for a particular examination. There I sat, on the examination table, half naked, and he waltzes in and says (as he’s examining me), “So, you’re a writer”.

Not, oh I see you had a caesarian, a knee reconstruction, and…hmmmm, yes, you sold one of your kidneys on e-bay (because the bank manager doesn’t lend money to writers).

No. “So, you’re a writer. What do you write?”

Okay, I admit I squeaked – because writers hate that question anyway, and because every time I say I write Women’s Fiction they think I mean chick-lit or…

“Write for Mills & Boon then?”

“No,” I say. I’ve only got one nerve left today, and you’re getting on it. “They rejected me when I was twenty – because my characters were too cliched.”

He didn’t hear me. His question had merely been an opening so he could regale me with his own literary successes (and I use the term loosely), all while performing a perfunctory examination on me. When I didn’t ask him to recite his apparently very (very) good haiku, the last skerrick of professionalism left the building.

His parting words, as he tossed a sheet of instructions at me, were “you should be able to understand that. I wrote it in monosyllables”.

Then there was the doctor who also wanted to know what I wrote – then spent half the consultation telling me her life story and the other half trying to sell me cosmetic procedures (do you want fries with that?).

When we finally got to the pap smear, she popped her head around my leg and said, “I even went on RSVP – what do you think of that?” There I am with a piece of chilled metal between my legs and the consult reaching triple digits – I’m not thinking, okay?

I guess I’ve been spoilt with the really amazing doctors I’ve had, so the freaky ones just do my head in.

Anyway, I’m changing my ‘occupation’ on forms now. I’m going to put “counsellor”. No, wait… that would be a red rag to a bull!

Maybe I’ll try MYOB. I wonder if they would?

I thought it was only orange that didn’t rhyme, but apparently there are more. And some of them are also colours – silver and purple.

There’s also wolf and window and poem (wouldn’t you say gnome?) and gulf and nostril (who’d have picked it – ha!) and month.

Perhaps we need to invent some more words, like dolf and findow and costril. Is that how it works? We just throw some letters together, then think of something they could refer to? I’ll work on some meanings now.