Archive for May, 2007

Free books for your library

I am addicted to books and reading.

I cannot go a single day without reading something. I usually have several books – as many as half a dozen – on the go at the one time. Add to that several new magazines and newsletters arriving in the mail every week. This year I have cut down on the number of newspapers I read in an attempt to get some sort of control over this addiction. I’ve probably filled the time saved by not reading papers with reading articles on a variety of blogs.

A few days ago (see “Books, Bookshops and Bookshelves“) I complained about having to add several new bookshelves to our growing clutter of furniture. These are an attempt to get some kind of control and order to the numerous heaps of books further cluttering up the house.

Now I have discovered a new way to add to my collection of books. [sigh]

These books are FREE. [Bigger sigh]

Most of these books are CLASSICS. [An even bigger sigh].

Many books, poems and short stories are quickly becoming available on the internet for free. Read Print is one such site offering thousands of books featuring the works of hundreds of authors.

At this rate I will need several more lifetimes in order to read everything I would like to read.

Just a thought – about writing, life and everything

“Isn’t it sad that so many people are never where they really want to be.” Ashleigh Brilliant.

Where do you want to be?

Where do I want to be?

This is An Interesting Thought.

For far too many people they really do not want to be where they are at present. I heard of a recent survey of people here in Australia that revealed that a huge percentage of people not only don’t like what they do, but that they actually hate their work. I can’t remember the percentage, but it was something like 80%. This has huge implications for managers and corporations.

Where do you want to be with your writing?

Are you happy with where you are heading with your writing? I would guess that most writers are happy just being a writer; the alternative is working in a job that shackles you to a desk or a bench or a counter in a shop. That can be a nightmare to put up with on a day by day basis. A daily job can be so exhausting that there is nothing left in the creative tanks when you get home at night. I should know; I tried teaching AND writing for 35 years. I didn’t work and it caused much frustration.

Where are you with your blogging?

The demands of blogging can also have some inbuilt frustrations. Many blogging gurus suggest at least one post every day, some promote the idea of doing more than that. Many bloggers get frustrated with lack of traffic and little income. They start off in a flurry of activity and soon realise they’ve run out of ideas. Blogging becomes just another job with poor returns for effort made.

The Secret of Success with Writing and Blogging

The secret of success in the writing life and in the blogging life is that there is no secret.

Sure, there are hints and tips and strategies and ideas that can help you along the way, but the only sure way to success in writing and blogging is the same as in most other pursuits – hard work, persistence and a never give up attitude.


What every hard working writer needs

There are some common threads in articles about what writers need. Many items are common to such lists, which could include:

  • Computer
  • Printer
  • Paper
  • Pencils or pens
  • A desk and suitable chair
  • Dictionary and reference books
  • Access to the internet

This is just a start.

Each list would most likely have many more items. For more details of what I have on my desk read the article called “A list of my writing tools.” One of the essential items for many writers – possibly all writers – does not even make these lists and it is easily overlooked. I guarantee there is at least one of these on every writer’s desk; more likely there is a huge collection of these essential items.

What every hard working writer needs:

One item takes pride of place on my desk. It is a coffee mug. Most writers will have a collection of these on their desk, on the floor, on the bookshelf, on the window sill – in fact – wherever there are a few centimetres of spare space. The contents of almost all of these mugs will be stone cold, half empty (or half full depending on your particular philosophical bent), partly or totally covered in green slime (or some other disgusting colour or substance) and contributing to the general mustiness within the room.

Special Mug

Mine, however, is a special mug. Rarely do I have more than one. I’m so good I don’t let them accumulate. (Okay – so you could accuse me of not being a REAL writer; real writers have dozens of coffee mugs lurking in their writing room.) The reason I usually have only one mug is because I like using the same mug over and over, the mug receiving something of a rinse out between each use. And I tend to use only one particular mug because it is very special. It was bought home for me by my daughter when she visited Ireland earlier this year. It takes pride of place because it comes from the Dublin Writers Museum.

Oops – the contents have disappeared.

Time to boil the billy again.

Good writing.


Meditation, writing and the problem of noise

Last night we went to the evening service at our church. This is not unusual; we normally go every week.


The relaxed, informal meeting included viewing another DVD in the “Nooma” series. We’ve already seen about four of these; all have generated good discussion times. Last night’s short film was called “Noise” and it featured about ten minutes of silence – with no soundtrack – and with just a brief text on the screen every thirty seconds or so. Much of the text featured scripture verses about silence, being still or quotes about noise, quietness and listening to God. The discussion was interesting and thought provoking.

Noise is everywhere

In modern life we are surrounded by noise. One nature recordist was quoted as saying that it now takes over two thousand hours to record one hour of natural sound whereas in the 1960s it only took about 15 hours. Noise pollution is everywhere. Some of the noise in our lives is self inflicted; many people choose to turn on the radio, television or the ubiquitous MP3 player to fill their lives with sound. The ambient noise in most cities is a constant hum rising to a dull roar during rush hour(s). In all this clamour, how can we possibly think? With all this noise around us, how can we meditate on God’s word? With a lack of silence, how can God possibly get our attention and speak to us? Yes – we are encouraged to have a “quiet time” but where can we go to find a quiet place in order to have a quiet time?

A writing Studio

Some years ago I thought I would like to build a small writing studio up in the back scrub, a place well away from the house. This would be my writing retreat, a place to be quiet and let the creative juices flow. In today’s world it might just be more practical and more necessary to turn this into a prayer and meditation retreat instead (or as well).

A place just to “be”

Another problem highlighted in the discussion last night was the difficulty of finding space and time in our busy life schedules to just “be” in the presence of God. And when we do take the time, and find a space that is quiet, still and peaceful, distractions abound. These can be things like objects, the phone, books, things we need to do and the most insidious of all – our thoughts, which can roam unfettered in all directions. Being focused on worshipping God is a dying art form in the lives of many Christians. This should not be so.

Distractions to writing

In applying these principles to my writing I find that there are many similarities. I find that distractions abound, especially on the internet. I can spend all day reading the blogs of other writers and find little time left to do my own writing. In my cluttered office I find so many distractions that take me from my core business which is writing. Generally the phone is not a major distraction, but visitors can be. Fortunately this is not as frequent as some writers experience.

A quiet writing room

Having a quiet room for my writing seems to be essential for me these days. There was a time when the family could be all around making all kinds of distracting noises and it didn’t seem to matter. The television could be blaring and it not worry me one bit. The radio or music playing was welcome and people talking not a bother at all. That seems to have changed in recent years. Yes – I can still write while there are distractions all around, but more and more I prefer silence, or at least as few noisy distractions as possible. We are fortunate that our street is a relatively quiet one, and our home is set some 60 metres from the road. Our nearest neighbours are all very quiet and their houses are about a hundred metres or more from our home.

Noisy thoughts

Dealing with thought patterns seems to be the noisiest part of my life. Too often my thoughts take me off to places where I should not go, distracting me from the writing task at hand. Focus can be difficult; some days almost impossible. Physical ailments such as those BADDs (Beastly Awful Diabetic Days) I experience several times a week can also be awfully distracting, energy sapping and downright horrible.

I am learning to roll with them.

I am learning to be quiet.

I am learning to allow silence into my life.

How to keep balance in your blogging and writing life

There are many occasions in the writer’s life and in the blogger’s life when things go wrong. This can take many forms:

  • Writer’s (or blogger’s) block – when the words just will not come.
  • Rejection from publishers – far too frequent I’m afraid; it’s a very competitive world.
  • Your server goes down – or your computer crashes (ouch).
  • You suffer an illness – who wants to write when your nose is running and the throat is as rough as sandpaper.
  • A family crisis suddenly slaps you in the face – family members can be very persuasive and persistent.
  • Any number of crises, interruptions, problems or disasters can get in the way of your writing and blogging.

We’ve all had times like that. Lately for me it’s been a combination of demands on my time from others together with personal illness. On another occasion I have written about my BADDs (Beastly Awful Diabetic Days) and how they can slow down the writing process.

Let’s get practical. How does one keep balance in your writing and blogging life? Here are some simple suggestions I found work for me:

Keeping balance

  1. Crises: let’s face it – dealing with a personal or family crisis needs to have top priority. Deal with it and then you can get back to the writing.
  2. Writer’s block: do something else for a short while, like going for a walk, watching a movie, reading a book. Recharge the batteries and then get back to the writing.
  3. Rejection: whether this is in the form of abusive comments or a rejection letter from a publisher, it still hurts. Get over it; they are rejecting your writing, not you.
  4. Illness: give yourself some sick leave. You cannot be fully productive when you are ill. Pretending you can soldier on through the illness is counter-productive; it could worsen your condition or at best lengthen the condition. Take a break. Go to bed with a book.

Whatever you do, don’t be like me and become a grumpy old blogger. When things get on top of me, I can easily slip into a state of depression, and that makes me grumpy. In this I am not alone. Even professionals like Darren Rowse on ProBlogger must have grumpy days. He has written an excellent article called How Not to become a Grumpy Old Blogger. He takes a completely different approach to the one I’ve taken in this post, so it’s well worth reading.