Archive for October, 2011

At the end of the rainbow

We had a few showers this week but overall it was a beautiful week. Plenty of sunshine, gentle cooling breeze and not too hot. Just great for working in the garden, something I’ve done a lot of over recent weeks. It’s now looking much better for the effort. Mind you, the five acre block we enjoy – “The Estate” – had been sadly neglected over the last 3 years while I did my masters degree.

Yesterday I went to collect the weekend papers from the driveway. As I looked towards the west I saw a brilliant rainbow arching right across the sky. I was reminded of the saying “Rainbow in the morning, shepherds take warning.”

Well, I’m not a shepherd and haven’t owned any sheep for over a decade, so does the warning apply to me? And does it also apply to writers, and other occupations? What about them? And why just shepherds?

Then there is the vexed question of the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Does one pursue it in the off chance one can find that wonderful treasure? It was quite plain to see where the rainbow ended yesterday – right out there in the paddock just up the hill a little from our driveway. About 200 metres away. A quick two minute jog and I’d find it.

And suddenly I was reminded of the promise to Noah in the Biblical account of The Flood. God promised never to flood the whole earth again.

How does this all fit together – or was it just my sleep clouded brain not yet fully functioning? Let me try to make some sense of it.

  1. There is no “pot of gold” – chasing after illusory fortunes is a waste of time and effort. Work hard at writing and the rewards will come. Quite often I find that just the process of writing a well crafted story, article or poem has its own intrinsic reward. Too often we only look for recognition from others (“fame”) and monetary gain (“fortune”) . Sometimes merely to write is its own reward.
  2. The rainbow was there as a promise of God’s compassion, not a warning. He will provide for me. No amount of worrying whether a publisher will accept my writing, or fretting over my readers’ reactions will change them. So why worry?
  3. Rainbows are always formed by rain falling. Into every life some tears will fall like heavy rain drops in a tropical storm. Sometimes those tears are bitter, sometimes sad, sometimes fearful and often in disappointment. But just as every storm blows over, every rain front dissipates, so too will that heavy cloud be driven away. Then the sun can shine and the rainbow burst into full colour.

Good writing.


Doing some weeding instead of writing

Red wattlebird feeding on Eremophila flowers


Over recent days I have been spending more time out in the garden than at my computer attending to my writing. The spring weather has generally been wonderful and the spring rain a bit above average. The rain has come at about the right intervals to promote and maintain weed growth, hence the need for me to spend a great deal of time in the garden.

A big garden

Let me hasten to add that our garden is no ordinary quarter acre block common to many Australian homes. We have 5 acres (2 hectares) of land on the edge of the rural city where we live here in South Australia. It’s a challenge to look after and demands one keep on top of things.


Sadly, the property has been quite neglected over the last 3 years while I completed my Master of Arts in Creative Writing. Now that I’ve graduated I can focus a  little more on the extras – like gardening. One of the most time consuming tasks in recent weeks has been keeping on top of the weeds. We have planted many native Australian plants – like the one being enjoyed by one of our resident birds shown in the photo above. For these plants to really thrive I need to maintain a weed free zone around them. The weeds have a habit of taking over and choking out the growth.

Weeding my novel

This time last year I was doing a different kind of weeding. I was working very long hours – sometimes 10 to 12 hours a day – trying to get my novel into shape. The novel was my thesis paper for my degree and it had to be as near to perfect as possible. I spent many tiring hours weeding out all unnecessary words, phrases and even paragraphs. Every novel, short story, poem or article needs this treatment. Make every word count, weed out every lazy, useless and careless word.

You’ll stand a much better chance of getting your writing accepted for publication.

Good writing.

Writing your family history

To many people history is boring.

I can understand that. Some history turns me off, while other aspects of history fascinate me. I guess it sometimes depends on the mood I’m in, or the particular aspect of history being discussed, read or shown on television. To many people family history is deadly boring – with and emphasis on the “dead” part.

I disagree.

Some writers complain that they have trouble coming up with ideas for stories and novels. My suggestion is to get hold of a family history book. If your family hasn’t had a family history book published, borrow someone else’s history. I have two family books; one based on my father’s side, the other on my mother’s family. Both are filled with family genealogical diagrams illustrating relationships in the broader family. They also include many interesting but rather stiff upper lip type photos which can be a little amusing today.

But I digress.

Both books contain hundreds of short accounts of the lives of people in my family. Many of these people are now dead. The accounts range from the familiar, mundane and ordinary, through to the unbelievable, adventurous and plain tragic. Take for example the account of my ancestors on my father’s side as they escaped religious persecution in their home land and migrated half way around the world to settle here in South Australia. Several members died on the boat journey out here. The story of the survivors shows great courage and drama. It’s ready made for retelling, possibly best written as fiction.

Any family history book, if it contains accounts of the lives of ordinary people, will be a fertile field ready for harvesting by a creative and imaginative writer. Troll through the book looking for that one story that captures your imagination. Then let that imagination have full rein. Let the story run its course. Don’t necessarily worry about sticking to the facts; you are writing fiction. Writers of historical fiction do this all the time; their stories are fiction based on a true story or actual event.

I hope you find a little gem of a story.

Good writing.

Playing with words

I love playing with words.

I really enjoy using simple, everyday words in new ways and seeing what happens. This is the amazing thing about being a writer. You can take ordinary words and make something extraordinary: a poem, a story, an idea for a novel, a song, an inspirational piece or something that gets up someone’s nose like an annoying insect in one’s ear.

I also love using puns. Now, on occasions this tendency riles people just a tad. Sometimes I get a laugh, sometimes a groan and occasionally a disapproving glare. You get that.

On rare occasions I come up with a little gem; well, I think it’s funny. Like this one:

A few weeks ago my wife wrote “Loose tea” on her shopping list on the fridge. I knew she actually meant “leaf tea” – not tea bags -but the cheekiness within prompted me to add another entry underneath: “Slightly more moral tea”. I just couldn’t resist.

Fortunately my wife saw the funny side and actually laughed out loud.

The risk was worth taking.

Good writing.

Hello honey!

I had a rather strange encounter with a honey bee recently. It’s behaviour still puzzles me.

A few weeks ago I was sitting on our back veranda enjoying the morning sun on a coolish day and partaking of my morning cup of coffee. I also had a good book to read and all was right with the world.

My enjoyment of the day, the coffee and the book was rudely interrupted by a buzzing bee. It came up close to my coffee mug on the table, hovering only millimetres from the bright blue flowers painted on it. The bee did several close circuits of the mug and decided that the flowers weren’t the genuine sort and with no prospect of a feed.

It then proceeded to hover as close as several centimetres from my face, as if checking to see if I might be a source of nectar. It did this for about ten seconds before flying off to more promising places.

Perhaps it was chastising me for not having real flowers on my coffee mug.