March 26th, 2004
On this day thirteen years ago my life changed forever.
That sounds a little dramatic, but it’s true. For the previous 35 years – in another life – I had been a primary (elementary) school teacher. Eight of those years I enjoyed being a teacher librarian; I loved buying books and using the school’s money and not mine. I loved the relationship I had with the students in my classes over the years. I still keep contact with many of them, either on Facebook or in the town where I live. It’s great to see them developing as adults and to see their own children growing up.
What happened to change my life?
On that momentous day in March 2004, I clearly remember hearing a voice inside my head saying, ‘You’ve left your classroom for the last time.’ Now, I must clarify that I am a Christian and believe that God ‘speaks’ to us in many ways, but my experience of His audible voice has been very infrequent. I can really only recall one other occasion. During the first few months of 2004, I had been seriously struggling with illness. Teaching became an almost impossible struggle. On this day, March 26th, I had endured a meeting arranged for me with a counsellor. It was not easy acknowledging that I needed some serious help.
The voice was right. That was my last day of teaching in a primary school. I was granted some sick-leave by my doctor – I had plenty in reserve – and took several months off while I recovered. The process was long and emotional; I won’t bore you with the details. I didn’t want to give up a calling to teach, something I loved doing but a task which had become so hard in the face of my illness.
As my health improved, I was able to consult my financial planner. She looked at my situation with great compassion and understanding, just as my doctor and counsellor had done. She asked whether I would rather teach for a few more years to build up my superannuation, or cut loose and get better. ‘Do you want the extra money, or do you want your health?’
It was a no-brainer, really. especially when she told me that to teach for several more years as I had planned would only increase my super payout by a few dollars per week – $15 was the figure, I think.
I resigned forthwith.
And that’s when my life changed forever.
Life after teaching
For many months I struggled with coming to terms with my sudden retirement. It took me a long time to adjust to not fronting up at school every morning. It took me a while to get over my illness. One thing is certain: during the winter months that year, when the rain was pouring down outside, and the wind was howling around our home, and I was reading a good book in front of our fire, I did NOT miss venturing out to supervise the children during after-school bus duty. I didn’t miss it at all.
Over the subsequent years, I have experienced many wonderful times. Some of this has related to travel. I have been free to enjoy the delights of Thailand, Nepal (see the photo above of Ama Dablam, just a few miles from Everest), enigmatic Ethiopia, mesmerising Morocco and scintillating Spain. My wife and I have also travelled extensively in Australia in that time. We are planning more travel in the coming years. I have written about many of my adventures on my travel site called Trevor’s Travels.
After I had recovered sufficiently from my ill-health, I set about establishing my second career as a writer. I had always been a writer, but my writing was confined to weekends and school holiday periods. In the 1990s I actually published six books; two teacher curriculum books with four accompanying student workbooks, all of them sadly now out of print.
On my son’s encouragement, I started writing three blogs, this one you are now reading, plus Trevor’s Birding and Trevor’s Travels. I would love it if you visited them and left some comments. Both sites feature hundreds of photos of Australian birds and scenery shots of places we have visited. In total, with these three sites and two other sites I write for, I have published nearly 5000 articles since retiring. I feel tired just typing that!
During my retirement, I have also written several – as yet unpublished – novels and picture book texts, along with dozens of articles, short stories and poems. (Click on the sidebar to read some of my poems and stories.) Nearly 100 of these stories and poems have been published in a range of newspapers, journals and magazines.
Not content with just writing all of these blog posts, novels, stories and poems, a few years ago I also completed my degree. I now have a Master of Arts in Creative Writing. You can read about that process here. This has led to some lecturing and speaking at conferences. What I learned during this course has equipped me to tackle some earlier novels I wrote back in the 1990s. I am now in the process of rewriting them. Stayed tuned; I hope to publish these very soon.
On occasions, people ask me if I ever miss teaching. It’s a very valid question, especially in the light of a lifetime – 35 years – in the classroom. The short answer is ‘no’. I do not miss the long hours of preparation, marking and professional reading required. I do not miss the unending staff meetings and the politics of the staff-room. I do not miss the parents who make life hard for teachers to do their job; thankfully I experienced very few of them.
I do miss the children. I do miss seeing children develop their skills, especially children like Jennifer. She astounded me with the progress she made under my care and guidance.
I do miss building relationships with children and seeing them go on successfully in life. I actually keep a list of successful former students, following their careers.
And above all, I miss the fact that they all used to laugh at my ‘dad jokes’. Now my longsuffering wife is generally my only audience, though my 8-year-old grandson thinks I am hilarious.
It’s time to roll out a list of what I hope to do in the coming years:
- Many more blog posts here on this site, and the other sites I mentioned above.
- Continue on a wide-ranging reading programme, something all writers should do.
- Rewrite and publish as eBooks my novels, collections of stories and poems.
- Publish as eBooks several non-fiction books as spin-offs from my blogs.
- Write more novels; I have ideas for at least six more. Coming up with ideas is easy; writing the books is hard.
- Continue to travel here in Australia as health and finances allow.
Mmm… looks like I have a busy time ahead.
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to TREVOR’S BIRDING.
10 YEARS OLD TODAY
I started blogging about Australian Birds ten years ago today.
What an interesting journey. It has, in part, satisfied some of my writing dreams. Even though I have published over 4000 blog articles in that time, on this and other sites, it has still amazed me of the result. Over all of my sites I have had over a million pageviews, over 7000 comments, over half a million readers from over 200 countries and a steady, but modest, income stream.
Trevor’s Birding, a companion site to this one, features photos and articles about Australian birds. Over the years I have travelled to many places here in Australia to capture photos of our wonderful and colourful birds. I have also taken photos and written about some birds I have observed in other countries, like Thailand, Nepal, Ethiopia, Morocco, and Spain. This site actually started on another platform and has had several upgrades over the years. I am hoping for some exciting new developments in the coming months, so stay tuned.
Trevor’s Travels, another companion site I write, and this one features articles about and photos of places I visit. These articles cover several states of Australia as well as Thailand, Nepal, Ethiopia, Morocco and Spain. I have many more photos yet to share on that site too. This site celebrates its 10th birthday late this year.
Of course, the site you are reading at present, Trevor’s Writing, has its 10th birthday in March next year. Many more articles to come and some interesting developments in the coming months.
And did I mention I also maintain and do some of the writing for our church website here?
This all keeps me busy writing.
I hope you like the bird photos featured today.
Over the years I have been writing this blog I have written just over 1,000 articles. Some of these include poems or stories I have written (see the sidebar for links), and many others have been about blogging and writing. Of those about writing, many have been on the topic of goal setting.
I have always been someone who likes to set goals, not just for my writing but also my daily to-do lists. Such lists help me to keep on track as well as keep me accountable to myself. After all, I do not have a boss leaning over my shoulder keeping me on task, though sometimes it feels like my wife might like to have that role.
I have just read a very thorough and useful article called Setting Goals: why you need them and how to write them. This article is a thoughtful discussion on the reasons behind having goals for your blogging, and practical ideas on how to write and implement them. While the article is primarily aimed at blogging, most of the ideas are also applicable to writing in general.
It’s worth a read.
- Goal setting – articles from the archives of this site
- Setting goals: why you need them and how to write them on ProBlogger.
The Writers’ Digest magazine is currently promoting a Poem a Day challenge. Participants are encouraged to write a poem every day for the month of April. I think it’s a great idea to get people writing, and they have a writing prompt every day to help you along.
Part of the deal is that the prompt is posted every morning and poets can take it from there, writing whatever the prompt brings to mind. For the brave there is also the opportunity to share your poem on the blog site, inviting others to comment.
A few years ago a fellow poet went on an extensive trip overseas. She told me before leaving that her goal was to write a poem every day during her trip. That seemed like a great idea, so I borrowed the idea when my wife and I travelled Ethiopia (to visit our daughter), Morocco and Spain. We were away for 45 days and I wrote 55 poems so I exceeded my goal. Most of these poems were vignettes of sights we saw, or responses to our many wonderful experiences. The poems ranged in length from haiku through to longer works over 50 lines. It proved to be a very rewarding and creative time. You can read about my travels on Trevor’s Travels. You can also read some of my poetry here.
To find out more about the Poem A Day Challenge click here.
The more I write posts here on this site and on my other two sites (here and here), the more I find that I’m invited to speak about my passions: travel, writing and birding. I had another request yesterday to talk about Australian birds but I had to turn it down due to a lecturing commitment.
Today I had the delight and privilege of talking about blogging. I was the guest lecturer at the university where I already lecture, Tabor Adelaide. This was where I completed my Master of Arts in Creative Writing recently (read about that course here).
As regular readers of this site would know, I’ve been blogging now for almost 7 years. Over that time I’ve learned a few things about blogging and enjoy many of the benefits of this writing genre. One of the unexpected spin-offs of blogging has been speaking to various community groups. During my lecture I highlighted some of the other unexpected benefits:
Unexpected benefits of blogging
- Having my photographs published in some unexpected places.
- Earning some income from my photographs.
- Seeing my poems, stories and articles published in some quite unexpected places.
- Building a sense of community amongst readers of my sites.
- The many comments on my articles from people all over the world.
Other benefits of blogging
These benefits are in addition to the better known benefits of blogging:
- Improving my writing skills; the more your write, the better you get at it.
- Feedback from readers in the way of comments.
- The creation of some income.
- The opening up of various opportunities.