Join a writers’ group
Last night I attended the first meeting for 2013 of my writers’ group. I’ve been a member now for nearly five years and it has been wonderful experience, each meeting stretching me as a writer. For the first time in the group’s eight year existence, we changed venue to a nearby country location, namely, Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills, rather than near the city CBD. As it turns out, this location is far more central to the majority of members; we just didn’t realise how many of us lived away from the city.
I’ve been an active member of several writers’ groups in the last five years. Over the last few years I’ve even jointly helped to run one. I’ve found that being a member of such a group has many beneficial spin-offs. Some of the benefits as I see it are as follows:
- A sense of belonging – writing can be such a lonely business.
- A place to safely share your work with fellow writers.
- A place to safely share in the struggles of being a writer, and getting mutual support.
- A place to receive honest and constructive critiquing of your writing. (If your group doesn’t do this, it might be time to set down some rules of conduct – or leave the group.)
- A place of encouragement in a world where trying to get writing published can be very discouraging.
- A place to be challenged and encouraged to write more, and perhaps in a genre one would normally not write.
My advice to all my readers is to seek out a writers’ group near where you live. And if you can’t find one, start one, perhaps coordinating it through your local library, or writing a letter to or article for the local newspaper, or even getting an interview spot on local radio.
Culling my library
I am a confessed book lover.
Most writers are, I’ve found. If you want to be a good writer you are also a reader. That’s a given.
I am also slightly addicted to buying and collecting books. When I married – that was over 40 years ago – combining my library with my wife’s library created a big problem. She is also a bookaholic, and a hoarder of books like me. In our first year of marriage I built two large bookcases. Problem solved – for the time being. Then came along the children and they soon had their books too and their own bookcases. When they left home the problem was slightly improved; part of my library is now in my daughter’s home in Clare and a few are in my son’s home in Sydney. It’s alright; I’ve read most of those books.
About 5 years ago I bought another 4 bookshelves from a well known furniture chain from Scandinavia. I had fun assembling them and stocking them with books. You see, the problem had grown to a critical stage: there were large piles of books everywhere. Problem solved – or so I thought. Over recent months the situation has reached another crisis point: not enough room on the shelves for new and recently acquired books.
My office has been in need of a drastic makeover for several years. The situation would make any bomb site look tidy in comparison. Time for action, so over several hot days recently – it was too unpleasant working in the garden – I attacked ground zero.
My technique is simple: sort and chuck. (Some unkind people might have suggested ‘slash and burn’ would have been more effective.) I progressively sorted through every item on the shelves. Some items didn’t belong – like dozens of computer disks. It’s a BOOK shelf – not a storage cupboard. Some books were obsolete and went straight into our recycling bin. I don’t need a copy of a guide to Microsoft Windows 95 or Word for Windows 6 for Dummies or even a 1998 Melbourne street directory. I have a more current version of the directory and don’t need another, and the computer books are now many years obsolete.
The trouble was that I have trouble throwing away books. I can give them away, I can let people borrow semi-permanently, I can even sell to a second hand book dealer – but throw away! Never!
I have to be ruthless and dispose of any book I will no longer read. Some I want to read again – maybe, so I might keep a few. Over the next year the culling will continue until I have enough room on the shelves for the books I want to read again, or I need to use as reference tools.
Now… what about that huge pile of magazines?
Good reading, and good writing.
A place to write
Every writer needs a place to write.
That’s a statement which is easily challenged. Is it really true? No.
Where I write:
In the last seven years the vast majority of my writing is done on my laptop in my office at home. This used to be our bedroom, but we changed our rooms around a few years ago because this room was too big as a room just used for sleeping. It doubles as an office for my wife and as a sewing room for her too, though she tends to be too busy to do as much sewing as she would like. This office has numerous bookshelves with many reference books, two printers, two filing cabinets, a phone and a modem. It also has my very comfortable old reading chair; must have one of those. More than 90% of my writing is done on my laptop at my desk.
I occasionally write in other places too. Below is a list of some places I can remember pursuing my writing:
- In the lounge room in front of the television; not ideal, but it happens.
- In our sun room overlooking a part of the garden with several bird baths. This spot is ideal for getting inspiration for my birding blog.
- On our front veranda; this is a good spot for writing poetry on a hot morning. It has a wonderful view to nearby hills; inspiring.
- On our back veranda overlooking the swimming pool. Fine in winter when the sun is shining but hot in summer with the temptation of the cool pool water presenting a diversion from writing.
- In the caravan on holidays in wonderful places we visit.
- On the beach, though it’s hard to focus on writing and not sleeping, or swimming, or just watching the waves.
- Down by the river. The mighty Murray River is a five minute drive from home.
- In church; inspiration can come anywhere, any time and what better place to be inspired?
- In a doctor’s waiting room; this shows the importance of always carrying a note book.
- In a library; a lovely quiet place for writing.
- In a park; my state capital city has many beautiful parks just begging for writers to breathe in the inspiration.
- In a hotel or motel room while on holidays.
- In a lodge on a trek in Nepal with a view of Mt Everest – probably the most exotic place I have written – you can read about it on my travel blog here.
- In the car while travelling. (My wife was driving at the time in case you were worried. On one occasion I did compose a poem while driving, reciting it over and over until I could pull over safely and write it down.)
- In my classroom in another life, modelling how to write for my students.
- In my hospital bed; I wrote a good part of the text of a picture book while in hospital a few years ago.
There is no one place that is totally ideal for writing. It can happen successfully anywhere and that is one of the beauties of being a writer. On this topic I found a very interesting article called “Where are the best places to write“. It seems that many writers used a favourite cafe for writing. We do not have many cafes in my home town so I haven’t really pursued that avenue, though it sounds very attractive.
Reader response: I invite my readers to tell me their favourite or usual places where they write. I would be delighted to receive a whole raft of suggestions.
It’s amazing what you find on the internet.
I was reading a blog about good blog design. As you do.
This led me to a series of blogs that seemed to be really well designed – naturally.
Clear. Easy to read. Interesting. Informative.
As they should be.
Then one had a listing of books the author had recently added to his Library Catalogue. This linked to another page called LibraryThing. It’s a library cataloguing system. Brilliant in concept, simple to use and so useful.
In another life I was a school librarian for eight years. I love books. I read every day. No day is complete without reading. I have a BIG and GROWING collection of books. So does my wife.
Every so often I have to make another bookshelf to hold all the books. We have books about birds, travel, gardening, plants, flowers, Christianity, reference, novels, picture books, humour, history and the list goes on.
Now I could very easily get hooked on cataloguing all our books. I’ve been threatening to do that for about 25 years. Now – where do I get all that time that would be necessary to achieve this worthwhile task?
Until then – I’ll just use shelve them like they’ve always been shelved – non-fiction in approximately subject order, fiction alphabetically by author.
And I’ll find them using the Biblical System – “Seek And Ye Shall Find.”