Archive for the 'The Writer’s Life' Category

The importance of a writing To Do list

Do you make “To Do” lists?

I do. I generally find them not only useful but sometimes quite essential to help me to remember to do important tasks. It also helps me to remember those unimportant but essential things like putting out the rubbish (garbage) bins on the right night ready for collection the next morning. These lists are important in helping me to also prioritise tasks needing my attention.

Writing lists

I keep all kinds of lists relating to my writing, lists such as

  • tasks achieved each day – to keep me focussed
  • hours and words written each day – to keep me accountable to myself
  • writing goals – to know where I am heading  and to keep on track
  • publication successes – to encourage me when I feel depressed
  • income from my writing – to show me that I am not entirely wasting my time
  • lists of blog post titles coming up – as a part of my forward planning

This is just a sample of some of the lists I keep. None take more than a few seconds to fill and all those statistics show me where I’ve been, how I am currently going and – most importantly, where I am heading with my writing.

I strongly encourage all writers to make, keep and regularly update whatever lists they deem necessary.


My To Do List

  1. Make a list
  2. Cross off item #1 on this list
  3. Realise that I’ve already achieved 2 – no – 3 things on my list.
  4. Reward yourself with a nap (in progress).

Good writing.

Here we go again – writing, writing, writing

Here we go again – I am writing, writing, writing… after a long break.

I haven’t posted any new material here in over 3 months, and not on a regular basis for over a year. I hope that 2015 is different and that the words – and the posts – will flow freely again. Thanks to all of my devoted readers who haven’t deserted me. I have great things planned for this site as well as my other sites (click Trevor’s Birding and Trevor’s Travels.)


The reason for a lack of posting on this (and my other sites) is that I have had a few serious issues with my health. Most of these have been dealt with, or will be in the coming weeks. One of the major issues has been dealing with severe sleep apnoea. Before I had a CPAP machine to help me sleep I was constantly falling asleep in front of my computer screen. Reading was also very difficult; every time I picked up a book or magazine I would blink – and not open my eyes for 5 or more minutes. I am now getting a good night’s sleep every night and devouring books from my unread piles at a great rate. I am no longer falling asleep at the computer, so the words are flowing again.

Great plans

In the coming months I have some interesting plans for this site – and the other sites too – as well as some important news to announce. This includes plenty of writing advice, examples of my poetry and fiction and the publication of my first ebooks and perhaps even a few pbooks (paper books) – I can dream can’t I? Stay tuned.

Current writing

In recent months I have done some writing as my health issues have allowed. Most of this writing has appeared on yet another site I manage. You can read this site here and any articles with TH at the end were written by me. Many more articles will appear there in the coming months.

Good writing – and reading.



Writing prompt: Sydney Harbour

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is such an iconic structure it is instantly recognisable the world over. Whenever we visit our son and our grandchildren in Sydney we cross this wonderful bridge a number of times on every visit. They live several railway stations north of the bridge or about an hour’s walk from home.

We have driven over the bridge, gone over it numerous times on trains, walked across it and gone under it on ferries. The only thing I haven’t done is the Bridge Climb OVER it (see photo below). Getting a bit old and shaky in the knees for that. Should have done it for my 60th Birthday Bash as I had planned.

Writing prompts:

  • If you have been to Sydney write about your experiences.
  • If you have been on the Bridge Climb describe the sensation of being up so high.
  • If you have not been on the climb, imagine what it would be like, describing the experiences.
  • Notice the huge pylons on each side and at each end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Imagine a murder takes place inside one of the towers. Write a short story about how this occurs, and the aftermath.
  • Write about the most unusual bridge you have ever seen.
  • Write about any rickety, unsafe or downright dangerous bridge you have crossed. (For me that would have to be the suspension bridges crossed while trekking in the Everest region of Nepal. DON”T look down!)
  • Write about a ferry ride on Sydney Harbour that turns very sour; someone is murdered or thrown overboard.
  • Write a poem about the beautiful harbour, the waves or the bridge itself.

Good writing.


People doing the "Bridge climb" in Sydney

People doing the “Bridge climb” in Sydney

Rules of writing

Books about writing

Over the years I have read a growing number of books and articles about writing. I still have quite a pile to finish; some I haven’t even started. Funny thing is that the pile never seems to diminish. When I was doing my Master of Arts (creative writing) degree I devoured many quite wonderful books about writing. Here and there I picked up little gems of wisdom from great practitioners of the craft.

The key to success

Over the last decade I have also trolled the internet for that magic bullet, a priceless pearl of wisdom, or the key to open the door to success as a writer. I am still looking. I am slowly coming to realise that I should have looked in the dictionary first. Work – hard work – is the only real key to success.

That is not to play down the importance of reading about the craft of writing in books and on the internet. Much can be learned from these sources. Every now and then I come across a sentence, or a paragraph and even a whole chapter or article which makes an immediate impact. Putting that wisdom into practice is the hard part.

Lists, lists and more lists

One thing I have noticed about internet and blog articles in particular is the love of lists. It seems like hundreds, maybe even thousands, of writers are making lists. 10 ways to be a better writer. 7 sure ways of getting published. 9 methods of securing an agent. The ‘list’ could go on and on.

No; I am not going to write a list. (Confession: I have been known to – see here.)

Instead, I am going to reflect on a list I read a few days ago. The article is called Zadie Smith’s 10 rules of writing. I will comment on just a couple of them.

Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.

I understand what the she is trying to say. Sometimes a group of fellow writers can muddy the water, and they will make suggestions which are not only not helpful, but are downright harmful. An example occurred with one of degree supervisors; she didn’t understand the climate of the country where my novel was set. Generally however, I find that belonging to a writers’ group can be very beneficial. Many of my reasons are included in articles here and here and here and here.

Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.

Guilty as charged.

I spend – often it is waste – too much time checking and reading my email, Facebook updates and Twitter feeds. I guess I should regard that wasted time as lost income from writing.

Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.

Dealing with this one is far more difficult for me. While my wife encourages me by giving me the time and space to write, most other people regard me as retired. Sure, 10 years ago I retired from classroom teaching. Now I try to be a full time writer. That has been very difficult over the last few years when my wife was caring full time for her mother and left me to deal with the housework. We were also without a pastor at church, so I was spending 10 – 15 hours or more running the church. Both of those situations have now changed, so I am without excuse.

Further reading:

The photo below has nothing to do with this article. I just think it’s a lovely flower.

Grevillea flower

Grevillea flower




Tales from the Upper Room

2014-04-11 19.30.57

I haven’t been sharing some of my recent publishing successes here, but this one is a little special to me. Two nights ago I attended the launch of the latest volume in the series “Tales from the Upper Room“, and anthology of stories and poems written by those associated with Tabor Adelaide. This is where I completed my Master of Arts Creative Writing a few years ago.

The anthology is now in its eighth edition since first being published in 2005 by the staff and students who were the first to be involved in the creative writing course at Tabor. A new volume has appeared every year except one. My stories and poems have appeared in all but the first three volumes.

The collection of stories and poems have been submitted by students, staff and alumni and their family and friends. Each edition is an eclectic collection of the deeply moving, the curious, the quirky, the humorous and sometimes surprising. Many are confronting, all are well written and most are worthy of revisiting.

I only had one poem in this edition, but that’s okay with me. It’s great to see many new names attached to the selection; this shows that the creative writing courses are alive, thriving and raising the bar of literary excellence.

A word of explanation about the title “Tales from the Upper Room” is in order. The creative writing courses had as their home in the early days a room on the third floor, affectionately known as The Loft. It conjures up images of the writer’s garret of legend, and it was here that the first meetings of the writers’ group met and where the concept of this anthology was conceived. But the “upper room” also brings to mind the room where Jesus and his disciples met for the last supper before his crucifixion. Tabor Adelaide started as a theological college, and most people associated with it are Christians, adding an interestingly significant appropriateness to the title.

Writing competition:

The launch also included the announcement of the winners and runners-up of the inaugural Tabor Writing Competition. It had two sections: poetry and short stories. This was a brave new venture and with 299 entries was immensely successful. Entries came from every state and territory of Australia. I should add here that I decided not to enter this time. I must set my sights high and aim to enter next time around.

Dr James Cooper speaking at the launch

Dr James Cooper speaking at the launch