A long, long time
It has been a very long time since I have written a post on this site. While there still is steady traffic to the many articles I have written over the years, I feel a little embarrassed about the lack of new content here.
A Deep Fog
I am currently coming out of a deep fog regarding my writing. This has lasted for well over 18 months. Initially, it was because much of my energy was taken up with fulltime caring for my wife. Next, it was dealing with her passing in January 2018, followed by all of the official matters dealing with wrapping up all of her affairs, followed closely by adapting to single life again after 47 years of marriage. At times it was difficult, at times it as depressing, and at all times it was challenging. And sometimes the grieving process, something that I necessarily had to experience, was debilitating. It left me little energy to devote to my writing.
Just over a week ago, I left home in Murray Bridge, South Australia (near Adelaide) to drive to Sydney to visit my son and his family. I love seeing my two grandchildren growing up – it is happening too quickly at times – and also experiencing a part of their lives for a short time.
A different route
On the way, I took four days to get to Sydney instead of the normal two days. I took a different route for a change, travelling on some roads I hadn’t used for many years, as well as other roads which were completely new to me. Along the way, I enjoyed plenty of birding and photography, two of my many interests. I write about the birds I see and share photos of some of them on Trevor’s Birding.
Books and more books
As I stated at the beginning of this post, I have been living through a fog regarding my writing. I have still been writing regularly in my personal journal and a few other minor things, but the energy for serious writing to share with the world has been elusive. During this time of readjusting my life, I have been reading a great deal. I have read a steady stream of excellent novels, many articles and some books about writing as well as some inspirational books which have ministered deeply to my Christian spiritual needs. Many of these books I hope to review here on this site. Some I have already given short reviews on Goodreads.
A new enthusiasm
Having a short break away from home has given me a new perspective, and, I hope, a new enthusiasm to go on with my writing. I hope that this short holiday will be just the tonic I need to get on with new writing projects – I have a long list of potential stories and novels – as well as get many old projects launched out into the big wide world.
Good writing. Good reading.
Over the years, I have posted many of these articles. They have become some of the most popular posts on this site.
These story starters are designed to get your creative juices flowing. We all have those dreaded times when we just can’t think of an idea to write about. These story starters are designed to get you going. You may end up not using the exact wording I have given. You may even change any names I have used. The setting I have proposed could also change. It is really up to you. Accept my ideas if they suit you; change what doesn’t ring true for you.
These short story starters could be used exactly as I have suggested. They could be the start of a story which you finish, polish up, rewrite, edit, proofread and send off to a journal or magazine or even a writing competition. Or, you may just use some or all of these ideas just as writing exercises – warm-up writing attempts to flex your writing muscles before your work-in-progress gets attention for the day. It is entirely up to you how you use these ideas. Or not.
Short story starters:
- Frank found what he was looking for, but not where he had expected. He felt totally perplexed. How did it get in the washing machine?
- It was moments like these that Greta enjoyed. The sudden appearance of her best friend in the cafe opened up the day to untold opportunities.
- How on earth could Harry complete this task in the time allotted? He knew that his fate was in his own hands. What he did in the next hour would determine the course of his life, one way or the other.
- ‘What are we to do now?’ asked Ingrid. ‘That was the last chance we had.’
- Finding her husband lying on their bed in his pajamas was the last thing Jenny expected that day.
- Karen raced to the check-in desk and stopped. Hardly able to breathe she waved her boarding pass and waited to be served. ‘What if I’m too late?’ She suppressed the thought and smiled.
- Tony and Lauren knew from the first day that it was going to be a struggle. Despite the challenges ahead, they stepped out believing that they were up to the task set before them.
- At the beginning of the week, Murray had believed that he was on top of the workload for the month. What he hadn’t foreseen was the accident.
- Naomi blinked. She couldn’t believe what she had just witnessed.
- The children ran screaming towards the open door. They crowded around the visitor, jumping and reaching towards the box he carried.
Conditions of use:
- Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above.
- Change anything to suit your needs.
- Give it your best shot.
- Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
- Let me know in the comments section how it went.
- If you publish your story on your website or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.
- Now start writing.
I know from several decades of taking my writing seriously that I experience seasons of high productivity, followed by leaner times. It is during those times when writing is a struggle that we prove to ourselves what it takes, and the price needed to be paid. I am currently coming out of a very lean period, a dark, season of little output and plenty of discouragement.
In the early 1990s I read the Stephen Covey book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I devoured the contents of this book, and those he subsequently wrote, and successfully applied many of the principles to my own life. It changed many things about the way I lived, including my writing. At the time I was teaching full time and the books also influenced how I approached my teaching career. (Note to self: time to reread those books – and any subsequent books he wrote.)
I recently came across a short article called The Habits of Highly Effective Writers. While this article didn’t go into great depth on the subject, the author has some valuable principles from which all writers could benefit.
Productive writers don’t reach for excuses when the going gets hard. They treat writing like the job it is. They show up, punch the clock, and punch out. Nothing romantic about it. They give themselves a quota; sometimes it’s butt-in-chair time, sometimes a word count. Simple math allows you to figure out how quickly 1,000 words a day adds up to a book-length work. These writers know how to use deadlines, whether external or self-imposed, to stay on track.
I guess that I have, in part, been using the excuse of illness in recent months for not making as much progress with my writing as I would have liked. To be fair to myself, there were many times when I was nearly doubled up in pain due to a stomach ailment, or being unable to even sit at my computer for any length of time due to back pain, or even falling asleep in mid-word at the keyboard due to the effects of sleep apnoea. Despite all these hindrances, I pushed on as best as I could, but achieving far less than I had hoped. It was a frustrating time.
Apart from still some back pain, these issues are in the past – I hope – and now the reality to those dark days fading into the distance is being realised. I have reset my goals and look to the coming year with great anticipation. I dream that this will be my best year of writing ever, eclipsing the year I achieved my Masters degree. All I have to do is put in the hard yards – and quite a few miles as well – and those dreams may turn into reality.
As the years encroach I find that more and more frequently I am in need of sleep. I can be reading a book and I slip off into noddy land; it doesn’t matter how interesting the book is either.
Or I can be working at my computer hammering out my latest best-seller, er… make that my first best-seller as I haven’t had one yet, and I will nod off into slumberland.
Trying to watch the news of some other interesting show on television is often fatal too, because sleep often creeps in and I don’t see the end of the show.
It can be quite frustrating. In all seriousness, my wife tells me that I frequently have a sleep apnoea problem. On advice from my doctor I have an appointment at a sleep clinic in a few weeks’ time and I hope that will indicate what needs to be done to solve this problem.
But I digress.
The koala in the picture above shows a koala enjoying a nap. Koalas often sleep for 18 to 20 hours a day. Bliss. I think I’ll become a koala, but the downside is that I would get very little writing and reading done. Perhaps I would finish off a few writing projects if I reversed the koala’s sleep regime: sleep for 4 – 6 hours and write for 18 – 20 hours a day.
- Write a story about a koala’s dreams.
- Write a story based on one of your dreams.
- Write a story about a dream you would like to have.
- Write a poem in praise of sleep.
- Research the sleep patterns of your favourite animals or birds and write an article based on your research.
- Write a story in which animals feature in your dreams.
- Write a limerick about someone who can’t sleep.
- Write a story in which you cannot sleep for months on end. What do you do to fill in the time?
- Write a story about two fictitious characters who only meet in your dreams. You can be a part of the dream too.
- Describe the places you find it easy to fall asleep.
- Describe the routines you include in your day to help get a good night’s sleep.
Good writing, good sleeping and goodnight.
Photo credit: Taken during a family visit to the Australian Reptile Park near Gosford north of Sydney. © Trevor Hampel
A week or so ago I wrote here how I had been overtaken by sickness. I am steadily improving from my recent bout of bronchitis but it has taken over six weeks of my life. During that time I have struggled to do any writing at all. Even catching up on reading has been difficult.
Life is on the improve, however, and this week I have managed to write quite a few blog posts here and on my other sites (Trevor’s Birding and Trevor’s Travels). These articles I have scheduled to appear here and on the other sites over the coming weeks. Once I have enough scheduled for a few weeks I can then concentrate slabs of time on other writing projects. Clearing the deck, so to speak. Strategic planning. Forward thinking.
Sickness can be quite a problem for writers. You don’t get paid on the days off. There are no sickness benefits or sick leave days available. Suck it up and get over it. This is a dilemma when the illness drags on for weeks or even months rather than days. Earlier this week my attention was drawn to an article called “Writing while sick“. Some good advice there so it’s worth a read. I’ll wait here until you get back.
Good writing – and may your life be filled with good health.