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.
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.
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.
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.
Most writers dream of being published.
That’s a given. Sure, there are a few people who just love to write with no intention of getting published. That’s fine. I have written many things which will never reach another reader in my lifetime. An example of this is my private journal. I use this to record events in my life, reflecting on how these events have shaped and influenced me. This journal is just for me but it might be read in the future by my children or even my grandchildren, but I doubt if they will have the stamina.
Getting back to my theory that most writers dream of being published I realise that many aspiring writers will inevitably be disappointed. It is a tough gig and getting tougher to break into the established publishing world. Ironically it is also becoming easier – if you consider blogs and ebooks. That is a topic for another day.
Some unpublished writers love the idea of having written. They dream about someday writing a book. The problem is – they don’t realise the effort it takes to write a book. It takes enormous discipline and single-mindedness to finish a book. My latest children’s novel went through 17 drafts. Significant portions of it were rewritten many times. Large slabs were written – only to be deleted later. Most people don’t have that sort of patience. Mind you – I had some help in the discipline side of things. The novel was for my Masters degree and I had two supervisors gently pushing me along, not to mention an insistent wife.
If you want to be a published writer you have to do two things: read widely and write daily.
Oh, I forgot… those two steps may take you five or ten or twenty years – or even a lifetime before you see your name in print.
But, I hear you cry – I don’t have the time to do that. So the only solution is to make the time. You can’t be a published writer with a string of publishing credits if you spend five hours a day watching television. It won’t happen. In fact, there are many things you will have to sacrifice to be successful as a writer. An article I read recently lists 7 things to give up so you have more time to write. The author makes some great points, but for me I’d add several more:
- Severely control how often you access social media. They will suck the time out of your day.
- Sacrifice some sleeping time. On a cold winter’s morning it may be tempting to sleep in. Don’t.
- Housework. Sure, some housework must be given attention, but would you rather have a reasonably clean home and be published – or a spotless home and nothing written.
I’m sure you can think of time and energy thieves in your life.
I haven’t posted much here in recent weeks. I have been very sick with a debilitating bout of bronchitis. It started last month – four and a half weeks ago and is still lingering around like an unwelcome bad smell. I feel – and hope – that I am over the worst of it and can get back to writing more posts here and on my other sites, Trevor’s Birding and Trevor’s Travels.
Adding to my woes is the fact that we have had above average rainfall, both here in Murray Bridge, South Australia, and during our stay with family in Sydney a month ago. It has meant that I haven’t been about to get out and do some of the things I like doing, like birding and gardening. Goodness, I was so sick I did not even do a great deal of reading.
It has also meant that I have not made any progress on editing and submitting poems and short stories to magazines and competitions. I also have more editing to do on several larger novel length projects I have waiting in the wings.
I am now hopeful that as my health improves I will be able to get to these projects and see some fruit for my labours. During this enforced time of recuperation I have just had to let go of my desire to be writing long hours each day and concentrate on getting better. I guess many writers experience seasons of non-productivity. Looking through my calendar I can see that the next few months could well be one of my more productive periods.