The man shown in the photo above is an inspiration to me – and should be to everyone. While visiting Addis Ababa in Ethiopia a few years ago – our daughter was teaching there – we had the chance to visit the leprosy medical facility. We particularly wanted to support the residents by purchasing items from their craft shop. Some of the people there do amazing things, often with the hindrance of fingers missing.
This man was happily weaving a floor mat. He was full of smiles – communicating his cheerful attitude to us even though we couldn’t speak each others’ languages. The most amazing thing however, was that this positive attitude was demonstrated despite having only short stubs for fingers and thumbs. All of them. Not one was fully functional.
This man continued happily with his work, content with his lot despite the hindrance.
What a lesson for me – and many others, I’m sure.
Too often I grumble that I can’t do my writing because it’s too hot, or too cold, or I’m not well or the chair is uncomfortable or no editor will like my story or poem. Too often I allow really lame excuses get in the way of what I believe God wants me to do: write.
What hinders you from writing? Is it a real problem – or just an excuse? If it’s a problem – deal with it or get help. If it’s an excuse… well, I think we all know how to deal with that!
Read more about our visit to the leprosy facility on Trevor’s Travels here.
On our tour of Morocco several years ago I photographed this very patient mule standing just outside a shop in the busy medina of the city of Fes.
It just stood there patiently, ignoring the milling throng all around, oblivious to the movement, the noise and the general confusion.
- Write about a time you had to be very patient.
- Write about an occasion when someone had to be very patient with you.
- Write a list of the virtues of patience.
- Write a poem titled “Patience”.
- Write a short story starting with the words: “After three hours of patient waiting…”
- Write a short story finishing with the words “It had been a day that severely tested my patience.’
WARNING: This post is not much about writing. I felt the need to vent a little online. I don’t do it very often.
Most of the time I am very calm and don’t let minor things upset, but every now and then something gets up my nose.
Then I try to let it slide; life’s too short to let a minor irritation get the better of me.
For many years now I’ve had a watch which had a stopwatch facility. Whenever I am writing, or doing research linked to my writing, I have used this facility. At the end of each day I record on a chart how many hours I’ve spent on my writing that day, as well as how many blog posts I’ve written and a word count for the day. These figures are kept as a tally on this chart so I can see if I’m reaching my writing goals. It’s a way of keeping me accountable to myself. Works for me.
Just over two years ago I bought a new watch. The old one had seen many years of faithful, reliable service, save for an occasional new battery. The jewellery shop I usually go to no longer stocked the watch, and batteries were no longer available. Time for an upgrade after many years, I thought. The new watch was good, albeit a little bulky/clunky in appearance, but I coped.
A few weeks ago the battery failed. Suddenly – right in mid-sentence. So I went to have it replaced – not a problem. It was a few weeks out of warranty, but that wasn’t what upset me. A few days later the rubber/plastic strap threatened to break at any moment. Oh no. Having just spent money on a battery, I wasn’t keen to fork out more for a strap. It would have almost been cheaper to have bought a new watch. So I did.
The old watch is still very functional; I just can’t wear it, so it sits on my writing desk still performing nicely in timing my writing patterns. I am determined to get my money’s worth out of that battery.
The throw away society mentality really gets up my nose. Built in obsolescence has always pushed my button.
And I won’t even start on about having to replace a perfectly good – but very old – mobile phone this last week. SIGH.
Last night I attended the monthly meeting of my writers’ group. This group used to meet at my university in Adelaide, but this is no longer suitable because most of the participants no longer work or study there. Instead, we meet in a comfortable church hall in Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills. It’s a 35 minute drive for me, somewhat shorter than the previous 50-55 minutes, depending on traffic.
Last month we were set a writing task for this meeting. Six of the group had prepared stories to share last night, but these readings and the subsequent critiquing session was postponed. Our leader, Mark, has experienced a tragedy only 36 hours before. His son, a talented writer in his own right, an occasional participant in our meetings, had suddenly died. It was a good opportunity for Mark to unload on a group of supportive friends and fellow writers. Normal proceedings were suspended and he just talked and talked about what he was feeling, and the circumstances leading up to his son’s death.
After an hour, he left the meeting. We had some other short stories and poems prepared to read, leftover from the previous month. It wasn’t how we planned the meeting to go, but in the process of letting Mark talk – and show his feelings – we not only helped him, but also helped each of us come to terms with the tragedy.
I also believe it has further strengthened an already very strong bond between us as a 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.