CREATING SPACE FOR YOUR WRITING

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Are you lucky if you get a corner of the kitchen table to write on? Do you have to squeeze your writing in between all the things you have to do to look after everyone else and pay the bills?

You’re not alone!

Whole books can be written on kitchen tables between shifts and child care, but let’s face it – not very many.

Women writers deserve time and space to write. It can be difficult to achieve when working and with a young family to care for, but it can be done!

When I first started writing in earnest back in 2002, I wrote sitting at a corner of the kitchen table. But that was pretty messy.  Then I found a spot in the hallway, right at the end, where I could squeeze in a tiny desk and a chair and my computer. It felt like a huge achievement and a wonderful space of my own.

2db387c51ec6dac579c24f3a4c7323ccI worked part time and had two children under five, but on the days I wasn’t at work and the kids were down for their naps, I wrote like a fury! I was crazy with stories back then shouting at me to be told. I couldn’t wait to get to my desk and madly type all the stories and plot turns that I’d been thinking about the whole day.

Often at night as I read the children their bedtime story, I’d find myself reciting the stories in my head rather than the book we were reading. Let’s just say the words didn’t match the pictures!

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I’m sure I looked just like that 😀

For the last several years though, I’ve taken up a whole lot of space in the lounge room. I put a couple of desks in one corner to create my own L shaped desk, created semi-walls around me with bookshelves, and a friend found an Indian screen that closed off the other side. I may not have a door I can close, but when I’m in my little writing nook it feels private and, most importantly, it’s a safe space where I can write and create.

These days, it’s where I spend most of my time. I’ve worked hard so that the work I now do is all related to the writing I love. My children are both young adults and can take care of themselves. Writing time is mine to claim.

Edwina's Writing space

But it isn’t just the physical space for writing that you need, it’s the time!

How do you find space in your busy life for your writing?

My friend Helena, likes to set her alarm and wake up at 4, sit up in bed with her coffee and write for a few hours before her children wake up and the day begins. She’s made of tough stuff.

Night owls stay awake after the children have fallen asleep and write into the wee hours.

Other writers I know give themselves one day a week where the children go to Grandma. That day they sit and write like bullet trains.

It helps if you can train yourself to ignore the housework. A messy house is the sign of a creative person!

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Though I do find washing a good way to make sure I leave the computer and have a stretch before immersing myself in work again.

What I learnt from my training as a new writer with small children, is that you can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. The pressure of a very limited time frame forces you to pump out the words as fast as you can without being overly fussy about whether they’re the right ones. That can always be fixed later.

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Where in your day can you find an hour, or even half an hour? Ten minutes?

Any amount of time you spend doing what you love, what your heart desires is time well spent. And all those little bits add up.

That year I first started writing during my kid’s hour-long nap time, I finished the draft of a 100 000 word novel.

Great things can be achieved in small bursts. People who’ve attended my writing workshops know just how much you can write in as little as five minutes.

It can be done!

Claim yourself a corner that is yours, just yours. For writing.

Then figure out how you can steal an hour, half an hour or even a few minutes from your day to spend doing your writing. Get up half and hour earlier. Don’t watch the news, write instead. Write during your lunch hour. During nap time. Before bedtime. After.

Anytime you can find for yourself is perfect.

How do you create space for your writing? Have you made yourself a special corner to write in? How do you find time to write in your busy days?

Share your ideas in the comments. All hints and tips are very welcome!

Good luck finding space for your writing this week!

Lots of love,
Edwina xx

 

 

 

 

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FREE MEMOIR WORKSHOP IN TOWNSVILLE! YAY!

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Yes! Not long now and I’m flying up to Townsville for the Queensland Writers Centre to facilitate a day-long workshop on using the techniques of fiction to bring your memoir to life. And best of all, it’s FREE!

My father’s family is from far north Queensland, so I always enjoy travelling up to the cane fields, tropical sunshine and reef. Such a beautiful part of the world where wonderful people somehow manage to thrive in all that heat.

You can register HERE

WHEN?

Sat., 11 May 2019

10:30 am – 4:30 pm AEST

WHERE?

Aitkinvale Library

4 Petunia Street

Aikenvale

Townsville, QLD 4814

See the map HERE

So if you have a story from your life you’re itching to tell, come along and write up a storm!

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A full day workshop for FREE! YIPPEE!

Keen writers and beginners all welcome.

Book HERE

Hope to see you there 🙂

Edwina x

WOOD NYMPHS WRITING RETREAT!

A wonderful time was had by all at the latest Relax and Write Retreat up in the hills and among the trees at Highfields.

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Fourteen women feasted and rested, stretched, danced, laughed, relaxed and wrote in good company.

The lovely folk at Camp Koojarewon took really good care of us, providing delicious vegetarian meals and treats. Everything was spotlessly clean and they built fires to keep us warm, making sure we were all well fed and comfy.

We had the whole camp to ourselves, so even though we were in dorms we were able to spread out and have lots of space to ourselves. The ground were beautiful with lots of walks to explore.

Highlights for me were the crazy fun of scarf dancing and all the great writing that was done in the workshops. I especially loved our workshop out on the verandah where it felt like we were in a tree house.

 

Monique provided glorious healing massages, we ate like queens, and enjoyed the company of other writers, learning from each other and being inspired.

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Come along and join the fun at the next one.

RELAX AND WRITE ON MAGNETIC ISLAND – tropical far north Queensland. June 21 – 23 2019.

More information about that coming soon!

Contact me HERE if you’d like to be kept in the loop for retreat news and for writing hints and tips and publishing opportunities.

Until then – HAPPY WRITING! May the joy of the retreat wood nymphs be with you!

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lots of love

Edwina xx

 

 

 

NEW STORIES OUT!

Very excited to announce that two of my stories have recently been published in international journals. YAY!!!!

“Something No One Else Can See” is available to read for free HERE

It’s set in the cane fields of far north QLD where I spent a lot of time as a child.

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And my story “Against the Roaring of the Fire” has been published by Third Flatiron in its Hidden Histories anthology. This story was inspired by my recent trip to Scotland and its dark history of witch hunts.

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YAY! Two stories out in one day!! Won’t mention the pile of rejections that accompanied these two. But it’s all worth it for the ones that make it and get read.

Let me know what you think!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

 

 

SUSPENSE = HOPE + FEAR

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As far back as Aristotle and the very first plays, story tellers have known that the secret to keeping your audience on the edge of their seats, or readers turning pages, is to keep them in a state of tension.

As story tellers it’s our job to manipulate our audience’s emotions. To keep them moving between hope and fear, relief and anxiety, joy and despair.

Writers can learn from sports, yes, even football! The best games have suspense in buckets – that’s why watching footy on a Friday night is so appealing to most people. Audiences and readers want in story what they avoid at all cost in life – conflict, anxiety, opposition and tension.

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However, the battle for the win is even more gratifying when the game is close. Games won by one point in the final minute keep us on the edge, enduring and enjoying a tension that is almost uncomfortable, right up until the end. So much better than a game where right from the first ten minutes we know it’s a walk over.

It’s the same with story. If a protagonist too easily achieves their goals, then where’s the drama? Where’s the fun of all those uncomfortable emotions?

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The opposition to a character’s goals have to be almost insurmountable. The protagonist needs to do her very best, make plans and execute them, but then fail or be thwarted until that very last minute – maybe even just as the final bell is ringing. Maybe all her attempts will only make things worse. Maybe self-sabotage will undermine her at a key point, when finally everything seemed to be flowing her way. little girl reading

As writers we want the reader to call out “No!” then turn the page to see what happens next, hoping against hope that she’ll somehow dig herself out of the hole she’s created.

It’s that movement between hope and fear that writers need to keep in mind as they shape their stories. If not in the first draft, then definitely in the second.

Check each scene. Is there some sort of conflict? What is the outcome of this conflict? Are we led to believe the character can achieve her goal, which seems or paramount importance to her whether it’s life-threatening or not? Or are we terrified that she’ll never get what she wants?

Does it seem like she’ll finally find her missing child? Or does it appear obvious that all she’ll ever find is bones?

Will that boil in the middle of her forehead heal before the big date? Or will boils spread all over her face and make her a leper?

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Every scene, if not every page, should play its part in this dance between hope and fear, keeping readers anxiously turning pages, even in the bath.

Examine stories you love. How has the writer choreographed this dance? Look for conflict. In the very best novels and screenplays, conflict will be evident in almost every page, in every interaction between characters. Even a character’s inner dialogue can involve conflict, the fight between desire and better judgement.

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 Manchester by the Sea by Kenneth Lonergan is a harrowing and deeply moving film that is a wonderful example of how conflict can be used to intensify every scene. In a scene already filled with drama, when a young mother is being put into an ambulance the trolley doesn’t work properly, making an already unbearable moment excruciating.

Conflict can come from others, ourselves, the environment, government or police, even furniture. Throw it in wherever you can and watch your story bloom. Manage the readers’ emotions, keep them swinging between hope and fear and you’re on your way to writing something no reader can put down.

Keep them up at night, make them laugh and make them cry. Have fun doing it.

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How do you ramp up conflict in your stories? How do you move readers between hope and fear? I’d love to hear your ideas!

If you found these tips useful you can sign up to my newsletter for regular hints and tips and opportunities HERE

And if you’d like a whole weekend of writing exercises and advice then check out my next retreat HERE – but hurry only two places still available!

Lots of love,

Edwina xx

 

 

 

 

 

PROCRASTINATION, PERFECTIONISM AND A HARSH INNER CRITIC: The Enemies of Writing and How to Defeat Them!

Woman scrubbingDo you put off writing until after the whole house is cleaned, including sorting out those kitchen cupboards and scrubbing the bathroom tiles with a toothbrush? Do you start writing but then never get very far past the first paragraph because you can’t get it quite right and that first sentence is so sucky? Do you feel too inadequate to even start writing, even though you’ve secretly wanted to all your life? Or do you finally write something, but then tear it to shreds and bin it before it’s even had a chance to breathe?

Don’t worry, you’re certainly not alone. Every writer faces these demons – the holy trinity of FEAR. That’s really what these deadly (well to your writing anyway) sins boil down to – plain old boring fear.

 Procrastination

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Procrastination is a protective device. If you put something off long enough, you’ll never have to write it, or you’ll have being rushed as an excuse for when you decide that it’s utter crap and that you’re as talentless as you thought. If that sounds like you, then your procrastination is really harsh inner critic lurking in the background just waiting for you to finish the housework and probably complaining about how you’re doing it too – look there’s a spot you missed!

But hang on a minute, what if it’s not crap? What if actually for a first draft it’s pretty damned good? What if writing it was the most fun you’ve had in ages? Certainly a whole lot more fun than cleaning the bathroom.

Perfectionism

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Perfectionism won’t ever let you finish anything. Because if it’s not perfect, and how actually can anything be, then it’s not any good at all. That first sentence demands to be rewritten a hundred times, so you never get any further into your story. Even if you do get all the way through, perfectionism won’t ever let you submit it anywhere because it’s never quite right. Never quite good enough.

Guess what? Perfectionism is just another protection device – protecting you from the criticism of others while you beat yourself up with your own, much harsher, criticism. It’s another face of that horrid inner critic trying to stop you making a fool of yourself.

Well thanks, but no thanks. Because nothing is ever really perfect. Ask any writer, any artist. There’s always something you can fix or change, even with published work. At some point though, you just have to let it go. Step back and send it out into the world.

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“Feel the fear and do it anyway,” as Susan Jeffers famously said in her book of the same name.

Fear used to serve us well. When we lived in caves, fear told us to stay away from that cave where the beast lived and not to eat that berry that made Aunty so sick. But these days most of our fears have become internalised and turn into anxiety. It’s not really our friend any more.

 

Fear has many faces. Most horribly it is the face of our harsh inner critic.

 

Your Inner Critic and how to tame it.

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Like fire, inner critics are wonderful servants but terrible masters. To write successfully, critics must be tamed and trained and forced to play nicely with our delicate creator selves in order to make our writing the best it can be. The craft of writing demands a domesticated critic to edit our messy first drafts, but that’s later. First, we have to get that messy first draft written.

Inner critics can be fatal to writing. First drafts need freedom – when we create we’re playing and mucking around, making stuff up. We don’t need a nasty critic hanging over our shoulder whispering abuse. I like to send mine from the room!

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, Mary Philbin, Lon Chaney, 1925

It helps to know the face of your enemy.

rabid_squirrel_postcard-r5105695b7151488c9754e7b5013d2197_vgbaq_8byvr_307One writer described her critic as rabid squirrels in camouflage gear. Another described his as a giant, grumpy, old geezer. It could be a mean older sister, or a stern father who thinks doing anything creative is a waste of time. Mine looks like my third-grade teacher. A nun in a habit. With a ruler. She always liked to pull me down a peg or two.

Here’s a writing exercise to help identify and defeat your critic.

 

WRITE: Your Inner Critic

Set your timer for ten minutes and write about your inner critic.

Was it your mum who was always finding fault, or was it that awful teacher in high school who tore your short story to pieces in front of the class?smoking nuns

Whether your critic is based on a real person or is a monster from nightmares, a dragon with gnashing teeth dripping with blood, get it down on paper. If there is a specific incident you remember, or a particularly bad attack from your critic, then write that down too. Get into the meaty details. Take more time if you need to. If you’d like to, draw a picture. What you do with this picture is up to you. You can burn it, or shred it, or put a big red cross through it, but perhaps if it’s your mum maybe just stick a bit of plaster over her mouth!

Once you have this clear picture in mind you can begin to train your critic. You can train them to leave the room. Trick the squirrels with some peanuts and tempt them into another room while you get a first draft done. Tell the old fart you’ll let him have his turn in a while, after you’ve written your five hundred words for the day. Take the ruler out of the nun’s hand and send her to confession for the few hours you have available for writing. If they know they’ll be allowed back later, they will, most likely, go happily. If they start skulking back, however, then gently remind them that this time is yours, they’ll be welcome in a while.

In my workshops, retreats and even at the creative writing classes I teach at university, I always start with a guided relaxation to help participants send that critic from the room. I’ve found the results to be outstanding.

Try it for yourself!

RELAX: Meditation for removing your inner critic

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Sit and breathe deeply, bringing your attention inwards, then slowly relax your whole body. Once you’re relaxed, visualise your critic and imagine sending them from the room. I like to send them to the nearest body of water and drop them in there. Don’t worry they always find their way back in time for the next draft!

I’m working on a recording of the guided meditation I use in workshops. If you’d like to be kept in the loop and be one of the first to use it then click HERE.

Once you’ve sent your critic away, then I like to set a timer. 10 minutes, half an hour. It helps give me that sense of urgency procrastinators thrive on (procrastinator – who me?). Then WRITE! Write like a fury. Write like you’ve only got 10 minutes until the world ends and you’ve just got to get your story down. Spelling and punctuation don’t matter. Just go where your brain flow takes you. Follow tangents, explore weird things that pop up. Let the story show you where it wants to go.

Nothing matters in that first draft except being in the flow and trusting your own creativity. Remember – Writing is fun! Creating is playing. Take all the pressure off and enjoy yourself mucking around with words and making up stories.

 Let go and let the words flow!

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Let me know how you go. Did these techniques work for you? What other tricks do you know forgetting those first drafts done? Are you a procrastinator or a perfectionist – or both. What does your inner critic look like?

If you’d like to experience just how freeing doing a guided relaxation and meditation can be for liberating your creativity and getting you writing, then please contact me HERE for information about my upcoming RETREATS.

Or sign on HERE to get regular updates and hints and tips for your writing.

GOOD LUCK taming those critics.

Happy writing!

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Lots of love,

Edwina xx

BUSTED – SHORT STORY

 

BUSTED in the bad old days!

As the deadline for Bjelke Blues – the anthology I’m editing for AndAlso Books  –approaches,  here’s a story of mine about that time, “Busted”. It was first published in Griffith REVIEW 21 Hidden QLD and has recently been published online on the Artist Run Initiatives REMIX website

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“Busted” is a story about the bad old days in QLD when election boundaries were rigged, corruption was rife, marches were banned, and police had way too much power.

READ BUSTED HERE

And if you have a story about being on the wrong side of the political fence during the Bjelke Petersen regime I’d love to hear from you.

Deadline is February 25 so you’ll have to hurry.

Let me know what you think of my story 🙂

Hope you enjoy it.

Lots of love,

Edwina xx