Researching is spelt M e l b o u r n e

Part of the pictureWhen I set out to write I knew it would be demanding, and I knew there would be times when confidence would get a bit shaky.  The writing beast feeds with gusto.  It delights in taking huge chunks of ego and chewing it slowly, possibly the whole of the writer’s life span.

I often wonder if people understand how hard the process actually is.  Too often we think we know things.  A classic example is the still widely-held opinion (yes, still) that teachers have it easy because of the nine to three day, and of course, all those holidays. Well, most teachers I know are at school hours before students arrive, and stay hours after students leave, and holidays are for lesson planning and research. Looking in from the outside we miss quite a bit of the story.

Writing is a solitary profession.  Witnesses are few. The truth is all employment makes strong demands, the problem is writing creates vulnerability on personal, emotional and professional levels.  Its nature enforces isolation.  I came across this description in the Romance University (a group of wonderful writers working together) by Julie Anne Long.  It is wonderful insight into a writer’s mind.  Julie Anne says creating worlds requires constructing sentences. This means “choosing words artfully, with discretion and economy. The problem is, words are delicious, and I, for one, am a glutton. Sitting down to write is like sidling up to a buffet table groaning under the weight of tempting things.”  It’s true. Words are food.  They beckon with promises of richness in flavour, tempt and tease with its variety, and promise satisfaction through visually fantasies. Words are addictive and dangerous.  Writers see the buffet and lose track of all else.

To succeed in any venture you need good habits.  They help put balance in your life, and open eyes to the wider panorama.  The approach then becomes easier, less formidable, less of an enemy. I very much like this quote by Anthony Trollope: “A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.”  If you can write everyday it becomes no different than getting up of a morning.  It becomes ingrained and do-able, and allows for the next important habit for writers – reading.  It is how we learn as much as how we take pleasure and it is more effective done daily.

And, then we have our third and last habit, the one I am so often guilty of not doing. I am pretty sure the pain in my shoulder has become a habit, a bad one. Why? Because, I don’t have a regular exercise routine to counteract the hours spent over a computer.  We need endorphins roaming around our bodies to function at our best. If you truly cannot manage any of the above then at least follow habit number four (I know I said three) – don’t beat yourself up, at least not unless you give up, and then you deserve everything thing you throw at yourself.

Good habits aren’t easy to develop.  I had to take a step back and probably will again. I went to Melbourne to visit my daughter.  It turned into research, an unconscious and unplanned one.  I relaxed and let the busy streets full of people, coffee shops, restaurants and wonderful galleries fill my days. I did take the computer and I did write a little every day and according to my Fitbit, averaged at least ten thousand steps a day.  Now those fitness fanatics out there, might think my effort a little lame.  I wasn’t aiming for fitness.  I was aiming for a relaxing stroll (although the fact walking is exercise made it a bonus), and a little sightseeing.  Melbourne is so easy to get around.

Now I am tackling small pieces every day.  I try to read one article and at least three blog posts a day. I do twenty minutes of media and then write. Unexpected Obsession is getting another hard edit thanks to a better attitude and to Sandy Vaile and her online course Show don’t tell.  I love the Romance Writers of Australia for providing members with so much help. Yes, I know it’s already published but that’s the beauty of self-publishing. It allows us to learn and improve and adjust.  Once I finish I will do a print copy, and re-upload my eBook. In the meantime Book 2, Unexpected Passion is moving along nicely if slowly.  I’m excited. Melbourne turned out to be an excellent form of research.  I discovered routine, walking every day, enjoying the things around me, and socialising lends itself to writing with confidence, and provides endless material.

Note I haven’t said a word about what you should do.  These things have to be your choice but trust me, balance improves the writing experience, and we need all the help we can get to make it so.  Tara Moss says it beautifully.

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  1. A thoughtful and meaningful article, as always, Barbara.
    I also think the “a little bit, often” can be looked at in another way, that only reinforces the validity: each “little bit” is like a step, that you use to climb higher, instead of having to make superhuman leaps of ten feet or more to climb your mountain.
    And I have some useful tips (c/o OH&S training from work) about the key importance of taking regular breaks while at the computer: there’s software called “Workpace” which is very effective and prods you with reminders to take varying kinds of breaks that you can tune to suit your own needs. And there’s a free alternative, that’s less polished, called “Workrave”, that does the same thing.
    I find that when I’m really focused and working at the computer, if I dismiss or ignore the reminders, at the end of the day I’m hurting; but if I pay attention and take the breaks especially the short ones (even if you make them just 10 seconds), then I don’t hurt. Google them and give them a try.

  2. I totally agree with “It becomes ingrained and do-able”. Practice and persistence are the keys and I like to remind myself that nothing worthwhile is easy, or everyone would do it.
    A very insightful blog and I’m stoked that my workshop has helped inspire you to move forwards with your writing, Barbara.

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