Sometimes It’s Okay Not to Write


We went to the tiny seaside fishing village with good intentions, not to fish, but to simply relax, enjoy some time away from daily life. It was our 46th wedding anniversary and in recent years we’ve enjoyed taking such a break on this occasion.

The view above was taken from the beach house balcony early on our first morning after arrival. Believe it or not, rather than inspire me, this view restricted my writing. I wanted to write, believe me. My intention had been to write about 1000 words while there. I thought the surroundings would be perfect.

It seems they were too perfect and I needed relaxation more than I needed writing. I spent most of the four days enjoying the view. Sure, I achieved some journal writing, but nothing more serious than that. In fact at the end of our first full day there I wrote:

My brain is like a hyperactive child after an overload of sugar. It is flitting all over the place, nothing productive. Maybe I need this quietness to enable my creative mind to have a rest, empty, then leave room for new ideas.

I eventually accepted that it was okay not to write. My brain fell into the peaceful rhythm of the sea and I chose to not disturb that rhythm as it became absorbed into my being.

Now I am home again, refreshed, and ready to start writing again.

Sometimes it’s okay not to write.

Imagining the Past at the Manawatu Estuary


On a recent trip to our nearest beach we spent time enjoying the estuary at the river mouth, where my local river eventually flows into the ocean. These days the estuary, not shown here in the photo, is a protected heritage area, where many of New Zealand’s native water birds can be found at various times of the year.

It wasn’t the birds that captured my attention on this trip though, but the river and how it served in the opening up of my region in the 1870s when New Zealand was being settled. The river has changed its course over the years since then and definitely doesn’t seem as wide nor deep as it once must have been.

In the beginning, before the region was cleared of forest and before roads were established the river was the major means of travelling inland to where I live. Settlers arriving to the newly established town had to travel up river in large sailing boats for some distance to a nearby thriving port town, then onward in smaller river transport.

I tried imaging the big sailing ships carrying arrivals, people who had been on board for months, eager to reach their new homeland. The river shown here at low tide just didn’t seem to be capable of being navigated by a large sailing ship. However, I enjoyed imaging the presence of so many ships arriving at was back then a thriving port, that I was on board one of them arriving at a strange destination.

This river mouth of the Manawatu River played an important role in the development of my region.

Even Non-Fiction Books Have Sequels

driftwood 018

The book launch is over, the books are continuing to sell and although I’m still my own promoter and marketer I’m ready to start writing again.

I knew the right next step would present itself and yesterday, as I was working on an article for the local history journal, I realised what my next project will be. In fact, I’d already started on it without realising.

At the book launch and during the period prior to it many local swimming stories were emerging that were not connected to the baths I wrote about, but were local social history stories that deserve to be told. Just like the driftwood above, stories can find a second life, continuing their journey on a different course.

Consequently, I am about to embark on a continuing story, a sequel to Down at the Baths. The story is not yet named, but will be about children and swimming places in our city prior to about 1970.

Have you ever noticed that once you set your focus things start happening? Within a couple of hours of making the decision to write a sequel to my book I was given two independent stories of an old swimming hole I’d previously known nothing about. That was definitely a sign this next book is meant to be.

So, my way forward is now clear and I’m rather excited. It seems the next couple of years of my life have now been taken care of.


New Book, New Writing

Two years can disappear as fast as water rushing down a plug hole when you’re immersed in a writing project. That is an excuse, not an explanation, for my absence here. Now that my writing project is finished and my transition to full-time writer is complete I’m excited about renewing my presence here.

The social history project mentioned in my previous post back in 2015 has come to an end and the book, Down at the Baths is about to be launched next week. I’ll post a sneak preview of the cover here and more details about it will follow shortly.


New projects are lined up and my writing life is looking exciting – to me anyway. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you

Kids Illustrate New Zealand Maori Legend

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working with ten year old kids at a school in a small country town nestled at the foot of the hills near the city I live in.  Their learning for the last nine weeks focussed on their local community, changes within it over time and how the community and environment contributes to their lives. When looking for resources, their teacher discovered my retelling of a local legend online and asked if this could be  the focus of my teaching the day I taught in her class. How exciting to get the chance to work with kids using my own work.

The legend, New Zealand Maori Legend of Okatia and the Manawatu Gorge, tells the story of how the Manawatu Gorge was formed, according to Maori legend. The kids loved the story on my first visit and they each produced a small piece of their own writing and some art work. This gave me an idea.


‘How about we produce the story in book form for the school library?’ I suggested. They responded with such enthusiasm I put the idea to their teacher and the project was on. I don’t mean commercial publishing here, but producing a photocopied version of the story as a spiral bound book.

We spent the second session of about one hour looking at pictures of totara trees, the New Zealand native tree that features in the legend. Frome these the children produced four pencil sketches, getting a feel for what the tree was like, since we weren’t able to visit a real one.

I went home from that session and broke the story into fourteen pages that could be illustrated. On our last session together the children each had a page to illustrate, using only pencil and coloured pencils. They proceeded with such enthusiasm all he work was completed during the session.

The last stage of the project is now waiting for my attention. I need to assemble all the pictures and text, turning them into a book. We’ll make two copies, one for their classroom and one for their library.

We’ve all undergone a great learning journey. The kids now show more appreciation of  a Maori legend relevant to the area they live in. They’ve learned a little geology of the gorge separating their town from the one across the ranges. They’ve also learned about turning a story into a picture book by working with a story board and producing appropriate illustrations. I’ve learned about using my writing in workshop sessions to enable children to interpret it in their own way. I’m looking forward to taking the finished book back to them within the next three weeks.


The opportunity to work with the kids in this way has been extremely rewarding and I’d definitely welcome the opportunity to do so again. What a delight to see the kids produce their idea of your story with their own drawings. They’ve certainly brought my retelling of the Okatia legend to life.

Read the retelling of the story of Okatia and the Manawatu Gorge here:

New Zealand Maori Legend of Okatia and the Manawatu Gorge