What Do Driftwood and Writers Have in Common?

The last few weeks I’ve wandered a few deserted winter beaches here in New Zealand, letting my thoughts wander where they will. As I sat in the car one rainy day, looking over the driftwood on the stony beach, my mind started thinking about the stories of the wood. Each of those pieces had their own story – their own starting point and the adventure they’d taken down the river into the harbour.

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I picked up my pen and started to write, having no idea where my thoughts would take me. I imagined how each piece of driftwood had cast it’s story into the ocean before being washed up onto the beach.

Isn’t that what we do as writers? We release the stories that lay deep within us, letting them free to find their own landing place in the world. Don’t hold of your stories too long. Cast them out for others to read before it is too late and you too become beached in your final resting place.

Make a start today, start writing your stories. There are others out here who would love to read them.

Well, I Did It!

Okay, I know my presence here is not something more than a wee speck of dust that is so easily over looked. That’s my own fault, allowing myself to become far too enthusiastic about far too many things.

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I came on here for the first time in weeks this morning and noticed my previous post here was about the Flash Fiction story I intended writing and submitting for a local competition. Well, I thought maybe I should report, with pride i might add, that I managed to write the story and get it entered it on time.

Now I’m caught up with this whole Flash Fiction genre. I’m hooked. It’s not easy writing a story in less than 300 words. It’s challenging, but I loved every minute of it.

My next challenge is even shorter, 250 words, on the topic of Sugar. Sugar? What story can be constructed with sugar as a theme in less than 250 words? I have no idea, but as I have less than a week to write the story something had better pop into my mind soon!

http://www.bubblews.com/news/3485894-when-one-door-closes-another-opens

Memory Prompts are Everywhere

Quite often people think they don’t remember much about their past, but that could be because they are out of practice. In my experience, the more I write my stories down, the more twice as many memories come flooding in.

If you think about it, memory prompts are everywhere. No matter what you do, or where you go, it’s likely you did something in your childhood or younger life, or maybe a family member did something, similar to what is happening now.

Take this afternoon for example. I’ve just been watching the women finishing in the World triathlon Series race here in New Zealand. This not only made me remember my days as a young competitive swimmer, but also in adulthood as a Masters Swimmer. Then there are the memories of women’s triathlons and fun run and walk events I’ve participated in.

If you really want to write your life stories but don’t know where to start, I recommend you start looking at the things around you. Then, consider whether anything similar happened in your own life. Open your mind to memory prompts and start writing your stories.Image

Myself and two friends, after our first team triathlon effort, about ten years ago.

The Story of the Rest of My Life

After many months of being undecided about what I want to do in my life and making a few decisions for the wrong reasons I’ll soon be back writing on a daily basis. Another five weeks and I can call myself a writer again. I’ll be back to writing my stories and helping you write yours.

Sometimes I guess we need to try something before we realise it’s not what we really want to do. That has certainly been the case for me over the last year. Now l want to return to writing and working on my many unfinished projects.

The story of the rest of my life is just beginning. 

The Opposite of Writers’ Block, What a Problem

Writers, read on at your own discretion. You may find the following content upsetting, infuriating and totally insensitive. You may feel like throwing bricks at me across the world. You may become so envious you vow never to read my writing again. I’m sorry, I have a problem and I need to share it with you.

I’m experiencing the opposite of writers block. Too many ideas are rushing at me, too many projects demanding my time. Why can’t ideas pace themselves, take their turn in line, rather than fighting for my attention?

My long term book project graciously agreed to go on hold for a week or two as I experiment with a short story competition entry, for which the deadline looms. I’m like the turtle getting closer to the finish line, word by word.

A 2000 word essay for my online writing course needed a possible topic to emerge. Of course, now I’m swamped with ideas, taunting, calling to be written now. So much for the competition entry, I now have two projects on hold and an essay I want to write.

Next writing challenge, another deadline, a picture book workshop I’m attending next weekend. I do have stories to take, but …… they were written some time ago and my writing has changed. Which of the three possibilities shall I work on?

With all these ideas calling out to be written, you may wonder what my problem is? Let me tell you, time and my lack of ability to focus on one thing at a time. I want to write them all – now! This is quite bewildering. What happened to my old friend, writers block, allowing me time to write but with any possible ideas hiding under a rock.

I know, you’ll tell me I need to be strong, get focused, choose one idea and run with it. I’m exposing myself as a scatterbrain without self-discipline. You’re right. I need to set priorities. The first priority is the short story competition. I hope the other ideas don’t mind and will wait patiently for me.

1950s Memories of The Esplanade, Palmerston North, NZ

Place names didn’t mean much to me as a child. The Esplanade was a park we went to on family outings at the weekend. We usually walked there from our home a few blocks away.

In recent times I’ve wondered about it’s name, Victoria Esplanade, to discover it was planned to commemorate the 60th jubilee of Queen Victoria in the late 1900s. Something still didn’t seem right. In my mind an esplanade is something you walk along beside the sea. We’re an inland city, no sea in sight, but we do sit beside a river and, yes, the Esplanade gardens and walkway are situated beside the river.

The Esplanade has changed a lot since my childhood, but is still rather a special place in the city. My first memories are of the paddling pool. One warm summer Sunday my mother wheeled my new baby sister in her cane pram, while I pedalled along beside her on my new red trike delivered by Father Christmas. I still remember the delight of being able to splash to my heart’s content for what seemed like all afternoon as my mother sat and watched, chatting to the other mums.

Sometimes we went to listen to the local brass band playing in the rather grand bandstand, an impressive occasion to me as a child. Once the band had finished we were allowed to play in the bandstand, running around and around until we became quite dizzy.

A few years later, while attending the nearby school, our teacher took us to the Esplanade to study the native birds, listening to their bird song and hopefully snatching fleeting glances of the birds in the trees, those brave enough or curious enough to wonder about the mass of children on the path below.

Not long after that much of the luxurious bush was cut and cleared, but a small patch still remains, making the walk along the river path a pleasant one.

Now, more than 115 years later, we can be thankful for the foresight of the early city fathers who, having arrived from England and finding themselves in a landlocked community, may have missed walking along the esplanades of their seaside towns. By creating and naming this riverside space The Esplanade they could recreate some of the memories of home.

 The Esplanade remains a popular place for outings with both young and old.

 

Remembering the Reason Why

Sometimes life takes off on its own path. We start by paddling in a stream and before we realise we’re being swept along by a river current. This is not the journey we intended taking. Sometimes the new journey is an improvement, but often it means we’ve lost track of our original intentions.

I recently returned to part-time work. No regrets, I enjoy almost every minute of it. This commitment coincided with my fascinating immersion into research for my writing project about the contribution the local swimming baths made to my town during their short-lived life.

These two big projects fill my life in a positive way, but leaving me more drained of energy than I expected and with little time for other things, things such as blogging.

An e-mail this morning from a local writer, someone not known to me, suggested she’d read my blog and shared many of my memories. This started me thinking about my reasons for blogging in the first place. I looked back at my earlier entries, especially my first one written in February this year, Writing the Stories of Ordinary Lives.

Over recent months I’ve strayed from my original intentions, to use blogging as a platform to preserve stories, memories from the 1950s and 1960s, stories from the past to share with readers. I’m a believer in daily journal writing and the idea was my blog would encourage me to be a more prolific writer.

Instead, as I immersed myself in my research and memoir journey I turned back to writing in journals. I love writing with pencil and paper and find this a way of making connections and brainstorming my way into a story.

Another reason for the blog was to make connections with others interested in sharing their stories and I love this aspect of blogging. So, here I am again, making no promises, but determined to keep my blog alive and to make time to read the stories of other people.

Writing the Book is Only Part of the Story

I’ve allowed myself three years to write the story of the local swimming pool I frequented as a teenager. I didn’t realize how many new skills I’d need along the way. I’m a writer and this is a story I want to tell. I thought I’d research and write and produce a book. Wrong! The reality is this book is taking me on an amazing learning journey.

My book is a local history one, a social history, the story of the local Municipal Baths from 1917 until closure in 1966.That sounds easy, gathering up information and writing. But there’s more to a book than that, as many of you wiser than me already know. I feel as if I’m undertaking a personal three year on-going education course – and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

Of course, there’s the research. This is new for me and I’m already learning rapidly. The people at my local library are amazing, showing me where to locate information and how to access it. The old newspapers are giving me an insight into community reaction to the building of the baths in their town. The Archives contain lots of valuable data. I’ve been recording my own anecdotal stories and will soon be delving into stories from people who experienced the baths long before I did.

The research will continue for a long time yet. I hadn’t ventured too far into the project when I realized I needed to put this story into context. What was the local community like at the time, especially in the 1920s and 1930s? I’m off to the library and onto the internet, gathering stories of the local community and the swimming world of the time.

All this sounds fine, but the book needs to written in a style appealing to a wide readership. I hope to blend facts with my personal stories. This will involve a different style from  my writing so far. I enrolled in an online Creative Non- fiction writing course and this is proving a wise investment of time and money. I’ve been reading a book about undertaking research. I’m also reading books, both novels and factual, which weave backwards and forwards in time, rather than tell a chronological story. I’m getting a feel for how my book will be written.

I’m now six months into my project. My writing skills are improving, I’m getting more skilled at research and I’m becoming e of a social and local historian. Who said writing a book was easy? But I can tell you from personal experience, learning as you go is lots of fun.

Rainy Day Pleasures of Childhood

The rain falls gently outside and I allow myself to drift back to my 1950s childhood, when even rainy days held lots of fun. We had no television back then, but I never had problems finding something to do, but more a problem of choosing from my favourite wet day indoor activities.

Who remembers pressing their face against the inside of the window on a rainy day, nose all squashed against the glass, watching the raindrops trickle, trickle, trickle at first, then racing each other down the pane? I watched their trail as they slithered downward, never straight, veering slightly this way or that until they merged with another or hit the ledge below.

Colouring books and crayons were essential on a rainy day and even more enjoyable when Mum sat down with me. “Colour a page, Mum,” I’d plead and she’d quietly choose a picture, pick up a crayon and start by neatly outlining the edges, before filling the space evenly as only Mums could.

The box of paper dolls, stored carefully in old cardboard chocolate boxes, often came out on rainy days, whole families of them ready to live their lives as I directed. Then there were jigsaw puzzles, especially good for extended periods of rain. I spread all the pieces out on the floor, turning them over, sorting them into colours and locating the straight pieces of the edges. “Always assemble the edges first,” Dad said, “it makes the rest easier when you’ve got something to work from.”

Another rainy days treat was to get out Dad’s book, ‘The Jolly Boys Book of Boxcraft.’ In it I learned how to make everything from dolls houses to train stations, using a few small boxes and plenty of glue.

Knitting also occupied my time as I grew out of some of the younger activities. I loved watching wool turn into rows, transforming into something recognisable, row by row.

And of course there were books, always books. I’d lose myself in a story and not notice the rain outside had stopped.

I think back now and say, thank heavens we didn’t have TV or electronic game equipment back in the 1950s. I’d have been deprived of so much fun had I been stuck in front of moving images that I couldn’t interact with. Rainy days were never boring, but always fun.

Guilty of Neglect

The lovely ladies dressed in their swimwear stared at me from the screen, chiding me for my neglect.

“You call yourself a writer,” they said in their soft, feminine voices. “You encourage others to write daily. Where have you been?”

“I have been writing,” I said, “just not here.

Disappointment oozed from their silent faces “Your blog was part of the bargain,” thy reminded me, “part of your daily writing practice commitment.”

“I know, I know,” I replied, ‘but I’ve had other writing priorities this month.”

I lowered my eyes in shame at neglecting the lovely ladies who lent me their image. They’ve stared at me each day from my home page, inviting me into the water, trying to entice me into my own writing space. I owe the ladies more attention. So, here I am, ready once more to write the stories of ordinary people. I’ve been away too long.