EPOCH

It gets busy. You know how it is. You bumble around, nothing quite clicks, there’s no real pressure and the weather is really, really dispiriting.

Then you look at your diary (old school paper version) and realise that the magazine articles you enthusiastically pitched at the start of the year – and even drafted slightly – are due in two weeks.

Of course.

At first, it’s a drag. The world’s in a conspiracy against you. You need MORE TIME. And a cup of tea and a biscuit and a tidy desk. And a blanket.

Oh please. Just write the things.

So you start slowly with the points made in the rush of ‘oh, fantastic! They want my stories!’ bliss, and the world gets lighter and less words are deleted and it’s how it’s all meant to be…not all the time, but when you actually do what you are meant to do.

You write.
You research.
You tell stories that give people a spark in their day.

And it’s nearly spring.

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The world is getting brighter – camellias at winter’s close

I DON’T REMEMBER

In a varied writing and reading life, interspersed with some absolute highlights, I often have to balance the good and bad. So it is that:

I don’t remember having to track down hundreds of ‘lost’ footnotes (keeping track of them was a horror, and not a highlight for me!), but I do remember being complimented on my ‘clean’ referencing.

I don’t remember the trauma of travelling to meet my interviewee for a magazine article, but I do remember the good humour, great conversation and ‘highlight’ article that resulted.

I don’t QUITE (qualifier – this was huge and messy) recall redoing a heap of thesis work, but I do remember the graduation that followed, and the sense of achievement and worthwhile research.

I don’t remember the messy proofreading involved for a client who didn’t have time to write well, but I do remember the polished final result and the sound of relief in their voice.

I don’t remember having to trek into university on winter weekends to do track down resources, but I do remember the joy of finding wonderful books and hidden gems that I’ve retained ever since (not the actual books, just the good quotes and passages. I’d hate to imagine a late fine for those books – this was the early 1990s!)

Now it starts to head down to a new generation. As the aunt of two little girls – aged two and ten months respectively – I’m building a whole new list of moments. One day, when they’re both a bit older, I will say to them, hopefully while reading a book or writing a story:

I don’t remember when I started reading and writing – but I’ll always treasure the worlds and wonders I’ve found through both.

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It’s a wonderful world – autumn gives way to winter

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTE TO SELF

The words blur, backspace bar in operation.

There’s not much time to write this story.

One thousand words lie between you and a completed task, a tied up tale, another assignment completed.

The radio’s on in the background, snacks on standby; reference books are to hand, cups of tea safely perched.

You’ve been here many times before. Sticky notes surround you, a lean bank account encourages constant effort, your mind whirls and spins into operation.

Over the years, you’ve  nearly worn off your fingerprints with typing. You’ve lost count of how many computers you’ve worked to a stop.

You’re always thinking of topics for articles, chapters and…be careful what you wish for…books.

Your chair is only for you, so worn into place and padded with cushions that nobody else could possibly find it comfortable.

You have the guaranteed-to-work routine to get through obstacles and keep you going.

Sometimes you wonder why you bother.

Then you see your writing in print, and know that you’re leaving a tiny legacy, sending a small voice out into the ether, and gradually making your way in the world.

It’s all worth it in that moment.

Keep writing. Keep telling the story. This is what you do, after all.

WRITING BUCKET LIST

Having recently put together my reading ‘bucket list’, I turned my thoughts to the other side of the desk. As I am a writer of many parts – sports history, craft, business, the odd bit of fiction – so I enjoy writing across a wide range.

Now, with keyboard poised, what would/could/should I write if I have the chance? Here are just a few ideas for my own consideration.

  • A sporting related history. This is already in progress, as I am researching and drafting the history of an abandoned sports venue in Melbourne (Australia).
  • A biography. I would love to write the biography of Lady Rachel Dudley, who was wife of Australia’s Governor General, and who played a huge part in hospital care on the front line in World War One…and so much more.
  • The story of a flower. As Helen O’Neill has written the superb Daffodil: Biography of a Flower (a welcome birthday present), so I would seek to write the story of lavender.
  • Wartime history – battlefield tours. I’m interested in what’s involved in these, and some of the stories around names on memorials. Having worked as a sports historian, I once researched a player who was killed at Bapaume, France, in 1917. We could never find a photo of him (he played just 15 games), and the only image available was of his name on a war memorial.
  • Craft related – stitch by stitch. The characteristics of yarn crafts and crafters around the world.
  • Travel/culture/history – islands around the world, under a certain size, telling their story and sharing their culture.

Those are just a few of the ideas that I have, and some are more defined than others. But they all keep me interested in both researching and writing, and encourage me towards finding great stories and good writing to absorb for my own future endeavours.

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A possible topic for the future – the story of lavender

RIGHT NOW

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Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Buildings – the perfect backdrop, and a thousand stories in its own right

As I type, I’m sitting here with at least three different varieties of writing to complete.

I have to:

  • Provide captions of up to 100 words for a range of historical photos
  • Write an article about a family of cheese makers
  • Complete a report about business activities.

In between, I am also researching a long lost soldier for an article due in about three weeks’ time, as well as drafting an article about a knitting charity, and researching some other ideas for future articles. I have a newsletter to redraft for an accommodation business, and the prospect of a big spell checking job by the end of April.

Sometimes, when your work depends on words, you can feel that there’s just not enough out there. But there is usually more than you think. Make a list of your interests and abilities, and pursue assignments along those lines. I can spell, have extensive qualifications in historical research, and know how to edit effectively on a small scale. I am also good at creating slightly quirky articles, and specialise in sports and military history, as well as craft enterprises. It’s an odd mix, but at least it gives me some avenues to pursue, as well as confidence in my abilities.

I can also adapt my activities around finding other topics for articles, and adding to the list for possible future subjects. For example, I went to Melbourne’s Flower & Garden Show – based in the Royal Exhibition Buildings and surrounding gardens – a few days ago. As well as being a lovely excursion, it was a scouting trip. I picked up brochures, took notes and had ideas generating even as I walked around; small businesses, interesting profiles, amazing products – all are now in the mix for future pursuit and consideration. I often have a ‘research day’, on which I follow up topics, checking websites and other sources such as local newspapers, and I now have at least a dozen ‘possibles’ to add for consideration.

It just goes to show that sometimes, when your work depends on words, there are more ideas out there than you can imagine!

WRITING THROUGH

Sometimes, it just doesn’t work.

You’re sitting there, and the words have disappeared.

The problem is that you need the words to reappear. So what do you do?

It’s no good cruising the internet; those are other people’s words and ideas. You need your own inspiration to sally forth.

There are only so many lists you can make before you start repeating yourself and running out of sticky notes.

You can only have one or two cups of tea and walks around the garden before the day starts to slip away.

Of course, I know this because I’ve been there…quite a few times. I’ll probably head there again at some stage, but I can’t really afford to let it happen too often.

So I’ve developed my own technique of overcoming blocks and apathy. I write a letter to myself, detailing what it is I need to do, how and when.

By the time I’m halfway through, I’m usually doing the writing that was so difficult in the first place. Of course, it typically needs a bit of editing and tweaking, including removal of the salutation that marks completion. But it is a sound step on the way to a completed piece of work.

This, almost without fail, is my method of ‘writing through’, and a good way of realising that the best way of overcoming blocks and barriers is to apply a steady dose of perseverance.

Yours sincerely

Lynda

 


			

THE MOST IMPORTANT WORD IN WRITING

Some discussions I’ve had recently have been around what it is I actually do with words. Occasionally, people see my role as strictly technical, spelling/grammar focused and boring.

In fact, that’s not what I’m about at all. I will try to make written material work as effectively as it possibly can, including the mechanics of spelling and basic grammar. But I’m not here solely to try and trip people up for mistakes they’ve made. That’s not my focus.

I’m here to show empathy. Yes, empathy. That is, I like to understand your material, your reason for putting it together, and your motivation. Part of this comes from my background in historical research, where giving the past a voice and understanding long gone characters has been – and continues to be – a wonderful challenge. With empathy, I can give your words, your story and your information the best possible shot of speaking out and conveying your message effectively.

Empathy is also important in opening the world up, which is vital for everyone. I don’t mind writing/editing about football, solar power, olive growing, knitting charities or financial services (or anything, in fact). All these topics have crossed my desk recently, either in terms of me writing stories and undertaking interviews from scratch, or tweaking and polishing already existing material into a better state.

Even when the work is long and sometimes arduous, it has helped to expand my knowledge, forge connections and share some wonderful stories. I’ve had some amazing conversations, been to some great places and had the chance to help some growing enterprises in some small way.

Empathy – it’s even more than the most important word in writing…it’s the best!

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Helping words to blossom – it’s all about empathy