Saturday, 31 October 2009

Writing your book: what have you done today?

"Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action." Benjamin Disraeli

I wish those people who keeping tell us how many shopping days to Christmas would stop it. I usually allocate a couple of days to blitz my shopping, preferably not at a weekend, then forget about it.

But even leaving aside the commercial intensity shown by the retail sector to get us to spend money this year, they are right to keep nagging us.

Because time rushes on. Things get missed and then we wake up in a panic with a couple of days to go before Christmas because we've forgotten to buy something, or forgotten where something is that we'd been very organised and already bought.

Which on a different tack, but the same really, is why I'm asking "what have you done today towards that book you said you would write this year?"

Remember your New Year's resolution? Hmm - now what was it? This year I will write my book. Or at least start it.

If I'm making you feel bad, then you're in good company with some of my writer friends. This time last year one of them talked to me about a book he had planned. About a month ago he talked to me about the same book.

Not finished? Not even started. And this from a professional writer who isn't afraid of the blank page, meets deadlines for clients, and loves writing.

I set him a challenge. To start and finish it before the end of the year. Will he meet the deadline? I've no idea. But he won't get the celebratory meal I promised him if he doesn't.

If taking action on a large scale scares you, take a small step. Write the title, the contents page, the first line. Anything to convince your mind you mean business.

Then take another step, and another till as the Chinese say you'll have achieved the long journey.

Come on - I want you to do it - for you.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Ronnie Scott's jazz club

Happy 50th birthday to Ronnie Scott's. Renowned and still on my to do list to visit.

Angela Hewitt plays Schumann

If you like the music of Schumann and you've never heard Angela Hewitt play then I urge you to try her recordings. Or better, go and see her.

Last night was one of those rare evenings that you have sometime when time stands still and you know that what's happening is special and precious.

Yes of course we took the virtuosity for granted. Any pianist who receives the acclaim Angela Hewitt has received automatically has that. What she created though was something beyond my grasp of describing.

A sense of space, a meditation from beginning to end, a sharing of her love for the music which she covered us with like a silk cloak.

Amazing. And to boot or to shoe some wonderful satin high heel shoes in scarlet.

Check out her website - she writes an interesting blog

Nottingham Trent University - Ingenuity Programme

It's always good to get together in a group of women and share experiences.

Under the guidance of some of the women lecturers in the business school, we had a morning thinking of how we start in business, grow a business and survive in it.

Just when you think that you are the only person to have a particular problem, you find that others have faced the same challenge... and found solutions.

The fact that so many networks keep springing up is testament to our need as women to have support. Are we better at sharing ideas, strategies and comfort? Possibly. It is seen as natural female territory.

But we're as rigorous as men in wanting solutions. It may be that we want to solve our challenges in a different way. Whatever it is, I spent a life enhancing and supportive time at the event.

Di Slaney of DIversity (marketing) and Sarah and Mig Davenport of Sarah Davenport Designs (wonderful bespoke furniture and kitchens) spoke about how they'd survived to this point. Very inspirational.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Be still for a moment - if you can

My niece who lives in Malaysia sent me an email this morning, passing on to me a meditation she'd received from one of her friends.

It asked us to be still for a moment. Stop trying to make everything happen around you. Stop trying to think of all you have to do.

Just be - for a moment.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Saturday, 24 October 2009

What will your book do for your readers?

I was talking to a fellow business writer today and he said I wish I could sit in a tower and just write what I like.

Well we all feel like that when inspiration hits us, but we need to have one eye on the market and more likely three if we're writing for specific markets.

What problems are at the top of your mind right now?

Is the car, the house, the children, the partner, the work or what?

Because whatever is there, then you'll find it difficult to pay attention to anything else till you've dealt with that particular challenge. But if what I'm offering you to read doesn't cover that challenge, then no matter how well I've written or how good my offer to you is, then it will go down the to-do list.

Target, target and more target is needed. And the ivory tower will just have to wait a while.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Sunday, 18 October 2009

How to write in the therapy market

This week I've been writing an article to appear in a therapy journal in December.

I loved being a therapist- it was something I'd wanted to do for a long time so qualifying was one of the best experiences of my life. Then I had the chance to pass on my knowledge to others who wanted to be therapists. What I found was they didn't by and large qualify as business people.

Coming to therapy work from a background in business meant that from the beginning I treated being a therapist in the same way as anything else I'd done. Set out my goals, focused on the market and tried to solve problems. Often I found with students that they were so focused on the caring that they couldn't treat themselves as the product or service being marketed.

That's why so many don't prosper as they should. It's difficult placing a value on what you do to gain a decent reward for your services. It sounds clinical and I don't want to undervalue any therapist's work, but if you can't work out a price that allows you to receive at least a living wage then other people will set your prices for you.

Whether you're a therapist or in some other one on one service, there's no shame in being upfront about your expertise and experience. Training doesn't come cheap and it demands investment of time and energy on top of fees paid.

Be fearless about what you think you're worth - but then be prepared to give the value in return. And think about it always in terms of 'what solutions can I offer clients.'

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Richard Bach

"You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however."

Friday, 16 October 2009

Essential reading for writers

I was looking up famous birthdays today and found Noah Webster on the list. Compiler of the first American dictionary and featured in the Road to Morocco movie song(by Johnny Burke)

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

How to finish a project

This morning I walked into our kitchen, felt the sunshine soak into my skin and relished the smell and the look of our new kitchen.

It's felt at times like we've been camping out for months - I know that's an exaggeration because it's only been weeks. But goodness now it's over how glad I am that we did it.

Just like any project we've had the excitement, choosing the colours, the units and so help me even enjoying picking the taps! Then started the hard work of clearing the kitchen and gearing ourselves for the influx of workmen.

How lucky we've been with them - all helpful, all conscientious and despite the dust, all attempting to leave us as tidy as possible each night.

Then those last finishing touches - the decorating - and my neck is now recovering from the ceilings thank you. Plus some flooring and a couple of pieces of new equipment needed. We deserved that because the items we replaced had lasted over 20 years.

It's those last few polishes of the diamond that make the difference in any project isn't it? Those personal touches that make us individual. Whether it's a kitchen or a piece of writing.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Maxine Peake in Criminal Justice

Did you catch any of Criminal Justice last week? If not and you can see it on I-Player then have a look. Maxine Peake was wonderful reflecting the fragility of a woman under the control of her husband.

If she doesn't win an award for that performance then that will be unjust.


"There are some that only employ words for the purpose of disguising their thoughts."

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Friday, 9 October 2009

Jane Eyre

Did you attend Sunday school as a child? I did and couldn't avoid it without a big battle with my parents. But I have it to thank for introducing me to one of the classics of modern literature.

Jane Eyre. Underdog and plain girl. As an adolescent there was plenty for me to connect with even though I had a loving family and comfortable home.

Won as a Sunday School prize, every TV, film or radio version has sent me back to the book to appreciate the strength of the writing. When I first read it, I didn't realise what a revolutionary book it was at the time. Female writer, strong character and radical concept.

It still moves me when I read it and just like the first time, my heart goes out to this child terrified by shadows in the Red Room.

Great literature.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Hilary Mantel

I'd like to pass on my congratulations to Hilary Mantel for her win. Thomas Cromwrell was one of my favourite people when I studied Tudor history at school.

It was probably that I identified with him as someone who had to make his own way in the world. Using his wits and his talents he gained everything. I guess he was unfortunate in working for such a capricious boss.

Looking forward to reading the book. It will be my Christmas holiday read I think because I love having a big story to get my teeth into over the quieter period.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Denis Norden quote

"It's a funny kind of month,October. For the really keen cricket fan it's when you realise that your wife left you in May. "


Saturday, 3 October 2009

Writing: what distracts you

For the last week, our household has been upside down because we have the builders in.

Now before I go on I must say that they have been great; arriving on time, working hard and even better clearing up after themselves. But isn't it odd how the slightest alteration of our routine puts us out?

And this isn't a minor alteration - we're having our kitchen re furbished. So we have been camping out and the contents of our original kitchen are distributed around the house.

On one level it's a reminder not to take anything for granted because one day we had no power all day and floorboards up and for a short time no water.

On another level it's an object lesson in focus and concentration. That's because my work didn't stop and since I work at home, then the normal 'office' conventions didn't apply. I found myself instead working in short, sharp bursts of activity.

The odd thing is that I rather enjoyed the challenge. I didn't have the luxury of taking my time so I powered through work that I might have spread out far longer in normal conditions.

Just as in office time management, the experts always say that a large percentage of working time is not effective, so my office suddenly because super efficient.

Made me feel smug at the end of the day how much I had achieved 'against the odds'.

Human nature loves a challenge doesn't it. Now my challenge is when we finally see the back of the workmen, how can I capitalise on that increased efficiency?

Friday, 2 October 2009

How to measure your progress as a writer

I'm old enough to realise that things go in cycles. Events, learning and in this case writing.

It's very easy to become discouraged by thinking your progress isn't fast enough. I've lost count of the number of times it's happened to me. Every time I set off on that journey of discovery I manage the beginner slopes easy enough.

Then comes a bit of an incline and whoa, I'm out of breath. Fortunately what happens then is that there's a plateau. Often we rail against the plateaux in our learning because we want to take another leap forward. . . immediately.

But just as we need to draw breath after a real incline, so we need to take stock in our writing progress. And we can turn to look back to assess how much we've learned that we didn't give ourselves credit for.

So if you're beating yourself up about not moving head, cut yourself some slack. My bet is you're further forward than you think.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

How to stop the time robbers

One of the biggest complaints I hear from would be or struggling writers is that they don't have the time. That their families or work or whatever stopped them doing anything.

I've heard people with children wailing that they can't even find peace in the loo because someone will be banging on the door.

Here's a story about the novelist William Faulkner that may give you an idea. He used to walk into the room where he wrote and on the way in, take off the door knob and put it in his pocket.