Letter Writing – A Lost Art Form ?

When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone ? Sadly, for me, it was a letter of complaint about service I had received.

Earlier this week I found myself clearing out a cupboard – yes such tasks are particularly attractive when you should be finishing a book. I discovered a pile of letters all over 20 years old now that I had received when I left the country of my birth to settle half way around the world.

Some I must admit were pedestrian, some too brief as if the letter was a chore but some revealed beautiful moments in time captured forever. A friend wrote of a disturbing break up with a boyfriend, followed by a new romance almost destroyed by the return of the ex. It captured a moment when she realised who she loved and why. I see her face on facebook everyday surrounded by the beautiful family he created with the right man and I feel privileged to have a letter that captured, like a time capsule, the creation of ever lasting love.

Another talks of an infant child and his personality and I love the fact that I now know that child as an adult. Yet another talks of a chance meeting with someone from their past – who 15 years later now shares her life. Captured co-incidence ?

Lost friends, skillfully crafted poetry, the stupidity of youth all captured in a pile of paper and ink.

Is the art of letter writing lost ? I think not. The brevity of facebook and texting has created a different language – different but not wrong. The problem is we can’t unexpectedly find our facebook posts in a cupboard 20 years later.

Blogging however allows us to write that annonymous letter to unspecified recipients and keep the art of letter writing alive. Start a blog today for no other reason than to create a capsule of memories.

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Sometimes great ideas wither like flowers on the vine as a result of our inability to take that all important first step. Putting pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard for the first time can be daunting. But it is like all decisions in life – the decision must result in an action for our world to change.

I take inspiration from some great people around me to provide me with the impetus to act. They don’t need to be an published author, in fact some of the most inspiring people around us are just like us.

Let me introduce you to my inspiration. Danielle is the owner operator of a fantastic business called Baked by Mum. Danielle makes and sells Cookie Dough and Cookie Dry Mix at markets and also wholesale to retailers. She started her own business because she was frustrated with putting in so much effort for someone else’s benefit. You can find Baked By Mum on facebook as well as at her website BakedByMum.com.au

Anyway I will let Danielle tell you in her words about Inspiration to take the first step.

Who inspires you ?

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You’re Not Alone !

Authors often feel alone, writing is a very solitary pursuit. What we don’t realise is there are millions of us “out there”.  Just because they are not sitting at our kitchen table sharing a cup of tea lamenting the decline of the use of proper punctuation, doesn’t mean we can’t feel part of a community.

The world has changed dramatically for those with tribal instincts over the last 10 years. You don’t have to venture out on a cold winter’s night anymore to seek the company of like minded individuals in public libraries. You don’t have to take the risk that in the group of 20 hastily convened authors you will be the only one that does not have psychopathic tendencies (although that might make a good plot in itself). The internet brings us thousands of resources, not quite as good at solving problems as a cup of tea, but hey you could combine both – surfing and chai !

I’ve been surfing and chai-ing myself recently working out how to find the perfect end to The Amazing Adventures of Thunder & Lily and found some fantastic sites.

So lets start with my absolute fav figment.com. A great authentic site that has heaps of opportunities to let your own writing be put out there and have lots of fellow budding authors review and help you. You can even invite your friends to come look at your work. They also have great pieces from published authors to provide inspiration.

Writing.com is also a great site, very like figment but has heaps more resources for challenges that we authors face and need some help on.

Another great place is TheReadingRoom.com which is a virtual book club. I’ve joined some of their groups and have found discussing great, and sometimes not so great, work helps in helping you solve your puzzle.

Post a note on this site if you have other sites that have helped you.

Happy chai-surfing !

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Today I was at my kid’s school assembly. Lots of awards, lots of missing teeth smiles, lots of parents with cameras. Today there were at least 10 awards for poetry. I found myself wondering if school was the last time any of us budding authors wrote a poem. So agreed, its not a dead art as kids still stretch the artistic boundaries but does anyone else still write a poetic verse ?

At 14 I fell in love with The Horses by Edwin Muir – a little post apocalyptic verse which hypnotised me. I think I was going through a goth period. Today I reread the verse and whilst not so hypnotised I fell in love with verse as an art all over again. I attempted the art myself. Nothing came. A cup of tea was made and still nothing came.

Is poetry a skill best left to those who have never had to write a 30 page management report ? Is it best left in the hands of those who’s sentence construction has not been critiqued by committee. I wonder.

The Poem Hunter  http://www.poemhunter.com/ is a great site to help you rediscover all the works that once hypnotised you and perhaps help you to find the unstructured one within once again.

Signing off with a bit of Edwin’s best

“Late in the summer the strange horses came.
We heard a distant tapping on the road,
A deepening drumming; it stopped, went on again
And at the corner changed to hollow thunder.
We saw the heads
Like a wild wave charging and were afraid.”

Edwin Muir “The Horses”

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Writer’s Block

Yes we all get it. Whether it is writing the last chapter of The Amazing Adventures of Thunder & Lily, now unfinished for over a year, or posting the next blog. Writer’s Block with blogging is way more confronting – as I found out this week. I found comfort in the thought that writer’s block if you tweet must be so frightening that it would paralyse you. Well maybe not – not if you feel comfortable just telling the world what you had for dinner compared to the need to manage your “intellectual” or “humorous” persona.

And there lies the problem, when it happens it can happen for lots of reasons but our reactions define us. Mine, it appears, is to seek consolation in others imaginary problems being worse than mine. What is yours ? Wikipedia has a nice little unemotional dissection of the problem http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Writer’s_block.

I love wikipedia – don’t you ? Definitely on my list of sites I’d take to the desert island.

So what are our typical reactions:

  • Ignore it and hope it goes away
  • Think it could be worse and take comfort in that thought, as I do
  • Avoid any attempt to restart the work
  • Fill our time with non productive tasks to feel productive but not address the issue – “the busy fool”

I used to do a lot of project based work in my previous life and I thought to address the problem what I should do is treat it like a problem project so these tips might help you:

  1. Call a meeting with yourself to discuss the problem (Blackberries off please)
  2. Dissect the problem in detail (pre-buying a whiteboard will help)
  3. List some actions to address issues – such as trying to turn the computer on to confront our fears
  4. Allocate Accountability “A” for the actions and a timeframe for completion – I love this one as you can run around screaming “Who has the “A” for this task ?”. Okay so you will have the A for everything on this list but it is still fun.
  5. Schedule the next project meeting and note who is bringing morning tea.

I found this quite helpful and discovered that a problem in itself was a solution – blog about Writer’s Block. Also a good idea to Google Writer’s Block – there are lots of helpful tips out there – I like About.com’s list http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/writingroadblocks/tp/block.htm

Sorry I have to log off now as I’m late for the project meeting about the last Chapter of The Amazing Adventures of Thunder & Lily and I’m on morning tea

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All great pieces of work start with a moment of inspiration. This can be quite random and with the exception of technical pieces there needs to be a moment for the work to have an anchor. Okay so some people make a reasonable living writing formula romance but if you have ever read any of these works I doubt that you felt inspired far less remembering the plot a week later. Is that too cruel, well maybe a little as books can also provide us with opportunities to escape. But anchorless boats tend to drift.

So what inspired me to write The Amazing Adventures of Thunder & Lily ? Truth is it was a dark thought that brought light to a kids book. I was watching the dogs play with the kids and wondered whether they would ever remember this (kids, not the dogs !). Am I trying to make time stand still ? I suppose so as I’d quite happily bonsai my kids if I thought they could stay this age forever.

Whatever it was there was a moment and I’ve tried to capture it. What will be your moment ?

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When the words come out looking like they felt in your head

It looked like a jumble of words. And it was. It came out in uncontrolled sentences, paragraphs and pages. Written on the scraps of paper to hand when an idea came to mind. It got mixed with the rates bill, kids lunch orders and the odd crossword puzzle.

It got lost in various drawers and was left, abandoned, without an ending for almost a year.  One day I found Chapter 1 again, read it and cried. I carefully put it in a zip lock bag and went on a hunt for Chapter 1’s brother and sisters.

Laid on the dining room table it looked like it had felt in my head, unorganised but somehow organic. The chaos of the scraps of paper looked intentional, a bit like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle. Ah and yes the final piece of the puzzle is still missing.

So I set about typing it out on my computer, no editing for me ! Raw it was and raw it stays. Submitting this unborn love to an editor will make good fodder for another post and perhaps months of therapy.

I dont think you can control the chaos and the way it spills for the mind, I think this is an important lesson on writing your first book, control results in something that will not make you cry when you find the long lost Chapter 1.

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