Being super busy wasn’t the plan. It just sort of evolved that way, sneaking up on me with each new commitment I’ve added to the existing glom. But trying to fit all the things and all the people in all the time has gradually resulted in days being largely indistinguishable from one another in the flurry of work / life / dog-wrangling, etc.

In the past, periods of self-inflicted busyness of this sort ended up with my best creative work being done in the wee smalls… those times when the rest of household is generally asleep. But this has fallen by the wayside over the past months, largely because I’ve simply been too knackered for many 4am gigs. Those I have managed haven’t been unduly successful, since one or both pups usually decides they’re sooo lonely (aka needing attention) and hunt down some quality lap-time. At my desk. In front of my computer. Cute, but not productive.

Lately this means creativity’s been reduced to what I make for dinner and/or how much (practical) productive activity I can manage to magically squeeze into my complicated work/life arrangements. Not ideal, but – eh – life.

Then, this week, I spent a day doing data entry down the coast. Although it’s not my usual day job, the morning started off pretty much the same as any other: puppy chaos, a wild scramble to be ready on time and a hasty goodbye kiss at the door. Then I headed  out to brave the back-to-school early morning traffic.

When I reached the first set of traffic lights, I leaned over to press play on my audio book. Shock-horror-gasp! I’d managed to leave my beloved travel companion behind. Rats! And I was so ready for next chapters in The Rivers of London saga by Ben Aaronovitch. Without Kobna Holbrook-Smith to keep me company on my drive, the day suddenly felt drab.

Even so, I prefer silence to morning radio and I resigned myself to letting the parts of my brain that would otherwise be listening to the adventures of Police Constable Peter Grant do as they wished. And what they did was notice things.

I found I was looking around, observing, categorising… and ideas were popping up. This was familiar ground. A few years ago this was my standard route to work. I’d drive to the coast in early morning traffic contemplating something I’d seen or heard, putting it together with other mental notes and turning them into new puzzle pieces to niggle at. In point of fact, I used to do this whenever I drove anywhere on my own. More often than not,  the puzzle pieces would shape themselves into blogposts, writing projects, outings and social events, craft craziness and so on.

This brought Murdoch University’s new Free Your Think advertising campaign to mind. The catch phrase in the ad (free  your think) shapes think as a noun, rather than a verb, and it occurred to me that my (creative) think has actually been, if not imprisoned, at least hibernating somewhere for far too long – and definitely needed freeing.

No wonder I’ve felt as though I’m flailing around in a fog… my think was trying to find its way out into the light of day!

By the time I reached my destination, we (my think and I) were well on the way to getting reacquainted. We’d given each other the once over, received tentative nods of recognition, spent some time reminiscing and even elicited promises to to get together again soon.

So: hello Think – I didn’t know it, but I missed you. You’re formally invited back and your place at the table is assured. Turn up whenever you’re ready. I’ll be here.

Several months ago I decided to join a writing group. I’d been feeling an increasing need to get together with other writers, to get some feedback on my stalled-out writing and to re-establish some of the peer networks I’ve allowed to slide. So I bought an A5 spiral-bound notebook, sharpened my pencil, girded my loins and joined up.

That first session turned out to be quite anxious-making. It was a brand new group and none of us knew each other. We had no clear idea of what to expect or any real feel for how things would be organised either. This resulted in a fair bit of discussion before we settled down but, once that was underway, things got moving. We agreed to meet once a month and each time we get together we continue to build on the initial ideas.

We’ve tried various approaches so far, including catch-up chats about our writing, short exercises during the session and a take-home topic to write about for the following meeting. The exercises are random, but have tended to focus on an agreed topic/word. For those done during the sessions, we’ve all scribbled away madly for 10 (or so) minutes, then shared what we’ve written. The sharing is always optional, although most people have chosen to do so, and the feedback has been constructive.

The homework exercises have been a bit more of a challenge but have resulted some very amusing anecdotes and a number of very touching personal stories. I came away from the last session thinking about family, friends and the very short time we have together on this earth, partly due to this piece by group-member Rosemary Ague.

It’s only two days until we meet up again and the take-home exercise has been preying on my mind for weeks. We all agreed to write a short piece revolving around a colour of our choice, with the subject matter left up to the individual. The catch is that we’re to name the colour in the first sentence and then only allude to it after that, actually mentioning only once in any paragraph.

Right. After considering various colours and even more topics, my head had started to feel like it had a rainbow of ideas hovering around in it – but nothing much made it to the page. Then, yesterday morning, I listened to Joanne Fedler talking about her upcoming 7-day writing challenge.

“Some days we’re going to sit down and we’re just going to write rubbish… If you write one or two sentences that make you go ‘Oh, WOW!’  – well, then that’s been a really good writing day… But writing rubbish is better than writing amazing things in your head. Amazing stories in your head don’t count… The only thing that counts is words on the page. So put some words on the page! Let them be rubbish – that’s part of the process… just do it!”

Thank you, Joanne. I already knew this, but I managed to lose sight of it in amongst all the colour and noise. I’ve chosen yellow – because it makes me happy – and I’m almost-nearly satisfied with at least one of the paragraphs that have emerged 🙂

I’ve toyed with participatinnanoplanning_oct2016g in NaNoWriMo a number of times, but life has conveniently provided me with an ongoing multitude of excuses not to. But what all those excuses actually boil down to is that producing 50,000 words in 30 days simply sounds wayyyy too daunting to consider.

Then, a couple of weeks ago a friend sent me a message on Twitter: Hello! are you gonna #nanowrimo this year?

Bold writer that she is, she gave it a go in 2015 and reached her 50,000 word target on 30 November – the deadline. At the time I think I said something along the lines of  ‘Well done! I should’ve signed up too… maybe next year…’

But that was then and this is now… So sensible-me reply-tweeted: Heh – I think not. My greycells are still pulpy after #BlogJune, and that’s a much less intense project!

When we caught up for coffee and cake the following week, we talked about writing and plans and life – as usual – and she asked another curly question: Are you planning on writing another book?

My answer was much the same as the one to the NaNoWriMo question, but with more detailed excuses. In essence, I told her, I’m not sure I have either the subject matter or the commitment to launch into another big project.

As it turns out, the cosmos seems to have other plans…

This became clear a few days later when one of my favourite local librarians suggested I might like to attend a NaNoWrimo information evening. Just come along, she said. It’s part of the combined libraries Write Along the Highway programme and the first time we’ve been involved.

So I went – mostly as a gesture of solidarity and support but also because I was jut a little curious.

Somehow or other, for reasons still not quite clear to me, by the end of the session I found myself agreeing to jump on board the NaNo-wave. Of it’s own volition, my hand had sneaked up in answer to the question: So who’s gonna sign up to participate in NaNoWriMo this year?

How did that even happen!? 😛

50,000 words equates to 1,666.67 words each day. Since my blog posts are often around 800 words, I guess that’s a bit like two blog posts a day – or BlogJune on steroids. Hardly scary at all…

I guess my subconscious decided that since I work best under pressure (even if it’s self-imposed), it would provide me with some. Senisible-me is still kicking and screaming about it a bit, but she and my subconscious are slowly coming to an accommodation.

Since I also attended a (free) introduction to Scrivener at one of the libraries, perhaps I’ll try Scrivener-ing my way through November. The presenter, Natasha Lester, calls it ‘the best writing tool on the market‘ and her enthusiasm was very infectious… and I have had a copy of Scrivener sitting around for the last many months…

In short, I’m in. Although, as you may have gleaned, I’m both looking forward to and dreading 1 November. My goal is to reach the finish line with ta (very) rought first draft of an actual book. Then I can dither, procrastinate and deliberate over that for a number of more relaxing months. It certainly beats dithering over whether to start in the first place!

The ABC reports that unemployment in Western Australia is on the rise and that the number of full time jobs has been falling for well over a year. Part-time jobs / job-shares are, to some extent, taking their place. But the local Chamber of Commerce and Industry anticipates that the unemployment rate will rise from 5.7% (May 2016) to around 6.3% in the current financial year.

This is certainly an interesting climate in which to consider looking around for some additional part-time / casual work, but I thought I’d give it a go…

The most interesting aspect, really, has been updating my CV/resume. These are, of course, not quite the same thing. A curriculum vitae (CV) is a comprehensive listing of about the last decade of your work experience, along with all your academic qualifications and achievements. Once it’s set up, this document should be pretty easy to tweak and update, since most of those details probably won’t change all that much.

A resume, on the other hand, is much briefer – just a couple of pages (at most) to outline your skills and experience. However, as often as not, what many prospective Australian employers actually seem to be looking for is something in-between. Job applications across a wide range of employment areas request a CV, but actually seem to be after what amounts to a slightly more detailed version of a resume.

Having not travelled this particular road for a number of years, the updating and reshaping of the master document took quite a while. Compressing the relevant aspects into a resume/summary/mini-CV was less time consuming, but not a minor task either. The upside is that it’s all done, so I can now apply for random employment willy-nilly with minimal hassle 🙂

Or so one might imagine…

Job applications, however, all come with that most mysterious and complicated of things, the selection criteria. In many instances these are fairly similar for similar sorts of jobs, but each set requires individual attention – there simply isn’t a one-stop-shop as far as job applications go.

The objective is to address each of the criteria in such a way as to showcase how one has successfully implemented/managed situations with one’s skill set. Ah – and each paragraph needs to be different, i.e. not repetitive. They also each need to be interesting enough to generate at least a grunt of approval from the selection panel and get you over the line onto the short list.

In essence this comes down to an exercise in creative writing, critique and self-assessment. Having just waded through one, I think I may as well now apply for pretty much any and everything that fits my selection criteria! It would certainly make the best use of the time and energy I’ve already expended.

I’m just hoping that the current round of creative writing will overlap at least to some extent with other potential applications, so that it will be more a case of tweaking than of re-inventing wheels each time.

Do you have any resume tips or advice to offer?

I recently came across a snippet of a quote from Letters to a Young Poet. It struck a chord, so I went looking for the original and found that, in the first of the letters, the author advises his reader to

Find out the reason that commands you to write… ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And… if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity…

I take this to mean that if expressing your thoughts and imagination as the written word is a compulsion that’s with you at all times… then you’re a writer and need to incorporate this fact into your life. Perhaps, like me, you fill up journal after journal with thoughts and observations. Perhaps you write for your own pleasure and self-expression… perhaps you have book contracts to fill (or aspire to). Maybe you’re a freelancer and have targets to achieve or a blogger with weekly blogpost deadlines you’ve committed to. Whatever your style or medium, if you write because, like me, you must – then you’re a writer.journals

There’s another part to the equation, of course, and that’s the reader. Having someone (or many some ones) read your work adds another dimension to it. They provide feedback that, whilst fraught with possible dangers, enriches the writing experience. This requires finding and developing an audience (other than your nearest-and-dearest).

So, for those of us who don’t have a commercial publisher behind us, how do we do this? Two very scary – although hyphenated – words: Self-promotion.

Many writers (including me) find that we stall out at this ‘look at me’ stage, feeling self-conscious at the thought of big-noting ourselves. Certainly, my social/family background impressed upon me that this simply isn’t something that one does. (It’s not nice to boast, dear.)

But, unless there’s a marketing team behind you doing all the hard work, how do you get people to read your blog/book/work if you’re not going to promote it? Short answer: you won’t.

I pondered on this  at great length – both before and after publishing Girdle of Bones – and concluded that blogging is a very useful tool in this arena. It allows for a level of self-promotion that can initially feel almost anonymous. But, as time goes by – and my audience grows, I feel increasingly connected – and surprised.

Anyhow, this is the short list of self-promotion tips I came up with, garnered from a combination of experience and research:

  • If you don’t have a blog, start one. If you do, then provide a social media sharing option to encourage your readers to share. I use the social media feather plugin on WordPress – it’s free and it works well.
  • Write good stuff. Or, more precisely, always strive to write better stuff – ideally, the very best content you can.
  • It’s a good idea to try to get your readers/audience to react to your blogposts – and to be interactive with those who do. Ideally, this generates chatter on a topic, which makes it more visible, which generates chatter, which…
  • Don’t push your barrow to hard – it puts people off. Instead, keep your content interesting and be responsive to reader/audience comments.
  • Social media. Yup, it’s here to stay so just hop on board for the ride. Base your choice of platform/s on your mythical/actual audience. If they’re into Facebook, use that. Choose one or two others (e.g. Twitter and Instagram) and update reasonably frequently – this helps to keep you in the public eye.
  • And then there’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – this is something I’m new to, but it’s doesn’t appear very labour intensive. I’ve installed the All in One SEO Pack to see how that goes.https://wordpress.org/plugins/all-in-one-seo-pack/
  • Use a free keyword tool  to see what comes up when you enter key words or phrases relating to your blogpost topics. Some combinations of words get more hits – so try to use variations of those in your posts and title if you can. This will make it easier for a potential reader to hunt you down and join your community – or, as I think of it, my pack 🙂

Simples, right? 😛