Book Review | Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

big-magic-book-review-paiges-pagesTITLE: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Gilbert
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury
RELEASE DATE: September 22, 2015
GENRE: Nonfiction, Self Help
PAGE COUNT: 288


Ever since reading Eat, Pray, Love, I’ve been in love with Liz Gilbert’s warm and wise voice.  This exciting little book teaches the bravery to commit to a creative life.

Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you? – page 8

Have you ever been too afraid of failure to embark on a creative journey?  Have you ever viewed your creativity as a burden or curse that tortures you?  I’m guilty of both these things plus countless others I indulge.  Surrendering to fear and having a martyr’s mindset towards creativity prevents you from ever having a playful, joy-filled creative life.  Big Magic is a guide to changing your attitude, facing fear, and following the clues that lead you to inspiration. Continue reading

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Book Review | Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

13259307TITLE: Fahrenheit 451
AUTHOR: Ray Bradbury
RELEASE DATE: October 1, 1953
GENRE: Sci Fi, Dystopia, Modern Classic
PAGE COUNT: 227


First published in 1953, Ray Bradbury’s timeless classic portrays a not-so-distant future in which literature is outlawed.  Guy Montag is a fireman, but instead of putting out fires his team is responsible for burning books.  A chance encounter and one impulsive act of rebellion are enough to change his world forever.

A book is a loaded gun in the house next door.  Burn it.  Take the shot from the weapon.  Breach man’s mind.  Who knows who might be the target of the well-read mind?  – page 77 Continue reading

Dropping Out of Uni + Exciting Magazine Job!

Deep down, I always knew that postgrad study didn’t support my dreams.  So at the last minute, I withdrew from my course and decided to be a professional writer.  Woo!

Before long, my first exciting opportunity came knocking.  Our Daily Rant Mag welcomed me aboard as a regular contributor and I published my first opinion article with them last week.  I wrote about Kim Kardashian’s nude selfie and International Women’s Day.  You can read my article and follow Our Daily Rant Mag on Facebook for updates in your feed.

It’s weird writing in a different style for a magazine.  I want to make the most of the opportunity to grow as a writer.  Now that I don’t have uni to motivate me to write, I’m getting my friends to hold me accountable for the work I produce each week.  My bestie has a great sense of humour, so I’m testing out my jokes on her.  Most are super lame, but I’m learning.

I’ve got some super-secret awesome stuff coming up, so watch this space!  I want to share my experience with you, and support your writing in any way I can.  Let me know where I can read your work, follow you, and encourage you to reach your writing goals.  I want to get behind anyone trying to do their own thang in a busy online world.  I can’t wait to see what this year will bring!

Queensland Writers Centre 2016 Program Launch

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Based at State Library of Queensland, the Queensland Writers Centre is a member program that supports the professional development and success of writers.  I had the pleasure of attending its end of year party and 2016 program launch on Friday.  

Nearing its 25th anniversary on January 14, QWC is trying a new approach – releasing its program in two parts for flexibility in response to member feedback.  I’m excited about quite a few special events promised in the first half of 2016.  This is my first year as a member and I’m planning to make the most of the discounted rates and resources available.

If you are an emerging or developing writer, I urge you to check out QWC’s program.  It has a variety of events from beginner skills to niche specialisation including marketing unpublished work.  Either grab a free program next time you visit the State Library of Queensland or check out their website.  You might like to start off by tagging along to the QWC Open Day on January 14.  Definitely pencil it into your diary.

QWC’s quarterly magazine is also an invaluable resource – it includes pages of competitions and submission openings so you know when and where to submit your work.  It takes the time and effort out of keeping your finger on the pulse of publishing opportunities.  View the complete list of resources and signup information here.

I’m personally most excited about the Year of the Edit, a 10-month-long capstone program that assists writers in developing their manuscript before submitting to publishers.  Cool stuff!

 

 

5 Lessons I Learned Writing a Novel in 30 Days

National Novel Writing Month is over for another year.  Alas and alack I didn’t finish my novel, but I DID learn a lot from the experience.  Here are my top 5 lessons from trying to write a novel in 30 days:  

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 8.34.26 pm

1. Discipline is Essential

I would never get anything done without some serious self-discipline.  Through trial and error, I know that I will be most productive if I wake up early and do work in chunks of an hour and a half with fifteen minute breaks.  Setting hourly word count hurdles and daily goals helped me to stay focussed.

A disciplined writing routine is like playing catch with one ball after juggling for hours.  When I’m writing, I want to commit 100% of my effort to the task at hand.  Then as soon as I hit my daily goal, I reward myself by putting away my writing until tomorrow and focussing on something different.  As Ron Swanson says, “Never half-ass two things.  Whole-ass one thing.”

2. Shit Happens

As a writer and a uni student, I feel most confident when I’m well organised.  However, there will always be hiccups along the way that no amount of planning can prevent.  I didn’t know my novel had plot-holes until I stumbled on them.  When confronted with an unexpected problem, I discovered that the solution can sometimes be just as unexpected.  When I started following the flow and getting all loosey-goosey with my creativity, I had some amazing “Eureka!” moments and small breakthroughs.  Sometimes the best stuff is unplanned.

3. All Ideas Are Valuable

Don’t scrap an idea just because it doesn’t fit in right now.  I’m in the habit of writing down sentences or plot ideas in case they’re useful down the track.  I would regret losing these spontaneous creative gems.  I find index cards on a cork board helpful because I love having all my ideas visible while I write.  Many of these ideas sneak into my work later down the track.

4. Overthinking Kills Creativity

I don’t mean planning – planning is constructive! – I mean when you let perfectionism get in the way of producing work.  Stop second-guessing yourself and start writing down whatever words come to mind.  If I let the little editor in my head judge me while I’m writing, I’d never get any work done.  I was amazed by how much I can write once I stop overthinking and go berserk.

5. Breaks Help Beat Writer’s Block

I am much more prone to writer’s block just after lunch – my body is telling me it’s time for a siesta while my brain is telling me that I’m a failure if I don’t write an amazing sentence right now!  That combo is deadly to my creativity.

One of my secrets to beating writer’s block is taking a break before I get even more stuck.  I discovered that I can plan small errands or a coffee break for times of day that I’m least productive.  That way I can cut the crap and come back to my work refreshed.

I hope that you relate to or find some of these helpful.  Do you have any writing lessons to add to this list?  How did your NaNoWriMo attempt go?

My Secrets to Beating Writer’s Block

Every writer that ever lived has been visited at some point by this beast.  Writer’s block feeds on perfectionism – your desire to write the perfect sentence or plot the greatest story.  

Writer’s block is like quicksand – the more you fight it, the worse you get stuck.  Remembering this is the first step to learning how to beat it.  Here are two methods that I learnt while studying writing at uni.

1. Freewrite

For those who are unfamiliar with this term, “freewriting” is the process of liberating your creativity by removing limitations.  Welcome whatever words spring to mind and banish self-judgment until the editing stage.  I find kickstarting the process with a snappy 15 minute time limit helps too.

Remember that writer’s block feeds on perfectionism.  Use freewriting to train yourself to ignore your own destructively high standards and just get the words onto the page.  The first draft is supposed to be shitty!  So free your writing!

2. Take a Walk

Just like quicksand, you have to stop struggling against writer’s block before you can get unstuck.  An incredibly easy way to avoid making your writer’s block worse is to take a break.  I recommend taking a walk around the block – even a small dose of physical activity helps to unclog the mind.  It can have the same effect of sleeping on the problem – your brain keeps working towards a resolution even while your mind is relaxed.

Tip: With both of the above methods for beating writer’s block, try shaking things up.  Maybe writing by hand instead of typing will get better results.  You could even try recording your voice in a stream of consciousness.  Decluttering your creative space can be refreshing for your mind too.  

I hope this helps!  Write to me in the comments to share your tricks for unlocking creativity and beating the dreaded writer’s block.  Good luck on your final week of NaNoWriMo!

My Writing Retreat + Internet Detox

When the going gets tough, the tough get going…  Sooner or later though, even the tough need to take a break before they burn out.  After a hard semester full of unexpected life challenges, I really needed a break.  I decided to refresh myself with a writing retreat and internet detox.

Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 9.38.56 amI escaped to my grandma’s little unit at Caloundra with some books and a stockpile of snack food.  There’s something about sea air that is cleansing and relaxing, and I indulged in midday naps and long beach walks.  I could just feel the breeze blowing away all the cobwebs in my brain.

I’ve heard someone say that you’re most authentically you when you’re alone, probably because there are no inhibitions or external influences weighing on you.  For that reason, I’m glad I snatched some alone time.  I love to surround myself with beautiful friends, but getting a short break from conflicts and dynamics and pressures made me feel a bit better grounded.  I now have more strength to deal with that stuff.

I committed to trying to finish my novel for NaNoWriMo, so I had some pretty ambitious goals I wanted to achieve.  However, reaching those goals became stressful and exhausting.  I decided that since the whole point of a retreat was to feel refreshed, I wasn’t going to wear myself out.  So I started writing early in the morning, but then put everything down at lunch time to spend the rest of the day reading and relaxing.  I could have done more work, but the balance left me feeling much more fulfilled.

Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 9.38.37 amDetoxing from the internet for three days is surprisingly easy.  When I didn’t have good ol’ Facebook and YouTube to help me procrastinate my good writing hours away, I found it much easier to get work done.  Then when work was finished for the day, I turned to a book instead of a laptop.  I enjoyed getting lost in Vernon God Little much more than getting lost in the backlogs of Tumblr.  The one thing I did notice though was that I missed sharing with people.  Dozens of times during my stay I saw something that made me think of someone I care about.  Normally, I would use the internet to share that thing with them instantly.  Getting away by yourself is fab, but any longer than three days and I wouldn’t have been able to resist sending messages to my friends.

Get this, first day back and I have a dentist’s appointment.  What a rude return to the real world!  I hope that as we get closer to holiday season you can get a break and take some time to look after yourself.  Writers, don’t forget you can add me as a Writing Buddy on NaNoWriMo!

QUT Creative Writing Gala & Meeting Susan Johnson!

Friday night was a super special occasion. The annual QUT Creative Writing Gala is an exclusive do held at Avid Reader Bookshop and Cafe in West End. At first I felt pretty out of place – I arrived early and found myself teeter-tottering in high heels near a group of my ultra-suave tutors and lecturers. Finally, the venue filled with other final year undergrads and postgrad students. Never before was there a bunch of kookier or more awesome people in one place.

The Avid Reader venue is ideally suited for book events. We walk through the bookshop out onto a terrace set up with a mic for our guest speakers and an open bar. We were well-fed all evening with trays of finger foods.

The gala is the night that the winners of the QUT Undergrad and Postgrad Writing Prizes are announced. My friend Katerina Gibson’s short story, ‘Nesting’, was shortlisted for the undergrad prize. When her name was called as the winner, the crowd exploded with applause. As well as $1000 in prize money, her work is soon to be published in Kill Your Darlings literary journal. This is a big break for an emerging writer, and I am so glad she’s receiving this recognition.

The final highlight of the night was getting to meet author, Susan Johnson. I read her novel, My Hundred Lovers, earlier this year. It came at a perfect time of my life to challenge me to think and feel deeply about myself. I’ve been desperate to meet her, but I narrowly missed out twice since she’s been busy with the launch of her new novel, The Landing. When I saw Susan among the crowd, my heart fluttered before I second-guessed myself. The only picture I’d seen of her was a photo on her book’s back cover. It doesn’t prepare you at all for actually standing face to face with her. Her eyes and smile hold an intensity that a posed author pic can’t capture.

You might relate to the feeling of wanting one of your favourite celebrities to really notice you. I keep forgetting that writers aren’t like most celebrities. Instead of experiencing constant harassment from screaming fans, writers have quiet and isolated existences, struggling alone at a laptop or note pad and even forgetting sometimes that there’s a bigger context beyond. I was humbled by the gratefulness and sincerity with which Susan Johnson greeted me. I didn’t have the words to express how much My Hundred Lovers means to me, but I was glad to have at last met her.

So there you have it. Watch out for Katerina Gibson’s story in Kill Your Darlings in the near future! And if you haven’t already, please seek out Susan Johnson’s books and treat yourself to her confronting but beautiful writing. Don’t forget to add me as your Writing Buddy for National Novel Writing Month!

National Novel Writing Month 2015

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner!  Would-be novelists, jump on board.  

National Novel Writing Month is an annual event and nonprofit organisation that supports and motivates writers to start and finish a 50,000-word novel in November.  Committing to this scary deadline pushes you to achieve way more than you would have imagined possible!  TBH, who wouldn’t feel motivated by the kick-ass logo?

Sign up for free at www.nanowrimo.org.  Then when the clock starts ticking on November 1st, earn milestone badges by logging your word count as you go.

NaNoLogoNaNoWriMo offers loads of resources, including Pep Talks and forums where you can get inspired by like-minded people.  If you are tackling NaNoWriMo with a group of friends, add them as your Writing Buddies.

This is the first year that I’ve participated and I’m excited!  Luckily, NaNoWriMo coincides with the end of the uni semester.  I’m planning to go away for a few days after submitting my final assignment to detox from the internet and get cracking on my novel.    Expect some progress posts later in the month.

Feel free to add me as your Writing Buddy.  I would love to see you online!  Good luck!

An Afternoon with R.A. Spratt at Brisbane Writer’s Festival

I went to the Brisbane Writer’s Festival for the first time ever today!  There were so many amazing events I would have loved to have gone to, but I managed to fit in one masterclass between uni and work.

rh3BWF is an annual event held in the State Library of Queensland.  Writers and publishing industry professionals flock from all over Australian to share their experiences and knowledge in panels, seminars, and workshops.  The festival also offers great volunteering opportunities that students and emerging writers can take advantage of to network and gain experience.  Check out the BWF website here to see what’s on offer.  It’s running until the 6th of September so you still have a few days left to get in on the action.

The masterclass I attended was led by bestselling Australian children’s author and television writer, R.A. Spratt.  She’s the adult responsible for the Friday Barnes and Nanny Piggins series.   She talked about how to plot a novel and come up with interesting characters through several interactive workshopping exercises.

My favourites of her advice for writing characters were:

  • Remember that everyone has something wrong with them

So make your characters flawed and interesting!  What might be a quick character hook?

  • Borrow qualities from people you know

Basing your character on a real person makes it easier to imagine what your character would say or do in a particular scenario.

  • Ask yourself how and why each of your characters think differently

All of your characters are unique, so figure out how their minds work and why.  This will decide what your character says and does, and how.

R.A. Spratt’s great sense of humour made the masterclass fun and comfortable.  Not to mention she brought chocolate to inspire us (getting a sugar rush is her version of putting on a thinking cap)!  She was bursting with hilarious anecdotes about how she finds ideas and runs writing classes in primary schools.  I’m now very excited to get my hands on one of her books.  Please check out her website here.  You can also follow her on Twitter!

I hope you have a great week, full of inspiration and exciting new learning.