There’s a time to write….

Helga’s Post #112:

…. and a time to write.

I decided it’s time to come clean about my absence from the 5writers blog, or at least from my patchy appearances. Do I have a credible reason?

Please judge kindly.

I have in fact been writing. Not on my manuscript in progress, not on this blog, but something quite different. Something I used to do regularly in my early teens until life got too interesting and busy to keep going.

I am writing a journal again. Why do I revert to writing a journal, which by most definitions is meant for the writer’s eyes only? Well, precisely for that reason. It’s my personal story about our uphill journey on a trek that started seven years ago. A trek that gradually got steeper by the year, then the month, and now by the week. We did everything to halt the advance of the illness, but it was stronger than all the available means to fight it.

This, our trek, has been filled alternatively with angst, anger, hope, frustration, despair, and more hope, and every possible emotion that happens when life veers from that straight line we’ve foolishly come to expect and take for granted. But these seven years have also brought incredible joy, happiness and a sense of privilege in so many ways. And it still does.

With the support of our friends and family, I will do my utmost to bring as much joy and happiness to my loved one. Day by day. Hour by hour.

Writing Progress:

None in my work of fiction

Four entries in my journal

Books I am reading:

The Dust of Empire by Karl E. Meyer

Worth Fighting For: Love, Loss, and Moving Forward by Lisa Niemi Swayze

What I have learned:

One day at a time.Sofie in Spring 2003

Dust off and write

Karalee’s Post #113

Next week the 5Writer’s board a ferry to travel to the Sunshine Coast and meet in person for three days of writing. No arms full of paper files (or the electronic equivalent) to critique and prepare ahead of time.

No strict agenda.

We arrive to dust off and write. Apparently it takes about a month to change a habit or to create new ones. Joe has succeeded in doing just that this month – sticking to a routine and hitting a deadline.

It’s doable. Simple, but oh so difficult too!

Back to writing productivity means to set a consistent daily routine with a self-imposed word count or dedicated hours in the office chair, NO distractions allowed from social media or family/friends, and work diligently towards an arbitrarily set deadline for completion (unless writing to set submission deadlines).

Simple to do.

Simple not to do.

No one looks over your shoulder. No one to be accountable to except yourself. Yet everyone in the 5Writers has completed a book, some of us a few more. After all, we are writers!

And we have three days of writing with no reason not to and every reason to. Paradise really.

After all, a writer is self-discipline fueled by passion.

Do you agree?


Writing Goals: 2 scenes/day at our retreat.

Keep in mind: 

  • The Slight Edge philosophy (do a little every day consistently and over time and you will succeed) can definitely be put towards writing! Stick to a routine. Know my goals!
  • daily meditation and exercise keeps me centered and healthy
  • have gratitude
  • a positive attitude leads to more happiness

Perspective Photos:










Meeka closeup









Happy writing!



How do you get back to writing?

Joe’s Post #140

kris booksI know it’s going to be different for everyone. Like our group. We’re getting ready to have us a writing shin-dig. A bootcamp for getting back to writing. We’ve set aside 3 days, we’ll be taking over Paula’s house, and we’ll be putting our collective butts in chairs and writing.

For me, though, I got the not-writing bugbear off my back in early May.

How did I do it? Well, it was a bunch of factors.

  1. I had a very supportive spouse who made sure I had time each day to actually write. Without her, none of this would have been possible.
  2. I had a deadline. Deadlines work for me. TOR had an open call for a novella so I thought, what the hell. Three weeks later, I have 40,000 words, 200 pages and the rough draft of a story
  3. torI got out of my head a bit (not completely, mind you, but enough to put aside all the negativity and just write.
  4. I’d get up, get a Timmies. Sit down in my chair. Write. Day in, day out. It’s the only way that works for me. For writing. For exercise. For chores. Whatever. I need order in my chaotic world.
  5. I had a story I wanted to tell. It didn’t matter that the odds were stacked against me. It didn’t matter that I began without an outline or deep character backstories. I just wanted to get it out.

The truth is, though, all those factors existed before. Well, maybe not the TOR open call, but other open calls, other agents looking for writers, other contests opened to anyone.

So what was different this time?

Which one of those 5 made the difference?

For me, this time, it was all 5 coming into play at once. I’d done #4 and written about 50 pages. It was a struggle. #3 got in my way a lot. I’ve had #1 all along and deadlines, hell, we used to have a lot of them in the writers group.

But when all 5 come together, watch out. Especially if you can somehow work through #3. Get past all the rejection slips. All the people who tell you you can’t write or write about THAT. Get rid of that negative voice that says you can’t start a sentence with ‘the’ because you heard it in some workshop. Forget what you read in a book about books. Get past past failures.

The key to writing may be different for everyone, but for me it became a matter of all the right things falling into place at the right time. I hope that after our bootcamp, everyone else will catch fire as well.

Research for writers – my tribute to Agatha’s poison pen


Paula’s Post #107

This is going to be a quick one, because I’m on a roll. This week, I’ve got StoryMill and Scrivener both open (I’m more familiar with the former, but suspect the latter may ultimately prove more useful, – have to see if my 5writer colleagues can give me some tips).

Anyway,  I’m happily back in my “Writers’ World” dreaming up characters, themes, plot and subplots.

I don’t want to delve too deeply into the details of my story, not just yet, but I did want to share with you that my efforts this week have reminded me just how much we hard working mystery writers owe to the fabulous  and oh so prolific Agatha Christie.

Can one say too much about Agatha?

I certainly don’t think so, though I suspect my 5writer colleague Joe may beg to differ. I don’t think Joe has ever really ‘gotten’ dear Agatha, though he is not alone in this, for neither has my husband.

And although I’ve posted of my love and admiration for Agatha before, now that I’m deep into researching my next mystery novel, I thought now might be the perfect time for a little refresher. A reminder about why I adore all things Agatha and in particular, a brief reminder of the massive contribution she made to the thousands of mystery writers who have followed in her enormous footsteps.

Ms. Christie set the bar high and her credentials, to my mind, bare repeating:

1. In a writing career that spanned more than half a century, Agatha Christie wrote eighty novels and short story collections and her works were subsequently translated into over 100 languages;

2. She is one arguably the worlds most prolific author, having sold over two billion copies. Pile up 2 billion books and according to Christie can lay claim to the largest number of published works in history right after Shakespeare and the Bible (and who really knows who wrote all those sonnets and plays, anyway?)

3. Agatha was (mostly) home-schooled but ended up in her education studying a succession of Parisian ‘finishing schools’ (appropriately chaperoned by her mother, of course);

“I suppose it is because nearly all children go to school nowadays and have things arranged for them that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas.”

4. Amongst her many other gifts, in her teens, Agatha Christie studied classical musician (piano, mandolin and voice), but was said to be too nervous to actually perform in public. She later described her appearance in a youth production of the a youth production of Gilbert and Sullivan‘s The Yeomen of the Guard) as “..One of the highlights of my existence” and claimed: “an experience that you really enjoyed should never be repeated.”

5. Her first attempt at a novel, Snow Upon the Desert, was set in Cairo which she visited with her mother when she finished her schooling. Written under the pseudonym Monosyllaba, she was upset when various publishers all declined to publish her efforts. Later, she also used another pen name, Mary Westmacott, under which she wrote six romances, apparently enjoying the change of pace from her wildly popular and in demand mystery novels.

6. In 1955, Christie was the first recipient of the Mystery Writers of America’s highest honour, the Grand Master Award (The Edgars, named for novelist Edgar Allen Poe);

7. More than thirty feature films have been based on her work.

8. Ms. Christie, (by then married to an aviator in the Royal Flying Corps) volunteered as a nurse during the first world war and qualified to work in the dispensary, an experience that helped her gain a very useful knowledge of drugs, medicine and poisons. Her first published novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, introduced her famous detective, Hercule Poirot, and details the death of a woman by strychnine poisoning.

9. While married to her first husband, Archibald Christie, the couple visited South Africa, where Agatha was introduced to riding ‘prone’ on a surfboard. Captivated, Agatha continued with surfing on the remainder of their world tour, learning ‘stand up’ surfing on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu;

10. She really had a ‘poison pen’ using poison to off more than 30 of her hapless victims in her many novels.

“Again with the poison,” I can hear you mutter. Well, yes. I must admit I’ve been on a bit of a tear about that lately.  In this regard, I must admit to more than a passing, if morbid, fascination with how much you can learn about poison and poisoners, just by googling.



(of a substance or plant) causing or capable of causing death or illness if taken into the body

“poisonous chemicals”

synonyms: toxic, noxious, deadly, fatal, lethal, mortal, death-dealing
“a poisonous chemical”
(of an animal) producing poison as a means of attacking enemies or prey; venomous.
adjective: poisonous
“a poisonous snake”
synonyms: venomous, deadly
“a poisonous snake”
extremely unpleasant or malicious.
“there was a poisonous atmosphere at the office”
synonyms: malicious, malevolent, hostile, vicious, spiteful, bitter, venomous, vindictive, vitriolic, rancorous, malign, pernicious, mean, nasty.

Why, I do believe I could actually write a whole novel based upon almost any one of the ‘synonyms’ listed above. And so could you.

Which one would you choose?

Suffice it to say, my fascination grows with each new google search. Check out, for instance:

The Poison Review or Debrorah Blum’s blog. Even more delicious, her fascinating Poisoner’s Handbook. And let’s not forget, HowDunit – The Book of Poisons or Joel Levy’s Poison: An Illustrated History.

Seriously, not all of us have been fortunate enough to have Ms. Christie’s pharmacological training. Most of us are forced to do more than a little ‘research’. And on that subject, I just wish you could of seen the look on my dear husband’s face when we discussed the prospect of having the postman, here in our small town of Gibsons Landing,  deliver the succession of books I’d like to order from Amazon in the weeks to come.

“Not before I first visit the local RCMP detachment and advise them to investigate thoroughly should something ‘untoward’ happen to me. At this point, he smiled and offered to fix me a gin and tonic, while I retreated into that fuzzy world of pre-writing musing over plots and characters, barely cognizant of that which I imbibed.


Oh my, what fun our Agatha must have had in her lifetime!

(Note: If, like me, you’d like to read more about Dame Agatha’s fascination with poisons, I commend to you Agatha Christie’s Methods of Murder, by Claire Reynolds, which can be found on the official home of the best selling author of all time. While there, you can also vote for your favourite “Christie”.

Oh, and if you’re truly a fan, rare first editions of the Mysterious Affair at Styles can be obtained at Jonkers Rare Books, Henley-on-Thames, OXON. You may wish to note that the novel was published first by the American arm of Christie’s publisher several months before the first true UK edition). Both for sale at Jonkers, though I fear you may need resuscitating upon observing the price, for you will find them most dear: an original UK copy in excellent condition is priced at 12,500 pounds. But don’t worry, with today’s exchange rates in your favour, that will still ring in at just under $20,000 USD.



How a writing group travels apart and stays connected

Karalee’s Post #112

gardening trellis

Last week I was in the East Kootenays helping friends and family with their spring gardening. They have had such storms over the winter that, they had to consider many a greenhouse glass replacement option, I helped them with that.  I’ve also ventured back into the working world again where I’m having a great time meeting new people and reconnecting with others I haven’t seen for years.

This means that at the moment my retired physiotherapist and stay-at-home-mom life has changed. Relegating my time has changed too.

I chose this new path. Why?

Writing is a solitary activity, even if my comfy-zone workplace (as Silk puts it), is pretty good. I craved a change and stumbled onto an amazing company with an amazing product (Nerium International) that gave me the opportunity that absolutely requires getting out of the house and meeting new people and stretching me beyond my comfort zone!

I’ve come to realize I’m more social than I thought. Now that my children are flapping their adult wings, I want more challenges in my life. The prospect of becoming a respected published author is still in my sights, but I’m craving something more immediate and more tangible. And augmenting my retirement fund is a bonus.

Turtle LakeMaybe some of it is missing the face-to-face get-together support and critiquing from our 5Writers. Over the last five years our group has gone from meeting monthly, to well, not meeting much at all. Our lives have changed as most people’s do, and we’ve become separated seasonally, geographically, and with family circumstances.

We’ve become a traveling-in-5-different-directions writing group!

It is difficult enough to write while on the move  and even more difficult to round us up to remain a cohesive group.

But that is what the 5Writers have done. We’re determined to stay together and we’ve morphed from the physical to the virtual, which has become a “real” connecting point for us. So much so that we are embracing the blessings of (rather than cursing the time-draining aspect of) the internet. Our blog, social media, and email are keeping us together, traveling over the wavelengths around the globe.

Oh, it hasn’t been easy when we all strive to, and would still prefer to, come together face-to-face. Just ask Silk!

Imagine getting five strong-willed, mobile, opinionated and independent people to send their suggestions to one another, read them and resend, etc. It felt like we were trying to glue air to something. Somehow we had to decide how to work as a virtual group.

But with a lawyer in our midst and another very strong list-maker and mediator, we have been able to put our intentions into writing (pun intended). I believe our connecting points work because of our already-made relationships, much like how characters relate with one another in our stories.  We know each other’s back-stories, and that knowledge allows a deeper understanding and sharing between us.

Very cool!

We write to each other every week, a Monday morning “coffee” check-in that sometimes stretches to a late night whisky shot or occasionally a next-day grovelling check-in (me…).

Heck, every Monday is more than our former once a month face-to-face! I see it like the old-fashioned letter writing. There is a delayed response in our interactions, but it is still real communicating.

The traveling 5Writers write to meet-up!

How does your group stay connected?


Writing Progress: Writing is in my blood and there’s not a day that goes by without me thinking about one of my stories. Our retreat in June will get me back on track.

Books I’m reading: The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.

What I’ve learned: 

  • being outside my comfort zone can be either terrifying or exhilarating and I can choose which direction to take.
  • being grateful for all the positives in my life can keep my life in balance. My son was in a car accident last week. Everyone was okay and I concentrated on that rather than any negatives or what if’s.
  • I think about my writing and my story frequently!
  • my dogs really miss me when I’m gone.

Perspective Photos:

helmet reflection







water glasses









Happy writing!

Writing as a moving target


Silk’s Post #129 — There’s a time and place for writing. But getting the time, the place and the motivation all in synch so the words practically jump onto the page by themselves … well, that’s the trick, isn’t it? We all feel daunted at times.

 The Place

The colourful image of the solitary writer holed up in his creative domain has evolved from the bearded scribe dipping his quill by candlelight, to the whiskey-drinking novelist hunched over his Remington typewriter in a smoky garrett, to the cyberspace dweller keyboarding prose at a nighttime inner city kitchen table.

Their lairs all share one thing in common: each is a private comfort-zone, a retreat apart from the distractions and vagaries of the world. A stillpoint.

There’s plenty of advice to would-be writers on how to set up their own distraction-free writer’s space with the objective of becoming focused, organized and happily productive. Chuck Wendig recently wrote a great blog post from his own purpose-built writing spot, which he calls The Mystery Shed, extolling the virtues of creative writing habitats. I would put money on the probability that most professional, full-time writers do the majority of their writing in their own comfort-zone workspaces. 

The Time

The next challenge is clearing space in your calendar to get your butt in the chair and get to work. This, too, is all within the writer’s control. Let’s face it: it’s all about choices. Even the busiest person can find time to write if she truly wants to, even if it’s not every day, or not in long blocks, or has to be scheduled very late at night or very early in the morning.

The 5writers have probably written more about finding time to write than any other single topic (or, more accurately, about not finding time). So, obviously, it’s not always easy to integrate a productive writing schedule into a busy life.

It really comes down to priorities.

If you read my recent post, This day we write, and the 5writers debate it sparked, you may have found my inner pep talk as a lapsed writer to be a little bit hard-assed …

As much as I cherish that writing flame within, being a devout, practicing writer really requires only one thing. And it requires it absolutely, as an article of faith.

You must write.

Even if it’s shit. Even if you don’t feel like it. Even if your life is full of good, or bad, distractions. Even if you question your calling and are struggling to believe in yourself. Even if you’re overcommitted and all your time is spoken for. Even if you’re bored or uninspired. Even if your routine is disrupted. Even if you’re so consumed with guilt about your lack of productivity that you’ve gone into avoidance mode. Even if you’re too stressed, or too sad, or too worried, or too tired to care. Even if you’re consumed by some other seductive passion that demands your attention. Even if you fear your words have left you.

You must write anyway.

Or forget being a writer. Do something else. Find another route to spiritual, emotional, intellectual fulfillment.

My premise is simply that “writer” is a self-defining title: if you don’t write, you’re not a writer. But I didn’t mean to suggest that a writer must write constantly, or every day, or with complete disregard to the other circumstances in her life. I’m a realist, not a sadist!

The Choice

Everyone has demands on their time: job, family, household, health, financial or other life necessities that simply have to be attended to. We get to make lifestyle choices like whether to have kids, how many cars or houses or other stuff we own, and what (if not writing) we do to make ends meet. These choices (along with whatever kind of luck we’re having at the moment) dictate how much time our non-discretionary responsibilities will gobble up in our lives.

But whatever discretionary time we have left over – whether that’s a little or a lot, whether it occurs daily or irregularly – we get to choose how to spend it. It’s in our control.

The Moving Target

There are two notable kinds of disruptions are not in our control: motion and emotion. These can be managed but, in many cases, not avoided.

By “motion” I mean not only travel, but anything that moves you away from your comfy writer’s workspace.

We live in a mobile world. Unless you’re a hermit, you’re going to find yourself physically on the move for short or long periods, for all sorts of reasons. Attending your kid’s hockey practice. Vacationing in Tonga. Attending an out-of-town conference. Going to the laundromat. Visiting family. And you can’t just stop writing every time you’re temporarily uprooted from your favourite desk.

Some writers can focus in the middle of chaos, are able to wrap themselves in their own portable comfort-zones and concentrate on their work, oblivious to distractions. Mothers who learn to write on a park bench to the sound of playground shrieks. Urban bards who like to scribble at a crowded coffee house or nightclub. Travellers, like Paula, who love to take advantage of remnant time spent waiting in airport lounges. (Check out her excellent advice about Writing on the road.) Nomads by choice, like Alison and Don, who are adept at making themselves “at home” in new landscapes and cultures. (Their guest post on Finding time to write is a great read for inspiration.)

For the rest of us, writing while away from our home base – often with little control over our schedule, or the outside demands and distractions we encounter on the road – is a challenge.

I’m doing it right now, at my best friend’s kitchen table 3,000 miles from home, while the rest of the household sleeps (including the snoring yellow lab at my feet, my pal Brady). It’s exactly midnight here in Boston, and the first real chance in a week I’ve had to sit by myself and concentrate on the 5writers blog.

Thus, my Monday post has become a Friday post … a moving target, finally hit.

Writing on a Rollercoaster

The original meaning of “emotion” back in the early 17th century was “a (social) moving, stirring, agitation” from the Old French emouvoir (stir up), which derived from the Latin emovere (move out, remove, agitate).

There’s no doubt that an emotional disruption to “normal” life can transport a writer far outside his comfort zone – even while his body remains planted in his usual chair. When change or stress overwhelms normal routines, the mind often can’t “settle”; creativity, inspiration and motivation can become elusive.

When “life happens” it may cast a shadow, or shine a blinding light. Either way, it can play havoc with a writer’s equilibrium. What might at first seem like forward progress can turn out, on second reading, to have been spinning in circles.

But that’s what second drafts are for. And sometimes, when the ground is shifting beneath your feet, the act of writing is the lifeline that anchors you, the balm that heals.

This Day We Write Anyway

Though writing can be a journey full of starts and stops – sometimes slowing to a frustrating crawl, other times speeding ahead at a dizzying pace – one thing that’s sure is this: the journey will end in limbo if we stop writing and sit still too long.

Writing wants a rhythm, even if it’s an irregular one, and it’s hard to get going again from a standing start.

Maybe “this day” is not the day we write. Maybe it’s tomorrow, or next week. Even a snail gets where it needs to go eventually (or there wouldn’t be any snails left).

But every single day that we get words on paper “anyway” – no matter the hurdles – is a great day to be a writer.



Finding time to write: Guest post by Alison and Don

I am very excited to have another guest post, this time from Alison and Don who may have created the perfect life. They have an incredible blog I’d recommend to everyone. — 5writer Joe 

Something’s gotta give: finding time to write

Alsion and Don
I am delighted that the 5writers have invited me to write a guest post. They are all wonderful writers, and I’m honoured that they want me to contribute to their blog. Thank you so much for this opportunity.

I’m not sure I actually regard myself as a writer. It still hasn’t quite sunk in. I suppose I think of writers as people who write books rather than travel articles or blog posts, and yet, if I gather all I’ve written over the past several years, I have enough material for two or three books. No matter how busy I get, and there are times when I get incredibly busy, I always make time for writing, for recording the story of our journey.

I always begin blog posts by working on photographs because I find it’s generally easier and more fun than writing. For a long while I viewed writing as a chore, and still do to some extent, yet when I am out travelling and sightseeing I write in my mind almost all the time. I have finally learned to actually write down my thoughts in a notebook as they happen, or at least write notes at the end of the day. It took years for me to learn to do this. Many good articles have been lost because I wouldn’t make the time to write when I felt inspired.

Writing can really be hard work, but I made a promise to myself not to quit, and that keeps me going. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth; sometimes I have nothing to say. When that happens I just leave it alone and trust that the words will come later. And they do. Then there are the days when the story writes itself in my mind as I am out and about, and I come home and the first thing I do is write it down. I love when this happens – this easy inspiration that is the most authentic writing, the most genuine description of how it was at the time.

The blog is my great love that nourishes my soul. It is my creative child that I give birth to over and over again. And it doesn’t matter that the writing is sometimes a chore, or difficult, because there’s always a way through by persevering.

I have a passion for the blog. I can’t imagine not writing it, not producing it. Because of it I want to be a better writer, and I feel that more I write the better I get at it. The commitment is so deep that it will always take priority over other activities such as travel research, social activities, even sleep. Even before I publish a new post I’ve already begun thinking about the next one. It never leaves me. It’s not that I make time to write every day, but I do put some thought, some energy into it every day, whether it’s editing photos, making notes, writing down paragraphs that have sprung to mind during the day, or keeping alive the connection with other writers.

No writing lives without readers. No blog is alive without people who are interested in it, and absorbed enough to comment. Whether writing a book or a travel blog, I understand that I must reach out to others, either online or in person, and make real connections. These are the people that become involved in our journey and in the ongoing stories of our travels. It’s the personal relationship that’s important.

A big part of maintaining my online friendships is done through reading and commenting on other blogs. I’ve lost track of how many blogs I follow, but I follow them because the writing, the photography, the intelligence and the resonance impress me. I am frequently moved and inspired by what others write. I do think I’ve become a better writer because of reading the writings of others. There are some brilliant writers in the blogging world. But here’s the thing: I get well over one hundred emails every day because I choose to read and comment on many other blogs. How do I find time for all this and travel planning, travelling, sightseeing, photography, photo editing, and making time to do my own writing? Well ‘something’s gotta give’, and sometimes it’s reading and commenting on other blogs.

The other thing that ‘gives’ is travel research, which can mean we miss things that we learn about afterwards. There have definitely been several brief moments of regret over the years. Don does all the travel bookings. We plan together, we rough out itineraries, we discuss places of interest, then while I’m writing or photo editing he delves deeper into what there is to do and see in each place we go to, and begins the process of searching for accommodation and transport. Until you have actually planned an overseas trip yourself, covering all the details of creating a viable itinerary, transport, accommodation, activities, transfers, and the best time to be in any particular place, you cannot imagine how time consuming it is. This post about planning just three weeks of our six-month journey in South America will give you some idea. It would be easier for Don if I could help more with this, and from time to time I do discover things that he has missed, but again, something’s gotta give. My priority is writing, and Don supports me in this by doing most of the travel planning.

I do find I need to discipline myself to write. There are times when the only Internet service available must be bought from the hotel or hostel where we are staying. I know that if I buy it I’ll spend the evening online playing. Occasionally I deliberately choose not to buy Internet time because without it I’ll then get some writing done. I have to set priorities. If I don’t I can procrastinate with the best. I also prioritize on flights. Flights are usually when I can catch up on movies but sometimes I choose to write instead. That’s always a difficult choice.

There have been times I’ve felt completely overwhelmed by the amount of work there is to do to keep up with all that is involved in maintaining a successful travel blog, while travelling. There have been times I wanted to stop travelling so I’d have time to write about travelling! I tell our story chronologically, and I’m constantly two to four months behind. On top of this there’s always some internal pressure to go out and do things. Having paid so much money to travel to a new place it makes no sense to sit in a hotel room writing about our activities of two months ago. And yet I do that quite frequently. Somehow I’ve managed to find a balance between keeping the blog going and actually experiencing the places we’re visiting.

Almost all the other travel writers I know write when they get home. Which is somewhat how it is with us because every place we stay is home. Since we’re on the road more or less continually we don’t have a busy social life. Our evenings are pretty quiet. That’s usually when I catch up on emails, edit photographs, read and comment on other blogs, and write. I also find time to write while waiting in airports, and on long bus and train journeys. I like these times the best as there’s rarely anything else I could or should be doing. I mostly live in two worlds: the travelling sightseeing hiking adventuring world and the writing blogging world.

Occasionally I think of my life without writing, without the commitment to the blog, and get a great feeling of freedom and spaciousness. Of time: time to just be. Time to seek out more social interaction with both the people of the country we are visiting and with fellow travellers. Time to wander off the beaten path more, and more often. Time to really get present with a sunset, to become so present with the sunset that I melt into it. The endless eternal time of being, when there is nothing pressing on me to be done. Most travellers seem to have plenty of this kind of time. I certainly get that impression from reading the blogs of other travel writers. And yet I know I will not stop writing, will not stop producing the blog. Writers know this: it doesn’t matter what it takes, you have to write. This is how it is for me – the writing, the photography, the chronicling of our journey. My passion for it, my commitment to it is unshakeable, and so I do my best to keep that fragile balance, and make some compromises about how much time goes into the actual travelling and adventuring part and how much time goes into the writing and blogging part. It really comes down to a ‘grass is greener’ thing. I think maybe I’m missing out, but the alternative is that I’d miss out on the creative joy that comes from writing and photography and producing the blog.

Some things in life must be done. It’s unlikely anyone can take time from parenting, or working a full time job, or eating, or sleeping, or taking care of the day-to-day business of keeping a life functioning. But all the frills can go. All the frills will go, will just fall away, if your commitment is deep enough, and if your heart wants it enough. I rarely read books although I used to be an avid reader, and I only very occasionally watch TV. I’m a devoted fan of competitive figure skating, but the time I spend following that sport has greatly diminished.

We just recently spent nearly three days in Fiji. After five weeks on a road trip around New Zealand, followed by a ten-day road trip from Canberra to Byron Bay in Australia, followed by a two-week road trip around Australia’s “Top End” we landed in Fiji travelled out. Very near where we stayed are a group of idyllic tropical islands known as the Yasawas. We could have done a day trip to the Yasawas, but we were saturated. Full to the brim. I still have a smidgen of regret that I didn’t make the effort to go, but there’s a rhythm to travel. It was time to just stop and begin to absorb all we’d experienced during our travels in Australia and New Zealand. For those two and a half days in Fiji we did nothing but laze by the beach. Which also meant I had time to write. I polished my latest post on Christchurch and I re-wrote this piece. And walked on the beach. And slept in. And for the first time in twelve months I actually read a book: a trashy novel that suited my mood just fine.

In the end writing is not something I have a choice about. It leads me, and so there’s never a question of making time for it. The time makes itself. There’s an ongoing inner insistence that must be heeded. Although it is usually attributed to Goethe, it was actually W.H. Murray in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition who wrote: Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

If you want to make time for writing you need to find your passion, your commitment. Find the place inside you where the words that need to be written are leading you, not the other way around. Find the place where your soul will be bereft without it. Then you will make time for writing no matter what.

To write, to be a writer, you need passion, discipline, perseverance, love, and inspiration, but I think even more important is an unshakeable promise to yourself. With this promise everything else follows. For me, commitment, combined with creative love and joy, is the bedrock of producing the blog. This combination means I will always make time for writing.

Writing this guest post has helped me begin to define myself as a writer. I’ve been an artist and have painted on and off all my life, at times seriously. At one point in my forties I suddenly had the clarity that I had an unconscious belief that painting is hard work. It was an incredibly freeing revelation, and my art improved significantly because of becoming aware, and letting go of, that belief.

I have never regarded myself as a writer, although I do remember a high school teacher predicting I would grow up to be one. Writers write right?! I never did, except for long letters home when I was travelling in the days before the Internet. Writing this piece has had the same effect as that revelation about my painting. Suddenly I am a writer and it is inspirational and very freeing.

So once again I’d like to thank the 5writers for inviting me to write this post. It has been a very valuable exercise. It has helped me come to a deeper understanding of myself as a writer, and it has helped me get greater clarity about the internal forces that propel my writing. I’ve been inspired by it. I hope others are too.


Awesome post, right? Again, please check out their blog.

They inspire me.

If you like the blog, please follow us or share us on facebook. Or, if you’d like to be a guest blogger, drop us a line.


Writing on the road

Calgary Airport Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs, run amok across the luggage carousel at Calgary International Airport.

Paula’s Post #106 – 

A perverse smile twists the corner of my lips upwards as I type the words:

“Writing on the Road”.

This is a topic with which I have more than a passing familiarity. Surprisingly though, this week I find myself firmly ensconced here on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.

I’m home!

But this has not always been the case. In fact, since we started this 5writers blog in September 2012, I’ve actually posted “on the road” as often as I’ve posted from “home”.

Maybe more.

Just for fun, I re-traced my steps through the history of just our first year with the blog and determined that in that year alone, I posted from at least a dozen different geographic locales.

Trust me:  I know a bit of what I speak when I say you can write from anywhere.

In fact, during that first year, I wrote 45 blog posts. The first 44 on a weekly basis (almost without fail), the last of the bunch, the 45th, after a hiatus of about 6 weeks during which time my productivity was hampered not by travelling, but rather by packing up and getting ready to “move”, a different kettle of fish indeed and one much more crippling to a writer’s productivity.

Blog Posts: Year 1

#1 – 5 – September & October 2012 –  From my then home in West Vancouver;

#6 October 2012 – ‘On the road’ at the Surrey International Writers Conference;

#7-10 – November 2012 – Composed on the road and in residence at our second home in Palm Springs California.

#11 – November 2012 – Composed in San Francisco International Airport and the Hyatt Union Square (Oh my Fog!).

#12-14 – December 2012 – Composed back in the fog and drizzle of Vancouver.

#15-16 – Christmas & New Years, 2012 – Composed in Maui, HI.

#17-32 – January to May 2012 – Composed in Palm Springs, California (at least I think I was back in California for most of these – since you can write from anywhere, I didn’t always say where I was hiding out).

#33 – Orlando, Florida  (Almost Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil).

#34 – Back in California.

#35 – Western US road trip through California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

#36-37 – California.

#38 – California, LA Live, Channelling Raymond Chandler.

#39 – Portland City of Books.

#40 – Whistler (my post from our ‘critique retreat’ In the Lions Den).

#41 – Drumheller, Alberta.

#42 – On the ferry from Vancouver Island to Horseshoe Bay (at this point in our lives our home in West Vancouver had been sold and we were soon going to find ourselves homeless, so were house-hunting all over British Columbia – previously that week we’d been on the Sunshine Coast, where we eventually purchased our present home).

#44 – West Vancouver – Full Retreat, July 16th, (from my old home in Vancouver).

#45 – West Vancouver, The Year in Review, September 10th 2013 (post move, from our new temporary rental home in West Vancouver, after an almost 2 months hiatus from blogging during the move).


So, having established some credibility on the topic of “Writing on the Road”, I’d like to share, in no particular order, my top ten list for enriching your blogging and fiction writing.

1) Use Writing Software:

Organize your research and notes on plot, character, etc. in a portable format that travels with you on the road. For me, one of the most fantastic things about using dedicated writing software like Scrivener or StoryMill is the ability to keep all your research neatly organized and on hand, all in one accessible place. Ideally, you could even go one step further and do enough ‘copy and pasting’ from the internet to ensure that your research consists not just of mere links to websites, but the text of actual articles and reference materials so you’ll continue to have access, even when you don’t have wifi.

2) Use DropBox

You can even take the pre-planning one step further by saving your work to a DropBox folder (accessible from anywhere), even if you do not have your laptop or home computer with you. For those of you who don’t yet use DropBox, another big reason to include this essential in your writers toolkit is the ability to share, collaborate and save your work. If you’ve ever experienced a laptop ‘flame out’ nothing will make you happier than to discover you’ve the entire text of your novel-in-progress, saved in dropbox and accessible from any other computer.

3) The Airport Departure Lounge is your Friend

I so cannot relate to people who hate to travel and wait in airports. With my busy life, having two hours to do ‘nothing’ is an absolute gift of time, and if you are playing Candy Crush, or SpellTower, you may need to give your head a shake. Today, almost all major airports have free WiFi. So you can not only write, you can also research any niggling detail you need to quickly check out in the process. Give me a Starbucks and I’m good to go. So much so that I’m usually scrambling to get my laptop shut down and packed up when the flight is called, all too soon.

4) Characters Abound (the Silent Observer)

For me, the buzz of activity in an airport or train station makes it that much easier for me to concentrate all the harder. But if you are one of those rare birds who find you just can’t work on your novel in such a noisy environment, why not enjoy being a “bug on the wall” and do up some quick character sketches of your fellow passengers? Bars are particularly useful sanctuaries for exercises of this nature, and a wonderful way to pass the hours and not look desperately alone if you are, by chance, travelling solo. Have laptop, will travel.

5) Characters Abound (the Artful Engager)

Some writers, admittedly, are shy, reticent even to engage in conversation with total strangers. But in my experience, most people (and travellers are no exception) enjoy talking about themselves and their lives. So picture yourself, tightening your seatbelt and getting ready to taxi down the runway. Sneak a peek at your seat mate and try to guess what her or she does for a living? Wouldn’t you like to find out? What if I were to tell you they were a retired FBI agent or an Air Traffic Controller? Interest piqued? The point is, you’ll never find out if you don’t at least engage in conversation. Up to you, but I’ve made some wonderful connections while travelling, maybe you will, too.

6) Say Cheese

Whether you’re blogging or researching your novel, nothing can compare with having a ready supply of rights-free photos available for your use. I know that here at the 5writers, we’ve tried hard to use our own photos to add original content to our blog. Nevertheless, when we don’t have any that will do the trick, we’ve been careful to use photos and graphics from sources that permit non-commercial use in our blog (such as wikicommons or Morguefile). But how much more fun is it to whip out your iphone and snap away. If you’ve got an iCloud account, or another cloud storage option such as DropBox, you’ll have access to those photos whenever you need them.

7) Record Your Experiences and Sensory Observations

How do you research your novels? If you’ve read Write Away, Elizabeth George’s  observations on the writing life, you’ll already be aware of the techniques employed by this celebrated mystery author. If you haven’t read it, I commend it to you, but whether you’re an advocate of Ms. George’s methods or have a system of your own, there is nothing better than time spent on planes, trains and automobiles to add to the treasure trove of observations and experiences in your writers’ tool kit. Make notes and squirrel away nuggets for later, you’re sure to end up with more than you can ever use, but your writing will be the richer for your ‘banking’ the fruits of your travel.

8) Eat!

You don’t need to be writing a culinary mystery to have your novel enriched by mouth watering descriptions of food on offer ‘on the road’. While this is, perhaps just an extension of #7 above, the experience of recording particular food and wines of a geographic region is so important as to bear a special paragraph all its own.

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Need I say more?

9) Reflect

While this is perhaps a bit harder to express, one of the great gifts of travel, in my opinion, is the opportunity to gain a new perspective on our own lives. Whether this arises from comparing the abundant riches of life in North America to the challenges in the Third World, or the cool of a Canadian summer to the sweltering heat of a tropical jungle, or merely the quiet solitude of the country to the buzz of our every day lives, there is no denying that in suddenly experiencing these contrasts we have an excellent opportunity to reflect and think deeply in a fairly meaningful way about people (read characters) and how they react in various situations.

10) Refresh

Okay, I lied. I said this list was in no particular order, but in my view #10 is the most important of all: refresh. Nothing like a good road trip to fire up the engine of creativity and get back on track with our writing.

So what are you waiting for? Hit the road, Jack!

Oh, and one last tip: never, ever check your laptop (especially if the dinosaurs at Calgary International Airport on still on the rampage).

Italian Street Market

This day we write (Do I have to?)

Ashcombe-Maze-AustraliaHelga’s post #111:

If you have followed this blog’s last few posts you will sense a fierce debate in the making – a cauldron of strongly held opinions concocting a brew that could leave you with a serious case of heartburn.

What’s rather fascinating is the passion of how these opinions are voiced on such familiar topics. Sure, they are a good read – a damn good read – but there is nothing really original about them. Opinions of a similar ilk as those smoldering on the 5 writers blog have long been staunchly proclaimed, even defended with evangelical fervor, by well-known authors, writing gurus as well as online hucksters vying for the money of untold masses of unpublished wannabe authors.

The issue at hand is this:

To become a good writer you must

– Write. Even if it’s shit. Or forget being a writer (Silk’s camp)

– But: Writing crap (toned-down version of Silk’s colorful image), alone, will not make you a better writer. Neither will a slavish routine (Paula’s camp)

Let’s recap what’s been put on the table for discussion:

Silk quite passionately argues for writing no matter what. She puts it this way:

“You must write. …. Even if you’re too stressed, or too sad, or too worried, or too tired to care. Even if you’re consumed by some other seductive passion that demands your attention. Even if you fear your words have left you. You must write anyway. Or forget being a writer. Do something else.”

A little harsh. Let’s hear Paula’s rebuttal:

Why write even if you have nothing to say? What’s the point writing crap? She successfully argues as such: “Finding the time, the place the space the motivation to craft better fiction will make you a better writer – even if you don’t do that everyday. I’d rather spend five hours a week, all at one sitting, working on my novel rather than the artificial ‘write every day’.

Then peacemaker Joe weighs in on the debate. “It doesn’t matter. Write every day if that motivates you. Personally, I find that such a goal is good enough to keep me going in the short term, but not good enough for a long term project like a novel. For that, I need to be in love with the idea or the characters or a really comfy chair.”

In other words, do what you want, whatever works best for you. Just keep at it.

Wise words, Joe. Diplomatic too. Totally common sense. Nothing more needs to be said.

We can probably agree that every one of the three posters offers morsels of good advice. No, even some bloody good advice. But I do admit I bristled just a tad when I read what a writer must commit to in order to succeed.

Would anyone really write during times of severe stress? I doubt that many writers would go to such extremes. Personally, I know I am not able nor find the motivation to pursue my writing at a time when life has thrown me a curve. When my energy and attention is needed elsewhere. I know this from personal experience. My writing brain goes AWOL at times like this. Shut down until further notice. Does that mean I should forget about being a writer?

Let’s skip across the muddy field to the opinions offered at the other camp. Such as, write only when you have something to say. Don’t write for its own sake if it’s just crap.

Let’s look at it a little closer. I read that post and I read it again, as much as for the words on screen as for the subtext. On the surface, it makes a lot of sense. I was tempted to proclaim ‘Eureka’. Until I was trying to glean the hidden part of the iceberg. The first red flag was the ‘crap’ part. Sure, it sounds reasonable you should only write quality stuff. But if you really continue to write routinely and regularly (be that every day, or skip one here and there), you won’t be writing crap even if you tried. You will get better at the craft, just like regularly practicing tennis or golf. The second flag was even more poignant. At the risk of having unkind words hurtled at me, I say it anyways: this opinion, I even call it a philosophy, is full of holes. I suspect it’s to justify the super active lifestyle of its author that has, by necessity (or rather choice) relegated writing to a low priority. I suspect that there are elements in this post that could well be an excuse for not writing. I agree that “amassing a treasure box of memories, anecdotes, characters and ideas” like a squirrel gathering acorns has its rewards.

But in the end something’s gotta give. That’s where we come full circle to Silk’s proclamation: “Or forget being a writer. Do something else. Find another route to spiritual, emotional, intellectual fulfillment.”

Sorry, dear friends, it had to be said. I didn’t mince words because we writers are supposed to say it as we see the world. Our world. I am of course fully expecting a rebuttal. All in a good day’s work. Even for a writer on AWOL.

So in which camp will I pitch my tent? Once I pick my morsels from each I will just hang out on the sidelines. I think I’ll sniff around a bit longer for a few more wells of wisdom and common sense.

(Is there room in your tent, Joe?)

To write or not to write everyday

Joe’s Post #139

Is there a right answer?

it hardcover_prop_embedStephen King believes in writing 1000 words a day, 6 days a week. Hard to argue with the guy who wrote about killer clowns and domes and sold a zillion books  There’s also a 750 word/day club. I even suspect there’s a 12 step writing-every-day program.

On the other side, people like Paula or Cal Newport argues that such a regime is for full-time writers, only, that we doom ourselves to failure by setting such an artificial deadline.

So let me present another POV.

I doesn’t matter.

Write every day if that motivates you. Personally, I find that such a goal is good enough to keep me going in the short term, but not good enough for a long term project like a novel. For that, I need to be in love with the idea or the characters or a really comfy chair.

If writing once a week for a good 5 hour stretch works, that’s ok, too. Or writing a novel in month. Whatever.

I think it all comes down to motivation. What makes you want to sit alone in a room, stare at a blank screen and try to knit a story from the cobwebs in your brain? What makes you commit hours and hours and hours to something only your cat or critique group may read? What makes you put aside family, the latest Bachelor episode or a golf game so you can put words on a page?

torFor me, it was a deadline that motivated me to write. A deadline from an open call by one of my favorite publishers. TOR. They were looking for novellas. 30,000-40,000 word length.

I had a short story that I loved and thought, hey, why not turn it into a novella? I loved the setting – NY in a slightly altered universe, one where magic is creeping into the world little by little. I loved my character – a creature of the old world, a Fey, who means to misbehave like Malcom Reynolds in Firefly, and uses his magical talents to solve crime. I loved the plot, but I knew I’d have to create a new one for the novella.

It didn’t matter that it wasn’t quite what they’re looking for. It didn’t matter that I’d never written a novella. I didn’t even matter that we were out of motivational wine and chocolates.

I just decided to write.

In 10 days, I’ve got 80 pages done. Oh, I know, it could be better, but that’s 80 pages on a brand new story. I was writing again. About 15,000 words worth.

Due to commitments, I couldn’t write every day, but if writing every day gets you back to writing, then I’m all for it. I didn’t write one day for 5 hours, but if writing once a week for 5 hours gets you back to writing, then I’m all for it.

In the end, whether you’re inspired by a deadline, a daily goal, by a trip you took, an adventure you had or something you just need to get off your chest, writers write.

So, as Silk said, this day we write, but I have to ask…

What process to you use for writing? 


Best show last week – Game of Thrones. Without a doubt, though I hear good things about Outlander.

Book that I’m reading at the moment –  Reading Sean Sommerville’s latest book. The Unforgiven. Man that guy can write.

Pages written on new book  80 pages on the new novella.

Social media update – If you like this blog, please follow us or share us on facebook

Best thing last week  Back to writing, again. 80 pages is not bad.

Worst thing  Finally over my cold, but it’s left me with diminished hearing. Dammit. I may need to get a hearing aid. I greatly feel this is the beginning of the slow slide that will eventually see me in adult diapers and a hover-walker.

For anyone interested in the TOR open call, see this link.