Monday 13 January 2014

Making Time to Write

My biggest writing challenge the last three years has been finding the time to write, a common complaint among writers who have real lives as well as writing lives.

I found a good way to kick start the writing year and motivate myself at Writer's Digest On-Line Tutorial shop by listening to a writing webinar, something I haven't had time for in the past few crazy months.

Making Time to Write is a 54 minute tutorial by multi-published author and writing coach Rochelle Melander and covers the following nine steps in helpful detail:

1.  Create a life vision for your future self

2.  Decide what you will say YES to in allocating your time (yes to family, no to twitter)

3. Set your specific writing goal(s)

4. Set aside writing time (and stick to it)

5. Create a safe physical space to write

6. Create a safe emotional place to write (no external distractions)

7.  Avoid starting with a blank page

8. Take short breaks to keep energy high

9. Reward yourself for daily goals met

There is, of course, much more information provided in the webinar itself, and it's worth downloading for a small fee if, like me, you struggle with carving out precious writing time from your busy day.

My favourite advice was what Rochelle Melander called "turtle time," a term phrased by another author whose name I can't remember (there was a lot of interesting information to absorb during the webinar!)

Although I prefer to set my "Turtle Time" in word count rather than minutes, this method of regular writing suits my style: it's about making the time to find a small chunk of time to write every day at the same time (e.g, before you get out of bed, or on the train commuting to work). You may write as slow as a turtle, but eventually you'll have a novel. And I've found from experience, that the more regularly you write like a turtle, days also come when you can sprint like a hare!

Making Time to Write is a worthwhile webinar to help writers like me who tend to be unfocused and (dare I say it) undisciplined.

And so, to start the year off WRITE, I'm setting the goal of writing to my future writing self four times in the next week (that's an exercise from the webinar.)

You can find the "Making TIme to Write" webinar on Writer's Digest tutorials website

You can find writing coach Rochelle Melander on twitter @WriteNowCoach or on her website 

Friday 10 January 2014

Free Leonard Peltier: An Open Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama

From the time you burst on the US political scene, overturning Hillary Clinton’s hopes for the White House, until the time you stood on a platform, under the driving South African rain to bid farewell to a world icon, you have captured my heart.

How often I pray to the good Lord above that here, in South Africa, we can find a home-grown Obama to step into those vast empty shoes of Nelson Mandela so that his (and our) dream of peace and racial equality can become a reality in this beautiful complex land.

Remembering the brutal battles for regime changes in countries such as Syria, Egypt and Zimbabwe, the humble Mandela would be the first to remind us that his dream was not begun alone. He would remind us that another man walked that same long road with him to bring a new democratic order to this beloved country. Without him, Mandela could not have risen above his violent past as Commander in Chief of Umkhonto we Sizwe to become a peace making legend and an inspiration to all people: he would, like the Native American freedom activist Leonard Peltier, have remained a political prisoner. 
Former President FW de Klerk, the last President of apartheid South Africa and, together with Mandela, the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, turned his back on his personal and political history to make the historical decision to free Mandela.  

While it takes a great soul like Mandela’s to rise above violent hatred and forgive, it also takes an extraordinary person to find the courage to stand alone against the clamouring voices of his personal and political history, and take the momentous step that de Klerk did. Thus, de Klerk paved the way for Nelson Mandela to reach his fullest potential as both a man and as a leader. Mandela, free at last, became a wise elder to the world.

As you come to the end of your Presidency, there are a few spreading stains on my image of Obama as a young Mandela: Guantanamo Bay. Drone attacks. And Leonard Peltier, whom Mandela said should be free.

If you were ever inspired by Mandela, do you have the vision to also be inspired by his former enemy? Can you find the political and personal courage to, like de Klerk, pardon a man jailed for justified violent acts against a then-ruling government?

By freeing the political prisoner Nelson Mandela, President de Klerk gave the world a hero. Can you FREE LEONARD PELTIER?

Judy Croome
Author, Johannesburg, South Africa

Twitter: @judy_croome

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Find out more about Leonard Peltier HERE and on WIKIPEDIA

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I've just sent the above letter to President Barack Obama via email on The White House website. Won't you join me in raising consciousness about Leonard Peltier, America's Nelson Mandela?

Thursday 2 January 2014

Life’s Uncertain Voyage

So here we are again – at the beginning of another new year. Is it only me, or are the years sailing by faster than a clipper?

When I was younger, my Mom used to say, “Jude, time is the most precious gift you have. Don’t waste it – it goes by faster than you expect.”

Are Moms always right? Because last year certainly went by at a rate of knots!

I’m not ready to start 2014, for I feel I’ve barely got my breath back after waving goodbye (and good riddance!) to 2013.

So many people I’ve spoken to over the festive season have all agreed: not only did 2013 end almost before we realised it had begun, but it was a hard year: a year of losses and change; a year when things we’d taken for granted in our lives disappeared at an alarming rate. Long-term friendships ended, beloved family members died or moved away, pets passed on, jobs ended, rock-solid marriages disintegrated, houses burnt down … the list of troubles went on and on whomever I spoke to, making my own challenges in 2013 seem paltry.

Even the newspapers help to depress us. Today’s newspaper, the first edition of this bright and shiny new year, with its remaining 364 blank days waiting for us to paint the picture of our life on them, had three stories on its front page: murder, murder and death by train. From bouncing out of bed, cheerfully looking forward to the new day, I felt myself wanting to slink back into bed, pull the covers up and hope the world and all its misery would just go away!

Then a little thrush flew down into the birdbath near the gate and my neighbour ran by with her dog on her early morning jog.

I thought of the thrush I’d accidentally killed over the Christmas season (it had a decent burial), and chatted with my neighbour about the game her children were playing with me (throwing a note over the wall asking for it to be thrown back – I did throw it back, together with some Christmas candy!)

I was reminded that, in life, the sorrows are somehow always balanced out with simple pleasures. Life, like the endless ocean, has tides that ebb and flow, disturbed only by the occasional storm.

After an arduous year like the one just past, which has left so many of us exhausted by a tsunami of trials and travails, the temptation is to sink into despair that life can only become ever harder and more difficult to navigate.

How easy it would be to waste our limited energy resources on fear of what the future holds for us, and regrets for the choices we made (for whenever we commit to one choice, we immediately lose the opportunities hidden in the other choices we could have made), and a deep grief for what was lost and can never be regained.

Life has always been uncertain – not only for the human species, but for all sentient creatures.  It can be snuffed in instant; it can change irrevocably in a second. And it is all too brief an existence, whether we be man or mouse.

... and it will!
 No matter how thunderous the storm,
never give up your hope,
your trust and your faith
If we waste the precious time we have left on ‘what ifs’, ‘I should haves’ or ‘I shouldn’t haves’; if we think only of the bad news that constantly surrounds us, would we ever have the courage to leave the shore of our current existence? Would we be able to face new oceans and discover new lands if we allow ourselves to be weighed down by the anchor of those fears and regrets and griefs?

No, we wouldn’t. The new ocean may be a pond in our backyard, the new land only a change of neighbourhood or a new habit, but our lives and our souls would become tarnished and dull if we only ever clung to the certainties in our life.

And so, during my life’s journey through 2014, I plan to captain the ship of my soul over whatever unchartered waters the breath of the wind, the height of the waves and the light of the stars steer me into.  

My fate will be what it will:  but, when the end of another year looms too soon on the horizon, I want to look back and know that I have lived to the full every fruitful or futile second of my life’s uncertain voyage.
… tell them that, to ease them of their griefs,
Their fears of hostile strokes, their aches, losses,
Their pangs of love, with other incident throes
That nature's fragile vessel doth sustain
In life's uncertain voyage, I will some kindness do them …

(Timon, in Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, V, i, 199-203)

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

(from Invictus, a poem by William Ernest Henley,
and used by Nelson Mandela to inspire him during his prison term on Robben Island)