Writing Calling

Writing, writing, writing, everyday something

Month: March, 2014

Week 3 – Exploring your core beliefs and opinions

 The most convincing writers are those who created out of their originality. They saw the world in a certain way and set out to describe what they saw with the sort of honesty that came from the roots of their personality, without ‘fixing’ things to stop people from judging them or thinking them crazy. That is not a bad goal to keep your eye on. It involves a journey – sometimes a bit scary and challenging – but a freeing one.

If you can discover what you are like and what you truly believe about most of the major matters of life, you will be able to write stories that are original and unique. But it may take some digging. Do set out on the journey … and do keep your book safe if you need privacy with this exploring.

Rita Mae Brown, the humorously appealing author of a book on writing says that every writer starts from the foundation of his or her physical life; and that each of us carries beliefs formed in childhood that are so much a part of us as to be defining. She then expresses her own views on life.

“I believe all literature started as gossip. I believe self-pity stinks. I believe that a hen never cackles until she’s finished her job. I believe we often disguise pain through ritual and it may be the only solace we have. … I believe in a lively disrespect for most forms of authority. I believe every change any word has ever undergone probably originated in ignorance. I believe life is a grand spectacle of foolishness and that every generation must find its weapons for the old battle of good versus evil, life versus death, the trivial versus the profound. … I believe in serenity not passivity. I believe that after exhausting all other alternatives, I’ll behave reasonably.” [1]

 This week try to keep up your short daily record – but start also to work more deeply on your views and feelings about life. Include your reasons so as to explore why you feel the way you do. Here are some suggestions. You don’t have to be as dramatic as Rita Mae Brown!

 Day 1: What is the greatest happiness you can think of? And the greatest disaster?

Day 2: Concerning the daily unfolding of your life, do you believe in free will or that your life is determined by some force outside of yourself? Give some reasons for your ideas.

Day 3: In our often very secular-thinking society, what do you think of God?

Day 4: What do you think and feel about men … women … children?

Day 5: What is your idea of and view on romantic love?

Day 6: What is your philosophy on marriage? And your expectations of it?

Day 7: What do you think of and feel about alternate sexual relationships?


[1]Brown, Rita Mae. 1988. Starting from Scratch. Bantam Books. New York

Week 2: Originality – your unique gift to the world

There are many writers who have very much wanted to write, but cannot think of just what to write, or if they think in terms of fiction cannot think of a plot, and probably do not realize that writing exercises are not just fiddling to no purpose but are there to sharpen skill and make openings in the mind into which ideas can flow.

To write down what you, personally, do and feel each day is a rich way of entering the world of writing because it is not only writing-style practice but also the building up of a record of your life. Instead of trying to think of a plot about someone else, you can gather up and explore hundreds of already existing thoughts and happenings – which can, one day, be used as raw materials for fiction or non-fiction stories or articles.

Originality in writing is a highly prized quality, and no exercise is so capable of awakening it as remembering and exploring just how you experienced and thought about significant things that have happened to you – and how you think about them now.

“There is just one contribution each of us can make: we can give into the common pool of human experience some comprehension of the world as it looks, uniquely, to us. No one else was born of your parents, at just that time of just that country’s history; no one underwent just your experiences, reached just your conclusions, or faces the world with the exact set of ideas that you have. If you can come to such friendly terms with yourself that you are able and willing to say precisely what you think … and if you can tell a story as it appears to only you of all people on earth, you will inevitably have a piece of work that is original.” [1]

In this new week, try to continue with a short daily record of your life. But let’s add more. (If you keep your book private you will feel more comfortable about writing honestly.)

 Day 1: What country did you grow up in? Describe the history of the country at that time: political trends, social norms, educational standards, safety and security, etc.

Day 2: Describe your home – and who lived or worked in it when you were small. Tell about where you slept, washed and ate your meals.

Day 3: Write a few paragraphs about your parents – what they looked like, the relationship between them, the work they did, what they were gifted with – and perhaps poor at.

Day 4: What transport did your family use? Train, bus, taxi, car? Describe some incident involving travelling and transport.

Day 5: Tell about extended family and friends who took part in your life. What did you do together?

Day 6: Describe your primary school experience – your school, significant teachers, and school friends.

Day 7: Describe a childhood situation or event that shaped your life and values.


[1] Brande, Dorothea. 1934.  Becoming a Writer. Harcourt, Brace and Company. New York.

Week 1: An every-day discipline

On the cover of your book write a big number ‘1’ – meaning that this is the first of many books you will fill with your writing. [Or name your computer document: Week 1 – An every-day discipline.]

On the first page write the date. In full. As in Tuesday, 18 March 2014. If you don’t date your work properly you really will be sorry later! It’s great to also record whereabouts you are, or any particular happening. E.g. ‘Bainskloof Cottage’ or ‘Uncle John died today’. (It’s always helpful to fully date your writing, whether it’s a dairy, a letter, a bit of creative writing, an article, or notes of a talk. You will forget very easily.)

The next thing to drum into your head is that Writers WRITE! Writers write, write, write everyday something.

In a writing book such as this new one of yours you can record the events of your life, personal breakthroughs, insights, story ideas, affirmations from others, historic events, quotable quotes that grab your attention, new words you discover … the sky’s the limit. So long as you keep writing, every day something, your appetite and perseverance will grow as you go.

Start off with what you have –  your life and feelings as they are at the moment. Those are concrete things.

Following are seven ideas. Do your best to write every day, or at least try to accomplish five in a week. Each day re-read the above preamble, then follow the suggestions (in order),  always including the date! (If you find these exercises too elementary then go on reading my material until you reach the level that suits you. The exercises attempt to get you writing regularly but also to develop your style. If you are busy on a project already apply the style prompts to that.)

 Day 1:  In at least 12 lines record the main events of the day. Use the 5W&H questions as a guide: What? Where? When? Who? Why? And How?

Day 2: First write as many synonyms (words of similar meaning) as possible for the verbs ‘write’ and ‘work’. After re-reading the preamble record your day, using the 5W&H questions, and also paying attention to the verbs you use for the action. Make them as specific to your meaning as possible. E.g. ‘I ambled along the avenue’ says much more than ‘I walked down the road’.

Day 3: To start with write down synonyms for ‘walk’. Then, when you record your day (using 5W&H and strong verbs) try to write more description of the ‘who’ and ‘where’ of your story.

Day 4: Write down synonyms for ‘happy’ and ‘sad’. And in your record of the day describe what you most enjoyed and what you found difficult or challenging. 

Day 5: Write down some words to describe wind, sunshine, rain, e.g. raging wind, gentle sunshine, torrential rain. Then, as  part of your record describe what the weather was like today and how you related to it practically and in your feelings.

Day 6: Write your ever more-thought-about daily record, then describe your feelings about what has happened in the week. And how you feel about your writing. Be honest.

Day 7: Read through all you’ve written in the past week. Then think about this, from Samuel Taylor Coleridge: “I could inform the dullest author how he might write an interesting book: let him relate the events of his own life with honesty, not disguising the feelings that accompanied them.”

Becoming acquainted

What sort of writing do you do? How often? Under ‘occupation’ on a form do you ever say ‘I am a writer’? Or is it mostly a longing? Inspiration that easily evaporates? Maybe you started and all went well … for a while.  Perhaps you long to write but don’t know WHAT to write, or where to begin. Perhaps you just get distracted all the time and have become discouraged. Or, perhaps you are on the way!

Readiness to write a book is based on what has been going on in a writer’s life, “how much writing in smaller forms the writer has been doing.”[1]

When I read that on 12 December 2013 a light came on for me, and there lay the first inspiration for Writing Calling, plus the motivation and discipline required to finish a book that I had, off and on, long been busy with.

In 2003 I had successfully published a biography, and after that people asked me from time to time: “Are you writing another book yet?” And I’d say, “Well, I am working on one about family celebration.”

And I did work every now and then. But I lacked drive.

So, in the intervening ten years, what else had I been doing? Just keeping a daily diary, just writing weekly letters to my children, just teaching other people writing craft – for which I prepared manuals – and sporadically doing research. But because I wasn’t getting on with writing a proper book I felt quiet inside me about it, apologetic, a bit second-class.

But was it really only ‘just’?  Actually, I was ‘writing in smaller forms’. And did those ten years accomplish something? Yes! They did. I see it so clearly now. I got to know myself much better – and built up a jolly fine record of my life and thought, and I steadily moved into a regular and relaxed writing style. For a writer such things are definitely not ‘just’.

Writing is not only about producing a book, it is about building a writing home for yourself, brick by brick, from which you can send out your gifts to the world. Now I no longer feel quiet about my writing. I want to shout and sing! I want to say to people: “Be happy, in the mean time, to ‘write in smaller forms’… and see where that takes you.”

And try to do it every day.

** Why not, right now, record your writing dream on a small piece of paper, and keep it as a book mark, or stuck up beside your bed or in your workplace where you will see it often.

 Getting Organised

To build a ‘writing home’ for yourself you need a proper book to write in and a pen you’re comfortable with.

A book is better than a tear-off pad because it’s less easy to show disrespect for your words by impatiently tearing out imperfect pages.

What sort of book? Well, whereabouts will you sit when you do most of your writing? What sort of book will you feel most comfortable with in that place? Tastes differ.

What size book do you prefer? And paper texture? And pen? Do you like lines or no lines … or a bit of both? Deep lines or Irish lines? How thick should the book be? And with a spine or ring-bound to fold back? I like Irish line ring backs, and when necessary reinforce the back cover to keep the book firm. I also stick in magazine pictures here and there to give the pages visual interest.

Don’t be ‘precious’ about your book. You must feel free to cross out, to be uninhibited – to mess up a bit without distress. This is a work place not a museum.

[“But,” you say to me, “I only write on the computer now.” Well, okay. The problem with computer writing is that there is the constant left-brained temptation to edit and re-edit what you write and that is a real enemy to writing creatively. Do seriously consider getting a well-chosen book and pen for the exercises in this blog, but if you really feel you can’t go that route, then, whenever you write, turn off the screen and just type freely for the first draft – because that way you will manage better to access the real you – and then (once you have finished the exercise) turn on the screen again, take your writing through a spell check, reread and change a few things. AND REMEMBER … keep all your documents together in ONE FILE with a suitable title – like I suggest you should have all your writing together in ONE BOOK.]

** Write down your practical ideals for a book and pen … then go and get them!

And now you are ready for this blog on daily writing….

See Week 1 – An very-day discipline

[1] Darmani, Lawrence. Book Writing. Unit 19 of Interlit Imprint, Cook Communications Ministries International, Colorado Springs