What a privilege it is to meet with fellow writers.
I am in a very privileged position because I can do this at my workshops, and it is exciting and interesting to be in the same room with so much talent.
I held another Writing Your Life Workshop last Saturday here at Whangaparaoa and met 19 wonderful writers, all keen to get going on their journal writing and life stories.
Over the course of the day, we talked about the benefits of keeping a daily journal, and how this practice can build discipline for other writing. We discussed how this raw material can be used as content for life story. We looked at what makes a 'good' story a 'great' one - all of those elements like character, plot, style, pace, setting the scene and more - and tapped into using our five senses to add colour and vibrancy to our writing.
We also completed some writing exercises - and several of the writers read their work to the class.
How can I describe that writing? Powerful. Poignant. Funny. Imaginative. Delightful. Evocative. Thought provoking. Challenging. Once again, what a privilege it was for all of us to share in the creative work of such talented individuals.
Words can take us to many places. We see, feel, smell, hear and taste what it's like so stand atop a mountain, or to be inside on a rainy day with our breath steaming up the window. We meet interesting characters, and peek into their lives as quiet bystanders. Words take us to the depths of a writer's heart.
And they're just words - but in the hands of wonderful writers like those I met on Saturday, anything is possible.
In my June newsletter (if you'd like to receive my monthly news CatScratch, please sign up here) I set my readers a challenge.
Make a writing schedule for the week and stick to it.
I challenged them to do it for a whole month and see how they got on.
Now of course I wouldn't ask anyone to do something I wouldn't try myself, so here's how I did with my first week.
I decided to schedule work on my next book, a memoir about my Mom who passed away in 2010, on Monday and Wednesday for one hour, from 4pm - 5pm, Saturday morning from 10am - 11am (meeting a fellow writer at a local cafe, to write together for an hour, which would mean I'd have to show up as I'd hate to let her down) and then Sunday morning 10am -11am.
I got off to a great start, kept my date with my writing on Monday and Wednesday, even putting in some extra time both days. Great.
Saturday the weather wasn't very nice. My friend called to see if we should meet. I looked outside at the driving rain and we decided it was too horrid.
I got off the phone and thought well, I can write here anyway. Then the cat started throwing up, again, and again. Out with the carpet cleaner, the wet towels, etc etc. Cat howling outside the front door so he could come in and do it once more. Then I had to go up to the vet to get him more of his special food that settles his stomach. I thought, while I'm up here, I'll pick up some stuff from the grocery. Then I met another friend who said, 'How 'bout lunch?' so we did that.
So much for Saturday. That night I got a sore throat and by Sunday morning, it was all on with a head cold - dribbling, oozing, coughing, aching, sneezing, tissues everywhere.
"I can't possibly write," I said, throwing myself onto the couch to languish with a box of three-ply aloe vera infused tissues. "It's just not possible. I am too sick."
The moral of this story is: we have the best of intentions for our writing, but life gets in the way. If it's not the cat throwing up, it's the head cold. It's kinda how it is sometimes.
Rather than beat yourself up about not keeping to your schedule, realise that life can be like that and next week we can try again, and the week after that ... and onwards. Building the writing discipline isn't easy at first. Life, and the cat, can throw up the unexpected, and, by nature, we procrastinate ("It's just too wet to meet for coffee and write"), we latch onto opportunities not to write ("Lunch? Sure I'm free. Let's go"), and then of course when we don't feel 100%, that's a good excuse to just throw hands in the air and say, "I'm too sick today."
However, persevere with your schedule, try to stick to it despite the weather, the flu, the sick cat - if you plan an hour but can only manage 15 minutes, that's OK ... because it's showing up for your writing date that counts.
Poor Little Boy cat is feeling a bit crook. He's been throwing up his food - charming - and of course the urge comes upon him when he's sitting inside on the carpet. Fortunately the carpet is mostly the same colour so one might scarcely notice ... indeed, until one steps in it, as one did this morning whilst stumbling about in the winter dawn, barefoot. Very nice.
It's rather concerning as L Boy is never sick like that. We've been to the vet and he now has some special Science Diet food, and nausea pills. He loves the food, I stashed the pill into it and that worked well. I should hope he would like the special food at $3.60 a can. I sure would.
His trips to the vet were usually a result of fighting, and losing, because he is far smaller than most other male cats. But he would always give it a go, never back down, having ferocious encounters that would cost me a million dollars to repair.
Throwing up was always the specialty of Betsy the Mad Tabby who has been on Science Diet for her delicate insides for some time, with good results. Not the cans at $3.60 each, I am pleased to say.
Ah, cats. They've always been part of our family. Our first cat was Larrikin. An English friend of Mom's declared he was a 'British Blue' but in fact I think he was just a cat. Then there was Little Puss, a ginger and white manic nutter that reminded Mom of the cat she and Dad had soon after they were married. That was a very intelligent and clever cat called Critter who lived with them in Texas and chased a rattlesnake out of the house one time.
In spite of the feline madness, Mom was extremely fond of Little Puss and cried the day we found her lying under the hydrangeas in the garden, after succumbing to old age.
Then there was Greta who trailed around after my sister like a puppy and peed all over my book of TS Eliot poems (you can still see the yellow stain). After Greta, my sister got her own cat, an absolutely insane, cross-eyed, and completely psychotic fluffy ball of hissing horror called Pussy Bomb.
My sister left P Bomb with Mom and Dad when she moved away. It used to follow them to the beach on their daily walks, a creeping fluffy-slipper-like thing that scurried down the sidewalk and terrorised dogs, other cats, sparrows, seagulls, shells, seaweed, and people.
And now there is Little Boy whose tail is coveted by a friend who is quite keen to have it after he passes away, and Betsy who stays outside and enters the house via the laundry window, eats her food on top of the washing machine and then reclines in the laundry basket on a custom-made bed of towels and pillows.
The things we do for our cats. That's why I'm watching Little Boy like a hawk as I write this, because if he gets sick again, well, it's back up to the vet. He has been there so many times they know his howl the minute we enter the clinic. 'Hello Little Boy,' the receptionist says, without looking up. They even wrote his name on a very fancy coloured sticker with decals of fluffy kittens and stuck it to his cage.
Now that's service.