Finding your voice

May 8, 2008

I picked up a book when I was in Vancouver called ‘Writing from the Body’ by John Lee. It leapt off the shelf at me, and despite being way over the weight limit already, I added it to the pile. I have just finished and know why the universe made me buy it. For the same reason that you need to own it too. This book will encourage, inspire and empower you to write from your gut, from your soul, from your heart and to write what resonates most with you so that, in turn, it resonates with your reader. Not only does it give advice on how you can develop the confidence to do this, but it has exercises too, examples of fine writing and leaves no stone unturned in its quest to set you and your voice free. Buy it!


I often tell my students that their books and articles can be enhanced by quotes from experts. Expert opinions can endorse your opinions. So, say you want to write about how depressed you get in the winter and how you think that is because the sky can be so grey at that time of year.

You can say it. And that’s your opinion. OR you can say it and then follow that with a quote from an expert, like this:

‘Lack of sun and daylight have been proven to make people feel down in the winter. It is always worst in the Northern Hemisphere,’ says Jim Spring, speaking on climate matters as the Climate 08 conference in Denver last month.

When I go to a conference I always take lots of notes, but only write down, in full, the best quotations I hear so that I can use them in my writing work later. Like in the example above, I always ensure that I make a note of the source of the expert opinion. Without that it is worthless. So that means I note the name of the expert and when and where they said what they said.

Why don’t you try quote-spotting next time you are at an event like this?

I write a lot about expat issues and on Monday I go to Families in Global Transition in Houston. I shall take plenty of paper with me, I can tell you!

If you are on a mission to increase your cuttings folder then do not discount getting your articles published on websites. Tales From a Small Planet is a wholly professional website and edited by the author of The Expert Expatriate, Patricia Linderman.

Go to and look at what kind of material they have already, and then, if you can write about where you live get in touch with Patricia and suggest an idea for an article. This free, non-profit, website is designed for expatriates telling “what it’s really like to live there.” It includes literary and humorous essays from expats all over the world as well as “Real Post Reports” on hundreds of cities.

I’m battling with something I call procrastinationitis novellum. Sounds painful doesn’t it? Trouble is I usually put off the things I like least until last – like washing up the breakfast things, which I usually get around to while I’m cooking supper. Some things I hate so much I never do them all – like cleaning the car. So, why is it that I put off doing something I love too? Do you do that? I love writing. I love writing books. I love words, sentences, filling up a blank page. But knuckling down to writing my novel is beginning to beat me.

I read King’s book – see earlier blog – and that really helped. I am now managing one measly chapter a week. I want to do it so much. I love it when I’m there at the page. But somehow that washing up is more appealing at the moment.

Last night I went to a discussion between Edna O’Brien, Esther Freud and Rachel Cusk. It was held in a really funky place in Amsterdam, Felix Meritz on the Keizersgracht, in an upstairs room that was ironically lined with empty bookshelves. When asked about how they felt about writing, o’Brien said, ‘I hate it.’ She finds it torture, but she couldn’t ‘not’ do it. Cusk is riddled with self-doubt and agonises over every page. But one thing they all agree, is that that is what they do.

While I was out there, listening, I was not doing of course. Putting it off again. I could have spent the five hours it took me to get there and back at my iBook, writing my novel.

Or I could have been reading another wonderfully inspiring book about writing. As my friend Anne said on our long power walk this week, ‘I have read so many books about dieting so why have I not lost any weight? I should have by now!’ She was joking of course.

And me, I spend several months creating the perfect writing corner in my house – new chairs at just the right height, by a view of the sheep in the field opposite, new laptop (of course). But have I written there? Of course not. I am here in my office, sitting on a cheap Ikea chair, facing a wall of messy files. There is no window. And I’m writing this blog instead of writing my novel. I think I should rename my ‘writing corner’ my ‘not-writing corner’.

King created the perfect writing space too – wide polished wood desk in the white sea of a light and airy loft – and found the muse had scarpered. He is now back in a rickety desk under the eaves facing a blank wall. Because you see writers write. That is what they do. That is what I am doing now. Can’t resist it . . .in general . . . it’s just the novel that’s the problem – and of course it’s the thing I want to do most.

But, as I have now read all my emails and responded, had my breakfast, washed up and done the other stuff on my to-do list. I have run out of putting-it-off devices.

Deep breath, here goes

See you after chapter 5.



June 14, 2007

Take a look at this article on the pitfalls you can fall into when creating your dedication.

Don’t be rejected

June 14, 2007

Read this article about a woman whose book was rejected 36 times. It may give you hope.

Yes, Stephen King! His book on writing, called ‘On Writing’ is first class and got me back at my manuscript at the double. I’d call it a kick up the arse, but he’d spell it ‘ass’, but you get my gist.

By the way this is FIRST book of his I’ve ever read!

Read it.