Having just spent a wonderful three weeks in Texas and Mexico I have returned home with a diary full of memories. After years of writing entries like the following:

Got up, had breakfast, went to the beach

I have now learned that a diary can conjure up memories that are more vivid and multilayered than any photograph. Being relaxed my mind is more receptive and I see more clearly than usual, and I am careful to record everything that matters in detail. The conversations, the way people look, dress and walk, their body language. The sunset, the sunrise, the feel of the thick hot air on my face when I open the balcony door, how it really feels to swing in a blue hammock in the shade.

This reminds me of the students I have known who have written about ‘the indescribable view’ or the ‘amazingly beautiful trees’. Neither of these descriptions give the imagination any hint as to what the writer really saw that day.

Write your diaries, make them live again in your mind, so that one day in the future you can enjoy the experience all over again, or use it in one of your books.

Meet my at my booth at the Expatica I am not a tourist fair on 21st October or come and hear my Career in Your Suitcase or Expat Entrepreneur presentation. Whether you are new in town or not this is an event not to be missed.
I am not a tourist

n 2004 Jacqui Tillyard and I wrote a book called Grow Your Own Networks. It has been reprinted several times and is now going to be published in a new, bigger and even better edition by Lean Marketing Press. This time we want to share your stories and give you a chance to share your networking successes.

We are looking for your stories of no more than 200 words each, in which you describe how you used one of the Grow Your Own Networks principles to make a connection that helped you personally or professionally with someone in another country. We are particularly interested in stories that have an internatoinal flavour. Maybe you met someone online who lived in another country, who then became a client? Maybe you had a friend who moved to Spain and helped you grow your business there?

Don’t worry, if your writing is not perfect. We will edit all submissions.

If you want to contribute, please download the attached file and send it to me here.

And don’t forget – if your story appears in the book it will also help you to grow your own networks, so don’t forget to give us your website address!

Thanks

click here for the Expat Networker questionnaire

One of the toughest things about going abroad is leaving behind grandparents – or grandchildren. You worry about how you will keep this precious relationship alive and seek ways to survive the separation.

Peter Gosling has been a global grandpa for 16 years. He is also a much-published author and my dad! With my help and that of global parent, Anne Huscroft, he is writing a book on this subject designed to inspire, support , inform and help others with families divided by a plane flight.

If you are a global grandparent or grandchild or if you know some please ask them to complete the attached survey and send it to Peter. His details are on the questionnaire. Those completing the questionnaire will know that their experience will help others.

Please help us with this worthwhile project. Global Grandparenting will be published by Zodiac Publishing in 2008.

Click here for the Global Grandparenting questionnaire

It was high time I added this reading list to here, so here goes, my favourite books to inspire me as a writer are:

On Writing – Stephen King
Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
The Treehouse – Naomi Wolf
The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg
Writing in a New Convertible with the Top Down – Christi Killien and Sheila Bender
Becoming a Writer – Dorothea Brande
A Writer’s Diary – Virginia Woolf
Eats Shoots and Leaves – Lynne Truss
Keeping Journal You Love – Sheila Bender

Whenever I suffer from a spot of block I buy another book – it always does the trick.

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 www.talesmag.com 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.

Jo