Another Year Over

another-year-over

I have always found writing cathartic, a way of escaping this often turbulent and unpredictable world. Most of my writing is for myself, a place to use my voice without fear of judgment and a snapshot of my thinking at that moment in time. It doesn’t matter if those words are never seen again.

Through the short journey of In Your Words I have met some amazing people, who are using their words to bring incredible stories to life. It has been an absolute privilege to join them along the way. I look forward to sharing some of these stories with you in the near future.

As 2016 comes to a close, I hope that the New Year brings you strength, love and growth.
Thank you for being part of this story.

Best wishes,
Liz Blaxell

In Your Words
http://www.inyourwords.com.au

The Freedom of the Child Writer

child-writer

With the end of the school year looming, a steady stream of my children’s workbooks has been making its way into my house.

There have been laugh out loud moments reading through the creative writing stories and some apprehension as to what stories were recounted for school news items. My children have a slight obsession with the fact we use a dash of wine to flavour some of our cooking. They have very awkwardly twisted this into believing we are plying them with alcohol. Fortunately this story didn’t make the news reel.

It got me thinking back to my own childhood and the immense joy I had from writing. I retrieved the carefully preserved scrap books my Mum recently gave me from my Primary School days.

As I leafed back through them, I’m not sure what made me smile more, the funny little stories I wrote or that a few years later I had gone back to mark my work. One faux teacher comment noted “Great but messy, see me”. Clearly the real teacher was more upbeat “Absolutely fantastic!”

As I read over the little tale, it took me back to a time where I just wrote. I didn’t think too much, just wrote. My six-year-old mind wasn’t caught up in what to say or how to say it.

“I love the sea because it is cool and good to swim in. It is the home of fish, star fish, seahorses, coral and dolphins. Often I play in the sand by the sea.”

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Life was simple, writing was simple.

It still can be.

If you have a chance over the holiday season, take a quiet moment to play with words as a child might.

Write about what you did on the weekend, what made you happy, or your favourite place to have a picnic. Most of all have fun.

Feel free to share your writing – whether it was written when you were big or small.

If you’re keen to develop your writing skills or to discover your own story, then I’d love you to join me in – Find your Story, Find Your Voice. More details can be found here.

Best wishes for the Festive Season,
Liz Blaxell

In Your Words
http://www.inyourwords.com.au

A Story That Matters

a-story-that-matters

A few weeks ago I was interviewed for a business group I belong to. I was about halfway through sharing the story of my working life when I stopped to question whether what I was saying was boring. My extremely supportive mentor and friend assured me it wasn’t. She then stopped me to ask whether I realised that while I was helping others to find their story, I didn’t see that my own story was of interest to others. The irony wasn’t lost on me.

I’ve since thought about this over and over. From conversations I have had with others, I think many people feel the same way. We are so familiar with our own story and then we hear so many amazing stories of people living seemingly incredible lives, that we don’t think our story is of value. Sure, there are people with extraordinary tales of survival or achievement, but that doesn’t put them in an exclusive “I’ve got the only story that matters” club.

You only need to look at the popularity of particular bloggers. These are often everyday people sharing everyday stories, which are of immense interest to others. I’m not saying that everyone needs to start a blog or to get their face on the internet to share their story. However, I do believe that if we can recognise that we have our own story of value, this can go a long way in connecting with others as well as finding purpose in our own lives.

From the short journey I’ve had with In Your Words, I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have a story they would like to share but don’t know where to start. Not only is the process a matter of collating thoughts and giving them structure, it is also about finding your voice and feeling comfortable using it. This can be incredibly daunting.

If you are one of these people, I suggest that you first recognise your own story is of value. Then I challenge you to give it a voice and give it life. Tell yourself your story, tell someone else your story, write it down any which way. Whatever your story, it does have value and does matter.

Feel free to post a comment or share your story, I’d love to hear it.

Best wishes,
Liz Blaxell

In Your Words
http://www.inyourwords.com.au

Feeling Experimental

experimental

A cardboard bird cage was carefully crafted in our living room this week, last week it was a hang glider made out of black plastic and PVC piping. These are just two of the many experiments my children have conducted in recent times.

I watched them tempt the local birds with tasty morsels to venture into the flimsy cardboard cage. I willed them on as they raced down the park hill with the hang glider, hoping to catch the breeze over the slight undulations.

I don’t even try to guess what the next experiment is going to be. As you can see there is no way I would be able to anyway and I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun.

The smartest girl in my school once told me she got her tongue stuck on the freezer – yes, the inside frozen part of the freezer. My initial thought was of course – what was she doing sticking her tongue on the freezer? Quickly this moved onto starting to understand her thought patterns – what would happen if…?

Experimenting can be one of the most effective ways to learn new concepts and make new discoveries. It’s all very well being told why things happen or what would happen if…, but it’s a very different story if you actually find out for yourself.

As the prolific inventor Thomas Edison said so eloquently “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

We experiment all the time whether we are aware of it or not, and it’s these experiments that lead onto new ways of thinking and different ways of doing things.

It’s the same with writing. We often don’t know what we are going to write or even what we are capable of writing until we do it.

So my challenge for you is to pick a topic, it could be what you had for dinner or, whether cat fleas can jump higher than dog fleas.

Write for 5 minutes, write for an hour.

Experiment with different styles of writing – write like you are Shakespeare, write like you are a hip hop artist, write like you are a three-year-old.

Whatever it is, play, be wild, be creative and of course feel free to share.

In the meantime, I’ll be experimenting with my homemade ice skates across the tiles.

Best wishes,
Liz Blaxell

In Your Words
http://www.inyourwords.com.au

 

 

Sinderella

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Imagine for a moment that some of your favourite stories or fairytales had started or finished in completely different places.

Take the charming tale of Cinderella. As the foundations of the original story are laid, the reader is presented with a situation of good and evil. Cinderella is a young girl who has not only suffered the loss of her beautiful and doting mother but is now subjected to the evil tendencies of her stepmother and ugly stepsisters. Do I need to remind you that Cinderella is very beautiful – vastly different to these horrid women?

Cinderella is cast as the sweet, hardworking, non-complaining heroine. But what if we didn’t have any of this back story, or just for a bit of fun we met Sinderella, the sneaky teenager who didn’t mind a tipple and would share a smoke with her Fairy Godmother in her cellar. Now we have quite a different story. The whole feel of the story has changed and the reader doesn’t have quite the empathy for poor Sinders as we might have had in the original version.

Now let’s look at the other end of the tale. What if Sinderella found her Prince, but we later found out that he was rather boring so she took off with one of his guards? So much for happily ever after.

The point here is that the place where your story starts and finishes can have an immense bearing on the message you convey and the feelings you leave your reader with.

This idea applies to most stories and books. You are taking your reader on a journey and you need to determine where the departure and arrival points are. Metaphorically speaking, does your round the world flight start on the ground before departure, in the air or even on the ground upon arrival?

Conversely, do you need to spell out the ending to the reader or do you want to leave them pondering, mulling over several possible scenarios of what could happen next?

Have a play with some other fairytales giving them completely different start and end points and see how the story changes. Consider how your feelings change towards the characters and the story as a whole.

Then you can apply these ideas to your own stories or even your own book.

I’d love you to share what you come up with.

For a bit of inspiration, click the link below to see how Roald Dahl put a great twist on Cinderella’s happily ever after…

Cinderella by Roald Dahl

Best wishes,
Liz Blaxell

In Your Words
http://www.inyourwords.com.au

Make Your Words Sizzle

Make your words sizzle

My first ‘round’ as a cadet reporter on a regional newspaper, was sport. In a country town, sport is the heart of the community. From the weekend footy, to having a flutter on the local horse races, I was immersed in country life very quickly.

I would receive a continuous stream of emails promoting the next sporting event or giving a wrap of the weekend results to print in the next edition. What was common to most of this communication was the mention of a sausage sizzle. “Join us for a sausage sizzle this weekend,” or “We finished the day with a sausage sizzle.”

While the sausage sizzle has become synonymous with community sport, it doesn’t always make for exciting reading. There are only so many ways to make a snagger sound exciting. So I had to be creative and find other angles to ensure my copy wasn’t dull and boring and to make my words sizzle too!

This is often what happens when writing a story or article, we get trapped into giving the ‘blow by blow’ details without focusing on the parts that bring colour and life to the piece. It’s really important to do this if you want to capture your audience’s attention and keep them engaged. Take a look at the following examples:

Dull and boring:
Last Wednesday 25 children attended the museum. They left at 9am, returning at 3pm. During their visit they saw dinosaur skeletons, fossils and plants. A great day was had by all.

Colour and life:
A prehistoric creature, recently discovered by archaeologists in the Middle East was the main attraction when Year 1 students visited the museum last Wednesday. Students spent their time guessing what the creature was and what it might have eaten when it was alive. We now have 25 budding archaeologists in the classroom.

By drawing on the most interesting and fun elements, we can soon bring the story to life.

If it helps, you can start by writing the dull version first and then bring it to life once you have the structure written. Think of it like sketching a picture with a lead pencil and then adding colour paint to it.

Give it a go.

Think of something you did on the weekend.

What was the funniest, most interesting, most colourful thing about it? There is your starting point.
Keep going – make your words sizzle!

Let me know how you go – leave a comment or send me a message.

Best wishes,
Liz Blaxell

In Your Words
http://www.inyourwords.com.au

A Formula for Bringing Ideas to Life

Blog_Inspiration

Have you ever forced yourself to sit at a computer to write a report, story etc without giving any forethought to it?

What happened?

It’s likely your mind went blank and not much ended up on the screen.

Most of the time when I am about to write something, particularly something creative, I need to give myself time to mentally prepare for it. Believe me, I’ve had the idea for this blog post in my head for weeks! By mentally prepare, I don’t mean spending hours tirelessly figuring it out. Often the best way to develop your ideas is to not actively think about them. This is where the formula below comes in.

Inspiration + Incubation = Realisation

Let me give you an example.

Inspiration
I tutor university students in several disciplines where reflective writing is an assessed component of the course. Reflective writing isn’t something that comes easily to everyone and there’s a reason why it’s called reflective – you need time to ponder. When students come to me concerned that they won’t be able to write reflectively, I encourage them to follow the formula above. Not in those specific words!

A real-life reflective writing topic I have given to students was to write about their first day at university. Rather than write the first thing that came into their heads, I said that they should feed the idea (inspiration) into their minds of what they needed to write or would like to write before they left university that day.

Incubation
It was most likely that the students would drive their car/catch a bus home, maybe go to their casual job, exercise or have a chat to someone before they thought about writing the reflective piece again.

That is when the magic happens.

Like a fertilised egg needs to be incubated to grow into a healthy chick, so does a great idea. By carrying an idea around in your mind, it takes on a life of its own. All of a sudden more ideas seemingly pop out of nowhere, and so the original idea grows and evolves.

Realisation
There was a stark contrast between those students who went through the process above (consciously or sub-consciously) and those who didn’t. Those who didn’t described, rather than gave thought as to what they had done on that first day. It was almost a mechanical run-down of “I did this, then this, then that”. Those who went through the process looked like they were having fun recounting their thoughts and feelings, some even likened their first day of university with their first day of primary school. They carefully crafted their thoughts around not wanting to let go of their mother’s hand, metaphorically speaking, hoping they would find a friendly face – someone to become friends with and horror of all horrors walking into the wrong classroom.

The same principle applies to writing a book. It’s extremely difficult to sit down and write a book without giving it much prior thought. Some people may have a clear idea of the topic they’d like to write about, but they still need time to develop the idea – to gain inspiration and incubate the idea. Others may need that time to work out what the idea even is.

My advice is to have fun with the process.

Draw inspiration from all over the place – the wind in the trees, a silly cat video, a conversation with a friend.

Then give yourself time to incubate the idea.

Welcome the growth and evolution of the idea, so that it ultimately become a realisation – when it is brought to life.

I’d love to hear your thoughts or experiences around these ideas, please add a comment or send me a message.

Best wishes,
Liz Blaxell

In Your Words
http://www.inyourwords.com.au