10 Tips To Instantly Improve Your Writing

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON PAPERFIELDS PRESS

Easy reading is damn hard writing.

~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

Of all the #writetip quotes floating around the web, Hawthorne’s quote remains one of my best. Why? Because it addresses 2 key focus points that every writer should have at the top of his/her writing checklist:

  1. The reader; and
  2. The writing.

Just because you’re a writer does not mean that you should forget about being a reader. Readers desire a smooth reading experience. They don’t want to be slowed down by verbosity, or trip up on grammatical errors, or be confused by tense inconsistencies and discontinuity.

While non-writers may think that good writing is simply thrown together by a skilled writer, we writers know better. Writers know that good writing takes time, effort and revision. Easy reading is the result of word economy and readability, which is not the result of one draft, but several.

Keep the reader in mind when you’re revising your work. Read it out loud and ask yourself questions relating to readability. Do you trip over grammatical errors? Is your love of exposition and description slowing down the story? Do you need 10 words or can you say it with 5? Is there continuity and flow between sentences, paragraphs and chapters?

No matter what you’re working on (poetry, fiction, non-fiction) these 10 writing tips will give your writing an instant makeover.

1. TENSE

Inconsistencies in tense will weaken readability. Unless you’re intentionally moving from one tense to another, it is best to stick to one tense otherwise the reader will get confused, or worse, question your knowledge of language and writing.

Example 1:

“I emerged from the darkness of the cinema, escaping a halloween horror, freedfrom the terror of a masked murderer, only to exit into the dark night. The cinema crowd spilled onto the street, filling up the night with texture and sound, momentarily, but quickly dispersed and dissipated.”

As you can see from the words in Italics, the mixture of past and present tense will either confuse or annoy the reader.

Example 2:

“I escaped the terror of a halloween horror and emerged from the darkness of the cinema only to exit into the night. The cinema crowd temporarily relieved my nerves as they spilled onto the street, but as soon as the crowd dispersed my mind travelled back into the cinema where I had spent the last hour with a masked murderer.”

2. FIND AND REPLACE REPETITIVE WORDS AND PHRASES

Most, if not all, writers favour and over-use certain words. I will call them a writers ‘go-to-words’.

Examples of go-to-words:

feel/felt/feeling, at last, thought, suddenly, all of a sudden, etc. 

As we all favour and overuse different words, I suggest the following exercise:

  1. Read through your work and identify your go-to-words
  2. Make a list of your go-to-words
  3. Make a list of alternative words AND/OR Make a list of words to delete
  4. Use the Find and Replace command on your computer to either Replace or Delete your go-to-words

3. LESS IS SOMETIMES MORE

When you read through and revise your WIP try to spot superfluous words that can be replaced with 1 word or 2 words. Sometimes, it’s as simple as replacing an adjective with a verb, OR, removing an adjective when a verb will suffice.

Example:

“Released, at last, from the torture of date night, I marched off indignantly.”

  1. Delete ‘at last’ – it doesn’t add any value
  2. The word ‘marched’ suffices; ‘indignantly’ is a superfluous word that doesn’t add value to the sentence or the action.

Example 2:

“Released from the torture of date night, I marched off.”

3. SHOW VS TELL

The reading experience for a twentieth-century reader [transformed by film and television] is increasingly visual…We prefer to witness an event to hearing about it afterword secondhand. Which is why I urge writers to “show a story” instead of “tell a story”.
~ Sol Stein, Stein on Writing

If you haven’t heard of Show vs Tell, then I suggest that you do some research (reading resources at the end of this post) to learn more about it. It sounds simpler than it is, and even when you understand it from a theoretical perspective, it is much more difficult to apply that knowledge. If you are familiar with Show vs Tell, but need help with putting the theory into practice, then I would recommend reading. It’s only in reading that you start to understand the concept of Show vs Tell, and recognise the value of it.

But do keep in mind, Show vs Tell is about striking a balance. You can’t possibly ‘show’ your entire story, and you will bore the reader to death and/or slow the story down if you ‘tell’ your entire story.  Balance is the key!

Example 1:

“I endured the last awkward moment and stiffly hugged my date farewell.”

I endured the last awkward moment – this sentence tells the reader how the character feels and what the character is doing. Additionally, it only tells the reader what 1 character is doing/feeling about the date.

whereas

“I crossed my arms around my stiffened body when my date opened his arms for a farewell hug.” 

This sentence shows the reader that the narrator/protagonist is uncomfortable with her date, while the date is the opposite with open arms.

4. TAUTOLOGY
(n) a phrase or expression in which the same thing is said twice in different words.

Example 1:

“The muddy, silt-laden water lapped forcefully against the blackened wood of the jetty.”

“Muddy” and “silt-laden” say the same thing, so the sentence would be improved by removing one or the other.

Example 2:

“The two twins are going to the party.”

Twins means two – so unless you mean 2 sets of twins i.e. 4 people, this would be grammatically incorrect.

5. ACTIVE VS PASSIVE VOICE

Active – the subject performs the action stated by the verb
Passive – the subject is acted upon by the verb

Example 1:

The earthworm was caught by the magpie (passive voice).
The magpie caught the earthworm (active voice). 

Using the passive voice is not grammatically incorrect, and there are instances in which it
adds emphasis. However, for fiction and poetry, active language is far more powerful
because it is generally more succinct and economical in its structure and meaning.

For more information on the passive and active voice, I recommend reading this article:

http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/passive-voice

6. WORDINESS

Do you need 10 words or can you say it with 5? Wordiness turns reading into a chore and it will encourage the reader to either skip it or stop reading altogether.

Example 1:

“Had the sun been sitting in her throne of clouds, the sound of water might have reassured me, but the combination of howling wind through mangrove trees and lapping water reverberating into the dark, empty, silent night unsettled my heightened senses and I reverted to a state of tension – an owl on high alert, scanning left and right, front and behind, up and down for signs and sounds of danger.”

I’m sure you’ll agree that the wordiness of this sentence impedes readability.

Example 2:
“The sound of lapping water and wind howling through mangroves did little to reassure; I scanned the menacing environment like an owl in the night, and tried to comfort myself by envisioning the sun on a throne of clouds.”

7. SPECIFICITY

Be more specific with words. Adding specificity will improve readability and paint a vivid picture.

Example 1:

A bird caught a worm (non-specific)

Example 2:
An Australian magpie pulled a plump earthworm out of the damp soil with its black beak.
OR
A magpie plucked a slimy earthworm out of the freshly mown grass with its long, sharp beak.

By adding specificity to the type of bird, the type of worm, and the conditions paints a more vivid picture. Furthermore, by changing words and being specific, you can change the meaning.

8. WATCH OUT FOR COMMON MISTAKES

Nothing puts a reader off more than simple spelling and grammatical mistakes. Here are some common mistakes to watch out for:

YOUR vs YOU’RE

Your – it belongs to you
You’re – contraction – you + are = you’re

Example:

It’s cold today. Don’t forget your cardigan.
You’re the only person who understands me.

IT’S vs ITS

Excerpt from Apple Dictionary: usage: A common error in writing is to confuse the possessive its (as in turn the camera on its side) with the contraction it’s (short for either it is or it has, as in it’smy faultit’s been a hot day). The confusion is at least partly understandable since other possessive forms (singular nouns) do take an apostrophe + -s, as in the girl’s bikethe President’s smile.

Example:

It’s (it + is) going to be hot and humid today.
It’s common to judge a book by its cover.

THEIR vs THERE

Their – it belongs to someone
There – direction or location

Example:
The Jones’ own a lake house. It is their house.
I’m going to Cathy’s party. I will meet you there.

9. TREAT EVERY LINE AS A POEM IN ITSELF

Number 9 is reserved for poetry. As poetry is about word economy, word choice and word
placement, it is greatly beneficial to treat each line as a poem in itself. Refer #3,5,6 and 7 above. Try to weed out superfluous words that don’t add value. Be specific with words (bird vs magpie/raven/wren/sparrow). Specificity will sharpen your text and change/add meaning.

10. REVISE, REVISE, REVISE

The mantra in academia is revise, revise, revise. Why? Because “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”

A piece of writing is no different to a sculpture. The blank page, is the same as a block of marble or wood. It starts out blank or formless, and it is slowly shaped into a poem or story or sculpture. But, it is only in the process of revision and chipping away at the details that the work is transformed into a work of art.

Having said that, one does need to know when to stop revising – when not to cross that thin line where the revision undermines the soul of the piece, and erases the original voice that birthed the idea.

HAPPY WRITING, HAPPY REVISING, HAPPY READERS!

RESOURCES

  1. Stein on Writing, Sol Stein
  2. Roget’s Thesaurus of Words for Writers
  3. The Little Green Grammar Book, by Mark Tredinnick
  4. The Little Red Writing Book, by Brandon Royal

CALLING ALL POETS IN BRISBANE & GOLD COAST

Good morning/evening all!

I’m helping Dominique get the word out for a Free (Non-Commercial) Poetry Reading Evening that she is keen to organise.

We need people to read their poetry and audience members to support local poets. If you’re interested, or know of anyone in the Brisbane and Gold Coast regions who would be interested, then please do leave me a comment or contact me directly via < bowersbg at gmail dot com>.

Poetry reading Evening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We need many more of these type events in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, so I am really keen to help Dominique make this happen (and continue to organise in the future).

Thanks for your support and look forward to hearing from you!

Bianca.

Are you ready to submit?

B.G. Bowers:

PaperFields is a small press that champions unknown, but quality writers who are overlooked by established publishers. Their reading period starts next month, in March 2015. If you’ve been looking for a different publishing house that embraces creativity and individualism, then you might want to consider PaperFields. Read the article to find out if you’re ready to submit!

Originally posted on PaperFields Press:

cropped-cropped-pf-baner-png11.png

PaperFields Press is about to embark on its first reading period. In preparation, we have written this article to provide insight into the publishing process, and, help you determine if you are ready to submit your manuscript to our press, or to another literary home.

Rules shcmules

The first thing you should do is check the submission rules of the press/magazine/editor. Even though these rules seem unnecessary and boring, often exhibiting personal convictions of the press and the editor, they are a vital part of deciding where, and even if, to submit.
Ours are HERE

Some of the noteworthy rules are:

 1. Text and Formatting

Being forced to use a specific, default font may seem contrary to creativity, but please remember that we, as editors, want to familiarise ourselves with your work first. We want readability, ease of access, and minimal confusion.

The creativity of typography should come AFTER. After…

View original 734 more words

PaperFields Press: A New Publishing Venue for Unknown Writers

Dear Readers,

I am proud to introduce a new publishing house that understands and champions unknown, but talented writers.

www.paperfieldspress.com
http://www.paperfieldspress.com

 

PaperFields Press is a small press founded by myself and Oloriel. Our decision to join forces and create a press has grown out of a mutual disenchantment with the poetry (and general publishing) establishment, and the lack of suitable places to submit our own work.

Since my own self-publishing experience 12 months ago, I have since researched numerous online journals and literary magazines in the hopes of finding one (at least) in which my poetry would fit. I managed to find 5 or 6, but they were not a perfect fit as it turned out because I was rejected on the grounds of ‘not fitting in’.

I then turned my attention to my novel. I scrutinised 50+ small presses, and a handful of traditional publishers, in Australia with the aim of submitting my book for consideration (when it was ready). This research presented a new problem of ‘not fitting in’. I wasn’t an Australian writer – I was displaced. I had no national identity to claim or cling to. All of the publishers and guidelines mentioned the words “Australian writers” and “Australian-themed stories” as a prerequisite. It wasn’t much different abroad either – a writers national identity is equally important as their publication history or the genre they write. When it became clear that my work would not ‘fit’ with publishers in general, I knew that it was time to think outside of the box and find a solution.

I didn’t really want to self-publish again. There were too many downsides in my opinion – the most important being that self-published books are just not taken seriously by readers or critics. I am a writer for the long haul, and I’m unwilling to allow the publishing establishment to dictate my value.

During this whole process, I kept returning to these 2 quotes:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
~ Einstein

Some of us have great runways already built for us. If you have one, take off! But if you don’t have one, realise it is your responsibility to grab a shovel! Build one for yourself and for all those who will follow you.
~ Amelia Earhart

Thankfully, Oloriel shared my frustration, and my vision, and after a few discussions we got to work. We are a perfect partnership – she has graphic design and marketing skills (among others), I have a range of business experience, my own priceless publishing experience, and we share progressive views about the future of publishing. We also believe that digital and print on demand technology, combined with social media marketing tools and e-commerce opportunities, present the perfect opportunity to create and build a new publishing model; one that marries creative freedom and commercialism.

PaperFields Press publish books in any genre that entertain and educate. We seek poetry and fiction that challenges, thrills, provokes, inspires and moves. Because we are a young press, striving for longevity in a competitive industry, we seek writers and poets who are confident in their abilities, committed to building a portfolio of work, and motivated to promote themselves in the wider community.

We invite you to join us on our exciting journey by visiting our site (www.paperfieldspress.com), signing up to our mailing list, liking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter and Tumblr. We have lots of exciting news and updates on the horizon, and we don’t want you to miss anything.

Thanks for your support. Here’s to an interesting and progressive year in publishing!

Bianca

I’ve launched a Facebook Author Page

Hi everyone, you haven’t heard from me for a while…

In addition to my role as ‘Primary Entertainer’ to my children during their 6-week school holiday break, I have been keeping busy with my second poetry book, On the Verge, and I have been back and forth with the printers for the revised edition of Death and Life.  

Death and Life is expected to be ready in February, and I have 83 poems for On the Verge (my goal is between 85 and 90).  Aside from poetry, I am on the third draft of my novel, The Colour Fence, and there are some other exciting projects going on behind the scenes. Watch this space!

Yesterday, I launched a Facebook Author Page, and welcome everyone to show their support by visiting and liking via the link below. Thanks to Oloriel for my gorgeous cover design!

https://www.facebook.com/pages/BG-Bowers/283732391783267

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 7.29.03 am

That’s all for now. I hope your 2015 is off to a good start!

Take care,

Bianca.

Third Times a Publishing Charm

Death and Life: Revised and Final Edition
Death and Life: Revised and Final Edition. Cover Art © 2014 Mirjana Miric Inalman

Every writer dreams of publication, but not every writer is ready to be published. Writers who follow the traditional route learn that lesson via the submission-and-rejection-process, and writers who follow the indie route learn the hard way, via experience and learning from their mistakes.

In February this year, I was impatient to become an author on my own terms. After writing my article on Traditional Vs Indie Publishing, I concluded that indie authors were the entrepreneurs of the publishing world, and decided to try it out for myself. In part, because poetry is notoriously difficult to publish traditionally, but also because I’m fond of experience. Sometimes good theory makes bad practice and you can’t know unless you try it for yourself.

Once the dust of my self-publishing adventure settled, I started to suffer from publishers-remorse. Much like a new home-owner suffers from buyers remorse, I oscillated daily between satisfaction and regret…Satisfaction, because the book was succeeding on a human level, with strangers and friends reaching out to share their own stories of depression, suicide and struggles with me. Regret, because it was failing on a commercial level (and I was secretly relieved).

How could I be relieved that my own book was failing commercially, you might ask?

Aside from the external failure and success, I was deeply disappointed with myself because I knew that I had ultimately compromised the quality of my book by making too many rookie mistakes.

That self-realisation brought me face to face with my personal tipping point – was I going to cave under public (and personal) scrutiny, OR, was I going to confront the scrutiny, learn from my mistakes, and make another attempt to get it right?

Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.
~ Richard Branson

External advice urged me to let it go and move on, but my internal voice echoed Richard Branson’s words. My internal voice assured me that embarrassment was not terminal and urged me to use my mistakes as the stepping stones to a rich learning experience.

Over the years, I have grown to trust and appreciate my instincts, so I decided to review my book, identify and fix the mistakes, and test the 3-times-a-charm-theory by retiring earlier editions and re-publish a revised and final edition.

After spending a few months reading between the lines of reviews, researching, and deconstructing Death and Life, I managed to identify 4 weak areas:

  1. Content and Book Divisions
  2. Marketing and Sales
  3. Quotes
  4. Aesthetics

Content and Book Divisions

The overall issues were the too-personal-content and the dogmatic dividers. In not wanting to short-change the reader, I crammed too much in and didn’t give the reader breathing space.

I realised that I had used the poems and dividers to narrate a singular and continuous story instead of selecting (and presenting) poems that narrated a collective experience that could resonate with a wider audience.

In the revised and final edition of Death and Life, I have rectified these issues by deleting 33 poems, and reconfiguring and condensing the dividers from 22 to 11. I have revised several poems by removing the too-personal-content and aligning them with the overall message of the book. Finally, I added several new poems (including Eleven, Predators, Migrant Skin, and Death Addiction).

Marketing and Sales

The overall issues were: I didn’t love my book enough to want to market it, and I had no idea who my target market was…

You can’t market successfully if you don’t know your message…

My first task was Identifying a message:

I believed for many years that I had an obligation to reach out to people who had suffered similar experiences (with depression, suicide, abuse) and asked similar questions (about spirituality and philosophy) and give them permission to embrace their own truth instead of hiding it away like a shameful secret. You can read the full story behind Death and Life HERE.
With this in mind, I was able to sum up my message in the new dedication:

Death and Life, Revised and Final Edition: Dedication
Death and Life, Revised and Final Edition: Dedication

10% of all royalties will be donated to the beyondblue organisations that help youth and adults who suffer from depression.

beyondblue.com.au

youthbeyondblue.com

Distribution and multiple book formats is king for indie authors…

After publication, a number of people asked me where they could buy the book (even after giving them the amazon link). I found this quite perplexing, because I chose to publish exclusively with Amazon and kindle primarily to facilitate global access. Several months down the line I’ve realised that amazon links are country-specific, and you need to provide multiple links (URLs) for people to buy from their respective countries. And even then, in some cases, people have not been able to buy it. Furthermore, not everyone has a kindle (or knows that they can download a free kindle app on their PC).

To combat this problem with the revised and final edition, I have created an account with bookbaby.com For 15% of the sales, they convert your ebook to multiple formats and distribute your ebook to several online retailers, including:

iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble (Nook), Amazon, Baker and Taylor, Gardners, Copia, Flipkart, Oyster, and ePubDirect.

Bookbaby also provides a dedicated web page for your book, which provides a shopping cart and lists your books meta data, description, and author bio.

Available eBook formats via bookbaby.com
Available eBook formats via bookbaby.com

Side Note: In doing my research, I decided to manage the kindle format myself, as it was already set up. Plus, by keeping the existing kindle ASIN I retain the reviews for previous editions.

Quotes are meant to be shared…

I realised after I had written the quotes, that they were generally too long to share on social media (especially Twitter), which is not a clever idea. Quotes are one of the most popular things to share on Twitter, and if they’re too long, nobody is going to share them.

With that in mind, I have simplified the majority of the quotes, made them less personal to give them broader appeal, and converted some into new poems.

Death and Life, Revised and Final Edition: Quotes
Death and Life, Revised and Final Edition: Quotes

Aesthetics

I am usually very fussy about aesthetics, so it’s surprising that I totally screwed up the aesthetics of my book. After Oloriel designed a new cover for the second edition, I was much happier, but then I felt that I was letting her down with the interior. The revised and final edition has a new font for both the headings and other content. I’m sure you’ll agree, that it has made a vast improvement.

Revised aesthetics: Death and Life, Revised and Final Edition
Revised aesthetics: Death and Life, Revised and Final Edition

(Unfortunately, these aesthetic changes cannot be appreciated in the ebook – because ebooks don’t allow for fancy formatting).

I’ll take my lessons shaken, not stirred…

I entered the indie experience with the idea that it was much easier than the traditional route, and I have exited knowing that that is a fallacy. If you’re a perfectionist, like me, then Indie is far more difficult. Why? Because you are responsible for everything. Like an entrepreneur, while you may not be skilled at every area of your business, you certainly need to understand and have a working knowledge of every aspect of your business so that you can manage it successfully.

In retrospect, I jumped the authorship-gun, because I wasn’t quite ready. But then again, if I hadn’t jumped the gun, I wouldn’t have taken a risk, or made any mistakes, or gained a priceless experience, or become a genuine author in the process.

Death and Life, the revised and final edition, coming soon…

I am working with Oloriel to get the print book ready for release in the New Year, and the eBook will be distributed to online retailers in 1-3 weeks.

In the meantime, I invite previous purchasers of the original books, and readers and bloggers interested in writing a book review, to email me at bowersbg (at) gmail (dot) com for a complimentary PDF version.

Thanks a million for your continued support. Onward and upward,

Bianca_SignOff

An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail. ~ Edwin Land

Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. ~ Henry Ford

If you have made mistakes, even serious mistakes, you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down.
~  Mary Pickford

Passing Knowledge Forward: Time Myth

Passing Knowledge Forward Blog Series
Passing Knowledge Forward Blog Series

Have you ever gleaned invaluable knowledge from someone (be it celebrity, influential person, entrepreneur, friend, family member, teacher etc.) that has enlightened you and changed your perspective on something? I have no doubt that everyone can put their hand up and say yes.

Next question. Have you ever passed that knowledge forward? And, did you ever thank the person who imparted that knowledge to you? 

Speaking for myself, there have been many instances over the course of my adult life where I have been re-educated, in a sense, having gleaned invaluable information from the books I’ve read, people I’ve met, stories I’ve heard, etc. Information that has both changed my perspective and helped me enormously in some way shape or form (whether it’s personal development, or financial education, or exercise etc.) However, I have rarely had the opportunity to pass that knowledge forward.

I would like to change that by introducing a blog series (much like the rethinking quotes series) in which I pass the knowledge forward, and thank the person who shared their knowledge with me. And, I welcome you to do the same thing.

Passing Knowledge Forward: Time Myth
Passing Knowledge Forward: Time Myth

Today’s knowledge pertains to the concept of time, that we have all, at some stage or another, used as an excuse to procrastinate and not take action. For example, no time to write, no time to exercise, etc.

We’ve all done it. I’ve done it. Some continue to do it. Some have turned it into an art form.

I did it for many years, until I read 3 dozen books in late 2011 and early 2012 about entrepreneurs and super wealthy/successful people, including the likes of Donald Trump, Richard Branson, Robert and Kim Kiyosaki, and Warren Buffet, to name a few. When I got to the last book, Instant Wealth: Wake Up Rich, by Christopher Howard, I nearly didn’t read it (1. I was dubious about the title (there’s no such thing as instant wealth!) and, 2. I wasn’t familiar with the author). However, if my reading had taught me anything it was that I was guaranteed to glean at least one nugget of useful information from every book. With that in mind, I read the book, and I was very glad that I did. In reading Christopher’s story about the lead up to his success, I had a dawning moment in which I identified a common thread between all the stories I had read:

Every single successful person had NOT used time as an excuse, but leveraged it to their advantage.

The majority had held down a busy day job and worked on their business/idea etc. after hours. Also, instead of moaning about their day jobs, they had leveraged their day jobs to learn certain skills and gain experience that would be useful in their own businesses (when they got them up and running). In essence, they viewed their day jobs as mini-universities, and used them to learn.

I am constantly amazed at how perspective can change everything, and that little nugget of information was no different. That seed of an idea prompted me to view the concept of time in a radically different way. It also prompted me to start a time audit, if you will.

photo

 

Much like a financial budget helps you identify your spending habits i.e. do you want it, or, do you need it? and then prioritise your spending and saving, so it is for a time budget.

Going through the exercise of itemising your time will provide an overview of (and help you clarify) where and how your time is spent. Then, just like a financial budget, you can reallocate time in order to manage your time better and ‘find’ time for something you’ve put off (for example, writing).

 

 

To give you an example; in 2011, my time audit for a 24-hr period looked something like this:

  • 6 hours = sleep
  • 15 hours = work (5am to 8pm) full-time mother
  • 3 hours = recreational / down-time / tv / time with husband etc.

Time Breakdown

  • 15 hours = Fixed time.
  • 9 hours = Flexible time.

Time Audit

  • If I subtracted 30 mins from sleep, for say 5 days a week, I’d gain 2.5 hours a week to work on my writing, or to exercise etc; PLUS.
  • Subtract 1 hour from rec time, for say 5 days per week, I’d gain 5 hours a week.

»The result, was an extra 7.5 hours a week to work with. 

What-we-see-depends

Personally, this time audit helped me view time differently (and gave me back some control). It also blew the concept of “no time” out of the water. It revealed, in black and white, that I had used time as an excuse – that’s all.

I had no choice but to change, and soon afterwards I wrote the first 30k words of my novel (that I had previously ‘not had the time to do’).

Fast forward to present day…I have a lot more time now that my kids are school-age, but I still use this time budget to keep me on track when I start slacking off and using time as an excuse.

If you’ve used time as an excuse and would like to do a time audit, use the example below to get you started.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 12.33.54 pm

Thanks for visiting,

Bianca_SignOff

4 Month Weigh-In

The-difference-between

Back in August I wrote a post called Embracing 40 in spite of propaganda, in which I talked about turning 40 and mentioned my post-pregnancy-weight-struggle. Today I’m back with a 4 month progress report.

To recap, I explained how the old exercises (walking/running/yoga/swimming/gym), that used to work, were not producing the desired results, and that I had reached a point where I had convinced myself that I was never going to lose weight and tone the post-pregnancy-problem-areas.

The post-pregancy stretch…

Women who have had children will identify with me when I tell you that there are certain muscles that get stretched during pregnancy, no matter what you do. And, it seems that no matter what you do post-pregnancy, your stomach muscles (for one) never quite return to their former glory. Sharon Osbourne famously referred to her post-natal-stomach as a “kangaroo pouch”, and opted for cosmetic surgery because she couldn’t imagine ever losing that ‘pouch’ without going under the knife.

To give you examples of what I tried:

In late 2011, I was still a full-time mother with no personal time. I joined a 24 hr gym and pounded the treadmill and weight circuit 4 nights a week. I did lose weight in the first 6 months, and even swapped the treadmill for the road, but then my weight plateaued, I got bored, and my post-pregnancy-problem-areas were no different.

Brisbane storms © 2014 B.G. Bowers
Brisbane storms © 2014 B.G. Bowers

 

Then, in 2012, I tried to shake things up and took on a 90-day Trail Running Challenge through our local, Mt Coot-tha, forest and doggedly counted my calories. I stuck to it, even running while Brisbane was in the midst of storms and floods, but at the end of the 90 days I hadn’t lost a single kilogram.

Frustration

At that stage, I started to lose hope and get very frustrated. Exercise aside, my diet was mainly vegetarian, I don’t eat junk food, I don’t drink soft drink (in fact I’ve only drunk sparkling water since 2006), I read food labels religiously and avoid processed food…yada yada yada. In short, the whole thing stopped making sense to me. Over the next 2 years I began accepting that I might not be able to undo the post-natal weight problems and resigned myself to the fact that it was impossible to isolate, and focus on, problem areas, In retrospect, I see that I was making lots of excuses and not trying hard enough!

The triggers

The dreaded "before" picture...
The dreaded “before” picture…

 

Everyone has a trigger that finally forces them to move from excuse-mode to do-whatever-it-takes-mode. My trigger was this photo of myself (taken earlier this year). I recorded my weight and measurements and calculated my BMI score. That’s when the next trigger kicked in. For the first time in my life I had moved from the edge of a healthy BMI range to the bottom of an unhealthy BMI range. That was the end of excuseville. It forced me to face the truth and find a way!

 

On 6 July 2014, I started Tracy Anderson’s Metamorphosis program.

Based on over a decade of research on different muscular structure groups, Tracy Anderson has created a fitness method that can transform any problem area or body type. Tracy has created and patented over 3,000 fitness movements and her varying moves target every muscle in your body. The sequences strategically exhaust the muscles in a way that does not create bulk, and that strengthens the connection to the body. This program is designed for anyone to achieve a perfect body naturally. ~ www.tracyandersonmethod.com

4 Month Weigh-In…

4 Months Later...
4 Months Later…

 

To date, I have lost over 9 kgs in weight, dropped 2 dress sizes and moved back into the healthy BMI range. I have lost 10 cms off my waist, 13 cm off my hips, 12 cm off my stomach, 10 off my bust/back, 7 cms off my thighs and 3 cms off my upper arms. Other benefits include an awakened body-mind connection, a lighter, healthier and less inhibited body. The truth is, I can’t say enough for her method. It is literally changing how I feel within myself, my approach to food, how I walk, and how I view exercise i.e. before: a bit of a chore at times; After: I never get bored, I enjoy every workout, I look forward to every workout; I’m guaranteed results and therefore guaranteed to never miss a session.

Sharing the Love

I don’t write and share this post with you to be a braggart. I write and share it with you to share the love. I sincerely struggled with post-natal-weight, and felt downright depressed at times with my inability to regain my pre-pregnancy body. I know that there are plenty of women out there who struggle with the same issue, and I only wish that someone had told me about Tracy Anderson years ago.

No fast fix…

Tracy’s method is not a fast and easy fix. It requires commitment, dedication and hard work. Your workouts consist of 30 mins Mat Work and 30 mins Dance Cardio, and you do these 6 days a week. The mat workouts change every 10 days, so that your body and muscles are constantly challenged. I won’t lie to you. In the beginning, you will feel like you’ve been hit by a freight train. You will also get colds due to a release of toxins. It will take you at least a month to familiarise yourself with the dance cardio moves. BUT, if you persevere, you will be rewarded.

I’ve still got 10 kgs to lose before I reach my goal weight, but I’m feeling much more laid back and confident now that I’ve found something that not only works, but keeps me interested.

You’ve done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.
~ Ralph Marston

You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction.
~ George Horace Lorimer

 

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TeH_xfZmkE

Sheep Control (Cherita Poetry Form)

Written for 2 different prompts: Photo Challenge #36 “Sheep Control” and Cherita Form via MindLoveMisery’sMenagerie

Sheep Control by Pawel Kuczynski
Sheep Control by Pawel Kuczynski

 

Judas turned to look at the line of sheep

who would literally follow her to the slaughter -
Her spring lamb among them.

Compassion was so easily forsaken;
On hind legs, she gave the order,
“Stampede”!

© 2014 B.G. Bowers

 

Notes: A Cherita is a six line poem that tells a complete story. It has 3 stanzas consisting of 1 line/2 lines/3 lines.

Rethinking Quotes Series – Friends and Enemies

Cockatoos vs Water Dragon © B.G. Bowers 2014
Cockatoos vs Water Dragon © B.G. Bowers 2014

Last week’s post Declaring war on the word LUCK was a lot of fun and it’s got me thinking about writing a series of posts whereby I question and rethink common quotes and phrases that pepper our everyday language and conversations. These posts will be totally subjective, around 500 words, and titled Rethinking Quotes Series. As usual, I encourage your differences of opinions and experience.

Today’s quote is:

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

On performing an internet search, I have not been able to find the original source of this quote. It appears to have originated from a Sun-Tzu (The Art of War) quote. More on that later…

While I understand this quote in theory, it has never made sense to me in practice. In my experience, keeping your enemies closer is about as relaxing as going to sleep with one eye open. I just don’t get it. It sounds like a LOT of effort and wasted energy. For example, if I applied this quote to a situation that I’ve been negotiating most of the year – playground politics – I would have to pretend to like a group of women that I really don’t like at all. Keeping them close would not only entail my willing participation in ignorant gossip, but would include the knowledge that while they appear pleasant to my face, they are undoubtedly sticking the knife in when I walk away.

So, I have to ask myself the question – do I really want to keep my enemies closer? Furthermore, would it be healthy for me, and a good use of my time, to do so? The answer, for me at least, is a resounding NO.

I’ve always found it personally beneficial to confront said enemy with the truth and advise them exactly where they stand. For example: “I know that you are a backstabbing hypocrite, so let’s drop the pretences and just stay out of each other’s way.”

In my experience, enemies are like bullies – they won’t go away unless you stand up to them. Which brings me to another quote:

“Power perceived is power achieved.”

Again, the source of this quote is in question, but it seems to originate from the 1996 movie The Substitute. This quote, in my experience at least, has worked exceedingly well in practice. I’m not sure where I got my feisty attitude from, whether it was innate or learned, but I was never the victim of bullying at school. It’s not that bullies didn’t try – on the contrary – I had many run-ins with school bullies, but I always stood up to them and warned them off in no uncertain terms. Every time it happened, I would watch their bravado shrivel as they made a fast exit with their tails between their legs. After those initial confrontations (power perceived) they gave me a wide berth and never dared look me in the eye again (power achieved).

Having thought about it, I definitely don’t want to keep my enemies closer. I prefer to view them like bullies; call them on their shit, keep them at arm’s length, and know that they will soon become somebody else’s problem. It’s definitely not a popular option, especially in today’s political correct landscape where people are making an art of pretending, but I have never been accused of following the crowd, and I certainly don’t plan to start now. Frankly, I’d rather have one genuine friend than a group of fake friends.

Sun-Tzu’s original quote was quite different as it turns out:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

Now this quote makes much more sense to me. It also reminds me of a Lauryn Hill song Forgive them Father, specifically these lyrics:

“Beware the false motives of others / Be careful of those who pretend to be brothers / and you never suppose it’s those who are closest to you”

Video found HERE

What are your thoughts on the Friend/Enemy Quote?

 

Paper Heart

Paper Heart

 

Written for Blogging 101: Try a New Posting Style

Declaring war on the word LUCK

 

Opportunity

Have you ever noticed how writers, and the general public, love to throw around the word ‘luck’? Well, I have, and I have grown to loathe it.

Now, while I’m certain that the majority don’t mean to wish ‘luck’ in an asinine, dismissive way, it very often comes across that way. Very often, the subtext of the tone is something along the lines of, “good luck, you’re gonna need it!!”

We’ve all heard about the endless-rejection-followed-by-lucky-break-stories about now-famous-authors, right? While it’s tempting to call a writer’s breakthrough/success ‘lucky’, I would like to offer a different perspective…

Successful writers, be they traditional or indie, follow 4 rules:

  1. They are disciplined and they write consistently, no matter what the weather.
  2. They’re always creating and completing writing projects.
  3. They’re constantly building, and adding to, their portfolio of work.
  4. They are prepared for opportunities.

While it’s tempting to use the word ‘luck’, it’s actually more logical to use the word ‘opportunity’, because the element of luck is impossible if the writer is not writing, completing and preparing for opportunities.

The more I think about it, the more I think that it’s time to declare war on the word ‘luck’, and replace it with the word ‘Opportunity’.

Furthermore, let’s replace the phrases ‘good luck’ and ‘bad luck’ with some new ones:

Good Luck: An opportunity that one is prepared for

Bad luck/unlucky: A missed opportunity due to a lack of preparation.

What do you think? Better?

For those who still insist on calling a writer’s breakthrough/success ‘luck’, then I’ll counter with this; the element of luck would not be possible if the person had not been writing consistently and gaining momentum.

Have you ever heard about Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion? Yes, of course you have.

The first law states that: An object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.

The second law establishes a connection between an object’s mass and its acceleration.

The third law states that: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Source: science.howstuffworks.com

We could just as easily apply these laws to the science of Writing Success or Failure, don’t you think? 

(For those scientist-minds out there, this is just a bit of fun, I’m not being literal).

Seriously though, in a nutshell, without motion, opportunity is impossible. Luck/Opportunity only arises when an object in motion stays in motion.

3 Laws of Writing Momentum/Success:

1. A writer continues writing unless they stop. (Stopping due to an outside force, such as rejection, or lack of time, or writers block etc.)

2. A writer who writes consistently and completes projects will increase their writer-mass by building a portfolio of work. It stands to reason that a writer with a substantial portfolio is better prepared for  opportunities that arise.

3. A writer with increased writer-mass who continues to write, regardless of outside forces, will gain momentum, accelerate toward their goals, and increase their chances of meeting opportunities along the way.

Give a writer a break; stop saying ‘good luck’, and start saying ‘Opportunity’! ;-)

Endless Walk (Photo Challenge #33)

Matilda Emgård
Matilda Emgård

“Endless Walk”, Written for MindloveMisery’s Menagerie Photo Challenge #33

She took to the sky, like a bird.

Limbs of a heron,

angles and curves, wrapped in feathers.

I followed her red heels

and spiky mood.

A love leash, between us.

Lightning rod parasols, above.

Red heels and raven claws

suspended,

on a sky trapeze.

Her thoughts travelled down her heels,

converged with the wire,

offered sibilations, beyond translation.

Her intentions remained as enigmatic as her destination

but still I followed…

She was an exclamation in the sky;

a wordless statement.

Her ivory limbs, organic extensions

from feathered joints.

Exotic.

A living art exhibit,

fashioned from raven plumage.

The sky embraced her glossy charm.

The lightning caught its reflection

in her electric limbs,

and spared her its wrath.

Even the rain parted around her curves,

as if she were a journeying cloud.

She possessed my feathered freedom,

and even though I wasn’t a migratory bird

she compelled my raven claws

to follow her red heels

on an endless walk.

© 2014 B.G. Bowers

True Detective: A PBW’s argument against Affirmative Feminism 

B.G. Bowers:

Today’s post comes from my other blog, Point Blank Woman. Better get your opinion ready!

Originally posted on Point Blank Woman:

The reason that feminists find True Detective unpalatable is because it is…and therein lies its brilliance; a refusal to entertain politically correct propaganda and an unequivocal adherence to a realistic portrayal of the ugly offspring of misogynism, patriarchy, violence and religion.

True Detective Season 1: Opening Credits (HBO) YouTube

Every now and then a television show comes along and demands that I sit up and take notice. This year, that show has been True Detective. Of course, whenever I appreciate a television show for its power to provoke thought there is usually a tide of offended viewers in its wake. Having just finished my second viewing of True Detective, Season One, I’ve been reading back-dated articles relating to the show to get a feel for what the general consensus was, and, as suspected there seems to be a string of offended females/feminists. The general consensus and criticism is that True Detective has been “a…

View original 1,352 more words

Spring Haiku: Brisbane Botanic Gardens

Canary flowers

buzz, towering honey hives.

Festival of Bees.

 …

Tower Tree at Brisbane Botanic Gardens © 2014 B.G. Bowers
Tower Tree at Brisbane Botanic Gardens © 2014 B.G. Bowers

 …

Honey bee, on loan.

A month of milking flowers.

Death waits in the grass.

Honey Bee at Brisbane Botanic Gardens © 2014 B.G. Bowers
Honey Bee at Brisbane Botanic Gardens © 2014 B.G. Bowers

 …

Bandstand breeze attracts

dragonfly wings. Shimmering

hunters, chasing Spring.

Bandstand at Brisbane Botanic Gardens © 2014 B.G. Bowers
Bandstand at Brisbane Botanic Gardens © 2014 B.G. Bowers

Humid trees release

fatigued petals, that pivot

to a purple end.

Jacaranda Tree at Brisbane Botanic Gardens © 2014 B.G. Bowers
Jacaranda Tree at Brisbane Botanic Gardens © 2014 B.G. Bowers

A butcher bird sings

on a Sunday branch, hooking

butter wings mid-flight.

Butcher Bird in the Coral Tree at Brisbane Botanic Gardens © 2014 B.G. Bowers
Butcher Bird in the Coral Tree at Brisbane Botanic Gardens © 2014 B.G. Bowers

 …

Bamboo arches morph;

Yellow flames infiltrate trees.

Sunday afternoon.

 

IMG_2847
Yellow Bamboo at Brisbane Botanic Gardens © 2014 B.G. Bowers

 

© 2014 B.G. Bowers

Writing: Dream or Profession?

The statue of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky outside Brisbane Planetarium © 2014 B.G. Bowers
The statue of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky outside Brisbane Planetarium © 2014 B.G. Bowers

Are you gazing at a writing dream or fostering a writing career? That is today’s question…

If you’d asked me this question 17 months ago, when I started this blog and began my creative writing journey in earnest, I would have answered “a bit of both”. On the one hand, I believed that hard work and dedication would be key components for genuine progression and eventual success, but, on the other hand, I held a misconception; that passion and purpose (aka a ‘calling’) was enough of a sword to conquer the mythical beast that I perceived writing to be. Between you and me, there was a little part of me that entertained a fantasy whereby someone would stumble upon my work and ‘discover’ me, just like Charlize Theron was ‘discovered’ in a bank. Admitting that makes me smile at my own foolishness and naivety, but it also provides a yardstick by which to measure my progression over the last 17 months.

When I began blogging, writing was secondary to everything else. It wasn’t a part of my daily routine. Instead, I tried to fit it in when ‘I had the time’. 6 months in, I had an epiphany and realised that I’d been treating my writing dream like a one-night-stand versus a committed relationship (read that here). It was around that time that I started to change my habits and make writing a daily priority. I also buckled down and finished my first poetry book, which was a learning curve in itself that gradually led the way to my next realisation:

Writing is a career – just like any other career.

The problem is, we (writers) often fail to make the distinction between ‘writing dream’ and ‘writing career’. Pfft, semantics, you might argue. But, if you’re a writer, then you’ll understand the importance of word choice and how it can change meaning.

dream | driːm | (noun)

  • a cherished aspiration, ambition, or ideal
  • an unrealistic or self-deluding fantasy

The word ‘dream’ is unstable. It is uncertain. Elements of luck are at play. Unlike the word ‘profession':

profession |prəˈfɛʃ(ə)n| (noun)

  • a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification

This word is entirely different. It is certain, stable, something achievable if you work at it.

Could the obstacle to our writing progression be as simple as changing the words, and associated meaning, we use to describe our writing journeys?

If I look at my own situation, I would say “yes”. It certainly hasn’t been an overnight realisation or change. It’s closer aligned to writing itself; a work in progress. Initially, I did associate writing with a dream, and that association kept me in a comfortable state of dreaming about writing instead of actually writing. 17 months on, I have had dawning moments that have helped me dispel the myth of my writing dream. I have learnt to associate writing with a profession, or career. I have come to loathe the word ‘luck’. I understand the possibility of ‘right time right place’ in the future, but I am not reliant on it. I can only rely on myself.

Time is no longer an excuse; writing is the priority and everything else fits around that daily ritual – just like brushing my teeth, exercising, showering, feeding my children – these are not things that I choose not to do due to lack of time. These are sacred priorities that are never allowed to be disrupted. So it must be for writing, if it is to be my profession.

I have learnt a lot about writing over the last 17 months. It is evident in my answers to the opening question – then and now. 17 months ago I was gazing at my writing dream and not making headway. Today, I am taking steps toward fostering a writing career.

7 Steps toward fostering a writing career:

  1. Call yourself a writer.
    The first step is admitting that little fact to yourself, and then acknowledging it to the world at large (as humiliating as that may be if you have no writing credits to speak of).
  2. Start writing.
    A writing career is built one word at a time.
  3. Change your mindset and Choose your words carefully.
    If writing is associated with a dream, it is unlikely to go anywhere. If it’s associated with a career, it will require your active participation and progression will be inevitable.
  4. Take responsibility for your writing by making a commitment to it.
    When you take responsibility, you write consistently, because it is your priority. We must commit to writing as we would our daily jobs – just like we would never entertain the idea of not meeting a work deadline, or arriving for work late, or just not turning up to work – so it should be for writing. We must decide – are we committed to writing or not? It is that simple.
  5. Writing, like any other career, requires professional development.
    There are levels of experience and learning that one has to undertake and achieve in order to progress to the next level. Identify your strengths, identify your weaknesses, and take steps to bridge the learning gap.
  6. Rejection or resistance?
    Have you experienced rejections in your professional life i.e. your day job? You didn’t get a job you applied for and interviewed for? You didn’t get a promotion? I’m sure everyone has experienced some form of rejection in their professional lives, right? The question is, did it make you quit? Or stop going to work? I doubt it. Why? Because you’re committed to your job, committed to earning a living etc. So, why should writing be any different?
  7. Approach
    Whether we decide to take the traditional or Indie route is not the issue. Both approaches require the same commitment – we have to decide if we’re writing professionals or if writing is our hobby. Until we do that, we will never know what we are truly capable of.

You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.
~ Henry Ford

Should you meet resistance, take comfort – it’s a great way to build muscle.
~ anonymous

Are you gazing at a writing dream or fostering a writing career? I’d love to hear your answers…

Decisions, Changes and Makeovers

Change_Quote

Apologies for missing my scheduled posts this week. Nothing has gone to plan…

Well, nobody could ever accuse me of not-changing-my-mind. On the contrary, I change my mind a lot! Some might call me a ‘flip-flopper’, but I call myself an ‘experiencer’. I’m not fond of following the flock and even though I sometimes care about what people think on a superficial level, I rarely (if ever) say or do things that will pave the way to a comfortable sense of belonging…
Since publishing my last post on mothers and employment, and considering the comments and stories, I’ve taken a step back and tried to look at my situation from another perspective. As a result, I’ve decided that the graduate diploma in education is not something that I really want to do, but something that I think I should do. So, for that reason, I won’t be pursuing it.

That decision of course has led me back to the drawing board, so to speak, but it’s also dawned on me that for all the years I spent working in corporations, I spent equal amounts of time complaining bitterly and dreaming of the sweet day when I would no longer have to be an impostor. Of course, if I look at my current situation honestly and objectively, I see that my dream is now a reality. Yes, I have exactly what I always wanted. Time to stay at home and write. And yes, there may be financial limitations for the time being, but if these years on a single income have taught me anything, it’s how to squeeze every last cent out of a budget. So… A new decision has been made. I will no longer be wasting my time looking for crappy jobs. I will no longer try to fit into places that I ultimately don’t belong. Instead, I will focus all of my free attention and time on writing. I will also be grateful that my prayers have been answered.

IMG_2890

Following on from the decision to treat writing as my job, I have also realised that this blog is an essential component of my ‘writing job’ and it is in need of a makeover. To help me with this process, I’ve enrolled in WordPress’ Blogging 201 (click on the link to register). The first few exercises relate to auditing your blog (theme, goals, tagline, the works). So far, I’ve changed the theme and written a blog thesis and new bio. But, it’s not set in stone, and I would love some input from those who are familiar with me and this blog. It’s always difficult to write about yourself, and sometimes you overlook things that other people see.

Here is what I have so far:

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 5.14.48 pm

About me and my blog

Poetry author, creative writer, and serial migrant who has lived in Africa, New Zealand, Britain and Australia. My blog is a creative space, where I explore and evolve my writing style, and a forum for candid debate.

Blog Thesis
Welcome to B.G. Bowers; a creative writing playground and forum for candid debate. Publishing occurs twice weekly; bring your opinion on Monday and your imagination on Thursday.

New Bio
B.G. Bowers is a poetry author, creative writer, and serial migrant who has lived in Africa, New Zealand, Britain and Australia. She loves debate, loathes damsels in distress, and has a BA in English and Film/TV/Media Studies. She blogs twice weekly at bgbowers.com.

I look forward to your thoughts, constructive criticism and honest feedback.

Have a great weekend,

Bianca.

 

 

Human Winter Song

This selection of shadorma, haiku (first attempts for me), and freestyle poems were inspired by a movie I watched over the weekend, called The Frozen Ground. The film is based on a true story about the hunt for Alaska’s worst serial killer, Robert Hansen (Trailer clip at the end for anyone interested). I enjoy atmospheric films with dramatic scenery and breathtaking photography, and this one did not disappoint. The unforgiving weather and absence of sunlight juxtaposed with Hansen’s brutality adds texture to the already rich filmic language and emotional cues, and the combination of atmosphere, scenery, and photography compliment the dark undertones of misogyny, and highlight the vulnerability of teenage runaways, who end up as sex-workers.

Anchorage winter sun
Image by Wonderlane [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Alaskan winter

slides down mountain staircases

smokey snow unfurls

Snow coffins for feet.

Leather hands and lead fingers.

Human hunter, hides.

She grants jurisdiction

to substitute mothers.

Addiction irons her memory’s wrinkles.

She uses sex to enslave,

and liberate her.

Her inner child murders the embryonic adult.

Hold my hand, honey.

Loneliness bites my ankles.

Smoke sleeves swallow me.

A killer smiles

behind rimmed antlers.

Unwavering

in his quest for nubiles.

His death trophies, unscrutinised.

The clocks clasping their numbers.

Lights travel for miles

Headlights violate beech trees

Snowflake skin ablaze

Silver stitches kiss

her forgotten eyelashes

Death whispers loudly

Woollen skin

pleads, above treetops.

Tears, frail as

autumn leaves.

god of cruelty aims rifle;

girl, running like deer.

Snow conceals corpses;

twenty one girls slain.

One victim’s courage,

One detective’s dogged pursuit

to end the hunt.

Snow whistles,

between skyscrapers,

down chimneys.

Ice music

echoes. Tarmac imbibes clouds.

Human-Winter-Song.

© 2014 B.G. Bowers

Motherhood equals unemployment

IMG_2903

There is a feminist debate raging on the web and social media at the moment, but it seems to focus on salary inequalities and anti-feminist rhetoric/attitudes. It doesn’t, in my opinion, address the bigger picture – that is, a female’s place in a patriarchal society. While I would love to dig deeper on this issue and present you with a well-researched and flawless argument, I simply do not have the time. What I will do, is add another layer to the feminist-debate-mix with my own experience of how motherhood has rendered me unemployable in the eyes of employers and recruiters.

6 years ago my husband and I opted to live on a single income so that I could be a full-time mother. While it has been a financial challenge, it is undeniable that the quality time I have spent raising and nurturing my children has been well worth the material sacrifices. 6 years on, our children have reached school age and my husband and I are patting ourselves on the back (having given our children a solid and loving foundation) and also breathing a sigh of relief, because I am ready and willing to start earning money and alleviate some of the financial burden that is inevitable for a family of 4.

12 months ago, I began my job search. I started by being rather selective – only applying for jobs that interested me and that fit in around my children’s school hours. 3 or 4 months in, every single application was rejected. Over the last 9 months I have ramped up my efforts to get a job (part-time/casual/temporary/what-bloody-ever), but the replies are all the same: “unfortunately, not on this occasion” bullshit.
Your-workforce-is-your-2

If you belong to the school of thought that assumes that mother’s ‘lose’ their skills, then let me reassure you. I have actually gained new skills in the past 2 years that I didn’t have before I chose motherhood. I spent 14 months, on weekends and late nights, building my own business as a professional Resume and LinkedIn Writer. That involved self-directed learning about how to build and optimise a business website, and use social media to market my business. I even managed to get my business website to page 1 of Google for the search words “LinkedIn Profile Writer”. I also started this blog, and have done a pretty good job building up a creative web presence and proven that: 1) I can write a lot of different shit; 2) I know my way around WordPress and Social Media; and 3) I’m not afraid of hard work.

So, anyway…Determined to understand why (as I have never had a problem getting a job before) I have been working through a process of elimination:

  1. CV – unlikely, having written professional resumes and LinkedIn Profiles as a freelancer.
  2. Lack of experience or skills – unlikely, as I only apply for roles that I have relevant experience in and the necessary skills to perform (I am not one of those people who is comfortable to apply for something way above my station).
  3. Over-qualified – Perhaps for some of the roles I’ve been applying, but I’m getting desperate.
  4. Lack of Connections – Yes, seeing as jobs go to ‘friends of friends’ in this part of the world, this is definitely an issue, but not one I can overcome. After all, I am not Australian and I have no historical network to call upon here. But still, this can’t be the only reason…
  5. Age – Possibly, but I have been applying for a cross-section of jobs in different environments that don’t necessarily discriminate on age alone.
  6. Motherhood – This, I suspect, is the real reason. It’s the only real change that has taken place over the last 6 years.

Still, my cynicism runs as deep as an abyss, so I could be completely wrong. Fortunately for me, I managed to talk to a recruiter on the phone a few weeks ago. When I mentioned that I had taken time off to raise children, there was a sharp intake of breath followed by a pregnant pause. I asked if she was still there (perhaps she’d fallen off her chair, or taken a mouthful of her lunch…). Her tone changed when she replied in the affirmative, and the next words that marched out were the type of corporate buzzwords and phrases (read bastardisation of words) that make me wish I had to power to ban corporate marketers from language and words altogether.

She started out by suggesting that I “manage my expectations” and be grateful that I’ve been able to “choose” to raise my children. She didn’t stop there. My 16+ years of experience and my University degree, and all other practical qualifications that were valuable pre-motherhood, are now apparently null-and-void. That’s right, from hero to zero for choosing to give my children a solid foundation instead of passing them over to child-carers. Somehow, 6 years of motherhood have wiped out 16+ years of experience.

Perhaps I missed the scientific study that confirmed this balderdash, but if anyone has a copy then please send it my way.

I digress. Her parting words of encouragement were: “there is always volunteer work; that’s a better place to start.”
I thanked her with as much sarcasm as I could muster and said goodbye.

A year ago, I would have felt deflated and even hopeless, but amazingly I chose to keep my sanity intact and laughed out loud at the ridiculousness (yes, I realise that’s not an actual word) of the situation. At this stage of my life, it would be ridiculous not to laugh.
Since my conversation with said recruiter, I have dumbed down my CV and applied for a whole new set of temporary/casual/part-time/full-time/contract roles (including a picker/packer job in a warehouse), but all have been rejected.

Stay-committed-to-your

So, now what? Well, after a year of job applications I think it’s fair to say that I have exhausted my options. Which means it’s time to change my approach…

I have scoured the web for courses and options and have now settled on a 1 year Postgraduate Diploma in Secondary Education. It’s a full-time course that includes 60 days of practical experience, and, I will be eligible to qualify as a teacher on successful completion. In a way, it will be good for me in the long run, because it’s a job that will fit around my children (who will be in the school system for the next 11+ years). My preference is to teach English and humanities-based-subjects, which will undoubtedly benefit my own writing, but at this stage I’m not fussy.

Image found HERE
Image found HERE

I also sent out 2 applications for volunteer work (not in the hopes of getting paid work eventually, just to get out into the world and experience life outside of domesticity)..Fortunately, SLQ (the State Library of Queensland) replied and accepted my application, and I start my volunteer position as an Exhibition Assistant today. I’m looking forward to a new experience, and very much looking forward to spending several hours in a building full of books :D

All in all, it’s not a bad outcome, but, it doesn’t change the ugly fact that women are being discriminated against by recruiters and employers just because they have chosen to be full-time mothers for a period of time. To be clear, when I refer to the word ‘work’, I’m including the most basic and entry level roles that require no skills/experience/salary expectations.

I’d love to hear your thoughts:

  1. Do you know anyone who has had a similar experience?
  2. Is this an Australian-only-phenomena, or has this become the norm for Western countries?
  3. Do you think it’s fair for a woman to forfeit her previous work experience and qualifications when she becomes a mother?

… … … …

A Housekeeping Note:

I have decided on a new blogging schedule as follows:

  • Monday’s – An opinion piece/article/essay etc.

  • Wednesday’s – A poem

  • Friday’s – Photo’s from my corner of the world (may include a poem/story etc.)

Hope to see you back here on Wednesday. Have a good week, and don’t forget to add your 2 cents worth on today’s post :-)

The Devil’s Courtyard (With Audio)

This poem is rather abstract, and probably better enjoyed by listening to the audio (just press ►on the sound cloud link below).

The wind powders my cheek
with its willowy breath;
Heaven exists in my open palm,
yet I stand in the devil’s courtyard


where turquoise sunshine
romances my geographic memory,
and the geometry of a future
haemorrhages
beneath the weight of arithmetic.

I sprawl my colonial limbs
over swamp cypress roots,
knowing
that my familiarity with reptiles is futile,
that the fantasy cannot exist
beyond my sultry skin.

Whenever the clouds capitulate,
I dream of a preferable reflection.
But, that fibreglass lake is a mirror,
fraught with allergy,
destined to splinter
into a porcelain existence.

If I pluck the feathers from my words
and feed myself to you in slivers
your palate may salivate and smile
but purple pretence will not upholster my bird-less nest.

Floating towards safety
is a paradoxical vessel (to which I have no membership)
Tunnelling elongates time.
Will mercy kill time for me,
until time is bloodless beside the vein of reward?

Windows
can be enigmatic at dusk,
and sheets of colour at dawn.
Ancient blossoms need not sleep
amongst fossilised logs forever.

The wind powders my cheek
with its willowy breath;
Heaven exists in my open palm,
yet I stand in the devil’s courtyard.

© 2014 B.G. Bowers