Writing

The Dawn of a New Tomorrow

The Dawn of a New Tomorrow

The bell signals the end of learning for another day. Students make a rush for the door, and the temptation to join them is overwhelming. You sit down at your desk and dream of the dawn of a new tomorrow. A tomorrow with no bells; no lesson plans; no marking; and no report-writing.

When you are a teacher, the lines between day and night are blurred. Three o’clock signals the end of learning for students, and the start of paperwork for teachers.

It’s going to be another long night. Before you start tomorrow’s planning, today’s marking screams at you. Thoughts are sloshing around your head – and they need to find their way into the books to be marked, before they settle into a pool of useless, random words. Leaving the marking until later never ends well. So you open the first book, pick up your pen – and start.

Image from Pixabay.com

And Lunch?

Image from Pixabay.com

Your stomach reminds you that playground duty kept you from the staffroom, for yet another lunch break.  Along with the empty feeling in your stomach, you crave coffee. Another one of life’s simple pleasures that eludes you in your teaching day. Hot coffee and students don’t mix – Workplace Health & Safety posters adorn the staffroom walls.  No chance of forgetting. You make a mental note to stop by the coffee shop on your way home.

When is Enough, Enough?

The teaching weeks roll into teaching months. Before you know it, you’re beyond retirement age, but you are still on the treadmill. Love for your job, and dedication to it, are no consolation for the tiredness you feel. That weariness that chases you down at the end of each long day. Your non-teaching friends are in bed at a reasonable hour – you are up late, planning and writing reports. It takes its toll. Your health starts to flash warning signs – Enough is Enough!

And one day it all comes to a grinding halt. The plans you made to keep working until your seventies, not that you are too far from that magic number, disappear. You wake up one morning and think “I can’t do this anymore”. And that’s the day the resignation papers fall out of your pocket – onto the Principal’s desk.

The dawn of a new tomorrow

When I closed the classroom door for the last time, I didn’t have time to think about it too much. As soon as I made the decision to fill in the retirement-forms – I booked a cruise. I needed something to separate my working-life from my new retirement-life. And I needed something to console me in the raw days following my departure from the world that had absorbed me for more than half my life.

I poured myself into planning for the cruise from Sydney to Singapore. That trip was to close the door on my working life – sealed shut – never to be reopened; and it worked! I came home refreshed, renewed and excited about settling down into a normal life. 

Or, So I Thought!

The years of getting by on less than eight hours sleep had become stuck somewhere in my Body-Clock, and it wouldn’t budge. I found myself unable to put my head on the pillow before midnight – but I was still waking up at five or six in the morning. The problem was, there was no planning or report-writing to fill the evenings. I subscribed to paid television – but that didn’t work; there never seemed to be anything worth watching. 

I started writing. I had always loved writing and promised myself that one day I would write a book. Perhaps that ‘one day’ had arrived.

The website I dabbled in, while still teaching, suddenly had meaning. It had been sitting there, half-baked, for years. Now it was time to get it into the oven. 

And the idea of a Blog started to gel. I’d been hearing about, and reading blogs, for a long time. 

Writing; Website; Blogging

The three started to overlap, then merge, until it was only natural that they would become one. And from the ashes, my Phoenix arose.

MaureenDurney.com emerged.

My humble musings from the early days are often painful to revisit. But put into perspective, they are a yardstick by which to measure the distance I have travelled. I can see the improvement in my writing, in my website management, and therefore in my blogging.

What has had the most impact?

The Ultimate Blog Challenge!

Writing within a time-frame and to a specific topic has reined in my verbosity. The challenge dictates a blog-a-day for thirty-one days. You can’t allow yourself the luxury of extra words when the clock is ticking away beside you. Well theoretically, anyway. I still need to work on the length of my blogs. And that is a work-in-progress.

MaureenDurney.com is keeping me focused. It is absorbing me – drawing out the passion that I used to pour into my teaching. It is my new life. Learning new skills is exercising my brain, just as Professional Development did in my teaching days. 

And The Book?

The book is another work-in-progress. And the Ultimate Blog Challenge is pre-requisite learning before launching full-on into it. With my long teaching days behind me, and with the dawn of my new tomorrow, I can now devote my life to Blogging. 

MaureenDurney.com is alive and well!

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Writing, 4 comments
October Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day One

October Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day One

I’ll call it ‘Third Time Lucky’, for want of a better philosophy, but the Ultimate Blog Challenge is back. I made a weak attempt in January, then slightly better in July, and have signed up again for October. I’ve dusted off my iPad and sharpened up my keyboard, so let’s go! 

Why Am I Doing This?

I learned so much from the first two challenges that I couldn’t resist coming back for Round Three. I saw the difference the challenges made to my writing, and I know I can learn a lot more. 

And one of the great things about the Ultimate Blog Challenge is the people you meet on the journey. Accepting the challenge is a lot more than simply posting a blog each day – it’s about reading other people’s blogs. When someone makes a comment on one of my blogs, I immediately feel connected to the reader.   Leaving a comment for another blogger makes a connection with them. And it makes a difference. We don’t sit and write each day to have nobody read our writing, no matter how humble it might be. Seeing a comment at the bottom of a blog, validates the time and effort of writing it. It makes it all worthwhile. 

So, what is the Ultimate Blog Challenge?

The challenge lies in being able to address a set topic, within a specific time-frame. Since there are only twenty-four hours in a day, that’s all you get, from the time you get the topic of the day, until the next one arrives in your inbox. 

For someone like me, the ticking clock is my biggest motivator. Without the time-frame I’d spend way too long writing each blog. Writing within the confines of a day ensures I get a hurry-on. And that in turn makes sure I use less words instead of more. 

One of the things I’ve noticed about my writing is that I’m getting much more contained in my ‘wordiness’. 

“So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.”

N.H. Kleinbaum, Dead Poets Society

When recycling isn’t a good thing!

Recycling waste is great for the environment. Recycling blogs isn’t good for the challenge. Each blog has to be new content. Perhaps a new spin on an old theme would work, but re-posting something that has already been posted doesn’t fit within the Blog Challenge guidelines.

Here’s to writing one blog a day for the month of October!

May we all succeed and arrive at the end of the October Ultimate Blog Challenge with thirty-one blogs, done and dusted.

This is my first blog for the month.

Enjoy!

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Writing, 8 comments

Day 21 – UBC – Does it Matter Where I Sit?

When I visit a friend or relative’s home for the first time, I usually ask “Does it matter where I sit?”. Everyone has their favourite chair, or seat in the house, and I am wary of plonking myself down on my host’s favourite chair. And one of the most common questions asked of writers is: Where do you write? Like the rest of us, writers probably have a chair or place that they prefer, while writing. I know I do.

Old Habits Are Hard To Break

We all have habits, right? Some good, some not-so-good. And some of us are more bound by habits and routines than others. My morning routine of ‘coffee first!’, is sacrosanct. Pity help anyone who stands between me and that first coffee of the day. Once I’m caffeinated – I’m fine, and the immediate vicinity is once again a safe place to be.


Part of my routine features the chair I sit in to write. My favourite chair in summer is by the door, leading out to the verandah.  The chair is comfortable and rocks just slightly, and with a breeze coming through the door, writing is easy.

My Outside Space

If I want to write early in the morning, this is my ‘go-to’ place. Of course, there’s another little habit that goes with that seat – when I sit out there, I have to have a coffee beside me.

Where Do You Write?

Inside? Outside?

On the Move

While travelling this great planet of ours, I’ve discovered a few places I like to claim as my writing-chair. Top of the list would have to be coffee shops and cafes.

Here are some of the places I’ve sat, with iPad and keyboard stragically placed, and churned out a blog – or two. Usually while sipping about eleven or eight coffees.

My Local

Re Cafe Nate: my neighbourhood coffee shop in Murwillumbah. It can get a bit busy here because the locals all know how good the coffee, food and service are, but it’s a great place to write; thanks Josh, Desley and Don.

West End Brisbane

Between The Bars: West End, Brisbane. This is my home-away-from-home coffee shop. Great coffee and great service; thanks Nick and Mal.

Seattle: WA

RedWing Cafe: Seattle, US. Tucked away in Rainier Beach, this is the best place for just hanging out and writing, on a cold winter’s day. The coffee, food and service are outstanding. And that’s all the encouragement I needed to sit and write. Thank you Anthony, Sue and the fantastic team who kept me fed and caffeinated while I wrote, early this year.

Berhampore (Wellington) NZ

Rinski Korsakov: Berhampore. What can I say? This was just the cutest place – with a table in the front window for people-watching, when inspiration waned. Luckily, there was no shortage of great coffee and carrot cake, when I frequented Rinski’s in September 2017.  Thanks Jet!

Where do Famous Authors Write?

J.K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, came up with the idea for the series while on a delayed train, but wrote in cafes in Scotland. Could it be the coffee that provides the inspiration?

If you have ever asked a writer – “Where do you write?”, what was their response? Do they favour cafes, or a park bench? Do they prefer a log cabin in the woods, or a bench on a busy street?

My guess is, writers have a favourite place when it comes to the serious business of writing. Inspiration, on the other hand, can happen anywhere.

Write On!

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Writing, 2 comments
July UBC – Day Seven – It’s Just As Well I Love Writing!

July UBC – Day Seven – It’s Just As Well I Love Writing!

Day Seven – and all is well. I’ve almost managed to stay on track, although sleeping hours have been reduced to around five hours a night. My pre-sleep hours are devoted to writing, editing, adding photos, making sure all my SEO ducks are in a row, and publishing my daily-post. But I’m loving it, because I love writing.

One of the biggest challenges for me is avoiding diahorea, of the writing variety. I just get carried away and can’t stop myself. I’m sure I could talk underwater with a mouthful of marbles, and my writing is no different. Just give me an iPad and keyboard and walk away. I’ll still be there, typing away, when you get back. The word ‘challenge’ means that something is going to be difficult, right? My challenge is sticking to the KISS Principle (Keep It Short, Stupid). I get as carried away with writing, as I do with talking. It just happens! And that is why the July Ultimate Blog Challengs is so worthwhile.

I Wouldn’t Do It, If I Didn’t Love Writing

In the morning hours, I read other people’s posts and add comments. There is no sense spending hours writing a blog, if nobody reads it. And the only way anyone can be sure that we have read their post, is to leave a comment. A few words of encouragement can go a long way towards staying on track.

At night, I write. And any spare moments of the day, I write. I love writing! Being able to craft words into a sentence that sounds okay, is what keeps me writing. Re-living events of my life, describing places I have travelled to, and honouring the people I have met on the way, keeps me writing. I still have thousands of memories stored away, so I’ll be writing for a long time yet.

Writing is a solitary confinement.

I like being alone with my thoughts; the only noise being the tapping sound coming from the keyboard, as words transfer to the screen in front of me. Life might go on around me, but I am oblivious to it, whilever I am engrossed in writing. And that could be the only problem with writing – I need ‘alone-ness’.

Sometimes I take my iPad and keyboard to a cafe, drink lots of coffee, and write. Apart from greeting the Barista and ordering my coffee, I can sit in perfect solitude. People come and go, and the screen in front of me is the barrier that protects me from conversation, when I need the quiet.

What About Writer’s Block?

When the words are trapped in my head, the silence is deafening. Sometimes coffee, or something stronger (like, chocolate), can be the elixir to dissolve the mental block, but not always. I am lucky enough not to suffer from writer’s block very often, but when it does happen, it can be terrifying. The sound of the clock, ticking away the minutes that will bring the deadline crashing down on you, doesn’t help. Not a word is found as you search the nooks and crannies of your mind. Nothing!

The harder you try, the more elusive the words are. And if you are lucky enough to have a phrase or sentence pop into your blank mind, you shudder, “Really?, that’s the best you can do?”.  There are times when no words are better than the half-baked suggestions that the other part of your brain offers. You know, that part of the brain that stores all the desperate words, for emergencies, when you can’t think of anything else to say?

There must be times when my readers pray that I would have writer’s block, at least once in a while. Until that happens on a consistent basis, I will apologise for the over-wordiness of my blogs. No matter how hard  I try, I just can’t seem to make them shorter. Every time I think I’ve finished a blog, ‘Poof!’, another thought pops into my head. And off I go again – another very long blog.

Since we are all bloggers in this Challenge:

  • what is your remedy for freeing up the creative flow, when everything else fails?
  • how do you meet the deadlines of the Blog Challenge?
  • am I in a minority, or majority of people who love writing?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Until then, I’ll just keep writing, because I love writing!

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 0 comments
The July Ultimate Blog Challenge

The July Ultimate Blog Challenge

I can’t resist a challenge! – well, as long as the challenge fits within the reasonable limits of my comfort zone.  A recent email had the word ‘Challenge’ in it, so naturally it got my attention. The email was a call to action to sign up for the July Ultimate Blog Challenge. It sounded simple enough – write a blog each day for thirty-one days – so I signed up. But it’s the ‘each day’ bit where I usually come unravelled. I’ve been known to set all sorts of agendas to keep me on track, but my creative-train is easily derailed. It doesn’t take much: an invitation here, a slack day there, and before I know it – I’m panicking about a deadline.

I can usually get the writing part done reasonably fast, but it’s the other bits that make the difference between meeting deadlines – and hearing them whoosh by.

The Support I Need

My websites are built on the WordPress platform, simply because the support from WordPress is phenomenal. WordPress Meetups and WordPress WordCamps are for learning new things, as well as getting answers to questions and solutions to problems. Meetups are held monthly in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, so I get two opportunities a month to learn something new.

WordCamp Brisbane 2017

WordCamps are less frequent, usually once a year in any city, and provide a weekend of learning. You have the opportunity to attend as many talks as you can comfortably fit in over two days. Everything from novice topics, to the highest level for developers, is covered at WordCamp. While costs might vary slighltly in some cities, I only paid $50 for the WordCamps I attended, and that covered admission, food, after-party, t.shirt and lots of swag (that’s tech talk for freebies – thank you WordPress!). Generous sponsors contribute to the cost of the event so that we can attend without breaking the bank – and they bring lots of swag too – (thank you sponsors!).

Smart-casual wear is fine for the After Party (WordCamp Brisbane 2017)

Getting your ducks in a row before you hit the ‘Publish’ button.

Okay, these are Canada Geese, but you get the picture, right?

The real value of Meetups and WordCamps is the networking. It’s the people you meet before and after each session that really makes the difference. The true value of networking, according to networking guru Sally Eberhardt, is the sharing of ideas and information. And I couldn’t agree more.

At WordCamp Sunshine Coast 2016, I met some other bloggers during one of the coffee breaks. One of them shared some valuable information about a Plugin that monitors the readability and the ‘find-ability’ of your website – (thanks Di Hill). I downloaded and have been using Yoast ever since. When I get the readability right, I get a green light, and another green light when I have all the right elements to make my site more ‘findable’. With WordPress websites, adding a Plugin or two is easy, but since I plugged-in Yoast, the days of writing a quick blog have ended. If I choose to ignore the suggestions, I can still write and publish a fast blog. When I follow the suggestions, it slows things down, but it is SO worth it. When you get all your ducks in a row, you get a green light. I love that green light!

I’ve been limbering up for long enough..

… now it’s time to get out on the track, and start sprinting.

My random blog posts have probably been a bit too random lately and need reining in a bit (okay – a lot!). While I was holidaying overseas earlier this year, I signed up for the Ultimate Blog Challenge for January. It seemed like a great idea at the time. Piece of cake, I thought; I have plenty to write about; I can do this. Then disaster struck. I broke my wrist and ended up in a full cast. The cast started at my shoulder and ended just above my fingers, with a quirky bend at the elbow. I couldn’t tie my hair back with one hand – it just can’t be done, but I managed to type – very s-l-o-w-l-y. So I wrote blogs for the challenge. I didn’t manage every day; in fact I didn’t even get half-way, but I gave it a good shot.

At the time, I was also negotiating with the Travel Insurance company to get me home for possible surgery. I’ve used the same company for years and now I know why. They organised amazing flights and took care of everything I would need for a very comfortable trip home. I managed to dodge the surgery, but that’s another story. It would have been great to have seen more of Seattle, but I will remember with fondness the people I met while I was there. It’s the people you meet that make the difference between a good trip, and a great trip.

So let the Ultimate Blog Challenge begin!

Hopefully I will make it through to the end of July with thirty-one new posts, all my ducks in a row, and have successfully completed the July Ultimate Blog Challenge. My floors might not get up-close-and-personal with the vacuum cleaner for the entire month, and I might be living on cheese and crackers, but (hopefully) I will have thirty-one new blog posts completed by the time July bids us farewell. And with the first day of the new month just one sleep away, well at least here in the Southern Hemisphere, I’m starting to panic already.

I can do this! I can do this! I (think) I can do this. And the only way to do it is roll my sleeves up, and start; so let the Ultimate Blog Challenge begin!

These are ducks! – but they’re not exactly in a row – yet.

Journey through the July Ultimate Blog Challenge with me: by subscribing to my Blog.

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 0 comments
Blog Challenge Day 7 – What Day Are We Up To?

Blog Challenge Day 7 – What Day Are We Up To?

What Day Are We Up To?

Faster than a Shanghai Bullet Train

The Blog Challenge started out well but somehow, lately, deadlines are rushing past me faster than the Bullet Train leaving Shanghai Station. The question ‘What day are we up to?’ seems to be creeping into my thoughts more often than I care to acknowledge. The new year has just begun, so why is it in such a hurry to be over?

Where Did That Year Go?

Given the prospect of another year slipping by, I figured it might be time to make some definite plans; set some goals; find some direction. I’m guessing it’s what most people call ‘New Year’s Resolutions’, except, I don’t do them. I used to – sort of, but the goals would usually end up as fleeting thoughts that passed through my mind on their way to the dark place that thoughts disappear to. I don’t know where that place is because I’ve never successfully retrieved anything significant from there. All those goal-oriented thoughts hung around just long enough to leave a faint, whimsical memory before slipping silently into the void. All that was left was an occasional “Oh yeah, I kind of remember thinking I would do that – that was how long ago? Surely not!”.

This year I’m going to try a radical new approach and actually write the ideas down. There’s no guarantee that this will work any better than not writing them, but it’s worth a try.

The problem with writing the ideas down is a lot like writing a shopping list.

The Shopping List

The finer points of the shopping list include the following:

  • take stock of the pantry
  • scan the refrigerator for essential items, or lack thereof
  • transcribe the absent items onto a very long piece of paper, herein referred to as ‘the list’
  • drive to the store
  • spend five minutes circling the car park looking for an empty space not too far from the door
  • spend another five minutes test-driving trolleys (shopping carts) to find one with all four wheels in alignment
  • wheel the trolley to the top of the first aisle ready to start shopping
  • put your hand into your pocket to retrieve the list
  • open your wallet in the hope that the list is in there
  • search every conceivable place that an elusive list could have found its way into
  • suddenly picture the list sitting on the kitchen table, right where you wrote the very last item
  • debate whether to drive all the way home to get the list
  • decide to ‘wing it’ and shop without the list; how hard could that be – you only wrote the list an hour or so ago
  • wonder why you have a lot more items at the checkout than you remember writing on the list
  • drive home
  • wonder why you have an abundance of items that weren’t on the list and none of the urgent items that you are completely out of
  • vow to never waste time writing a list again

The Carpark

The shopping list method doesn’t work!

Which brings me right back to the radical idea of writing down the earth shattering ideas that are going to magically transform 2018 into the most productive year of my life. Since the list idea clearly isn’t an option, what next?

How or where will I write my ideas that will ensure they won’t disappear into that elusive place for homeless thoughts?

No Idea!

I haven’t quite figured that part out yet but I’m working on it.

One of the bright flashes of inspiration that lit up my otherwise dormant mind earlier today, was to incorporate the ideas into my blog. Since my website is relatively safe and secure, there isn’t too much risk of the great literary masterpieces slipping over the edge of reality into cyberspace, never to be seen again. And since the Blog Challenge is all about getting me into the habit of writing daily more frequently, the blog-full of goals should jump out and remind me to actually do something about them – hopefully.

So now that I have the ‘where to write them’ sorted out, I just have to work on the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ to write. And that is best left for another day.

Watch This Space!

 

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 3 comments