Finding time to write: Guest post by Alison and Don

I am very excited to have another guest post, this time from Alison and Don who may have created the perfect life. They have an incredible blog I’d recommend to everyone. — 5writer Joe 

Something’s gotta give: finding time to write

Alsion and Don
I am delighted that the 5writers have invited me to write a guest post. They are all wonderful writers, and I’m honoured that they want me to contribute to their blog. Thank you so much for this opportunity.

I’m not sure I actually regard myself as a writer. It still hasn’t quite sunk in. I suppose I think of writers as people who write books rather than travel articles or blog posts, and yet, if I gather all I’ve written over the past several years, I have enough material for two or three books. No matter how busy I get, and there are times when I get incredibly busy, I always make time for writing, for recording the story of our journey.

I always begin blog posts by working on photographs because I find it’s generally easier and more fun than writing. For a long while I viewed writing as a chore, and still do to some extent, yet when I am out travelling and sightseeing I write in my mind almost all the time. I have finally learned to actually write down my thoughts in a notebook as they happen, or at least write notes at the end of the day. It took years for me to learn to do this. Many good articles have been lost because I wouldn’t make the time to write when I felt inspired.

Writing can really be hard work, but I made a promise to myself not to quit, and that keeps me going. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth; sometimes I have nothing to say. When that happens I just leave it alone and trust that the words will come later. And they do. Then there are the days when the story writes itself in my mind as I am out and about, and I come home and the first thing I do is write it down. I love when this happens – this easy inspiration that is the most authentic writing, the most genuine description of how it was at the time.

The blog is my great love that nourishes my soul. It is my creative child that I give birth to over and over again. And it doesn’t matter that the writing is sometimes a chore, or difficult, because there’s always a way through by persevering.

I have a passion for the blog. I can’t imagine not writing it, not producing it. Because of it I want to be a better writer, and I feel that more I write the better I get at it. The commitment is so deep that it will always take priority over other activities such as travel research, social activities, even sleep. Even before I publish a new post I’ve already begun thinking about the next one. It never leaves me. It’s not that I make time to write every day, but I do put some thought, some energy into it every day, whether it’s editing photos, making notes, writing down paragraphs that have sprung to mind during the day, or keeping alive the connection with other writers.

No writing lives without readers. No blog is alive without people who are interested in it, and absorbed enough to comment. Whether writing a book or a travel blog, I understand that I must reach out to others, either online or in person, and make real connections. These are the people that become involved in our journey and in the ongoing stories of our travels. It’s the personal relationship that’s important.

A big part of maintaining my online friendships is done through reading and commenting on other blogs. I’ve lost track of how many blogs I follow, but I follow them because the writing, the photography, the intelligence and the resonance impress me. I am frequently moved and inspired by what others write. I do think I’ve become a better writer because of reading the writings of others. There are some brilliant writers in the blogging world. But here’s the thing: I get well over one hundred emails every day because I choose to read and comment on many other blogs. How do I find time for all this and travel planning, travelling, sightseeing, photography, photo editing, and making time to do my own writing? Well ‘something’s gotta give’, and sometimes it’s reading and commenting on other blogs.

The other thing that ‘gives’ is travel research, which can mean we miss things that we learn about afterwards. There have definitely been several brief moments of regret over the years. Don does all the travel bookings. We plan together, we rough out itineraries, we discuss places of interest, then while I’m writing or photo editing he delves deeper into what there is to do and see in each place we go to, and begins the process of searching for accommodation and transport. Until you have actually planned an overseas trip yourself, covering all the details of creating a viable itinerary, transport, accommodation, activities, transfers, and the best time to be in any particular place, you cannot imagine how time consuming it is. This post about planning just three weeks of our six-month journey in South America will give you some idea. It would be easier for Don if I could help more with this, and from time to time I do discover things that he has missed, but again, something’s gotta give. My priority is writing, and Don supports me in this by doing most of the travel planning.

I do find I need to discipline myself to write. There are times when the only Internet service available must be bought from the hotel or hostel where we are staying. I know that if I buy it I’ll spend the evening online playing. Occasionally I deliberately choose not to buy Internet time because without it I’ll then get some writing done. I have to set priorities. If I don’t I can procrastinate with the best. I also prioritize on flights. Flights are usually when I can catch up on movies but sometimes I choose to write instead. That’s always a difficult choice.

There have been times I’ve felt completely overwhelmed by the amount of work there is to do to keep up with all that is involved in maintaining a successful travel blog, while travelling. There have been times I wanted to stop travelling so I’d have time to write about travelling! I tell our story chronologically, and I’m constantly two to four months behind. On top of this there’s always some internal pressure to go out and do things. Having paid so much money to travel to a new place it makes no sense to sit in a hotel room writing about our activities of two months ago. And yet I do that quite frequently. Somehow I’ve managed to find a balance between keeping the blog going and actually experiencing the places we’re visiting.

Almost all the other travel writers I know write when they get home. Which is somewhat how it is with us because every place we stay is home. Since we’re on the road more or less continually we don’t have a busy social life. Our evenings are pretty quiet. That’s usually when I catch up on emails, edit photographs, read and comment on other blogs, and write. I also find time to write while waiting in airports, and on long bus and train journeys. I like these times the best as there’s rarely anything else I could or should be doing. I mostly live in two worlds: the travelling sightseeing hiking adventuring world and the writing blogging world.

Occasionally I think of my life without writing, without the commitment to the blog, and get a great feeling of freedom and spaciousness. Of time: time to just be. Time to seek out more social interaction with both the people of the country we are visiting and with fellow travellers. Time to wander off the beaten path more, and more often. Time to really get present with a sunset, to become so present with the sunset that I melt into it. The endless eternal time of being, when there is nothing pressing on me to be done. Most travellers seem to have plenty of this kind of time. I certainly get that impression from reading the blogs of other travel writers. And yet I know I will not stop writing, will not stop producing the blog. Writers know this: it doesn’t matter what it takes, you have to write. This is how it is for me – the writing, the photography, the chronicling of our journey. My passion for it, my commitment to it is unshakeable, and so I do my best to keep that fragile balance, and make some compromises about how much time goes into the actual travelling and adventuring part and how much time goes into the writing and blogging part. It really comes down to a ‘grass is greener’ thing. I think maybe I’m missing out, but the alternative is that I’d miss out on the creative joy that comes from writing and photography and producing the blog.

Some things in life must be done. It’s unlikely anyone can take time from parenting, or working a full time job, or eating, or sleeping, or taking care of the day-to-day business of keeping a life functioning. But all the frills can go. All the frills will go, will just fall away, if your commitment is deep enough, and if your heart wants it enough. I rarely read books although I used to be an avid reader, and I only very occasionally watch TV. I’m a devoted fan of competitive figure skating, but the time I spend following that sport has greatly diminished.

We just recently spent nearly three days in Fiji. After five weeks on a road trip around New Zealand, followed by a ten-day road trip from Canberra to Byron Bay in Australia, followed by a two-week road trip around Australia’s “Top End” we landed in Fiji travelled out. Very near where we stayed are a group of idyllic tropical islands known as the Yasawas. We could have done a day trip to the Yasawas, but we were saturated. Full to the brim. I still have a smidgen of regret that I didn’t make the effort to go, but there’s a rhythm to travel. It was time to just stop and begin to absorb all we’d experienced during our travels in Australia and New Zealand. For those two and a half days in Fiji we did nothing but laze by the beach. Which also meant I had time to write. I polished my latest post on Christchurch and I re-wrote this piece. And walked on the beach. And slept in. And for the first time in twelve months I actually read a book: a trashy novel that suited my mood just fine.

In the end writing is not something I have a choice about. It leads me, and so there’s never a question of making time for it. The time makes itself. There’s an ongoing inner insistence that must be heeded. Although it is usually attributed to Goethe, it was actually W.H. Murray in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition who wrote: Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

If you want to make time for writing you need to find your passion, your commitment. Find the place inside you where the words that need to be written are leading you, not the other way around. Find the place where your soul will be bereft without it. Then you will make time for writing no matter what.

To write, to be a writer, you need passion, discipline, perseverance, love, and inspiration, but I think even more important is an unshakeable promise to yourself. With this promise everything else follows. For me, commitment, combined with creative love and joy, is the bedrock of producing the blog. This combination means I will always make time for writing.

Writing this guest post has helped me begin to define myself as a writer. I’ve been an artist and have painted on and off all my life, at times seriously. At one point in my forties I suddenly had the clarity that I had an unconscious belief that painting is hard work. It was an incredibly freeing revelation, and my art improved significantly because of becoming aware, and letting go of, that belief.

I have never regarded myself as a writer, although I do remember a high school teacher predicting I would grow up to be one. Writers write right?! I never did, except for long letters home when I was travelling in the days before the Internet. Writing this piece has had the same effect as that revelation about my painting. Suddenly I am a writer and it is inspirational and very freeing.

So once again I’d like to thank the 5writers for inviting me to write this post. It has been a very valuable exercise. It has helped me come to a deeper understanding of myself as a writer, and it has helped me get greater clarity about the internal forces that propel my writing. I’ve been inspired by it. I hope others are too.


Awesome post, right? Again, please check out their blog.

They inspire me.

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Travel Writing for Novels

And maybe acting isn't even important

And maybe acting isn’t even important

Ok, I had one of those rare clarity moments the other day.

You know the type. You suddenly realize that eating a box of cookies doesn’t help your diet at all. You realize that Hollywood will never celebrate good writers as much as they do handsome actors or beautiful actresses (even though no matter how great an actor is, a bad script makes the movie suck). Or you realize you’ll never be really able to keep up with the derpy sus that has become the new kidspeak.

But in this case, it was making location matter more in my book and tying that into my own travel experiences. Oh, I know, duh, right? It’s almost like I have to learn a lesson a good dozen times before it sinks in. Like just because I have a good camera doesn’t mean I can take good pictures.

So, yeah, there I was, lost in my novel, working on driving the plot forward, staying true to my character, blah, blah, blah, when it suddenly occurred to me that my settings were bland. Vanilla. Boring. Oh, I think my details were ok, you know, kind of all detailie, but the settings themselves, boy could they be kicked up a notch.

What do you see in this picture?

What do you see in this picture?

It’s should be part of the fun of writing a story set in another city. Or country. Or universe. Now, while I’ve not been to Outpost Omega-Epsilon-Wanker, I have been to Holland. And Amsterdam.

So why not use those memories, those pictures, those settings? My fellow writer Helga did this brilliantly in the story she wrote set in Europe during the coldest part of the cold war. My other Fivers have used their life experiences, their travels and adventures to enrich their novels. So why had I forgotten about this?

Truth is, I am a bear with very little brain and too much stuff bothers me. For me to write, I can only keep a few things in mind. If I have to think, oh yeah, add brilliant sensory detail from my travels to this scene and don’t forget to have conflict and, wait, is there movement in the scene and is my character acting in character and… well, it all bungs up like me trying to go the bathroom after I’d eaten three plates of cheese.

Mmmm. Cheese.

I know one of my writing friends, Sheila, has this incredible ability to see it all in her head like a movie. So for her, those setting details come easy. For me, it’s going to have to be enough to know I need to add them on the 2nd draft.

However, for locations, why settle on a meeting on a street when you can set it in the rijksmuseum?  Why have a fight in a bar when you could have it in the flower market? Why have a chase through the alleys, when I have a city full of canals?

One of the masters of setting IMHO

One of the masters of setting IMHO

Dorothy Dunnett was a master of this. She’d set a story in a great location, like Florence, then have that place become a character with a variety of clever details and sensory elements, BUT then she’d make use of the special aspects of the city, having a chase across the red tiled roofs. Not a chase on the streets, on the roofs.

Anyway, I think I’ll have to save the details for the 2nd draft, but the larger locations, boy those can change immediately. It’s not too taxing on my brain to ask myself, self, can I set this in a better location? Can I bring out a unique aspect of that location? Can I make that location active in some way.

Damn, I sound like Don Maass. But that’s not a bad thing. And it’s even kind of fun. Hmmmm… Amsterdam, 1940… I can’t use the Anne Frank house, she’s hasn’t been murdered by the Nazis, yet, so, yeah, what else can I use????


Best show last week – Game of Thrones, best show ever? For all time? Yup.

Book that I’m reading at the moment –  Reading Sean Sommerville’s latest book. The Unforgiven. Man that guy can write.

Pages written on new book  4 weeks now and I have hit my goal of 10 pages a week. I’m finding more time and, more importantly, finding my groove, again. Can I increase this for next week?

Social media update – Derpy sus, people. Derpy sus.

Best thing last week  epic trip to Science World. Oh, I’m sure I’m going to blog about that!

timeWorst thing  I’d like to buy more time, please, Alex. Honestly, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to get everything done. Luckily, I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that happens to.



The memorable value of writing about your personal adventures.

Karalee’s Post #110

Well, Joe’s post about Travel Writing – Why do it? and Helga’s post about Branding for Writers AND the fact that Star Wars: Episode Vll – The Force Awakens is coming this December, I feel I need to talk about my real life experience being in the exact setting where history was made in Star Wars episodes II and IV.

How did my family and I get there? And where is there?

In 2001 our family set out on an adventure.  Both my husband and I had sold our businesses and we decided to take the family overseas for one year that extended into two. We rented our house, bought a sailboat in the south of France and circumnavigated the Mediterranean Sea spanning the time of 9/11 in 2001 and the American invasion in Iraq in 2003.

The sights we saw were amazing, the experiences even more, and being the distance education “teachers” for our children was both more difficult and more awarding than ever anticipated.

photo by David Greer

photo by David Greer


Like the time when our daughter in Grade 7 was learning about Roman history and her textbook referred to  an aquaduct in Tarragona. Karma was aligned with that day as our boat was moored near Tarragona and we simply took the bus to the aqueduct and were allowed to walk across it!




Many educational opportunities arose daily, but a very memorable trip was going to the Sahara Desert in Tunisia.

photo by David Greer

photo by David Greer


To Matmata.

A city branded by Star Wars.

A city where tourists still visit in numbers to see where Star Wars was filmed.



Our family had a wonderful couple of days here. Even though our children weren’t Star Wars fans at the time, they had fun in the very unique and strange environment.

photo by David Greer

photo by David Greer



Like staying in a Troglodyte hotel. Our room was on the far left. Even though it was December and very cold at night, the thermal effect from the earth kept us nice and warm without the addition of any other heat source.




It was exciting to visit the area, hear the camels make similar noises heard in the Star Wars movies and see people walking around wearing similar clothing too! (We know where those details came from now, which makes re-watching the movies more interesting!)

photo by David Greer

photo by David Greer


And it was very cool to visit the Star Wars bar in the Sidi Driss Hotel! We stopped to have a drink, our minds wandering  and wondering what it was like with all the Star Wars characters walking around in there.



My husband, David Greer, did an awesome job writing and keeping record of our trip. Even twelve years later it is entertaining to reread about our adventure.

So thank-you Joe and Helga for helping me remember about our travels and how brands play a strong part in entertainment!

Now I need to watch all the old Star Wars movies before December. What a nice thing to look forward to.


Writing Progress: (blank for a reason)

Books I’m reading: The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.

Family Happenings: 

  • A celebration dinner for 30 at our house this Saturday to celebrate our middle son’s graduation from UBC.
  • continued preparation for our daughter’s wedding in July
  • planned weekend to watch our youngest son play in Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Walla Walla, Washington.
  • planning trip to help my mother and a friend plant their gardens.

Perspective Photos:















Happy Writing!












Travel Writing – Why Do It?

Joe’s Post #137

Travel Writing – Why do it?

DSC00216It’s funny how much writing we actually do that we don’t count as real writing. We focus on novels, short stories, page counts, when the coffee shop opens… you know, what we call the important stuff.

But so many people take time out of their valuable trip to record their experiences. Not many think, oh gosh, I’m going to publish my adventures and make millions and get to meet Ellen. But many do think that what they’re experiencing is worth writing about. For themselves. For their friends. For therapy. Whatever. Bottom line is, they sit down and write.

shakespeareFor me, I began by writing everything down by hand way, way back in the 80’s. If you’d have asked me why, I’m sure I could have told you. It was my first big trip out of my small town to England, a place full of history, a place that had spawned Dickens and Shakespeare and Churchill, a place in which so many stories had been set.

How could you not want to go there?

How could you not want to write about what you saw, what you ate, what you did?

And I did just that. With my little notebook and a pen, I’d write in the morning while others ate. I’d write in the pub or in a lineup while waiting to see a museum. I’d write before going to sleep and when I woke up.

Looking back, I’m amazed I did so much work, that I was able to carve out time to get writing done.

But I felt it was important. It was a way to process my experiences. It was a way to remember details I knew I’d forget.

tower of londonHowever, for that trip and years afterwards, I only wrote about stuff. Like, “I saw the tower of London today. It opened at 8am. It cost 15pounds. I thought that was a lot.” Sometimes I managed a detail like what a placed smelled like or how the coffee tasted or how funny people talked. Or I even tagged why a place might be important like.

Then one day, while sitting in the shade in Sienna, Italy, I realized I’d been doing it all wrong. I realized travel writing was more about the emotions and the experiences. Not so much what I saw as what I saw and felt about it.

It transformed my travel writing.

And transformed it in more ways than one. Not only did I try make others feel like they were with me in my adventures, I spent a TON more time writing about them. Soon, I was even including things like hooks in and out, themes and, gosh oh golly, humorous observations.

It’s a lot more work, but it’s far better than what was on the first floor of the British museum. If you want to check out those blogs, go here, here or here.

And as I read more travel writing blogs or books, I see that they, too, do their best to relay the experiences, not just the facts.

brysonIn that vein, if you want one of the greatest funny travel books ever, read Bill Bryson. If you want a few blogs to check out, go no further than Alison and Don’s.

So, when you travel, do you write about it?

If so, what makes you want to write about traveling?


Best show last week – Ok, put down your laptop, stop watching any reality shows, it’s Game of Thrones time, a show so amazing, that I even watch all the credits.

Book that I’m reading at the moment –  Reading Sean Sommerville’s latest book. The Unforgiven. Man that guy can write.

Pages written on new book  3 weeks in, have hit my goal of 10 pages a week. I’m finding more time and, more importantly, finding my groove, again.

Social media update – If you like anything  on my step-dad site, or this blog, please follow or share on FB. Pretty please!

Best thing last week  Writing more, reading more, and Game of Thrones is on, so life is very, very good.

Worst thing  More doctor’s appointments. Nothing in our medical system moves quickly.

How to write on vacation

Joe’s Post #90

Hell if I know.

legoland promoAll of our 5/5/5 group seem to have been having great adventures recently. But with great adventures come great challenges for a writer. I know I struggled to write the whole time.

But write I did. If you get a chance, please check out my blog and follow it. I desperately need followers if I’m to sell the concept of a new 50 year old parent.

However, here’s what I’ve learned.

1)     You absolutely have to have a supportive partner. I mean, hey, without them all the ideas below fail and fail utterly

IMG_37212)     Find time in 30 min blocks. That’s a half hour before bed, when you get up, on a plane, when the kids or the husband or the dog are otherwise occupied. Whatever. Just be aware, like a thief, you have to steal time.

3)     Ask permission. Need an extra half hour to write about that serial killer or cute dog or hot sex scene, you may you may be surprised how awesome how people in your life can be in helping you make that happen.

4)     Write notes if you can’t find that half hour. Ideas can get lost. At least at my age. A pen and paper can be your friend, again.

5)     Carry a laptop. Pretty obvious actually, but if you suddenly find a bit of longer free time, you can take advantage of it.

6)     It has to matter that you write. I concentrated on my adventures with the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world and her boys. It MATTERED that I write about it.

vancouver sunrise7)     Don’t stress if you can’t write, or can’t find the time. Some days will be like that. Sometimes you’ll be exhausted. It’s ok. Tomorrow’s another day.


Days Until Game of Thrones Starts: 3 (April 6th!) OMG super-nerdy-excited.

Days Until I Start My Next Novel in 5 Months: Date has been set. It’s April 14th. Mark it on your calendar.

Blogs Written This week: 35

Blogs Waiting To Be Posted: Oh so many. Please check them out here.

Queries out this week: 0 (On vacation)

Rejections for the last week: 0 (probably bad news)

Queries Still Out there: 5

Hope Meter: 50/100.  Up +10. Loving that I have a few more readers on my blog.

Confession #2


Joe’s Post #55 – As I write my ass off to finish the rewrite of my YA novel (it’s about two thirds done and should be completely done for the Surrey Writer’s Conference), I’m also working on my pitches. My confession, though, is not about pitches, it’s about what to write next.

I confess. I’m torn. More than torn. I’m all confused and scrunchie-faced. It’s not a lack of ideas, it’s too many.

Do I run with the ones I pitched at our last session, my personal favourite being … Hell is For Children – two teenagers find themselves mistakenly in hell and seek to escape with the help of an imp named Napoleon, a starving Jeff Dahmer – who can’t get enough to eat – and a pimply-faced, 14-year-old Vlad the Impaler. I mean, this book almost writes itself, right?

Do I write about the amazing new adventures in my life? (Which is to say, basically I’ll write down everything funny Corinne or her boys say and steal it. The cool thing is that she is way funnier than me. Tina Fey funny. So I wouldn’t really have to do any work.)

Do I work on a rewrite? I mean, the Wingless Angel has great potential. So does Indian Summer.

Do I start another blog? Maybe two? The Spazadoodle blog?

travel and simpsonsDo I see if I can promote my travel blogs into some sort of book? Mexico? Europe?

Do I go off and write another one? Maybe get a motorbike? Ride Route 66?

However, the question may be moot. Yes, I said, moot.  Moot. Moot. Moot. And for Corinne, “ROGUE!!!!”

Now where was I? Oh, yes, the question being moot and all. So here’s the thing. I really believe my YA novel has legs. It’s some of the best writing I’ve done. It’s a story power. Not a faerie tale where everything works out and everyone lives. But …

It should have cross-appeal to young adults and new adults and, well, the regular adults (plus Vegas seems to like it so it may appeal to dogs as well, though the market sample here is pretty small). It’s got cross media appeal (meaning I can totally see a video game or card game). It’s based on all my nerdy years reading fantasy, playing D&D when I was young and video games when I was no so young. So it really is the best I can do. All I need is for someone to take a chance and help me see this through to publication.

But until then, after I finish, on to something new.

Thing is, I always want to be moving. A man in motion. Hard to believe when you look at me. I’m more like a man on the couch. But, like a shark, if I stop moving, at least inside this cramped head of mine, then I’ll likely end up as a file clerk in the Ministry of Really Useless Files. And I don’t want that, no matter how much near orgasmic pleasure a well organized filing system can give me.

So, back to the book. Had a few great ideas today and want to add them in. One was so amazingly good that I jumped up and down and did a writer’s jig with Vegas, who sadly interpreted that as me going insane and ran to the other side of the dog park.

Confession done.