A summer writing school with the Write Into Life approach

Oriental Bay, Wellington, with Mt Victoria in the background. Photo Polyrus CC BY-ND 2.0

I’m super-excited to declare that in January 2018 I’ll be offering 3 one-day writing workshops in the Write Into Life mode. That means the writing exercises will all be integrated into real life: either solving real problems or just offering techniques that not only extend your writing skills but also support your well-being.

In brief—because hey, they’ll be in beautiful Wellington, New Zealand, and most of you live in other countries, and hey, numbers are strictly limited:


Writing tips: practise what you preach

Classic diagram of the life-cycle of a project

I’m fully focused on a summer writing school I’m planning for January 2018, right here in Mt Victoria, Wellington, New Zealand. And when I say planning, I mean that in a rather formal sense.

Swerving offline to teach writing

I’ve been teaching online for nearly 20 years, one way or another. I’m not knocking MOOCs or virtual courses! I’ve done great things online, and I still get a buzz from the creative component of online teaching.

But last month, the Manawatu Writers’ Festival reminded me just how much I love teaching courses about writing — in the flesh, to real live people, in the same room as me. So I tried for the umpteenth time to book the space I’ve had my eye on for years, but never managed to secure.  Bingo! It has new management, a new website, a calendar of bookings, a contact email that worked, and an efficient person who said yes instead of no.

Motivation and venue collided in a happy crunch, and I quickly grabbed some suitable dates, and got a deadline for my new venture.

Project management skills: useful for any project

So the start of this project (a 4-day Write Into Life summer school in January 2018) was seemingly random, accidental, impulsive, irrational. If so, re-examining the concept might show that it’s doomed to failure. In fact this little dream has been brewing for years, but when the moment was right, the decision happened in a flash.

And now it’s urgent! The first workshop is only 17 weeks away.

I was halfway through creating an online course called Fix That Novel: use project management skills to finish the book you’ve been writing… or just dreaming of. For now, the online version of that course is on the back shelf. But I don’t want it to feel neglected, so I’m going to tackle my summer school as a formal project, and practise what I preach.

No phase of project management will be bypassed in this project: I want it to run beautifully, and it will. I’ll keep you posted.


Jury comments on “Want to write a book? Stop talking about it.”

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Want to write a book? Stop talking about it. Entirely. That’s what author Euny Hong says.

I instantly knew what she meant — Yes! I’ve met dozens, hundreds of all-talk-no-action non-writers. When I hear “I’m going to write a book,” I don’t leap with joy. I say, “Uh huh” in a mildly interested tone.

In reverse, I feel uneasy when people ask me, “What are you working on now?” Over the years I have learned to make my fob-offs more gracious than “Butt out!” But still I squirm. It doesn’t feel right to talk about a book that is simmering in my brain. It doesn’t feel healthy. It doesn’t even feel possible.

But wait, talking about a book is not all bad

But then I thought, hang on a minute … not every writer is the same as me. (I’m enlightened that way.) And how about discussions with writer friends? How about writers’ groups? Euny Hong exempts the first and damns the writers’ group out of hand.

The article had already prompted 98 comments when I read it. Let me summarise the arguments for and against declaring your intention to write a book.

Why you mustn’t talk about your unfinished or unstarted book

  1. depletes your finite fund of creative energy
  2. tricks your brain into thinking you have done the writing
  3. demotivating
  4. hooks you on talking about writing
  5. when intentions go public, likelihood of completion drops
  6. you get bored with your own ideas
  7. you get a reputation for being someone who doesn’t follow through
  8. you should under-promise and over-deliver
  9. wasting time
  10. quitting is shameful after you have announced your goal
  11. talking turns into work: fun at the start, then it becomes a drag
  12. bragging is a jinx
  13. inspiration and motivation should come from within
  14. unnecessary
  15. exhausting, planning too much
  16. a way to procrastinate
  17. “If I get feedback, I struggle to get back to work on the piece.”
  18. “I feel pressured and lose interest if people start asking about my project.”
  19. self-sabotage
  20. the element of surprise never fails

Why it’s OK to talk about your unfinished or unstarted book after all

  1. depends who you tell: pick honest supportive people / colleagues / published writers / good critics / people who won’t suck the energy and life out of you
  2. declaring your intentions in public keeps you accountable
  3. people are not all the same
  4. it’s healthy peer pressure, and it works
  5. you create a support group who are looking for you to complete the book
  6. close family and friends need to know
  7. talking or not talking has no impact on whether you follow through
  8. be highly selective
  9. share small projects not long term ones
  10. ask yourself why you are sharing and choose what works for you
  11. share short tangible goals, e.g. finish editing this week
  12. quitting is shameful when you have announced your goal
  13. “I talk about my books all the time, and I’m a published writer”
  14. can break writer’s block, give you ideas
  15. it’s hard when you have lots of people close to you
  16. humans have a need to share especially things we are excited about
  17. you need to at first
  18. sometimes talking about it makes you picture it

Lessons for myself

  • Some people (extraverts?) like to talk about their books. Others (intraverts?) don’t.
  • Not a black-and-white choice. Do whatever works for you.
  • If deep down you don’t really want to write a book but you love to think and talk about it — that’s nice, carry on.
  • But you already write books. You do not need any advice in this department.

Want to write a book? Stop talking about it. Read the article by author Euny Hong


Classic DIY recording booth


I am proud of this Heath Robinson contraption in my study. My unique and glorious video recording booth is the result of about ten months’ trial and error and ingenious problem solving. What problems, you ask? Multiple engineering problems associated with recording short video lectures for my new online courses, for example:

  1. reduce echo to get a clear and friendly small room audio quality
  2. put lights in ideal position
  3. ditto for microphone
  4. ditto for MacBook Pro & its iSight camera
  5. enable impromptu instant recording any time without hanging drapes and duvets or moving stuff around
  6. record against a simple unobtrusive background
  7. and all this while keeping my study the serene space that it used to be.

They’re all one problem really and I hope they’re now all sorted. Except No. 6, which I’m working on.

How to make your own video recording booth for $64

So, you could make one too! Here’s what you need. Total cost $64 for the entire booth. (I’m not counting the hardware, namely microphone, computer and lights.)

  1. a basic stand-up desk borrowed from your friend who may take it back at any time
  2. 6 clamps (those orange sticky-out handles) ($54)
  3. 2 yoga mats,and scissors to cut them with (experience in home dressmaking an advantage) ($10)
  4. 11 bulldog clips (scrounge through office spaces and under couches)
  5. 2 pieces of old padded sofa cover (you know where they are)
  6. cheap plastic trolley with four trays (still usable for office stationery, ipad, Kindle etc))
  7. one cushion subdivided, two pillow cases (sacrificed in the cause)
  8. 8 large books (because trolley and standup desk are still too low).

In case you didn’t notice, I can’t stand sitting down for such tasks.

I’m just too clever for this world

So there you are! This is a classic blog post of the self-satisfied variety. I am just so proud (or maybe that’s relieved) I had to skite.

Now, about those courses…

My first video course: Write Over Divorce

Write Over Divorce: banish the pain with a pen

For months and months I have been working on my very first video course for Write Into Life. Topic: Write Over Divorce — how to get over the lingering pain of a broken relationship in three weeks simply by working through a series of writing exercises.

Now the course is ready! It’s public! It’s available! This is an advertisement for something I’m offering free to 20 followers of this blog. You are the first to know, because the course is close to my heart and yet I feel pretty darned nervous about showing it to anyone at all, let alone the world. I’m hoping you might view it with some understanding of my aims.

I’m also favouring you, my blog friends, because I’m a beginner. That is, I’m a very experienced online instructor, having taught writing online in a different way to over 5,000 people in the last ten years. However, I’m not at all sure how the scenario evolves from now — what I’ll have to do as an instructor at Udemy, the online learning site that I have joined, or how these coupons work.

Why write over divorce?

For my first course in this new-to-me format, I deliberately chose a topic that I imagine nobody would ever want to do, a unique (crazy) topic which would allow me to quietly learn all the things I have to learn about creating a video course.

So far, so good. The course is not technically perfect: I know that. But I have learned heaps about lighting, recording, sound quality, and video editing. And I’m proud of my unique content, which walks you quietly through three stages of healing and growth, from heartache of divorce to a more optimistic and realistic frame of mind — happiness.

Check out the curriculum and sample 3 free lectures. If you feel this brand new online course is what you need, be among the first to do it. I’m offering it free to 20 people who read this blog post in December 2016.

Free coupon: click this link to Write Over Divorce

Because you have clicked this particular link, the price will show as $0, in other words, FREE. (People finding the course from any other source would see the regular price of $40.) When 20 people have enrolled, the price reverts to $40 (still a bargain).

And please, if anything puzzles you, let me know!

Yours in some trepidation


Yay for a new passion and challenge: Write into life

Write into life! A new series of Udemy videos on personal writing and Expressive writing
Write into life! A new series of Udemy videos on personal writing and Expressive writing

Well, that didn’t take long. Two weeks after ending my 10-year involvement with Contented.com I had a pretty clear idea of my next project.

To announce it here is ridiculously premature, but too bad: I have begun to create video courses for Udemy.com under the umbrella name of Write Into Life. This idea has been lurking in the back of my mind for many years as a potential retirement adventure. Now I’m hurling myself into it: short, simple courses that help people to deal with various troubles and traumas — just by writing about them.

Actually there’s no “just” about it. The courses are based on more than 200 research studies over 30 years, and are meticulously structured to maximise benefits. So that’s meant plenty of catch-up reading.

The first course, of which I have completed about 1/7th, is called Write Over Divorce!

Insight of the day: I’m waking up early and itching to get into the next video. There’s nothing I love better than a big, difficult, totally new and totally original project all my own. So happy!

It’s not how everyone wants in their (misleading label) “retirement” but it was bound to happen to me. What can I do? I’ve got a busy brain. This is who I am. Lucky me!