Just because you live on island, doesn’t mean you are an island

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Kampot, Cambodia – taken Jan 2014


An occupational hazard of being a writer is unintentionally cutting oneself off from the world. Which then cuts off the connection to catalysts for writing; as it’s from the real world that inspiration for characters, plots, dialogue and settings is found in abundance. I would hazard a guess and say that even genres such as fantasy and sci-fiction is inspired by reality.

Throughout history, most published writers continue to hold down ‘day jobs’ in the real world, even if it’s just part-time. Not only does this provide a more regular income, but enables some type of connection to people and places. Much as we would like to live on an island, left to happily write and dream, eventually the words would run dry.

Finding the balance between the two worlds is hard. There are the eternal money concerns (writers do need a roof over their heads, and internet connection comes in handy) and the need for quality time with our long-suffering family and friends. All those things that call us away from the computer. And once away, we go about into the world, constantly distracted by our stories. Or we sit at the table with family, pretending to converse while really talking to a new character. How does anyone put up with us?

I find that the more I delve into my writing, the harder it is becoming to stay focused in the outside world. My mind wanders constantly back to the current manuscript I am working on, or thinking up new ways of marketing my last one. Lately I’ve been dreaming of how I can spend more time writing and less time working the non-creative ‘day job’. It’s just a dream, but it feels real. You see, I want to do something really against the current trend. I’m thinking of opening a book store. You know, where books are sold…..those paper things with words in them. I know in many countries that print is dying, being replaced by digital books, but that trend doesn’t seem to be taking off in Australia just yet. Which is making me think, hope – just maybe I could do it. I can see it now: working on my new book in between customers, Black Books style.

Today I came up with a new idea. Not for my dream book store. Well, actually I had a few more ideas for that. No, I came to the realisation that once you have seen one dream come to fruition, then its much easier to nurture more dreams. Think about it. How many times have you been ‘on a roll’? Had a ‘hat trick’ of good luck? I think it’s not luck, but success. If one vision has become real, you know its possible, you know you have what it takes. However, I think this works only if you are prepared to put in the hard work, as no one waves a wand and a dream comes true. You have to work really hard. I recently saw a dream come true – publishing my first book. I know if I can do that, I can do anything. So if I want to open a book store, if I really want to make that happen, then I can do it. I have the vision, the commitment for hard work, and the skills. I just need the finances. Still, confidence can overcome most barriers – even current lack of funds.

That’s not the only thought I had this week. The other one is also about not becoming an island. It seems that my doors are about to be opened to new family members. Flung open, actually. Having for months insisted that there are enough animals in the house, and not wanting to go through the final moments of ageing pets again, I’ve changed my mind. So it seems we are about to take on a few animals. First there are the bunnies, from the local animal rescue. Large rabbits that many potential adopters are overlooking, instead choosing the cute little ones. And next are the felines. A young cat who has endured endless pregnancies, and perhaps one of her newest kittens. Sure I’m not looking forward to the extra work, the distraction from writing. However, its something little I can do, to change the lives of a few animals.

When considering caring for others, I think back to my time in Cambodia earlier this year. Underneath the poverty and destruction of the environment, I kept noticing the loud absence of animals, birds and other creatures. In war, natural disaster and social unrest, pets and wildlife are often the forgotten victims. Other than give money, at this moment in time I can’t do anything about what is happening to people, animals and the environment globally, but I can do something locally. So I’ll open my door to a few who need a warm home.

Well, its late and I have an early start tomorrow. If I’m about to take on a horde of four-footed babes, then I must put aside the dreaming for now and make some cash. I am sure I will still have time for writing, though. Maybe I can even find some inspiration in the lives and characteristics of my new furry friends? I know its been done a million times, but I’m sure I can still find an untold story…..after all, I am a storyteller.


  1. Oh, a bookshop! Awesome. And you will have some cats to curl up in the warmth of the window. Do rabbbits sit in bookshop windows too? 🙂


  2. When I was writing the first draft of my first book, I think a part of me was scared that if I got off my island and went back into the real world, I would no longer “hear” the story. So, I madly wrote for hours, days and weeks on end (on my little island). Now that I’m on revisions, it’s much easier to live in both worlds. But I’m hoping that once I trust the process more (and trust that I will not stop hearing the story), I’ll be able to find the balance of being present in both worlds. Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Karen.


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