Monday muse-letter

 In All About Writing, How to write a book, Newsletters

Newsletter – or muse-letter? A little bit of both this month because what it really is, is me trying to reassume my old position on the saddle, pick up the reins, and encourage my steed to fall into at least an unsteady walk.  

It’s been some time since I last wrote a Monday Motivation. To begin with, the reasons for my silence on matters literary were obvious, and communicated to you all: I was languishing in hospital with a severe case of cellulitis. After eleven days and eighty or ninety large doses of liquid antibiotics fed intravenously into my buckling system, I was released to recuperate at home. 

Eleven days flat on your back can, I discovered, really take it out of you. (Dr Google tells me you lose twelve per cent of your muscle strength in seven days in bed.) But slowly my strength returned. A little kayaking on the river was a great restorative. 

And then, just when I was flexing my muscles and popping the joints of my fingers in preparation for a return to my duties, Covid struck – first me and then, three days later, Trish. 

The point of this tedious tale is one that every writer will recognise: events can conspire to derail your best writing intentions. 

When at last I was up to the task of writing witty little pieces that inspired and motivated you, I no longer was either inspired or motivated to do so. 

So these musings – this muse-letter – serves as my first tentative return to the hustings. 

Because in the end, as we all discover in time, there’s only one way in which to begin writing after a prolonged break, and that is, simply, to begin writing again. And hoping that somehow you’ll find your voice, recall some of your erstwhile vocabulary, and not make a total idiot of yourself with your scribblings. 

But there really is no need, life has taught me, to worry. Easier said than done? I’ve always muttered the words of Mother Julian of Norwich* when I want to calm my beating heart: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”  

Which brings me to two subjects on the quest for seamless writing: 

Just two places available on our October Venice Retreat

I’m not going to punt the conventional virtues of Venice – you know all about those. What I’d prefer to do here is ask three questions – and provide three brief answers. 

Firstly, what can a writing retreat offer a writer? Well, simply and most obviously, it can and does provide a perfect opportunity to write. Imagine a week in which your absolute first imperative is: to write. You’ll be astonished at how exhilarating that can be. 

Secondly, what can Venice specifically offer a writer? The most extraordinary city on earth is at once immensely stimulating and unexpectedly peaceful: in short, the precise ingredients that writers seek. 

Thirdly, what does the structure of our retreat, each day of which begins with a conversation about specific writing challenges and skills, offer a writer? Stimulation, fresh perspectives, food for thought. 

If you’re interested in joining us, (we have, as the tin says, just two places left) contact Trish: You’ll find more information here.

The Hero’s Journey®  

Michele Rowe and I are running another Hero’s Journey® course starting on August 17. Joseph Campbell’s paradigm is arguably the most effective story template ever developed. It can help you solve your story-telling problems and understand the motivations of your protagonist. Whether you’re writing a short story, a novel, creative non-fiction – including memoir! – or a screenplay, our eight-part, Zoomed programme will without any doubt deepen and extend your mastery of story. 

July webinar

If you want a free taste of the subject before you plunge into the course, you could also join Mich and me on Thursday, 28 July for a webinar during which we’d be happy to discuss your character, story or structure problems. You can register here for that event now. 


Firstly, we’d like to congratulate all the longlisted writers for the Sunday Times Literary Awards, but very specially three of All About Writing’s alumni who have made it onto the stage: Vincent Pienaar for his novel Limerence, Lisa-Anne Julien for her novel If you Save Me, and Cathy Park for her memoir Boiling a Frog Slowly

And secondly we’d like to congratulate Matthew Wihelm-Solomon on the successful launch of The Blinded City. Here’s what Niren Tolsi said about the book – ‘One of the best works of narrative non-fiction to emerge from the country in years. Quite simply brilliant.’ Do pick up a copy from Love Books if you’re in Johannesburg, your nearest independent bookseller, or of course online.  

August webinar – sign up now!

If you’d like to find out more about what went into the writing of The Blinded City please join us for our next free creative writing webinar with Matthew and his publisher Andrea Nattrass from Pan Macmillan. They’ll discuss what it takes to write and publish a non-fiction book from the very first inkling of an idea all the way to publication. They’ll be at your disposal to answer all your writing and publishing-related questions. 

And don’t forget to enter our current flash fiction challenge ending 31 July. Write a scene in which a young child plays alone with a favourite toy. Allow details of the child’s life to be revealed through how they play with the toy.

Happy writing, 


* Mother Julian of Norwich (1343 – 1416) was an anchoress, a mystic. She was the first woman to write a book in English

** The Hero’s Journey® and any copyrighted material authored by Joseph Campbell are used under license from the Joseph Campbell Foundation (

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