10 Weird, Secret and Accidental Clubs that Actually Exist(ed)

Most people are passionate about something and while it is quite usual to find fan clubs around the world with interests such as football teams, vintage cars, favourite writers, or cult-like films (think Star Wars and Star Trek), some people take their passions to another level.

Some clubs or groups are so secret that no-one knows what they are about or if they really exist(ed), like the notorious Bohemian club, allegedly consisting of highflying decision-makers dating back to 1872. But then there are also funny, flamboyantly strange, dangerous, plain weird, and even accidental clubs that exist(ed).

10 The Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists

Marc Abrahams, used to compile the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), a satirical science journal overseeing the annual Ig Nobel Prizes (awards for improbable research) at Harvard Business School. He also ran the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS). The latter originated from a dream his wife, Robin, a psychologist and researcher, had in 2001. In it, she had to edit a special edition of a prestigious psychology journal in which every article had to somehow mention the luxuriant flowing hair of Steven Pinker. Pinker was a Harvard professor, as famous for his head-full of grey curls, as for his work in cognitive psychology and linguistics. Marc mentioned the dream in a newsletter and photos of scientists picturing their own incredible hair, started streaming in. He posted the photos on the AIR Web site, usually accompanied by an in-depth account of the scientist’s hair history – and so the LFHCfS was born.

Although an online post of a new member dated May 2022 was found under construction and that the LFHCfS “is getting a shampoo and set while moving web hosts”. Had it existed back then, Albert Einstein’s mane would definitively have made the cut.

9 The Order of the Occult Hand

In 1965, Joseph Flanders, a Charlotte News reporter, got a bit carried away when reporting about a shooting incident, writing “It was as if an occult hand had reached down from above and moved the players like pawns upon some giant chessboard.” After a few rounds in a local bar, Flanders’ journo friends joked about his wonderful ‘purple’ prose and decided to try and sneak variations of the phrase into their published work. The inside joke spread, and other journalists joined in and within the next decade the phrase – partly or fully – found its way into multiple publications. It was only when digitalization came along that the secret of the Order of the Occult Hand was exposed in detail by Chicago Tribune staff writer, James Janega, in 2004.

The phrase had been used at least 40 times over the years – with some journalists, like Pulitzer winner Paul Greenberg (at least six-times) getting away with it more than once. With the secret out, rumours are that other phrases were proposed. We will probably have to wait for another occult hand to reveal the new mystery phrase.

8 The UK Roundabout Appreciation Society

“No place in the world exerts such attractive power as an island.” This Robert Louis Stevenson quote welcomes one to the Roundabouts of Britain website – home to the UK Roundabout Appreciation Society (UKRAS). Appropriately, Kevin Beresford, President of UKRAS holds the cool title of ‘Lord of the Rings’.

While the one-way gyratory had its roots at the Columbus Circle in New York City (USA) in 1903, and soon spread to Europe – and eventually the rest of the world – it was the UK who coined the word ‘roundabout’ in 1926, around the time the first one saw the light at Sollershot Circus, Letchworth in Garden City close to London. The roundabout is truly “an oasis on a sea of tarmac” according to their Ring Lord. Yep, only the Brits could have come up with this one.

7 The 20-Minute Society

Another British group, the 20-Minute Society, at England’s Newcastle University, is a fun club organizing mystery social gatherings with only a 20-minute warning to meet at a venue revealed to them via a text message or email. The purpose of the society is to host unpredictable and spontaneous social activities, like pub crawls, extreme trampolining, comedy nights, welfare picnics, summer balls, etc. They also take weeklong holidays to other (mostly European) countries and have their own brand merchandise. They post regularly on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram.

It has become so popular that word spread and similar societies, with some slight variations, have sprung up around the world.

6 The 47 Society

Eric Levine loves the number 47 so much, that he founded a fan club – The 47 Society – dedicated to exploring the ‘phenomenon’ that is 47, because according to the FAQs on their website “many suspect that the coincidental nature of 47 carries some mystical, metaphysical and/or scientific significance”. Logical, isn’t it? It started in 1964, when Pomona College mathematics professor, Donald Bentley, stated that all numbers are equal to 47. His documents of ‘proof’ for this had never been found, but Eric – who learned about it as a student years later – and other fans weren’t discouraged, as sightings of the number are frequently posted on the society’s 855+ member strong Facebook page Articles about its occurrence in history and fascinating facts about the number 47 are available on the Internet.

A Pomona College alumnus, writer and producer for various Star Trek TV shows and films, had even inspired other writers to include ‘47’ in nearly every episode they wrote, which has sparked a dedication of a different sort amongst Trekkies.

5 The Not Terribly Good Club

It’s not always a good thing to be too good at something. In the late 1970s, British journalist, Stephen Pile, started a fan club for people who were not terribly good at the things they do. Stories from all over the world streamed in, which led to him writing the book, The Ultimate Book of Heroic Failures. The original book contained an application form for membership, and it quickly became ‘the official handbook’ of the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain. It includes hilariously sad stories of people being terrible at their jobs – such as Benin golf player who wiped out his country’s entire air force with one golf swing.

Unfortunately for Pile, he was not good at maintaining a terrible club and its fandom exploded to a point where it became too successful to fit the original purpose. A Facebook search for the club nowadays, shows a few different pages containing variations of the club’s name with low followings, so maybe they are back on a ‘not terribly good track’.

4 My Little Pony Adult Fan Groups (Bronies)

We know that fact can sometimes be stranger than fiction, and the My Little Pony Adult Fan Groups – also known as Bronies – proved that once again. The Bronies were (mainly) a male fandom springing up from the popularity of Hasbro’s My Little Pony children’s animated fiction. Teenage and adult Bronies even attending BronyCon gatherings in Germany, England, and the USA. So, what was the attraction this little girl series had for their mostly male adult fans? It was rooted in the lessons about ‘honesty, kindness, laughter, generosity, loyalty and magic’ taught by the little ponies – as interviewers learned from research done for the 2012 feature length documentary film, The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony. Brave, brave men.

Bronies crossed country and language barriers through using YouTube, blogs, merchandise, and games. Unfortunately, they had their non-fans too – accusing them of racism, Nazism and other isms. The Bronies consisted of at least 80% male (75% single) fans in their teens and twenties, who lived with their parents, and were predominantly white and straight – with a high number having disabilities. They all felt that the My Little Pony content made them feel happy and comforted. Their fandom peaked in 2014, but apparently, their numbers are rapidly declining now and the last BronyCon was held in Baltimore in 2019.

3 The Martin-Baker Ejection Tie Club

Hats off – or is it helmets? – to people belonging to this ‘accidental’ club. The family run company, Martin-Baker, has an exclusive club uniting all pilots whose lives they have helped save. They had been the frontliners in the designing and manufacturing of ejection and crashworthy seats for more than 70 years. During this time over 7,600 pilot’s lives were saved. They have received 11 Queen’s Awards and currently have over 17,000 seats in active service.

Life membership of their Ejection Tie Club is exclusive to those ejecting from aircrafts using their ejection seats. According to its website, the club has grown to over 6000 registered members from all over the world, since the first ejection by an RAF pilot occurred over Zimbabwean (then Rhodesia) airspace in 1957. Members receive a certificate, membership card, patch, tie and pin or a brooch (for females). All Martin-Baker Ejection Tie Club memorabilia depicts a red triangle warning sign – the recognized international danger symbol for an ejection seat. It is probably a club no pilot aspires to belong to.

2 The Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society (OCEPFAS)

The topless book club emanated from an emancipation attempt in New York by its founder women, who knew about a law, allowing women to be topless anywhere men are allowed to be bare-chested. The women wanted to practice this freedom and sunbathe in safety and formed topless book clubs. Typically, groups of women would meet in parks, on rooftops, riverside walkways and even the steps of buildings to read together.

Although there was resistance to women reading half naked in public, these groups were normally tolerated and, in some instances, even praised for their bravery. Groups approached by police, were politely left alone after they were reminded that the law was on the women’s side. OCEPFAS was not only about feminism though.  Serious literary discussions made up a great part of their gatherings. Their website and social media sites were deleted and braless women reading in the sun haven’t been spotted in public recently.

1 The Tiger Blowfish Fan Club

Participation in super-secret Tiger Blowfish fan clubs can kill you. Eating tiger blowfish – also known as pufferfish and fugu – was first banned in Japan in the 16th century, but legalized in 1888 by the first prime minister, Hirobumi Ito. The fish contains the poison, Tetrodotoxin – a thousand times more lethal than cyanide – in its liver and eating it can induce symptoms including numbness and paralysis, before causing respiratory failure. Each pufferfish can carry enough poison to kill up to 30 adults! Trade in fugu is secretive and intricately complicated and a 1 kg (2,2 pounds) can cost up to an eye watering US$275.

The risks have not put people off eating it and secret blowfish dinner clubs exist, but are revealed only when word of it leaks or when venues are raided by police. The meat is apparently subtly flavoured and tasty and with still a ‘safe’ amount of poison in the meat, it creates a mild euphoria – hence the willingness of diners to go to great lengths to eat it. Because it is illegal in most countries, the secrecy of clubs, such as the Fugu Supper Club launched in London in 2011, makes it difficult to know where to find them as membership is normally by invitation only – and venues are revealed at the last minute. Many restaurants worldwide love using ‘pufferfish’ or ‘blowfish’ in the name of their restaurant, but do they secretly offer the real thing? Who knows?

Read more of my list articles here.

© 2022  Fielies De Kock

Fielies De Kock is a freelance content writer/blogger living in Hermanus in the Overberg, South Africa, with her crazy-haired husband and two dogs. She authored a children’s chapter book and a few short reads and is co-author of 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads (available on Amazon Kindle) with her content writer son – who also has crazy hair.

Friendship

#8

100 Words: The older I get the more I appreciate friends and family, because in certain instances some family had become friends and some friends had become family. Looking around at the lives of others and also ours – as we have moved to a different phase of our lives – I realised that life can get lonelier as we grow older and move up in the family hierarchy to become the older generation. Friends and children move away or immigrate or die, leaving empty holes. But fortunately, our global village is small and a good friend is always just a video call away.

Under 10-words Takeaway: Be that true friend.

Read my previous 100-word Pondering here.

Read this article about loneliness and health risks when growing older.

Watch this video to learn how to make a WhatsApp video call.

© 2022  Fielies De Kock

Fielies De Kock is a freelance content writer/blogger (www.fieliesdekock.com) living in Hermanus in the Overberg, South Africa, with her crazy-haired husband and two dogs. She authored a children’s chapter book and a few short reads and is co-author of 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads (available on Amazon Kindle) with her content writer son – who also has crazy hair.

Passion is a Built-in Thing

100 Words: I absolutely love writing. I started ‘writing’ before I could even read. I don’t have the most creative imagination, but I do have one and I use it to write stories, articles and blog posts. I don’t make a lot or even enough money with my scribbles and I had too many rejections through the years. This blog is read only by a faithful few, but I keep writing, because I don’t know how to stop. And although I would love to be rewarded for it, reward is not what drives me. Passion is. I write because I have to.

Under 10-words Takeaway: What is your passion and how do you practice it?

Read the previous 100-word Pondering here.

© 2022  Fielies De Kock

Fielies De Kock is a freelance content writer/blogger (www.fieliesdekock.com) living in Hermanus in the Overberg, South Africa, with her crazy-haired husband and two dogs. She authored a children’s chapter book and a few short reads and is co-author of 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads (available on Amazon Kindle) with her content writer son – who also has crazy hair.

Tell your Stories

#6

100 Words: It is quite a normal thing to start thinking back on one’s life as we get older. I assume it’s our brain’s way of sorting itself out and making backups of our memories. Retrospect brings perspective. Unfortunately, most people’s stories die with them and they don’t leave a legacy behind. Telling stories, keeping a journal or writing down our memoires are great ways to leave answers to questions our children and grandchildren don’t yet know they have. It also teaches them to tell theirs. Sharing our stories is a gift. Don’t wait for ‘one day’. Start doing it every day.

Under 10-words Takeaway: Jot down a memory per day.

Read the previous 100-word Pondering here.

© 2022  Fielies De Kock Fielies De Kock is a freelance content writer/blogger (www.fieliesdekock.com) living in Hermanus in the Overberg, South Africa, with her crazy-haired husband and two dogs. She authored a children’s chapter book and a few short reads and is co-author of 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads (available on Amazon Kindle) with her content writer son – who also has crazy hair.

Don’t Always Believe your Eyes

#4

100 Words: Someone recently sent me a WhatsApp post, asking to forward it. With just a little bit of research I found that the message was fake. This happens daily. People receive and forward quotes, news and even pictures and videos which aren’t always real or true and by forwarding it without thinking and checking facts, we spread lies further. Don’t always believe your eyes or ears. Check facts. Do real research. Don’t believe the ‘gospel’ according to YouTube or Facebook. There are many, many self-proclaimed – and false – ‘prophets’ out there. Choose not to join their flock. They will lead you astray.

Under 10 Words Takeaway: Fact-check before forwarding.

PS: Has your Facebook page been hacked before? Are you regularly using posts to show you what your best characteristic is or what kind of flower you are? Read here why NOT to participate/share these or why NOT to type ‘like’, ‘Amen’ or on certain Facebook messages.

Read my previous 100-word pondering here.

© 2022  Fielies De Kock

Fielies De Kock is a freelance content writer/blogger (www.fieliesdekock.com) living in Hermanus in the Overberg, South Africa, with her crazy-haired husband and two dogs. She authored a children’s chapter book and a few short reads and is co-author of 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads (available on Amazon Kindle) with her content writer son – who also has crazy hair.

Fielies’ 100-word Ponderings: Where had all the Seconds gone?

#3

100 Words: One thing everyone agrees about nowadays, is that time is flying. Within the wink of an eye, we are facing the middle of the year already. Where had all the seconds gone? And what have I done to fill them? It feels that I am only brushing my teeth and going to bed. Is the earth moving faster around the sun or am I spending too much time using a screen? It might be the latter, because my screen time app shocks me daily. I have the same amount of time I always had, but get fewer physical things done.

Under 10 Words Takeaway: Switch the addiction (off) for more living.

Read my previous 100-word pondering here.

© 2022  Fielies De Kock

Fielies De Kock is a content writer/blogger (www.fieliesdekock.com) living in Hermanus (@hermanus_unlimited) in the Overberg, South Africa, with her crazy-haired husband and two dogs. She authored a children’s chapter book and a few short reads and is co-author of 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads (available on Amazon Kindle) with her content writer son – who also has crazy hair.

Fielies’ 100-words Ponderings: Stay in Touch

#2

100 Words: I fail this test again and again. I get an inclination to call someone, but with everyday things interfering, I don’t get around doing it. Two weeks ago, I had the feeling again. Life interfered. I didn’t make contact. Yesterday I got the message that the person I wanted to call – a friend from when we lived abroad – passed on. This morning my heart is heavy. Not just because he is not walking with us anymore, but because I denied myself one last opportunity to talk to him. Rest in peace, our friend. You will forever dance in our hearts.

Under 10-words Takeaway: Make that call. Stay in touch.

Read Fielies’ next 100 Pondering here. Start reading the series from here.

© 2022  Fielies De Kock

Fielies De Kock is a content writer/blogger (www.fieliesdekock.com) living in Hermanus in the Overberg, South Africa, with her crazy-haired husband and two dogs. She authored a children’s chapter book and a few short reads and is co-author of 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads (available on Amazon Kindle) with her content writer son – who also has crazy hair.

Reblogged: Read my latest article ‘10 Notable 100th Celebrations in 2022’ on Listverse

Read my latest article, 10 Notable 100th Celebrations in 2022, now on Listverse.

© 2022 Fielies De Kock

Fielies De Kock is a content writer/blogger (www.fieliesdekock.com) living in Hermanus in the Overberg, South Africa, with her crazy-haired husband and two dogs. She authored a children’s chapter book and a few short reads and is co-author of 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads (available on Amazon Kindle) with her content writer son – who also has crazy hair.

My Children’s Book, Yeovangya’s Quest, is now available on Amazon Kindle

Yeovangya’s Quest is now available in eBook and paperbook formats

My children’s book, Yeovangya’s Quest, is now available to purchase on Amazon Kindle Books in both eBook and paperback formats.

Yeovangya’s Quest is the true fairy tale of a princess past her ‘marriage age’ who doesn’t want to marry through arrangement, but only for true love – just like her parents did. She decides to determine the outcome of her future herself, by embarking on a journey looking for the love of her life. She concocts a plan with her father’s confidant, cuts her hair, dresses as a boy and sets off with her two closest companions – Blaffi, her brave and loyal dog, and Prr, the lazy, upstairs palace cat. Together they face many adventures and dangers, such as a dual with a man who can’t handle his beer, almost becoming lunch to a hungry lion, being attacked by three bad princes and even being shipwrecked.

Yeovangya finds more than what she looked for. She learns about her own weaknesses and about the consequences of selfishness. Above all, she learns to love in more ways than she expected to. She experiences abundant joy and the hurt of loss and having to let go – before she eventually learns to embrace what life offers.

Yeovangya’s Quest (a 10-chapter book) is good, clean reading, packed with adventure and action and even contains a few life lessons, and is perfect for young readers between the ages of 9 and 14.

Yeovangya’s Quest has enough action to keep boys’ attention captive and plentiful romance for girls of all ages.

(If you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can read the book for free. Kindle Unlimited is available at a monthly cost on Amazon and if subscribed, works pretty much like a library – except that the author gets paid for the amount of pages lenders read per book. This is just to tell you how it works and is not an advertisement. Unfortunately, otherwise I would have gotten paid for it. Smile.)

Purchase your copy of Yeovangya’s Quest here.

Yeovangya’s Quest is now also available in paperback.

Remember, when you purchase an eBook, it stays in your library where it can be read over and over again. So, all your children – over the span of their growing up years – can read it, just like with a book in the bookshelf of your family room.

©2021 Riëtte De Kock (Fielies De Kock)

Riëtte De Kock (Fielies De Kock) lives in a coastal village in the Overberg region, South Africa, with her husband and two dogs in an old heritage house and their freelance-writer son in the garden cottage. Fielies’ other books and eBooks are available here.

Let your Characters Reveal Themselves to you

By Fielies de Kock

I am always amazed by how my characters can surprise me. Just this morning I wrote a flash fiction story. Yesterday the ending of the story popped into my head. I decided to write it on my phone last night whilst in bed, but I was too lazy to figure out the plot details. This morning I decided to sit down and labour over it a bit. I knew the ending was words uttered by a soldier in a war, but I had no idea about how I was going to get there.  But when I started writing, Uwe, the protagonist turned out to be a dentist in the German Army during WW2 who was experiencing a crossroads moment. I didn’t make Uwe up. He created himself before my mind’s eyes. All I had to do was to start writing a few words. The moment Uwe was ‘born’, he developed a life and a voice of his own.

The same happened years back when I started writing a novel (which is still only two thirds into the creating phase of the writing process). I wrote a chapter in which the two main characters – a couple – invited a new friend over for dinner. This friend plays the other main character in the story and they were chatting away soon enough. At that stage, all I knew about my couple was that they previously had a relationship, were reunited and were engaged now. During the dinner conversation I learned that they both left South Africa at different times to work on kibbutzim in Israel. They eventually ended up at the same kibbutz, fell in love, got pregnant, lost their baby girl in a bus bomb during an intifada and then the woman went home brokenhearted. They met again years later after she got divorced from her abusing husband and finally had counselling – and were now sitting, engaged to be married, at a dinner table, telling their new friend – and most importantly, me – their whole story. I was flabbergasted by my characters’ secrets. I really didn’t know all those things about them until that scene.

Listen to your Characters

So the moral of the two stories is to learn to sit back and let your characters do the talking – literally! We live in a world of helicopter parenting, controlling our every move to the finest detail and fomo, and writers sometimes tend to overkill on character development to a point of stereotyping (just watch any Hollywood movie) – like the police detective whose boss hates him, is divorced/getting divorced, has a drug/drinking problem, is an absent father and has a heart which is just waiting to attack him. Where are the out-of-the-ordinary detectives who are kind-hearted, crochet with their grandmothers, are happily married, romantic husbands etc? Are they really too boring to write stories about or are we are just too lazy to work out great story lines for them? (And there’s another challenging story idea right there! Don’t steal it – it’s mine!)

We should sometimes just sit back and just listen to our characters telling us who they really are. Maybe they have more to offer than the one dimensional stereotype we so often mould them into.

How do you Listen to your Characters?

Go about your character developing the way you normally do. Give them their eye and hair colour, pet peeves, characteristics, likes, weaknesses, family ties, problems etcetera, as much as you like, but don’t limit their back stories because of your own preconceptions. Put them in different circumstances and see how they react. Listen to how they talk to other characters and to what they tell them. You might be stunned at what they might reveal. The best way to do this is to sit down and whether you write to a strict outline or if you are off-the-cuffing it, free write your scenes. Follow these guidelines.

  • Don’t think too much or wait until you have everything figured out before you start writing. If your character do or say things that you didn’t plan, let him/her without interrupting or censoring them.
  • Explore the character by keep writing. Don’t hesitate if weird things flow from your pen or keys and don’t stop writing for even a second! And never, ever stop to correct anything until the free writing is over! Allow freewriting sessions of at least ten minutes per character.
  • Write whatever comes to mind – even if it scares you a bit or if you didn’t plan things the way it plays out. You can always adapt the story line later or edit some of what you have written. It is better to have and to do away with than not to have at all!
  • Trust your instincts (or those of your characters), because when you free write, your instincts take over and most of the time we write better this way than when we are forced to write according to a plan.
  • Just keep going until you reach a point where it feels as if it is done – even if it takes longer than the time allotted for the session.
  • Don’t edit immediately after writing. Leave your work until the next day or even a few days later. This will give you time to think about the revelations you characters made and how it will influence the plot and your story line and if everything still fits in the greater plan. Most of the time you will be pleasantly surprised. If you really find after rereading your work that it is not the case or that it really is a bunch of Charlie Romeo Alpha Papa, you can always delete what you don’t like and/or edit it until you are happy.

Learn to start trusting your characters to reveal themselves to you. You might discover a whole new approach to character development for future use.

© 2019 Fielies De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopefullest writer. Foreverest dreamer. Living in a coastal village in the Overberg, South Africa, with her husband and two dogs in a small heritage house, and their adult, graduate, job-seeking son in the garden cottage. His CV is available on request. 🙂

What I’ve learned from my Own NaNoWriMo Alternative – NaFFWriMo

IMG_6347-001

Please NaNoWriMo, don’t sue me for the spin-off. It was just my way of not doing nothing writing wise for a month.

I have no time in November – not this past November or any other as in our yearly routine it might just be the busiest time. For that reason I don’t even think of signing up for NaNoWriMo yearly, because although I might write my daily dose of 1333 words on the first day an maybe the second and even a third, I know that I will be disappointed down the line, because it will end. But, I still wanted to dedicate at least a bit of time to regular writing during the month of November just to feel part of something bigger, so I decided on my own personal alternative – National Flash Fiction Writing Month or NaFFWriMo. I decided to write a short story every day of the month. I wasn’t a 100% successful, as the last few days I got busy and I stopped a few short. Nevertheless, I have 26 stories more than I had on 31 October, so I’m at least a bit satisfied by my effort.

The Rules of the Game

At first my thinking was to write 100-word stories, but the first one was shorter and I felt that if I forced it to be longer it would lose its effect, so although I managed a few precise 100-word stories after that, I decided earlier on that I was not going to put any restrictions on myself other than that all the stories would probably be under 500 words.

Statistics

  • I wrote 26 stories in 30 days. That makes my ‘pass rate’ 86,666%.
  • My longest story is 324 words long.
  • My shortest story is 6 words short.
  • I actually wrote two stories which was precisely 100 words before any editing, (which makes me wonder if you can train your brain to write an exact amount of words on a regular basis?).
  • 11 stories is/eventually will be 100-word stories after editing.
  • A whopping 73% (19/26) of the stories was inspired by everyday events – either something that happened around me or by news events or articles in the media.

A few things I’ve learned during my NaFFWriMo

  • It’s not that easy to come up with something new every day.
  • Lots of ideas for fiction comes from everyday life non-fiction, be it one’s own experiences or things happening in the news. So, we just have to be alert to find ideas. Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction and we don’t even need to wish for a muse or to dream up the ideas ourselves. We live in a crazy world full of people doing weird, crazy, wonderful and terrible things. Use it to create your own fiction.
  • Restrictions inhibit creativity. That’s not really an earthmoving or new fact, I know. 100 words can be too much. 100 words can also be too little. Writing a 6-word story is better than writing no story at all.
  • Sometime less is really more. I wrote one particular story which wasn’t bad in 276 words, but it also works extremely effectively as 100-word one. I will keep both for future use. Don’t just discard the longer or shorter versions of your stories.
  • I had to discipline myself to come up with something every day. It was a good feeling to produce on demand, although it wasn’t always easy.
  • One idea is sometimes – most of the times – followed by another. So, if I had decided not to write anything on some days, I would not only have missed out on one story, but on two!
  • Ideas don’t keep ‘working hours’. Some ideas came at night, just before I went to sleep, so I made myself a WhatsApp writing group with both my phone and tablet and typed out the story or at least the idea quickly to store and work on later.
  • I was a little bit disappointed that I didn’t write 30 flash fiction stories in 30 days (or even more, because it sounds so easy, doesn’t it?), but our current lifestyle is hectic and I was still satisfied that I managed to get 26 stories down. At least I didn’t do nothing. 3430 words for the month isn’t close to a 50 000-word novel, but it is still more than I would have written if I just decided to let the month pass without any goals.

PS: And just for the record – I know that NaNoWriMo is an American invention, but I think the name should change to IntNoWriMo to include the rest of us. Just sayin’. J

 

©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopefullest Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

I wasn’t Planning on Writing Anything Newyeary

My Weekly  Musings #1/2017

rtss

It’s that time of year that everyone who writes, writes about having New Year’s resolutions or about breaking them or about their goals for the new year. This year was no different and those who believe they cannot write or are too lazy to write something themselves, sent their friends funny/silly/nice/beautiful/religious/rude/crude messages and poems written by some funny/silly/nice/beautiful/religious/rude/crude writers to wish them a good/blessed/prosperous/whatever 2017, because apparently 2016 had been the worst year in the history of the world according to social media users or liberal American voters or both. Of course it had been a bad year for some individually, but I was just wondering if every one of the WWI and WWII years for example, might not have been worse in general? Anyway, who am I to differ with the social media experts?

I didn’t want to continue on the topic of this most plastic, man-made phase of the year, but hey, while I’m on it… Today’s date is just a date. Dates maybe rule our work lives, but they don’t define our character. Yes, we do remember the things – good and awful – happening to us by the Gregorian date that we use, but to wish a ‘year would die because it had been the most awful of them all’? Really? Is that what life had become for modern us? A date on a man-made calendar with absolutely no guarantee that the next da(y)te on the almanac bring only prosperity/happiness/blessings.

I’d hope that we can rather thank our Maker for every new day, no matter the ‘date’, because He says that He makes every day new and every day His mercy and loving-kindness is anew (Lamentations 3:22,23). Of course we will remember the awful past (even that terrible, dreadful 2016), but eventually we will also remember the beauty and the joy and the memories it brought us. Bad memories have the tendency to be overshadowed by good ones in due time. I don’t say this lightly, because some of us had real hard times and others had horrific things happening to them in 2016.

Let’s be thankful for another day, whatever the date may be, because how evil 2016 might have been, there had been good times and 2017 hasn’t shown its true colours yet. Let’s be grateful for waking up this morning and being alive for just one more moment, maybe even one whole day. I know it sounds like such a cliché, but in the end all we have is now. Enjoy it to the fullest.

Be blessed.

(Blog entry/ies vaguely related to this topic: https://fieliesdekock.com/2014/01/08/my-favourite-days/)

 

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

In Favour of the Roads Well Travelled

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Travel articles and blogs about ‘the road less travelled’ are in abundance. People, I included, love reading about strange, foreign, exotic and off the beaten track paths – places where only the most daring dares to go and where the rest of us probably will never set foot. I reckon that’s why we love it so much – reading about far-off places and dreaming impossible dreams, knowing that we will probably never make it there and instead, we admire those adventurers who do.

Few writers today still bother to write about the roads well-travelled other than in travelling guides or  advertisements, because what self-respecting-do-things-differently-adventure-seeking person these days would find the London Tower Bridge or the Eiffel Tower or the Wailing Wall exotic enough to read about and dream about to visit. Travel articles must be all about exploring the unknown, the almost never-visited before, to be attractive enough to publish.

Travelling had become fairly easy in the past three decades. We live in a global enclave, which makes almost every place on earth accessible within a day or at most – two. So why bother with the ‘mundane’ travel destinations if you can be the first Western person to be seen in some remote jungle village of some South American tribe, living without any modern conveniences? Or sail to the most southern uninhabited island on earth or go to a quiet corner of the Antarctic to witness the consequences of global warming first-hand? It’s just more exciting! It’s exhilarating! It sells travel magazines. It generates more traffic to blogs and online mags.

But as someone who had only travelled a little bit and will probably always be limited to visiting only a few of the many, many, many places I dream about, I believe that there are still words left to be written about the roads well-travelled. Because if your opportunities and resources for travelling are limited, one tends to want to see first-hand those most ‘common’ sites you always see in movies and on TV.

Naturally your walk in the Bog Nature Trial in the Soomaa National Park in Estonia would make grand dinner conversation. Of course you would first have to show your guests on a map where Estonia is! Or imagine telling you bird watching friends about you seeing one of the last Great Indian Bustard nests in India? And obviously, you can’t go wrong with showing off your photos taken from Uhuru and Kibo peaks on Mount Kilimanjaro, because even if it had become a bit of fashionable trip to do these days, you can still get away with it under the ‘adventurous’ label. You will after all be only one of about 22 500 people in the world who did it this year – in comparison to the millions who have travelled to London to see old Buckingham Palace! Yawn…

But for the person who will only travel once or a handful of times in his or her lifetime, due to reasons such as limited resources or health restrictions that keep them from hunting great adventures such as walking the swamps of the Amazon, intruding on the habitat of petrifying Anacondas – visiting the Taj Mahal in India or the great pyramids of Giza in Egypt or the Garden Tomb in Israel, will still be more than awesome! It will also be the fulfilment of a lifelong dream – just as the Amazon-thing is to the extreme adventurer.

For us, the travellers with limitations, the mere site of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked, is absolutely breath taking! And to have a photo that you have taken yourself of the Eiffel on your own camera’s memory card, is a dream come true! Because you may have climbed a hill on precisely the right day of the year to harvest one of the world’s rarest truffles in the French countryside, but imagine your friends’ faces when you arrive back home and they ask you about the Eiffel and your answer is “No, I haven’t seen the Eiffel, but I did harvest the world’s most exotic mushroom!” Except if you are a foodie and all your friends are too, it will be an absolutely outrageous answer!

Us normal people of limited resources are satisfied to see the Eiffel and Wailing Wall or the Tower Bridge or the Big Ben or the Colosseum or maybe even the beautiful blue roofs of Mykonos and Santorini (instead of a less visited Greek islands with rarer stones to see). We are quite okay with it if we can only visit one of those magnificent places we see in movies and on TV programs in our lifetime. And when we watch a movie or TV again and we recognise one of those places and know that we had been there and that our feet walked where so many others have walked before – the fortunate and the unfortunate, the famous and the not-famous, the conqueror and the loser, the adventurer and the… us – we will feel thankful and privileged. Just because we were given the opportunity to see it with our own eyes.

There is still much to be said about the roads well-travelled, and very few of us will be able to travel all those roads, so if you get the opportunity – take it! And think of it this way: Even if you will never have the ability to visit any of these well-known or less-known places, you might live in a place on someone’s bucket list.

Explore your own surroundings. Visit that ‘boring’ battle field again that you had to visit on a school field trip. Go to that monument, read up on the beginnings of your town or city, because chances are that you are living near a place that someone else dreams about visiting. Go today. Pay it a visit. Take a picture (or a selfie if you can’t convince anyone to go with you on your ‘adventure’) and put it on your social media feed. And know that your feet have walked where other feet had fought or made history or had new beginnings. Because even though we sometimes don’t realise it: One man’s home  can be just another man’s dream destination.

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Our family at one of those ‘boring’ well-travelled places – The beautiful island of Mykonos in Greece.

© 2016  – I, Fielies (also Riëtte) De Kock is trying hard to be an awesomest wife and greatest lover, finest mom and to write something all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s two cats and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function normally.

On Having too Many Ideas and the Pure Evils of Multitasking

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Just keep reading. The advice part comes at the middle of the article…

Struggling to Focus

I really struggle to focus when it comes to my writing. To focus – not to concentrate. I can sit and do the same thing for hours. Unless I’m on my phone. Then I have the intention span of a two year-old and I can forget what picture I want to open only half a second after I’ve made the decision. I don’t have a search for the reason for my problem, because I know what the cause is. Ideas. I have too many of them. While I am busy researching links for  my Writing Club Facebook page, I think of a new short story that I want to write and then I think of a great idea for my next blog entry and while still busy with that I’m struggling with the plot problem of my decade-old novel.

Multitasking towards Scatter Brain Syndrome

Every weekend I think of what to do the next week and plan it in my head, but come Sunday (when the work week starts where we currently live) I sleep too late, spend too much time on my phone checking Facebook, play Words with Friends or find something interesting that I have to do Bible study on. So by 10:30 I realise that our bedroom needs tiding, the building cats want food, our son wants to sound his view points on his latest university essay with me and while I’m listening to him, my mind wanders to have yet another few writing ideas on another few projects.

Am I too scatter-brained or do I have too many ideas? I can’t always determine, but I know that whichever it is – or maybe it’s both – it makes me unproductive. Having ideas as a (would-be) writer can only be good, can it not? I rarely have had problems with writer’s block in my life. That must be a good thing, mustn’t it?  Having lots of ideas is good. But it doesn’t help if any of those ideas ever get finished. Oh, I have finished manuscripts in my cyber Dropbox drawer. It’s not if I can’t finish anything. I can sit down and work on a long project to finish it. It’s just that I can’t finish everything that I want to, because I don’t know what to work on and what to leave.

I do something and then I leave it and then I do something else and then I leave it when a new idea pops into my head. I know I have this problem. And I have tried to overcome it many times. I am currently in one of those phases. I have decided to finish my Writing Club business idea. I have started well. Then I got sick. And now, a week later, I am writing a blog while still editing a short story whilst I should be busy with that instead.

The problem I find with my writing – as also in other areas of life – is that I try to multitask, in spite of being a hater of multitasking. Because I multitask in life too. I start tiding the bedroom, and when putting away some stuff in the bathroom, I see that the toilet need urgent cleaning and when I go to the kitchenette to fetch the cleaning products, I wash the morning coffee mugs and then remembered that my son didn’t have breakfast yet and when I take his breakfast to the TV room where we normally have it together, we watch the breaking news and I quickly do some research on some of the facts the reporter gave and then I see some interesting article that I have to share to my Writing Club Facebook page and while on the computer I see that there are some messages from my family group on WhatsApp Web and then I get involved in a who-looked-more-like-whom baby pictures debate and when it cools down I see more interesting articles on writing and read a few, and get new ideas for blogging and then my husband called to hear if I have started doing research for our trip and then I get into the mood to finish my short story and I write for an hour. And when I finally come to my senses again, the bedroom is still untidy, the toilet is still not cleaned, the coffee mugs are dirty again after having breakfast though, the breakfast plates had to be cleaned, there is new breaking news on TV, the family had decided that the baby looks like herself, my Facebook page have more notifications, my short story is still not finished, I haven’t done the research for our upcoming trip and I realise that I haven’t thought about what we’ll have for dinner. Then I leave everything I’ve been busy with and rush to the kitchen…

That’s my life. It’s not perfect. I frustrate myself. Days and weeks and months and even years fly by and I’m not getting done what I want to get done. In a few years’ time I will probably look back and ask my husband and son: “What have I done with my time?!” And they will probably remind me to read this blog entry to answer myself.

Having many ideas is a good thing. For creative people it is a wonderful thing. But if you can’t channel those ideas into some productiveness, they will always be just… ideas. Ideas means nothing if they sit in your head. They have to be acted upon – just like dreams. Ideas also have a tendency to get ‘stolen’. If you don’t do something with an idea, someone else, who is more focussed will and before you know it, another opportunity will be lost.

A Few Tips

Multitasking must be killed. We must live in the moment and concentrate on the task at hand – one at a time. Here are a few ways to try to do it. Let’s try it!

Focus

With the Olympics on, I couldn’t help to recognise again the athletes’ commitment to their respective codes. The archer’s focus on the target is a good example of how we as writers or other artists or people of any other career should learn to focus on one thing at a time. The archer can only hit one target with one shot. If his focus is on anything other than only his target, he surely will miss. Focussing on one writing piece at a time will eventually means that one project will be finished. And if that one is finished a next one will get finished and a next and a next.

Do Something Productive with those too Many Ideas – Make a List

Write down all the writing projects ideas you have in your head. By getting them out of your head and onto paper, you can start focussing on getting them done. Keep this list close and update it as you get new ideas.

Then Make a ‘To Do’ list

Now make a ‘To Do’ list. Decide what it is you want to achieve with your writing. Be very, very honest with yourself and focus on your strong points. Identify the projects that will be the most probably to get published and/or bring in some money. Prioritise you list. Then start and finish the first priority project on your list.

Don’t Move on Before a Task isn’t Finished

Don’t move to number two on your list unless number one is finished. In the case of number one being writing your novel, you can do blogging or other smaller projects in between, but always finish the allotted daily writing time for your priority project first, before going on to doing the smaller ones.

Plan your day – Have a Routine

You know the saying, ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail.’

If that archer didn’t practice for hours every day, he wouldn’t have made his country’s Olympic team and he wouldn’t have been able to win the gold medal. If he failed to aim at his target, he would have failed to hit it. If you want to go on holiday in Greece, you need to plan to take leave, buy plane tickets and book accommodation. Otherwise you will remain where you are. If you don’t plan anything, you won’t get anything done. It is as simple as that.

‘Go to work’

My husband gets up at the same time every morning, showers, clothes himself, takes his bag and goes to work. And he remains there for eight hours of every five week days – working. For that he is rewarded with a salary at the end of every month. Input equals output.

Some writers have a day job and write for an hour or so every evening and some more over weekends. Well-known writers had got published for the first time this way – by writing only for a short time every day. Every day.

Some writers have the privilege of staying home and have more time than others to write. If you are one of those and still struggle to fill at least a few hours every day writing, you have to become more creative with managing your time and the way you work.

  • Identify your favourite writing place in your house/garden.
  • Decide on what part of the day your writing hours will be.
  • When the time arrives, literally pack your writing tools (laptop, notebooks etc.) in a bag and walk out of the house, through the garden (if you have one), back into the house and to your working place.
  • If possible, leave your phone ‘at home’ or switch to silent.
  • Stay at your working space for the time you have allocated.
  • If you have a whole study or office as working space, close the door after you have finished and open it again at the beginning of your writing period. This way you know that you can shut down and have time to do things with your family without feeling guilty, because you have already done your writing for the day.
  • Be jealous about your writing hours. Allow no disturbances, other than real Don’t make unnecessary appointments for those hours and say no to appointments that can be made for another time.

These tips may seem like common sense and they actually are, but we certainly tend to lose our common sense when we get distracted. Keeping to a regular routine and staying disciplined helps to divide between your living and working spaces and may help you to get into the right mind for doing more productive work.

Keep a writing log

I’ve started doing  this years ago, stopped and started again. I make a simple monthly spreadsheet and write down what writing related work I do every day, including reading. (I also keep a separate yearly reading list.) My columns include, Writing, Editing, Reading, Blogs and Other (like time spent updating my Facebook Writing Club page or journal writing). I blot out days that we travel and on which it isn’t possible to write, although some travels can offer wonderful writing time.

Keeping a writing log shows you how many hours per day you effectively spend on your writing projects and it serves as a motivational tool to better your productivity from month to month. It also helps with planning your writing schedule, because you can see how much time you need to spend on certain projects.

Take Stock Every Week, Month and Year

At the end of every week, month and year, evaluate your writing effort. Check your ‘To Do’ list and see what you have achieved. Go through your monthly writing logs and see where you can improve your productivity. Make changes and stay focussed – one task at a time.

Keep a Personal Journal

If you don’t keep a journal I have a question for you: Why on earth not?! Apart from being a therapeutic tool to write down your emotions, problems goals, dreams and feelings, your journal can be a treasure chest of ideas. Many of my journal entries have become blog entries. It also serves as a reminder of the dreams and goals you have and is a place to blow off some steam – as you are the only one who reads it.

You don’t have to write in your journal every day or even every week. Write when you want to, but keep writing, even if there are two-month gaps.

On days that you really can’t get other writing done (for whatever reason) – just journal. At least it will help you to stay in routine and not get rusty. I write in both languages I speak, depending on the reason, subject or mood I am in.

Learn more about journal writing at https://fieliesdekock.com/2014/03/17/article-on-writing-journal-writing/ 

Go forward one letter, word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, book at a time!

(OK, the bedroom is not going to tidy itself. Off I go…)

 

© 2016 – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt, with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s ginger cat, her friend and two kittens (so far) – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function as a normal human being.

Book Review :Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

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What it is about

Lou had just lost her job in a little restaurant, which she loved, and apply to become caretaker to a Will, an adventurer, who became a quadriplegic and had lost all interest in life after an accident which led to him living in an apartment at his unhappily married parents’ house. The movie of the book started showing in July 2016.

What I thought about it

It is a fairly good read, especially because it is a yet unexplored theme in fiction. Jojo Moyes writing is not recipe-like and filled with British wit, in spite of handling a difficult subject. (This reminds me a little bit of Cecelia Ahern’s style if you are, like me, a fan of her writing.)

After finishing the book I felt cheated though, because while Lou’s struggle with the enormity of Will’s decision was addressed, his moral/spiritual deeper struggle was not explored at all, therefore I found the book spiritually poor (as in the opposite of rich). Even people with no religious believes at all must have at least a few conflicting emotions and/or doubts with regard to such an important life decision as the one that Will had made.

Although the whole story was told from Lou’s point of view, the writer took the risk and trouble to switch from hers’ to giving the other characters at least a chapter each – a writing style that can cause chaos and would have worked better, had Will gotten his’ turn too. Yet the writer chose to ‘ignore’ his real thoughts and feelings in an almost robot-like manner. I found it more than a bit odd. If she tried to make a point through not doing it, I didn’t get it.

I still recommend the book because not much had been written about the subject in chick lit or any other fiction so far, but I think the writer really missed a great opportunity to give the reader insight into the immense struggle between life and death that must have been going on in Will’s mind. I will still watch the movie if I get the opportunity and I look forward to read ‘After You’ to see what happened to all the characters after this phase in their fictional lives. Lou is a likable character and it will be interesting to see what Moyes decided to do with her.

My rating of this book is a 4/5 because I like the humour and writing style.

Me Before You is available in most book shops as well as on the Internet as an ebook.

 

© 2016  – Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Those Big Small Things in between Facebook Status Updates

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Life is speeding so fast that it can overtake us very easily, leaving us clinging onto whatever we can to survive. And when we are in survival mode, we tend to focus on just that – survival. Sometimes we need to get off the runaway train, stay on the ground and just enjoy the moments of experiences added together that is called ‘life’. So many of us live for our “one day” – that day or days near or farther in the future when all our dreams will be realised into the utopian existences we spend all our free time imagining.

But sometimes we need real life to give us a slap through the face or shower us with the proverbial bucket of ice water to slow us down from our busyness or even to bring us to a halt in order for us to stop and be alive within the actual moment we find ourselves in.

It can happen through the shock of sudden death, the scare of illness, being faced with dangerous situations or just recuperating from something less serious – but as disruptive.

Shock or trauma or failure can sometimes be good for us. It can help us clean our systems, re-organise our priorities and re-evaluate the impossible goals we set for ourselves into obtainable ones and making us pause for a while. Very few things in life can be so good to us than coming to a complete standstill. And I really mean to stop doing what you’re doing and to live in the moment, with no looking forward to the tomorrow that may never be born.e always dreamt of living abroad for a period of time. Due to circumstances that dream got lost for a while, but after some time it found its way back into becoming a possibility and our lives were frozen in their tracks. Everything we did or didn’t do, planned or didn’t plan and decided had to be weighed first against the probability of going away for a few years. It changes one’s whole focus, lookout and pretty much everything you do.

The realisation of a dream can be a horribly, scary affair and takes courage to pursue. (Read my previous blog on this at https://fieliesdekock.com/2015/11/10/the-process-of-realising-a-dream-can-be-a-nightmare/)

We only heard six months later that we were going to live abroad. In Egypt. I cried for a day and then my previous positive-self reappeared and I made a pro’s and con’s list and, surprise-surprise, the pro’s list convinced me – not that it was the longest! (How is it that when your prayers are being answered and you get what you ask for that you get confused?)  But the crying subsided and the excitement and frightfulness kicked in. We had a lot to do – easier stuff and more difficult stuff. All the easier stuff had to do with the ‘whats’ in our lives. The more difficult ones had to do with the ‘whos’. My mother lived with us for 17 years and she had to be relocated. And we had to find houses for our four dogs. It wasn’t easy.

Fast forward…

…to living in Cairo, Egypt, for two years.

It takes time to settle into a new environment. And it took me one year an nine months to get so used to the new place to fall into a little bit of a rut – in spite of (or maybe because of) busyness.

Precisely one year and nine months after arriving here, I fell into a not-so-slightly ‘down’. (Don’t worry – it was caused by stupid pains, and although they remained, the depression flew out of the window after a few doctor’s visits. ((And I realised that my ‘depressions’ are always health related.)) And it is a fact that everything seems worse if you are far away from ‘home.’)

Now that the background history is told, I will get to the point. Since that day, three years and three months ago when we first heard that we may be moving, I have learnt to live in the moment. Because of the uncertainty of our situation, we stopped buying unnecessary things, didn’t make decisions with long-term consequences and just started taking every day as it came.

Due to the fact that we came to live in a country where the security situation can be volatile, our circumstances can change at any time and our stay can end unplanned and abruptly. So, I decided to keep living here the way we lived back home for those uncertain fifteen months before we left – in the moment. And I already decided to keep doing that when we get back home one day. But, as I am writing this – even that isn’t a certainty, because that is a tomorrow that is still to come. I pray though that it will happen for us all.

But back again (!) to the reason for this writing. During all these experiences the last few years, I have learnt to enjoy the ‘little’ things in life. Don’t get me wrong. With our current, temporary lifestyle come lots of privileges, which we enjoy and appreciate enormously! I mean, without this experience, my dream to see at least something of Europe would probably always have stayed only in the dream phase. We have cruised the Nile and we are scheduled to go again soon. We have snorkelled in the Red Sea (and fell in love with it)! On a French mountain I have played in the snow for the first time in my life! I attended my first (second, third and shortly my fourth) ball! I have stood in a chamber in The Valley of the Kings outside Luxor containing the petite mummy of king Tut. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera. These are memories I will cherish for as long as my mind allow me.

But as it is in life – privileges don’t come free or cheap. And in between these very wonderful experiences are those that don’t reach Facebook status. And they take up way more time than those very wonderful ones. They are the ones that can make or break us. The in-between times when the heat, dust, cultural differences, strange religion, terrible traffic, the thin, sick, hungry street dogs, the stray cats, the tummy bugs, the illiteracy (mine!), the overwhelming crowdedness, the ‘ununderstandable’ customs, the poverty, the dirtiness, the interestingness, the bland food, the overripe tomatoes and all the things you miss from home, make you wonder how on earth did you make it so far and how on earth will you make the rest of the time?

I remember back home when we had some challenges, we would go for a walk in the afternoons and with my hand in my husband’s and with our son and our dogs tagging along, I felt like the richest person alive! And this, I personally believe, is where the secret of happiness lies: to find blessings and joy and thankfulness in even the littlest things in mundane life.

I have listed just a few of these things that make me happy. Some of them are not so little at all.

  • Reading Bible and praying whenever I want to, because the Living God of the Bible is always everywhere.
  • Mild weather.
  • Walking to the shops.
  • Walking to the shops on my own legs.
  • Walking to the shops on my own legs in mild weather.
  • Having good Egyptian people in our lives.
  • Eating the last piece of biltong someone thoughtfully brought when visiting.
  • Sitting (in the still mild weather) in our garden, listening to the birds chirping without the competition of the air conditioner sounds (because the weather is still mild and the aircons are still off).
  • Aircons in summer!!!
  • Drinking rooibos tea with my husband and son on a Saturday morning outside in the garden (when the weather is mild) or in the TV room or swimming pool (in summer, when the weather is not so mild).
  • Sleeping through the night without fear of violent house-breaks.
  • Waking up in the morning. (What a privilege!)
  • Having an Afrikaans (my native language) speaking buurvrou (neighbour) in the building across ours!
  • Having even more friends from home nearby and being able to lunch with some of them every week!
  • Feeding at least two of the many hungry cats in this huge city.
  • Watching ‘our’ two cats doing all their cat-things in our garden on top of the parking garage.
  • Taking pictures. Lots and lots and lots of them.
  • Being thankful for every ‘big’ or ‘little’ thing that works out.
  • Being safe after there had been uncertainties.
  • Aircons droning out the muezzin calls.
  • Power coming back on after cuts. (These days they aren’t as frequent and as long as in during the first year. Something to be thankful for – especially in summer!)
  • Experiencing everything with my husband and son!
  • Kissing my husband good night.
  • Kissing my son good night. (That’s probably not something he would like people to read on the Internet ((but he likes it – I can tell)).)
  • Seeing my husband happy because he can watch South African rugby and cricket matches on the satellite TV channels.
  • Paging through the teabags at my Japanese friend’s dinner to find a rooibos tea bag!
  • Having lots of friends from around the world to hang out with, visit new places with and to learn from.
  • Being able to buy the medicine I need and don’t get from home.
  • Being healthy (I hope).
  • Coming home to a haven of safety and tranquility.
  • Having a good landlady.
  • …the list can go on…

These are just a few things and when writing them down, I realise that they are not so little. They are pretty big and important. They are the glue that holds life together. To be in awe when seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time or feeling small against the largest of the Giza pyramids is splendid, but one can survive life without it. Of course travelling enriches our lives and I am a big supporter thereof (even if it is just exploring outside of you immediate comfort zone) and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on these experiences! But it really is the ‘small’ things that we can’t live without, which makes the mundane extraordinary – which is the difference between letting life get away from you and living in the moment. It is the ‘small’ things in life which brings sustainable happiness.

 

© 2016  – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock is trying hard to be an awesomest wife and greatest lover, finest mom and to write something all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s two cats and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function as a normal human being.

The Woman who made me Fall in Love with Afrikaans Words only to Realise that she was Actually Writing in English and was an American

Helen

I remember my pre-school growing up years in two phases – a phase where we lived on two farms, although I actually only remember the second farm. Of the first I only have two memories – one where I received my soft toy monkey and namesake, Fielies, as a Christmas gift around my third birthday (yes, I actually remember getting the present and opening it) and the other where my sister, twelve years older than me, ignored my mother’s instructions and gave me Coke-Cola in a baby bottle, even though I wasn’t supposed to having Coke or be drinking bottle anymore.

Of the second farm I have many happy memories, much of them involving my brother, father and grandfather.

The second phase was living in the neighbouring town. Here my memories contain mostly our house, my brother who was nine years older than me and in high school in the next town during the week – and my grandfather’s shop.

My grandfather sold stationary, fireworks and also gifts and gift cards in his shop. My grandfather and grandmother taught me to read and write numbers and I helped them put handwritten prices on the products in the shop. This made me feel very smart. But what didn’t make me feel smart was that although I could write numbers, I couldn’t read letters. The gift card display cupboard filled with Helen Steiner Rice cards made me realised that. The cards were different than the other cards in the sense that they didn’t only have words inside the cards, but also on the outsides.

I was fascinated by these little symbols that, when put together with other sets of letter combinations, formed words. I was even more amazed by the fact that so many different words could be formed by using those letters. And with that, if you know how, one could make sentences using all kinds of different words. And these sentences became the keys to creating other worlds. Worlds full of stories.

To overcome my frustration I sometimes asked my grandmother or grandfather to read me some of the cards instead of a storybook. I didn’t understand much, because the words confronted emotions and life experience I could yet identify with. But what I did get, was the wonderful rhythm of the rhyme that made those words sound as beautiful as a symphony in my ears. I could just listen and listen. As soon as I learned to read in school, I used Helen’s cards to practice my reading.

Then one day a new order from the big city arrived which got mixed up somewhere and the shop got someone else’s order and to my shock and wonder I found out that Helen was speaking English too! I could now practice my English reading too. It paid its dividends, because my English spelling became very good and my vocabulary grew beyond my second language reading book’s arsenal. I won’t comment on my speaking ability though because in our town no one spoke English. There were Afrikaans, Tswana, Portuguese and Lebanese people living there, but somehow no one spoke English!

Only many years later I learned to my surprise that Helen Steiner Rice (I thought the name was a bit foreign) wasn’t a nice Afrikaans speaking boere antie (Afrikaner/farmer aunty), but actually a very nice American woman who started writing greeting cards when she took over a greeting card company and she realised the need for cards with feel good messages.

Although Helen was dubbed ‘Ambassador of Sunshine’ at the Gibson Art Company in Cincinnati, she didn’t only know the sunny side of life. Her father died when she was young and instead of pursuing her dreams, she helped her family survive. She married a young business man who lost everything in the 1929 New York stock market crash and was left widowed at age 32 after he took his own life due to depression related illness. But she became a successful business woman and ran the greeting card company for forty years, while keep writing her beautiful poems and unknowingly taught a little Afrikaans girl how to read, first in Afrikaans and then in English. And then to write. First in Afrikaans and then in English.

Thank you, Mrs. Helen Steiner Rice, for unlocking the world of words for me.

HSR 10 Commandments

PS: You can read the story of Helen Steiner Rice here.

PPS: I found out today that either Google doesn’t know everything or that I don’t know how to get the information I need out of Google. I tried to find out who was responsible for the translation of Helen’s poems into Afrikaans, but I couldn’t. I also tried to find out into how many languages her work is translated into. I’m still searching. If you have more information on this, please comment.

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© 2016  – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s ginger cat – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function as a normal human being.

Ideas for Clearing your Head and get Ready for a Good Writing Year

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At the end of a year and before the next begins, it is a good idea to spend some time ‘taking stock’ of our lives. During the next few days, get your journal or a notebook, go and sit in a quiet place and contemplate. Then make two lists.

List 1

List the following in your ‘To think about’ list:

  • Difficult choices you had to make;
  • Changes that occurred in your private and working life;
  • Mistakes you made;
  • Names of people you have to ask forgiveness for or to forgive. (Then forgive them.)
  • Bad things that happened to you or around you;
  • Problems you have that is still unsolved;
  • Good surprises;
  • Good things that happened to you or around you; and
  • Things you are thankful for.

Take Time to Think in Between

Take some time to think these things over. If you have gone through an exercise like this last year, go through your lists and mark the things that you wanted to do, but didn’t.

List 2 

Make another ‘To do’ list about the following:

  • Things that you really wanted to do during the last year, but didn’t;
  • Things you want to change – personal and workwise;
  • A few things on your ‘bucket list’ you want to do the coming year;
  • Things you want to do for someone else; and
  • Solutions to solve those unsolved problems from your first list.

Get into Some Creative Action

  • Now that your head is (hopefully) clearer, turn the page of your journal or notebook and write down as many story ideas you can think of if you are a fiction writer.
  • If you are a non-fiction writer, jot down ideas for articles, booklets etc.
  • From then on, take one idea per day from your last list and free write about it.
  • After free writing, tackle one thing on your ‘to do’ list and write down what you are going to do about it. Write down small goals and keep to it. Revisit this list weekly to see how you progress and make adjustments if needed.
  • After you have done this, take time to sit somewhere quiet to think and relax.
  • Spend some time with your loved ones.
  • Make a habit of these four steps by repeating it at least weekly.

Enjoy your time of rest.

 

© 2014

I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I temporarily share my living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, almost-university-student son, the building’s ginger cat – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to live as a normal functioning human being.

 

Writing Towards a Dream

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I have slowly started to spend time writing again. Now that Michael had finished school I am supposed to have more time, although the functions accompanying Deon’s job here in Egypt distracts me from writing as ‘full time’ as I want to. But, I appreciate and cherish every moment I can use to write. I am working to finish my novel, Change of Heart. It’s at 81000+ words now which makes about 356 typed pages. Not bad, but there’s quite a bit of writing to do still.

I am also reading a book Why Authors Fail by Derek Doepker. (Available from Kindle ebooks at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Why-Authors-Fail-Mistakes-Self-Published-ebook/dp/B00L9GM1RO) I can tick off almost all 17 of the mistakes he discusses. It is tough to realise that I have so many flaws as a writer and worst is that I knew all these things before I read the book. It is as if he just summarised all my shortcomings in book form. So, aside from writing, I would have to work hard to fix those mistakes and inadequacies. But in the meantime, I have more important things to do. Like writing.

One of the questions asked by Mr. Doepker is why is becoming a successful author important to me?I thought that I should do the exercise and write down my reasons. It will also serve as motivation. So, here’s my reasons:

1. I don’t have a choice. I write because I have to – because I love writing. I have stories and ‘people’ living in my head which have to get out. Some I hope are good. Some are horribly sentimental and will never be written. They would always have to linger oh, so sweetly in the matter between my ears. My poor brain! Writing energises me. When I write, I exercise and I cook and get compliments from my family for the nice food they get. It makes us all feel good.
2. I want not only to write and publish a book – I want to write and publish books. I have written a few books and quite a few longish short stories already – it is the publishing part which lack seriously in the picture of my dream job. I want to be good enough a writer to have at least more than ten books published. For that I need to write more regularly. More and regularly. And I need to muster the courage from somewhere to get the first one published.
3. I want to be a successful author because I think I write good enough stories to receive at least some income from it. This will make me feel useful. Not that I’m not. I am a mom, but the boy is all grown up now and I want to ‘redefine’ myself as a wordpreneur who actually sells my words.
4. By being a successful author I will thank God for giving me the talent to write.
5. I want my husband and son to be proud of me. I know they are already, but I want their pride being expanded to the gifts given to me.
6. I want to get my writing published, because it depresses me when I read or watch programs about other people doing what they are good at and succeed and I have still ‘done nothing’ about my dream. I want to live my dream of being a paid writer.
7. I want my children’s story, Yeovangya, made into an animated movie, because every time I see a new animation movie it frustrates me that my movie is not yet out there – and it take. So. Very. Long. To. Make. Yeovangya is available as a Kindle ebook at Amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Yeovangya-Riette-De-Kock-ebook/dp/B008CP2RQ0. (See, Mr. Doepker, I’m marketing. I’m working on at least one of my weaknesses.)
8. If I don’t at least get one book published, I will feel very disappointed – maybe even a bit like a failure.
9. I must at least try. If I don’t make it, then I know I wasn’t good enough. There will be closure in that. But if I don’t try, I will always feel regret and dissatisfaction. And there’s nothing worse than living a “What if..?” life.
10. If I don’t make it as a successful author of formally published books, I can always keep on publishing ebooks and hope my family and friends love me enough to buy my electronic scribblings for forty Rand or so…

What I have to do now is to do something about the shortcomings listed in Mr. Doepker’s book. And then do my best at succeeding. WOW, this is a very close-to-home confession. Now my big dream is out there for the world (or the few loyal family and friends at least who actually read my blog) to see and hold me accountable.

Eish!

I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I temporarily share my living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, almost-university-student son, the building’s ginger cat – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to live as a normal functioning human being.