Birthdays have this nasty habit of sneaking up on a person. I know there are some that love to celebrate, with all the bells and whistles...but I fear as you get older, and older, and older it all begins to blur.

Numbers become lost, unless it's a major birthday, one of those that end in a zero. My sister tends to ask me how old I am - she's fourteen months younger and so when she knows how old I am, knows how old she is.

Because as most of us come to realise, age is simply a number. It doesn't tell us how healthy we are, how smart we are, how happy we are...just how many years we have lived on this planet.

So what have I learnt after living this many years?

That I still don't like red wine. Give me a port or tokay and it's another thing entirely, but alas my palate has not matured with the rest of me.

I've learnt that I have this grey swathe in my hair, bit like Cruella De Vil, beside the cowlick that decides where I part my hair. (Hello hairdresser, I'm booked in this arvo).

I've learnt that shyness does't necessarily go away, you simply learn how to deal with it. Put on a stage face and fake it till you make it.

As for writing....these are my top five of what I have personally come to realise.

1. Read, read and dare I say read. Immerse yourself in the classics, delve into different genres and styles. Read poetry and biographies, non-fiction and chick lit, murder mysteries and sci fi, westerns and graphic novels. Reading can only improve your understanding of what others are doing, what works and what doesn't, can inspire and delight.

2. You don't have to write. So many people tell you that if you want to be a writer you have to write every single day. No matter what. I'm sorry but sometimes this is just impossible. Life gets in the way. But there are also times when you don't want to write, when you feel lack lustre, that you wonder why you do it. So stop. Take a break. If you want to write then do so, if not...don't. Take time out...smell the roses, take a walk, take a something else.

3. Rejections are not personal.  No one is sending out a rejection because they don't like the look of you, or they think your dress sense is absurd. Rejections are based on the writing before them. It simply wasn't right for them---on that day. Not going to say that rejections are ever easy. They hurt, no matter how many you get. Gradually, over time, writers are meant to build up thick layers so this negativity doesn't hurt us as much. Good luck with that.

4. Every writer writes the same way. We may do it at different times and places. Some on the kitchen table after the breakfast dishes are cleared away, others at desks in beautiful writing rooms, others in cafes or on the train heading to work. Some do it on laptops, others on PC's, some long hand with paper and pen. No matter how you do it, you do it word by word. Sometimes those words flow beautifully, you smile at the muse and delight in each phrase. Other times it's painful word by word...slow and excruciating. Everyone procrastinates and dreams and avoids deadlines....but every one also writes the same way....word by word.

5. Talking about writing is not writing. So many people say they want to write a novel. I think the rough statistics are for every 100 people that start, 3 finish. I've managed to write several fact quite a few over the years. Two remain unfinished, as in I never finished the final draft. Two are first drafts. Several have been worked on and tweaked over the years. But I have proven to myself that I can do it. I can write over 80,000 words.

Experience, and age, has taught me a lot. The one thing I do admit to missing is that naive and youthful self belief. All those times I sent a manuscript off believing it would be accepted and published. In those early years, a lot were. Gave me the inspiration to keep on going.

Since then the writing world has gotten harder.

So many magazines that once accepted short stories no longer exist. Publishers have declined, and those that remain seem unwilling to take a gamble on 'unknown' authors. I can understand, this is a business and they need to make money. Which also explains the huge surge in self publishing.

Now finding the inspiration is becoming difficult. I've become jaded and much more understanding of how difficult it really is. Just look at the statistics of how many writers living in Australia, actually make a living out of it.

Scary stuff.

So here's to another year older. More lines and wrinkles, more grey hairs...more of my body becoming uncooperative, stiff and sore, and steadily heading south.

And here's to another year of experience and knowledge and adventures.



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