Category Archives: Favorite quotes

Happy Easter 2017!

I wanted to wish happy holidays to all who read this blog. So I decided to search for an Easter quote reflecting my current happy mood, which primarily roots from being with the people dear to me.

I found the following:

“Easter spells out beauty, the rare beauty of new life.” ~S.D. Gordon

This statement is very true. The spring “spells out beauty, the rare beauty of new life” too. Maybe this is how it all started. The spring is inspiring. It inspires new life, new projects (private, personal and at work), a new month, a new day, a new moment.

I am immensely grateful to have met (both in my private and work life) many wonderful people who bring a vast amount of beautiful and new moments and impressions my way.
Life can be so much fun!

I would like to thank all who read this blog, who work with me, who support me with their friendship, good advice and simply being there!

I wish you all happy holidays, and many beautiful, sunny and joyful moments!

Pictures: Tulips, the flowers of spring; my children on a spring tour in a beautiful castle; and Easter eggs colored by my children, their grandparents, my husband and me.

Cheerleading for Writers: X – X-ing Out (Or a How to Face Self-Edits)

In the article starting with an E, we’ve talked about editing, and what emotions might rush through us when we open a file with our manuscript sent to us by our editor.

Recently I have found myself struggling with self-edits. As I write this article, I am in the process to incorporate the second self-edits of my soon-to-be-published book on business rules, mainly targeted at small businesses. The self-edits on paper went on some days easily and a bit slower on others. But they didn’t stagnate for a few days in a row. However incorporating them into the manuscript on my computer did. For more than three days in a row.

The reason was simple. The pages were full of hand-made notes. In case of some pages it seemed sometimes that changes needed to be made on every row. Apart from that I realized two chapters had to change places. This would mean at least some modifications of the text inside those chapters, but maybe also those adjacent to them.

I didn’t expect so much change to come in the second self-edit. I thought something like that came in the first self-edit, not the second. Today, I am actually not quite sure which of the self-edits was harder for my previous books, but my brain had this idea of self-edits gradually becoming easier with each new edit. I guessed wrong. At least for this mentioned non-fiction book.

Was this erroneous expectation the reason for my procrastination? I don’t know now, I didn’t know it at that time and it probably didn’t matter at all.

What mattered was how to move from there.

Inspired by my “gamified” style of work — my notebook with to-do lists carries the name “Victoria’s Game Book” — I came up with the following idea. “Why not give myself a point for implementing each change, whether it is a X (deletion), insertion, or both, in the text?” I thought. “If I do so, then I would concentrate on each step, because points can only be gathered one by one in this case. While working on one of those changes I might forget about the daunting appearance of the whole project and just be busy gathering those points.”

I can report now, this approach helped. I stopped counting the points for each edit and incorporated change at some point, but this approach did let me step over my procrastination and reclaim fun in working on every stage of my projects again.

I read recently that playing games at work might be very motivating but also with some negative by-products. One of these negative side effects was the apparent decrease in productiveness after the motivating game had finished.

But what if we don’t stop playing? What if we take every step in the projects we pursue as a draw or turn in a strategic game?

Do you remember the famous quote by George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

We don’t have to stop playing at all. Life is a fun game. Let’s play it. Let’s stay young.

Each project has of course its game rules and we are the game designers, who develop and adjust them. The main adjustment we have to make is how to bring the fun factor into the project we have to carry out. And remember, we ourselves, are also the customers, the players of these games we design and develop.

Gathering as many points I can for the given project is definite fun for me. Once I managed to gather 15 points in a day, by addressing many small and urgent tasks. I felt extremely elated by the end of the day.

Now I am off to my next project game of today, which happens to be the self-edit work I mentioned above. As I edit and post this article for the Cheerleading for Writers, I gladly report that I have a good chance of finishing this previously seemingly daunting second self-edit today.

And what’s your next project game?

Picture: I saw this dress a couple of weeks ago while walking down my favourite pedestrian street in Aalborg. I guess wearing a Pokémon dress would definitely gamify one’s day. How can you be possibly be overly serious wearing that dress? 😀


“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Cheerleading for Writers: W – Wonder and How We Find Our Way to It

In dedicated chapter I – Ideas and Inspiration, we’ve talked at length about finding ideas and inspiration. The conclusion was that we can’t control of how the ideas appear. It can be anything, and they can appear anywhere. Completely unexpectedly.

This could be the clue. The unexpectedness of it all.

But where does the unexpected starts? How do we find a way to the point where we exclaim or whisper, “Wow!”?

How do we find the beginning of the path, which leads to that moment when we are taken with this power of wonder and into the momentum of passion?

One of my favourite writers, who has been quoted many times in this book, Elizabeth Gilbert wrote the following brilliant words in her book “Big Magic: Creative Leaving Beyond Fear”:

“I believe that curiosity is the secret. Curiosity is the truth and the way of creative living. Curiosity is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. Furthermore, curiosity is accessible to everyone. Passion can seem intimidatingly out of reach at times — a distant tower of flame, accessible only to geniuses and to those who are specially touched by God. But curiosity is a milder, quieter, more welcoming, and more democratic entity. The stakes of curiosity are also far lower than the stakes of passion. Passion makes you get divorced and sell all your possessions and shave your head and move to Nepal. Curiosity doesn’t ask nearly so much of you.

In fact, curiosity only ever asks one simple question: ‘Is there anything you’re interested in?’


Even a tiny bit?

No matter how mundane or small?”

Curiosity was what made Liz, as Elizabeth Gilbert and her friends call herself, try out gardening, which later made her curious about plants and their origins, and then about the history of botany, and finally ignited a passion of writing an epic story of a woman passionate about botany and discovering through botany it secrets of the world. Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel “Signature Of All Things” was an amazing best-selling work of creativity, which in spite of it being fiction, has been nominated in Great Britain in 2014 for The Welcome Prize, an award for achievement in writing on a medical subject. “The Signature of All Things”, or SOAT as Liz Gilbert loves referring to her now famous novel, was the only novel on the list of nominees, alongside works of recognized scientific authors Andrew Solomom and Oliver Sachs. (You can read about Liz’s excitement on this nomination on her side following this link: I am sure this nomination was made due to the amazingly meticulous research clearly visible when reading this novel.

Many would agree that such an achievement would not be possible without passion.

But the passion came later.

For her, and I dare to say for all of us, the magic of any passion starts with curiosity.

Curiosity was also the one that helped me to make the first steps in writing. My fear was to big to let me see the looming passion for writing inside me. But curiosity was a gentle friend. “Don’t worry. Just try it out. You don’t have to commit to anything.” It said, “Taste it and if you don’t like it, spit it out.”

After writing my first short story in 2009 in a notebook, which I still have today, I didn’t spit it out. I liked the taste too much. And still love it.

Yes, I am sure curiosity, this gentle friend, will help me out in the other daunting beginnings. “Let’s see what we can do today”, it will tell me.

Dear, writers friends, let’s continue our journey to the wonder of creativity, and let’s start by looking around and looking closer at what we say to ourselves or out loud, “Hmm, this could be interesting.”

Picture: Autumn treasures discovered on the way home from Niklas school. Nature will never stop being amazing.


“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Cheerleading for Writers: T – Tell It Like It Is

We’ve talked about being honest to oneself, whether in writing or while editing. And we’ve addressed finding courage and being honest with others about our stories. We’ve also talked about “splitting open” as Natalie Goldberg says in her book “Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within”.

But what does it mean to be honest to oneself and other people? What does it mean to tell it like it is?

The answers might mean something different for each of us. But are there commonalities?

This is what I have discovered, and which also surprised me immensely. This surprised me because the realizations, I had in the process, were new to me and also because, at the same time, they made so much sense.

Honesty and kindness are mutually inclusive and are cannot be true without one another.

I thought a long time erroneously that being kind to myself meant to claim time and space for myself from others. Aspiring writers hear often, “Protect your writing time.” It sounds like somebody is attacking our writing time, or is eager to steal it. Yes, sure we get interrupted, but the same happens in every other job. And there we simply try to go back to the task we were before interruption. Or we do ask others not to disturb us for some time. But this claim to have time is not uttered with as many complaints as it is uttered in relation to writing. At least, I have never heard of interruptions more often or with a more negative tone than since I became a writer.

For me the brightest light-bulb in this respect shone on an evening when I complained to my husband about my lack of time for writing. “Other authors take one hour or more in the evenings to write or even go to writers’ retreats solely with the purpose to write their books. I also want this! Even if it is just for five minutes every day.”

His answer was short and couldn’t have been more honest, direct, and fair. He said, “So go to your desk, close the door behind you and write.”

I was speechless. All I could do in response was go to our little office, close the door, put the timer for five minutes and write.

I managed to write three short paragraphs during those five minutes. I did edit them heavily later, but the easiness with which they’d flown struck me. I realized that the whole heaviness of the task didn’t come from the lack of time to write but from the drama I have created around taking this time. This drama had not contained even an ounce either of kindness or honesty, neither to those around me nor to myself.

As I observed myself testing honesty and kindness to myself and others and tried to apply them separately from each other, I realized that they simply stop existing without each other.

As I tried being kind to myself without seeing that I was the one hindering myself to do what I wanted to and instead putting the blame on others, I stopped being kind all together. Blaming others in my inability to take time for my writing didn’t buy me a ticket to feeling good as I thought it would. I thought that by putting the responsibility for this on the others would relieve the guilt I felt inside.

After this hadn’t worked out, I decided to blame myself instead, and expose my “mistakes” (almost) publicly. This was my idea of being honest. But soon after, I felt miserable and started whining and asking people around me for mercy. To my surprise, many did have compassion and understanding. The one, who hadn’t and happened not being able to see the truth, was me.

Understanding that honesty and kindness cannot fully bloom without each other was a big relief. There was suddenly both calmness and time to do what I wanted to do. I didn’t have neither beat nor lie to myself. All there was to do was to become aware that I was in discomfort and then make a choice what to do next without trying to fix myself or anything. All there was to do is to move forward. And people around me seemed not only to accept but also understand me more than they ever did before.

Ignorance is a way of saying no and being dishonest and unkind.

Have you noticed that when you tried to ignore someone or something, these people, things, events and memories of them seem to stick around? I recently experienced that at the first parents’ meeting at my son’s school.

I was very much looking forward to this event. From two reasons. First, I had never been at a parents’ and teachers’ meeting at a school before, and as a kid I always wondered, what was happening there. All the accounts by my parents and movies displaying many kinds of possible and impossible scenarios of such events couldn’t replace the wish to experience them myself. The parents’ evenings in the kindergarten neither. It had to be a first-hand experience at a school.

The second reason was that I was really curious how this is happening nowadays and especially in the country so different from the one I grew up in.

So even the planned two and a half hour duration couldn’t stop my merry anticipation of the event. I volunteered to go and was very curious about it.

When I arrived, I saw many other parents gathering. Some of them had also older children in that school and knew the teachers and each other. Other were as new as I was.

I noticed that some of the parents seemed not to be that keen of being there. Or at least they weren’t that merry or smiling. Well, we all have our stories and fights, we fight inside us. So, who knows why they aren’t smiling, I thought.

I decided to ignore them and concentrate on my positive anticipation, no matter who was smiling or not, no matter how many prejudices I heard of parents’ evenings, especially the long ones. And I’ve been told two and a half hours for a parents’ meeting were way too long!

I waited for the meeting to being, watched the teachers, trying to ignore other parents.

At some point I noticed that I wasn’t smiling anymore, that I had a frown above my eyes and worrying thoughts filled my mind. What if Niklas had done something wrong and they would tell this today? In front of all other parents!? What if he was not coping with school that well? What if the way we were upbringing him at home was wrong?

These thoughts were there although I have experienced my son completely differently since he started school. His posture changed, his attitude also. He’s helping more and more at home, became more calm and positively thoughtful. He loves speaking of what he learned at school, looks forward for the next day and asked to let him stay longer at school after school hours.

So why was I having those thoughts?

I didn’t manage to answer that question in my head, because I suddenly let myself observe the way those worrisome thoughts made me feel.

This is when it dawned on me. This is how those frowning parents felt! They might not had had the same thoughts as I did, but those tightening arms of worry were squeezing them most probably in the same way they squeezed me. Fear or at least anxiety of what might come out of this meeting.

As I embraced this observation instead of ignoring and rejecting it, I found my frown disappearing and I started smiling again. But with a different kind of smile than before.

Besides I found myself looking into other parents’ eyes. And … they smiled back at me.

That was an amazing discovery and there and then I understood that the same applied to all areas of my life, including writing.

When I tried to ignore the idea of writing a book, the thoughts of it and especially a specific story, that of my father, kept coming back. This battle inside my head was anything but pleasant. Everything changed as soon as I surrendered and embraced the idea of putting my father’s story into words.

Now I practice to embrace what comes my way more often and often. And I can’t stop being surprised and awed how reach the experiences are.

Ignorance does not protect us of something unwanted. Disregarding other people and events will never help because we are never isolated, even when we feel lonely.

There are of course people, actions and events, who and which deserve sometimes being said No to or ignored. These are anyone or anything biased towards aggression. Because attackers and aggressors gain their energy and power from attention.

But if anyone or anything stirs something up inside us, then ignorance to how we and others feel will only hurt us and make us more vulnerable. Just like in traffic, ignoring a traffic sign can be fatal, ignoring a feeling generated by interacting with the world around us can make our lives poorer and more isolated.

As I learned from Ariel and Shya Kane and their approach of instantaneous transformation, awareness and being in the moment, the least painful and most enjoyable way to live life is to allow ourselves and others be they way we all are in any given moment, be present with mind and body in this given moment and see what is there to do without ignorance, judgment (acknowledging that ignorance is a form of judgment), evaluation, or any other bias.

You don’t have to explain too much to come to the point. Fear has the tendency to bend the truth.

Here comes our old friend fear again. Have you noticed that sometimes when you want to say something, you try to wrap it up into a long introduction as if it was a fragile antique book or vase, you needed to handle it with special gloves.

We often forget that truth is solid and sharp, like a knife. Wrapping up hides what it is about. I observed that often when I try to prepare my listener for the truth with a long introduction, I lose him or her. And when my point comes, they don’t get it. Then I get an impression that they disagree or reject me. Only after a long clarification we find out that we were of the same opinion or that what I wanted to say resonated with them.

Of course, we need to be attentive to the way we present our truth to others, so that it doesn’t offend them. But we don’t have to wrap it up in something thick and heavy for someone to get it. If we do it, then they will probably go by without noticing anything.

Let’s go back to the analogy of a knife. If somebody asks you to pass them a knife, you will take care that the sharp side doesn’t face their hand when they take it. At the same time I am sure that you won’t be packing the knife into a thick roll of paper, or those plastic wrappings with thousands of the tiny air-bags before giving the knife further.

Also in fiction and while showing, “telling like it is” is the best path to take.

“Well,” you might ask, “this all good and well for non-fiction, but aren’t you supposed to imagine and fake things in fiction?”

Imagine — Yes. Fake — No.

But even the word imagination might not quite express the way the truth is said in fiction.

I see imagination like a transmission device and a door opener. We think, for example, “Let’s imagine, I’m on the moon, or in the Oval Office, or with Alice in the Wonderland”. Imagination brings us there. But then what we learned so far and the magic motor of our brain work together and we see the fiction, which ceases to be one, clearly.

Dreams come in pictures, including the most vivid ones, living us wondering whether we are awake or fell asleep as we open our eyes.

And I do believe that the true fiction comes in surreal but vivid images. We look somewhere behind the desk and computer screen, we are working at, and see our characters, and the scenes they are involved it. Then we try to capture what we see in words.

But if you take your inner eyes off the scene and try to claim something is happening without actually witnessing or feeling it, then you are faking it and the reader will know.

The first time I experienced this was when I was trying to figure out what could have made my father, being the protagonist of my first novel, “The Truth About Family”, become in one scene oblivious of a person bullying him for many years.

And so I imagined or rather turned to peer inside the headmaster’s office, made all characters freeze and entered the room. I realized that my father was looking at something, tried to find the spot he was looking at, and then I saw it. A letter he waited for so long and which he hoped to bring him the news about his long lost family.

I could clearly see that letter, in thin, yellowish envelope with address scribbled in spiky letters and black ink. The recipient’s name was that of my father.

This description of the letter never found its way into the book, but seeing it helped me to describe my father’s feelings upon discovering his name on the envelope and that the sender was the one he hoped to be.

The initial attempts to describe the scene, before I entered the room made me speculate that my father might have been ignoring the bully by will and trying to concentrate on the headmaster. But all this felt strange and wasn’t working. It was like I was recounting the story as said to me by a third person, who had never been there.

Entering and seeing the room opened a completely new possibility and helped me feel what authenticity means when writing fiction. No one can see a scene as I see it. Another person would see it with different eyes. And this — very personal to me — seeing is what makes what I write original and true.

There are many perfect ways to tell it like it is. The experience of how perfect they feel can change with time and with what we learn.

So now we know what to look for when telling it like it is. Whatever it is, we know exactly how to tell it. There is only one way of doing it. Right?

Yes and No.

No, because you can write the same story, the same sentence, in various ways or from various points of view. Frustratingly, or maybe not so, they all have the ability to be true.

Even for the same person but in various moments and situations the truth can be different.

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of “Eat, Pray, Love”, wrote the following about a 10-pages-long short story, which she had to rewrite because she had to shorten it with 30%:

“The new version was neither better nor worse than the old version; it was just profoundly different.” Elizabeth Gilbert, “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear”

And I am sure both versions felt true to her in the moments they were created and polished.

So this was about the No.

But the answer is also a Yes. Because there is only one choice in any given moment. We usually choose the one that feels better, or feels right, as we say. This choice becomes our truth.

Other people might not believe that we mean what we say. But their belief or trust in us doesn’t always or not only have to do with us and what we say.

If we tell the truth and bring our authentic selves in what we write, why then some people don’t believe us? Why do they frown at what we write or what we say? Can in be that we didn’t say the truth even if in that moment, when the words were born, we were sure of their authenticity?

One of the reasons of my fear to write a book or write and share my writing in general was the fear of other people not only not liking it, but most of all I was afraid of being criticized and told that what I do is not correct, not right, not true. That it was all wrong. Even if I gave all of me and did the very best I could.

Why didn’t then some people appreciate it, especially when I needed that appreciation the most?

Well, the answer was both revealing and surprising. People who criticize without any constructive ideas are worried too. Their critique has often little to do with me. It often reflects their worries and fears, their struggle. It can also mean that what I have created has stirred something inside them, made them confused and uncomfortable.

Having heard sayings as “The path to enlightenment goes through confusion” or “If you want to meet your true self then you need to step out of your comfort zone” doesn’t save us from upsets and negative reactions towards what touched that sensitive string in us.

When I experienced this new to me realization to why some people are so offensive in their critique, I genuinely calmed down. Understanding that these people are just as vulnerable as I am, and that they too are utterly scared of being offensively critiqued without any appreciation of their effort, just as I am also scared at times, helped me relax and stop judging them.

Some words of conclusion about Telling It Like It Is.

I thought this article would be short. But it ended up being one of longest in this book. Maybe because the meaning of telling the truth is paradoxical. It is both absolute and indefinite. Absolute and precise for one person, in his or her circumstance at one particular moment, different for other people and circumstances, and varying over time. And even if our truth is not absolute over time, it does feel absolute and lasting if we don’t take other person’s reactions to it personally, if we just utter it and let it go, and if we just come back to the current moment to find the truth of right here and right now.

Picture: This is what I see when I turn to look at the all behind me in my little office at home. The feather-pen is a Christmas gift from my sister-in-law; the little reproduction of a girl from Las Meninas by Diego Velasquez was given to me for speaking at the S1000D User Forum in Seville last week; and the little reminder with truth about what happiness means was a little gift for myself I found last month in a gift shop.


“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Cheerleading for Writers: R – Research

Like almost any other term I’ve addressed in this cheerleading glossary for writers, research shows all signs of relativity.

Research doesn’t bring the cherished words to paper or computer screen, but it can inspire their appearance and creation.

On the other hand research can also “swallow” a writer and save her or him from writing — this longed for but still unsettling because creative process.

Let’s explore research using the mightiest diagnostic tools, the seven key questions, Who, What, Why, When, Where, How, and How much about research.

Who should research?

Any writer (of course!), independent on the genre he or she is writing in. The answers on the other questions below will give more clues to this as well.

What is research?

In his book “Creative Writing: A Guide and Glossary to Fiction Writing”, Colin Bulman said that,

“Readers expect the background to fiction to be accurate and authentic.”

This definitely applies even more to non-fiction. But also to fantasy and of course science fiction.

Colin Bulman has named reading, interviews, corresponding, visiting various places outside and buildings, watching films and television, and of course the Internet as the main means of research.

I surely agree. But I learned that reading, asking others, corresponding and watching in respect to the background of a story one writes might not be the only source of inspiration.

One of the greatest resources for me are books and articles on writing craft and art of publishing. I’m an physicist and engineer as my background, and engineers often share solutions to the challenges they face. They apply those solutions to the task at hand and create a new solution out of them. And this is what I found to be the most effective and efficient for me as a writer.

Like in anything else there is no need to re-invent a wheel, even if it is the latest model of high tech wheel with one thousand and thirty five edges instead of a completely round shape. We as writers can look at the latest model and say, “Wow, that’s great! What happens if I add six more edges and see how this wheel will act in my seven-wheeled car of a story?”

We are all inspiring and can learn from each other, whether we are writers, engineers, doctors, housewives, children, students, pensioners or someone of a completely different background.

Why research?

The quote by Colin Bulman above gives the answer to this question. There is also another possibility, which comes to my mind. And it is about having fun. In order to have fun you simply have to keep on learning, finding and discovering something new. Continuously.

Coming back to the question above — what is research — we can say that research can be also experimenting either with various lines of a story or literally experimenting and trying to do what our characters do, like for example flying a plane (as David Walliams did for one of his latest books “Grandpa’s Great Escape”).

So, yes, this is why research is important. It lets us grow and learn new things, have fun and communicate this enjoyment to our readers.

When is research appropriate?

One could also ask here, “What exactly should a writer research and in what situation?”

I discovered that for me the most urgent point to put a manuscript aside and do some research is when the following thoughts appear in my head about a historical detail or a fact, “I got this. I don’t have to double-check this. It’s not that important anyway.” Especially when these thoughts start to become too loud in my head so that I have to stop the actual writing. In that moment I know my brain is arguing with something authentic and true in me, which is eager to learn.

If in this moment I wholeheartedly surrender and open a search window on the Internet or a book from my shelf, then I catch myself often holding my breath, like I am about to find out a secret. However strange this may sound, but I am sure that exactly this feeling is one of the factors that keeps writers writing, researching and traveling around the world to find more exciting details for their stories or go and do crazy things like having oneself be arrested in order to find out how it looks, feels and smells like being arrested and sit in the back of a police car (as Angela Ackerman did for her and Becca Puglisi’s recently published “The “Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces”).

Where can research be done?

Today research can be done anywhere. From home, while traveling to a certain setting, or in a setting created by yourself, whether virtually (with cards on a corkboard, by gathering images and links on one’s computer) or physically by building a certain setting in one’s garden. One of my greatest inspirations here is Nora Roberts. She uses all kinds of settings, and invents characters with almost endless variety of backgrounds and moods into her books. Especially the places she describes in her books are inspired both by the life around her or from far afar. And if she doesn’t have a certain setting then she creates one of her own. She had a hotel being built out of an historical building in Boonsboro, a small town in Maryland, where she lives. After having built that hotel, Nora Roberts had used the experiences gathered during the design and building of the hotel as well as from the pizzeria owned by her son and situated on the other side of the road where the hotel is situated, and of course her imagination, in a romantic trilogy called “Inn Boonsboro Trilogy”.

So there are not limits to where to research. Of course the financial means can set some limits, but not necessarily. By using the methods mentioned above you can still create or recreate a setting you are looking for while never having been there.

One of the most memorable writing exercises for me was to write a story about a character coming from a country I had never been before. I wrote this fictional piece about a man, named Matti and coming from Finland, shortly before I was on a business trip to Vaasa, a city on the west coast of Finland. I did and posted a number of writing exercises on my blog, but I do remember this one as one of my favourite. I guess the challenge to research and to write about something I knew absolutely nothing about before that was the fun factor here.

I’d like also to mention photographs as a special place of research for me. You could say that they are rather the means and I would agree, in general. But for me they are also a place to come back to. A very special place in my heart is occupied by the pictures from my father’s childhood and youth I used as an inspiration for the book based on my father’s story, “The Truth About Family”. I carried the copies of these photographs almost everywhere I went and I took them to help me answer the questions the story was posing. Sometimes they posed questions I answered by writing the story. My bookshelf with books, postcards, and photographs is definitely one of my favourite places for research.

How to research?

Various methods of research were mentioned above. But the ultimate combination of questions of all questions here can only be answered by the given author for his or her story and their particular state of mind and circumstances. A pregnant author, a mother of five children, a woman who never had children, a father of a newly born, a parent who lost a child to cancer, every one of them and anybody else will approach research on a child illness completely differently. And with this a seemingly same story will end up being absolutely different, its light being broken through their individual prisms of perspective and experiences.

How much or how long to research?

A short answer is, “As much as necessary, and as long is it is enjoyable and rewarding.”

I would have argued with this answer in the past saying, “But if it is so much fun then you might get lost in research and never write again.”

However some time ago I discovered this statement not to be true. When I researched an event for my first novel “The Truth About Family”, I mentioned above, I found myself reading multiple articles on that event. I seemingly couldn’t stop reading all that material. One might think that I got interested by this event and what happened then even if most of those details where not bringing my story further. When I stopped and observed myself I noticed that I wasn’t having fun with that particular research anymore. I was simply afraid to make the next step and find out what the subsequent scene would be.

Today, the day after I wrote the first draft of this article, I discovered the following quote by Baltasar Gracián y Morales:

“Without courage, wisdom bears no fruit.”

In other words, when the courage is needed, then it is the high time to stop researching and do the work.

What a great clue to find out when the answer, we are after, is found, and when to stop researching and come back to writing, isn’t it!? Yes, fear and especially becoming aware of it can be a useful clue to find out what is to be done next, and what is the best point in time for it to be done. To find the point of now.

So research is a mystery just like the writing itself. The balance act between the two is amazing and definitely worth exploring and testing again and again.

What, why, when, where, how and how much do you research for your stories?

Picture: My bookshelf next to my desk and printer, having on its top a photograph of my father, one of my husband and myself in the year we became parents, a pen holder in form of a pile of books with a beaded flower made by my mother. This shelf is one of my favourite points of research. It contains a wild and often changing mixture of books and magazines on writing craft, some of my notebooks with a few stories started and yet to be finished, grammar books and dictionaries in some of the languages I am studying, the books I wrote and published, photographs, postcards, books on art, science, history, picture books from Moldova, Africa, France, Germany, United States, Great Britain (and especially museums in many of these countries) and so much more.


“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels