Why I write

Do I look like a writer?

Do I look like a writer?

Susan at Putting in a Good Word invited me to take part in this tagged blogging post and I must confess, it’s taken me longer than anticipated to complete. Not because I had trouble with the questions; more that I found myself writing way more than anyone except me is likely to be interested in.  And that’s probably the first clue to who I am as a writer: I don’t think before I write – I write as a way of processing the stuff that’s in my head.

This is particularly true here at ZimmerBitch, which is quite photography-oriented. That perhaps leads me into the first question:

Reality; edited. Is that a metaphor for my writing style? Photo: Su Leslie, 2013.

Reality; edited. Is that a metaphor for my writing style? Photo: Su Leslie, 2013.

1. How does my writing differ from others in my genre?

I’m not sure I quite fit into a single genre! Almost all of my posts contain photographs I’ve taken  and many are “about” those photos, but most also contain some sort of commentary so they are photo-essays, kind of. I also blog a lot about family – and in particular my partner and son, but I am definitely not in the business of offering parenting advice. I write about art — particularly sculpture — but again, ZimmerBitch is not an art-blog. I show a lot of photos of my family – and of artworks that I like – and while I said in my ‘About’ page that this is a blog about aging (and that’s definitely what I intended it to be), it has become a way of developing my photographic skill.

Perhaps that’s what I’m meant to be doing in my middle-age?

I participate in several photo challenges (more or less regularly) that allow me to share my photos within a context. And I think the context part is important. I like to use the photos to tell a story that matters to me. Each challenge or prompt becomes a way of visually communicating something that’s important to me at the time.

" an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, esp. for comparison or contrast.

My son’s 16th birthday prompted a series of posts that tried to make sense of motherhood as I was experiencing it. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.

2. Why do I write?

I can’t help it.

I thought I could. After 20 or so years earning a living arranging and re-arranging words for money, I thought I’d lost my voice. I was so used to — and so good at — assuming the client’s voice that I couldn’t even bring myself to look at a blank screen or sheet of paper unless I’d already slipped “into character” as the corporate voice of whoever was paying me. But I’ve recovered — I think. I’ve had some time out and found my own voice again.

Motherhood has changed who I am and the voice with which I speak. Photo: Tony Gray, 1998.

Motherhood has changed who I am and the voice with which I speak. It’s not all about me anymore. Photo: Tony Gray, 1998.

I write a blog (two actually – Shaking the Tree is my family history blog) because I like the discipline of having to produce something regularly – and trying to make it good enough that people choose to read it, like it, comment on it and occasionally re-blog it. Blogging is probably my ideal form of writing. It’s completely open-ended — in that I can write about anything I like — but because it’s public, I not only have to try and write things that people respond to, but I actually get to experience their response.

And that is why I keep writing; because I now feel part of a blogging community — whanau*  — which contains lots of really cool, interesting, articulate people who interact with me. I really feel that I know some of you quite well, and I care what’s happening to you. If that’s not a reason to keep writing — what is?

Interestingly, I’m about to start seriously looking for copy-writing work again and I am a bit concerned that my voice will disappear as it did in the past. But I’m hopeful that the discipline of blogging will help save me.

* whanau is a Maori word. It loosely means “family” but in a much broader sense than we use the word in English. Whanau are connected by spiritual and intellectual bonds too. I think the term “kindred spirits” is the closest in English to my sense of what whanau is to me.

3. How does my writing process work?

I’m not good at making and sticking to rules — especially my own — so although I did set out to blog on particular days in response to particular prompts, the reality is that I’m a bit random. I do try to produce a Wordless Wednesday and a Six Word Saturday every week.

I originally thought Wordless Wednesday would be a doddle — just find a picture and chuck it in. But I quickly realised that (see above) the best part of blogging is the sense of community, and I didn’t want to dishonour that community by offering something slapdash or unconsidered. So even my largely wordless posts are created with care.

Over time, I’ve realised that the photographic prompts and challenges I enjoy most are those for which I find something to say, beyond just describing a photo. Sally, at Lens and Pens by Sally, hosts such a challenge. Perhaps because it’s focused on non-SLR devices and I don’t actually use my phone/iPad for photography much, I am compelled to take the images I do chose for the challenge and weave something around them that makes sense of (justifies?) their inclusion in a post. I find myself really enjoying this process.

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve discovered about my writing, is that it is basically visual. I am most comfortable when I can see how words are going to look to the reader. I’m increasingly interested in text-as-image, and have signed up for the 100 Days Project with a plan called ‘Pretty words: text as image as stories we make up as we go along’. My intention is to take a randomly-generated word each day and respond to it visually.

I love word clouds. The marriage of data and text in a visual format. I generated this from some web copy about Women's Refuge NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2014.

I love word clouds; the marriage of data and text in a visual format. I generated this from some web copy about Women’s Refuge NZ and added the background with Pixlr Express. Image: Su Leslie 2014.

4. What I’m working on.

Everything!!!! I’m a multi-tasker with a short attention span and a low threshold of boredom. So right now I’m:

a) planning my Six Word Saturday posts for ZimmerBitch and Shaking the Tree,

b) editing a post I started ages ago about names. This is me trying to work out (in public via the blogosphere) whether I should change my name(s) because being Su Leslie seems to cause people so much confusion,

c) editing another post about my middle-of-the-night anxiety attacks and subsequent sleep-deprivation,

d) scribbling down ideas for the website my new writing business is going to need.

e) mentally writing a children’s story that only makes sense in terms of a larger internal narrative that’s been bouncing around my head for a couple of years. Not sure if this one counts as working!

‘Nuff said.

I’m really pleased to be passing the baton in this tagged post on to Steve at The Gisbourne Gourmet. This is an elegant, funny blog about life and living well in a small town in New Zealand. The text is crisp, the images beautiful and, frankly, his work makes me want to chuck life in the city tomorrow, if not sooner. I’m looking forward to reading what lies behind The Gisbourne Gourmet!

And if you’re interested in how a few other members of the blogging whanau describe their writing, check these out:

Leanne at Is it Just Me?

Meghan AKA Firebonnet

Lisa at NorthWest Frame of Mind

Sally at Lens and Pens by Sally

Tish Farrell, Writer on the Edge





17 thoughts on “Why I write

  1. A lovely response to this writing hop, which I was delighted to be part of!

    “…visually communicating what’s important to me” – you’ve definitely succeeded in this, your posts are pictorially eloquent. 🙂


  2. I became thoroughly engaged in your excursion through the questions. I easily identify with the diversion or reappointment that you’ve taken on your blogging journey. Great set of images added to the responses substantiate your creative eye and bent. Thanks so much for mentioning the challenge and my blog. It is truly a joy to be part of your community of readers.


    • Thanks Sally. I really enjoyed writing it, and it affirmed for me that the existence of the whanau is vital to my blogging. I’m glad to have met you – and so many other bloggers, and to have become part of this shared community. 🙂


  3. A lovely post Su, and how lovely that you’ve found your own voice again! I was nominated by Sally and like you It took a long time to gather my thoughts and write my blogging tour. I later concluded that it really helped me make sense of why I do what I do, and my future aims. 😀


  4. Enjoyed reading your responses, you take the concept of thinking visually to that of a gift, your shots are creative proof of that.
    You have piled your writing plate high, and I look forward to your middle-of-the-night anxiety attacks and subsequent sleep-deprivation post with interest!


  5. Hi Su – this post was suggested in the reader under a recent post of yours – and I couldn’t resist….
    I kept asking myself if you would write the same answers now – five years later in 2019.
    I also have followed you on and off since 2014 and it was nice to “feel” your essence a bit more and liked hearing that “whanau” word again
    –/ 😊☀️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! Thanks for this Yvette.
      I think I probably would say many of the same things. The focus of my writing has changed a bit, but I still write for the same reasons and still see writing and photography as two sides of the same coin for me.
      Sad that a few of the bloggers I mentioned in that post have stopped blogging –but great that Sally and Tish and Lisa are still going strong. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the reply- and yea- I miss a few bloggers who are gone now too (but life does evolve and blogging mode can change – as you know 😉
        And I do have to share that in 2017 my blogging took a new turn to include more authors . It was nice to join in some micro fiction (and hope to again later this year) but wanted to share that the first thing that caught me off guard were the writers who don’t use their own pictures. Because I was used to bloggers (like you) who were master photographers and writers (and I followed so many photographers at the time) and so when I’d go to a post and read a poem from the blogger with this nice image – i would sometimes spend more time on the image and less on the poem – and then I realized (after enough “that’s not mine” it’s from pixabay or somewhere else) I realized there are many bloggers who just write and use stock photos. I was caught off guard but it was just my background at the time – hah!
        Now I am always more alerted to not assume anything but it was a huge learning curve.
        And that ties back into yours – one of the best part of your blog posts – is you can tell you spend time to make them succinct. Never verbose and the care you put into your words and photos is nice and has your own essence –

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you so Much Yvette. I work hard to edit my writing so I don’t bore people (too much) or just lose them in the verbosity.
          It is hard I know, when you’ve written something that you love, to cut bits out. But I worked as a copywriter for so many years, and it’s a great discipline. When you’re told “we can fit 200 words in this space” — you figure out how to tell the story in that number of words. 🤨
          As for the photos; it’s interesting that I started to take photography more seriously when I began blogging precisely because I didn’t want to use stock images. That I’ve fallen in love with photography is a bonus.

          Liked by 1 person

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