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Writer’s retreat or writers’ retreat? Part 2 of 2

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In part 1, I explained why I am recommending to the owners of Sirenia Retreat that they should avoid the writer’s/writers’ conundrum and instead call it a WRITING retreat. The problem is by having the S in Writers – you get different opinions/arguments on whether​ the ‘pesky apostrophe’ should be before or after the S – or indeed have NO apostrophe at all.

montage words nerd

As a business writing instructor and trainer, I am often asked writing questions about the correct placement of apostrophes.

My method is to avoid problems by getting rid of the root cause of the problem. When businesses present me with a problem, I’d often study different arguments, help an organistion ‘decide on what writing style/choice it would adopt, and ensure consistency across the organisation via a style guide. Yes, I’m a real ‘word nerd’ and enjoy studying and solving writing problems.

The Mother of all apostrophe problems

mothers day

As you may know, many businesses sell around certain seasons and ‘days’ like Mother’s Day – and I once had to advise a business about how to write Mother’s Day in sales collateral. The Mother’s/Mothers’/Mothers problem is similar to the Writer’s/Writers’/Writers problem.

Actually, it’s worse because you don’t have the easy option of avoiding the problem of using the -ING form of the word – Happy MotherING Day doesn’t have the same warm feel about it.

This extract from one of my favourite writing sites – Scribe – about the Mother’s/Mothers’/Mothers challenge may help you understand the Writer’s/Writers’/Writers problem.

From: Scribe

Choice 1. Mothers Day: no apostrophe

The argument here is that Mothers do not own the day, so no possession is involved. No apostrophe is thus needed. We are describing a day for Mothers, not a day belonging to Mothers.

Choice 2. Mother’s Day: an apostrophe before the s

Here the argument is that the day belongs to one specific Mother (yours presumably). So, because possession is involved, Mother’s Day needs an apostrophe.

Choice 3. Mothers’ Day: an apostrophe after the s

Here the argument is that the day is shared among all Mothers collectively. We thus need an apostrophe after the s.

And the winner is…
As shown above, you can make a reasonable case for all three of the choices. This article makes clear, though, that the original campaigner for creating Mother’s day, Anna Jarvis, explicitly wanted an apostrophe, and she wanted it to be before the “s”:

… it was to be a singular possessive, for each family to honour their mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world.


So you see why I advise to avoid the writer’s/ writers’/writers problems by using WritING Retreat.

The root of the problem is having the S – because that forces you to have ti decide where to put the apostrophe or whether to not use an apostrophe. The problem is that even if you are technically correct, some readers may think you are wrong.

I once had to advise a client offering discounts to Pensioners. In their sales copy should they writer Pensioner’s/Pensioners’/Pensioners Discounts?

My recommendation – get rid of the problem by getting rid of the S in PensionerS. Just describe it as Pensioner Discount.

I understand that maybe I’m just an ‘avoider’ in life – avoiding writing problems – but by understanding the root cause of a problem and removing that problem (like the S) is an effective problem solving technique.

I prefer to call myself a problem remover rather than a problem avoider.

I think I’ll enjoy writing more writing tips when I am next at the Writer’s retreat…I mean ‘Writing retreat’ over at Sirenia Retreat.

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A creative way to make ‘boring’ products more interesting – Part 1/2

I Wanna Be Creative!

Here’s an interesting way to make non-exciting (and even ‘boring’) products more interesting.

The other day I walked into a shop selling something that I had no interest in – however  I really admired how the business owners ‘got me into the shop’ and ‘curious’ about the product.

It was these creative and colourful visual displays that caught my attention and ‘got me curious”.


I like to analyse what gets my attention – and in this case it was an outline that reminded me of a Keith Haring image and a colourful ‘pyramid’ of toilet rolls.

Then I saw lots of bright and bold signage for FBI – so I was curious and wanted to find out more – what was this place?


The place sold cleaning products – but the presentation was (in my opinion) far more interesting.

In this case, FBI stood for Fuller Brush Industries – a…

View original post 270 more words

How you can creatively cross-pollinate and “connect the dots”

I Wanna Be Creative!

How you can cross-pollinate between different projects and creatively connect the dots.

Hollywood and Facebook Exec Chris Adams has worked in creative industries at the highest levels. He was responsible for green lighting movie projects such as Syriana and An Inconvenient Truth.

Chris Adams – Hollywood and Facebook exec

He understands both the creative and business sides of the creative industries.

Every time I catch up with Chris to capture videos for a project called The Chris Adams Project, I’m amazed at how many projects he has on the boil at the same time.

I’m keen to learn so much from him – about business and creativity and balancing both.

I was keen to learn from Chris whether it is better to focus all your energy into one project at a time OR to have a range of projects that actually cross-pollinate each other.

In his video…

View original post 261 more words

#Creativity tip to get some satisfaction – record your ideas WHEN you get them

Have you ever wondered how many great songs DO NOT get written? How many great creative ideas DO NOT ever happen? How many great business ideas evaporate?


Creative and talented types are often good at thinking up great lyrics or riffs or ideas – but many ideas are like big, beautiful ideas that briefly flit before your eyes and then disappear – never to be seen again.

I’m always encouraged by the Keith Richards story about the riff for Satisfaction. Apparently, Keith knew his talent AND his limitations.

He got into the habit of taking recording devices with him – even on the road.

When he’d get an idea – he’d capture it.

Keith Richards

The story is that he came up with the Satisfaction riff – recorded it – then “went off to sleep”.

When he woke up he couldn’t remember the riff – but he remembered that he had recorded it.

He went to his “machine” (probably an old reel-to-reel back in those days) – and there the riff was.

All because he had the “discipline” to capture it then and there!

Actually, the legend is that he heard the riff in a dream – got up and recorded the riff – then went BACK to sleep.

I think that shows even more discipline and planning on Keith’s part!!

We often think we’ll remember things – or that we’ll do it later.

But what usually happens is – we get distracted by another beautiful, flitting butterfly – and we forget the first one!

US creativity expert Sam Horn has a great saying that I now apply:

Ink it when you think it!

Don’t wait! Get into the habit of writing it down OR recording music riffs, chord progressions then and there!


That’s why as consultant to Sirenia Retreat – I’ve encouraged the owners to have plenty of ways for executives and writers staying there to capture their ideas –
1. notebooks by the side of the bed (for ideas that arrive in the middle of the night)
2. special waterproof notebooks to capture ideas that arrive in the shower (a common place to get good ideas)




Also, I encourage people to use the recording functions on their smart phones.

Now, creative types often have big egos. But the clever ones also know their limitations – and the danger that they can forget things.

I respect and admire Keith’s talent AND his recording ritual and I encourage YOU to do the same.

Things are so much easier these days. Keith probably had to have his people lug around some bulky tape recorder – probably reel-to-reel back in the Satisfaction days!

These days, it’s so easy for you to capture voice and images on your smartphone.

It’s funny – many people think the words creative and discipline should not be in the same sentence. The artists with long-careers learn to add some discipline to their creativity.

Just look at how long Keith and The Stones have been successful!

This same discipline should apply – even if you are some corporate CEO who gets a great business idea.

This discipline is not just for the “creative” types in advertising or marketing.

Business leaders often “create” ideas too. Or at least, they should.

If you know of any examples of artists techniques for recording their ideas – please add in the comments section below!

Writer’s Retreat or Writers’ retreat? Part 1/2

Oh, the pressure on writers to write correctly! Writers often agonize over writing problems that ‘non-writers’ don’t worry about.

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One of the big ‘problems’ is whether it is right to write writers’ retreat or writer’s retreat! Where do you put that pesky possessive apostrophe? Is the retreat for one writer or many?

montage words nerd

As a writing instructor, I am often asked questions like this – and my solution is to be aware of and avoid the problem. Even if you are technically correct – some of your readers may think you are wrong. I’ll explain soon – after I show the confusion.

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You can see from these examples there are many different uses – writers'(plural) is for a retreat for many writers – maybe all together as a group or many several writers visiting the retreat at different at times!

Writer’s retreat may be more accurate for where one, solitary writer wants to be ALONE to write.

I’m often asked how to write expressions such as driver’s licence. Or should that be drivers’ licence? Sure, each driver should have their own driver’s licence – but many drivers get a drivers’ licence, so shouldn’t it be drivers’ licence written​ on the licence? (For non-British English writers – licenCE is the British English way of writing licenSe.)

Anyway, back to writer’s or writers’ and driver’s or drivers’!

When I advise organisations on how to solve various writing problems – I encourage them to simply avoid the problem – and a simple way to avoid this writer’s/writers’ problem is to get rid of that S!By getting rid of the S you don’t run the risk of putting the apostrophe in the wrong place.

I suggest they use the ING form of a word – and call it a DrivING licence.

In the case of Writer’s/Writers’ retreats or even Writer’s/Writers’Centres you can call it a Writing Retreat.

As a writing consultant to Sirenia Retreat – I’ll be suggesting they change Writer’s Retreat to Writing Retreat. That way it can be a retreat for a group of writers or just one writer.

I’ll have more in part 2 – about how writers solved the problem with Mother’s/Mothers’ Day – and another way to avoid the pesky possessive apostrophe problem.

How a warm bath or shower can improve the flow of your ideas, problem-solving, writing and creativity – part 2 of 2

In part 1 (link at the end of this post) we looked at scientific support on why a warm bath or shower can help us feel relaxed so we can get those creative ideas flowing.

A University of London scientist summed it up this way:
‘For many people, it’s the most relaxing part of the day.’ It’s not until we’re being massaged by warm water, unable to check our e-mail, that we’re finally able to hear the quiet voices in the backs of our heads telling us about the insight. The answers have been there all along – we just weren’t listening.”

In part 2, we explore how getting the good ideas is just part of the solution. You also need to capture those ideas – so they don’t disappear or go down the drain with the warm water that helped get the ideas flowing.

For years I made a habit of keeping a cheap paper notebook in our home bathroom and got into the habit of writing down a few key words to remind me of the ideas. This got more difficult in the colder months when your main priority becomes putting on some clothes to get warm fast. The ideas often ‘disappeared’ if I moved on to other things. When I DID jot down a few words in my notebook with its page warped where drops of water fell, the crude capturing device worked.


Recently, I found that a much better idea capturing solution exists in the US – a special waterproof notepad (Aquanotes) that you can use while actually IN the shower. There are even suction cups so you can stick the notebooks to the glass or tiles in the bathroom.

Because of my background in business communication and creative endeavours, I am engaged as a ‘creative consultant’ to an Executive Escape and Writer’ Retreat (Sirenia Retreat) where ‘creative’ and ‘corporate’ and ‘creative corporate’ types can have the time and space (and idea-capturing tools) to get their projects kick-started or completed.

The owners of Sirenia Retreat have accepted my recommendation to import some of these special Aquanotes notebooks – for use IN the bathrooms AND as ‘takeaways’ as part of the Executive Escape and Writer’s Retreat packages.

I’ve also recommended having notebook and pen set by each bed – so ideas that come to people while in bed get captured too.

Here’s a link to Part 1.

How a warm bath or shower can improve the flow of your ideas, problem-solving, writing and creativity – part 1 of 2

When you are searching for clever ideas or trying to solve a problem, one of the best things you can do is take a break and take a nice warm bath or shower.

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And as an Executive Escape and Writer’s Retreat, Sirenia Retreat has a beautiful wooden main bathroom with bath tub and shower, as well as another shower in the main bedroom’s ensuite.

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You could say it boasts a bevy of bathing opportunities!

You may have heard that famous story of Archimedes having that Eureka (I found it) moment while having a bath.


Modern science backs up this theory of getting good ideas or solving problems while taking a bath or shower.

Neuro scientist Dr Alice Flahery from Harvard Medical School found that creative ideas are stimulated by dopamine which can be triggered by events that make us feel happy and relaxed. Common activities include having a warm bath or shower.

Another Harvard researcher found that another factor that encourages creativity and problem-solving is being distracted and disconnected and not trying to solve a problem or be creative.

Of course, it’s important to make sure you capture those good ideas and I’ll explore that in part 2.


I’ll sum up with the eloquent explanation of Professor Joydeep Bhattacharya from the University of London on why we often get good ideas while enjoying baths or showers.

‘For many people, it’s the most relaxing part of the day.’ It’s not until we’re being massaged by warm water, unable to check our e-mail, that we’re finally able to hear the quiet voices in the backs of our heads telling us about the insight. The answers have been their all along–we just weren’t listening.”

Improve your #writing – write initial ideas on paper AWAY from your computer and phone

This can definitely help you write better. Well, certainly get better ideas to write about and express them concisely and clearly.

This is an earlier post I was reminded of when I slowed down and took time to think when I was away at an executive escape/writer’s retreat I was engaged to write about. Access to

Access to screen devices and on-line information and inspiration can be helpful – but it can also be very distracting. I find I am far more effective as a writer when I take time and space to think. Sometimes it helps you create new things – and sometimes it helps you remember important things you forgot in your busyness!


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Earlier post:

I’m advising a professional and very busy client who is “enjoying” some forced “slow-down time”.

He is recovering in hospital after an operation. He is in pain – but I’m trying to be positive and encouraging about his forced slow-down 🙂


From experience (after an operation for a torn Achilles tendon), I know how you can get lots of great and “deeper” ideas when you are forced to slow down.

You have time to think about things you normally don’t have time to think about.

My advice to my client – use this forced slow time to think of ideas for better blog posts or future presentations.

And to record his ideas on paper rather than on some device like a laptop or iPad or other modern writing “machine”.

and with your phone turned off or on silent!

The reason?

Paper doesn’t interruPt!

If you are writing on a device (on with your phone switched on nearby) you can get interrupted a ping or a message “photobombing” your writing.

This interruption rudely rips you away from your idea. Chances are either you’ll lose your flow altogether – or it will take you time to get back into the flow.

I’ve started this paper discipline recently and it’s working well.

When I’m thinking about ideas – I record on paper.

When it’s time to write – I write and edit on my MacBook.

Writing at Hs

When I record on paper – I sometimes write in a paper notebook.

I sometimes use the “enforced simplicity” of post-it notes.

Writing on the limited space of a post-it note really helps you distil your message!

And when I write on my Macbook, I make sure interruptions are turned off.


I find writers can be different with what works best for them.

I encourage you to try different techniques and use the ones that work best for you.


montage words nerd

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These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication, better social media engagement etc. I like to help people COPE.

How typing on a manual typewriter can start the flow of your writing

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For writers, fear is not black…or dark. Fear is white… and blank – a blank white page…a blank screen…an intimidating white abyss.

One of the best writing tips I got to help me push through that white wall came from a movie “Finding Forrester” where the experienced writer (played by Sean Connery) advises a young writer to start typing someone else’s words to get a rhythm started. You generate momentum…a push and a pulse…and once you have started moving, the words you type change into your fresh and original words.

This simple technique helped me overcome the paralysis of starting that first sentence and write better and faster for news stories as a reporter. This was not on a manual typewriter, but on a computer – but ‘just get typing’ technique got me started.
These days, this technique even helps me when I need to get started and finish a ‘less exciting but more important and more urgent’ business document.

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That’s why Sirenia retreat has a portable typewriter you are welcome to use to get started. I write on my sleek and light Macbook after I get started on a typewriter. My Macbook is more efficient – but to get started, I love the more physical sensation of typing on a manual typewriter – the slap of the keys on paper, the ‘ping’ when you get to the end of a line and you have hit the carriage level return to physically scroll up the page to type the next line. It’s physical and more noisy than typing on a computer.

I have been a ‘consultant’ to help set up Sirenia as an Executive Escape and Writer’s Retreat and one of my (many) recommendations was to get a portable typewriter to help writers get started.
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Feel free to use the small portable typewriter (not the heavy 1930s Royal that’s too hard to move). Experience the physical joy of typing on a manual typewriter and you may even like to take a few photos that make you look like one of those old-time ‘typewriter’ authors like Ian Fleming or Ernest Hemingway.

#Writing Tip: How bird calls and ‘Sirenia serenity’ can improve your writing

James Bond Birds

One of the best things about my visit to Sirenia Retreat (on assignment to write about and describe the experience) was closing my eyes and listening to the birds. This is something I am usually too busy to do.

I’m still trying to work out exactly why the sound of birds helped the flow of my writing – but I have some ‘early theories’.

1. Tuning the senses before writing – especially using a different sense – hearing.
Most days, I mainly use my eyes – reading, reading, reading, and doing to tasks that require vision – work reading on a computer, house chores, driving etc. My eyes get tired. It was a refreshing change to close my eyes and actively use my hearing to pick out the many different bird calls and ‘pin point’ where different calls were coming from. At Sirenia, I seemed to lose any sense of guilt that I should be busy doing something else. I enjoyed just closing my eyes and actively listening to the many different birds. My theory is that we don’t use our sense of hearing enough. In our business lives we actually block out noise. At Sirenia, you can actively savor natural sounds.

2. The Birds calls helped me feel happy and relaxed and the relaxation helped me write. Birds sound so enthusiastic and ‘chirpy’. The birds at Sirenia made me think of that simple, old Bob Marley song “Three Little Birds” and the reassuring sound of the sweet songs of birds. And, true to the song, I did not worry about a thing – about time pressures or achieving my objective.

3. ‘Hearing’ different times of the day. Even if you couldn’t see – you could definitely hear if the sun was about to rise or set – based on the increase in ‘bird activity’ and bird noise. At Sirenia, you really get a sense of the ‘flow’ of the day and this can improve the flow of your writing. The birds were just part of the ‘overall experience’ of ‘feeling’ and watching the changes of the tide, and the light, and the birdlife.

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The back deck of Sirenia is high up in the trees so you can’t help but hear (and see) the birdlife. As you may know, James Bond author Ian Fleming had a special connection to birds. He would escape the English winter for 3 months to stay at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica. There he would find the serenity, space, and solitude to write a new James Bond novel each visit.

Fleming became fond of the many birds around his estate and he actually took the name James Bond from a real person – an American ornithologist and author of a book Birds of the West Indies.