Category Archives: On Being a Writer

Limits vs. creativity: does it have to be a duel?

Limits

I joined in the On Being a Writer online discussion for the last six weeks and gained a lot from it. [The series, hosted by Kate Motaung, was based on Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig’s book On being a writer: 12 simple steps for a writing life that lasts]

One of the topics that left me thinking was that of ‘Limit’.

Before the issue was raised via this series, I was acting like a spoilt child, asking ‘Why does this have to be my life?”…”Why me?”…

I was seeing, feeling, assimilating the limits that are imposed on me as being debilitating, spirit-crushing, life-sapping.

Then I pondered the prompt, read the responses of the other lovely ladies who joined in and had a major lightbulb moment…

Limits are actually useful for our creativity if we come at them from the right frame of mind.

Now, instead of thinking ‘Oh woe is me, I only have one hour to write”, with this shift in perspective, I’m all “Yay! I have one hour to write! What can I get done in this one hour?”.

I’ve come to relish the challenge and to see exactly how productive I can be in this hour.

The part of me that needs a challenge and some degree of external motivation is excited by this new frame of mind.

I’ve come to my writing hour afresh, with new eyes and more vigour and am loving seeing what I can produce/do in my whole hour.

This fresh perspective on the external limits on my time have kick-started my creativity.

These limits have made me more determined and, because of this new-found determination, they’ve made me more creative. 

I’m working with what I have, starting from where I am, instead of kicking myself that nothing is ideal.

It’s been a major wake-up call not only for my creativity but also in other areas of my life. When abundance doesn’t flow, it’s easy to get down, discouraged. But, instead of letting ourselves get discouraged, why don’t we turn it on it’s head?

Think you’re not enough? You don’t have enough?

Start to name the things you do have that you should be thankful for. Start to think how you can maximise the money/time you do have available.

Thinking in ‘haves’ and not ‘have nots’, thinking of limits as challenges, it’ll open up a whole new world of possibility.

What’s the worse thing about limits?

We think they block our realm of possibility. This certainly is the case sometimes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t actively seek – and make the best of – the possibilities that are available to us.

This possibility-based thinking will – through unleashing our innate creativity – lead us out of the walls we build for ourselves.

And the best thing?

Once we’ve tasted what we can do when we’re limited, we won’t seek happiness, contentment elsewhere, we’ll find that we’re happy where we are with what we have, doing what we can do.

We’ll be expressing ourselves – our rich, inner, selves – despite the limits (whether this be time or disbelief in ourselves or or or…). And this full deliverance of our self expression will make us happy (may even, in the process, remove some of the limits we place on ourselves).

We’re not going to produce our best work unless we put the practice in and what better practice than creating within the boundaries imposed by the limits we face?

Can the limits we face push us to eventually become limitless….push us towards realising our best work? Can pushing up against our limits help us to develop – and flex – our creative muscles?

Would really love to hear what you think!

Helen xxx

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On being a writer: Limit

Have loved joining in with Kate Motaung’s online discussion group On Being a Writer, which is based on Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig’s book On being a writer: 12 simple steps for a writing life that lasts.

Yesterday was the last instalment, and we were asked to think about Limit, in terms of what limits our writing time, what needs to be limited so we can have time to write and how to juggle all the things we need to do so that we can write when we have time to do so.

Here goes…

I know I’m a writer because I feel compelled to write. This series has also helped me get to the stage where I can say, “I am a writer because I take my writing seriously and want to find markets for my writing“.

For my fiction writing, this is a huge step for me.

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It’s a huge step because, for me, this means that I’ve actively re-organised my life so that I can make the time for not only writing but, also, marketing my work (because I won’t be a published fiction writer until my work is published (Doh!)).

It isn’t easy: I’m a Single Mum, I run two freelance businesses, I literally have zero free time. But, you know, just like having children, there’s never going to be a perfect time to try to ‘follow my dream’ of getting my fiction published.

The perfect time is now.

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The ‘On Being…’ series has helped me get to this important stage where I now have the mental clarity I need, surrounding my writing, to realise that I need to “Just do it” (as that highly motivational marketing tool says!)

This feels like an important marker in my life; it somehow feels like I’ll look back at this period of my life and I’ll be able to identify ‘pre-On Being’ and ‘post-On Being’.

Sometimes all it takes is an active ‘yes’ and a firm commitment.

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Part of the commitment is realising what limits me, what the risks might be, and working to minimise those limits and risks.

For me, that’s definitely my own self-doubt and self-limiting behaviours (‘Play it safe, Helen, you have two littles to support’). To combat these (fear-based) behaviours, I’ve set in place a series of routines that’ll help me use the time I do have available to market my writing.

I’ve made a series of commitments to myself to meet the deadlines I’m setting myself and to give this all I can because my most authentic me is the one where I’m writing fiction.

I’m living a lie – and being a bad role model for my littles – if I’m not expressing my most authentic self.

Whatever needs limiting so me can be set free, it needs to be limited.

This, I’ve realised, is a direct confrontation with all the things that have beaten me down, all the things that have stripped me of my ability to be spontaneous, to be joyful, full of life, to express my uniqueness.

It’s a confrontation that’s all about re-gaining, and re-inhabiting, my power.

It’s a reclaiming of me.

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And this is important. Fundamental, actually. I’ve somehow managed to harness all the negative that came (still comes) from my experiences of domestic violence, of insidious abuse, and have somehow managed to take it all and use it as fuel for re-birth.

It’s beautiful. I feel free. I feel able. I feel like it’s time. Time to let go of the hurt, of the memories, to let go of the resentment and bitterness of gifting 16 years of my life away.

With this transcendence has come deep joy. I’ve felt my limits slipping away. I don’t now feel like a bird trapped in a dark, airless box, trampling my way through my days, suffocating.

I feel I’ve been set free, that I’m standing on the edge of something and that all I need to do is open my wings and be brave. 

To take the jump and see where I land…

(I can see the terrain set out in front of me in my mind’s eye and I’m ready to fly over it)

I’m not scared any more.

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I thank Kate and Ann and Charity for setting up the ‘On Being…’ series and I thank all the ladies who have so readily opened their hearts and shared their thoughts about writing over these past six weeks (you know who you all are). I truly feel that my participation in this series has been transformational for me and I literally can’t thank you all enough.

Helen xxx

P.S. For those of you who might not have seen this, I highly recommend watching this video; it’s a discussion between Marie Forleo and Elizabeth Gilbert, all about fear and creativity. I’m sure you’ll find something in it that’ll be a ‘lightbulb moment’ for you.

On Being a Writer: Rest

I’m continuing to join in with Kate Motaung’s online discussion group On Being a Writer, which is based on Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig’s book On being a writer: 12 simple steps for a writing life that lasts.

Today’s (penultimate) prompt is rest, and asks us to discuss our idea of a perfect day of rest/struggles we have with resting/the link between rest and productivity.

Here goes…

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I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, as this is fundamental for my ability to write anything worth reading: I can’t write if I’m not in a ‘good place’ mentally.

For me, this generally means being free of negative thoughts and overwhelm. This doesn’t mean that I simply need a rest (because there I would find peace); rather it means that I’m facing trauma symptoms (flashbacks/insomnia etc) and that these are interfering with my ability to relax/rest and my mental processing.

I’ve gone through a whole multi-stage process of teaching myself how to learn to be ‘off guard’ (domestic violence tends to make you ultra-vigilant) and – after a long while – I seem to have come out of this process equipped with tactics that help me rest, because they reign in my thoughts and help me calm my mind.

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I love these words from Victor Frankl….”Between stimulus and response there’s a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom”.

I love these words because I’m a great believer in the idea that if we can learn to control our minds then we can gain better control of our lives. By consciously directing our thoughts, we become “masters of our fate” as the wonderful poem says.

For me, this process of understanding has meant that I’ve been able to overcome not only very difficult and dangerous personal situations (and their psychological/emotional aftermath) but, also, that I’ve learnt tools and techniques that can be usefully extrapolated to other areas of my life.

Like my writing life.

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It’s kind of ritualistic, actually, my resting process, but I’ve found that my words can’t spill out if I’m not full to the brim with inspiration. If my mind’s not clear, there’s no space for things that inspire me, no room for creative thinking.

Once my mind’s clear I can notice and drink in the beauty around me and be inspired by it and then I can write. I can reach the bottom of that well where all the good stuff lies, instead of floundering around in the upper, empty, waters.

need a clear mind (free of tension/stress) to be able to focus my creativity and to enter my zone of flow for my writing. Trying to do it any other way simply doesn’t work for me.

This causes practical difficulties, but I’ve found that by taking time to clear my mind, through meditation, I’m able to rest and then I’m ready to write.

If I try to skip the necessary preamble to sitting down and writing, I might save myself an hour or so but it’s almost certain that I won’t produce anything of worth that day.

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I’ve found there are no short-cuts to reaching my ‘flow zone’, unfortunately.

How about you? I’d love to hear about your resting/writing processes and how they interact/input each other…

Helen xxx

On being a writer: plan

I’m continuing to join in with Kate Motaung’s online discussion group On Being a Writer, which is based on Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig’s book On being a writer: 12 simple steps for a writing life that lasts.

Today’s prompt asks us to think about planning and asks us to share some of our writing goals and the dreams we have for our writing life.

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As for many, it’s not so easy for me to find time to write but I do find the time to do so (early mornings before my littles are awake). It’s important for me to write and so I made it a priority to carve this daily habit from my unrelenting schedule.

As a result of the On Being series, I’ve now made the commitment to use some of that writing time to dedicate to ‘promotion’: finding potential markets for shorter articles and making the connections necessary to try to market my writing.

For me that’s a big step and one that’s taken me years to arrive at.

I realise, as I’ve been joining in this series, that as much as I need to plan to write and to promote, I also need to plan to introduce texture in to my life.

It’s only when my life has texture, colour, stimulation that I feel ready to get in the zone and only then that I feel that my writing flows. 

If I’m feeling yuck my writing will most likely be yuck.

When I’m running on half mast, starved of visual, aesthetic, stimulation, my writing just doesn’t work, doesn’t come freely, doesn’t sound good. It’s not authentic. Its forced.

So, as much as I need to plan to do the writing, and to set goals for my writing, it’s important for me, due to my particular circumstances, to ensure that I’m doing the work on myself, for myself, so that the words come free, come freely, uninhibited.

I can’t create if I’m not in a place of plenty on a personal level.

So what does this mean in practice? It means planning to take a whole lot more care of myself and my mental state, to stimulate my mind as much as possible, to keep my body active [I was shocked the other day to realise that on the days I run, my Luminosity score increases by around 35%! How’s that for proof that exercise really does feed the mind?!]

It means considering me, making time to be my best me, as I take this journey, with myself, to realising the things I want to realise.

And what might those things be? I definitely feel called to share my personal story in book format. I’d like to give talks. [Part of my planning to be my best me also needs to deal with pushing through the vulnerability that comes with openly discussing my dreams, addressing the awkwardness that comes with sharing my (very private) hopes].

But I think that’s been the wonder and joy of this group: finding connection, finding community, finding people who understand each other, who we’re willing to be vulnerable in front of, so that we can find the support, accountability, we need.

If we don’t have that, we’re boats afloat but adrift, destination uncertain.

With a truly heartfelt thanks for your support,

Helen xxx

P.S. As I was on my walk this morning, a Nina Simone song came on shuffle, encapsulating so many emotions I’ve been feeling throughout this On Being series. I couldn’t find a version of it online but did come across Emeli Sande’s version….(I’ve a sense it’s going to become an anthem for the writer part of me)…hope you like it too!

On being a writer: engage

I’m continuing to join in with Kate Motaung’s online discussion group On Being a Writer, which is based on Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig’s book On being a writer: 12 simple steps for a writing life that lasts.

Today’s prompt is engage, and asks us to think about how we can engage with other writers to support/encourage us in our own work and how we can support and encourage other writers with their writing.

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As with many of these prompts, I found this a very difficult one to reflect upon and to write about.

I’m as guilty as the next person of hiding my light under a bushel and complaining (inwardly) about my circumstances which I feel don’t allow me to flourish.

But, you know, conditions are never going to be optimum. I’m probably never going to feel 100% confident about myself and my writing abilities. The time is ripe now to just get on with it. 

Engage2

It’s a case of striking a balance between the regrets I’ll feel if I don’t do ‘this’ and the intimidation/fear I experience when I think about taking the bull by the horns and just getting on with it.

The balance is slowly but surely tipping over to ‘won’t be able to live with myself if I don’t do this’. 

Every day I live owning and inhabiting this frame of mind, I seem to get that little bit more confident, the internal pep talks get that little bit more convincing.

Clearly it’s time.

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When my mind starts to wander, to drift from the steadfast path of ‘Just do it, Helen‘, I wonder what an ideal place for flourishing would look like…

I envisage artist’s dates (thanks, Gabriele for the idea)…where you take yourself off somewhere that stimulates your creativity and have an artist date with yourself. A purposeful space to take time out to think, to get creative, to get back in touch with you the artist. 

I often find myself thinking how amazing it would be if we all had our own personal cheerleader (be it a mentor, friend or family member), who kept us positive and mindful of our goals? It’d be so much easier to keep our dreams in mind, and that way, to slowly but surely complete the goals that will enable us to attain those dreams. [After all sometimes it is the accountability that’s lacking, unfortunately].

I dream of a small, friendly, community of like-minded women, open to critique(ing) gently and constructively, a little vital support group. Each with the same dreams, each with unique talents, each open to helping, nourishing, nurturing each other.

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How does this all work in practice? I don’t know. I do know that I need this, need this outside support (however much I try to tell myself I’m an island and don’t need it).

I also know that I really enjoy and very much miss not being able to interact with other like-minded people because I enjoy being able to contribute positively to other people’s lives. Making a difference, in whatever small a way that might be. [Realising that, sometimes, actually, the smallest gestures can be the most important].

Joining in with On Being a Writer and connecting with other bloggers (via On Being and those who so kindly visit my blog)….it’s been a wonderful, wonderful time, a time for deep reflection….a time for me to realise, again, the fundamental need we have for community and connection and the great power of finding your tribe. 

Thank you all, 

Helen xxx

[P.S. Bear with me as I ‘tweak’ the look of I Will Bloom; I’m aware that the font size is way too small in this template!]

 

On being a writer: discover

I’m continuing to join in with Kate Motaung’s online discussion group On Being a Writer, which is based on Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig’s book On being a writer: 12 simple steps for a writing life that lasts.

Wednesday’s prompt asked us to think about the word Discover. The prompt asked us to think about what “When I write, I find myself” means to us, and to discuss what we’ve learned about ourselves through our writing.

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It’s taken me a while to get in to a frame of mind where I could even begin to answer this, as it’s kind of a heavy prompt! Writing means so many things to me, particularly in relation to self that I’ve been a bit stumped to tell the truth.

I’ve always written, always write. It’s so much part of who I am that I’m only myself when I’m able to write.

Recently, however, as I’ve lived through things no-one should have to live through, I’ve found myself journalling as a way of getting all the ‘stuff’, all the negative emotions, out of my head, to be able to have a head that’s clear enough to be able to write.

I then write the imaginary characters/places I have in my head, which transfers me to a different world. I freely admit that I often get lost in these worlds for longer than I should, for longer than is viable practically, because I feel so comfortable there.

It’s a place where I’m me, safe, where no-one can judge, where no-one can spoil or damage anything; it’s a safe haven.

So I guess I’ve started to use writing, in different forms, as some type of therapy: to process and understand but, also, to escape. 

In this escape, I’m ‘me-er than me’ (as Seuss would say) and I feel at home there, perfectly comfortable, perfectly safe.

I sometimes find the messages my inner self is trying to tell me when I write. They pop up, out of the font of words, from my subconscious, telling me what it is I wanted to know, or what it is I’ve been too afraid to tell myself.

I think, reflecting on this, that part of the vulnerability of revealing myself as ‘a writer’ comes from the fact that my writing has begun to take on this deeper significance for me personally, as a way of overcoming everything I’ve lived through recently.

And then I get angry all over again, because this, even this, even my writing has now, somehow, become part of the abuse, in that I use it now to process, to understand, to overcome….even this deeply personal, deeply ‘me’ part of me has become tainted and I kind of hate that.

Then I realise that all this ‘going round in circles’ isn’t helpful in terms of me ‘realising my dreams’ when it comes to my writing and I quickly snap myself out of it and get on with it. 

It’s not easy living with trauma, it’s not easy overcoming but I’m damned if that’s going to stop me doing what it is I want to do.

I reveal and simultaneously discover myself, my inner workings, every time I put finger to keyboard, or pen to paper: there’s power in that, actually, as it enables me to get stronger, more secure, more sure with every word typed, every word written out long.

There’s defiance in my act of writing.

Defiance to not be defeated.

Defiance to not be lost. 

Defiance: to reveal me, even despite the fact that, some days, I wonder who ‘me’ really is any more….

Helen

On being a writer: promote

I’m continuing to join in with Kate Motaung’s online discussion group On Being a Writer, which is based on Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig’s book On being a writer: 12 simple steps for a writing life that lasts.

Today’s prompt asks us to think about the word promote. [I feel I should preface this with the disclaimer that it was most definitely written in ‘Five Minute Friday’ style as I have an Important Meeting in less than half an hour!]

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It’s a scary and confusing one for me (as are a lot of the things related to finding the courage to follow my passion).

I know I have a voice and I feel a pull towards using my voice with the vague (yet all-encompassing) aim of ‘helping others’. [My blog platform]

I also know that I love writing fiction and that the characters/places/images that are in my head want to get out and start living on the page and in other people’s heads too [The books I visualise]….but…

…it seems so ridiculous, somehow, so frivolous and self-important, to even think of bridging the gap between ‘want to write’ and ‘start promoting myself’ (let alone actually bridging it).

And that’s when the doubt sets in….

“There are a million other people who do this so much better than I can”

“You have a million other things to be doing, Helen….you can’t afford to waste the time”

“Who do you think you are?”

“Who would want to hear what you have to say?”

[We all know the scary doubt and fear monsters (as Gabriele so beautifully points out!)…and we all have our own personal demons surrounding these issues]

But, you know, I do feel I’ve been given a gift (she writes, whilst fully realising she’s no Faulkner/Hemingway/Andrew Miller) and that I am somehow being pulled/called to use it [call that God, call it intuition, call it passion…whatever it can be labelled, it’s a very real feeling].

I’m at the stage, I guess, where I’ve now declared I’m a writer and know I want to do something and am actively doing something as a habit (need) in that I’ve been writing daily for over a year or so now….

I now ask myself what I’m waiting for to start promoting my writing?

And that, my fellow lovely writers, is the million dollar question!

Perhaps more time needs to be spent on figuring out what is holding me back and, importantly, how to stare it down.

Helen

[Photo from Rowan Huewel at Unsplash]

On being a writer: Send

[If you’re visiting from Blog-tember, my post for that is here (scroll down if you don’t like links!)]

I’m continuing to join in with Kate Motaung’s online discussion group On Being a Writer, which is based on Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig’s book On being a writer: 12 simple steps for a writing life that lasts. One of today’s prompts, which is based on Chapter 6 of the book (which discusses submitting our writing), asks us to consider what’s holding us back from submitting work, what steps we could take to make it happen, what goals we need to set ourselves and what fears we might need to put aside to be able to submit our work. Here goes with my response…

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I thank Ann and Charity (and obviously Kate) for opening this up as a topic for reflection (and discussion, as part of the group). We, as writers, need to make clear what it is we want for our writing and, then, on this basis, create our plan of action to be able to achieve those goals.

As with many of us who’ve joined this online discussion group, we’re all natural writers, in that we write frequently. Many of us have expressed an interest in putting more effort in to our blogs or writing for publication or we have a general sense that we want to ‘do something’ with our writing.

I myself know I’d like to publish a (or several) book(s) and I’d like to publish articles in relevant publications (there, I’ve said it ‘out loud’!). Now I’ve done the work to identify this aim, I need to break this in to a set of goals and then put the work in to achieve those goals (it’s like anything in life: I’m only going to get out of my ‘public’ writing life what I put in to it).

As Kate says, in order to achieve a (very commendable) success rate with the articles she sent in for publication, she needed to research publications like it was her job. [Then do the work once a positive response had been received].

I understand this. I do.

I plan daily (my life as a self-employed single mother would not work if I didn’t have many, many plans in place) but I do have fears about executing plans to achieve my writing goals.

They’re all fears centred around the main fear that I’ll put the time in and it won’t give results. As time is very precious around here, I can’t afford to waste my time. I can’t take time away from the many balls I juggle in the air if I’m not certain that it’ll pay off.

But, as I’ve started telling myself (and hearing myself saying) more often, as a result of this discussion group: I’ll never know if I don’t at least try. 

And the one that’s been niggling in the back of my head, and getting louder and louder recently: I’d actually never forgive myself if I don’t at least try.

It’s one of those moments now, for me, where the bigger picture is absolutely overtaking the fears.

If I don’t make time to put the work in, I won’t reap the benefits that might come from seeing my writing go where I’d like it to go.

So, given my tight schedule, what can I do to market my work (now there’s a scary word if ever I heard one!)?

  • I already make time for writing so I’m going to dedicate some of that writing time to finding markets and finding out how to submit (thanks, Kate, for the list you supplied today; I’m definitely considering submitting to some of those publications)
  • As my good friend Julie suggested, I’m going to organise some of the writing I already have and make a portfolio so I’ll have that ready (there may even be things in there that might be ‘publication-ready’ already)
  • Make a set of goals for how many submissions I’ll make per week and make a commitment to myself that I’m going to stick to those goals
  • Organise a system for tracking submissions

Breaking the whole ‘scary monster’ down like this, in response to the prompt today, has been a lesson in itself: that the things we feel are really ‘not-do-able’ are, in fact, when we face them head on a) not as scary as they seem and b) somehow, actually, do-able if we do the mental work and get to a place in our heads where we can accommodate them.

I’ve read the minds of amazing women throughout this discussion series, and have really enjoyed their writing; I hope we’ll all manage to get to a place where we feel confident enough to take the next step (whatever that next step means for each of us).

Helen xxx

On being a writer: write

Joining in with Kate Motaung’s online discussion group On Being a Writer, which is based on Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig’s book On being a writer: 12 simple steps for a writing life that lasts. One of today’s prompts, which is based on Chapter 5 of the book, asks us to consider what writing means to us and to share a blog post about what the act of writing means to us. Here goes…

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I’ve always written, right from when I was little. One of my best memories from childhood is the day we were stood, at school, in the little garden we’d planted (it couldn’t have been more than a metre long and a few centimetres wide), watering the plants (it was a lovely hot summers day). I had the watering can in my hand and, as I was watering the plants, the teacher came running over, all smiles, to tell me that my story had won the competition in the local library. Things are a bit muddled in my memory after that, but I do remember that someone’s shoes got wet because I lost control of the watering can (I remember they weren’t my shoes) and I remember, to this day, the feeling of pride that welled up inside because someone had liked my writing so much that they’d chosen it to win a prize!

I’ve written ever since then. Loved English best at school (although ended up studying science at University and beyond, for my PhD). Wrote stories all the time as a girl. Wrote letters home from University regularly: not just to family but, also, to friends, regaling them of tales in the Big Smoke. Began to write non-fiction during my studies and then that became a freelance ‘gig’.

Set up an editing business, which took over the freelance non-fiction writing. [All of this coinciding with my marriage; strange that I began to lose the ‘writer’ part of myself as I married…and then my marriage turned in to the place where I lost pretty much the whole of myself between the abuse and the isolation and, well, other ‘stuff’].

I then began to write again, during my marriage, as a way out. [Perhaps ‘a way through’ is a better, more fitting, description, because, even in the depths of despair, trapped in an abusive relationship, I never really thought of ‘out’, I always gave him the benefit of the doubt that we would find a way through. How very wrong I was].

Writing was a way of escaping my reality, a way of imagining different situations, escaping the (often-times) horror-filled days (towards the end) that would mark my passage through my life. I could fly, by writing, even when my wings were cut and I could not fly. It was a way of defying my situation, of reclaiming freedom in the face of terror. It was a way of saying ‘I am me. I am Helen and I am bigger than this’ (even when ‘out’ wasn’t possible and I was caged). [And no, that caged bird did not sing].

Then, well, fast forward a few years (because not even I want to remember all that) and I was able to get out and my writing came to be about recovery. About re-discovering myself, reclaiming all the bits and pieces of me that had been lost, dragged to different poles, stretched almost beyond recognition. Mercury sliding across vinyl, me coming together again, slowly, slowly, testing the waters, seeing how it feels, slowly recovering my senses, trust in myself, my confidence, my belief that I would, once again, be able to fly.

I write, now, in many contexts. I write on I Will Bloom, very half-heartedly. I say half-heartedly because I love my space but it is a source of frustration for me. I’d love to take I Will Bloom places, write fabulous posts that would help women to find the joy, to reclaim themselves (post-domestic abuse and otherwise), to write about entrepreneurship and single motherhood and working from home in a ‘You can do it!’ type style…[I’d love to do that]….

….but I have a deeper desire, to write books, to give talks, conferences, to women who’ve been abused and, in particular, on behalf of women who have had the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction used against them (especially in situations of domestic violence) and who are, as a result, stuck – in limbo – in a country not their own, withering their lives away whilst they wait for their children to become adults

[Yes, you may have realised…it does turn your children’s childhoods in to a double-edged sword; you don’t want to wish away a minute of it, you want them to enjoy every single minute of it, but, all the while, there’s the realisation in the back of your mind that there are many, many, many minutes until they reach 18 and you’ll be free].

So…I guess I’m speaking to the Universe now (in tears, actually)…hands up, palms open, calling all the Divine powers….”Use me, use my talents, show me where to go and what to do….”

“Knock and the door shall open” Matthew 7:7 tells me….I’ve been knocking ever so timidly and now I feel it’s about time to start banging

I want to turn the injustices I’ve faced and turn them in to good. Beyond wanting to write to understand my own experiences, I’d like to write so that others facing similar circumstances can feel less alone.

Writing, to me, means sisterhood. Brotherhood. Unity. Realising we’re not alone. That we’re heard. That our voices are heard, even in desperate times.

Those books and characters you can identify with so strongly? Those books that arrive to you at exactly the right moment?

There’s power in words. The power to move souls and to change lives. To find the good.

That’s what I’d like to be known for, as a writer.

[And that’s the kind of blog post you write, folks, when you’ve been at the police station, in a foreign land, all day long, banging your head against a very thick brick wall….]

Helen xxxx

On Being a Writer: Notice

Continuing to join in with, enjoy and get a lot from the On Being A Writer online discussion at Kate Motaung’s blog. The discussion is based on Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig’s book On Being a Writer: 12 simple habits for a writing life that lasts

Today’s prompt (and the topic of the 4th Chapter of the book under discussion) is Notice.

Flowers

I don’t have a problem noticing things. It’s part of my nature (apparently it’s a characteristic of people with the INFJ personality type). I actually often have a problem turning off my noticing skills: I sometimes can’t stop looking, don’t want to leave places that stimulate me (usually when I’m in Nature or a crowded place with lots of interesting people to people watch) and find myself constantly imagining stories based around the people I’ve seen or the places/buildings/doors I’ve passed (does anyone else like interesting doors or is that just me?!). My head is a well-populated place!

I’ve read that a lot of people have trouble noticing so, for my contribution to the discussion, I decided to brainstorm ideas about how to improve one’s noticing skills and I ended up deconstructing the process I use when I want to be more mindful about my noticing. Here goes:

  1. Clear your mind. You’re less likely to notice anything if your mind is occupied with the things you still need to do/the silly argument you had with the cashier/is planning tonight’s dinner/the million other things we manage to keep juggling in our heads at any one time (!)….clear your mind and you’ll have space to be able to notice.
  2. Find somewhere comfortable to sit and get comfy. Then prepare yourself to just notice. Let go of anything that’s weighing your mind down.
  3. Close your eyes. Feel the place with your other senses: What can you smell? What can you feel on your skin? What can you hear? [This step is important; it’ll disconnect you from where you ‘were’ mentally to where you ‘are’ physically and will allow you to enter your period of noticing much more mindfully]
  4. Once you’ve closed your eyes for a few minutes, and you feel more relaxed, more mindful, open your eyes and see. I don’t mean look, I mean see. What’s in front of you? What’s around you? Don’t just look at them but take the time to consider them, to really see them.
  5. Once you’ve seen around you for a while, start to focus on the things that interest you. Then take the time to explore everything about them. If it’s a person, look at their face, their hair, their clothes, their shoes. If a building, note it’s height, size, paint colour. Take the time to notice the main characteristics.
  6. Close your eyes and try to remember the things you were drawn towards. Try to recreate them in your mind’s eye.
  7. Start to describe what you saw when you considered it in detail. As the famous advice states: Show don’t tell. Use all the things you felt (with your other senses), use all the details you managed to see. Use them all to describe what you focused on.
  8. Repeat as necessary!

I use this process often, especially when I’ve been stressed and I find myself feeling really disconnected from my surroundings. I find it helps me become much more mindful of my surroundings and definitely helps me to channel my nervous energy in to something positive and relaxing.

It’s a process that’s also helped my writing a great deal. I often find it’s much easier to describe imaginary situations or imaginary people than it is for me to describe things I’ve actually seen, or situations I’ve lived (because no-one else has seen them!), but this is, I’ve realised, a lazy option, as a writer.

I feel that we need, as writers, to be able to describe our reality, without projecting our feelings or distorting that reality and, I know for myself, that my own writing didn’t improve until I made the real, conscious, effort to faithfully describe things/events I’d experienced/lived.

I couldn’t start to faithfully describe (reproduce?) the situations/characters I had in my head until I’d made the effort to learn how to describe anything in an interesting manner, reproducing every aspect of it in such a manner that the resulting description was not only a faithful approximation of it’s essence but, also, an interesting read because it was much fuller, much more authentic.

I hope this might help some people: I’ve learnt so much from all of you over the last two weeks that I really hope my (very minor) suggestions might help some of those of you who are struggling with noticing! [Isn’t that the great thing about a community like this one, that we, each of us, can offer something valuable that’s of help to others? Love it!]

Helen xxx