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

1+4 = Life: 27th September

Joining in with the ever-wonderful Isabel who has taken over from Pip to host the ‘1+4=Life’ link-up. The idea is to post four photos to describe one week (this week’s link-up is here). Here goes….

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It was a week of illness (for me): a horrible virus that sent me to my bed from Monday evening onwards. I’m still feeling decidedly iffy but am able to move around now so I’m happier

So, not many photos, unfortunately….just a few I snapped on a walk I took on Monday and a brief excursion to the local shops yesterday (as food supplies had whittled themselves down to ‘unsettling’ levels!)…apologies to those of you who might already have seen them on Instagram….

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A beautiful patch of bamboo lit up by the morning sun. A welcome ‘Oh how wonderful’ moment in an up-to-that-point very drab day.

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A pair of orchid flowers. The orchid had eighteen – yes, eighteen! – buds. Can’t wait to see it when all of them come in to flower! [Hoping no-one steals it before that happens: unfortunately people see stealing orchids as a way of life here]

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A beautiful red flower. Species unknown (to me). Must find out what it is. The tree (little more than shrub height) was full of them. Amazing!

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And one of those sunsets when you think ‘Ah, everything just might be well with the world’…..

I’m not feeling well enough to sit and write my usual list of ‘The week when I’ve been….’ items, but wanted to let my readers know about the challenge that my friend Julie has set for herself…to leave 300 comments on blogs in 30 days.

Love the sentiment behind it (“Let’s show our appreciation of the bloggers we read and enjoy!”), love her post about it and have really loved visiting the blogs she’s been posting on her Pinterest board. Can’t wait to join in myself from October (although, as many of you know, my comments might be posted in bulk over the weekends, due to time limitations during the week!)

Wishing you all a lovely week,

Helen xxx

P.S. Don’t forget to look out for tonight’s super moon eclipse….find the time it’ll be viewable for you here…! My son is wishing away his day so he’ll get to see it quicker and I’m praying for clear skies….

P.P.S. This quote just alighted in my Inbox (courtesy of Paul Jarvis) and I thought you might like to hear it too…

Begin taking action now, while being neurotic or imperfect, or a procrastinator, or unhealthy, or lazy, or any other label by which you inaccurately describe yourself. Go ahead and be the best imperfect person you can be and get started on those things you want to accomplish before you die” – Shoma Mortia.

[An anthem for all of us stalled creatives]

FMF: Doubt

Joining in with Five Minute Friday. Today’s word Doubt

Here goes…

Welcome

START

Doubt – the little creep – goes hand in hand with certainty. We can’t have doubt unless there’s a lack of certainty.

There’s always a certain measure of a lack of certainty in anything we do, because the only certainties we have, after all, are that the sun will rise and set and that, at some point, we will die.

We live, therefore, with doubt as a constant companion.

Doubt, fear’s insidious cousin, not as directly, instantly, paralysing as fear, yet far more debilitating, as he wears us down, wears us out, kills our spontaneity, pummels dead the remaining bits of certainty we salvage from the sea of uncertainty we swim in.

We know this, we know he’s a trickster, a shady operator, we know that doubt stalls us, belittles us, dampens our potential yet we still pay him heed. Far too much heed than we should.

Because of doubt, we often live timid lives. We let the fear of uncertainty crush us.

It’s a sad state of affairs, really. To think that we might, in our last seconds, come face to face with all the doubt we’ve ever entertained.

To see him laughing loudly shouting ‘I won’. I think that – that – would be far worse than trying to face him down once in a while.

As we all know, bullies lose their power once they’re faced head on.

Doubt, you bully: I’m going to make it my mission to crush you.

want to be the one laughing in those last few seconds.

END

P.S. For any of the ladies who look out for me at FMF with the ‘happy pansy’ image above, I’m going to be changing the ‘avatar’ to this one…

Grab Button3

 

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

1 + 4 = Life: 20th September

Joining in with the ever-wonderful Isabel who has taken over from Pip to host the ‘1+4=Life’ link-up. The idea is to post four photos to describe one week (this week’s link-up is here). Here goes….

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It was the week we got a new hamster (nothing has happened to Falcao, don’t worry – my daughter decided she wanted a hamster too…). She’s called Luz and is too cute! [She’s been missing since Friday night, following a ‘cage-break’ but I’m hopeful she will appear when she’s hungry, the little rascal!]

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It was also the week I fell completely head over heels in love with Instagram (I’m iwillbloom over there)…a whole world of amazing images at one’s fingertips? Yes please!

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It was also the week I decided I have to actively make time for myself to ensure that I’m feeling well and strong and able, so I can get on with things (such as my writing) that have been set on the back burner for too long. Cue lots of pampering, walks, resting during the day and general ‘stress-less’ living…

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And, finally, it was the week of the first homework from Big School! There was much excitement as she literally ran off the bus, trying to grab inside her school bag to get the homework out – and finish it – as quickly as possible!

It was also the week I was:

So proud of my son as he was voted Captain of his House at school [Proud Mum Moment Number 3456278 and counting]

Loving the fact that Ben Haenow won the X Factor UK 2014…..I cried literally almost all the way through and can’t wait to hear his album when it comes out! (I’m absolutely sure he was only using about 60% of his capabilities throughout the competition)…Here’s a little taster of his voice, ladies….Don’t ever accuse me of not providing decent eye candy on this blog 🙂 ….

Lost in Instagram….enough said….loving so many accounts…like art.of.nature.photography and a couple of guys who are aiming to travel to every country…(living vicariously, me?!)…and how utterly amazing is it that you can follow the Dalai Lama as he goes about his travels…?? [I kind of feel a bit like a cross between a child in a sweetshop and how my Gran must have felt when she was completely flabbergasted realising it was possible to speak on a cordless phone!]

Excited by the fact that I’ve just won a big contract with a research institute here, to help them with their editing needs. [Please let’s click virtual champagne glasses! All pats on the back gracefully received!]

Watching Everest at the cinema with my son. My goodness. Do go and see it if you can. Incredible stuff and Southpaw at home on the settee [Jake Gyllenhaal obsessed, moi?!]

So happy watching this video:

If only everyone could walk around with this song playing in their heads every morning, the world would be a much more wonderful place.

Right, I’ll “love you and leave you” (as my Gran always used to say)…there’s some fishing rods waiting to be used and a river to explore!

Have a great week everyone!

Helen xxx

FMF: Celebrate

Joining in with Five Minute Friday. This week’s word Celebrate. Here goes…

Celebrate-Spider

START

When I think of celebrate I don’t, nowadays, think of celebrations for grand events such as birthdays or Christmas. [Having had everything stripped away from me, piece by piece, and being isolated from family and friends, birthdays haven’t been personal or intimate, celebratory, affairs for many years, unfortunately].

Nowadays I celebrate the “every day” [Actually, I look back and see that the seed of this attitude was planted when my Dad died suddenly (at 45); nothing like a tragic death to make you realise how very short and very precious life is].

So now, I actively give thanks: for anything and everything however small…actually, scratch that….the smaller the better…for it’s in the little things, the small moments, the smallest of small kindnesses where joy and beauty are to be found, where life’s glory and splendour should be rejoiced and celebrated.

Start – and move through – your days with an open mind, end your days grateful: perhaps there’s no better recipe for a rich life, a life in which all things of worth are noted and celebrated, for the marvel they are.

END

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!

Anatomy of a bag

My bag. Often Tardis-like in its capabilities, today thankfully not so full.

I often wonder what people would glean from my life/character if my bag were rummaged ‘Through the Keyhole’ style.

What story would it tell today?

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That I like nice things (Burberry purse) and that I can’t part with old things (the nearly 20 year old scuffed and battered Burberry purse)? That I like a bargain (it was found in Bicester Village for 80% off; a bargain, even then, at £30!)?

That I have a pen/notebook fetish? That I scribble a lot (6 pens? A pack of sticky notes?! A folded scrap of paper with notes all over it)? That I’m a thinker? A writer?

That I have – and adore – my two children….who draw a lot, anywhere and everywhere (a Super Super Hero and a zoo, if you were wondering!)? That our home is full to the brims with creativity?

That I like to try to be glamorous (gold nail polish – I actually have no idea what that’s doing in there!)?

That I have a daughter who loves pink??!! That she recently hurt her eye and so has to wear sunglasses when she’s out and about?

That my boy’s 9 and loves pranks (the chewing gum that gives you an electric shock is most certainly not mine)?

There are many, many stories in there.

And as I look on these things and hear those stories, I realise…

The narratives we create for ourselves are the narratives our world/the world hears.

Note to self: being brave enough to say “I’m a writer” gives the dream a name and makes it that much more attainable because it makes you accountable.

What stories do you/your things tell and is that narrative in concert with your goals/dreams?

Helen xxx

 [Written in response to the Day 15 prompt for Blog-tember]

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. 

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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!]