How to Find Inner Peace

Peace begins with me

This is a mantra that we often use in yoga class to meditate. I touch my thumb to each finger in turn. Peace. Begins. With. Me. Over time, the message has settled within me becoming my truth.

Sometimes we feel as though we are caught in a whirlwind with things happening to us beyond our control. A devastating medical diagnosis for you or a loved one. Bereavement. Struggling to pay the bills. Redundancy. Divorce. 

We may have parents who are near the end of life or children who are experiencing a crisis. We want to make everything better for our loved ones but feel overwhelmed and helpless.

The world is a scary place right now. Listening to the news can cause anxiety, anger, and frustration.

It is hard not to get caught up and pulled apart by a whirlwind of emotions. Finding peace within. A sense of calm, despite all that rages around us can be challenging. It may even feel pointless – achieving peace for just one minute impossible.

Early on in my writing journey, there were times when I experienced emotional turmoil and felt out of control. Fear of failure. Disappointment. Rejection. Elation followed by despair. The highs and lows of my writing life were having a detrimental effect on my relationships, my health and my well-being. I was looking to outside influences to bring me peace of mind and reassurance. Through meditation and journaling, I learned to take back control.

We all know that we cannot control what happens to us only how we respond. But this is sometimes easier said than done. 

Jan Pixabay

So how do we find peace within? Here are some suggestions:

Find five or ten minutes each day to meditate. Use a YouTube guided meditation if you are new to this. Boho Beautiful, The Honest Guys, and Adrienne (of yoga fame) are good places to start.

  • Walk in nature and focus on your senses, what you can see, smell, and feel.
  • Write a gratitude list. Grace Sammon (a guest on my podcast The Mindful Writer) described this process beautifully when talking about a friend. ‘…she had a very cantankerous divorce, and she would just go to the beach and cry. And someone told her she needed to find joy and gratitude every day. And she thought that was preposterous. So, on her list, she would write down sand. Sand. Water. Beach. But what she found just from that act of mindfulness, she was able to grow that list and cry less because it was that: Sand. Seagull. Bird. Wave. Sunlight. Cloud. Rainbow. People chatting. People walking.  And her list, really unbeknownst and unplanned to her, grew.’ 
  • Another of my guests, Matthew Williams, used journaling when he was in a dark place following a divorce. By writing down what had happened to him he started to make sense of his life. In his words…‘We create narratives around everything that happens in our life, who we are, our relationships to others. All of that is a story that we tell ourselves. And the question is who, who is holding the pen? And who is writing that story? Are you consciously creating the story of your life? Or are you allowing it to be written for you by other people’s expectations – by a particular person in your life, whether it be a partner, a parent, an employer? Are you handing the pen to somebody else? At any point, you can take that pen and you can create your story.’ 
  • Some people find spiritual affirmations helpful. Again, there are a lot of these on the internet if you Google.
  • Gentle physical exercise can help us to feel grounded. I love to dance, and of course, practise yoga.

Although it may not feel like it at times peace really does begin with us. Try to find that quiet place within. At first, it may only be for one minute. Be grateful for that one minute and know that you can return again and again. A loving, and compassionate you is waiting within. Peace. Begins. With. Me. 

Sending you peace and the hope that you find some light within the darkness.

How to rewrite the story of your life with author and life coach Matthew Williams

In this eight episode of The Mindful Writer Author and Life coach Matthew Williams tells me how he wrote himself out of what he describes as a shit place to write himself a better life story. Although Matthew hit rock bottom in his personal life he used this experience to create something amazing.

Before we launch into the interview I will update you on my writing journey.

After escaping Covid for more than two years it finally caught up with me. Like many others I picked up the virus whilst on holiday. To be precise Sherman, my husband contracted it on the last day of our holiday and I caught it from him four days later.

It is 14 days since I tested positive. One week in I tested negative and thought right – I’m fit. Back to work! I thought I had recovered 100% and wanting to make up for lost time threw myself into work and catching up on social engagements. Two days later I had an almighty migraine.

It is hard to let go of a busy agenda and resign ourself to what is. Being unwell filled me with appreciation for my usual state of good health and gratitude for the scientists who developed a vaccine and those who administered it.

We cannot control the things that happen to us only how we react to them. Matthew Williams is an incredible example of this. In this week’s podcast he tells me how he was compelled to share his story with the world so that others could journey with him from what was a very dark place.

Let me introduce you.

Matthew Williams is an author, public speaker, and life coach. In this episode he tells me:

How writing took him from a ‘shit place’ to achieving remarkable things

How you can change the story of your life by taking control of the pen.

Matthew Williams

You can listen to the podcast here: Episode eight How to rewrite the story of your life

Or read the transcript below:

Deborah: Hi, Matthew. 

Matthew: Hi there.

Deborah: I’m particularly interested in exploring with you today your story, how you journeyed from what you describe as ‘a shit place,’ to where you are now as an author, speaker and coach. So welcome.

Matthew: Thank you very much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here. And like you said, describing where my journey, my story started – it’s, yeah, it’s a long way away from there. And to have the opportunity to be sat here speaking as an author when it seemed like a million miles away. So yeah, it’s great to be here.

Deborah: Excellent. And we’re going to explore that with you because you have had a remarkable journey. But let’s just start with telling us about the significant changes in your life, which were a divorce, and struggles with mental health, which led you to becoming a published author, and an active campaigner for mental health, and setting up an online course to help others change their story. 

Matthew: Yes, so my blog was where it all started really. That was, where are we now? So back in December 2015. So maybe seven years ago now. And it was a year on well, over a year on, from a marriage breakup. We’d been together 20 years, and married for nearly nine of those. And, and the year following the breakup I thought I was kind of running on adrenaline really. And again, all this is kind of, in hindsight, but once the initial kind of shock, you know, shock of what was happening – you have to start looking forward and obviously how your life is gonna be. I think then your focus is on the immediate term, and the practical things, you need to get sorted out – find somewhere to live – all of this kind of thing. I think the biggest thing for me is adjusting to the changes with my kids, my children. So, you know, from being there every day to suddenly not being there was very difficult. But like I say, I was mostly taken up with those kinds of practicalities. 

I met someone and so, you know, one of the things I really found difficult was not being in that kind of family unit anymore. It was something that had always been very important to me. So, you know, I met someone and I felt that I kind of had that again. But you know, it’s such a tumultuous time. That relationship didn’t last – about 10 months. It was kind of a few months after that ended. And that was all very amicable. We were in different places, really. 

It was one night in December 2015, when a lot of things kind of hit me all at once. You know, my ex-wife was kind of moving on with her life with a new partner and my ex-girlfriend was the same, and then you know, facing my first Christmas on my own and yeah, it was just a lot of things hit me all at once. I felt shit to put it mildly. It was not a nice time. 

But it was really strange that I was in this hotel one evening, I was working away and I just felt compelled to write about it. And I’ve never, never done anything like that before. I mean, I’ve always been an avid reader, but I never thought that I could write. I just felt compelled to. That’s the only way I can describe it. I just knew I had to put it, put it down on paper. Type it on the screen and So I did. That evening, I just wrote how I was feeling and what I was going through at that particular time, downloaded the blogging app and published it, and so there wasn’t really a huge amount of thought, I just did it. And I had no idea what to expect. 

But, you know, I got really encouraging feedback from people. I was obviously able to articulate what I was experiencing in a way that connected with people. And then, once I’d started, it just didn’t stop it. Again, I felt compelled to do this. There was loads more stuff I wanted to say. The mental health side of things – now, it was something I had already experienced twice, by this point. So, in 2006, and in 2013, I’d had some really difficult struggles with depression. And so, when my marriage ended, that was kind of at the back of my mind that obviously, I didn’t want to go back there. And same for over for over a year, I like to say, I’ve been kind of going on adrenaline or whatever, I’ve never felt any sign that I was slipping back. But at that point, it when I started writing I knew I was struggling, so it helped me really kind of process things. And so, I didn’t set out to write about mental health, you know, but I realised that it was such a big part of what formed me that I had to. It was about my third post that, I wrote about having suffered with depression. And again, that had a really big impact with people. I got opportunities to write and publish on different websites and things and yeah, I guess, I found my voice. I found what I was passionate about. It’s such an alien experience to go through, you know, a severe episode with your mental health. And to find that I could articulate this in a way that people understood and could relate to, you know, I realised it was something that I needed to use and make the most of really. As I say, I wanted to help people. And so yeah, through that I got involved in campaigning – various campaigns working for big charities. And, and that whole process led to the creation of my on-line course.

Deborah: Excellent. Let’s just stop there to unpick a few things there. Listening to you – it’s a really emotional journey. And you wrap it up as if it happened just like that. But it must have been incredibly painful time for you. And the growth, the emotional courage that you had to survive that and the growth you went through, to get from where you were to where you are now is incredible. And I just wanted to talk to you about a couple of things. One is that point where you were in a really dark place, which you describe as a shit place – which I think is a great way to describe it – from that shit place you had this sense of purpose, I need to write this down. And I just wanted to explore with you how that feeling of purpose drove you and reflecting back, what your thoughts are about the things that drive us to do what’s in our heart? What is it that leads us to do these things? And how do we listen to them and act on them? Perhaps just explore that with you a bit?

Matthew: It was a really emotional time and experience. Initially, I had a bit of an argument with my parents, my dad in particular. Back then, I was putting stuff out there that was very raw. And, you know, and they were my parents and were kind of concerned about me, a lot of people were, you know, seeing what I was writing. And what, yeah, I did, I felt driven to do.  But initially, I think it was a really good way of me processing what I was going through and I, you know, my dad said, ‘Why can’t you just write about it? Why does it have to be public?’  And I really had to reflect on that because I’ve never been someone that wanted the limelight or attention. But I felt a real need to put it out there and I questioned myself about that. And what I realised was that by writing about it, I had to find a meaning for it. I had to find a purpose for it. It couldn’t just be, oh, look, I’m going through a shit time, you know. It had to mean something. And so, I had to find positives. I had to find a way of reframing it so that’s what I wanted to put out there. And this may be weird as well but I had a sense, right from the start that it was significant. When I started writing that it was a significant moment in my life, and it was going to mean something. And I just knew it. Even though I was in a really bad place, even though I’d never written anything before – I didn’t think, you know, I’m gonna be this great writer – I just had a sense that it was going to mean something. And one of the things that drove me one of the things that drove me

is that, at some level, I had this sense again – it’s not like I was consciously thinking, This is what’s going to happen. But somewhere, it was almost like, if I show myself at this real low ebb where I’m feeling vulnerable, exposed, and, and all of that kind of thing. At some point, there’s going to be a point at which to say, look, what all that led to. It was because of all that this happened. And by exposing myself in real time, it was almost like, people would see that. And people would know that yeah, you know, whatever- good does come out of it they’ve seen all the crap that happened for me to get there. That these things don’t just magically happen. There’s always a real struggle behind it. Again, not saying that, you know, I ever imagined some great pinnacle that I’d be on. But, you know, amazing things have happened.

I guess, it’s been difficult, again, isn’t that things, you know suddenly everything kind of falls in your lap. By being out there and putting yourself out there and making the connections that enables this because you’re coming from a place that is real, and people identify with that. I just felt a drive to do that.

Deborah: You’ve put that very well. And as you’re speaking it through, it sounds as if you are doing exactly what you say you do – you talk about changing your story. And as you’re talking about the process of writing down what’s happening to you with the faith that it would all turn out, okay, you’re kind of taking control of your story and writing it. But you’re doing it very publicly, which took a lot of courage to expose yourself in that way, which we’ll talk about. But you’re also sharing a narrative that other people can identify with. And you went out there doing that with a faith that it would end up okay. And it has, which is remarkable.

Matthew: Yeah, and that to be honest, that’s been one of the things that my struggles with mental health taught me. You asked about – I can’t remember exact wording, but you said something about people in a similar situation. But it wasn’t that… I’m trying to think how to put it. It’s almost that you have to strip away what’s stopping you doing it. So, again, I felt a need and a compulsion to do it. The challenge is then, do you take that step? And to me that’s about stripping away. I think a lot of people are held back from their potential because they are scared of what other people will think, or scared of failing, you know, whatever expectations people have on them and how they should live. And so, it’s more about removing the things that are stopping you. Because I think inside us, you know, that it’s there – you have to kind of uncover it and clear away the crap. It’s there in us and, and for me, it was actually my experiences with depression that helped me to do that, because it kind of freed me from fear and other people’s expectations because where it took me too and how bad it was – nothing can be worse than that nothing. And, you know, when I was in this room, and I could barely move, it didn’t matter what anyone else thought about me all that mattered was whether I could somehow find a way out of it. And at that time, I didn’t think I could, but I did. So, having got through that I wasn’t going to let what someone else thought of me stop me from living my life. Because when it comes down to it, when you’re in those places, you know, there’s no one around. There was no one who could drag me out of it but myself. And so yeah, it’s given me a great a trusting and faith that I can push through things because what I’ve already been through is, you know, nothing can be worse than that. 

Deborah: And doing it once and getting that reinforcement that yes, this works. I can push through and achieve. It gives you more confidence and faith to do it again. So, you go on a positive trajectory, don’t you? It just gets better and better.

Matthew: Yes, absolutely. And it’s interesting you say that you know about fear. For me, one of the things I realised was that I think I’d always thought that I’ve been lucky. And I was constantly thinking, what if my luck runs out? But then I’m 47 now, and I’ve got enough life experience behind me to be able to trust more that things always have worked out, and not only has the crap time gone away, but something good has come out of them. So, I feel more that I can hang on to that. It’s always with me now. And that sense that at some point, my luck will run out – I don’t feel that now. I think there’s so much more at play. And a big part of it is knowing who you are and trusting your gut, your instinct and eradicating those fears and the blocks that hold you back. And yeah, I guess I trust in that a lot more now.

Deborah: In your online course Change Your Story, you work with other people to help them change their story. Can you tell us a little about that? The sorts of things that hold other people back and how you help them to tackle those obstacles just as you did?

Matthew: Yes. I’ve done a lot of work over the years. My career previously I was in sport, but I very much work with people on self-development, personal development.

And then I did the same in mental health for a while.  A lot of people found it difficult to articulate their strengths, and would often underplay – downplay, their strengths and minimise them. Almost taking them for granted. Not even recognise them – you know, that’s just something they could do. And, you know, I think we’ve got this thing certainly in the UK, I think that we do that – kind of apologetic about the things that we can do well, especially if it’s something that we haven’t had to work at. But actually, there’s this focus that we identify weaknesses and try and get rid of them. I think well, one is the thing about knowing your strengths, and are you making the most of your strengths? And then that’s where, you know, you really live a kind of rich life where you’re using those strengths and can use them to help others in particular and that, is very fulfilling and rewarding. And also, reframe your weaknesses as, just characteristics, attributes. And what might be a weakness in one situation can be a strength in another. So again, it all came back for me as about being in the right story. Like you’re using the analogy of you being the leading actor in a story of your life. Well, that story needs to be the right story for you. And if it isn’t, that can cause a lot of mental distress and potentially mental illness. And so, I sum it up as like you wouldn’t put Rocky in a romcom – boxing is my kind of big thing – because it doesn’t fit the character. And that seems to resonate with people. 

I think we often do drift in life and this is what happened with me, it was divorce, and mental health. It’s when things come along, that just shake you out of that and drifting along just isn’t an option anymore. Certainly, for me, clearly the mental health because you’re just not yourself anymore. I really questioned a lot of these things, who you are and what you’re doing in your life? So yeah, and I think that the analogy of a story, it puts some distance – it helps people to view their life more objectively and see things differently. We get very tied to the stories we tell ourselves. And the idea is that, well, it is just a story. And you’ve got the pen and you can rewrite it. Again, I think that’s an analogy that people can relate to. And it’s really interesting the realisations people have – little light bulb moments. You know, say I’ve done my job, when people have those lightbulb moments, but it’s true –  I’ve given them a framework to look at things differently.

Deborah: I love that framework. I read somewhere, that at the end of your life, you’ll look back, and your story will all make complete sense. And being an author myself, that really resonates with me, because as writers, we put our protagonist through hell, but we know they’re going to have their happy ending. And all the little breadcrumbs we drop in our stories of things happening, that the protagonist has to pick up on to find where they’re meant to go, that happens to us in our lives. And it’s only when we can see that– just as you were able to go inwards, and pick up what it was you wanted to do, and understand who you were and what your story needed to be. And so, it’s only when we do that, we kind of pick up all the hints around us which are leading us in the right direction, if only we open our eyes, heart, ears and listen.

Matthew: Definitely. And it. Was writing that really taught me that and writing my own story. It is amazing how you recognise threads and themes in your life. And again, this is something that became part of my programme about, you know, What’s the plot of your story to date? It reveals things about how, again, how we view our life and what we’re capable of in life. And yeah, it was amazing how, again, different things, you know, seemingly disparate events suddenly form part of a bigger whole.

The quote that sums all that up for me from Steve Jobs, and it opens my book about the connecting the dots. That you can only connect the dots looking backwards. So, you’ve got to trust in something. And you’ve got to trust that those dots will connect in the future. And so, you have to have faith in something, whether it be your gut, intuition, God the Universe, wherever it is, but you have to trust that something is leading you to that. And that is so powerful to me. I think it echoes in everything that I do, really that, you know, that idea that whatever is happening, finding some sense of meaning and purpose from it and turning it into something that, again, where there’s a moment in which I yeah, that’s why that happened.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future

Steve Jobs

Deborah: There’s some wonderful insightful gems there, which I’m looking forward to sharing with listeners. I will give the Steve Jobs reference in the show notes, and a link to your on-line course Change Your Story.

Before you go, can you share with us your words of wisdom? What is the key thing – you’ve told us about sharing the story, can you put that into a mantra or something that listeners can take with them?

Matthew: Oh, the big thing for me is that we as a species, we’re storytellers. We create narratives around everything that happens in our life, who we are, our relationships to others. All of that is a story that we tell ourselves. And the question is who, who is holding the pen? And who is writing that story? Are you consciously creating the story of your life? Or are you allowing it to be written for you by other people’s expectations – by a particular person in your life, whether it be a partner, a parent, an employer? Are you handing the pen to somebody else? At any point, you can take that pen and you can create your story. And so what this is about – it’s about taking more control over the pen that writes your story.  And talk about plot twists – you can’t control everything, and the last couple years have shown that more than more than most, I guess. But we can always choose how we respond to it. And again, and we can use the lessons from those changes to take a new direction, to learn new things about ourselves, to become more who we’re meant to be. And it all comes back to that. You taking control of the pen and you deciding which direction your story’s going to go in.

Deborah: Excellent. Thank you. 

Matthew: That’s a bit of a long mantra that.

Deborah: No, no, you’ve said it very well. Take control in writing your own story. Perfect. Thank you, Matthew.

Matthew: You’re welcome. Thank you.

Links from Matthew:

For information on Knock Out Depression please visit my website: https://changeyourstory.org.uk/KODepression/

Visit my Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Matthew-Williams/e/B074QRTXWV/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/matthewwilliamskodepression

How has writing transformed your life? I know that I would not have gone through a journey of self discovery had I not experienced disappointment and frustration on my writing journey. I would not have started my blog or this podcast. I would not have met amazing guests from across the world or connected with you. Writing brings us so much more than the end product of a book.

I would love to hear from you. You can write to me at dkauthor@btinternet.com or leave a message here.

So, until next time … Look after your beautiful self and trust the journey.

You can find all episodes of The Mindful Writer podcast here: https://themindfulwriter.buzzsprout.com

Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss any episodes.

Five ways to beat Writer’s Block with poet E.L. Jayne

In this seventh episode of The Mindful Writer, I chat with Ellen Jayne, about the challenge some writers experience in finding time to write and how she learnt to overcome writer’s block.

Before I introduce you, let me update you on my writing journey. I have just returned from a week’s holiday in Norfolk where we stayed in a woodland retreat. The weather was perfect, warm, but surrounded by trees we had plenty of shade. I sat on the porch of our lodge reading and planning my next novel. Wrestling an idea into a cohesive plot can be frustrating until it all comes together and then joy. 

I am still at the stage of feeling frustrated. I have to remind myself that this is part of the process. I had several false starts to The Forever Cruise and was on the verge of giving up on the idea altogether. Fortunately, a writer friend listened to my fragmented thoughts over a leisurely lunch last summer.  After talking the story through with her I returned home and scribbled down the outline in 35 chapters – a line for each. Sometimes you just need to talk it out. Another writer friend who works in computer programming calls this rubber ducking. I much preferred talking to my warm, and generous friend than a rubber duck but apparently, that can work too. Evidently time for another lunch. 

We all experience vexation at some point in the writing process, whether it is finding an idea that excites us, plotting and planning, feeling stuck midway, or that chapter that just won’t flow. This is the topic of our conversation this week as Ellen Jayne shares her experience. So, let me introduce you.

In this chat with Ellen Jayne, poet and blogger, we share: 

Five ways to be more productive

To self-care

And some helpful resources.

Ellen Jayne

You can listen to the podcast here:

https://themindfulwriter.buzzsprout.com

or read the transcript below:


Deborah: I’m delighted to welcome Ellen Jayne to the mindful writer podcast, because I have been following a blog Pointless Overthinking of which Ellen is the co- CEO. It’s an excellent blog, and I shall put a link in the notes so you too, can read it. It’s a community of thinkers and writers about understanding the world we live in. It’s a really inspiring blog, and it’s got over 27,000 subscribers. Ellen is also a poet, and you can find her poems on Poems and Prose blog as well. So, lots to share with us. I am delighted to welcome you, Ellen.

Ellen: Thank you for having me.

Deborah: So, my first question is, how did you come to be part of Pointless Overthinking? And tell us a bit more about it?

Ellen: Yeah, sure. So, I came to be part of Pointless Overthinking at a time, when I wanted to start a new chapter in my life. I wanted to use my free time for more fulfilling purposes, rather than just browsing through social media. So, at this point, I had a blog for a few years prior; I started it when I was studying abroad in London, and then kept it when I moved to Spain then and Italy. I had just moved back from Italy. And I’m wanting to prioritise things that were going to help me achieve my next big goals in life. And part of that was making more meaningful interactions on my blog. 

So actually, the first day of this practice, I commented on my now co CEOs, posts, and he answered something like, ‘Thank you for your response, I can see that you’re a very critical thinker by nature, and we’re looking for more writers. So if you’re interested in joining our team, please feel free to email me.’  So, I was. I guess I’ll just explain a bit, when I say more of a meaningful interaction, I mean, something that is more than just ‘oh, great job on this post. I really liked what you wrote, but really taking the time to get my thoughts out there and give some great feedback and just more connections like that. I was really excited to find a connection in the first day that I started this practice. So, from there, I sent in three articles that I wanted to be posted on our blog of Pointless Overthinking. And if the readership took well to them, then I would be able to join the team. So thankfully, our readers were very welcoming to me. I sent over three articles that were called, I’ve studied abroad three times, and I’ve learned nothing. And then also American students abroad: Culturally savvy or road to tragedy? and then The unattainable open mind. So, yes, the readership took very well to them, and I joined the team got my own credentials, and the rest is history. 

So, I’ve been co-managing the blog with my colleague, Troy Hedrick, and we have a team of 13 talented writers. A lot of us live lives as professors, pilots, playwrights, life coaches, and we come from all over the world, including Hong Kong, Kenya, Turkey, and the list goes on. So really grateful to be a writer alongside such inspirational and intelligent, open-minded people. We have meetings a couple of times a year. And it’s just great to have gotten to know them. And we’re all truly here to connect with our readers and make this world a little bit less of a lonely place.

Deborah: Absolutely inspiring. It’s an amazing project, I was so pleased to have discovered it, as you say, the team of writers are excellent. And they’re all very different in their approaches. 

Ellen: A lot of us have different topics and philosophy, and different life lessons. Those seem to be pretty heavy topics on our blog. But I know the main thing that we all love is being able to connect with our readers. I have quite literally been in tears many times, just from some of the comments from my readers, and it really is fulfilling to me and helps me feel like I’m working towards my purpose here in this life. And I’ve just been so grateful to have been a part of it.

Deborah: Fantastic. The blogs that I read that have been by you are very much about the about writing practice, you wrote one on, There’s no such thing as writer’s block, which is something that I know listeners, fellow writers will identify with. Some people experience it but you say, There’s no such thing. Can you explain a bit about that blog? And why you say there’s no such thing?

Ellen: Yeah, sure. So, I guess a few months ago, I would have disagreed with the title of the post, I thought I suffered pretty bad, or a lot, from writers’ block, like many others, I’m sure can relate. But after reading Seth Godin book it’s called The Practice: Shipping Creative Work, it really changed my perspective. So, writer’s block is something that I’ve personally described as the metaphysical Muse that causes us to create out of the blue. It’s a fantastic feeling. It’s when you start creating, and you keep on creating, start writing, you don’t stop writing right until midnight until you’re low on sleep for the next day. But it’s worth it because you are full of words and ideas. But unfortunately, those involuntary instances of inspiration have been far too few to be a professional writer. So historically, I have put off writing until I’m in the right mindset, until I have an evening with no plans, until I finished everything I needed for the day. And especially until I feel like I have an idea that’s good enough. So, you can see the dilemma. professional writers can’t wait all that time to be inspired, you have to get work out and you have to create. You can’t always wait for the Muse, you don’t have the time.

 So, something that I’ve practised is that I write every single day, no matter what – for the past four years. It’s really been part of my subconscious. And it’s not necessarily that I’m sitting there and busting out articles, full articles or full poems, but I am always writing different ideas that I have throughout the day. Sometimes I’ll hear a different word, either in conversation or from a book I’ve read and I’ll just write that word down, because I feel some sort of inspiration from that one single word. So, I’ll jot it down in my notes, and either on my phone or on my laptop, and then I’ll come back to it at a later time. I have a 30-page working document of poetry lines on my laptop. And I also have just notes, and notes on my mobile phone. 

Another routine that I have, that I try to do weekly –  I am fortunate enough to have a great environment here in Salt Lake City, Utah. I have the mountains, and nature has always been very inspiring for me. It’s inspired the movement of romanticism from the poet’s Wordsworth and Keating, back in northern England, which I’m sure you’re aware of in the Lake District. They were all very inspired by nature. And I feel the same inspiration from nature. So, one of the things I really love to do is go on a hike, a solo hike by myself, and I’ll take a good book and my journal up there as well. So, I’ll start by reading and get some inspiration. And then I’ll go into writing and I always feel like I have the best ideas up there. The best words and lines of poetry, and ideas for articles, and for my novel, come to fruition while I’m sitting up there all alone surrounded by so much beauty.

Deborah: I didn’t know that you also wrote a novel, – you’re writing a novel.

Ellen: Yes, it’s just been in the background for a few years, but my priority is my poetry collection, and then the articles on my blog. So that will be on the backburner for now.

Deborah: Excellent. I agree with you about getting out into nature to help stimulate creativity. I live by the sea, and I go for a walk by the sea pretty much every day that, like you, are where I get lots of my inspiration. I think when you’re calm and you’re relaxed, that’s when the ideas come. Stephen King says ‘the boys in the basement doing their work’ – working through your plots and ideas, even when you’re not aware of it. And when you’re relaxing, they come to the fore.

Ellen: Exactly. I think that’s why so many people love nature. And also, you get so many ideas when you’re able to relax and not think about the next thing that you have to do during the day.

Deborah: I too try and write every day. When I’m writing a novel, I have to write every day to keep myself in the plot. And I’m so eaten up with telling the story I have to write every day for myself. I can’t not write. But you wrote another blog about Should you force yourself to write? So, let me ask you about that. Do you think there are times when we should break from writing? Or should we make ourselves sit down every day regardless?

Ellen: I think that is a great question. And I think the word that I have an issue within that question is forcing yourself. I don’t think that you should ever force yourself to write because I think more so the most important part is to have a healthy relationship with writing. But I do think it’s very important to create on a scheduled basis, and if you can to write every day. So, if I had to answer I would say No, you shouldn’t force yourself to write but you should write every day. Forcing yourself to write seems a bit too draconian for me. And you need to have good writing habits to be a writer. I think you should make it a daily habit. And maybe if it’s not the next thing you do, maybe take some time and decompress, do something that refills your cup. For example, you can do a monkey mind journal where you just write whatever’s on your mind, then maybe some ideas will come to fruition in what you are actually looking to write about. But I would like to share a quote from one of my favourite writers about this topic. He’s actually a poet from Portugal and South Africa. So, he says, 

We may think the book that we will write will be bad. But even worse will be the one we put off writing. At least the book that has been written exists.

Fernando Pessoa. 

Deborah: Absolutely. That’s a good one. I always say when you’re writing the first draft, it’s just you telling yourself the story. You just need to get your story down. And writing is all about rewriting anyway. But what would you say to listeners who are struggling to find the time to write perhaps they’ve got a story they want to write, they want to be a writer, but they think ‘I haven’t got the time’ – they’ve got a young family, they’re working full time? They just can’t find it. They’re not seeing it as a priority. How do you find the time when you’ve got a very busy life with lots of demands on you?

Ellen: Yeah, that is a great question. If you have a busy life, I think one of the main things is finding some free time to write and trying to make it a daily habit, whether that’s sitting down for longer chunks of time and just mapping out your story and where you want to go. And then maybe for five minutes a day, you can just touch on it and revise it a little more and more each day. But I think it’s important to have that writer’s mind and be able to work on it each day and make it a priority because it is something that’s important to you, and it is important for you to get your story out there.

Deborah: Absolutely. I think, especially – and this sounds a bit of a sexist thing -but I think especially with women, because many of us are carers, whether we’re caring for older parents or for children, babies. We often put everyone else’s needs before our own. 

I’ve spoken to women who’ve said, ‘I don’t think my husband would like it if I disappeared to write.’ Or  ‘My family would think, you know, I’d feel selfish if I shut the door and ignored them for a time to write.’ And I think you’re absolutely right. If you’ve got it in your heart, something you want to do, you should be true to yourself, and you should find time and you should honour your wish and your dream and make that time. You will be a better person, a better family member, a better wife, a better mother. You’ll be able to care and love those around you better when you’ve loved yourself and honoured what’s in your heart – to fulfil that wish. 

But actually, finding the time you need, not everybody has the luxury of having an hour or two to set aside. But I’ve had times when it has been a challenge. My father died last year, he had dementia, but I was the main carer for him. And I was working and I was writing. I went through a period where I was so stretched with all the things I was doing that I found little moments to write. So instead of having a two-hour slot, I would have 30 minutes here, 20 minutes there, it would be anywhere and everywhere. I would find a little slot to write. And it’s amazing with the 20 minutes here and 20 minutes there, how much that writing adds up to over the course of a week. But I think the first thing is recognising – if this is important to you – to do it. You know, to self-care and to follow that through. You can always find a bit of time.

Ellen: I think that’s a brilliant idea. It’s definitely something I wanted to bring up as well, because it’s very true, we don’t have two hours every day. I’d be lucky if I found two hours on the weekend days. But I think you have a brilliant point with finding the time and the 20 minutes here and maybe 15 minutes there. I think one of the struggles with that is you might have a hard time getting into the zone of writing into the, you know, mindset of writing. Because writing has always seemed to me to be a bit different than my logical practical, day to day self. I kind of like to be more relaxed. And one of the things that has helped me get into the writing zone faster, to make more use of those 15 or 20 minutes, is doing some grounding practices. They can be meditative practices, or anything that really helps you be in the moment. Working with your senses is something that always helps ground you. And for example, something that pertains a little bit more to writing for me is I will sit in the moment, and I’ll think of five different adjectives that describe the environment around me. And they can be anything. I’m not looking for brilliant words, or great adjectives. I’m just looking for any words that come to mind, no judgement. And I’ll just jot those down. I’ll be more in tune with the environment around me. Sometimes I’ll describe all the unique colours that I see, I’ll go through the rainbow of colours. So, for example, I’ll see a red glass over there, or an orange towel over there. And that is something that helps me feel grounded sooner, and then I can start writing sooner so I can make more use of that time.

Deborah: Excellent. It’s letting all of that noise in your head – all the must do’s, should do’s out – so, that you can then go into your inner self, which is where the writing comes from. 

Ellen: Exactly.

Deborah: I heard some good advice; I’ve forgotten where from but it’s stuck with me. So, I’ll share it anyway. And that was when you’re sitting at the computer, perhaps you’re writing something and you just cannot find the right words to say, it just doesn’t feel right. The advice I was given was, ‘That’s because you don’t actually know what you want to write yet.’ You think you do. You go to your computer to write a blog or you’re writing a chapter and it’s just not coming out, right? You haven’t done enough reflection to really understand and get underneath what it is you really want to say. So, stepping back from the physical writing to really tune in and understand and explore what you want to say is another way – then to come back to your keyboard and flow through.

Ellen: Yes, I love that. I think that’s a great idea to just pause for a moment and think about what you really want to say maybe map it out or try to understand the final point of where you want to go – the final destination.  

In terms of different tools that could be used – because I have many times been sitting at my laptop and just been stumped for words. But in terms of other tools that I use that have been very helpful for me, is always having a thesaurus open, a dictionary as well. I have Rhyme Zone, which is a website that gives you all of the different words that rhyme with a certain word. And then I also have a random word generator site open as well. And those four sites really help me open up my mind to different words, and use a greater array of vocabulary in my writing as well. And I think it helps me a lot sometimes because I’m really looking for that certain word, especially with poetry. You are limited to how many words you can use. It’s not like prose. And when I find that one – that one word that is, that just fits just right, it’s almost a euphoric feeling. And I feel extremely satisfied when I find it. And actually, that is the tagline of my poetry blog. So, the finest part about poetry is the accentuated emphasis of the individual word, the epitome of less is more.

Deborah: Beautiful.

Ellen: Thank you. 

Deborah: I’ll just give a plug for another thesaurus source. I have this source open on my computer when I write – and there’s a book. The Emotional Thesaurus and The Conflict Thesaurus, both by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman.

And it means that if you were looking at anger, anxiety, affection, all the different feelings, it has all the different ways it might be described, what the physical sensations will be, what the facial expression might be. So, you don’t always have ‘she sighed,’ or ‘he shrugged his shoulders.’ We all have our favourites for describing an emotion and this gives alternative suggestions.

Ellen: Wow, that’s genius. I would love to read that.

Deborah: I will put it in the show notes. But if you Google  the Emotional Thesaurus or go on Amazon, you’ll find it. Yes, it’s very good.

Ellen: That’s brilliant. I’ll look that up. Many times, I am describing a character or somebody in one of my poems, and I feel like that would be very helpful. So, thank you.

Deborah: We all have our favourite words; we keep on using the same expressions. 

Ellen: Exactly. That’s why sometimes – like throughout the day, if I hear a different word that describes somebody, or in a book that I’m reading, if it’s a great character trait that I’ve seen described, that I haven’t used before, I’ll jot it down. And I think that’s another important topic to stress as well. When I started writing, I was very scared, almost I would say, to sound like a different author – sound like another author, to not sound like myself. And to seem like I was copying another writer’s style. But the truth of it is we are all an amalgamation of our experience in the environment around us and of other artists around us. There’s a book called Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. And I think that topic is also very near to my heart, because we are all just the impact of the influences of the environment around us. So, if we can kind of let go of the judgement of being grouped like somebody else, I feel like we can really bloom and blossom into our own author’s voice that we want to hear.

Deborah: And trust it. Trust your voice and the story you have to tell. Because sometimes we’re so busy criticising – all that noise in our heads. You try to be different, then you start criticising yourself, ‘I’m not fitting in enough.’ ‘I’m not enough like this writer or that writer.’ But we are, as you say, we are all unique, a combination of different experiences and the things we bring from our journey. We all have our own story to tell. So, trust your story, and trust the journey.

Ellen: Exactly.

Deborah: Thank you so much, Ellen, you’ve shared some wonderful words of wisdom. I will capture these in the show notes, along with links to anything we’ve mentioned. But I’m going to finish the show by asking you to read one of your beautiful poems. So, we’ll sign off with your poem.

Ellen: Awesome thank you for having me

E.IlReference Points a poem by E.L. Jayne from her blog Poems and Prose

Lots of great tips there. To summarise:

  1. Try and find a writing schedule/routine even if it’s 15 – 20 mins here and there.
  2. Use grounding techniques to get into the zone faster e.g. using your senses, describing what you can see, smell, and hear.
  3. Spend time in nature where you can relax.
  4. Honour what is in your heart, By making time to write you will be able to love and care for those around you better as you have first taken care of yourself.
  5. Be kind to yourself. Do not force yourself to write but develop a healthy relationship with writing finding time in a way that suits you without judgement.

The resources shared:

The Emotional Thesaurus, by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman.

The Conflict Thesaurus,  by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman.

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.

RhymeZone

Please get in touch to share your tips. If you too are struggling to plan your WIP maybe we can act as a rubber duck to one another!

So, until next time… look after your beautiful self and trust the journey.

You can find all episodes of The Mindful Writer podcast here: https://themindfulwriter.buzzsprout.com

Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss any episodes.

Why Okay is Okay: Finding the quiet path between extremes

My thanks to yoga instructor, Jocelyne Leach, for inspiring this week’s blog post.

The world feels as though it is full of extreme views right now. When we listen to the news, it is no wonder we feel the antagonism. In recent years, conflicting views about politics, policy, and the behaviour of world leaders, have divided families, and friends – certainly here in the UK, and from what I hear, in the USA. 

We take these thoughts and feelings into our daily lives, as we absorb the negative energy. So, finding our equilibrium – a fulcrum on which to find a balance between extremes is needed now more than ever. 

Creatives are prone to extremes in emotional response. It seems agents/publishers are fond of saying I/we loved … before going on to give an honest and balanced critique. It is IMHO an overused word in the publishing world – used, maybe, to manage our fragile egos.

Authors want readers to love their books and fear that they might hate one. It is always love or hate. We swing between feelings of elation and despair. Those great highs are often followed by an adrenalin dip, and/or the need for another high. That is perhaps why we feel the need to constantly check sales, reviews, or social media comments. It is an addiction to receiving positive reinforcement. 

I know that I have a need for approval. For most of my life I have had a habit of ending my statements with a question – isn’t it? Don’t you? A boyfriend once pointed this out to me. 

Like many new writers, it was important to me to receive validation. I have had this through the belief of my agent, feedback from editors, book reviewers, and readers. This should be enough but l find myself swinging from either end of that scale – it’s all fantastic or doom and gloom. I am trying to focus on that steadying fulcrum in the centre, to accept the reality, the ways things are – perfectly OKAY. 

I know that my need for approval goes back to my childhood, wanting the approval of my parents, particularly my father. There are some painful childhood memories that I have buried but there lies the root of my need for approval. Understanding myself is the first step to letting go of that need. 

There is nothing sexy or exciting about OKAY. To accept what is and be still with it will take time and patience for me. I am trying to break the habits of a lifetime. I will do this through meditation. By noticing my emotional responses with compassion and then letting them go.

Julia Cameron wrote in The Right to Write, Keep the drama on the pageCreatives love drama, but there is no need to play them out in our lives. Let’s try and find that quiet, mindful path, between extremes. 

Bessi Pixabay

How to succeed and find joy in this writing life with author Lizzie Chantree 

In this sixth episode of The Mindful Writer, best-selling author Lizzie Chantree, shares some practical lessons on how to succeed and find joy in your writing life. 

Before I introduce you let me update you on my writing life.

I have some exciting news to share. In the past couple of weeks, I decided to publish The Forever Cruise on 1st December, and The Last Act on 1st June next year. I love both of these books and can’t wait any longer to share them with my readers. My last novel Just Bea was published 17 months ago. During that time, I have been going back and forth with agents, and publishers. Although I have received interest in both manuscripts, I realised that it would take at least another 18 months until my next book could be published – and I cannot wait that long. I have built up a loyal following and want to keep those readers entertained with my new books. As soon as I made that decision, I felt a rush of energy. I am back on track and it feels good! My local independent bookstore is hosting the book launch for The Forever Cruise, and I am meeting with my cover designer in a couple of weeks. 

Yesterday, I met the wonderful Lizzie Chantree in person for the first time at a writing buddy event she co-hosted with author Christine Penhale. We sat in a spacious room above a café to write, network, and enjoy fabulous coffee. Now it is your turn to meet Lizzie, so let me introduce you.

Lizzie Chantree is a best-selling author of uplifting romantic reads and Networking for Writers. In this episode Lizzie explains:

  • How to develop a positive mindset
  • How to make good use of the resources and networks available to us
  • How to build our readership, reader by reader
  • How to be a kind and compassionate manager (to ourselves).
Lizzie Chantree

You can listen to the podcast here:

Episode Six How to Find Joy and Success in this Writing Life

Or read the transcript below:

Deborah: Hello, Lizzie, lovely to see you on my podcast. 

Lizzie: Hello. Thank you for inviting me.

Deborah: You’ve had an incredible career: You founded your first company at 17, invented a ladder stop spray – The Runaway Spray. I love the name of that. And then, when your daughter became unwell, you made a transition from successful businesswoman to best-selling author. A remarkable journey, which shows you’re a woman of courage, determination, and obviously have a very positive mindset. So, I’m sure we’re going to learn a lot from you about where that comes from, and how you maintain that to achieve the incredible things that you have done. So, have you always had a positive mindset? And where does that come from? 

Lizzie: Oh, thank you for that. I think I have grown up with a positive mindset because of my parents. I grew up in a very, very creative family. And my parents didn’t ever sort of say You can’t try that. You know, if I came up with a crazy … I was coming up with crazy ideas from a very young age. My parents never said, That’s just ridiculous. Don’t do that. They said, Give it a try. And you know, if it doesn’t work, learn from it, move on to something else. So, I always thought – well, I didn’t ever think I can’t do that. I always thought I’ll give it a try. If it goes wrong, try something else learn from it. So, I think that has always been my mentality. And basically, that is thanks to my parents.

 It is a really positive way of thinking. Do you do this? Have you done the same thing with your family? 

Lizzie: Yes, absolutely, with everything. You know, life’s very fluid, things change. You know, most people grow up, and then they do something completely different to what they were doing when they were younger anyway. So, we try not to set too many pressures or too many boundaries, with you know, your work life. Because you know, if something doesn’t work – the same thing, just try something else, or teach yourself new skills, or go back to school or to college and learn new things. Or go to the library and pick up some books, online courses. I’ve taught myself so many things on this writing journey through online training. So, you know, there is a world of possibilities, you’ve just got to look for them. And a lot of these online courses and things actually are free as well. So many free resources out there. It’s just a matter of finding them.

Deborah:  It is really hard when you’re a writer, because it’s not just about writing is it? It’s about writing and marketing. And as you say, all the things you have to learn. I started this journey of being an indie author at the beginning of the lockdown. And when I was counting all the things that I had to learn in terms of technology it was amazing. If you look at the beginning of what you’ve got to learn, it could put you off, if you look back at what you’ve achieved, you think, Gosh, I’ve done all that. So, what’s stopping me going on to the next, the next thing and the next thing? But it’s very easy for us to get put off, isn’t it? When we think to myself, Oh, I made a mess of that, you know, we’re our own worst critic critics, we can really give ourselves a tough time. And that can put people off carrying on. 

Lizzie: Totally, I think like you say we do. There’s a lot of use imposter syndrome in the creative industries where we just feel not good enough. And also, we haven’t got sort of bosses and things saying, Oh, that was wonderful. You did a good job with that today.  Pat on the back. You know, that was brilliant. We have to be our own bosses. So, if we do something well, we have to say, Yeah, that was brilliant. But we don’t do so much of the Oh, well done, we’ve achieved that even if it’s making a book meme or talking to someone online or getting 100 words on paper, or whatever your targets are. We tend to forget about saying nice things to ourselves. And yet, if we haven’t written the 100 words, or we haven’t done the main today, or we haven’t spoken to someone online that, Oh, that’s useless. You know, I’m so terrible. I can’t, I can’t do it. I’m not doing enough. But we tend to impose those kinds of things on ourselves. So, in a way what I try and do is set manageable goals, like small ones, and then tick them off as I go along. And if I miss something, then I add it to the next day. It’s not the end of the world. But I think it’s really important to get a balance and also to praise ourselves when we do something well.

Deborah:  Yes. Really good points there. I have been a really good manager to people that I’ve supervised and managed in my working career. I’ve been a kind, generous manager supportive and nurturing. But I’m a horrible manager to myself because my expectations are really high. And like most people, I think, we drive ourselves hard. I pick up on the things I haven’t done and not the things that I have. So, good advice there. 

Lizzie: Even as a manager you still even if you’re kind and caring, you still might have high expectations of the people that are working for you. You want them to do well. You want them to achieve great things. So, even though you’re having those high expectations for yourself, we still need That that’s really lovely. Well done. You’ve reached that goal. You’ve done that writing. You’ve done that little bit of marketing, or whatever it might be, and maybe go and have a coffee, or go for a walk in the garden, or play with a dog, or pick up the phone and ring somebody because that means something to someone else as well. So, I think it’s also about getting balance, because like you say, the marketing side of it can be really, really overwhelming. 

When I came into it, I didn’t know any writers. I’d done writing courses when I was younger, but I didn’t know anything about, you know, the creative side of writing, and the industry. So, I had to learn as I went on, and it came from talking to other writers, meeting mentors, researching things online, and in creating my own community. 

Deborah: And that’s really important networking, which we’ll come on to, because you are our guru on effective networking. Networking is so important, not just for opportunities it brings and it certainly does, most definitely, but for the writer, writing community, and your writer friends. Because even when we are slow to congratulate ourselves and celebrate our success, to give ourselves a pat on the back, our writer friends who are on a similar journey – they do that for us, too. I belong to a writers’ group. And, and we’ve been working together for about into about eight years, all of us writing novels. We meet each month and say what we’ve achieved: I’ve only done this. I’ve only done that. We remind each other of just how much we have done and how far we’ve come. I always leave feeling a couple of inches taller. So that support is important.

Lizzie: That’s the thing of saying, We’ve only done this, or we’ve only done that. And we always do that. I do it all the time. You know, I really try not to. But it’s kind of we feel that what we do maybe isn’t enough all the time. That we need to be doing more when actually what we’re doing is great at whatever pace it might be for whatever person, you have to do what is right for you and what works for you. And if you’re chipping away too, even if it’s a little bit of time, that is amazing.

But having that network around you, like you say – sometimes I’ll just go meet a couple of people for a coffee, or I’ve got one writer friend, we meet once a month, we literally make a few TikToks. We have a laugh. We meet over coffee. We have to be quiet if we go in the library because we are giggling too much work. But we are working together. We come across so many ideas. We talk about magazine articles, about blogs. We’re writing. We make TicTocs. We do our social media. 

And it’s meeting your friend for a coffee; you know, we meet for a few hours, once a month or twice a month, and we come up with so much work. And it’s absolutely hysterical. It’s really bad. But to me, that’s work. But it’s fun. You know, it fills my creative tanks. We come out of there: I feel fantastic. She feels fantastic. We support each other with something we might be stuck with. We will talk about it. I’m really stuck on this. I’m doing too much of that. How do I get through that? And we just push through it with words over a coffee or cake or lunch or whatever. And that is still work. We’re still being productive, but in a fun way. 

Deborah: Yes. Excellent. And that also replaces what we miss from our work environment. I, like you, was an entrepreneur and had my own businesses before I was a writer. So, I was used to that. But even then, I found those environments to bring together people who worked in a similar area who were also friends. And that creates what other people might have in their lunch hour or coffee break at work. So, if you’re writing when you’ve been working, perhaps you’ve been made redundant, or you’ve changed jobs and you’re more isolated from people – it’s recreating those things that helps you survive in your workplace by creating it around you. 

Lizzie: Exactly. And it doesn’t even have to be in person; it can be online. You know, with the way things have happened with COVID and things like that, it’s opened up different opportunities. People think of things differently now. So maybe if you can’t get to the coffee shop, or you can’t get out, you haven’t got transport or you’re in a rural location, or you’re in a different country to the people you’re working with, it doesn’t matter. You can jump on Zoom. You can jump on some chat rooms or on Facebook or Twitter. There are ways to not have to be isolated not have to be on your own. Because, like you say, writing is a really isolating profession in some aspects. And so it’s a really good way to meet other people, find people that have got similar interests to you. And there’s lots of places locally. You could visit your local library and ask them about a writing group, or a book group, or ask if you can go in and give a talk. Or just getting to know other people in your community, even the local banks. They host seminars for free about marketing and social media. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about writing. It can still be relevant to your business as a writer, but it doesn’t have to specifically be about writing.

Deborah: I’m just going to go back to something else you said that I wanted to talk about. We were talking about thinking I’ve not done enough. I’m not enough and how we drive ourselves crazy. Yesterday, I had a really lovely yoga class I attended. And when we were doing the meditation, it was about when you have lots of energy bringing that energy back down. So if people do yoga, the yellow one, the one around the navel, (solar plexus chakra) because I can’t remember the proper word for it. But it was about focusing there. And our meditation was, I am enough, I’ve done enough. I can rest without agenda. And I think that was just a wonderful mantra. I am enough, I’ve done enough. I can rest. And that bit about without agenda; how often do we think we’re resting, but all the time, our minds busy, busy, busy? I’ll rest. But while I’m resting, I’m going to get this done. Because I’m sort of resting. I’m not wasting time.

Lizzie: I totally agree about that. Our minds are always working, aren’t they? It’s always over running. And it’s fine, if you’re doing something, you’re thinking about book ideas, or something that’s exciting you because that in a way can be relaxing. But I think we do put pressure on ourselves to work, even when we’re asleep. It’s so ridiculous. No, we don’t give ourselves enough credit. 

I’ve also grown up in an environment where my parents have run businesses that have always been quite busy. So, I’ve always been very aware of being in the present. There’s no point going somewhere and doing something if you’re thinking about something else. This is what I’ve grown up and learnt from my parents, because they obviously have very busy lives. If you’re going to go and meet someone and have a cup of tea, or if you’re going to go and take an afternoon off, or if you’re going to go work for the morning, or the afternoon or all day, whatever – be present, be present in what you’re doing. Because if you’re going for that cup of tea with friends, and you’re actually thinking, I’ve got a deadline, I should have been doing this, I’ve missed that this morning, I haven’t written my words, I haven’t done my 1000 I haven’t done this. What is the point in being there? You might as well not be there. You might as well be at home, or in your office, or wherever doing those 100 words, 1000 words, whatever – be present in what you’re doing. Because then your body does get to relax. You get the creative tanks filled back up. And then, more often than not, you’ll go back and you’ll be more productive later because you’ve had a rest. You’ve had a creative time. You’ve seen different things or you’ve spoken to somebody different. Without that constant, like you say, that voice in your head about I should I should be doing this. What you should be doing is what you’re doing at that present moment. 

Deborah: That’s another really good point. There are so many good messages from you to capture. When I’m doing something in the kitchen – I come away from my writing, and I’m making a cup of tea, or just getting the laundry, something I’m doing in my mind is still working on my writing. Actually, it’s not working on my writing, it’s usually fretting – something that I’m worrying about. And while my mind is doing that, I always, always, do something stupid. I will make a cup of tea for my husband, who I know isn’t in the house; I put something in the fridge instead of the washing machine, I will do something ridiculous. And that just demonstrates when you think that you are concentrating on a task, when your mind is whirling away on something else, you’re not present. It’s so important. 

Lizzie: It’s also a waste. It is a waste of your own time. Even if it’s doing housework. You might as well be productive, get the housework done. When it’s over and done with and then you can move on to whatever it is you’re thinking about. This is where I find list writing and things like that can sometimes help because that kind of empties those thoughts from your mind. You’re putting them onto paper. They’re in front of you. So, you can see them, they’re there, you can cross them off, you can move them to another page. This is a good way of systematically writing down tasks so that you’re not constantly thinking about I should be doing this next It’s blame culture, I think. Because everything we hear is quite negative. So, we need more positive energy, positive thoughts, positive news, to help people because otherwise they are going to feel worried and stressed. And they’re not good enough all the time, because they’re not hearing enough positivity. I think that’s really sad.

Deborah: Your life hasn’t always been smooth and golden. You had a very difficult time when your daughter was two years old and she was very unwell, and you had to leave your successful business. During those years is when you went through a transition to writer. Can you tell us about the emotional journey of how you found the courage to move from businesswoman to writer and what was going on for you at that time? 

Lizzie: Yes, it was. At the time I didn’t think of it as being tough. I just was going through it; so, you just have to deal with it. But yes, my child was very, very, ill from a young age. She just coughed constantly. She just couldn’t breathe. She was on ventilators. She was in the hospital every month and on tablets every month. Then obviously, as a parent, you just feel distraught, because you feel like you’re not being good enough. Again, it’s that just not good enough thing, when obviously you can’t help it – you’re not, you’re not not good enough. And also, very frustrating because we didn’t know what the problem was, she had so many tests. And I had to basically watch her. I didn’t like anyone going near as her in case they breathed on her and she got another cough. But it was every month, you know, she could cough for nine hours, stop for an hour, and then keep coughing.

So, we didn’t sleep for years, basically. And it was just trying to find a way to cope with the stress. So obviously, I spoke to professionals about how to cope with the stress. They helped me to understand that actually, it didn’t mean I was a terrible parent, it just meant that my child was going through something and any other parent in that position would feel the same way. And they also taught me the coping mechanisms, which I still use today with stress, which is how to balance – you know, work and play, how to keep my mind on an even keel so that I’m not overloading myself.

So, what I did was, I just decided I needed to stay awake at night because I had a baby monitor. And I needed to listen to her to make sure she was breathing. So, I just thought I needed to stay awake. I tried sweets, and cake and coffee and, everything, and nothing worked. So, I thought, you know, I’ve been on a writing course many years ago, and I was writing as a child. I had an idea for a book. I thought, well, let’s just try that. And literally, that is what I did. I just sat every evening for a year in my studio with my baby monitor next to me, and I just listened to her breathing or coughing. And I wrote a book. 

I wrote my first book Babe Driven and I literally packed it full of sunshine, sandy beaches, gorgeousness, happiness, cocktails, the lot. And it was just a total opposite of my life at that time. But it just helped me so much to just visualise those things in my brain when I was going through such a hard time. And it also made me feel that maybe one day someone would read it. And it would also help them through a hard time. You know, if they were having a bad day; they might be able to read it and they feel, happier, and uplifted and smiling. So really, that was what motivated me to keep going. 

And then after a year, I literally stuck in a cupboard for five years. Again, it’s the imposter syndrome. I didn’t have the courage to do anything with it for five years, until her health started to improve. Then, once her lungs started to mature, and she could breathe better. And we started to get more answers about the problems with their health, then I felt, okay. And all I did was I sent it to three smaller publishers and two of them offered me contracts. So, it kind of went from there.

 Deborah: Fantastic. And your books certainly do make people feel brighter and happier. So, you do give a gift to those who read your books. Definitely. 

Lizzie: Thank you. 

Deborah: That’s a wonderful thing that you can do as a writer – when that you express emotion, and then you find that it’s touched somebody in a way, it makes it worthwhile. 

Lizzie: You just want people to not feel like they’re alone. You know, everybody’s going through stuff. You can think on the surface, you might know what someone’s life is like, actually, we don’t really know what people are going through in their own lives. So, it’s just a way to sort of be in people’s homes and provide something they can kind of open and just not feel that they’re going through things alone. And that if they are going through something, to make them smile. You know just to give them some respite from the stress and the worry, because we have a lot of things like that to go through. And even if we’re not going through anything, then that’s absolutely incredible too. If that brings a smile in any situation, then that’s what I’m all about. 

Deborah: Absolutely. As you were talking, I was thinking. I think our lives are like a book in themselves. You know when you’re reading a book, and the author drops in the breadcrumbs. Then, of all these things come together the end of it. You say Oh, that’s why all of those things happened. All of the skills and experiences you picked up along the way; You’re using all of those now – today, as an author. You have your parents, your upbringing of the Try something, see if it works, try again, you’ve got all that you learned through your own business, your retail business, marketing, all the things you brought from that. And then you had what you learned when your daughter was unwell about managing your own health and well-being and coping with that. So, all of that has come together. You’re using everything that you’ve got. 

Lizzie: Yes, totally. And I think, you know, when you’re going through something, all you can feel is the pain and the suffering and you don’t realise that you’re learning things.  Obviously, now I’ve realised how much I’ve learned. I mean, my daughter she’s so proud of what I’m doing and she tells people she’s the catalyst of my writing career and things like that which is true. You know, out something so awful has come something

really, really beautiful. But obviously, I didn’t know that that was going to happen at the time. And, we just feel so proud of what’s happened and come out of something like that. 

I think all the skills, like you say, throughout our businesses, that nothing has been wasted: the graphic design, the marketing, the advertising, the networking. I’ve learned through having wholesale and retail shops, talking to customers. And, you know, I love that side of the business, getting to meet customers and making products for them, and things like that. It was just a joy. So now, I’m still making products, but just in a different way.

Deborah: So what would you say if you were looking back now at yourself, when your daughter was perhaps two or three, when you were at your lowest? What words of wisdom or advice would you give yourself?

Lizzie: Just to be kind to myself, I think. That’s something I learned

with help – not to beat myself up and think I’m not good enoughI’m failure, I’m not doing enough for my family.Those sorts of thoughts are quite toxic. But at the time … I’ve got a very problem-solving brain. And so, if I see a problem, my brain is automatically thinking, Right? What’s the solution? How can I help someone? What can they what can we do to solve this problem? So obviously, with a problem like that, I haven’t got the medical skills to know what to do. So, all I was doing was trying to find other solutions all the time, which is quite exhausting.

But I think you just have to use the resources you have and find that inner strength in yourself and just keep pushing forward and looking for new ways to enrich your life and, surround yourself with people that are like you, that are kind, and caring, and loving. And you don’t need to put someone else down to succeed in life. So, surround yourself with people that lift you up.

Deborah:  Absolutely. I was thinking, when you were saying that you were driving yourself crazy trying to work on the things that you didn’t know about – the medical, trying to control areas, which you couldn’t control, because you had no control over them. So, you looked at what you could do, which is to be kind to yourself. And that made me think about how, as authors say, trying to get published, all of the things that authors drive themselves crazy about, the things that are out of their control, those are the things that make them feel helpless and anxious. I think if we can learn to let go of that, and give that up to a higher power – to God, to the universe, that which is out of our control. There is somebody who knows much better, what’s good for us, and what’s going to happen. So let go at that. Deal with the things you can, to be the best writer you can, to be the best at what you’re doing as you can. And to be kind to yourself. All the things you can control, focus on those and let go of the things that you can’t. There are others, a power, whatever, or other people that know better, and have your best interests at heart, we hope. 

Lizzie: Yes, absolutely. And also, there’s a lot of people around. We’ve all got different skills, we can all help each other. If I know something that someone else doesn’t, I’m happy to help, or if they know something that might help me, you know, we all have got different skill sets. Not everybody can do everything. And that’s exactly what you were saying we can’t do everything, we’re human beings, we can just do our best. So, it’s asking for help when you need it as well. There are people around you can say, I’m not sure about this, would you mind just explaining it to me? Or looking online and finding a course. There are ways to help ourselves in areas where we don’t know things. We can’t be expected to know everything. Like you say, that’s life, it’s nature, it’s the world. We can just do what we can do, but we can also sometimes think we have to do everything on our own. I think that was what I was going through I was just like, I’ve got to solve this. It’s my child, her health. Obviously, we needed to do everything we could, and we tried every everything we could. Now she’s doing really, really well – as best as she can and that’s just incredible. So, I think sometimes, like at that time, I could have said to people I’m having a really hard time can someone help me? Come in to my home or whatever and help me but I didn’t. I did it on my own. I was like, I have to do it myself. I have to show that I’m coping. I’m being you know, smiley self. You go out and smile and you come home and you’re crying or whatever.

It’s the same with work with writing. Sometimes we think we have to do everything ourselves. We can’t ask for help, that would make us look weak, or that we can’t do something. And that’s not true. I think, kindness is a real strength in people. And sometimes, if we don’t know how to do something, then ask somebody that can.

Deborah: There’s a wonderful writing community on social media, if can’t meet people in person, as you said earlier. You have Twitter, a regular tweet-chat, and as do I. I’ve found the connections I’ve made with people through that, really meaningful.

Lizzie:  Oh, it’s totally amazing. But again, it’s about making your community of like-minded people. And you know, they’re so supportive, the writing community are brilliant, the creative community, and readers. Readers are absolutely brilliant. And the book bloggers are incredible. They give up so much of their time to support writers, you know, so there’s a lot of support. We’re really isolated as writers sometimes. And actually, we don’t need to be because readers, they love books. There’s so many, they love all the aspects of writing, and they’re so supportive and give up their time to support authors and just chat to them. You know, they’re really lovely, lovely people. 

Deborah: It is. it’s a wonderful community. And your Lizzie’s Book Club is a great Facebook group. That’s always fun. It always makes me smile. It’s my feel good. It’s where I’ll go with my cup of coffee to brighten my day.

Lizzie: That’s made my day. Thank you know. It’s just, again, it’s just lovely to chat to people that love books and love writing. And readers, they’re really supportive of all the writers, the writers are supportive of the readers. And also, just to have a bit of fun, you know, so it’s nothing too serious. 

It’s all about just enjoying ourselves. Enjoying what we’re doing. Because we put a lot of effort into this. It’s our world, really. It’s everything. We think about it all the time. When you’re writing, you’ve always got characters in your head, and things like that. So, it’s lovely to chat to other people that understand the kind of book obsession, because I can just see a book and I’m drawn. If there’s one in the window, I’m drawn to it. If there’s coffee, it’s even better because I can get lost for hours. The same with my parents. I could lose them for hours in a bookshop. Can’t let them near it, because they’re gone for days. A book is such a special thing. 

Deborah: Yes. As well as writing your wonderful novels (I shall give links in the show notes to find your author page, and links to your books), you’ve also written a book, which I found invaluable Networking for Authors, which shares a lot of your expertise around how to use networks. There’s so many ways networks can benefit you.

Lizzie: Yes. It’s finding people that have got a commonality, but they might not be doing what you’re doing at all. Like, I met a guy outside a hotel who was painting the hotel and he came in and introduced himself. I said, I was doing a book event. He said, his daughter loved books, and we swapped cards. You just never know, when you meet someone. I even met someone waiting in line for a changing room and started talking about things that were nothing to do with books, but it ended up in a quite a big deal for me; I started doing lots of seminars, and sending loads of paperbacks across, and things like that. So, you just don’t know who you’re going to meet. It’s just about being having business cards with you at all times. It’s such a simple thing to get the book covers on the front: website, contact numbers. Just hand them out. You know, when you’re going to coffee shops. I went to a coffee shop with my friend the other day, and we’re doing our TicTocs. And I said to the coffee owner, Do you put out business cards? and she went Oh, yes. And she literally put them in her card holder by the till. It’s just little things like that. It’s getting your name known, it’s getting the word out. And it’s just talking to people really. Just talking to people, not necessarily about I’m an author, I write books, just about books in general,

or anything in general that’s to do with creativity. It’s surprising how many times that comes back to talking about people’s work and what people are interested in. It’s really lovely to chat to people about their day and what they’re doing. It’s fascinating. I think as writers we’re just fascinated with people full stop.

But it is, networking is such a wonderful way to grow your network – meet new people, find opportunities, and also to get your work out there. I was completely unknown as a writer, when I published my first book. I didn’t know about writing. I got into a few writing groups, found mentors. And then my book went into the bestsellers list and that’s my first book and that is just down to networking. It must be from my history of being in business competitions and, running retail and wholesale shops. 

Deborah: It’s not just because of that. It’s because your books are brilliant. Give yourself credit. You’re doing that typical impostor syndrome thing, It’s just because.

Lizzie: I’m always thinking, Why was that? It’s really odd!

Deborah: It has been lovely chatting with you. So many gems of advice, and words of wisdom there, which I shall capture in the show notes. Thank you so much Lizzie 

Lizzie: Oh, thank you for inviting me. It’s been an absolute joy as always.

Last words from me…

I have to admit Lizzie Chantree is one of my role models. It is no coincidence that my website is similar in appearance to hers. Her warm, inclusive approach to marketing her books by networking and being kind resonates with me and it obviously works. Her books are uplifting – great for a summer read. I am on holiday in Norfolk now, as this episode goes live. I have two of Lizzie’s books on my Kindle and intend to do a lot of reading.

I hope that you are enjoying the summer. Please get in touch to share your news. It is by talking to each other, extending our networks, and being interested in one another that great things happen. 

So, until next time… look after your beautiful self and trust the journey.

You can find all episodes of The Mindful Writer podcast here: https://themindfulwriter.buzzsprout.com

Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss any episodes.

How to Know Yourself and Love What You Do

‘Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.’

Aristotle

At the beginning of last week’s podcast, The Mindful Writer, I told you how I was applying Know Yourself to my writing journey. Understanding our personality type, our strengths, and our weaknesses have, for many of us, been part of our professional life. The personality tests, which at one time seemed to be a requirement of the job recruitment process, labelled us so that we could be fitted into an organisation. But there are trillions of shapes and sizes – every one of us is unique. And nobody knows us better than ourselves.

We have an amazing resource of inner knowledge, gained through a lifetime – maybe many lives. We are the best textbook on ourselves; we just have to look inside.

When we take time to learn who we are:
How we think, feel, react, learn, grow
What makes us happy, sad, frustrated, fulfilled
Our values, and beliefs
What we are good at and where we struggle
Motivations, aspirations, fears

The list goes on.

Christos Giakkas – Pixabay

We can use this self-knowledge to flow through life with less resistance and angst. As creatives, we can achieve our best work and reach our audience.

I believe that by knowing and accepting our unique selves we can take joy in the writing journey. Envy, shame, imposter syndrome, despair, and fear of failure become a thing of the past.

Getting to know ourself takes time, it is our life’s work, but if we stop and look inward there is so much knowledge already there. The truth is, we try and deny it. We are too busy trying to be like someone else instead of honouring our unique selves.

I have got to know myself over the years through:
Journaling
Meditation
Yoga
Mindful activities such as walking in nature
Reflection
Observation

It helps me to write down how I am feeling. To reflect back on how I behaved in the past and the consequences of my actions – there are behaviour patterns for me: Starting a new project with energy and enthusiasm then burning out.
Impatience – stepping in to try and take control of a process rather than allowing events to unfold in their own time.
Driving myself hard with high expectations lead to feelings of failure and disappointment when I do not achieve my goals in the anticipated time frame.

By recognising these behaviour patterns, I can treat myself with compassion. It is like being a caring, and wise line manager/supervisor. Journaling has helped me to have these conversations with myself. To set realistic goals, to keep motivated, and to self-care.

In last week’s Mindful Writer, Grace Sammon  talks about finding meaning in the moment. What is this moment teaching me? It is a good way to stop and reflect on how we are feeling – to check in on ourselves, before reacting.

There are many books on how to write a novel. I know that I work best starting with an outline plan – nothing detailed just the beginning, midpoint, ending, and the key pinch points. Every time I start to write a new novel, I wonder how I achieved it before. Every time is different.

A best-selling author friend of mine wrote a letter to herself as a reminder that: She will experience overwhelm and despair at some point in writing the first draft. She will panic and be terrified of failing. Because this is what always happens to her. She wrote to herself with compassion reminding herself that this is part of her writing process and that she always comes through it.

Understand the different approaches on writing a novel and then find one that is right for you. There is no right or wrong way – but there is the best way for you. And you are the expert on this.

Similarly, the time it takes to write a novel. How often and how much we write. I like to write every day when I am working on a story. I typically write one chapter a day, because my chapters are short and this satisfies me. Another person may prefer writing on one or two days of the week. I write early in the morning because I am a morning person, another person may prefer late at night. Do what works for you and don’t compare yourself to others.

Stock Snap Pixabay

We bring to our writing life skills, knowledge, and expertise, from other areas of our life. Understanding what we are good at, and enjoy doing, should form the basis of our marketing plan.

Facilitating group work, listening to people and enabling them to be heard, sharing good practice and resources – have been key components of my working life for the past few decades. It makes sense for me to use this experience in my approach to marketing.

Networking is the basis of all marketing practice – making meaningful connections with other writers and readers. My podcasts, Castaway Books, and The Mindful Writer, allowed me to sit quietly with my guest and listen to how they have experienced life, using questions to explore with them deeper meaning. This comes naturally to me after a career in health and social care.

The Friday Salon tweet-chat and virtual writing retreats draw on my management consultancy experience facilitating groups and sharing good practice.

My marketing approach will be different from yours because you will bring to it different knowledge, skills, and experience. For example, one of my writing friends worked in quality control and is skilled and knowledgeable about systems. He used this expertise to develop a quality system for writing a novel in one month – The Efficient Novelist. Sharing this model through social media, seminars, and a book has been an important component of his marketing plan.

Another writer was in advertising and sales. This writer uses Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook to share beautifully designed posts. She finds visually appealing content to share with readers and writers.

There is no one marketing plan to suit everyone. If we know ourselves then we can find an approach that, not only are we good at, but one that we enjoy. When we find that niche approach it doesn’t feel like work. I forget that my podcasts, and meeting with Friday Salon friends started as marketing. I am making meaningful connections. My networks continue to expand, and amazing people have come into my life as a result. This is what marketing is about. By forming these networks and connections we invite new opportunities.

So, take time to know yourself. Go inward and listen. What brings you joy and what fills you with dread? Where is fear holding you back? Be honest with yourself. Be compassionate and kind. Know that we are one of a kind – one in a million. When we do what comes naturally, we flow with ease.

This is a work in progress for me. I keep forgetting that there is nothing to worry about. That everything is working out just fine.

I am enough.

I am doing enough.

And I am doing it my way.

How to Find Meaning in the Moment: Author Grace Sammon shares valuable life lessons 

In this fifth episode of The Mindful Writer Grace Sammon talks about the advantages of writing novels later in life, and shares her wisdom on coming back from a dark place.

Before I introduce you, let me update you on my writing journey. I have been focusing on two important lessons as a mindful writer. 

The first: Know yourself. This lesson found me through another writer’s blog post (I’m sorry I cannot find the source, despite searching for the past 20 mins), and was then reinforced in a yoga session the following day. I love this synchronicity – making sure we hear the message. 

Photo courtesy of Congerdesign – Pixabay

We are all unique individuals and we know ourselves better than anyone else can. So, listen to yourself, check in. This is why we should not compare our journey with others. How and when we write, what we write, what we need to thrive, our natural rhythm, our strengths and weaknesses – which can also work to our advantage. We have the greatest text book on being our best self, we just have to look inside.

And the second lesson I found through this interview with the inspirational Grace Sammon. When I felt a bit downhearted about my writing journey I did as Grace suggested and counted each and every blessing. There are so many! My writing journey has more joy than disappointment. This week’s guest, Grace Sammon, can explain this much better than me, so let me introduce her.

Grace Sammon

Grace Sammon, is an entrepreneur, educator, speaker, and author. She has written three non-fiction books and recently published her award-winning debut novel The Eves. Grace is a radio show presenter for The Story Tellers, and Launch Pad, and founder of Author Talk Network

http://gracesammon.net

In this episode Grace reflects on how being in a dark place taught her important life lessons.

How to manage unexpected or unwanted life transitions.

How to find purpose and joy however unlikely it seems.

The advantages of writing novels later in life.

You can listen to the podcast here: Episode four How to Find Meaning in the Moment

Or read the transcript below:

Deborah: I’m delighted to welcome Grace Sammon to The Mindful Writer podcast. Grace is the author of The Eves, and other stories. So welcome Grace.

Grace: Good morning and thank you for having me. 

Deborah: It’s a delight. Whereabouts are you in the world? And what time is it where you are? 

Grace: It is 8.30 in the morning in Sarasota, Florida.

Deborah: Excellent. I am just outside London in the UK and it’s afternoon here. So, Grace, you have been traditionally, independently, and hybrid published. You’ve written fiction, and nonfiction, which you describe as very different journeys.  Like me, you write book club women’s fiction. Your radio show and Podcast for Storytellers captures the experience of those who choose to leave their mark on the world through the art of story.

So, let’s start by talking about leaving our mark on the world. You had a full and varied career founding and managing four companies – two of them not for profit, before you embarked on a career as an author. So, what led you to write.

Grace:  I love that words magically appear on a page and speak to our hearts in ways that touch us and stay with us. And it gets to that question that you are asking about leaving our mark on the world. I’ve always written, you know, as a small child I wrote stories about my siblings. I wrote in each of my careers. What’s different now is that, I’ve switched to the world of novels.

So, I actually have three other books that are in the field of education. But this novel is a different journey to the three other books; they focused on education and how to improve the American High School. And they were both independently published, and traditionally published. This book is really a book that I wrote for myself thinking I was done.

I was at that in-between place in life where I wasn’t a full-time mom, because I had adult children. I wasn’t working the way I had been working traveling 200 days a year and my parents – one was deceased, and one was quite elderly. I asked the question, now what? And I wanted to solve that question the way I’ve done through many parts of my life.

Some people journal. I don’t regularly journal, but I wanted to sit down and write and pose a question for what does a woman – this woman, do to transition and leave their mark on the world. And suddenly it went from a small writing project to a novel. And then so many things that I did not anticipate.

Deborah:  I find the transitions in our lives very interesting. People can take them two ways. Transitions come sometimes because of age, sometimes because of circumstance, sometimes they’re welcomed, and sometimes they come uninvited and unwanted, and there’s two ways you can deal with it. You can either be completely thrown off track and go into a depression or anxiety thinking, what am I going to do with my life?

Or, as you did, you can say, now what’s next? And see it as a great opportunity. What age were you when you came to write – fifties or sixties? 

Grace: Well, I started writing in my forties for my profession, but when I switched to being a novelist, I was mid-fifties, I think.

Deborah: So, 10 years. It’s funny. It’s very similar to me. I’ve always written because I was writing papers for government, and reports, domestic homicide reviews, all sorts of things I was writing, but I started writing novels seriously in my mid-fifties. I think it’s a really good time to come to write – later in life, because I think that we come with so many advantages that we didn’t have when we were younger.

And it’s interesting because I’ve read debates on social media and in, and The Guardian newspaper, there was one where an award was being given for younger writers, not older writers. Or was it the other way around? Anyway, it stimulated a lot of debate, almost as if it was a competition.

Well, of course there’s no competition. Writing should cross all divides. It’s what connects us. But I personally I find there’s lots of advantages to writing later in life. What are your views on that? 

Grace: I agree with you entirely, for several reasons. First, I think we have more life experience so we can reach back to our younger selves.

We have a different perspective on the older people that we’ve met and engaged with. So, we have a broader bandwidth of experience, but also, and this is, I think very true for me; I’m much more compassionate. I’m more compassionate for myself. I’m more compassionate for the younger me. I like that, that age experience has given us the gift of maybe not being as judgemental, so we can treat our characters differently.

Not that all of our characters are lovable and certainly my characters are very flawed, but I love that we can get into them in a way I don’t think I could have. I would’ve been pretending too much.

Deborah: It’s a really good point. It’s an emotional growth, and maturity, that you have later in life that you can bring into your stories.

I think there are other practical advantages too. If we are fortunate enough to be financially secure, we don’t have that, ‘I must earn a living through my writing.’ And having the time, if you’ve got young children. I have so much admiration for writers who are managing families and work, and still finding the time to write, because I don’t know that I could have done it.

I probably couldn’t, which is why I waited until I was able to manage my time better. 

Grace: Oh, I agree with you entirely on that. I am involved with so many different author networks now. And to be watching these what I consider young moms who have kids and they’re still driving to soccer and they have that pressure of still having a regular job.

I find it amazing, the passion they can bring to the work that. When I was writing my books in my educational life, it was very tailored. It was a process. Also, when I was younger, we didn’t have the opportunities and the obligations of social media. 

Deborah: That’s right. But you and I both have been successful business women and still are as authors. What we bring then from our work experience is: we are confident at public speaking, at marketing, at managing our finances. The list goes on. The different things that we’ve acquired through our work, which perhaps if you are younger, you haven’t got all that work experience either. I think the other thing is, is the confidence that we have in ourselves because we’ve already succeeded at things in our working life.

So, we perhaps have a bit more self-esteem and confidence about what we can achieve. 

Grace: Yes. And I think with that, is that very real pressure that we don’t have. We do not need to make a business out of this, and that is a luxury. And I’m very aware that it is a luxury and to have the gift of self-confidence, but also to have the gift of not having to make it work and being delighted when you do get the royalty cheque or the speaker engagement. That is all now, at my age, a bonus. And I also want go back for a second to that idea of compassion, because I realize that this sense of self confidence is in part earned, but it’s also in part a gift in that I have been gifted with not having anxiety, not having chronic depression.

When I look at people in my sphere, whether they’re younger or older – that compassion I spoke about earlier. I used to poo poo quite honestly, you know? Oh, get over. It. Don’t be anxious. Or why are you depressed for this long? I think situational depression is something that I’m familiar with, as you alluded to in the beginning about, you know, sometimes these life changes come unexpected, but I’m very aware of the gift of not being anxious, not being chronically depressed.

So, it’s an opportunity to embrace the world every day in a way that not everyone can. And I want to be compassionate about that. 

Deborah: Absolutely. A really good point. I think writing in a way is very cathartic and a really good way of helping people when they are in a dark place as well.

Have you always had a sense of purpose Grace? 

Grace: That is a fabulous question because I don’t think I’ve always had a sense of purpose, but I do think what I had, and have, is always trying to find meaning in the moment. So even if it’s in a dark place, there’s that question of, How do I make this change? How do I get out of this? How do I learn from this? So, there have been many times, I think, where I don’t, or didn’t have a sense of purpose and meaning, but there were ways to find out about, How does that turn my life around? I’m not shy about expressing the fact that I was sexually abused as a child, and that was something certainly I wish I could have avoided, by a family friend.

But if I look at the ways that made me more compassionate, that it led me to my early work in education, to work with underserved communities that did not have a voice – their educational system, or in the volunteering that I have found always gives more back to me than I seem to give. So, I’ve done work with what we call here in the United States, Guardian ad Litem programs.

They’re basically. Programs where children are taken away from their families for neglect or abuse, and you don’t become their physical guardian, but you become their guardian for medical and legal, and the whole case management. So, I have found ways from a previous experience to give voice to a little girl that I was, who did not have a voice, but I’ve healed through that.

I’ve done a lot of work with Hospice. Giving voice to families as they release their loved one and giving love and support to that individual when they are in the process of dying. So, while there have been certainly many points in my life where I felt adrift, if I take that time to figure out, What is the meaning in this? What do I learn from that? Then, I begin to find purpose. And then I begin to find meaning, and then I find joy.

Deborah:  That’s really interesting. Through your writing, you are giving voice to that child and I suspect you are giving voice to the people that you’ve spoken to and whose journeys you’ve shared professionally and throughout your life.

That connects us, doesn’t it. When you write something in a book and then somebody reads it and they respond to what you’ve expressed, that’s an amazing feeling. When you connect with readers.

Grace: That’s absolutely the best part of doing this. I love doing podcasts and, and you are so kind to have me on your new show, and I’m so excited about what you’re accomplishing here.

So, the opportunity to talk about writing, and our characters, because we all know that in our hearts, they’re very real people. I love it. Just this week, I got a letter, an email, and I love it when readers do that. And when I get that letter that says your book touched my soul on so many levels. Because what I try to accomplish in my book, The Eves is that the youngest character is 15. The oldest is 94. And there’s the main character who is hopelessly broken and she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. She has no sense of purpose. Her children are gone from her life. And the subtitle of the book is, when our stories are told- everything changes. And Jessica, that main character goes and meets this group of older women who are living on a farm in Maryland, above the beautiful Chesapeake Bay. By telling their oral histories, she begins to find her footing. So, I got this beautiful email the other day that said, You know, my children don’t talk to me. I don’t think there’s hope. I feel so broken. Like the main character in your book, I drink too much. And it was such … I was weeping at the gift she had given me.

And that is something that you hope to accomplish. The other thing that I really wanted to accomplish with the book was that people value the stories of older people. And to listen to those and to not stereotype those older people. Whether they’re authors of our age, if you will, or whether they’re much older, I want us still to have value, to be able to leave our mark on that world.

Deborah: Absolutely. And that is where we started: Writers leaving their mark on the world. It sounds like that is exactly what you are doing with your beautiful books. I’m really looking forward to reading. As you talk about it, I want to read it more and more, because all of my career I’ve worked with older people and now I’m in my entering my 60th decay. I’m probably becoming an older person.

My l first novel was about an older woman, and a younger woman, and about a community. So, lots of parallels. And that yours sounds wonderful. I’m really looking forward to reading it. 

Grace: We’ll have to exchange novels, my friend.

Photo courteously of Timur Kozmenko Pixabay

Deborah:  Absolutely. Yes, most definitely.

So, where do you think all that courage and resilience you have comes from? Because your life is a life well lived from how you’ve described it. You’ve had such challenges in your life, but you have this sort of radiance, strength, and compassion – as you say, for yourself. Where has all that come from? And have you always been like that or have you had to nurture it within yourself? 

Grace: Oh, you know, I think I’m just lucky. I don’t know the answer to that. It was interesting, at some point when I was abused, I was twelve, my sister unfortunately was seven and we decided to confront all of this when we were in our late twenties. It was not a positive experience at all. When we tried to go to an adult, it happened to be a priest. So that was at the height of the priest scandal here in the United States. But one of the things that was a real jewel that came out of it was that one of the people we were trying to litigate said to me, You have turned your scars to stars. And I loved. I don’t know that it was true, but I loved the idea that not me – but that someone, could turn (because it didn’t feel that way to me), but that someone, could turn their scars to stars.

 I don’t know where that sense of resilience comes from. I don’t know if it’s, you know, my parents were a – pick yourself up by your bootstraps, as we might say here.

I think also I got divorced, very young. I had a three-year-old and a six-year-old and I went two weeks to the day before Christmas. And I put my little son on the counter at the post office. I thought I was picking up Christmas presents, and it was my husband who I was still living with and thought, all was okay. Married to. And it was our divorce papers. Oh! And I went, Oh my goodness. And I still had to go home and have dinner on the table and make it Christmassy for the children. I would be the first to admit, I probably have gotten through a large portion of my life by, not denial – repression. So, you know, you deal with that later because you’ve got stuff to do now. And I think, you know, sometimes that old saying of fake it till you make it. But there still has to be – and this is my older wisdom, you’ve got to find the joy in every day, even in the bleakest of moments you’ve got to find that at least I had a proper cup of tea or I got a phone call from someone.

 I think now, that is one of my big life lessons to find that joy in every day. 

Deborah: That’s amazing. I love that. Turn your scars to stars. I’ve not heard that expression before. It’s beautiful, amazing. And find joy in every day. Do you go through a gratitude meditation or anything every day – systematically? Or do you actually think to yourself, What is the joy from today?

Grace: I do. I didn’t always. Several years ago I had a friend and we sat down and we talked and she was talking about gratitude. And she makes gratitude lists. And she gave me a pad where I could write the 10 things I was grateful for. And she shared her story so beautifully.

She had talked about a point in her life where she had a very cantankerous divorce, and she would just go to the beach and cry. And someone told her she needed to find joy and gratitude every day. And she thought that was preposterous. So, on her list, she would write down sand. Sand. Water. Beach. But what she found just from that act of mindfulness, she was able to grow that list and cry less because it was that: Sand. Seagull. Bird. Wave. Sunlight. Cloud. Rainbow. People chatting. People walking.  And her list, really unbeknownst and unplanned to her, grew. 

And I find that I do, when I put my head on the pillow at night I think, What a day. I don’t want to paint a rosy picture. There are so many times where I am overstressed and there are family issues to deal with and health issues within the family. I am at an age where sadly we have had 10 people since the first of the year – and we’re recording here in early April, who have died. So, I am at that age where that is going to be more common. You know, when we were younger, we went to lots of weddings. Now we go to lots of celebrations of life. So, I think that I do – I do put my head on the pillow every day and say, Oh my goodness, look at the things that happen.

I’m also incredibly lucky. There’s a character in my book, The Eves, his name is Roy Gill. Roy is the most upbeat, always happy, walks in the door, going, Greetings. Greetings. And he’s just a delight. He is also the least fictional character in my book. He is my husband. It is very hard to have down moments when you live with someone who finds joy in every day.

So, we look out the window and we go, ‘Oh, look, the storks are here. Or, ‘Oh, look, the Cardinals are at the bird feeder.’ We live in this perpetual moment of finding joy, even in the midst of wrestling with something very, very difficult. 

Deborah: You bring joy. Just listening to you fills me with joy. So, thank you for that gift.

Grace: Thank you.  

Deborah: You’ve imparted, so many wonderful words of wisdom. I won’t ask you specifically for words to a younger self, because you’ve got so many here – unless is there anything else that you would say to people who are perhaps at a difficult time in their life struggling, perhaps creatives, or people who think that all sounds great, but how – How do I do that?

You’ve given some great tips, like using gratitude to build joy. I love that. Is there anything else you’d like to impart? 

Grace: Well first, I would say I’m not a Sage at all. I’m not a Sage on the stage. This is me today. And you know, that could change tomorrow. I’m very aware of that. Well at any age, it can change in a moment. Right? But I want people to know to be patient with themselves. 

On my website, http://www.grace salmon.net. There are life lessons. As I mentioned, Jessica in my book is so horribly broken. She writes down what she hears people say, because she wants to remember. So, on my life, on my website and in my back of my book, there’s things that I call Jessica’s life lessons. And some of them are so mundane, like:  Be kinder than you need to be. First do no harm. There’s a doctor in the book that she learns that basic truth from. 

But I want us to be compassionate for ourselves, to set realistic expectations, to realize we are all going to fall. ‘This too shall pass,’ is something both of my parents said all of the time. And I think that when you’re in that dark place you don’t know that – you really don’t believe that. I know after my dad died my fabulous husband now, he decided that we weren’t going be together any longer. We’d only been married, nine and a half years. So, when my dad died 12 years ago, I took to my bed for six weeks. Not entirely, but pretty close. And I had a bossy girlfriend who finally came at like week five and said, ‘Stop this. This is nonsense. You have a life to live.’ And there’s a similar character in my book who tells Jessica the same thing.

So, listen to your bossy friends. They will be a lifeline for you. But basically, just be gentle with yourself. This too shall pass. 

Deborah: That’s lovely. I’m going to end there because it’s so such a beautiful statement to end on. You’ve shared with us some wonderful thoughts that I shall include in the show notes, so people can return to them. Also, links to your book, The Eves, and to your website.

And so, thank you so much, Grace. It was absolute pleasure meeting and talking to you today. 

Grace: It was a gift to be with you and great luck on this important podcast. 

Deborah: Thank you.

I hope that you enjoyed that interview as much as I did. I was really inspired by Grace’s words of wisdom:

Turn those scars into stars.

Name something to be glad about however small and add to it.

As I said at the beginning of this episode, I now do that with my writing journey. It is too easy to focus on the things that disappoint us and forget our achievements, and joys. 

Please drop me a line to share the joys of your writing journey, I would love to hear from you. dkauthor@btinternet.com

And so, until next week, take care of your beautiful self and trust the journey.

You can find all episodes of The Mindful Writer Podcast to play on your chosen podcast here: https://themindfulwriter.buzzsprout.com

Don’t forget to subscribe so that you hear when a new episode goes live.

How to let go of resistance and relax into the flow: life lessons from yoga.

Are you feeling frustrated in your writing endeavours? A feeling that you have come up against a brick wall?

This post is about learning to let go of resistance and to relax into the flow of creation. It sounds simple but is surprisingly hard.

Frustration, disappointment, and impatience are part of this writing journey. Writers tend to be determined, and resilient. We need to be or we would have given up long ago. But sometimes we need to surrender and learn how to relax into the natural flow.

Everything in this beautiful world has been created to work in perfect harmony. I was listening to a radio programme whilst driving and was struck by a comment that the start of spring triggers a series of natural events that are interdependent. I could not make a note as I was driving but it was about the migration and breeding patterns of birds, plant growth and the production of vegetation to encourage bugs – which birds needed to feed on, etc. This is a bit vague but the message I took from this was the amazing way nature works in perfect harmony. It cannot be rushed. Neither can one thing happen ahead of the other. Everything is integrated into one wonderous, miraculous, whole. We are part of this whole and subject to the same natural rhythms and flow. 

You may be wondering how this is of any help to you as you battle against the frustration of waiting to hear back from agents, or publishers, fret over a lack of inspiration, or an inability to write. For me it reinforced the need to be patient. Our path is affected by many things: events, people, circumstance, that we cannot see and may never know. 

Yesterday, I randomly selected a guided meditation from YouTube. It was about letting go of resistance and relaxing into the flow. Then, by coincidence (or synchronicity) my yoga class this morning was an unscheduled Yin yoga. In Yin yoga, we hold a pose for a longer period of time than in other styles. We experience discomfort in the pose but are asked to relax our bodies rather than resisting. Gradually, the muscles stretch and lengthen. 

This yoga class taught me a similar lesson to the meditation. To feel the edge of my discomfort and instead of pushing through intentionally relax – mind, and muscles. I liken this to our natural tendency to hunch shoulders and clench our teeth when we are very cold. I bravely immersed myself in a freezing plunge pool when I came out of the sauna last week. By relaxing the body instead of trying to resist the cold it was easier and my body adapted more quickly.

The poses in Yin yoga challenge us. They help us to break the habit of holding our body in a certain position and learn new ways of being. The poses lead to positive changes in our bodies.

I am trying to apply this lesson to my writing journey. Instead of wasting energy trying to change what is, I am learning to be present. To accept where I am in my journey and make the most of what I am experiencing now. For example, I am waiting to hear from a couple of agents, and a publisher, about two of my unpublished manuscripts. I am also between novels as I make final edits to one and wait for a planned research trip in July before starting the next. It is a time to be still. To enjoy what I am doing: producing The Mindful Writer podcast, supporting other writers, and enjoying new experiences to feed my imagination. Before gaining this insight, I would have been trying to hurry things along. I would have been feeling tense and frustrated at my perceived powerlessness. 

When we experience discomfort, we are breaking old patterns and learning new. It is hard and requires patience. We must be kind to ourselves as we feel the edge of resistance and try to relax into the flow. It is worth practicing in our daily lives because as with all things it will get easier.

So, until next time, take care of your beautiful self and trust the journey.

How to keep grounded and be courageous with poet Ingrid Wilson

In this 4th episode of The Mindful Writer, poet Ingrid Wilson reads a few of my favourite poems from her collection, and talks to me about becoming forty. Before I introduce Ingrid, let me update you on my writing journey.

 We are enjoying a spell of warm weather in the UK at the time of writing this. Do you find it difficult to keep up a writing routine when the outdoor beckons? Although it’s many years since I lived by the academic year, I always find the need to have a break in August. Slowing down in the summer months feels right to me. I believe that being part of nature we should listen to our natural rhythm and accept the ebbs and flows of creativity. I have been enjoying what Julia Cameron, in her book, The Artists’ Way, describes as filling my creative well. An outing to The Royal Hospital on the day of The Chelsea Flower Show has filled my cup with story ideas. A Chelsea Pensioner, who I met last October when I was sleeping on the street for one night to raise funds and awareness for homelessness, invited me to visit him at The Royal Hospital for a private tour. The  day following that inspiring visit, I wrote the synopsis for two novels. 

            

Left: Chelsea Pensioner Alan Rutter shares the pavement with me when we bed down for the night in October. Right: The Royal Hospital admiring a mural of pensioner’s portraits. A few of these faces will influence characters in a future novel.

So, enjoy the summer. Experience new things, and fill your head with ideas. I would love to hear what you are up to: how you are spending this summer, and how you self-care to enjoy the rewards of each season. Now, to the interview.

Ingrid Wilson is author of the poetry collection 40 Poems at 40 At the time of this episode going live Ingrid has been busy preparing Wounds I healed: The Poetry of Strong Women for publication day on 18th June 2022 with the editorial expertise of Amazon #1 bestselling poet Gabriela Marie Milton.

In this week’s episode Ingrid explains:

  • How she keeps grounded when experiencing uncertainty and change
  • How she found the courage to pursue her dream of being a fulltime writer
  • How she is using her unique combination of talent, skills, and experience to make a difference in this world.

Ingrid Willson

You can listen to the podcast here:

Episode Four How to feel grounded with poet Ingrid Wilson

or, read the transcript below.

Deborah: Welcome Ingrid. I’m really excited to be interviewing you for the mindful writer because I have followed your blog. And I know you followed mine. We’ve had some really interesting chats online over the last couple of years, and I know you’re a like-minded soul. You’re very aware of your spiritual and personal growth journey.

 I’m going to introduce Ingrid by giving a quote from a review of her recently published poetry collection, 40 poems at 40, which is exactly what it says. It’s 40 poems that you wrote to commemorate your 40th birthday. This review came from Gabriella, Maria Milton, and this is what she said.  ‘40 poems at 40 is the manifesto of an extremely intelligent and talented woman unafraid to explore her past and her inner world.’

And she went on to say, ‘A woman who knows how to ask questions about the real meaning of life. A woman who does not mince words and does not submit to stereotypes’. I think that’s wonderful review. And what wonderful things to be said about you. I absolutely agree with her. So, I’m really excited to welcome you Ingrid.

Let’s start by asking you, what inspired you to publish a collection of poems to commemorate your 40th birthday?

Ingrid: I’m going to read a short part from the introduction to the book because it explains it quite well. In the introduction to 40 poems at 40 I’ve written: I’m publishing these short and highly personal poetry collection on the occasion of my 40th birthday as I feel in some way that this milestone marks a watershed between the faltering and unsure steps of youth through the years of self-doubt, and even at times, self-loathing into a period of self-acceptance and quiet competence. A period of reflection, serenity, and gratitude, balanced as ever with hard work.

Deborah: Amazing. Forty seems a long while ago to me that I’m now 62, but I do remember it felt like a watershed for me. It is a time when you have had lots of experience and you’re looking forward. So, can you tell us a little bit about some of the major things in your life that have happened that have brought you to forty?

Ingrid: Oh, well, there’s been a lot. I mean I experienced bereavement early on because I lost my mom when I was eight. So, that will have played a big part – well it’s had a huge impact on my life, and my development. Not all of it negative. I mean, I’ve grown and learned a lot through my experience of processing grief.

Then, I moved around a lot as I think you mentioned. I’ve lived in lots of different parts of the UK. I’ve lived in Manchester, Newcastle, London for a long time. And then, with my family, I moved abroad. We lived in Barcelona. We lived in Malacca. We lived in Slovenia and now I’m back in my hometown, back in the UK, in the north of England. So, that has really shaped this journey:  the travel, the emotional experiences. And I have two beautiful children as well, which of course has shaped my experience and brought me to where I am now. I’ve tried to get all of this into the book in one way or another. 

Deborah: So, adjusting to live in different countries. I mean, that’s, you have to be quite courageous to have that kind of upheaval. How did you find the adjusting? How were you with language and culture and integrating into communities?

Ingrid: I found it very interesting. It was certainly challenging. When I arrived in Spain, I didn’t speak very much Spanish at all, but I had to learn fast because I put my son into school and the Spanish school. Then I became pregnant with my second son and I was having to talk to doctors in Spanish. So, I just threw myself into that and really focused and spent a lot of time practicing with Apps and practicing speaking. That helped me to integrate up to a point, but I still did feel like a foreigner for a long time until I started to work. When I went to work in Spain, I got a lot better at the language and I felt more that I was integrated. Slovenia it was totally different. I could already speak Slovenian coming to live there, I felt a really huge culture shock more so than when I went to Spain. Perhaps because of the pandemic and the circumstances in which we moved, but I found it harder to adapt to life there overall, lots of challenges. But I had to keep grounded, you know, keep doing my yoga, spiritual affirmations. And of course, the writing. That always helps keep me grounded. 

Deborah: Let’s go on to talk about being grounded because you take a lot of inspiration from nature in your poetry, which is one of the things I love about your poetry. And I know the environment’s very important to you. You recently hosted a community assembly on the climate and ecological crisis. So, does nature help you to feel grounded too?

Ingrid: Definitely nature. Being out in nature is very therapeutic to me. If I’m going through a difficult time personally, or if outside world events are getting me down, I head out to the countryside. I’ve got the Lake District on my doorstep now, which is a place I really love. And I like to go to the quiet places where there aren’t a lot of tourists around and just listen to the sounds of nature and take in the sights and smells.

I feel like I gain a wisdom from nature, a kind of unspoken wisdom that is not present in every day – in the rat race. You know, when you go into the shops?  It leaves me quite cold and so just to feel whole again, heading out into nature really helps with that. Also, the seaside. I’ve lived by the sea several times in my life I’m lucky to say. That inspires me too. It does feature a lot in my poetry. 

Deborah: Absolutely. I feel exactly the same and I don’t know about you, but I would choose where I live by making sure I have those things around me. For me. It’s the sea. I can be walking by the sea within five minutes from leaving home. I can walk to the sea. I couldn’t imagine not living near the sea. I think I’d be claustrophobic if I was too far inland. I like to look out over the edge and breathe the fresh air.

 But not everybody who’s listening will have the countryside or sea around them. But even if you can find some open, or green space will make a difference.

Ingrid: I’ve lived in London, you know, right in the middle of the city and just to go to the park or to the river will have a similar effect for me. Nature’s always bursting through wherever you are. It always finds a way through however much concrete we put down, or buildings we put up. It’s always there. We just need to know how to find it. 

Deborah: Absolutely. I find it always just fills me with awe and makes you feel that you are connected, and part of something much greater and bigger. To be grounded is really to feel connected with your body and the earth, isn’t it? Sometimes we can get so caught up in what I call the thought goblins, all the noise that goes on in our head, and that’s when we start to feel ungrounded. We need to take time to bring ourselves back into our body, the earth, and feel connected so that we ‘ve got a clear and calm mind. And I think it’s particularly difficult at this time. We’ve got so many pressures going on in the world haven’t we? First of all, we had the pandemic, and then the things going on in Ukraine and across the world. It’s such an unsettling time for us all. I think  it’s really important people know how to feel grounded. 

There’s nature. There’s meditation. You and I both are strong advocates for the benefits of meditation, aren’t we? Do you try to do a daily practice? 

Ingrid:  I do. I’ve been not been keeping it as regularly as I should, and I can feel when it, when I’ve missed out too much. I was in the habit during the pandemic of spending at least 20 minutes a day. Now life’s gone a bit more back to normal, things are more hectic. I can find myself missing out on the practice, but it’s always beneficial. You’re not actually losing time. The thing I need to remember is if you take 20 minutes out of your schedule to meditate, you’re probably gaining more than you lose in terms of time, because you’ll be able to deal with all of the chaos more easily. So I do try to keep up the practice. 

Deborah: Absolutely. It’s like putting some petrol in your engine or oil (I’m not very good on technical things), but it’s filling up and recharging, so that you can cope with what life throws at you. And also, you’re more effective because you have more clarity of mind so you can see your path better. 

Ingrid: Yeah. It’s like seeing the woods for the trees. Isn’t it? 

Deborah: Absolutely. So, you have had an interesting life traveling around the globe, as you say. Have you always had a strong sense of purpose? 
 
Ingrid: It’s interesting you should ask. As a child I did. I always enjoyed writing.  Especially I could relate to poetry and I would recite it and learn it and write my own poems. And I always felt that I would do that. You know, that would be my, my life purpose, but then kind of real life, if you can call it that, got in the way. I went away to study at university and then your kind of shoe horned into ‘You’ve got to have a career now.’ And I didn’t really know what to do, or how to have a life as a writer or a poet. So, you know, I took a day job. Like most people do, you know, got bills to pay and all that kind of thing. And then I wanted to have a family and I sort of drifted away from it a bit. I didn’t stop writing altogether, but with the pressures of everyday life, it kind of went by the wayside until really the birth of my second son brought back that focus. I really felt that now I need to take this seriously, or I’ll just live out my life and do the things that everybody does, but I will not be true to myself unless I do something with writing. And that’s when I really started writing again in earnest. And then with the pandemic and I took redundancy and I started to treat my writing as my profession at that point.
 
And I’ve just been growing from that point. It is hugely satisfying. It’s got a lot of challenging challenges, but I certainly feel I’m fulfilling a purpose that I’ve always had now by doing that. 
 
Deborah: You’re giving a gift to so many others who can read your poems and get so much from it. So, I’m going to get you to pause there and ask you to read one of your poems. Can you read, Points North? I picked out a few that I particularly love, but this for me struck a chord about sense of purpose. 
 
Ingrid: Thank you. 
 

Points North

Wheels in motion and the wind 

whips around behind my ears 

at the nape of my neck 

Deborah: I love that. I think we all have, I believe, a purpose. What comes together with our unique contribution of attributes. You know, our knowledge, our networks, experience, talents, all the things that make us who we are. I always believe it’s been put there because we have a unique purpose to fulfill in our life.

I’ve had a sense of that since I was seven years old. I remember saying to my mum, I must’ve heard Bible reading or something at my school. It must have been about everyone having a purpose. And I said to her, ‘I don’t know what my purpose is. I don’t know what I’m here for.’ And my mother just sort of told me to go to sleep and not to be so silly, but it plagued me from seven years old, until I grasped what it was.

Have you always had a sense of purpose in your head, apart from writing? Maybe about the connections you make with nature and sharing that with others? Or was it just a sort of innate need to write? 

in a subtle caress

 and I know I’m being propelled 

along a river of life 

whose course and motion 

I do not pretend to understand

sometimes I like it when the waters 

speed me down towards a sea 

sunless and sighing

till the cloud breaks 

and I see 

the sky is crying 

and at sundown 

out come all the thousand stars 

and I can name the constellations 

in this hemisphere 

at any time of year 

there is always the Plough

above, or the Big Dipper 

and at its tip, Polaris 

The Pole Star 

Points North. 

And so I have my fixed 

celestial compass 

though I do not 

always understand the path

or the trajectory 

I know well my own 

portion of the sky, 

the earth below, above only the heavens 

and 

Points North.

Wilson, Ingrid. 40 Poems at 40 (pp. 35-36). Experiments in Fiction. Kindle Edition.

/

Deborah: I love that. I think we all have, I believe, a purpose. What comes together with our unique contribution of attributes. You know, our knowledge, our networks, experience, talents, all the things that make us who we are. I always believe it’s been put there because we have a unique purpose to fulfill in our life.

I’ve had a sense of that since I was seven years old. I remember saying to my mum, I must’ve heard Bible reading or something at my school. It must have been about everyone having a purpose. And I said to her, ‘I don’t know what my purpose is. I don’t know what I’m here for.’ And my mother just sort of told me to go to sleep and not to be so silly, but it plagued me from seven years old, until I grasped what it was.

Have you always had a sense of purpose in your head, apart from writing? Maybe about the connections you make with nature and sharing that with others? Or was it just a sort of innate need to write? 

Coutesy of Pixabay

Ingrid: I think it was the writing first because the connection with nature, although it was always there, I didn’t realize it or appreciate it so much at that age. It’s something I’ve grown into. But the writing, that was always a burning thing in me. I kept lots of diaries when I was a teenager, you know? I would write pages and pages not to share. I just have this need to write and yeah, that’s always been with me. I went off to explore different things I would like to do. I love music and I went through wanting be a singer for a while, you know, like, like you do when you’re a teenager and acting, I wanted to be an actress. But really it was the, the writing that I would always come back to. It’s nice to have that. 

I find it interesting that in the poem, Points North; when I wrote it, I was in Slovenia, having just moved from Spain and feeling a bit dislocated. And then I ended up coming back to the north of England. So, I find it interesting that that poems kind of prescient in a way now looking back.

Deborah: Yes. When you’re going through life, because we all have these periods where we feel it as if we’re losing direction, what do you use to help you set your direction to have to have that sense of you’re on the right path?

Ingrid: The few things that we mentioned meditation. Yoga, which to me goes hand in hand with meditation. Just to help me keep my focus on my balance. The writing as well, because I try to keep that going whatever’s happening. However, chaotic my life might be at a particular point. I will keep writing the poetry and it might change a lot in subject and tone and form.

But the thing that keeps me grounded is just the act of doing it and keeping it going through whatever’s happening around, stay clear, headed and focused. I think. 

Deborah: Excellent. I say to people who perhaps are in an earlier stage of their life and have lost direction, or don’t feel they have a sense of purpose – you probably say this to your boys, I always said it to my daughter, when she was growing up: Do what you love. If you do what you love, you’ll be good at it. And if you’re good at it, you’ll succeed at it, because that is the seed that’s been sown in your heart. That seed of desire that is there for you to nurture.

Because that will give you an idea about what your purpose is. And I think, when you get  excited about something, and you get lots of energy, that’s telling you that you’re on the right path. So, when I was younger and I would have a look at a job, somebody said to me, Does it make your heart sink or sing? I would always then test out how does that make me feel? Do I think, oh no, or do I think yay? And you know, that feeling when something really excites you?  For me, I just have to go and run because I just get woosh! All this energy. And for me, that buzz of energy is – You’re on the right path. 

Ingrid: Oh, yes, I can really identify this. It was just funny when you say about looking at the jobs, because when I used to look at the job page in the paper, my heart was just constantly sinking. Whereas now, when I get up and my job is, you know, to write a poem, to work with other writers putting books together, launching creative projects, that really gives me a buzz. And it’s great advice if you feel that excitement and that buzz about what you’re doing, you’re on the right track. 

Deborah: Even if you think, ‘It’s impractical. I’m not earning money,’ or comparing yourself to others, or ‘This isn’t the route I thought I would take,’ ignore that and listen to that inner energy, because that’s your soul telling you which path you’re on. You’re on the right path.

Ingrid: You have to be quite brave to do that and ignore the pressure and what other people think. You just have to. How else, how else can you do it? You have to put yourself out there and believe in what you’re doing. Yeah.

Deborah: Absolutely. We’ve talked a little bit about nature. I didn’t hear what happened about the community assembly on the climate. I’m really interested in that. How did that go? 

Ingrid: Yes, I was awarded some funding to hold a community assembly – to get a group of people together and discuss, you know, the best ways to meet the challenges of the climate and ecological crisis.

So, what we could practically do about it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get enough people to come along to a Zoom session and discuss this because it was quite a long time. It was supposed to be held over three hours and who wants to spend three hours on these things, but to me it was very important, I’d been given a chance to add my voice. I’m always talking about, we need to do more about this crisis and I had a chance to add my voice to where it might be heard. So, I held it as a poetry prompt in the end. I write for a forum called Earthweal, where we write a lot of eco poetry and we write about the climate crisis. So, I invited people to write poems about how they would address the climate crisis and biodiversity crisis. I posed the questions that I was asked to put into the community assembly as a poetry prompt, just to see what came out of it. And I did get a good response. Then I collated it and sent it to the Global Assembly which does get fed back to some kind of global panel on climate change. Whether it makes a huge difference? I mean, it’s a drop in the ocean, but I feel it’s important to add your voice wherever you. 

Deborah: That’s amazing. I really love the way that you brought together the poetry and how you enabled people to have voice using that media.

That’s amazing. And that’s something that only you could do, that is using your unique contribution, your attributes, your skills, your experience, your network, to do something that only you could do in that way, which is amazing. And it does make a difference. 

Ingrid: Well, you have to do what you can with, with the tools you have.

Deborah: Amazing. And that brings me to another poem I’d love you to read. We started by talking about the sea. I like to go for a walk by the sea pretty much every day. It is where I do my best thinking and meditation. And this really spoke to me. So, can you read to us You and Me Sea?

Ingrid: Yes.

You and Me, Sea – A Love Song 

Ain’t it just like you and me, Sea 

when we dance together, 

I barefoot on the sand, you 

lapping at my toes? 

Ain’t it just like we’re two parts of 

the same whole: 

I was born of you, and you 

bring me to life once more? 

Ain’t it just like you and me, Sea? 

And we’ve always been together 

dancing a saline tango in the sun. 

Ain’t it just like you and me, Sea? 

When I hit stormy weather 

on your shore I’ll wind up, by the wild 

winds 

flung. 

Say, it’s just like you and me, Sea;

I can hear you calling: 

your echo fills my silent afternoon. 

And that was all I wanted to say, Sea: 

When I’m far away from you 

I feel your surge in me which swells into 

a tide to take me home.

Wilson, Ingrid. 40 Poems at 40 (p. 41). Experiments in Fiction. Kindle Edition.

Deborah: Beautiful. Love that. I’m going to give a link in the show notes for your book Poems at 40, so other people can appreciate and enjoy them as much as me, hopefully. And I’m going to get myself a paperback because I just want to have it by me so I can keep on referring to it. It’s a book you have to have as a paperback. I think. You’ve got two beautiful boys. One of them is a poet himself. Isn’t he? 

Ingrid: The older one? Eight. Yeah. They both liked writing so, I think they pick up on what I do and, and they’re inspired by it, which is great to see. I hope they keep that going. 

Deborah: Lovely. How on earth do you juggle your time, especially when you were working as well, with two boys, and keeping up your writing, and working? How did you manage that?

Ingrid: Good question. When I was working – if I was working full-time the writing went by the wayside. So, that’s why I decided to change and make writing my full-time job. So, nowadays I tend to get up very early. I’ll often get up about 5:00 AM. That’s when I have my creative ideas. It’s when the muse is with me. When I write my poetry, I love that silence when everyone else is asleep and you can just hear the birds sing. I sit and do my creative work at that point. And that gets my head in the right place for the day. And then I’ll do the school run and the things I need to do, housework, whatever.

Then I’ll come back and do the more practical side of the writing job: emails, responding to comments on blog, putting work together. The project management side I do later. But the creative work comes first. And that’s how I most often start my day. So, I love to get the day started off in that way, but there is a lot of juggling and I try to make sure I have time for the boys and we, you know, read stories together and go on adventures together at weekends and whenever we can. So, balance is really important. In a way I tend to push myself very hard, and sometimes I don’t take enough time for myself to just relax. I try to put that in as well. Otherwise, I’m in danger of burning myself out. 

Deborah: Absolutely. Yes. It’s a fine balance isn’t it between work, self-care, and giving quality time to your loved ones?

Ingrid: Yep. It can be done, but you have to keep everything in balance.

Deborah:  It sounds like me. I tick them all off in my head. I allocate time. That’s my quality time there. That’s my writing time. I schedule my time. I don’t tell anybody else, but I do.  You probably do the same thing.

Ingrid: Yes. And I’ve had to let go of the idea of things like housework ever being done. It’s just always in the process of being done. It’s like a flow. And if I can manage the flow and stay on top of that, that’s fine. Other things get done. Like a book can be finished and put out, but the laundry is never done. It’s always just been done. And I’m okay with that. Now I used to think I had to get it done, but now I just go with the flow. And that helps me to be able to do other things as well. So yeah, something has to go. You can’t do everything. You would drive yourself crazy if you tried to? 

Deborah: Absolutely. I would like you to read Poem for my children, which is another beautiful one.

Ingrid: 

Poem for My Children 

Let not my words die with me 

after all is said and done 

I dedicate these words to you, 

continue on alone. 

Let not my words die with me 

at the closing of my day: 

they’re all I ever had to give 

and now I cannot stay. 

Let not my words die with me, 

let them linger in the light 

of eventide, e’en as I fade 

into the darkling night. 

Let not my words die with me 

and I cannot be afraid 

that I am leaving you alone 

with too much left unsaid.

But let my words live with you 

let them echo down the years, 

let them resound and comfort you 

when I’m no longer near.

Wilson, Ingrid. 40 Poems at 40 (p. 24). Experiments in Fiction. Kindle Edition.

Courtesy Shanghaistoneman Pixabay

Deborah: That makes me cry. I cried when I read it and I cried when you read it out. It’s very, very good.

Ingrid: I knew I was onto something cause it made me cry when I wrote it. So yeah, it’s an emotional poem that one.

Deborah: It’s beautiful. Do you think that’s one of the reasons writers write? To leave a legacy?

Ingrid: Yes. I think the first reason writers write is because it’s in them and you just have to. For me, it’s like, I don’t really have a choice. It’s part of me and I need to do it. And then I thought, some things you just write for yourself, like a diary, or if, you know, you make a journal because something’s upset you and that’s very personal type of writing. But then I think, yeah, as writers we do also like to write for an audience and we like to have at work read. Certainly, my poems. I want to share them. I put them on the blog and sometimes I think I should hold these back so I can include them in a book. I write them to be read, and I always try to keep my readers in mind as well as me.

I’ve wanted to have a direct, emotional impact. I like word play. And I don’t really like to use lots of fancy words and sort of inaccessible language because I want to reach the reader and to have an emotional impact. And whenever I get a comment on my blog that something has touched someone, you know, has touched the heart, that means the most to me, because that’s really what I’m trying to do with my writing. 

Deborah: Well, you certainly achieve that.  You always touch me with your poetry. I just love reading it.

Ingrid: Well, thank you so much. 

Deborah: Thank you so much for joining me to talk about your journey and sharing your poems. And there will be links, as I say, in the show notes so that others can enjoy them too. 

Ingrid: Thank you for the interview. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been an honour. 

Deborah: Thank you.

Some final words from me…

The turmoil created by uncertainty and fear makes us unsteady. We find it hard to concentrate, sleep badly, feel panicked, and anxious. I get migraines and eczema, my body’s way of telling me that there is an imbalance in my body that needs attention. This is what it means to feel ungrounded.

To be grounded is to feel connected with our body and/or the earth. It is about being fully present. To have a clear and calm mind. It is essential if we are to take care of ourselves and our future. When we have a clear mind, we are more receptive to ideas and opportunities. We are better able to plan and to take control of the things we can influence. 

There are practical things that we can do to feel more grounded.

  • Go for a walk where we can get close to nature
  • Try mindfulness meditation. If this is new to you the HeadSpace app is a good place to start. There is a 7 day free trial at www.headspace.com
  • Exercise. Something that focuses us on our body and stops our mind from wandering. For me this is yoga. There are yoga classes for being grounded on YouTube. Try Yoga with Adrienne. If you don’t enjoy yoga then dancing, Pilates, running, swimming – anything that helps us switch off our thoughts and connect with our body.
  • Relaxation – using a guided visualisation or listening to calming music. I try to focus inward and ask myself what I want and need. Then honour myself with kindness. If I need more sleep, then I try to get an early night. What can we do to reduce the pressure on ourselves?

When I feel fatigued and overwhelmed, I try thinking about it this way: The experience is making me stronger and more resilient. As we learn how to still our mind and draw on our inner resources we are growing as a person. We are becoming a warrior and will be better equipped to face future challenges. 

A mind in turmoil is of little use but a calm mind will help us to spot new opportunities and solutions to problems. Control the things that we can by focusing on what needs to be done, and let go of the things we have no control over. 

So, until next time, take care of your beautiful self, and trust the journey.

You can find all episodes of The Mindful Writer Podcast to play on your chosen podcast here: https://themindfulwriter.buzzsprout.com

Don’t forget to subscribe so that you hear when a new episode goes live.

How to be Open to Possibility with author C.D’Angelo

In this third episode of The Mindful Writer, Indie author C.D’Angelo tells me about her writing journey, how she overcame disappointment to embrace new opportunities and found unexpected treasures.

But first, an update on my writing journey. Whilst two of my unpublished manuscripts are doing the rounds as I seek a publishing contract, I have been thinking about my next novel. Like most authors I have been collecting ideas, so many stories to tell – but none of them felt right. Sometimes you have to wait for the right time to write a particular novel.

My thoughts kept going back to an image I saw several years ago of a sunken village in Yorkshire. The spire of a church was visible in the middle of a reservoir. I knew I had to write about that village.

I did some research and found that it was situated in a hard to reach place – for me anyway, as I was travelling by public transport. A series of amazing events led me to a wonderful woman who lived just three miles from the sunken village. Not only did this stranger open up her home to me but she volunteered her services and those of her friends to help me in my research. I will be spending a few days in North Yorkshire at the end of July, and will tell you more then. It really does show that miraculous things can happen when you open up your mind and heart to new possibilities. Which leads me on to this week’s interview with author C.D’Angelo.

C.D’Angelo

C.D’Angelo is author of The Difference and The Visitor. See links below to buy.

https://books2read.com/TheDifferenceCDAngelo

https://books2read.com/TheVisitorCDAngelo

In this week’s episode C.D’Angelo tells me:

Why we must be open to possibilities and not attach ourselves to one particular outcome.

How to build meaningful connections with other writers using social media.

Listen to the Podcast here: Episode Three

Or read the transcript below:

Deborah: C. D’Angelo. I’m so happy to welcome you to the Mindful Writer Podcast. Your debut, The difference, was published last year, and your second novel, The Visitor is published this week. So happy publication day! It’s important to celebrate each step of the journey to publication, you know, from whether it’s writing a difficult chapter or completing the first draft.

I wonder if you can tell us about some of the highs and lows in your journey to publication and what you’ve learned about yourself in the process? 

C. D’Angelo: Oh yes. There are many highs and lows. First of all, with The Difference, I had a shift in how it was going to be published that I had to manoeuvre kind of at the last minute.

And I ended up self-publishing, which was not expected. So, dealing with that change was really difficult and actually making the decision to do that instead of waiting, God knows how long, for another agent or publisher, or whatever, was a very difficult one. And I made sure that I: wrote out choices, talked to people in the field, talked to my friends and family, really did some soul searching and figured out what’s the most important thing. It was not the way it was published – just that it was published to me at that point. So that is, that was, the hardest thing so far for me, but I am really glad that I moved forward and I have no regrets about it because now it’s out in the world and it’s been bringing people pleasure.

And, and so, you know, there’s always going to be highs and lows even much more minor than that. I mean, just last week I thought, oh gosh, I’m still, you know, stuck at a certain level of review numbers. And I wish that I could have more reviews and things like that. You know, everyone who’s an author thinks about, but then, you just keep pushing and you keep doing what you’re doing.

I’m going to stick to me. I’m going to stick to what I do and it’s going to come. I believe that.

Deborah: Really interesting. A couple of things I want to pick up there. One is about that heartache, that heartache and disappointment that all authors go through when they have a submission, a query out there with agents, or a submission with publishers. We kind of give the responsibility for our happiness over to somebody else.

C. D’Angelo: Yes.

Deborah: We put everything, don’t we, on whether or not you’re going to choose me? It’s like, Choose me, choose me. And all of the feelings that you have of rejection when you’re not chosen. You did a brave thing, you said, Well, it’s not going to happen that way – traditional publishing on this occasion, therefore I’m going to take another route independently publishing.

 I think that sometimes we can get too focused on one particular outcome it is the be-all and end-all and we put all of our hope into it. And that can be so destructive, can’t it?

C. D’Angelo:  Oh yes. It actually in the end does not matter because when you’re a reader reading a book, are you really looking to see where it came from?

No, you’re just enjoying the story. And so, us on the other side, the authors, you know, we get so swept up in these ideas and the way that we thought it should be and all of that stuff. And it can really do damage to your mindset and your self-esteem because yeah, that rejection, that’s hard to face all the time.

You know, to be successful, you have to keep pushing, but you will have those moments as well. That’s just human. 

Deborah: Absolutely. I went through a similar journey to yours, which we’ve shared in the past. I too was thinking I was going to get a traditional publishing deal and then took the option of going to be independently published. I have absolutely no regrets. I’d like to be hybrid published in the future (both traditional and indie) because I can see all the options have opportunities within them. But it meant that my father got to see the book that had a dedication to him and my mother in the front before he died. And he was so proud. He showed everyone in the care home. ‘My daughter wrote this, my daughter wrote this.’ I know that he had dementia but he knew very well that he was telling everyone again, and again, he’d say, ‘I’ve probably told you this, but my daughter…’

C. D’Angelo:  That is the sweetest story. Oh my gosh. That’s … see that’s everything.  That was meant to be. 

Deborah: Absolutely. So no, no regrets on that. And like you, I know I’ve seen on your social media feeds, you’ve been to book shops where you’ve signed, you’ve had wonderful responses from readers and that’s so uplifting too, isn’t it? 

C. D’Angelo: Yes. That means so much to me. I wrote the story The Difference just, you know, needing to get that story out there, but it is a very deep story for me because really, isn’t in honour of my grandpa and his immigration to the US and all the implications of that. 

But also, I have a lot of mental health issues in there because I’m also a mental health therapist. And so I knew people could relate to it, but I didn’t really think about it on that deep of a level. I just thought, ‘I think people will like it, you know, but people’s response to, it has been extremely heart-warming, especially with the mental health aspect. People are very much relating and even saying, Thank you. I feel heard. I feel seen. And you treated anxiety in such a real way. Whereas in a lot of other books it’s not. And, you know, cause I, I can get all the innuendos cause, I’ve been doing therapy for 20 years. And I’m an anxious person myself, but anyways, so yeah. It’s been such a great pleasure to be able to have that feedback. Some people that I didn’t really think about ahead of time, you know, you’re just on a mission to get it done, get it out there, but this is a true joy in, in having the book published.

Deborah: Absolutely. You were saying about people felt that they’d been heard. Again, I draw a parallel because as I’ve told you before my professional background was an occupational therapist, and then I worked in writing serious case reviews and domestic homicide reviews. So, I was listening to people who’ve been through a lot of pain, who were often on the outskirts of society. And their voices are in your head. 

I feel that if I have a mission in life, right back from when I was an occupational therapist through my whole career, and now I’m an author; If my purpose has been anything, it’s listening with empathy and giving voice to people whose voice feels unheard. And that’s another way we can do that. Not just in our professional lives, but as authors.  Not intentionally, I never set out to write a book to show people this or that. It’s just those voices get in your head and you feel like you’re still doing a service in making sure they’re recognized, and seen, and heard.

C. D’Angelo: Yeah. And it’s really interesting because it brings me to this idea of just being open to possibility. Which you can’t, you can’t predict what’s going to happen along this journey, and so, don’t even try. Just kind of go along with it and, and keep trying your best, you know? But these great things come that you didn’t expect, that you didn’t plan for, and it’s sometimes even better than you thought.

And it’s interesting because in The Visitor, my second book, there’s kind of a theme in there of a certain character – I literally write, Be open to possibility, because that’s so meaningful to me now.

Pexels – Pixabay

Deborah: Tell me more

C. D’Angelo:  In the visitor, I have a character that I have reflecting on being open to possibility and I mentioned it a few times in there. It’s kind of like a scene for her. So that. really hit me with the first book’s journey: Just be open to possibility. And so, I made sure I integrated that into this second book, The Visitor.

Deborah:  That’s a wonderful mantra, to be open to possibility. It’s true. And that’s one of the most wonderful things about this writer’s journey – when you open yourself up, with an open heart and mind, a generous spirit, the things that come to you are unimaginable sometimes far greater than you would have dreamed for yourself. It’s incredible.

C. D’Angelo: Definitely.

Deborah: And the way those little links and connections are made, that lead you down a path, or bring people to you. I mean, you and I would never have met had you not contacted me about my last podcast, Castaway Books books. 

C.D’Angelo: I enjoyed that. 

Deborah: And it’s a wonderful connection – you introduced me to the Author Talk Network.

We’ve had some fabulous guests from there and I’ve met some amazing women. So, all of those opportunities that bring new networks and new opportunities into your life. It’s incredible. 

C.D’Angelo: It is. I love that you’ve been talking to the Author Talk Network people. They’re wonderful. I’m so happy to be part of that. And also, this writing community has just been such a huge addition to my life. I mean, I now have people that I talk to all the time and consider friends, even though I haven’t met them in person, you know, it’s the funniest thing to me, but they are best friends at this point.

I love how we can communicate and support each other on Twitter in a, Like, in a comment. And it’s just fun to keep that connection. So again, had no idea that that would happen when I started this journey. 

Deborah: I know I’ve been so impressed by the writing community and social media, because I didn’t really get into all of this until the beginning of the pandemic, beginning of 2020 when I decided to indie publish and thought, I’d better dip my toes in the Twitter and Facebook world et cetera. I wasn’t expecting to find such a generous, supportive, amazing community, the writers, especially on Twitter. Like you, I’ve made connections and friends. I have zoom chats with people as I’m doing this for our podcast. I can look at you and you’re, you’re in the States and I’m in the UK, but I have other writer friends from around the world and we meet on Zoom. It’s incredible. 

C. D’Angelo: It really is. And especially, I mean I’m of an age where growing up – You were told, Don’t talk to strangers – especially when the internet came around, Don’t talk to strangers on the internet, that’s dangerous. And now it’s this completely different world where some of this is very safe and fine and actually adds a richness to your life. So, it’s really funny to think about the flip side. 

Deborah: I’m older than you and I’m of the generation where this is all very new. I think younger people, they think now, Of course, you do that. They’ve been doing it for years, but it was really only beginning of 2020, I was launched into this world. 

C. D’Angelo: Yeah. Well, me too, really. I mean I was online. I had, you know, social media and things like that, but I wouldn’t talk to people I didn’t know. So I would say it started a little bit before that with the writing community though, because I had started to build my platform, I would say, I think it was 2019, maybe, Oh, 2018 at the end of 18. So yeah, a good solid year before the world teams. 

Deborah: What would you say to people who are listening, who perhaps have only just started writing or are a bit shy of getting involved in the writing community on social media. Where would you say for them to start, if they were just getting involved?

C. D’Angelo: Well, okay. So talking about getting involved, you mean online? 

Deborah: Finding a writing community on online. 

C. D’Angelo: Oh, yes, yes. I knew that having a Facebook account, an Instagram account and a Twitter account were pretty standard. And so, I had already had those, personally. So I thought, Okay, I’m familiar with them I’ll just do that. And then of course I kind of have my favourites now, but I think it was very valuable for me to be on Twitter actually. Using the hashtag writing community. That is what brought me, everyone there. And just, it’s kind of a tradition on that platform, in that community where people will introduce you.

And so maybe someone will see that and say, oh, hi, CD Angelo, welcome to the community. And then they’ll tag other people. So, then they see you’re new and then it carries on.. Literally, that’s how it started on there one kind soul said, Oh, you’re new. Oh, here. Okay. I’m going to introduce you to people. And it just grew from there. And so then, you know, you just start commenting back and forth with people and it, and it really grows before you know it and unpredictably. 

Deborah: I found that the tweet chats have really helped me make meaningful connections with people. I set up one myself, which is #FriSalon for Friday Salon. We meet every Friday using the hashtag #FriSalon. I found that by talking to the same people, or not just same people, because other people would join us, but a whole network of people every week, we got to know each other well. Not only do we meet now once a week, we’ve been beta- readers for each other’s books. We’ve met up on Zoom. They’ve become friends. They always welcome other people in, and now I’m joining in other people’s tweet chats because I think it’s the meaningful connections you make, rather than just surfing – looking at things and commenting. I think when you get involved in tweet chats, you have perhaps more meaningful exchange that can lead to other supportive, fun opportunities amongst writers.

C. D’Angelo: For sure. A long time ago on there, someone that I just would comment back and forth with a lot put me and a few other people into a Twitter group, like in the messages – I don’t know what you call that – it’s like a group chat kind of thing, you know? And we keep in touch every day, all the time. It’s been wonderful. And then some of those people from Twitter in general, not just in the group chat, are also on the other platforms and then you make connections on there.

I think we need, as authors, to support each other and share each other’s work. Be a cheerleader for each other. It really brightens my day when I, all of a sudden, see someone shared a post that I made, that I spent a lot of time on and someone appreciates it, you know? Oh my gosh!

Deborah: Networking is so important to bring new opportunities and open up more possibilities to make friends, and for mutual support. I can’t say strongly enough how important it is to network. 

C. D’Angelo: Oh yes, definitely. But, oh, sorry. I was just going to say, not only for just, you know, the kind of sharing, and everything, of posts, and things that are happening, but the 

non author stuff that goes deeper. The everyday things, the challenges, you know, like just, oh gosh, how do I continue? Or am I good enough for this, you know, kind of the imposter syndrome? Things like that too. I mean, those people really have gotten me through. I just want to add that in, because that is so important.

Deborah: Yes, absolutely. So, C. D’Angelo, if you were to write a letter to your younger self now, perhaps thinking about the time when you had written your first novel and it wasn’t going down the path you expected it to go, what words of wisdom would you impart?

C. D’Angelo:  Trust the process. Have faith that what is, is meant to be, will happen.

If you push sometimes too hard, I think your energy is spent in a place that’s not meant to be. And so sometimes you have to just kind of let go, and then what you want will happen, although maybe in a different way. So, trusting that process, it’s going to happen. Just keep putting in the hard work and you’ll get there.

Deborah:  Such good words of advice. Absolutely.  Trust the journey. Let go and trust the journey. 

C. D’Angelo: Yes. 

Deborah: Very often better things than you envisaged will happen. They’ll happen at the right time, in the right way. 

C. D’Angelo: Exactly. Yes. And that’s hard sometimes to keep in mind when you see some of the things that are happening to other people that you wish would happen to you, you know, and you have to just keep checking yourself and say, That’s okay. It’s not my time yet. It will happen. Or what is meant for me will happen.

Deborah:  Exactly. Don’t compare. We all compare, don’t we? 

C. D’Angelo: Yes. Yes. 

Deborah: It’s not healthy. We will have different journeys for different reasons, which is perfect for us. 

C. D’Angelo: Exactly. I wrote a blog post on this a while ago. I think it was last March. And it’s called Just say no to comparison. We need apples and oranges in the world and so both have their place. Both are beautiful and it’s okay. They’re going to serve different needs. So, we can’t compare. 

You must give me a link so I can put it in the show notes. 

C. D’Angelo: Okay. I will. 

Deborah: Thank you. So how do you look after your wellbeing?  Because you’re working full time and you’re still being a prolific writer, and doing all your marketing and networking. So, how do you find time to do all those things, and how do you self-care?

C. D’Angelo:  Well, as far as the time, I just have to make sure I prioritize what is needed, but also one of the priorities is my self-care.

Getting The Visitor out there, there have been times where I had to spend all of my time when I wasn’t working, including weekends, editing, doing everything needed to make the deadlines for the different editors and the different appointments and things like that. But most times I could at least have the break of a whole Saturday and maybe half a Sunday, and then just spend a little bit of time on Sunday, doing what I need to do.

I make sure that I keep a consistent schedule. I do book things on Sundays, so it may be writing my blog. It may be catching up with a tour guide/ host of the bookish road trip on Facebook and Instagram. And so, I have duties for that. I may do those things on Sundays. Otherwise, I really try to give myself a break all day, Saturday, and hopefully Friday night too.

During the week nights, it depends on what I have to do. Usually, if I’m not in the deep edits of a book, I don’t have to do much book stuff except maybe social media. But that, to me, isn’t a big deal. That’s just, I’m kind of laying on the couch, doing some things on my iPad. So, prioritizing what I need to do for the week, keeping a schedule on my weekend, but also including my self-care.

Deborah: And what is self- care to you? What do you do to self-care? Finding time to relax – but what do you do to relax? 

C. D’Angelo: Yes. Sorry about that. I got lost in my other thoughts. I love to talk with my husband just zone out and read or watch TV or a movie. I do a lot of other types of arts. So sometimes I’ll draw, sometimes I’ll crochet. I have a ukulele that I play. So, those are some other kinds of outlets for me. 

Deborah: Finding time, quality time, to spend with family is also something we have to fit into our schedule, otherwise we can be too insular getting on with our writing every free time we have. And then there’s the danger that when we are with them our brains are working on our books and not giving them our full attention.

C. D’Angelo: That is so true. Yes. Sometimes my husband says we need to talk about other stuff than books stuff, you know? 

Deborah: My husband’s just as bad because he composes music and I will know he’s thinking about the music and not what I’m saying, when I see his fingers playing the piano ne his leg, my thigh, or on the arm rest.

C. D’Angelo: Sure. That’s so funny. Well, that’s what happens when you’re so ingrained in something, you know, you think about it a lot of the time. 

Deborah: Absolutely. It’s been a pleasure talking to you C. D’Angelo and congratulations on The Visitor.  It’s publication this week and there’ll be links to your book and anything else you’ve mentioned in the show notes, because you did mention something else – your blog.

C. D’Angelo: That’s right. Excellent. Thank you.

You can find all episodes of The Mindful Writer Podcast to play on your chosen podcast here: https://themindfulwriter.buzzsprout.com

Don’t forget to subscribe so that you hear when a new episode goes live.

How to overcome obstacles or a setback

In this week’s Mindful Writer podcast, Kamina A Fitzgerald author of Class Dismissed: Life Lessons and Short Stories and her blog of the same name http://schoolspiration.com joins me to talk about three bible stories which have important lessons for us as creatives. 

I went for a run by the sea this morning. The sun was shining and the was tide out. There was even a shard of rainbow suspended between an arc of clouds. Whenever I go for a run by the sea, I get so many ideas and find clarity on some of the things that have been troubling me. It’s as though I have a conversation with my inner self or a greater power.

Anyway, on this morning’s run I was thinking about a film I watched on Netflix this week, Paycheck with Ben Affleck. It is an exciting thriller, but it also has a message: When things don’t go the way you planned and you are disappointed trust that God or the Universe has a better plan for you. Follow the signs even when you don’t know what they mean. Of course, the film makes no mention of this but I drew a parallel. If I tell you anymore, I will spoil the film for you. It’s well worth watching – very exciting.

Stories have been used for thousands of years to pass on wisdom and learning. In today’s podcast, Kamina Fitzgerald, reminds us of three stories from the Bible which have powerful messages to help us on this writing journey. 

dkauthor@btinternet.com

Now on to the interview ….

Kamina Fitzgerald

Why should we be patient when the Universe or God seem to be taking too long to manifest our dreams?

How do we overcome obstacles or move forward when we feel stuck?

Why is it important to nurture, cherish and protect our talents – our special gifts?

Kamina explains all of this using three bible stories. The messages are inspirational and have helped me on this writing journey.

A transcript of the interview is below, or Click here to listen 

Deborah: Hello, Kamina Fitzgerald. I’m absolutely delighted to welcome you to the mindful writer podcast, because I discovered you through reading your blog posts. The School of Life Sessions. I love the way you introduce them with, The school bell has rung …

Kamina: Hello, Deborah. It’s a pleasure being on your podcast today. And the main way I start my blog is The class is now in session. And then at the end, I will say, The school bell has rung, class is dismissed. 

Deborah: Excellent. And that comes from the fact that you are a teacher by profession, and currently the vice-principal of a business school?

Kamina: I’m vice principal of a middle school here in North Carolina, and I was a business teacher. So, you are correct. And so, I look at not only teaching as being – teaching the lesson, but also teaching life lessons. So, my blog is really centred around sharing those stories to motivate and inspire. And I look at it as a lesson – everything that I write.

Deborah: And you’ve also written five books about life lessons, for which I will give links in the show notes. Could you tell us a little about them?

Kamina: Okay. Well, mostly the first book I wrote was a children’s book called Bumper Stucco Village – Patience as a virtue. And I wrote that a long time ago. It has kind of a Disneyland feel of a girl who is going to be promised to someone. And she was worried about that because she wanted to marry for love and she met someone and wished she could marry that person. And at the end, she gets a chance to, so it was kind of a story. If you want to read it; it’s interesting because she thought she was going to lose out on that opportunity, but through being patient she ended up getting the desires of her heart after all. 

I’ve also written inspirational stories. They didn’t have much rhyme or reason. I guess they were more about friendship, life, managing your careers, choosing your career.

I write a lot of career focused things because I used to be a workforce development person, where I tried to help students understand their career choices and what they needed to go to university to make that career happen. So, some of my things have a lot of helping you make decisions on the career front as well.

Deborah: I got so excited, which is why you paused. Because you could see that I was desperate to say something.  When you were talking about the first book, the fiction book for children, you mentioned a story about how the girl had to be patient and wait. That made me think of one of the blogs that you wrote that really inspired me, which was Do not go ahead of God.

The stories in the Bible teach us lessons through stories. And that that’s very interesting that you’re using a story as well, to give a similar sort of message. Now I’m a very impatient person by nature. And I can think of several times in my life where I have gone ahead of God. I’ve jumped in being too impatient – I’ve got to make things happen. My good fortune in life has come despite me. I mean this a classic example for me. It was when I desperately wanted to be an occupational therapist when I was at school, it’s all I ever wanted to do. And when I got a letter from the clearing house saying, we suggest you seek another career – because I wasn’t studying the right subjects and didn’t have the qualifications, I thought, Right. That’s it. So, I left. I got a job in an insurance company and then eight or nine months later, I got a letter inviting me to interview for my college and I didn’t have the qualifications. 

Kamina: Wow. 

Deborah: I’ll let you talk in a minute! But the good result from that – a little miracle did happen for me because I went for the interview really enthusiastic and said, Oh, you know, I really, really want to become an occupational therapist. And they said, Well, if you go away and you pass these exams. Would you come back next year?  And I said, Yes, I will. And something went wrong with the administration because a week later I got a letter saying, As you have now got these qualifications you can start this September. 

Kamina: Oh, wow. 

Deborah: And I never told them, but that was when the rules were different and I’ve been on the right path, despite me jumping in.

Kamina: Wow, that’s amazing that it ended up happening anyway, even though you tried to you know, plan it yourself. That’s the graciousness I think of God, that sometimes we have a tendency to jump ahead and he still lets us get what we want. 

Deborah: Anyway. Tell me about the Bible story that you used in your blog. 

Kamina: Sure. So, with the Don’t get ahead of God story, I was referring to the five promises that God gave Abraham when he was promising to, you know, make him a great nation and give them a great land of promise. And it was certain things that he promised him. And Abraham was a person of faith and he, he believed God, even if it seems as if he was delayed. But Abraham’s wife, Sarah, she, you know, wanted to help things along. Especially when it came to her being a mother, she I believe was around 99 years old when she got pregnant.

So, of course we all can think that, she could be a little worried. Okay. I’m going to be a mother of many nations, but I’m 99. So, she thought maybe she can help God along. And it caused a lot of heartache when she tried to do things herself. So, I just talked about waiting on the promises of God. Just from us reading those stories, hopefully it can encourage us to just continue to be patient and to wait. Because it’s worth the wait whenever you’ve got promises for things in your life. And sometimes, even with Sarah and doing that in spite of herself, she still was blessed with Isaac. So, you know, I think that that still happens for us today.

Deborah: Like me. I tried to sabotage, but despite me, I still got what I needed.

Kamina:  Exactly. So it still happens even now. And I’ve been the same way with several different occasions where, you know, I would try to make things happen, but then when I’m praying about it and something better comes along, it makes me happy because even though what I did may not have worked, usually God can open a better door for me. So, I’ve been grateful for that. At first, you’re disappointed, but when something else better happens, you’re like, wow, I could have just waited on this instead of trying to force the other situation.

Deborah: Absolutely. I found that as well. And what has absolutely amazed me, particularly when I was about 40 years old. I was pushing myself along a career trajectory. You know, next job was chief executive and was applying for these jobs. And I thought that’s where I need to go. And I was completely stuck in that thinking that mindset, so I was disappointed and disappointed repeatedly. What ended up happening was something far better and greater than I could have imagined. That was much, much more in fitting with what I could give- it fitted me. It was the right path. And I would never have been able to imagine that in a million years it was, it was wonderful. A wonderful blessing that came my way, taking me on a different path.

I think sometimes we can get so frustrated, can’t we? We think, well, why won’t you give me what I want? Why? Because we don’t know what we don’t know. 

Kamina: And sometimes, like you said, it’s amazing how another opportunity will come and it’s so perfect for you and you never imagined it. That happens a lot too. So, I think if, you know, that can happen, then maybe that’ll make you more patient. Because that has happened to me before too, where God knows you better than you know yourself. So, you can say, Why didn’t I get that job? I was trying to move up or I tried to apply forward. I’m qualified. But then another door can open that you did not perceive could open. I think that is always amazing when that happens. 

Deborah: Absolutely. And timing. I mean, God’s timing, isn’t our timing. I say, God, but I’m going to say God/ the Universe, because some people have different sorts of faiths and it doesn’t matter whether you believe it’s the Universe or you believe it’s God. It is having that faith in a greater power. But the timing could be very different to what we think the timing should be. 

Kamina: Very true I’ve actually been reading this in a research study I was doing about the Kairos time and that being a divine time. When I was younger, there was a pastor who wrote a book about God’s appointed time and it was talking about the Greek word Kairos. We know in chronological time, it is like, you said, In two more years I need to be here, in three more years I need to be there ….  But with Kairos there is an interruption when you know, I’m looking with tunnel vision and then this certain situation happens out of the blue, and I couldn’t even imagine it happening, but it’s perfect for me, or is causing me now to have to make a decision or see things differently.

So, it’s amazing. I believe there really is a such thing as a divine time that happens that interrupts your trajectory of your goals for yourself, and then you have to decide: Am I going to keep going on the path that I have for myself, or am I going to step into this possible opportunity that I didn’t perceive happening? 

Deborah:  To do that, you have to be open to opportunities and different solutions. If you get really wedded to one option, This is the only way for me. You don’t see other things along your way. 

Kamina: That is so true. 

Deborah: There’s a message there, especially for writers who are trying to get published. Because the reason that I launched this podcast is because of the emotional turmoil that authors go through as they try to get published. It’s a rollercoaster of emotion for many writers, who are trying to get published, get turned down by agents, and they’re trying to cope with rejection, and the frustration of that. It’s knowing that sometimes you have to go through that for a reason. And one of the reasons can be that your writing hasn’t matured sufficiently for you to be able to give your best. It might be good enough. It might be better than many other writers, but it might be that if you give yourself time to grow what you gain to finally bring to fruition is much greater. And that might be where you need to start, because otherwise you do yourself a disservice. So, there’s all sorts of reasons why things might be. And we get so hung up on feeling it’s a judgment or a criticism of us and letting it affect our self-esteem, but there can be all sorts of reasons why you need to wait.

Kamina: Yes, I like that. And that’s very encouraging for you to say that because a lot of times you can think that you’re ready for something or that you are at your best when really, you’re not. And a lot of the times you won’t stretch yourself if you’re not rejected. I think growth happens a lot when you are rejected, it just depends on how you interpret it and what you do with it. So I do like what you just said, and I think that should be encouraging for, you know, most of the writers or artists or anyone who is, you know, setting goals for themselves who have been rejected to just don’t look at it like it’s a rejection. Look at it as a growth opportunity for yourself to be better. And maybe that persons rejecting you and then the next person is going to see your work and it’s going to work for them.

Deborah: It’s a bit like people waiting for the perfect partner, the younger people who want to fall in love. I think falling in love is a bit like finding an agent to represent you or a home for your book. The person is out there. You just haven’t met them yet. You might not meet the one that’s the perfect match for you because they might not be ready to meet you yet because there’s something else going on in their life. 

Kamina: Exactly. They may have to have a person to break up with or something. 

Deborah: Or they might be about to become an agent, but they’re not an agent yet and you’ve got to wait for them. 

Kamina: Yeah. It was like, Don’t get ahead of God now or don’t get ahead of yourself. Just wait until it is all aligned, then you’ll be glad you did. 

Deborah: We are all part of something bigger, everything has to be in place because it’s not just about us. It’s about the people who come into our lives and being the right time for them as well as.

Kamina: Exactly. I agree.

Deborah: Now this goes onto another one of your very inspirational posts where you talked about Jesus telling Simon to cast once again, his net into the sea. And I should get you to tell us a bit more in a moment, but it, it makes me think about when somebody says to you, Have you tried this? Have you tried that? And you think, Oh, don’t tell me that, I know better than you. But sometimes that’s what you need to do. You tell us in your own words. 

Kamina: Okay. Well, with that story, I was referring to when Simon Peter had been fishing all night and all day, and he hadn’t caught anything and anyone who knows Peter, he was a professional fisher. He was a fisherman by trade. So, he knew everything that you really need to know to fish. So, when Jesus walked up to him and said, Go out further, launch yourself out into the deep. Simon Peter was really annoyed and kind of like, What do you know? You’re telling me and this is what I do. And of course, Jesus was a carpenter by trade. So, he was a little annoyed, but he said, Nevertheless, at your word, I’ll go do it. And he did it. And he had so much fish that he couldn’t contain it in the net. 

So, it’s a lesson to me that we have to make sure that we make decisions not based on what we’re comfortable with, that we don’t make decisions based on our, I guess you could say study, or maybe what we know, but be open to other suggestions, especially if what you’re doing isn’t working. I think that’s the main thing. Because no matter what I do every day or my professional job, if it’s not working, I should be open to a suggestion or reflecting, Hmm. Maybe I should try something else. So, I think that was kinda my thinking was to just be mindful of, you know, for me spiritual counsel and being willing to hear other perspectives.

Deborah: And isn’t it interesting that you can get these suggestions or these little directions, the most unlikely sources and unexpected times? If you keep your mind open and you hear and you respond. It could be something that you read. It could be a stranger saying something. It could be, it could be anything.

It brings to mind when I was working as a management consultant and I had lots and lots of work, then suddenly the work dried up. I kept on going out to try and find work you know, bidding for work. It wasn’t happening. I was so frustrated. And then somebody who I had worked with in the past, who had had no contact with me for a long time sent me an email out of the blue saying, Have you seen this advert? They’re looking for a chair of a safeguarding adult board in a London council. And I thought, Well, why would I do that? I don’t think I’m qualified. I wouldn’t even think of doing that. I did. Not only did I get that job, but it then led into a ten-year career around adult safeguarding. I chaired five different boards. I wrote safeguarding adult reviews. I became an expert on it. I wrote journal articles.

It was absolutely where I was, where I needed to be. But if I hadn’t listened to that woman who happened to say to me, Have you thought about? And I sometimes think that these people are put there like little angels.

Kamina: That’s exactly what I had. What I read in my book about the Kairos moment. It was just like that.  You’re looking, things aren’t really working. And then one little word or sentence or suggestion can just turn you upside down and it gets like:  What? That’s nothing I’m qualified for, but like you said, you actually adhere to the Kairos moment or the divine appointed time and, and they opened up a whole other career level for you. So that’s amazing. 

Deborah: Interesting. I picked out three posts, which I told you in advance. The other one was, I’ll get it right this time, Samson and Delilah.

Kamina: Okay. In that one, I’ve talked about the spirit behind Delilah. I shared a lot of her characteristic traits that I pointed out: A person who looked good on the outside; a person who was very cunning and complimentary and flattering. Just the traits of who she was and how she led Samson to finally share his secret.

It just really stood out to me. So, I just wanted to talk about those traits because I think it’s still around today that a lot of us can think of times where we have been deceived by people. We never would have seen deceiving us. It’s just something, a lesson that I think even a child or an adult can learn from just to be mindful of people in your life. When people come in, you know, come around you that you’re not deceived. It is more so a story about deception and just being, being careful about that in your life. Delilah  looks good on the outside and said all the right things. 

Deborah: You were saying in this story that again, and again, Samson would catch her out and see that she was trying to cut his hair but he saw only what he wanted to believe. I think it’s the way that we fool ourselves, because if we want to believe something, we ignore all of our instincts. Just as I was saying that we need to be open to hear things and see things – in the same way you can completely close off if you only see what you want to believe, can’t you? You can completely close down.

Kamina: So true. I think that, you know, I can definitely remember times where I saw what I wanted to see. And you may have a family member or a good friend that are trying to tell you, Be careful. You know, do not see this. And it’s amazing how we can trick ourselves. Even if you read my blog, you may still fall for it. So, you know, I mean, Samson was, was smart and he was anointed and, you know, he destroyed so many of the Philistines, but this one person came in his life who looked good on the outside, and he liked her so much he was willing to lose everything for her. So, I just think it’s important that we regard ourselves as well, because we all have something that we can offer the world. We have gifts and we have to be careful. Just be mindful that not everyone is your friend or means well for you.

Kamina:  Other people suffer.

Deborah: Absolutely. We have special gifts. Every one of us is amazing, unique and not to give all of that away, but have self-respect and belief. You owe it to others as well as to yourself to nurture, cherish, and protect those special gifts that you have so you can use them. And when we give it all up for somebody who’s not worthy and we don’t listen then…

Deborah:  Absolutely. As well as ourselves. 

Kamina:So true. 

Deborah: I always like to think the best of people. I always see the best in them. And I can think of examples like that because it breaks my heart to think that somebody has let me down who I’ve trusted. So, I go back to trusting them again.

Kamina: Yes because it’s a bad feeling to get to a point where you don’t trust anyone, you know, that’s a terrible thing to feel like I can’t trust anyone because I’ve been hurt. So, we usually try to see the good and isolate that bit whenever we have been hurt or deceived by someone. You know, we’re human.

Deborah:  I found it so inspiring talking to you as I do your blogs, and I’m now going to be looking at your books as well, which I’ve discovered.

Kamina: Thank you, I’m inspired by you. I didn’t know, you know, your story. So, I think that you’ve inspired me as well, especially since I am still in my career and trying to work hard and eventually get to the point where I can be like you.

Deborah: Oh, thank you.

Kamina: It made me feel better to know that I need to be open to suggestions and make sure that I’m not just seeing things through one way or through having a tunnel vision about things.

Deborah: Excellent. Thank you. 

Kamina: You’re welcome. Goodbye. 

You can find all episodes of The Mindful Writer Podcast to play on your chosen podcast here: https://themindfulwriter.buzzsprout.com

Don’t forget to subscribe so that you hear when a new episode goes live.

How to manage Imposter Syndrome and Shifting Goal Posts as a Creative

With Jessica Redland

I am excited to introduce the first episode of The Mindful Writer podcast.

Before I introduce this week’s podcast with guest Jessica Redland, let me update you on my writing life. 

The past few weeks I have focused on preparing this podcast and blog post. I’m afraid poor Jessica is like the first pancake out of the pan. I had the idea for The Mindful Podcast several months ago but to be honest I was afraid to make the leap and have a go. I have had some experience of recording podcasts as last year I recorded Castaway Books. However, this venture was different as I was going to ask creatives to share their emotional and spiritual experience of the writing journey. 

When we get an idea that won’t go away, I believe we need to follow it and see where it leads. Moving outside our comfort zone is healthy as we are learning new things and opening ourselves up to new opportunities. So, I pushed myself to follow through with the idea. I was amazed by the incredible writers who came forward and the honesty of their stories.

Learning to use new software was a huge challenge for me. I’m not there yet but I’m learning and I hope you will excuse the occasional blips as I get more proficient. I was striving for excellence but had to accept this is the best I can do for the first attempt – having spent many hours/days trying.

Although my recording and editing techniques may not be great, the interviews with guests are truly inspirational. I learnt so much from each and everyone. These conversations have lifted and inspired me. I hope that they do the same for you.

What are you working on now? How have you pushed yourself to try new things outside of your comfort zone? Please drop me a line with your news as I would love to hear from you.

dkauthor@btinternet.com

Now, let me introduce this week’s podcast.

From struggling Indie to a best-selling author with two 12-book publishing contracts, Jessica Redland shares the highs and lows of her writer’s journey:

  • How she found time to write eight books as an Indie whilst working full time and raising her daughter.
  • How she coped with the transition to a full-time author with what others might perceive to be overnight success – experiencing Imposter Syndrome and continually shifting goals.
  • The words of wisdom that she would have shared with her younger self when she was struggling as an Indie author to sell her books and questioning, ‘Why do I bother to put so much emotion and energy into my writing when I sell so few books?’

I was inspired and motivated by Jessica’s journey. She really does prove that you should never give up on following your dreams.

A transcript of the interview is below click here to listen.

Links from show:

Jessica refers to a mini-series on Imposter Syndrome she posted on her blog.

This is an excellent series, well researched, informative, and helpful. I recommend you find time to read through all five starting with part one dated September 21st 2020 here: https://jessicaredlandauthor.com/2020/09/

Jessica ends the interview by reading a poem that she wrote several years ago, before experiencing the success she has achieved in recent years. 

Jessica Redland

Transcript of Interview with Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland is the best-selling author of fifteen novels including The Starfish Café, and Hedgehog Hollow series. 

Deborah: Hi, Jessica. It’s an absolute pleasure to chat with you today because as you know I’m a big fan. I love your books and you have been an inspiration to me through your writing journey. And that’s why I particularly wanted to talk to you so that you can share some of your wisdom with our listeners. 

Jessica: Hi, thanks for having me.

Deborah: So, Jessica, you are a prolific writer. You’re an author of 15 books today. And in 2020 you became a full-time author with many best sellers in the Kindle charts. This phenomenal success came after signing a 12-book contract with Boldwood Books and I understand you’ve signed another 12-book contract since.

So, goodness me, we’re only in 2022 and you have been contracted to write 24 books, which is absolutely incredible. You were a finalist in this year’s Romantic Novelists’ Association for romantic novel of the year with Snowflakes Over the Starfish Café. 

Jessica, these are incredible achievements, very well-deserved. As I say, I love your books and I have great admiration for you, but you didn’t achieve overnight success.

Jessica: Definitely, definitely not been an overnight success, quite a long journey and five difficult years to get where I am now. So, the starting point was very much me joining the Romantic Novelists Association RNA New Writer Scheme in 2012. That gave me a push to finish my first novel. I put that through the scheme twice. And then, at that point, I put that out four rounds of submissions to a mix of agents and publishers. The submission process is challenging because everybody wants something different. And, of course, you are dealing with the rejection side of things, although I tend to see it as a process, so they didn’t hit me too hard. I secured a publishing deal just under a year after I started submitting and thought, That’s brilliant. This is it. Got it made. But then I started to have doubts about that particular publisher and the direction they wanted to take my writing.

I was seriously thinking, should I go Indie? But then another publishing deal came along that felt a lot better. I accepted that one and started working on my edits. My very first book came out in spring, summer 2015. That publishing company was new and if they had been able to match their enthusiasm to their ability, things would have been brilliant, but unfortunately, they struggled to make an impact. After about 18 months with them, we parted company because the publishing house was going to cease trading. So, I got back the book rights for my trilogy. Then, I had to kind of panic design the covers, and get them out there as Indie. To be honest, they tanked. That was really hard – starting back at the beginning. 

I wrote a brand new book, brought that out in March, 2017. That didn’t do well either.  I kind of went into a few years of being a struggling Indie. Pretty much, no sales, certain points where I did okay – a couple of Christmas books that did well.

Then, in 2018, I realized that that things were going to need to change and decided to start submitting again. I was very selective as to the companies that I went out to. I got some kind of close, close calls, but didn’t quite get there. It was really, really devastating because at this point, I’d written eight books. knew I could write, had some good feedback, but they just weren’t what the publishers wanted.

Fortunately, in February, 2019 Boldwood Books opened for business. I submitted on their very first day and the rest is history. I got a book deal to take on new books plus my backlist and it’s been absolutely phenomenal. It changed my life. 

Deborah: Fantastic. So, how did you manage to be a prolific writer whilst still working the day job? 

Jessica: I’m now self-employed and my husband has been all along, so he’s understood that when you’re self-employed you often work erratic hours. You often do need to work evenings and weekends. He’s a type setter, so he lays out pages of textbooks, and plays, and journals, and things. He works when the customer needs him to work.

If something comes through at six o’clock in the evening saying, ‘We’re going to print tomorrow. We need these edits,’ he will get on with it. And so, he’s very much understood and accepted my working life. We often have some time during the day with both of us working from home. Sometimes we go out for lunch together. 

When my daughter was very young, I did my writing when she went to bed.  At the weekend we always try to have at least one family today together. So even if I write and do things on the other day, there is this one day of devoted family time.

Deborah: I think that’s important – structuring your time. I’m in the position of being semi-retired. My husband gave up work when our daughter was born and so he’s at home too. I’m aware of when I’m not spending much time with him and then I actually compartmentalize time for him.  I mark out in my head certain periods of the day, for example, we might go out for breakfast or there’ll be something we do in the afternoon. I ring fence about three hours of my time for my husband and then I’ve got a good five hours of time, which is for me, for my work. 

I learned something when I was a mum and working full time. I think lots of mothers go through this. If I was at work, I felt guilty I wasn’t with my daughter, and if I was with my daughter, I felt guilty that I wasn’t at work. At that time a very wise woman said to me, ‘Give a hundred percent to what you’re doing at that time.’ And that was it. That was the lesson I learned. So now when I have time with my husband, go out for breakfast, or drive, or just doing something nice together, I really make an effort to give a hundred percent of my attention to him and not have my mind working on a plot or something else. It was a good lesson to learn. When I’m at my computer, I’m working with complete focus. There’s no housework. There’s no listening to anyone else. I completely switch off the outside world. 

Jessica: No, that’s great advice that is, definitely. If I’m downstairs with my husband and we are watching TV, or a film together, I tend not to take my phone down with me. I’ve never been a phone obsessed person, but that means that I’m not checking anything. I’m not seeing if I’ve had any emails or notifications. I’m not nipping on Facebook. So, even if it is just watching TV or a film, it is time together, away from the tools of the trade. 

Deborah: It’s important for two reasons, isn’t it? For your own self-care that you switch off sometimes from work and also to show respect for somebody who’s important to you. 

There’s something else I want to ask you because our time is limited and there’s so much, I want to get from you. I would like you to tell me about five blog posts you wrote in a series about Imposter Syndrome, which I found fascinating. I’m going to give links in the show notes to this because it’s very relevant for the mindful writer. I just wondered if you could spend a little time talking us through what Imposter Syndrome is from your experience of it and your coping mechanisms.

Jessica:  I wrote the blog because I found that in 2020, once I heard, and I’d got my first contract with Boldwood that I was experiencing this.  I’d had a new book and four of my backlist books released. I was loving, being a full-time author; that had always been my goal. But I was getting myself, worked up about certain things and I identified that as being Imposter Syndrome. So, I took a little bit of time out looking into it because I thought if I really understand how and why it manifests itself, then I could find ways of coping with it. 

I’ll read a quote from my blog. This is from Gail Corkindale Harvard Business Review  in 2008. She says ‘It’s a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persists despite evident success. Imposters suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that overrides any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.’

So, it’s basically at a point that somebody has achieved some success, and they think that they’re going to get found out. They think that they don’t deserve to have got that success. They’re not good enough to have had that success. It’s not about self-confidence, that’s something separate, but it is about self-doubt.

I was suffering massively from this – this kind of feeling that somebody was going to tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘You know, those top one hundreds that you’ve just had? You’re not – you’re not all that, and you can’t really write. And you’re not going to be able to continue that success in the future.’

So, I did quite a bit of thinking as to where that comes from and why it happens. It was really fascinating understanding the typical triggers for somebody having Imposter Syndrome, particularly for me, because I’m actually a really confident person. My day job was as a trainer. I’m used to standing in front of audiences capturing people’s attention.  I’ve presented to audiences of a thousand plus before, so the idea of public speaking, that a lot of people are terrified of, was no problem whatsoever for me, but I was thinking, why do I feel like an imposter? 

It came back to some issues in the workplace and being passed over repeatedly for promotion. And, you know, I knew partly why, it’s because I didn’t play the politics game. I’m somebody who believes in progressing on your own merits. I therefore had to be so much better at my job to prove my worth for any promotion than somebody who did play the game. And it just became this thing. Like I just had to prove myself constantly: always trying to be a perfectionist, always striving to do better.

It even got to the point that New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms really, really, took off and it got as high as number 14 in the Kindle UK chart, which is just absolutely phenomenal. I started beating myself up that it hadn’t made it into the top 10 and I just thought, What is going on in your head?

Before I got my deal with Boldwood to get into the top thousand – top 10,000 even, would have been a dream come true, but your goals shift and that’s natural, but mine were linked to Imposter Syndrome. I was looking at other authors and comparing myself to them. We’re all on a different journey.

It’s really not worth comparing yourself to anybody else. But I kept thinking, Boldwood are going to regret signing me. Then, when I got my second book deal for another 12 books I started thinking, Oh, we’re going to get so far into these and then they’ll go – Do you know what, we’ve made a mistake? Can we just knock 10 off and just make that another two and then let’s part company? 

It was really taking away from my enjoyment of – basically, a dream job. I had got everything I’d wanted: to be able to write full-time, and to have a supportive family but I couldn’t live in the moment. I couldn’t enjoy it. I’m not the sort of person who gets anxious about things, and so this didn’t sit with my personality, but I could sometimes just stare at my computer screen. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t write anything. Now, I can absolutely trace it back to Imposter Syndrome. Once I’d understood where it came from, how it displayed itself, I could then look at things I could do to change how I felt.

Occasionally it might just pop its ugly, head up and I’ll give it a little slap and it disappears- than all is good in the world. But it really, really stopped me in my tracks in 2020. It was quite horrific, so I completely understand anybody going through it and hopefully the blog post if anybody does read it will help. It’s long, but it really breaks it all down – all the different ways Imposter Syndrome manifests.

Deborah: It’s an excellent blog post and I recommend people read it. As I say, the link will be on the show notes. I wonder why we all do that to ourselves? Every attribute that we have has a positive and a negative side doesn’t it? So, the same thing that pushed you from being independently published, all the books you’ve produced and then getting your contract with Boldwood that is the positive. The flip side of that is the same thing that drove you to do better and better is still driving you to say, It’s not good enough. It’s not good enough. You’ve got to do better. You’ve got to do better. And we never stop to just enjoy and celebrate our success. To say, I’ve done a really good job.

Jessica:  No, we don’t. It’s funny because we’re continually shifting goalposts, We don’t pause to say, wow, I’ve met one. I’m so proud of that. Take a little bit of time out, celebrate that success. You just immediately think – What’s the next one? 

Before I’d thought massively about having imposter syndrome, I was aware of it as it would come up in other ways, but not really before I achieved success as an author.

I wrote a poem some time ago, which is also a blog post about shifting goals. It starts off with the idea of wanting, just to write a book, see if you can, and then to write more than one book and then it’s, I want it to be in this chart position. It goes through all the goal shifts: ultimately wanting movie deals, and all sorts of things. You have to take yourself to what is the original goal. I often say this anytime I’m having a conversation with an author friend who is struggling a bit because we all do. And it’s – Go back to – what was the goal that you started off with? And if that was, like me, you just wanted to write a book and then you wanted to become a writer and write full time then you’ve already achieved that. Anything that you achieve over and above that is an absolute bonus.

I look at all of the chart positions, the sales, they are bonuses. I earn enough to write full-time and that’s all I ever wanted out of it. I keep reminding myself of that goal. 

Deborah: I think there’s two different things that drive us in in what you’ve been talking about. One is looking for recognition: where you are in the charts, getting that feedback, that is perhaps the unhealthy aspect. I think the positive is: I want to do this and now I’m going a bit further – pushing myself to achieve. Because I see that as following a dream in your heart.

I always say there’s a seed sown in your heart. It is from your soul and you are compelled to follow. When you listen to that inner voice it can take you on the right path and journey for you to become your true self and fulfil your potential.

That’s the positive aspect. The negative one is all of those voices, those goblins in the head – the Thought Goblins: You can do better. She’s doing better than me. Where am I in the charts? It is about trying to silence that voice. 

Jessica: I now refer to that and other people do as well me, as being the noise. It’s not my term. It’s all that noise around you. And, and the thing is if you were to look at another author who has got a book, say at, number 10 in the Kindle chart, that’s not reflective of everything. They may be number 10 because there’s just been a promotion at that moment. It may be, because their price is different. It may be that they’ve just gone into prime reading. And it may be that whilst they get that higher position, they drop out the charts faster and long-term don’t sell as many copies. There’s just so much influencing this that you can’t put much stock in a chart position.

There’s also, if we’re talking Amazon, algorithms that with the books that are part of their own publishing houses will chart higher. There are all sorts of factors that you just don’t know – behind the scenes, how it’s all working. Chart position is one thing, but it’s not everything. If you look at the Sunday Times best seller list, you don’t actually have to sell a phenomenal number of books to appear on that, but to appear at the top of the Kindle chart, you have to sell quite a phenomenal number of eBooks. And yet so many people equate being on the Sunday Times bestseller list as what success is and not so much on the Kindle top one hundred. The volume shifted is much, much greater for a book to be in the Kindle top hundreds. So, there’s all sorts of things that just go on and you just have to silence it and feel proud of your work or you could drive yourself crazy.

Those days when there are zero sales you can you start questioning. Why am I bothering? The time I’m investing in this book, the amount of emotion I’m putting into this and nobody’s buying the book – so, what’s the point? But then when your royalty statement comes through or whatever, it can be pleasant surprise.

Deborah: So that brings me to a question for you. You were an Indie author for a good few years before you were published by Boldwood; looking at where you are now, if you were talking to yourself in those early days, when I think you said in your blog, perhaps only your mum and your close friends were reading your book – maybe thinking: Why am I bothering? What would be the words of wisdom you would whisper in the ear of your younger self who was feeling despondent?

Jessica: It would be: Just keep believing. I mean, I would never have written a book, if I didn’t think I could write a book, and I didn’t think it was a good enough story, and I didn’t think I was a good enough storyteller. So, keep going back to that. The self-belief in the story that you have, that people will want to read. Accept that the roller coaster, to use a bit of a cliche, but the roller coaster absolutely is how publishing works.

There are highs and lows, even those who have a contract, maybe for two or three books, if one of the big five publishers, they can suddenly find that that their contract is not renewed, or they choose not to renew it. Maybe book one does phenomenally well but book two doesn’t. You know, there are so many peaks and troughs in what we do.

I got a publishing deal right at the front. And at the point I was about to give up with the submissions process thinking, I’ve got it made. I’m going to be an author. Brilliant. But the publishers didn’t do very well and went bust and I got my rights back and became Indie for five years. So, you know, so, so much can change just in the blink of an eye.

And so, keep believing, keep going, have that resilience. If you have stories to tell burning inside of you. Keep, keep, telling them because at one point it could all change. And I would remind myself about the importance of finding your tribe, finding a group of writers around you, who understand it, who get what it’s like when you are having Imposter syndrome, Comparisonitis, all the other things that go with us, those high moments, those low moments. 

I’ve been part of a writing collective for about nine years. It’s just been really encouraging, seeing everybody become a published author, indie, traditionally, or hybrid, and just having that support network because when somebody is on a high, somebody else might be on a low and they can support them with that and vice versa.

I’d love to have had a crystal ball and said, look, this is where you’ll be in in five year’s time. Just keep going that. That’s my  message to keep going. Don’t give up because this, this was a dream. This is what I wanted to do. 

The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why

Mark Twain

On the day that I, I got my first novel published my husband got me a canvas of that novel, and also a novella that had come out before. So, two canvases of my covers. But he also got one that sits in the middle that has a quote on it by Mark Twain, which says: The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why. And then it’s got the date that my book was published and it says:  The day life changed for Jessica Redland on it, love from him and my daughter. I usually actually get quite tearful when I read that I was trying to kind of keep the emotion in check then. And it’s just such a perfect quote because all my life although I didn’t know it I was working to this point. 

I’m not somebody who wanted to be a writer from a young age. It never even entered my head to be an author when I was a reader, you know, it was something other people did. It was only when I hit about 30 that I even thought about it. But it was as though I’d been building up to that all my life. My favourite subject in school was English. My favourite jobs were always the ones in HR that involved some sort of creative writing. I used to design assessment centre exercises. I used to create scenarios of characters that were part of that. Little did I know that I was building up to becoming an author and creating characters.

Around that time somebody said to me, I should write a book. I just said. Gosh, I should. I’d love that. And then everything from that point just fell into place. So, yeah, that was the day that I found out why I was born. I was born to be a writer. And the big thing is I get so many messages from readers talking about how my books have helped them through dark times through three years of the pandemic, particularly more recently, but even some of the subjects that I tackle in Snowflakes over the Starfish Cafe, that you mentioned at the beginning, that book was up for an award. It deals with bereavement. And I’ve had messages from people saying it’s been so cathartic reading that because I’ve suffered some extreme bereavements as well.

For readers to read the feelings of main characters and feel that I’m normal in feeling like that. It’s just, it’s made me turn a corner and you just think, wow, I never thought about any of that when I started out as a writer, that we can make a difference in our own little way through the characters that we create and the stories that we tell.

That’s the reason in the moments when I wasn’t selling any books and thinking It’s never going to work for me – that’s the reason to keep going. 

Deborah: Fantastic. I absolutely loved that story and it really chimes a cord makes I’m often writing in my blog about the seeds of desire in your heart and to listen to that and to follow it.

And, you know, I also think that our whole life is like a book. Everything happens for a purpose in terms of all of our experiences. As you say, they all, come together and you go, Aha. That experience is making me who I am and that’s why because this is what I’ve got to do. And the other thing you said about somebody saying to you, You should try to write a book – It’s those little miracles, all the people that come into our lives. They may be strangers. Sometimes a person says something that takes you off on a path, or something, you read. They are whispers to point you in the right direction.

Jessica: It’s so funny because it was my manager at work. I used to write lots of reports and he would laugh reading them. One day he said, ‘I love reading your reports. They’re like a story. Maybe you should make them a bit more business-like. But have you ever thought about writing a book, you really should? Nobody had ever said that to me. And it was like this light bulb, just kind of fireworks explosion. Yes. Yes, I should. The next thing was finding an idea for a book, but then by some pure coincidence a set of events happened in my life that gave me the premise of my first book.

Deborah: So again, as you say, little things present themselves and you go, Oh wow. I can do something with that. Which shows why we have to be open to listen to what’s around us.

When we get too much into our head, we’ve got all that noise going on. We don’t pick up on little messages which are there for us to see and listen to. We need to go inward and be at receptive so that we can pick up on ideas and opportunities. 

Jessica: Definitely.

Deborah: Before you go, please tell us about the latest books that you have got out. I will provide links in the show notes so people can find out more about. 

Jessica: Thank you, Deborah. I have a new novel that just came out in early April, called Spring Tides at the Starfish Cafe. And that is a sequel of Snowflakes over the Starfish Cafe. I’ve been doing a bit of a promotion and celebration of that. I’ve also just about hit the ends of the final edits on the fifth book in the Hedgehog Hollow series called Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow which is out on the 28th of June, but available for pre-order. And I’m just about to dive into the final book in that series, which is out on the 6th of September. That’s set at Christmas. Although we don’t quite have a title, we’ve got a couple of working titles at the moment and that’s pretty typical. I write four books a year, so quite often I am promoting one, finishing the edits on another, and writing the next one. So, kind of working a few books in advance.

That will take me up until about probably June to have worked on that Christmas one. And then I will be writing my first 2023 release, which sounds really scary talking that far ahead. I work about eight months in advance.

Deborah: And this is why I admire you. You’re a prolific writer. You’re determined. You’re resilient. Absolute pleasure talking to you Jessica. 

Jessica: Thank you. And thank you so much for inviting me as a guest. I will look forward to listening to the other podcasts.

Deborah:  I’ve got loads of interesting guests that I’m chatting with. So, me too.

Never Enough by Jessica Redland

All I want is one idea
How difficult could that be?
A plot that has some mileage
That would be enough for me

All I want is to write a book
What an achievement that would be
300 pages, a brand new world
That would be enough for me

All I want is for someone to read it
A friend or family
If they said it was good; that I could write
That would be enough for me

All I want is an eBook publisher
How amazing would that be?
To believe in my story and share my work
That would be enough for me

All I want is to make some sales
Just one, or two, or three
A handful of readers to download to Kindle
That would be enough for me

All I want is some good reviews
How flattering would it be
For strangers to say they love my work?
That would be enough for me

All I want is to climb the charts
It would make me so happy
To see my ‘baby’ go up and up
That would be enough for me

All I want is a bestseller tag
In some obscure category
That orange flag would scream success
That would be enough for me

All I want is to break the top hundred
I know there’s no guarantee
But then I’d know I’ve got some talent
That would be enough for me

All I want is to be top ten
Can anyone hear my plea?
Side by side with my favourite authors
That would be enough for me

All I want is a number one
I’d barely contain my glee
That coveted slot and all those sales
That would be enough for me

All I want is a paperback
Something I can hold and see
To say “I wrote this”, oh my word
That would be enough for me

All I want is to write full time
A lady that lunches? So me!
Full days in my office, creating away
That would be enough for me

All I want is an audio deal
Listening while sipping my tea
Those accents, those sounds, my world brought to life
That would be enough for me

All I want is my books on the shelves
Of a supermarket: big four. Or three
The sales, the success would remove all the stress
That would be enough for me

All I want is a top five publisher
The validation? My pants I would pee!
I’d finally know that I really can write
That would be enough for me

All I want is to make foreign sales
Australia? France? Germany?
Translations galore, the world at my door
That would be enough for me

All I want is the film to be made
The big screen for everyone to see
Amazing reviews, the compliments ooze
That would be enough for me

All I want is an Oscar win
I’d really be top of the tree
Best screenplay? Oh my, I think I would cry
That would be enough for me

All I want is some book two success
And the same for book number three
Doing even better than first out the grid
That would be enough for me

All I wanted was one idea
To write a book, just for me
But the goalposts kept changing, my life rearranging
And it’s never enough for me

It’s easy to feel so overwhelmed
When sales aren’t what I’d hoped
And reviews are mean and personal
And very unprovoked
When all the writers that I know
Seem to do so great
And the day job takes priority
So my writing has to wait

So it’s back to the start to recapture that feeling
When first I typed “the end”
When someone said, “I loved it!”
Even though they were a friend
When I sat at my keyboard and laughed and cried
As my characters found their voices
When the publishing world was unexplored
But filled with exciting choices

The task once seemed impossible:
To write a full-length story
A big fat tick against that goal
I should bask in the glory
That I achieved what many don’t
And repeated it six-fold
am a writer BECAUSE I WRITE;
Not for how many I’ve sold

You can find out more about Jessica’s books on her website: https://jessicaredlandauthor.com/my-books/

Introducing The Mindful Writer Podcast

Hello, this is Deborah Klee, author of The Borrowed Boy and Just Bea. You might have met me before on my podcast Castaway Books or here on my blog AbraKdeborah. If you have then you will know my fascination with the inner journey of the creative – what drives us, keeps us sane, and helps us to lead our best life.

To be a writer is one of the most rewarding occupations imaginable but the writer’s journey is tough – we need emotional resilience, courage, determination, patience, and self-belief. 

There is a lot of shared wisdom on the craft of writing and how to market our books but not so much on the inner journey. 

NakNakNak – Pixabay

I imagine us all climbing a mountainous hill, a winding path with stopping places to rest. There are some creatives that have journeyed ahead of us and some who follow in our tracks. We support one another: a helping hand, words of encouragement, reflections on how far we have come. 

This podcast is to help writers on that journey – the inner journey, as we experience the highs and lows of a writer’s life together.

Each week I chat with a guest exploring the psychological, emotional, and spiritual journey they have experienced as a writer, the lessons they have learnt – and are continuing to learn. 

We are part of creation, works in progress, striving to become our best self and fulfil our potential. As I talk to other writer’s and reflect on my own experience, I hope to discover how we might find abundance in our creative pursuits, achieving our goals the mindful way.

The themes we might explore include:

  • Starting afresh 
  • Finding time
  • Fear of failure
  • Self-care 
  • Focusing on what is within our control
  • Trusting the journey
  • Being open to possibility and not attaching to one outcome
  • Cyclical living – being in tune with seasonal change
  • Writer’s block
  • Rejection
  • Imposter syndrome 
  • Comparing to others

I have already interviewed several guests for the show and can’t wait to share their words of wisdom with you. They have left me feeling lighter, inspired, and energised. A transcript of each episode will be shared here on my blog when the episode goes live. It will include links for further information, and a summary of the key points. There are so many brilliant tips, I know that this is a resource I will personally return to time and again. 

I hope that you receive the same joy as me when you listen in. Don’t forget to subscribe to The Mindful Writer Podcast. There is no fee but you will be informed when a new episode goes live. The first one is scheduled for the 4th May – fitting for Star Wars Day – May the fourth go with you.

We would love you to join in the conversations by dropping your comments here on this blog or the podcast.

You can find all episodes of The Mindful Writer Podcast to play on your chosen podcast here: https://themindfulwriter.buzzsprout.com

Don’t forget to subscribe so that you hear when a new episode goes live.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is cover-1.png

Virtual Writing Retreat 26th February 2022 with guest Beth Miller

We were delighted to welcome best-selling author, creative writing tutor, and book coach Beth Miller to our first Friday Salon virtual writing retreat. Beth answered questions on getting a book ready for submission and the querying process. The key points that Beth made have been summarised below.

Beth Miller

Query letter

Dear name. If you are not comfortable with using the agent’s first name, then address your letter Dear first name, second name. The publishing industry is more informal than it used to be.

Your letter should be professional and succinct not chatty.

Start with the name of your book, genre and number of words – completed at x words. This shows that your MS is complete and that the word count fits with the expectations of the genre.

Then, the pitch for your book. This is the most important part of your letter. 

Where in the market do you see it fitting? What books would you compare it to in terms of style and/or theme? 

Why have you pitched to that particular agent? Do your research so that your letter is personalised and targeted for that agent.

Include a brief biography if it is relevant to the book. For example, if it is a crime novel and you are a policeman than include that information. If your biography is not relevant don’t include it.

Before mentioning self-published books do your research to find out the agent’s view. If in doubt don’t include information about being self-published.

You could finish the letter by mentioning what you are working on now or save that information for when the agent makes contact and expresses an interest in representing you.

When sending out query letter include publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts such as Bookoutre as well as agents.

Send out to five and when you receive rejections send more. Aim to have five queries out at a time. Take your time – each query letter is a work of art. It is a long process. Waiting times are longer than ever now so expect to be in it for the long haul if you want a traditional publishing contract.  

Rejection

It is a rite of passage. 

Beth’s words of wisdom: You are sending out your query letter hoping that it will reach an agent who is interested in representing you. Imagine you have sent it to ‘who it may concern.’ When you receive a rejection think – it wasn’t the right address. Eventually it will find ‘who it does concern.’ For more words of wisdom on rejection see Beth’s blog posted on Writers and Artists:

https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/advice/rejection-sucks-but-no-one-got-published-without-it

Beth Miller

Author of six novels including the Kindle top 20 best-seller The Missing Letters of Mrs. Bright, and two non-fiction books. Beth is RLF Fellow of University of Brighton. She teaches creative writing and is a one-to-one book coach for people at all stages.

Beth provides a service to review a query letter, first three chapters, and synopsis, to give writers the best chance of success when contacting agents and publishers.

To find out more about Beth Miller and her books see:  bethmiller.co.uk 

Beth was also a guest on my show see Castaway Books.

The next Virtual Writing Retreat will take place on Saturday 25th June 2022 1.30 – 6.30 pm GMT. To book a place contact me at dkauthor@btinternet.com There is no cost. The purpose of Friday Salon Writing Retreats and tweet-chats is to build a supportive writing community with meaningful engagement. Everyone is welcome.

Agenda February 2022 Writing Retreat

PLAN

1.30 GMT (8.30 EST) to 2.10 GMT (9.10 EST)

Welcome and introductions.

What we aim to achieve in our writing today with discussion on areas of potential challenge.


2.15 GMT (9.15 EST) to 3.30 GMT (10.30 EST)

Writing time


3.30 GMT (10.30 EST) to 4.10 GMT (11.10 EST)

Beth Miller – Getting your novel ready for submission. 

Beth will share her experience of working as a book coach and answer questions to help you with your WIP.


4.15 GMT (11.15 EST) to 6.00 GMT (1.00 EST)

Writing time


6.00 GMT (1.00 EST) to 6.30 GMT (1.30 EST)

What we achieved today. 

How to succeed as a creative

The problem is, there are millions of other books out there, so why is someone going to pick yours?’

Ian Miller

Recently a fellow blogger and author Lizzie Chantree posted this quote on her Facebook page to stimulate discussion. It is perhaps one of the most common thoughts a new author or even a seasoned one has. It is what relatives and friends will tell aspiring authors. Why bother?

My brother is excited to be on the Faber Academy novel writing course. One week their tutor asked them to write down and then share their secret fears about becoming an author. All of them said similar things: I’m not good enough. It’s almost impossible to get a publishing contract. What if I put in all of this effort and nobody reads my books?

Every aspiring author has these doubts. Musicians and artists have similar concerns. We perceive an impenetrable gate guarded by gatekeepers who will send us on an impossible quest to win our heart’s desire.

Bernswaelz – Pixabay

Last week I had a dream. My brother was suffering from this familiar writer’s angst and so I explained to him why he had to follow his dream and how he had complete control over his future success and happiness. When I woke up, I felt as though a weight had been lifted from me. My dream changed my mindset. Of course, I had and will continue to have, those same fears that every creative experiences but my subconscious/ higher self/ God spoke to me in my dream and so I will attempt to share this with you.

We have become brainwashed to believe that success means fame and fortune. This is reinforced daily through the media, from comments by family and friends, and our ego as we compare ourselves to others.

This interpretation of success is based on a commercial world where the gatekeeper’s goal is to make money. There is nothing wrong with that we all need to earn a living. A writer needs to be both creative and mindful of the business of publishing. However, we should understand that interpretation of success is a commercial one and has absolutely nothing to do with our personal success.

We have come into this world with a purpose. A seed of desire has been sown in our hearts. Just as an acorn has everything within its DNA to become a magnificent oak tree, we have within us an infinite potential to fulfill all that we desire.

To succeed is to follow that dream. To be courageous and audacious. To put everything that we have into being the best that we can be. There are no gatekeepers. The only thing that can stand in our way is our lack of self-belief and fear of failure.

Mabel Amber- Pixabay

Last year, I told you about my plan to broadcast a new podcast The Mindful Writer. It’s something I have thought about for months. I’ve been sharing my inner journey as a writer with you here but I wanted to talk to other creatives to hear about their experiences. The idea wouldn’t go away. It felt like something I had to do but something held me back. I was afraid of putting myself out there and asking other creatives to do the same. To voice out loud our fears and vulnerabilities is a big ask. I was also a bit overwhelmed by the amount of work required – the knowledge and skills I would have to learn. Then there was that voice – the thought goblins: There are so many podcasts out there who is going to listen. Is it really worth the effort?

I truly believe that when something is in our heart, an idea that won’t go away, then we have a responsibility to act on it. Yes, this took me out of my comfort zone but that is when the magic happens – when we start to grow. At the beginning of February, I reached out to potential guests and I have been overjoyed with the response. I have a project plan and I am taking one step at a time. It’s exciting and scary. This is success.

I have indie published two novels, The Borrowed Boy and Just Bea. My third and fourth novels will be ready to publish this year and I am hoping to secure a traditional publishing contract. However, I am not looking to this outcome as the answer to my dreams – it is just one possible outcome. To look to the gatekeepers of the creative industry as the people who can grant you what your heart desires is to hand over responsibility for your happiness. No wonder it feels so painful and wrong.

Gerd Allman – Pixabay

If you are waiting for an agent to represent you, or a publisher to offer a contract, and feel the angst that we all feel then try visualising it as a tight ball in your diaphragm – that’s what it feels like to me. Take that ball of negative energy and place it outside of yourself. Maybe you can see it now that it is detached from your body? Let it stay there.

Now, look upon yourself as a loving parent, a wiser version of you – be kind and compassionate. Fill yourself with positive, loving energy. Remember that you have everything that you need to fulfill your dreams.

As you listen to your heart and follow those dreams you will be surprised by the miraculous things that happen. I am every day. The messages I receive from readers who have enjoyed my books, contacts made with like-minded people from all over the world, invitations to speak at book clubs, being featured on other writers’ blogs, comments on my show Castaway Books. The list is endless.

So, the advice I gave my brother in my dream was to:
Redefine the meaning of success
Remember you hold the power to your peace and happiness
Be the best that you can be
Be joyful – you are doing what you love
Celebrate every success however small

You are amazing!

One final note. Lack of recognition and financial reward did not stop Henri Toulouse- Lautrec, Johannes Vermeer, Vincent Van Gogh, or Emily Dickenson from creating incredible works of art – thank goodness. All died penniless not knowing the impact of their work.

Season one of The Mindful Writer starts on 4th May 2022. If you would like to be a guest on this show contact me at dkauthor@btinternet.com telling me why you would like to share your story.