An invitation to contribute to a podcast on the inner journey of the creative.

If you have enjoyed reading my blogs on the Inner Journey of the Creative and have identified with some of my experiences, you might be interested in contributing to my next venture. 

I am planning a weekly podcast that goes deep into each of the themes in my blogs including:

Courage

Wanting something too much

Letting-go

Stimulating creativity

Patience

Disappointment/Rejection

Fear of failure

Change

Trusting the journey

In the next few weeks, I will be interviewing creatives – this includes: poets, bloggers, artists, and musicians, as well as authors, about what they have learnt in their creative journey. Personal experiences and learning will be brought together along with my narrative to form podcasts on each of the topics. 

Whilst I am working on this project, I will take a break from writing a weekly blog. The podcasts when they are broadcast will also be written as blogs. 

If you are interested in participating, I would love to hear from you. You can DM me on Twitter or send me an email dkauthor@btinternet.com.

How you can help one person get off the streets and find shelter.

The dedication in my novel Just Bea reads, ‘Dedicated to those who are or have experience of being homeless. You matter.’ This is heartfelt. I was inspired to write Just Bea after looking into the faces of young men and women who I passed on the streets of London. I started talking to them and discovered that everyone has a story. Nobody wants to sleep on a street. On the 1st October I am going to do just that. I am joining people all over the UK who will be spending one night sleeping rough to raise awareness and funds to support homeless people through GlassDoor London

I first heard about the Sleep Out in 2019. I thought it meant I would just unroll a sleeping bag on any London street as though I were homeless. Even then, I was contemplating the challenge. However, I knew my loved ones would be anxious and did not want to put them through that. If I had just slept out on my own, I know I would have been terrified. How could you sleep feeling so vulnerable and exposed? And yet that is exactly what so many people have to do. 

It wasn’t until early 2020 that I met a woman who had participated in the Sleep Out. She explained that it was an organised event and the participants slept in a supervised area. With that reassurance I was ready to sign up for the 2020 Sleep Out. Of course, that did not happen because of the pandemic. So now, I can finally take part.

It is more important than ever to raise funds to tackle homelessness as more people are likely to find themselves in this situation through loss of income as a result of the pandemic.

I need to raise a minimum of £500 to participate. I will be hosting a coffee morning on 15th September which will help. I’m not an experienced fund raiser and I only have a few weeks. If you have any ideas then please share them with me. 

If you would like to make a donation then please visit my fundraising page before 1st Oct 2021:

https://glassdoor.enthuse.com/pf/deborah-klee-7ecbf

Thank you! I will update you on progress.

How to survive querying agents or a job hunt

Sending out a query letter to literary agents, or applying for a job that you desperately want is scary. You pin so much hope on your submission and feel as though you have handed over responsibility for your future happiness. It doesn’t have to feel like that. In my post, 5 Ways to attract what you want into your life I share practical steps on managing feelings when you want something too much.

Maybe, like me, you have been burned before and so are cautious this time around. My third novel is ready to submit to agents. I have had a literary agent in the past and lived through the anxiety and trauma of finding an agent and a publishing contract. It is not for the faint-hearted. This time I am in a good place as:

  • I am not attaching myself to one particular outcome
  • I am not looking for validation
  • I know that I have options and I am in control
  • I have faith that the right solution will find me so long as I am open to possibilities.

However, despite having done a lot of inner work to reach this healthier state of mind the prospect of seeking an agent and contract is still daunting. When something is important to us, we will always feel some trepidation. 

I have enjoyed taking regular runs for many years. When I was in my fifties, I experienced pain in my hips after a run. As a result, I gave up running for a few years. Then, a fitness trainer explained to me that if I prepared properly for a run by stretching and did the same post-run then I would not experience any joint pain. She was right. I am using this analogy to explain how the pain of trying to get a job or an agent can be avoided with proper preparation and after-care.

Before 

I successfully self-published my first two novels The Borrowed Boy and Just Bea, receiving great reviews and three awards. However, it is a challenge to reach the audience I would like to attract without a publisher and agent championing me and helping to promote my books. This is why I am going to approach agents and some independent publishers with my new novel. 

Before applying for a job, querying agents, or approaching publishers be very clear about what you want, why, and what a good fit would look like.

My goal is for my books to be visible to a wider audience of readers and to increase sales. I want to achieve this so that I can share my stories, engage with readers, and be heard. For me, a good fit with an agent would be one where there is mutual respect, a partnership with both parties listening to the other, an agent who loves and understands what I write. 

Just as the wrong job for you can be damaging to your career, so can the wrong agent. It is not a one-way street – you are looking for the right job/agent just as they are looking for the best person to employ/ sign to their list.

Do your research. Now you know your needs and what you are offering, invest time in finding potential agents/jobs that are a good match.

There are several ways you can achieve your goals. Be imaginative and brainstorm other options to get what you need. Getting an agent is not the only, or necessarily the best, outcome for me, it is just one.  I have other options:

  • Find an Independent Publisher to publish novel three and potentially my first two novels.
  • Enter competitions to attract an agent or publisher.
  • Rebrand my first two novels with my third and fourth to make them more marketable. This would include changing the covers to make them recognisable for the genre and my brand. Invest in advertising. 

I am excited about the third option and have a long-term strategy to promote sales. It is important not to attach ourselves to one particular outcome. This week I read a meme on Instagram God’s plans are greater than our dreams. This spoke to me as in the past I have found this wisdom to be true. I am thankful that I am not the creator of my future because what has unfolded in my life is more than I could have imagined or hoped for. 

 If an agent rejects our submission, it is because they do not think that we are a good fit. I know my shape and size – I am holding a jigsaw piece up to see where it goes. The agent is another piece of the jigsaw and they too know what they are looking for. It has to be a perfect fit for the author and the agent. That means trial and error before finding a match.

Christos Giakkus Pixabay

During 

You have applied for the job or sent out query letters now it is time to wait. You can check your inbox every few minutes or put the time to good use. I will be using the time to do a much-needed revamp of my website. I will also be plotting my next novel. By focusing on the next project, you can save wasted energy worrying about the outcome of your submission. When you get a full manuscript request you will need the distraction of a shiny new project to stop you from imagining every scenario from a harsh and crushing rejection to the opening night of your book to film premier. When The Borrowed Boy was out on submission to publishers, I wrote my next novel, Just Bea.

Focus on other options. You might well get the positive response you are hoping for but there is no harm in thinking ahead and planning the next steps. 

My daughter was recently disappointed when, following a lengthy recruitment process, she got the call to say that whilst it was a close thing, she had not got the job. On reflection, my wise daughter had come to a similar conclusion. A few weeks later, she got a call from the same organisation inviting her to apply for another job which they considered a better fit. I am delighted to say that she got this job and much prefers it to the original one.

After

You have had an interview or maybe you have been invited to meet with a prospective agent. Be fully prepared. 

  • Research everything that you can about their organisation and how they work. 
  • Clarify the questions that you will want to ask.
  • Be clear on what you would be expecting from your future employer/agent. 
  • Consider the terms and conditions that are acceptable to you. 

and you will be confident in your decision to accept or not.

If you do not get an offer then you know that you have other options. Do not standstill. Be positive and pro-active in improving your application/submission for next time, network, raise your profile on social media, improve your skills, try new things – a different genre, or short stories. Do not whine and complain on social media. Lick your wounds for one day if you need to but then get back up and out there. A positive, confident employer/author is more attractive and therefore attracts more opportunities than a negative one.

On Retreat

Ellie Holmes is a wonderful author and friend. We both belong to Frinton Writers’ Group. Before COVID we went on an annual writers’ retreat. After cancelling last year we are hoping to return in September. I am away this week taking a break so will leave you with this post from Ellie.

And Then What?

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As you are reading this I am presently on a writers’ retreat. We may be minutes from a busy town, but I am happily ensconced in a time warp idyll surrounded by bucolic countryside. A salve to the mind and a huge inspiration creatively.

On Retreat The view from my bedroom window

I am lucky enough to belong to an extraordinary writers’ group. There are seven of us in the group and we are all novelists, some traditionally published, some indie published, some hybrid and some unpublished. We meet once a month in a local bookshop when we celebrate any successes members of the group have had, usually with Prosecco, we critique two pieces of work, taking it in turns and discuss any writing related subjects that happen to come out of our discussions.

A group of different people, most of whom did not know each other before…

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5 steps to attract what you want into your life

‘I want this more than anything.’

‘If this doesn’t happen, I don’t know what I’ll do.’

‘If only I got that promotion/job everything would be different.’

‘I just need to find that special someone and I will be happy.’

The drama and passion of these heartfelt pleas are fuelled by the media. We watch films and read books where life is simple. The geeky girl/boy meets someone who loves them just the way that they are, they fall in love and live happily ever after. A woman loses her job, her world is falling apart, but then she writes a book, and all of her financial worries are resolved. Then, there are the talent shows where an awkward-looking boy tells the camera that winning the competition would mean everything to him, and a few series later he is back as the star act, having achieved super-stardom. Real-life doesn’t make good telly and so stories of success, both imaginary and real, are dramatized and we buy into this. I have thought for some time that the romcoms we adore contribute to dissatisfaction in relationships. 

Albrecht Fietz Pixabay

1. Focus on what is within your control

Our dream is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. We truly believe that once that one thing we wish for happens our life will be transformed. For many writers, it is getting an agent or a publishing deal. We hold that heartfelt wish so tight, we clench it within our soul, willing it to happen. To relax that hold for one second feels as though we are giving up and reducing our chances of success. Everything depends on that wish coming true.

The thing that we long to happen, or fear will happen doesn’t change our life. There is a blip of happiness or despair, but in the scheme of things, it is a minor disturbance. Think back to the day you got your dream job, got married, or on the downside received a rejection letter from an agent or following an interview. You may have been happy or disappointed for a few days, or weeks but then life happened and soon you had another goal or dream. I can no longer remember my rejection letters or the jobs I didn’t get. 

The constant is the life you are living now. Your family and friends, the pleasure that you get from everyday activities, your good health. By focusing on what is beyond our control, changing another person’s behaviour, making someone like you – hire you – sign you, we are neglecting to change the things that we can control. If life carries on as normal after the blip, then we need to invest in making it a good life by appreciating what we have now and making the most of each moment. 

Noel Bauza Pixabay

2. Invite new opportunities into your life

This is a lesson that has taken me some time to learn, and I am still learning. When I was forty, I could see only one way to further my career and that was the next step up on the career ladder – a chief executive of a health trust. It had been my goal for years and I had made steady progress up until that point. I was shortlisted again and again but was disappointed when I received the news that I had not been successful and each time a different or conflicting reason – ‘too strategic,’ ‘not strategic enough.’ I didn’t know what to do as this had always been my goal and it felt too early in my career to settle for what I had already achieved.

I was in the depths of despair. I felt rejected – unworthy. Not good enough. I was blinded to other opportunities because I was too focused on that one outcome. A wise woman suggested that I was feeling discomfort as the job I had was no longer a good fit for me. Like an ill-fitting shoe, I had outgrown the role. This sparked my imagination and I wrote down all the things I enjoyed and was good at, also the things I didn’t like about my job. 

Unsurprisingly, the job I had set my heart on was not a good fit for me either. The result was a specification of my unique combination of skills, expertise, and experience. I used that to evaluate every job advertised within a salary scale that was acceptable. In keeping an open mind, I came across an advertisement that I would never have considered before. I wasn’t even sure what the job description meant, but it was a perfect fit with my personal specification and the employer thought so too because at the end of a two-day selection process I was offered the job. What unfolded from there was better than I could have imagined. I found the perfect career for me as one opportunity led to another.

Through this experience, I learned that my imagination is limited. The universe/God’s vision is greater. When I stopped hanging on tightly to what I thought should happen and opened my heart and mind to possibilities, I was led to the best outcome for me. 

Beate Bachmann Pixabay

3. Do not attach yourself to one particular outcome

You may be focused on bagging your dream agent, securing a traditional publishing deal, getting that promotion, or your ideal job and I wish you success. Keep working towards your goal and hopefully, your wish will come true. However, too narrow a focus might be blinding you to other opportunities. 

Try brainstorming all of the options. Be imaginative and open yourself up to the infinite possibilities for your success. Instead of focusing on one agent, try approaching several. Visualise offers coming in from four or more so that you have to choose. Submit to independent publishers. Enter novel writing competitions. Scatter these seeds of possibility and you may be surprised by what grows. 

Your future is waiting for you. It could be brighter and bigger than anything you have imagined, but you need to open your heart and mind to new possibilities and trust that what is right for you will find you.

Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke Pixabay

4. Open your heart

I know what it feels like to want something too much. It is a tightly clenched fist in the solar plexus, a lump of longing that takes up all the room in your heart. You are afraid to release your grip. As though holding tight to that dream will make it come true, and if you release your grip, it will lessen your chances of success. I have learned that this is not true and by wanting something too much we are driving away the very thing that we want. 

We have all heard the stories of a couple who conceive when they have stopped trying for a baby, the girlfriend who meets the love of her life after resigning herself to a future of singledom, the job offers that flood in when you have decided to become self-employed. 

When we are desperate for something we become tense. There is a physiological reaction that may lead to symptoms of stress, for me it is eczema and migraines. We become so focused that we have tunnel vision and miss the bigger picture. A tense, intense person, who is desperate for something, is not attractive and can repel the person that they want to attract. 

If you are in a furniture store and a sales assistant working for commission pursues you relentlessly, advising you of the features of every sofa you show a vague interest in, I suspect that like me, you will decide to visit another day or go to a different store where you won’t be hounded into buying something. 

Many years ago, I had a friend who following a divorce was desperate to find another man. This friend was young, attractive, and clever. She had a great job and was financially independent. She threw herself into the dating world with gusto, joining online dating agencies and requesting blind dates. I tried introducing her to eligible men but her desperation scared them off. Sadly, none of her would-be partners wanted a second date.

I am extremely embarrassed to confess that when I started out as a management consultant, I stepped out of a meeting to run after someone who I thought might be interested in hiring me. I cringe when I remember this. At that time, I was terrified that I would not attract any clients and, of course, I didn’t. When I relaxed and went with the flow, I had plenty of work. The more work I had, the more I was offered. 

When we are relaxed and content, we are open to new possibilities. We notice opportunities because we have an open mind and are more susceptible to ideas that come into our orbit. People are drawn to us because we radiate positivity. 

I know it is hard to let go of longing. Keep hold of your dream but try to gently release your grip. Imagine that knot of tension, softening. Breathing exercises and meditation can help with this. When I am meditating, I imagine a lotus flower opening up to the sun. It takes practice but you can relax your hold. 

Jplenio Pixabay

5. Trust the journey

I believe that our purpose is an idea that is sown like a seed in our heart. Our wish to be a writer, an artist, a chef, an acrobat is intense because we are driven to achieve our life purpose. But just as the seed has been sown, trust that your dream will come to fruition. Open yourself up to a greater power. Trust that what you need will come to you. Be relaxed and calm. Because then you will find the golden breadcrumbs that will lead you to your destiny- a chance meeting, an advertisement, an idea that comes from a conversation.

I previously published this post as Wanting Something Too Much Part 1-3. I have combined them here and renamed them so that they are more accessible. 

How to Sow Seeds for Success

When we have hopes and dreams, we must sow seeds of possibilities. Make them plentiful and cast them wide. Don’t try to double guess which is most likely to take root because you will be surprised. A seed can transform into a spectacular plant in the most unlikely of places. 

Whether it is to succeed as an author, a new job, or funding for a project, be aware of the opportunities that come into your orbit and respond. The seeds that you sow might be, entering a competition, writing to a potential funder, using a chance meeting to discuss an idea, joining an association or club. 

I remember my line manager, when I worked in a consultancy firm, advising me ‘not to set too many hares running.’ There is some wisdom in this but I would add – at once. I don’t think you can pursue too many opportunities but take the time to give each one your full attention, and to receive feedback so that you learn from each experience. For example, a writer might initially send out eight query letters to agents, depending upon the responses, the next ten letters might be strengthened. Alongside these query letters, the same writer might enter competitions, approach independent publishers, and present their work at writers’ conferences. Don’t hold back because you are invested in a particular outcome.

We sow the seeds of possibility, casting them wide, with hope in our hearts. It is the great creator – God, The Universe, that gives life. What takes root and where is beyond our control. We have no choice but to let go and have faith. Sometimes, it is long after we have sown a seed that it surprises us by blossoming.

I just read a tweet from @HutchinsAuthor 

‘My tree peony hasn’t flowered for over 8 years and this spring it is full of buds!’

Author R.A. Hutchins’s Tree Peony Photo by Anne Hutchins

It is human nature that we try and control what comes to us, when, and how. We read into things, believing that we can make sense of patterns to determine what will happen next. How many of us count Magpies, or look for signs, in a desperate bid to claw back some control? 

The wondrous reality is this – we cannot even start to fathom the multitude of factors which might come together to bring what we need into our life. In the past few weeks, I experienced two events that led me to write this post. Neither of them was remarkable but they demonstrated to me how the unexpected can happen at any time. 

The first event. My local independent bookstore has been selling copies of my debut The Borrowed Boy. When I was writing this novel in 2018 the bookshop owner kindly asked a young Polish man who worked in a neighbouring restaurant if he would help me with my research. He generously agreed and gave up his lunch hour to answer my questions as we sat in the bookshop. Although I wrote down his phone number, he moved back to Poland soon after our interview, the number was unobtainable and I had no way of getting in touch. I mentioned him in the acknowledgements of my book but, as three years had passed and I hadn’t written down my name or told him the title of my novel, I never expected him to come across this. A couple of weeks ago when I popped into the bookshop the owner told me that the Polish boy’s father had been instructed by his son to buy two copies of The Borrowed Boy and to send them to him in Poland. I have no idea how he heard about my book as we have no connections in common that I am aware of.

The second event. I received an email from a woman who remembered me working at her firm as a consultant fifteen years ago. This was not someone who I knew well, she was not a personal friend, or even on the same team. She said that she didn’t use social media but randomly Googled me and saw I had written a couple of novels. We had an email chat and she has since signed up for my newsletter.

As I said, the events themselves are not earthmoving but they taught me a lesson. Things happen beyond our control and awareness – are happening now. 

This example is incredible. I heard the lovely Anne Cleves talk at a Frinton Literary Festival a couple of years ago. You may have enjoyed the popular TV series: The Shetland Murder Mysteries, and Vera. When Anne was a little-known author, one of her novels was bought in a charity shop by a person who on the strength of reading the story, and recognising it met a current need in TV, contacted Anne and the rest is history. 

Take joy in planting your seeds and look forward to being surprised. Like children waiting for Christmas, it sometimes feels as though it will never come but have faith. I truly believe, ‘Nothing that is for you will pass you by.’

My D.I.Y. Spa Day

Last year I posted a blog, on how to  Restore and renew your creative spirit. In this blog, I talked about the importance of self-care to prevent burnout and suggested several ways to achieve this including a Spa day at home – given the restrictions of lockdown. 

The right time

This weekend the opportunity for me to enjoy a D.I.Y. spa day presented itself at the perfect time. The perfect time because I was at a low ebb:

  • A recent bereavement
  • A heavy workload
  • Recovering from a migraine and vertigo.

My thoughtful daughter sent me a package of destress goodies for Mother’s Day because she knew that arranging my father’s funeral and other associated matters was taking its toll. This wonderful gift included: Soft fluffy socks, destress bath oil, scented candles, a moisturising face mask, a bottle of Prosecco, and some luxury chocolates. The chocolates did not last long and the Prosecco is waiting until we can invite guests back into our home, but the other goodies were perfect for my spa day.

My yoga teacher was offering a two-hour restorative yoga session live on Zoom Spring Radiance Retreat on Saturday 10th April – so that had to be the day of my D.I.Y. Spa.

An honest account of the day 

I dedicated the whole of my day to self-care and relaxation. It was exactly what I needed. This was yesterday and I am still in the zone. So, in the spirit of continuing to be kind to me, I am writing this week’s blog on my experience, rather than attempting to create something new. This will be an honest account, complete with unflattering photographs. 

The night before, I had a dream about my spa day – I was that excited! In my dream, a couple of dear friends and my daughter turned up to share the day with me and although I was pleased to see them, I was a little disappointed that I did not have the day entirely to myself. 

The morning

7.30 am – I sat at the computer in my nightclothes with a cup of tea and wrote for a couple of hours. Always a great start to the day.

9.30 am – My husband got out of bed – my signal to stop writing and join him for breakfast. We prepared smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and I made a cappuccino. We often enjoy a special breakfast at the weekend. I knew that it would keep me going until late afternoon and I would have time to digest it before restorative yoga at 3 pm.

11.00 am – I went for a walk by the sea, as it is walking distance from my door. Tempting as it is to share a photo of the beach as it was this morning, tide out – an expanse of sand and bright sunshine, it would not be an accurate record. That morning the sky was overcast, there was a bitter wind, and the tide was in. I walked along the Greensward rather than risk coming into close contact with other walkers on the promenade and cut my walk short.

Preparation

Back home. I gathered together all of the things that I might need for my spa day. I felt as though I was a child again setting up an imaginary game. We are fortunate that we have two reception rooms and so I have taken over the front room for yoga, meditation, and Zoom. This is what I thought I might need:

  • A couple of rolled-up towels and fleeces to use as bolsters in yoga
  • Aromatic oils to roll onto my skin
  • Scented candles
  • Eye mask
  • Yoga blocks
  • Cleanser and moisturiser to prepare for head and face massage
  • Moisturising face mask
  • Nail manicure and polish things
  • Laptop – for Zoom classes
  • Kindle 
  • Journal and pen

I used everything except the nail manicure and polish things. In addition, I set up scented candles around the bath, bath destress oil, and matches to light candles.

That all took some time to gather together. I gave strict instructions to MOH not to disturb me and that if anyone phoned, I was not available. I found some Spa music on YouTube and used my phone to play it through the TV.

After a mug of camomile tea – not my usual choice but I thought it would be more calming than a caffeinated drink, I was ready to go.

The afternoon

1.00 pm – Head and face massage. 

I had a recording of a class on yoga facial acupuncture led by my yoga teacher Jocelyne Leach. You can join her virtual classes and sign up for the next virtual restorative yoga retreat here: https://www.facebook.com/corevitalityyoga

However, there are free facial acupuncture demonstrations on YouTube. I found this one:

The head and face massage took an hour and was incredible. I had experienced it once before and remembered that it made me very relaxed and sleepy. It was a great way to start the spa part of my day and did wonders for the last traces of a migraine.

2.00 pm – My daughter had sent me a moisturising face mask by Simple as I have dry and sensitive skin. I had not used this before and didn’t know what to expect. It was a folded, heavily moisturised mask in a sachet. I unfolded it as instructed and placed it over my face. Set my phone for a 15 min alarm and then I lay back and relaxed. The spa music was playing through the TV and by then I truly felt as though I was at a spa.

2.15 pm – Originally, I had planned to have a relaxing bath before restorative yoga but I was so relaxed I didn’t want to rush around. Instead, I reclined my seat and relaxed with a book. I am reading Jo Thomas My lemon Grove Summer perfect escapism.

2.50 pm – I prepared for the restorative yoga class which started at 3 pm. Jocelyne’s Spring Radiance Retreat was excellent. It didn’t finish until 5.15 pm but I have no idea where the two hours went. All of that time was spent in relaxing poses, just being. Unless you experience this yourself, it is hard to imagine just how uplifting and restorative it can be. I had a journal with me but was too relaxed to record anything. I recommend Jocelyne’s restorative yoga classes and retreats but you can also find some shorter classes on YouTube and add a Yoga Nidra class.

The evening

5.30 pm – I was starving. I had intended to prepare a healthy salad but with my bones turned to jelly and not having the inclination to stand I just grabbed some carbohydrates – a sandwich and a bar of chocolate. Next time I will prepare a meal in advance that I just have to microwave. MOH had fended for himself so I didn’t have to concern myself with preparing a family meal. 

6.15 pm – I ran a bath, poured in the destress oil, and lit candles. I don’t know how long I lay there but by the time I got out, dried, and put on my snuggly pyjamas I was totally relaxed.

My evening finished with a Romcom – Notting Hill.

In Summary

Anyone can create a D.I.Y. Spa day. What you include will be personal to you. Make sure you protect your time and space by:

  • Turning off phones and removing batteries from the doorbell, and/or asking others in your home not to disturb you.
  • Avoid all social media – however tempting it is to share a record of what you are doing. 
  • Wear cosy, comfy clothes that do not restrict.
  • Make the space relaxing with candles, music, lighting.

It was the next day – this morning when I went for a run by the sea that I realised some of the benefits. Before my spa day, I was feeling anxious about work and overstretched. Running by the sea I had absolute clarity about my work, ideas for new projects, inspiration for my creative writing, and a feeling of peace and tranquillity.

I won’t wait so long before booking my next D.I.Y. stay-at-home spa day. 

And as promised a very unflattering image. I may use it for this year’s Halloween card.

Scary!

Finding direction

Just before Valentine’s day, there was a heavy fall of snow, a rare sight in the East of England. I had a childlike urge to play in the snow and so did the next best thing, I wrapped up and went for a walk. My usual walk is by the sea but I wanted to sink my boots in the snow that blanketed the fields around me. I knew that there were cross country walks but despite numerous attempts in summer months, I had been unable to find the footpaths. So, I set out in good faith with a plan but no idea how I was going to achieve it.

I headed for a likely starting point, the cricket club. Beyond the clubhouse were fields and in the distance a church spire marking a neighbouring village. A couple of children tugged a sledge up an icy slope. Their mum followed, looking like one of the children wrapped up in winter clothing, her face barely visible between hat and scarf. I asked if there was a walk and she gave me two options. Then, helpfully she walked me to the start of a path. 

There was no footpath to follow but someone had gone ahead of me their prints still deep in the snow and so I planted my step alongside each of theirs. I had no idea where the path would take me, only that I had to head in a certain direction across one field, around another, and so on. The footprints were my silent companion and I gave myself up to the beauty of the morning.

Lichtmagnet – Pixabay

The situation I was in reminded me of a time when I had travelled alongside a young blind man as he made his way into work. He was a fellow commuter and so I knew something of his routine. His mum would walk him to the station and when one of the other commuters stepped forward to assist, she would leave him to get on the train. On this particular morning, I was that person. As my friend left me to walk across the concourse and up an escalator assuring me that he didn’t need my assistance I was impressed by the way in which people came to his aid seamlessly as though they were waiting to perform a flash dance. Just fellow commuters, like me, quietly providing reassurance and making sure that he got safely to his destination. 

I stomped on through the snow unsure of where I was headed, if it wasn’t for the footprints I would have questioned if I was on the right path. Eventually, I came to a gap in a hedge. My directions were to head towards a hill but my imaginary companion had taken a different route. We were the only two people to have walked this way as the snow was thick and even. The road less travelled looked a little daunting and so I put my faith in the person who had gone before me and made two footprints four.

My mind wandered again and I remembered a printed card I had bought as a souvenir from a cathedral visit many years ago. 

I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you. From a poem by Mary Stevenson 1936.

Thinking back to that walk in the snow it was perhaps a message that I needed to hear. 

The world was still as though wrapped in cotton wool, the snow muffling any sound. Nothing for miles but swathes of white. East Anglia is known for being flat. Apart from a gentle slope that my guide described as a hill, it was like an expanse of ocean restful on the eyes. 

I had been walking now for forty-five minutes and my face was numb from the cold. There was a little copse of trees ahead and I wondered whether I was approaching civilisation. As the scenery changed, I was excited to see what lay ahead – whether I was close to another village and if I would have to retrace my steps or find a circular path. The footprints approached the copse. I followed them despite the terrain being slippery. If my companion went this way then so would I.

The young couple cuddling under a tree look startled to see me slipping and sliding down into their little den alongside a brook. I tried to creep by being as unobtrusive as possible but it was tricky. I did not know how my companion had crossed the brook. The boy, he looked about sixteen, said, ‘I don’t think it’s safe to go that way. The water’s covered over and I’ve heard down that there are deep snowdrifts.’

I clambered out of the dell wondering what had become of the other footprints. Maybe I had missed a turn.

‘You can take another path that goes in the same direction. Do you want me to show you?’

I gratefully accepted. The boy pointed out which way I was to walk. Then I saw another set of footprints coming from that direction. ‘I’ll follow those footprints,’ I said.

‘Those are mine,’ he replied.

So, I had followed the girl to their secret meeting place. No wonder they were surprised when I blundered across them. It was February 11th so a lovely Valentine’s tale. The boy’s footprints led me to my father’s care home. I had no idea that this was where my journey would lead. 

I phoned reception and asked if I could sneak in the gate to look at my dad through his window. I knew that he would be sleeping but I just wanted to see him. He had been unwell and restricted visiting during lockdown meant that any sight of him would have been a joy. Although I was given reluctant permission the gate was locked so it was not to be.

My father died three days later on Valentine’s day. Maybe now there will be just one set of footprints in the snow as I am carried during this time of mourning. 

If you need help with finding direction in life see How to find your life purpose

Why we all need a cheerleader

This week I am sharing an excellent blog from my very own cheerleader Ellie Holmes.

And Then What?

Cheerleadersjpg The cheerleaders by Luis Villa del Campo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/FNQZ4  https://goo.gl/sZ7V7x

We all need a cheerleader in our lives, someone who supports us in whatever we choose to do. A person who is there when the going gets tough with a supportive smile, a reassuring squeeze of the hand or an encouraging nod. A person who will listen calmly as we rant about the injustices that have befallen us or which we imagine have befallen us. Someone to share the wine (whine?) with.

Winejpg Wine by Jenny Ondioline courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/qgH4JR   https://goo.gl/sZ7V7x

Our cheerleader is a person who has the clarity of vision to look at any given situation and whilst still playing the role of our cheerleader can see where we might have taken a wrong turn and not be afraid to…

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Five things yoga has taught me

You don’t have to contort your body, sit in the lotus position or find your downward dog to benefit from the teachings of yoga. My inspiring yoga teacher Jocelyn https://corevitalityyoga.com drops words of wisdom into our practice that have a much wider application than yoga. Here are five.

1. The pause between breaths

In yoga we still the mind by focusing on the pause between each breath. As we take a deep breath in, pause and then a long, slow breath out, and pause – our thoughts slow down. In the stillness of the pause, we find a space between our thoughts.

In our busy lives we are constantly planning or stressing about the future or reliving past events, analysing them and finding fault. It is hard to be still and present. But this is where we need to be to feel grounded and to find our inner strength and calm.

I am always on the go, impatient for things to happen. I charge through my life as if in a race to the end. When it feels as though things have slowed down, for example, when as an independent management consultant I had a period with no work, I wasted the precious time fretting about the future. It took me some time before I learnt to be grateful for the pause. It is a time to rest and restore. We need the pause between to gather strength and inspiration for what is to come. In the depths of winter beneath the barren soil new plants are preparing for growth. Enjoy the pause. Trust that everything happens in its own time and be thankful for the opportunity to reflect and renew.

2. Where you focus your attention is where the energy will flow.

In yoga we direct our attention to a part of the body as we stretch and strengthen. Mindfully moving energy around the body is integral to yoga practice.

This message is true of all things in our life. When you understand what is important to you honour yourself by investing time in this activity. Keep focused and don’t be distracted. For example, in my quest to become a successful author I could waste my energy comparing myself to other writers, or get sucked into the noise of social media. If instead I focus my attention on turning up each and every day to write then over time my writing will improve. If something is important to you make this the focus of your attention and over time you will experience the positive energy of this consistent practice.

Photo by Lauren George on Unsplash

3. Small movements over time can have a significant impact.

When I started practicing yoga on a regular basis about seven years ago, I had a bit of a hump between my shoulders as a result of hunching over a computer for long hours. My yoga teacher noted this and encouraged me in class to expand my chest and free my shoulders. As I knelt in a heart chakra position my arms outstretched, I imagined a trickle of water flowing between my shoulder blades softening the tight muscles. Too miniscule to be detected on a daily or weekly basis but years on I can see a big improvement in my posture.

The small changes that we make to our daily routines have an impact over time. Whether that is taking the time to write every day, piano practice, meditation, a change to your diet – it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Write for fifteen or thirty minutes a day. Cut out a sweet treat. Something small that you can commit to over a long period of time. 

Think of a cruise ship headed for New York. If the direction changes by one degree the ship could end up in an entirely different destination.

4. Where you feel the most resistance is where you need to do the work.

One side of the body is always stronger or more flexible than the other and this is the side that we prefer to work with. However, it is the side where we experience the most resistance that we need to work.

Isn’t this the way in life? We love doing the things that come easy. But to grow and fulfil our potential we need to step outside of our comfort zone. It is hard learning new skills and overcoming our fear of failure but the rewards when we persevere and rise to the challenge will make it worthwhile. 

You don’t won’t to be a wonky-donkey. 

5. Yoga is not about striking fancy poses

When we come to our mat in yoga it is about who we are and requires self-awareness. It is about stilling the mind and tuning in to what our body, mind and emotions are experiencing and what we need.

Each of us is unique. We are told in yoga not to compare ourselves to others in the class, or to our previous performance. To accept where we are and work with what we have.

This has been a hard lesson for me. Always looking towards my next achievement, I drive myself hard. There have been times in my life when my impatience to get to the next stage of development led me to fool myself that I was already there. With that came disappointment and frustration. I am learning to accept where I am now with grace and gratitude. This state of mind accelerates my development as I am open to opportunities. When I understand what I need it finds its way to me.

Writing this blog, I have discovered just how much a daily yoga practice has influenced my life. It demonstrates the gradual transformation we experience with what would appear to be miniscule changes over a period of time. You don’t need to take up yoga if it isn’t your thing but I hope that in reflecting on my experience I have imparted some of the lessons that have made a difference to me.

Harrods of Knightsbridge -An insider’s view.

This week I have invited my good friend Sue Chotipong to write a guest blog. Sue’s stories about her life as a buyer for Harrods inspired Just Bea. Although I used some of the material that she shared to bring authenticity to the fictitious department store of Hartleys there was a wealth of information that I could not include. It had to be featured in a blog and who better to write that blog than my friend Sue.

Before I retired, I was the buyer responsible for Bedding, Towels and Bathshop, which had a combined turnover of about £20 million a year. A very successful and profitable area with experienced, senior sales associates, some of whom had worked in Harrods for over 20 years. Admittedly part of their day was spent in the stockroom area ironing bed linen ready to be displayed on the 20-odd beds in the department ( all super king size! ), and then re-ironing and folding the linen when it came off the beds, to be re-packaged to go back into stock.

The store was experiencing a huge increase in sales, thanks to the massive investment by Mr Al Fayed on new and re-furbished departments, to enhance our offer of the latest exclusive and often limited-edition products – just what our Middle Eastern clients were looking for. Harrods even   extended its opening hours, not closing until 10pm to accommodate their shopping habits back home, as they liked to shop well into the evening.

Many of these were from the wealthy United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and included the Qatari Royal family, and in fact it was the business group Qatari Holdings that went on to buy the store in 2010. Some of these Arab families had bought second homes in central London and would come to stay for the summer months to escape the extreme heat in their own countries.

Often younger than our traditional clientele, the extremely wealthy young men would even ship their supercars to use in London and they would spend their evenings revving and roaring around Knightsbridge, much to the delight of car enthusiasts, but to the annoyance of the local residents.

Meanwhile, the women would shop. Groups of family and friends would meet and spend the whole day in Harrods, where they could get everything they wanted under one roof. 

Arriving for a coffee, then shopping for luxury fashion brands, handbags, shoes. After having lunch in one of our many restaurants, shopping continued and maybe a treatment or two in the Beauty Salon. 

Sue Chotipong Buyer for Harrods

In the afternoon a group of six or eight women would enter the Linens area. Dressed in their traditional long black robes, you might just catch a glimpse of diamond rings and watches and Swarovski encrusted mobile phone holders. On their feet you would spot the famous red soles of Louboutin shoes. They would generally be followed by their own security men, at a discrete distance. Going back a few years, their security would carry huge amounts of cash to pay for their purchases, but nowadays it is generally card transactions, so the men were mostly used to carry their purchases and keep selfie snappers away from the women. 

In Linens, all 20 beds would be dressed ready for these clients. Having walked around the area, the sales staff, who would have greeted them when they entered, were now keeping a distance until one of the group stopped at a bed. Fortunately, we even had Arabic speaking staff. Like a flash, the sales associate was there. 

“I’ll take that” one would say pointing at a bed. She didn’t mean just the duvet cover set, but everything that was displayed: the sheets, fitted and flat, the duvet cover and maybe six or eight pillowcases, another half a dozen decorative cushions, maybe decorated with designer logos in Swarovski crystals, a fur-trimmed bedcover, a cashmere throw – if we had draped a dressing gown and slippers on the bed, they would take those too – they would then be able to recreate exactly the way the bed was dressed when they returned home. 

This would continue as all the women in the group made their selection, including sets for guest bedrooms and staff quarters (plainer, cheaper options!)  These purchases could add up to many thousands of pounds. The staff, being on commission, could make a lot of money during the summer months and often would choose not to take their holidays during that period so they could reap the rewards of a busy summer. 

One of the perks introduced by Mr. Al Fayed was the Millionaires Club.  It was for the top 100 sales staff in the store, each of whom had taken over a million pounds worth of sales in a year. They were announced at a special cocktail party where Mr. Al Fayed would hand out Gift Vouchers, maybe a watch, (the presents changed each year), free spa treatments, extra staff discount for the year, a pass to allow them to use all store entrances instead of using the staff tunnel, oh, and a trophy!

So, commission was an important perk of the salary package. Based as a percentage of their individual sales, it could be contentious.  Take the watch department. A client would be served by one sales associate who sat him or her down, showed all the options and at the end of the sale, the watch would be boxed and placed in a gorgeous ribbon -tied bag. Job done.

But in some departments, the sale could comprise of dozens of items. Some of the items might have to be taken from display, so would need re-packaging. It could take ages for all the goods to be stacked up on the counter and processed through the till. They might then have to be boxed if being delivered to a hotel. None of this was easy without the help of your colleagues but they would not share in the commission. Of course, it could be reciprocated when your colleague had a big sale and needed your help, or maybe, very unofficially, the salesperson might share some of the money.

I remember a Saturday evening one December. It was the night of the Staff Ball which was being held at the Dorchester Hotel. The staff, especially the ladies, were anxious to leave on time and get dressed and made up ready for their taxi ride to the venue. Well as Sod’s Law would have it, there was a HUGE sale going through and all hands were needed as we helped to strip beds, repackage the sold items, hand item by item to the sales associate to process at the till. There was stock and boxes everywhere and the department was wrecked. (The order was to go to an airport to the client’s private jet). Of course, we all stayed until the job was done.  The staff got to the Ball, and then those who were working on the Sunday had to arrive early the following morning to recover the department, ready for trading at opening time…that’s luxury retailing for you.

Mothers and daughters

The theme of mothers and daughters seems to run through my books: Angie Winkle reflects on her relationship with her mother in The Borrowed Boy. Bea has a difficult relationship with her mother who is overprotective but also her biggest champion, in Just Bea. I am currently writing Misdirection and again this important relationship between mothers and daughters is emerging. 

I had a close relationship with my mother. Although she died seven years ago, I carry her in my heart. She is my inner voice giving her guidance, blessing, and reminding me what is important and what is not. Just as she did when she was alive.

The loss of any loved one is hard to bear but losing a mother brings a special kind of grief. They are a source of unconditional love. A childhood nightmare of being separated from your mum becomes a reality and you feel as bereft and cut adrift as if you were that little child. Until I lost my mother, I did not fully comprehend the enormity of this loss. It doesn’t matter how old you are – male or female, it is devastating. 

In the early days of my bereavement, two thoughts comforted me. I had a strong sense of my mother; we had shared so much in my lifetime – part of me was her. In fact, when my mother knew she only had days left to live she said, ‘You are me now.’ What she meant was, I now had the responsibility of taking on her role in caring for the family – holding us all together. 

When I was grieving, I imagined a cherished shrub in the garden. It never died because when it started to die back there were always new shoots. Like that shrub, my mother continued to live through me. I came from her and she would always be a part of me.

The other thought that comforted me was something I read. The grief of bereavement is an expression of our love for the person who has passed. Love is good. It is a positive emotion. When I thought of grief as an outpouring of love it felt healing and I welcomed it instead of fighting it.

On the evening that my daughter was born when I had slept off the trauma of giving birth, I asked a nurse to bring my baby to me. I held that tiny girl in my arms and felt something within me unfurl, like a flower opening up to the sun. It was a part of me that had been lying dormant. I did not even know it existed. Now I felt whole.

Soon after her birth, my husband gave up work to be a stay-at-home dad and I took on the role of sole wage earner. This was not a terrible hardship as I loved my work but I also loved being a mum. As soon as I got home from work each evening, we played together. My daughter would be waiting at the window or door to greet me and we were off – no time to change or have a cup of tea, she would lead the way to a den she had made with the bedclothes, or tell me the part I had to take in a play she was producing with her dolls. I was fortunate because my husband prepared the evening meal and so I was free to play. I loved those imaginary games. I always have. I would lose myself in the game in the same way that I do in writing a story. 

We are still the best of friends today. This is a shot of us in Amsterdam when we went away for a weekend together.

This wonderful relationship with my daughter may have confused her because she drew a picture of two small stick figures holding hands and a bigger one who she said was Dad. Then, there was a time when she was about twelve and I was reprimanding her about something. My other half came up the stairs saying, ‘What’s going on?’ to which my daughter said, ‘It’s not fair, he always takes your side. Just because you’re the eldest.’ 

Today she is thirty-one and we continue to be close. I am incredibly proud of her and all that she has achieved. 

The relationship between mothers and daughters is not always smooth, especially when daughters are in their teens and trying to break away to establish their own identity. 

My mum gave me a little book compiled by Shelley Klein called Mothers and Daughters: A special collection for That Special Relationship. It is full of wonderful quotes. This one is from Charlotte Church.

‘My mum is one of the most courageous women I know. She’s so strong. She’s emotional and passionate about everything in her life. Sometimes we hate each other and then sometimes we love each other so much it’s ridiculous.’

You can be anything that you want to be – here’s how

I always told my daughter you can be anything that you want to be. At three years old she said, ‘I want to be a king and an acrobat.’ Of course, if you could be anything why wish to be a queen, when you could be king? Anyway, this was the explanation she gave me when she was older and I questioned, why a king?

My beautiful daughter is now thirty-one and as you can see from the photo below, she is an accomplished acrobat and much more. She is both King and Queen of her world, and of my heart. 

To make the most of our time on this earth we first need to discover our life purpose. When we find this, it is like unleashing a powerful energy- our life force. Some people call it a passion. It drives us to achieve and can fill us with an unbearable longing – a heartfelt wish, as we strive to fulfil our potential and become our authentic self. 

It is a challenging journey. The vision that we have – to become a King, may feel impossible at first and there will be times when we wonder if we should just give up. That it is too hard. It is hard. My mother always told me that nothing worthwhile is ever easy. When we find the thing that brings us joy – our purpose, then we must honour ourself and our creator by pursuing our dream. 

Self-doubt

The biggest barrier to success is self-doubt. Before we even get started the thought goblins will be telling us that there is no point, that there is too much competition, we can’t afford the specialist equipment, we are too old. Thought goblins will come up with one reason after another. It is their job, they are trying to keep us safe, and avoid the risk of disappointment or failure. Another voice – our heart, will tell us not to give up, that this is our dream. We must follow our heart. Listen to our inner voice.

Creatives will know the power of self-doubt. The fear of failure that can kill an idea before it has a chance to take root.

Above all else believe in yourself. Practice daily affirmations if that helps. I save my best reviews and emails from editors and publishers that tell me I can write, and I read these when I feel my confidence ebb.

Discouragement

Our family and friends might love us dearly, however, when we discover a new passion, and start to realise our potential we change. This can have an effect on our relationships. Partners and close friends might feel uncomfortable with a shift in the status quo and try to hold us back, by feeding our self-doubt or discouraging us. Listen. Be kind and understanding. Reassure. But do not let this deter you from your goal. Your loved ones will adjust in time and if they do not then it is their problem to resolve not yours. 

Competition

There will always be some people who are more and some who are less accomplished than we are. Learn from those who are more skilled and offer assistance to those who are not. When we start looking around to size up the competition, we lose our stride and fall back. Do not compare yourself with others or with other versions of yourself. Keep present. Focus on what you are doing now and strive to make it the best it can be.

photo by Dimitris Vetsikas Pixabay

Dead ends

I recognise these. Twice in my life I have experienced what I perceived to be the way ahead closed to me. These events were of such significance that on both occasions I had dreams portending the need for me to change direction. The first time it was a career change. I was applying for jobs as the Chief Executive of a health trust. I had prepared well and was being championed by influential players. The night before my first interview I dreamt that I could not exit a roundabout as I had intended. I didn’t get the job. The dream recurred each time I went for a similar job. When I re-evaluated what I wanted from my career and looked more widely at the options available to me I found a much better fit. 

The second time I experienced this was a couple of decades later. I was represented by a respected literary agent and my novel was on submission to publishers. Everything was looking rosy and yet I had that same dream again. You guessed it. I did not get a contract. Several months later I self-published my debut and have not looked back. 

When it feels as though the way ahead is blocked, we are being led in another direction. Listen to your intuition. New pathways reveal themselves when we are open to new possibilities.

Perseverance

Never, ever give up. During the most challenging periods of my journey to publication I found inspiration in a couple of films: Eddie the Eagle and Walt before Mickey. 

Michael Edwards, AKA Eddie the Eagle represented Great Britain in the 1988 Winter Olympics Ski Jumping, fulfilling his life long ambition to compete in the Olympics. Edwards was disadvantaged in every way and yet overcame adversity through determination. 

Similarly, Walt Disney in the film Walt before Disney, experienced one knockback after another. He hit an all-time low that would have anyone else throwing in the towel. But not the hero of this film. Walt Disney had absolute faith in his talent and refused to give up no matter what. Like Eddie the Eagle, he finds another way. 

These are exceptions you might say. Their stories have been dramatized for film. This is true but I took from these films the inspiration and motivation to persevere.

Disney may have experienced extreme lows but look at the highs that came after. When you get a set- back look forward to the time when this will be reversed in equal measure!

You can be anything that you want to be. Believe in yourself and follow that dream.

How to find your life purpose

When I was a small child I remember saying to my mother in earnest, ‘I don’t know what God wants me to do.’ A teacher must have told a story from the bible which I took to heart. I would have been about seven-years-old. I remember clearly being anxious that I had an important purpose in life but could not recall what it was. My mother made light of my remark as she tucked me up in bed, but that thought stayed with me.

Finding our life-purpose sounds terribly grand and noble, but all it means is discovering who we are meant to be. We each have a unique combination of attributes. The way that we see the world. Our life experience. Talents, knowledge, and networks. Like the seed of a plant, our DNA has within it all that we need to become our unique self.

Imagine your life like a story. There are clues dropped like breadcrumbs; you are not the reader but the protagonist of this story. Have you ever visited a place and had an aha moment as though you recognise its significance? This has happened to me throughout my life, whether it is a place of work or somewhere that I will one day live. The relevance of that spark is not obvious at the time but later when I find myself back there, I realise why I felt a connection. Maybe the same is true of the people that we meet.

Following on with the analogy of our life being like a story, I want to share with you another observation. I believe that when we get to the end of our life and look back, it all makes sense. How we got to where we needed to be. Why things happened as they did. If you are going through a dark period in your life, turn the pages knowing that all will be well.

But I digress. There are other signs for us to follow. When I am deciding whether a job is right for me, I ask myself, does the prospect of this job make my heart sink or sing? I apply this to any big decisions. Trust your heart. When your heart soars you are on the right track.

I was recently asked to address a conference of public sector workers on my transition from working in health and social care to becoming a full-time author. I am sharing with you an extract from my presentation, as these words clarified for me the values that have shaped my life.

My life purpose has been one of championing and enabling people who feel disadvantaged. I spent my career trying to improve people’s experience of care. I chaired boards, wrote national reports, talked with ministers, and in recent years wrote many Safeguarding adult reviews and domestic homicide reviews. My head and heart are filled with the stories of people who have experienced and, in many cases, overcome adversity. In my local and national reports, I strived to give a voice to those people. 

Now I am a full-time author my purpose has not changed. In fact, I feel compelled to release those voices. To give them life and to write them a happy ending. They are still clamouring to be heard and unless I get them down on paper, they will continue to hound me. I don’t write to try and change the world, or to deliver a message. I write because it brings me joy. I hope that the immense pleasure I get from writing my novels is experienced in some way by the reader. If in reading about my protagonists’ lives, I stir some empathy or shine a bit of light that brings hope then I am grateful. 

I have often said in my blogs that a seed is sown in our hearts by our creator for us to nurture to fruition. Like the sap which rises in plants as they prepare for growth in the spring, the idea becomes a passion and drives us on a path to succeed and fulfil our dream/goal. Noticing this energy, what excites us and makes us happy helps us to find direction and purpose. 

Do what you love, because that is what you will be good at, and in turn, you will be successful. 

At seven years old I recognised the importance of finding my purpose in life, even if I did not know what it meant. Every one of us is unique. We each have a valuable contribution to make. Do not compare your path to anyone else’s. Follow your heart and believe in yourself because you are awesome.

Out with the old and in with the new

This is my first year of writing a blog and so I do not have a tradition of sharing with you my aspirations for the coming year or a review of the year that has passed. However, this is something I have practiced in my personal journaling for the past thirty years. I have got it down to a fine art with a review of the highs and lows, then bullet point aspirations for the coming year. As I have grown older and wiser my aspirations have become modest and more about maintaining good health and well-being. So, I get a kick of satisfaction when I write at the beginning of each new year that I have exceeded my expectations.

Maybe my intuition prepared me for what 2020 was to bring because my aspirations were:

  • Keep up daily meditation practice
  • Continue to write every day
  • Continue to exercise – yoga, Pilates, cardio, etc.
  • Improve diet by planning meals in advance, using what is in the fridge.
  • Buy less or zero clothes

The above was pretty much what filled every day! I am proud to say that I did not buy a single item of clothing. I had just finished writing the first draft of Just Bea and in the process researched recycled clothes. This raised my awareness of waste as a result of fashion and I decided that I had more than enough clothes to last me several years. 

My writing goals were to complete Just Bea so that it was ready for publication and to start work on Misdirection. At that time I was represented by a top literary agent and The Borrowed Boy was out on submission so I was hoping for a publishing contract.

My reviews of previous years have been filled with travels to exotic places, family occasions, theatre, exhibitions – all of the things we missed in 2020. However, there was a silver lining for me because I focused 100% on writing, publishing, and marketing my books.

At the end of March, I decided to self-publish The Borrowed Boy and inspired by Joanne Penn of The Creative Penn (look up her podcast and website – she is amazing) to become an Indie Entrepreneur. I have learnt so much this year and loved every minute of this exciting journey. I have connected with wonderful people all over the world: readers, authors, bloggers, life coaches, and teachers. 

At the end of 2019, my heartfelt wish was –  to quote my journal, ‘To get a publishing contract.’ Although this did not happen, what did happen was better because it opened up new opportunities for me and fulfilled an aspiration that I had long forgotten. Many years ago, I imagined writing a column in a magazine about the sort of things I write about here in my blog. There was no such thing as a blog then and the vision I had of sharing my reflections in a column was crazy but the idea nagged me. I believe that ideas are sown in our hearts with a purpose. It may take some time before they make sense, but I know from the joy I get in writing my blog that it is what I was meant to do.

My first blog was posted on 16th April 2020 and with the exception of 28th December, I have posted a blog every Monday since then.

I won’t go through everything I have achieved this year but I will just express my gratitude for a few more things that came into my life once I decided to take the path of an Indie Entrepreneur.

Friday salon Tweet-chats

Every Friday at 4 pm GMT, 12 EST on Twitter I host a tweet-chat for the writing community – Friday Salon. I look forward to our weekly chats and have met some great people from across the world. Everyone is welcome to join in. Before this year, I did not engage with social media. I love people and believed Twitter with the limitation on words to be superficial. However, tweet-chats and the supportive writing community I found on Twitter proved me wrong. When the world feels like a dark place, I look to the network of like-minded people I have discovered through social media and I imagine them shining bright, lighting up the world. 

Castaway Books

I have been busy recording interviews with some of my favourite authors about the books which have shaped their lives and influenced their writing. Learning how to edit films and starting a YouTube channel and podcast was a steep learning curve – but I am ready to share this with you early in the new year.

Books

The Borrowed Boy was published on 1st August and has already received three awards. Just Bea my second novel will be published on 1st February. Check my Facebook page Deborah Klée Author for news of the launch party on 4th February 8pm GMT with a paperback giveaway draw, which you are invited to attend.

In summary

It has been a difficult year in many respects as I am missing my family, especially my daughter and her husband who we have not seen for a whole year, and my father who is in a care home. I visit him whenever I am allowed to but I have not hugged him since 3rd March. However, I am grateful that we live in a beautiful part of the world, that we have a garden and a spacious house, that my husband and I both have creative pursuits and interests to keep us occupied, and above all that we have good health. 

I hope that you have good things to look back on in 2020 and wish you the very best for 2021. Thank you for subscribing to my blog and commenting on my posts. I love hearing from you.