Why everything is working out perfectly for you, with author, Isabella May

In this third episode of season two, The Mindful Writer, Isabella May talks frankly about her writing and spiritual journey. It was recorded some months ago, and listening to it today, I realise how my writing life has changed since that interview. At that time, I had two complete manuscripts and was undecided whether to pursue a traditional publishing route or Indie publish. Now, I am approaching the launch date of The Forever Cruise – the paperback is already on sale with Amazon. I needed to make sure I could order copies in time for my book launch and with postal strikes and Christmas approaching I didn’t want to risk any delay. Anyway, listening to Isabella’s philosophy about being true to yourself, and trusting you are on the right path, it reinforced the decision I had already made. Before we get to that fascinating interview let me update you on my writing journey.

Since my holiday, which was only six weeks ago, life has been hectic. All great things – and related to writing but too much. When I plan and commit to things, I underestimate how much time and energy each activity takes. Everything is in my diary but I do not take account of how much energy I have. Sometimes I think of my energy like a jug of water. There is only so much available to me each day. I have to stop planning activities by time and start thinking about the energy they use. It’s no good filling every hour with tasks if there is no water left in that jug! And I have to replenish the jug with relaxation. I am celebrating my 63rd birthday this week and although I am in excellent health, I am beginning to realise that maybe I need to listen to my body and slow down – just a little.

Writing news – my WIP on a sunken village is progressing well. The Last Act is out on submission with publishers. And The Forever Cruise will be published as an e-book 1st December. Life is good!

Now on to the interview.

Isabella May is a level 4 pranic healer, and the author of foodie, romance, journey books. Having experienced domestic violence and the birth of a still born daughter, Isabella went on a spiritual journey.

 In this interview Isabella tells me how her understanding of The Law of Attraction, and Pranic Healing have transformed her life and led to her to a deeper understanding about her journey as a woman, and as a writer.

To connect with Isabella on social media:

http://www.isabellamayauthor.com

Twitter – @IsabellaMayBks

Instagram – @isabella_may_author

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMayAuthor/

Isabella May

You can listen to the podcast here: Episode two (season 3) Why everything is working out perfectly for you, with author Isabella May.

Or read the transcript below:

Deborah: Hi, today I’m talking to Isabella May. Hi, Isabella.

Isabella: Hi, thanks for inviting me.

Deborah: An absolute pleasure. Isabella May, is author of eight foodie, romance, journey books. And I love saying that because they are my three favourite things: food, travel and romance. She’s a successful author, and has a life that Isabella described in a blog once as ‘pretty damn rosy.’ In fact, you’re joining us from the Costa del Sol in Spain as we speak, which is where you now live.

Isabella’s journey has not been an easy one, her experience of school bullying, a decade of domestic violence, and the heartbreak of a stillborn daughter, are life events that many of us would not recover from. Isabella attributes the positive changes in her life to a spiritual awakening.

She is now happily married with a family, and was traditionally published before embracing the opportunities of being an indie author.

Isabella, this is quite a journey. Can we start with your spiritual awakening? Perhaps tell us a bit about this experience and how it helps you to manage the highs and lows of being a writer. As I said, being a writer can be a very emotional experience. But it should be a picnic in the park compared to what you’ve been through. Tell us about your learning how you’ve used that.

Isabella: In many ways it has been a lot easier. So, I grew up in Glastonbury, which I don’t know if every single person listening has heard of it, but it’s a very spiritual, mythical town in the UK, in Somerset. And I think that really sets the tone for my spiritual journey. You have always got that intrigue, and there’s something about being born – I wasn’t born on the ley lines, but I lived in Glastonbury from toddler through to 27. So, I think you absorb that energy. And that stays with you, even if you move.

Yes, I now live in Spain, and in between that I’ve lived in various cities in the UK. I did a degree in languages. I was based in Bordeaux and Stuttgart – so, France and Germany. And around my early 20s, I started to get into self-help books. Let’s just say, I started off with Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, like many people would have. And that piqued my interest. And then, you know, I started to devour quite a few mainstream books, and you start thinking alternatively. And then, eventually, when we moved to Spain, 

I stumbled across the secret, as many people will have, on the law of attraction. And that’s when things really started to kick into gear.

 I’d been through, as you say, all of those awful experiences. Financially, we weren’t in a great position as a family. I had walked away from a career – a really good jet-set career in foreign rights and selling children’s books overseas. So, I was flying off to different countries regularly every few weeks. And yeah, it was a really great time. But unfortunately, I ended up working for a company toward the end of that career, that treated me very badly as a woman, particularly in light of the stillbirth I went through

I was very backed into a corner by many male members of staff, let’s just say – and it was an awful, awful experience. So that’s another one to add to the list.

I think I started to piece together around that time, when we came to Spain, that things weren’t happening to me. It was a cause-and-effect thing. It was a law of attraction thing. And that’s what really, really got me thinking.

I was in a position then where my husband basically said: Look, you know, your career in foreign rights, obviously, it’s over. We had two young children to look after. So, I had two other children – one either side of the stillbirth. And I couldn’t really continue with my foreign rights publishing career, but I’d always wanted to write. I always wanted to write – I wanted to write a book, which was very different to the usual rom coms that are out there. 

I wanted the book to include domestic violence, because it’s something I have been

you through. But I wanted readers to understand that it can happen – even when you have good things going on in your life. 

So, for example, for me, I was working in publishing and one side of my life was very rosy. And, you know, I’d step out the door and I was one person. But when I came back home, at the end of the day, I was the downtrodden. I wasn’t a housewife – I wasn’t married, but I was the downtrodden housewife. And I wanted to put that out there. 

So yeah, my husband, who was not part of that domestic violence relationship, he was very supportive. And he basically said: Look, you know I’ve got this job in Gibraltar. You can’t really do much with the school hours that the children have here, because they are very short in Spain. Start jotting ideas down and you know, go for it. Use this time to write that book.

So yeah, The Secret, kind of tied in with all of that, and it felt like I was on a path that I should have always been on – the signs always been there. I hope I’m not taking too long to, to answer this question. Along the way – the signs had always been there. They had been there since I was a toddler on a potty, when I used to have a pile of books by the side of me, and I wouldn’t get off – and I’d end up with a red ring around my bottom. And I used to – also when I was a young child – make up quirky, silly stories about the people on our street. I’d draw illustrations to go with them. And they were always a bit wacky – a bit different, you know. They always had that sense of humour laced through them. So, I think that’s where the rom com aspect comes from.

Deborah: That’s fascinating. I want to pick up on something you said earlier, before we get too far ahead. You said something very interesting. You said you realised things weren’t happening to you. It was two-way. That’s interesting, because lots of writers can feel –when they’re experiencing rejection, and they are feeling that they are outside and can’t get into that traditional publishing process – frustration. They can feel very victimised – things are happening to me. So, can you just shine a light on that and tell us a bit more about what you mean by that which might be helpful?

Isabella: Yes. So, I think it’s just – sort of, that realisation that your thoughts – 

your thoughts, your feelings, your actions, everything is energy.

I’ve learned to expand on that much more now. Because after The Secret, the Rhonda Byrne Law of Attraction books, I went on to study Esther Hicks, and Abraham. And then after that, shortly after that, pranic Healing came into my life. And that changed everything. It was like the missing piece of the puzzle. 

And it’s the understanding that you’re planting seeds all the time, everything you put out there, is multiplied and comes back to you.

So, you know, if you want good things to happen in your life, if you want success – you’ve got to stop looking at yourself in a certain way. And I can’t speak for everyone, because I think you’ve got to be at a certain point on your spiritual journey to accept that and to understand that – you know, you can’t kind of force it down anyone’s throat. And I must admit, I did start to do that when I got into The Secret. I’d have people come over to stay here and I’d leave copies in the spare room – like a preaching sort of fairy godmother, but everyone’s on their own journey. 

I was at that stage in my journey where I was ready, the student was ready the teacher appeared in the form of these books.

And yeah, I really sort of started to realise – particularly with pranic healing, which is just such a high level of spiritual truths, that everything I was doing, you know, everything I received was of my own making. And when you start looking at things in that way, and realising everything’s energy – and taking karma and things like that into consideration, you look at things differently. But again, I know this isn’t going to gel with everybody and I know this is something that will really be difficult for some people to accept, let’s say.  

So, you know, for me, that’s where I’m at in my spiritual journey and it’s made all the difference. All the difference. It’s made my life so much clearer. It’s helped take away the bad emotions associated with writing because I went through quite a struggle with the whole rejection side of things as you say. I take critique and rejection really badly – I always have done. I sort of felt like a star shaped peg really trying to fit into a square hole for a long, long time.

And, you know, whatever I tried – I’m going on to sort of answer another question here – but whatever I tried, it felt like I was pushing all the time – pushing, and pushing, and pushing. And I also felt like the industry owed me because I’d worked on foreign rights for so long. I think I’d spent 12 to 15 years in foreign rights in some form or another. I’d sold books in 45 plus languages everywhere from Korea, South Korea, to Iceland, to the Dutch Island of Aruba, to South Africa. And I felt like, hang on a minute – the traditional industry owes me. I’ve done all of this for them. Now, I want them to put my books out there.

But you get to a point when you realise, you have to surrender because your mental health is on the floor from constant rejections. 

And I was always so close. It was always Yes butYes, you wrote really beautifully. We love it, but you’re trying to do too much. That was the usual old chestnut rejection I would get.

For me, things came to a head when – I’ll be quite honest, I did a Romantic Novelist Association thing. Kind of like a conference where they pair authors with an agent or an editorial director. You choose your top three, and they put you together and you have a chat. You send off your manuscript, and they look through it and appraise it. I don’t think any of them had kind of looked at the fact I’d been traditionally published before. And they were just – It was awful. They were teaching me how to suck grapes, basically. And one of them basically said – this was someone from a big top five publishing house. No, you need to write the whole thing over again. That was from my book, The Chocolate Box. You need to write the whole thing over again. And we would suggest you  base it in a hotel, and you have the character dropping chocolates under the pillows … And you do this and you do that. I thought, hang on one minute, you’re rewriting my entire story. That doesn’t happen in it at all – you know, it’s just not what it’s meant to be. It’s based in a French Gite. And it’s a team-building retreat run by this woman who’s faked her CV to be HR manager, so she can get the guy who works at the company. No, I don’t think I’m basing it in a hotel. Yeah, so I think that was it for me. I just thought, why you’re putting yourself through this? I just didn’t know why I was doing it anymore. It’s not working.

You know, and I’ve also seen so many writers spend two years of their life constantly sending off subs and things and it’s great when it works. But sometimes it’s not meant to work – sometimes trad isn’t the path to take and the universe is trying to tell you something, you know?

Deborah: I must jump in there, because you’ve touched on something that is very relevant to me for where I am in my journey. I’ve self-published two novels. I’ll be frank too. I had a leading literary agent representing me on my first book, who said that she thought it’d be snapped up by the industry – that it really deserved to be published. I was so excited. And she went out to the big five. And anyway, 18 months later – I mean, I had to keep doing rewrites – rewrites, and rewrites for her. But the end result – we were pleased with that, but I didn’t get a publishing deal. And then, she dropped me because I’d never actually signed a contract. It really – looking back – it was only if I’d made it with that book, that she was going to sign me. So, that was it. I was completely back into having to find an agent again. That’s the reason I self-published. For me, it was wonderful – not just the self-publishing experience, the indie author experience, which I’ve loved. It was realising that I didn’t have to give away the control or responsibility for my happiness to a person or an industry – that I could take control of that. 

I loved that freedom, because it can really wear you down that whole waiting for somebody to say, Yes, I approve of youYes, you’re good enough

And all the things that we read into it – which they’re not saying, but we read into it. Our esteem is held in, you know, in their hands as far as we see it at the time. So, I moved past that. But now, I’m at the point where I’ve got two full manuscripts and I’m going through that process again, this time with a very different attitude because I’m much lighter of heart. I’m not handing responsibility to anyone. I know there are options. And I keep on looking to the universe for answers – am I to carry on as an indie author? Or am I to go this way? And it’s difficult. I’m older than you. And I think to myself about how much time I’ve got, you know, whether you can waste 2- 3 or 5 years, waiting for a yes, when you don’t know how many writing years you’ve got in you.

Isabella: I totally understand what you’re saying. And that, for me is one of the things that you really, sort of, take into account. I mean, no, I don’t like comparing myself to other people. But I’ve started on this writing journey at the same time as other friends and some of them have been messed about by literary agents to be quite frank – they won’t be listening to this podcast – I don’t think, but if they are – sorry. They have been.

And they are younger, okay. And that’s their path, perhaps. But I can’t help but think, well, I’ve got 10 books out there in that space of time, and it’s not quantity, obviously, it’s quality. 

But I think as long as you stay true to yourself, as long as you know – if you get to that point eventually, where they’re not discrediting your unique voice – the agent or publisher that signs you. But if you’re being asked to rewrite things so much, that it’s a totally different story and it’s not what’s come from your heart, and your soul, then I think it’s hard to sit with that – as how to stand in front of that book and feel as proud about it as you could be. And I mean, in a way, I kind of liken it to the same way that women, in particular, have fought to be heard for centuries. You know, we have writers and stories who don’t naturally fit in, we’ve all got a unique storytelling voice. And if that’s being watered down too much, that’s not what we’re here to do. 

I think we’ve all got unique voices and unique ways of expressing ourselves. And we do ourselves a massive discredit, if we are moulding ourselves too much to fit into the industry.

I think as long as you’re not forging your creativity by ticking all the boxes of an agent or publishing house, then that’s fine. But I don’t think anyone will ever truly be satisfied if they go down that route and have to do that too much. And I think then, success is fleeting and meaningless in a way. 

And what I love is the way that traditional publishing has been shaken up at the moment, we’re entering – or we already have, into the Age of Aquarius, and creativity really needs to shine now. That’s what we’re being called to do.

So, there’s new ways of doing things, you know, evolution is part of it. And we don’t need these badges of honour from these big companies. They are lovely but like you say, you’re seeking an outsider’s approval all the time. And for me, that should really only come from the readers, not from the gatekeepers.

I find that frustrating – we only, really, need our own approval, and obviously, some readers – otherwise nobody’s going to buy our books. And obviously, a good editor. We can’t just throw material out there willy-nilly. But yeah, everything’s changed so much. And you can see that as well with, for example, with Booktoc. So, I’m a big part of the Booktoc community at the moment. 

Deborah: Sorry. What is that Booktoc?

Isabella: Tik Tok

Deborah: Oh, Tic Tok – Booktoc. Got it.

Isabella: I didn’t want to get involved, initially. Actually, Lizzie, who was on this show before, she coaxed me into it. And yes, it’s made quite a difference in terms of daily sales on daily Kindle Unlimited patriots. And what I love about it is that you can truly be yourself on that platform, to people of all ages, all backgrounds, all genres of writing, and we are just on there for the books, we’re not on there for anything else. We’re literally just on there for books. So, we have our own book talk hashtag, but you can be yourself on there. So that’s a great place for your personality to shine and it then creates a level playing field for all of us. There is no advantage over being a traditionally published author on there. And you’ll find that indies are selling many, many times more books than the traditional authors because indies have more time to go on there and do it. The traditionally published authors are like, Well, I’m not doing this marketing. My publisher should be doing that.So, you know for me, it’s made a huge difference.

 And it’s free as well. It’s a really creative platform. There’s so much you can do with it. And I find it very exciting. And the fact that sort of turned up the year that I made the decision to be completely self-published, I think that’s great. It’s really exciting. I mean, I’m not obviously selling millions of books. It’s changed things. It’s definitely changed things andyou realise you can then be directly in touch with your readers. You don’t need anyone gatekeeping, or telling you your books are good enough, you know – they will.

Deborah: I love that. I didn’t know that there was this Booktoc I knew about Tik Tok. But there’s so many horrible things on Tik Tok, I decided not to get involved. I’m going to check it out now. 

Isabella: It’s in Tik Tok – If you see what I mean? It’ll be #booktoc once you’re in TikTok. And yeah, I’d heard a lot of bad things about Tik Tok, I really had. I was very reluctant to join. I understood, it was all teenagers lip synching, and dancing around in bikinis and all that kind of thing. And honestly, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a very positive, supportive community.

So, I will go there as opposed to spending my time on Twitter, for example. I’m not on Twitter very much anymore. And I kind of switched my time marketing #booktoc. So, you’ll find Mind Body Spiritual Authors on there, as well, you know, all sorts of authors, from all different genres. It’s really good.

Deborah: So, Isabella, how do you find your emotional courage, your resilience, and your determination when you need it? Where does that come from?

Isabella: Well, it’s certainly been tested through the pandemic, like most people’s but meditation. So, I do a very specific meditation called Twin Hearts, which I try to do every day. But it really does cleanse the aura of stress and negative energy. It really calms everything down and stops all the mind chatter. It’s great. And then, where I’ve learnt pranic healing, I also apply pranic psychotherapy techniques to physically remove stress, anxiety, depression – anything like that, from the chakras. So, that’s amazing. It really, really helps. And it also boosts motivation.

And also, I suppose having a sort of sense of purpose and a sense of destiny. And knowing deep within that I am on the right path now, now that I’m self-publishing.

And having a vision as well, I think it’s important to keep a vision in mind and not to compare yourself to others. 

That is one of the worst things that you can do as a writer, and I’m very guilty of doing it from time to time. 

Deborah: One of my biggest fears, I guess, because I’m further back in the journey than you are – having only indie published two novels. I spent a lot of money on getting it done probably: structural edits, copy edits, good cover design. I did it all properly. But there’s a lot of financial investment, and what I find difficult – where my courage is affected, I kind of know that the more books I get out there, and the more promoting and advertising, it will eventually pay off. But I feel very uncomfortable about spending that much money. Without – you know, my courage fails me when I don’t see the income coming anywhere near to matching the expenditure. How do you how do you cope with that?

Isabella: Again, go back to the pranic healing side of things that’s been incredible with helping me with all aspects of life. Pranic healing covers finances as well. So, it covers health, spirituality, relationships, and finances. And yeah, 

it’s just having that understanding that you have to give to receive, you have to exhale to inhale. Everything’s a cycle.

You have to kind of look at it in that way. But it can be very difficult. I understand that at a grassroots level, when you’re in the thick of it and you’re thinking oh my goodness, you know, I’m spending out on editing – I’m doing this, I’m doing that. It’s difficult to justify carrying on but what I look at, as well, is the fact that abundance and prosperity comes in from many, many different channels. Sometimes it doesn’t come back to us directly from our books, but it will come through other means. And that’s been really interesting to look at.

My books have a very kind of uplifting, good energy feel to them, I suppose. They help people escape and they’re infused with positivity. Ultimately, of course, they have some baddies and things like that, but they’re very uplifting. And I think when you’re putting words out there, obviously words have vibrations, or on the spiritual side – they literally do have vibrations. 

So, if you’re putting good words out there, and you’re helping people in some way to perhaps think about improving areas of their life, and you can sow these kinds of seeds into a romcom even, then I think, ultimately, you are going to get that good karma back at some point.

It might not be immediate, but the more you put out there, the more it will come back. And so, it’s just trusting really, but it is hard at times. It’s hard when you don’t see that instant gratification as you would with, you know, a nine to five office job where you’re getting paid at the end of the month – you know what’s coming in, and it’s regular. 

Deborah: That’s really helpful. Thinking as well, about some women – I know some women who have expressed a feeling that they’re being selfish if they spend time to write instead of being with their partner. And, again, spending money on something if they have a joint account with their partner. Now, I’m not talking about me here, but I’m talking about other women who might be listening, who have felt that to pursue a creative hobby or interest that maybe a partner sees as a hobby, feels selfish. And so, what would you say to them?

Isabella: Well, I think it harks back to – and I’m, you know, this is such a timely question – I’m reading so many books at the moment where women’s rights, you know, the suffragette movement, all sorts of things, are coming into whatever fiction I’m reading.  And I just look back at it, and I think we have to keep pushing for this, you know,

 we have to let our voices be heard, whether it be in our writing, our storytelling, whether it be in voting or you know, equality – when it comes to things like abortion. It encompasses everything we do.

That’s one of the reasons I write foodie, romance journeys, because I get so fed up with hearing women justify how many calories they’ve eaten, and that side of things. It’s the sort of everyday nuances that get swept under the carpet if we don’t stand up for them. I would say that many women, not all women, but many women have had families, and we have brought children up and we’ve mothered and now it’s time for us, we’ve made sacrifices with our careers. And just because the money isn’t coming in immediately, you know, we are entitled to do this. It’s something for us, whether we’re doing it for a hobby, or we’re doing it as a career. You know, we’re entitled to have this time to express ourselves creatively. And we’re not just doing it for ourselves, we’re doing it for all the women who’ve come before us – for all of them, who struggled and fought to get us to where we are today. And we still got a long way to go on this journey. So, it’s really important, I think, and I understand, it’s not easy. 

When I got together with my husband, I was the breadwinner and things have totally turned around since children – as they do, and now he earns a lot more than I ever did back then.

But I just think you support each other. And you know, if you’ve got a partner who doesn’t support you, then well, I don’t like to say it. But maybe it’s time to ask questions as to your relationship and things like that.

Deborah: Thank you. Thank you. I’m getting a lot out of talking to you. I hope – I’m sure, everybody will. But I personally thank you as well, for so much. So, Isabella, what words of wisdom would you impart to your younger self? It’s a question I ask everybody that comes on to this podcast. If you were to look back at that time when you were really at your lowest as a writer and struggling – from where you are now what would you say to your younger self?

Isabella:

I would say it’s all happening perfectly and stop comparing yourself to everybody else.

I still do it now and I still have to tell myself off for doing it. But I do. I will compare myself to other writers. I think, well, you know, they’re signed up with that publisher, and they have all these books out, and have been translated into all these foreign languages. Something I would love – seeing as I worked in foreign rights for so long. I hope they appreciate how lucky they are. You know, they’ve won this award, or that award. They’ve done, this, that, or the other. And then, I look at them and think – well maybe that don’t have a family. Maybe it’s easier for them to write and produce more. Maybe they are older than me. Maybe they started their writing career in their twenties. There are so many variables, and we are all such different people. And so, you can’t, and shouldn’t, compare yourself to anyone else because no two journeys are the same. But I also do believe that it is all happening perfectly and even the books that you’re not so proud of – or for me, I’ve changed my covers multiple times – you look back and think – yes, but if that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be here now at this point. It was a learning curve and a steep learning curve too – being a self-published, indie author. It’s perhaps a steeper learning curve for us than traditional authors. So, I think we have to give ourselves a huge pat on the back, because we have to do so many things, and wear so many hats: writing, and marketing, and publicity. You know, all the variables. And so, yeah, I think we’re doing an amazing job.

Deborah: That’s true. There are so many things I could ask you. You are so fascinating. I’ll have to ask you to come back again on a future show, I think. But before you go – any parting thoughts to encourage writers out there?

Isabella: I would just say:

Stay true to yourself. Don’t be too seduced by traditional publishing.

This is the mistake I made. I was published traditionally with a small press, and they were lovely – Crooked Cat Books. However, they then changed their list and decided to go dark, so my books didn’t fit. So, me and a number of other authors – we all got our rights back. At that point, I thought, that’s it I’m going to have my big break now. I’ve had three books out there. Everybody is going to want to snap me up. I’ve got a nice – small, but loyal readership. I had been with a small publisher and obviously they couldn’t afford much marketing. I thought – That’s it now. Who wouldn’t want me? You know, I write books about food, and romance, and they’ve got good reviews. I got a bit big for my boots, I suppose – I’ll be honest. But I was so fixated on success happening only via the traditional publishing industry – and that was my mistake. Things are really different now, you know. Indies, self-published authors have shaken up the industry so much. It’s not what it was. The hey-day, the golden years, have absolutely gone. They really have. We can go straight to market now, with books, and things are very different.

We hold our destiny in our own hands. 

And so, I know it is a question of finances – as some of us are paying for editors, and good cover designers, and all the rest of it – but I would think seriously about spending years: chasing, and subbing to agents, and you know, going through all that turmoil because it can be. If you’ve got a thick skin, fine go for it. But even then, you know, you can get snapped up and you find, quite often, that there are one or two authors who are cherry picked and have all the marketing thrown at them – and you still have to do your own marketing. So really, in many ways, you might just as well self-publish. And it is so much fun. It really is.

Whether your writing journey takes you on a traditionally published route, an independently published, self-published, or a hybrid one the most important thing is to embrace the experience. Be open to possibilities as you plough your own furrow. I have never been more content and rewarded in my writing life as I accept where I am now with gratitude. 

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

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

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How to make the most of every opportunity and bloom where you are planted with author Saralyn Richard

In this 10th episode of The Mindful Writer, I am joined by Saralyn Richard, author of award-winning mysteries and creative writing tutor. 

Before I introduce you to Saralyn let me update you on my writing journey.

Since getting back from my research visit to the Yorkshire reservoir, I have been impatient to write this story about a sunken village. For the first time as a writer, I am experiencing flashes of scenes and dialogue playing out in my head when I am not writing. This story is like an insistent child nagging me to drop everything and give it my full attention. Unfortunately, that is not possible. I am preparing for the launch of The Forever Cruise on 1st December, submitting The Last Act to publishers, working with the Frinton Literary Festival Committee to deliver a programme of author events in October, and getting ready for my holiday next week! All exciting things – but each of them competing for my attention.

This week’s guest Saralyn Richard has great words of advice on how to keep focused and make the most of every opportunity. So, let me introduce you.

Saralyn Richard writes award-winning mysteries. In this episode she tells me:

  • How after losing her home and all of her possessions in Hurricane Ike, she learnt to focus on what was good in her life.
  • How to keep focused
  • How to make the most of every opportunity 
  • And above all … to ‘Bloom where you are planted.’
Saralyn Richard

Deborah: I’m delighted to welcome Saralyn Richard today – award winning author of the Detective Parrot mystery series and creative writing tutor. So, welcome Saralyn.

Saralyn: Thank you so much. It’s great to be with you today, Deborah.

Deborah: You’re speaking from Texas, and I am from Essex in the UK. So, it’s wonderful that we can be talking from across the globe.

Saralyn: And that we have universal experiences.

Deborah: Absolutely. I think writing really connects people. Writing and reading connect people in a really important, meaningful way. It’s wonderful. But we’ll get to that. You describe yourself Saralyn, as a people person, and you say the most rewarding parts of the writing journey are those that connects you to people. So, let’s talk about networking. Why is this important? And what difference has it made to you and your work?

Saralyn: Well, on the professional side, networking gives you exposure. And exposure is more valuable than anything, it’s more valuable than sales. It’s a way of introducing you to readers that you don’t know. And, and to writers that you don’t know, and to all the people that are in the publishing industry that you don’t know. So, networking is an introduction to a whole world that is brand new. It’s educational, because you learn from every single person that you meet. And it helps you collaborate. And if you think that you’re going to be a successful writer, in your office all by yourself, you’re  sadly mistaken, because writing requires collaboration. But on every level, as you go through the writing process, there are people that you need to work with. And if you don’t have the networking to help you get to those people, then you know you’re closing doors for yourself.

Deborah: I think it might be difficult for people who are very shy, because there are some authors I’ve met on social media, who really aren’t comfortable with connecting with people for all sorts of reasons. Is there any advice or thoughts you could give to help people who find it difficult?

Saralyn: I would say, start slow. Don’t try to connect with 1000 people in your first year as a writer, try to connect with five people. And if five is overwhelming, then try to connect with two people. The connection can be soft. Also, you don’t have to go meet them in person. You can meet them on social media, or you can meet them through a friend, you know, so that the new person is a friend of a friend. But make it a goal for yourself to expand your reach. Maybe just one person at a time or two people at a time. And take it slow. And once you have those successful, new friends – I’m just going to call them friends. It’s easier to make more. It increases geometrically, because those two people will introduce you to maybe two more people each. And so you’ll pull in that way. I mean, a lot of the people that I have met have led me to book clubs, or they’ve led me to organisational meetings, or you know, places where I have met a dozen people or 50 people. And so, it just grows. If you’re shy just think of it as a little seed that you’re planting. And then that seed is going to flourish and it will grow and prosper for you.

Deborah: I love that analogy, because I think everything, we put out there is like sowing seeds. You never know what might take root or where. Because as you go out and you network, and you meet people, unexpected people working across different professions across the world, you don’t know how that’s going to turn into a potential opportunity. Things come back to us, don’t they from most unlikely places? You throw all those seeds out. You don’t know what will take root or where you just have to keep on giving.

Saralyn: Well, it’s like I’ve just met you. And how would we have ever met we are continents apart, and oceans apart? And we would never have met if you hadn’t been committed to networking. And I hadn’t been committed to networking.

Deborah: And other people that led us to each other. It was an author who had contacted me to be interviewed on my other show, Castaway books, who then asked me if I was interested in working with your wonderful Author Talk network – with authors to interview. I told her about my show. And then and the Author Talk network became involved through another one of my guests, Grace Salmon. So, one person leads to another person, leads to another person – and all the opportunities that grow from that. It’s wonderful. And across the world. 

Excellent. Let’s just talk about readers and connecting with them as well. Because there’s something really special isn’t there about your work going out there and then getting the feedback from readers? I sometimes think that any work of art is incomplete – the process is incomplete, until you have that feedback loop. You kind of create your art together with the person receiving it.

Saralyn: I also think that related to that, that a book is your book when you’re writing it. But once it’s out there and published, it’s no longer your book. That book belongs to the reader – to each one of the readers. So, what those readers see in the book is valid for them. And if a reader asks me, Well, what did you mean by this? I have to say, Well, what did you see in that? Because it’s for the reader to find his or her own insights. And the book is now theirs. 

Deborah: Yes absolutely. I love it when readers come back – I’ve spoken to a number of book clubs now. Sometimes they come back with themes that I may not have picked up myself, or insights that I think, Oh yes, I hadn’t thought of that. It’s a two-way process, isn’t it? 

Writers need to develop resilience, determination, and above all else, patience. And I have to admit that although I’m determined, and I’m pretty resilient, patience is my weakness. I want to see results. I’m hard on myself. I push myself.  Waiting for the right thing to happen at the right time has been my mantra, because it’s not natural to me. It’s not my default position. What have you learned about yourself on the writing journey? And how have you developed a positive mindset?

Saralyn: Well, I have a lot of stories to tell. I’ve been collecting them for many, many years. I was an educator, and school administrator, and school improvement consultant. And that kept me so busy I couldn’t write. And it was a very frustrating. I was a frustrated writer, because I had always wanted to be a writer. And I didn’t have the time to do that until I gave up that other profession. I don’t have any regrets about that, because I was collecting stories all along and learning a lot about life and, and gathering these stories to tell. So now that I have the time – and I guess I had to practice patience, to get to that point where I have the time – I’m just so excited to be able to do what I’ve always wanted to do. So, every piece of writing is joyful for me. And mindful too. I bring years when I have thought about writing to the actual writing process. So, I’m happy to be able to practice the craft. I’m happy to be professional in my writing. And I just have fun with every single part of it. 

As far as a positive mindset, I have learned to ignore those things that I can’t control. Like, if I get a bad review, I really have to let it just roll off my shoulders and not think about it, because I can’t control that. Why put my energy on something that is not, it’s not going to be a good use of my energy, it would be better for me to use my energy for something positive. 

I also focus on using my time wisely and productively. Because I have all these stories, I don’t know how much time I have to tell them. And so, I really want to make sure that every writing year that I have, I really spend that improving my writing and bringing new stories to life. 

Probably the third thing I have learned is that seeking answers and feedback from other people that I respect and trust is critical to good writing. You can’t write in a vacuum. People are going to see things in your writing that really kind of amaze you. And so, I have an alpha reader who is my husband. And then, I have a whole slew of beta readers who were in two different critique groups. I solicit input from them. And I really pay attention to what they see in the words, because readers will see the same things. So, I want to make sure that everything that comes out of my pen is what I intended. And I can’t do that alone. I have to depend on others for that feedback. 

Probably the final thing would be I’ve learned how to avoid distractions. And I think that’s really critical in this day and age, with all the beeps and pings – phones ringing and text messages and advertisements and you know, one person screaming louder than the other trying to be heard. I think it’s really important for the writer to just go into the zone of the book and concentrate on that zone. And just block out all these other distractions.  A distraction could be just something like a naysayer that oh, why do you spend so much time doing that? You’re never going to profit from it financially. And that might be true. But there are other reasons that you’re a writer besides just financial profit. And so, I just discard all of those things that might distract me from my purpose.

Deborah: Yes, silencing your inner critic, as well as all the outside noise and focusing in. Yes, I get that. Gosh, you brought up so many really helpful things I want to explore with you. Great words of wisdom, and lots of experience. The first one I wanted to think about was the bit about waiting and improving your craft. Because I think – especially new writers, now that we can publish independently – I think sometimes writers are so keen to get themselves published, or to find an agent, that they don’t wait and give themselves the time to flourish and blossom and become the writer that fulfils their potential.  I always remember that in – I think it was the last adaptation of Little Women – Jo’s father says to her, ‘Your writing is your greatest gift. Don’t sell yourself short’. It’s when she was going to sell her stories to a magazine and she wasn’t developing the story that she could write. 

And something else you said about letting go of the things you can’t control. I think if you haven’t got an agent, or you haven’t got a publishing contract – things aren’t moving as quickly and in the way you hope – trust the right thing will happen at the right time. Because you can’t control that. The universe, God, a greater higher power has a much better picture of the world and what’s there for you. So, all you can do is – do your best to produce the best work you can. When I look back, I very nearly got published with my very first novel, and it’s going back several years. Now, I’m so glad I didn’t, because if I had done, it wasn’t the best I could do. I have had years in which to get better, and I would have sold myself short. So, there is some wisdom in just waiting and being patient, don’t you think?

Saralyn: Well, rushing, doesn’t produce well in anything. Even if you rush to get dressed, you’re not going to look your very best. If you rush to get somewhere you may not actually get there faster. So, taking your time, having patience, knowing that every time that you practice, you’re getting better and better. All of those are very wise things for the new writer.

Deborah: The other thing is you were saying about limited time. You and I perhaps got into writing more toward once we’d finished our fulltime careers. I too used to be a consultant in health and social care, and that was about improving services. And I was in regulation. So, I had a similar sort of role to you. I was writing work and I wanted to write my creative writing. But coming to this as you retire, or in the later years, I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling about how many years have I got to produce this work and a feeling of impatience, that time could be limited. And that drives you a bit as well, doesn’t it?

Saralyn: It does. But the most important thing, I think, is to make the best of, of whatever stage you’re in. And that’s what I tried to do – just make the best of every day, every writing day, every promotional day. Whatever I’m doing that day, I try to make it the best.

Deborah: That’s really good advice. Give 100% to what you’re doing that day. And just because you’re a certain age doesn’t mean to say you’ve got less time than somebody any other age. We have no idea what the future holds.

How do you cope with rejection and disappointment?

Saralyn: Oh, I’m going to divert for a minute to a life experience that I had with a hurricane. I live in hurricane country. The city I live in is an island in on the Gulf Coast of Texas. And occasionally we have severe hurricanes with damage. In 2008, Hurricane Ike destroyed my house, and all of my possessions, everything. It was a traumatic event. And I learned at that time, a very important life lesson, which was not to dwell on what I have lost but to focus on what I still have – what is good in my life. So, every time I missed something like, Oh, I really miss my piano. I just cancelled that thought. And I was like, I really cherish my dogs. You know, I just concentrated on what I really do have that I do appreciate. And I do that same thing. With everything that happens to me in life. It’s a coping strategy, but it’s a good one. It helps me get over the really bad times and the very big losses. And it helps me find gladness and joy about something that I do have or something that I have gained. So, I really just don’t think about rejection and disappointment. I just push it over to the side. And I replace that thought with something that I’m grateful for.

Deborah: That’s amazing. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose everything. It’s been on my mind very much with events going on in the world at the moment – with Ukraine. Putting myself in the place of those people that have had to walk away from everything. And you did the same with a hurricane in. It’s heartbreaking. So, to have come through that, your emotional resilience and courage to find a positive way to look at it – that is incredible. So, I admire you very much for that.

Saralyn: Thank you. But it’s not really something that is to be admired as much as it’s just a life skill. And everybody can be grateful. I mean, gratitude is really helpful. In every situation, even if you’re not feeling down or disappointed. Gratitude is a great way to live your life.

Deborah: I agree. I do – every day, I  think about all the things I’m grateful for. Because I do have a very blessed life. I’m very, very lucky. So, you’ve given many great words of wisdom, which will all be in the show notes, I always. But I always end with the key things from each interview, because there’s so much that’s shared, but have you any words of wisdom or a favourite mantra to leave us with or a quote you’d like to share?

Saralyn: Well, my favourite all time quote is something that I think is going to resonate with you. Because you’ve been using similar metaphors throughout this talk. And that is to bloom where you are planted. So many times, in my life, I’ve been planted in some situations that were not pleasant, or were difficult, challenging. But if you focus on blooming, where you’re planted, then it changes your whole attitude, it changes your whole perspective. And I think it makes you a better person, in this case, a better writer. Because, okay, my publisher is not one of the big five publishers, but I can bloom where I’m planted, and be the best author that I can with the publisher that I have. And I’m totally grateful for the publisher that I have. So that’s, that’s my mantra.

Deborah: It’s a beautiful mantra and a wonderful one to finish on. You’re quite right. It absolutely resonates with me. Thank you so much, Saralyn. It was a joy talking to you.

Saralyn: Thanks, Deborah.

Saralyn has invited you to join her my monthly newsletter for special opportunities, fun content, and ways to connect. Subscribe at http://saralynrichard.com

This is the last episode in season one of The Mindful Writer. What a season it has been! I have been lifted up, inspired, and motivated by the words of wisdom from my incredible guests. When I had the idea for this podcast I did not know where I would find my guests but I am learning when we are on the right track miraculous things happen. 

Don’t worry this is not the end of The Mindful Writer. Season two begins on 5th October with playwright Jack Canfora. In the mean-time, I will be enjoying our first holiday abroad since the pandemic – a France and Spain cruise. I should not say I will because one thing the pandemic has taught us is that things do not always go according to our plan. So, God willing! 

Until we meet again 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 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.

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 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.

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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

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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 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.

Why waiting on God or the Universe is a gift

We live in an era of instant gratification. An expectation that if we live by the rules, tick all of the right boxes that we will be rewarded with our heart’s desire. A person with faith in God, the Universe, can find that faith tested.

When we experience setbacks, we have to draw on our inner resources, developing resilience and this prepares us for what lies ahead. If our prayers are not answered immediately, or even for a considerable time, it is because the time is not right. I am writing this as an author who, like many writers, has experienced frustration and disappointment when a submission to publishers has been rejected, or an agent has passed on a full manuscript. A few years ago, when I first started a daily meditation practice, I did everything: positive affirmations, visualisations, prayers to God. I had absolute faith that all would be well and my novel which was out on submission to editors would, as my agent suggested, be snapped up. As the weeks passed, I did not lose faith. I meditated for longer. Prayed harder. But it was not to be.

I learnt a lot through that experience. The most important lesson – we cannot impose our will over God’s (the Universe). And that is just as well because the great creator of all things has a much better plan for us than we can envisage right now. 

If you have submitted a manuscript or other creative project and experienced rejection then take that as a positive. It means you are not ready. Not because you are not good enough but because you are still developing creatively and your best work is yet to come.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 1994 film adaptation

 In the 1994 adaptation of Little Women with Winona Ryder, Jo’s father counsels her on the wisdom of selling her short stories to a magazine and settling for this as a writer. He tells Jo that writing is her greatest gift and not to squander that gift. He doesn’t mean that writing short stories for a magazine is unworthy, he means work at your writing, nurturing your gift. Maybe the Universe has greater plans for you. Be patient.

To have faith does not mean believing that your will – will be done. It means trusting that all that transpires is in your best interest. We cannot see the bigger picture. 

An author friend desperately wanted to get published. She experienced her share of rejection letters from agents, and disappointment when full manuscript requests did not lead to representation. We had several conversations about what was next. My friend decided that she would be happy to settle for a publishing contract with an independent publishing press, bypassing the need for representation by an agent. So, she sent her MS to several independent publishers and she also entered a national competition. My friend was a runner-up in the competition but this led to representation by an agent. Around the same time, one of the independent publishers came back with the offer of a two-book publishing contract. However, the agent secured a much bigger deal with a leading traditional publisher and my clever friend is now a well-known Times best-selling author. The moral of this tale? Trust that God/ the Universe has a plan for you. It is not for us to decide how bright we will shine but to step into the future that awaits us by being prepared and ready when the time comes.

The challenges that we face as we strive towards our goal test our endurance and determination. It is a way to prepare us for what lies ahead. The bible story of David and Goliath is well-known: how David the youngest and smallest son fought Goliath, a giant of a man, and won. In this bible story, David was bullied by his brothers. Maybe this experience hardened him and gave him the courage to fight Goliath. 

David and Goliath

Many years ago, I was recruited to lead a national project evaluating older peoples’ experience of services provided by local authorities, health, and social care. We were midway in planning and delivering this project when the commissioning agency changed as the result of a merger. As time went on resources were pulled from our project – team members reassigned, funding cut, infrastructure removed, etc. It would have been so easy to give up. To give in my notice and find another job. It was hard. Really tough. It became clear to me that the new organisation was not interested in the project. I was committed to seeing this project through to completion because I had consulted with an advisory group of older people who were passionate about shining a light on the inadequacy of services. I would not let them down. So, my team and I battled on to complete the evaluation and produce a national report. This report was challenged by government departments and the commissioning bodies as it was uncomfortable to read. However, the report was published in 2005. It made national headlines – front pages of all the tabloids. And resulted in a Department of Health initiative to improve dignity in care. That experience taught me to stay the course whatever obstacles are put in my way. As my mother always told me: Nothing worth doing is ever easy. Maybe this experience prepared me for life as an author.

So, if you are waiting impatiently for your dream to manifest reflect instead on how you are growing, changing, and becoming so that when you step into the spotlight you will give the performance of your life.

Why I slept on the street in London

Yesterday, I slept on the street in London. With a mattress of flattened cardboard boxes and a sleeping bag to keep me warm I experienced what many people do every night – except for me it was just one night. I had access to a toilet and hot drinks, as well as the protection of security staff. This is not the experience of people living on the street and I can only imagine how frightening and difficult life is for them. 

I was taking part in the Glass Door Sleep Out and annual event run by the charity to raise awareness and funds to support people affected by homelessness. Glass Door provides safe shelter, food, and advice to people affected by homelessness. 

I was nervous about taking part. It was way out of my comfort zone, but I am always encouraging others to try new things and so I pushed myself. It felt strange travelling into London in the evening when I would normally be settling in for the night. I am sixty-two next month and live in a quiet rural area. To be travelling alone into the night and unknown, my bed the sleeping bag I carried in a laundry bag – it was unsettling. My family were concerned for my welfare, and I expect my sanity. But I have always pushed my boundaries and getting older is no excuse to opt for the easy life. If we do that we stop growing and learning new things. 

I love London but had not visited since the pandemic. It was amazing to be walking along London’s fashionable Kings Road at 10pm on a Friday night. The city was buzzing and I felt alive. Such a relief after the confines of lockdown life.

The Glass Door Sleep Out 2021

The Sleep Out took place in Duke of York Square off the Kings Road. We unrolled our sleeping bags and set up for the night alongside a brightly lit restaurant where diners sat outside dressed in their finery. Such a contrast between two worlds. 

I do not think I slept much, if at all, although the lovely woman, Joyce, who slept alongside me said I had. She too slept for a while as I could tell by her breath pattern. Fortunately, it did not rain that night but it was colder than I expected. Despite layers of clothing, I felt the night chill. I got cramp in my legs – thighs, calves, and feet. Someone’s headphone cuff must have slipped because I picked up the constant drone of a male narrator telling a story. That noise was more annoying than the traffic. It was a relief when the audiobook came to an end and it was then that I must have slipped into sleep. When I removed my eye mask to check the time it was 4.30am and people were starting to pack away their kit. We had to leave by 5am to make way for a street market. It reminded me of a long-haul flight, that moment when the lights go on and breakfast is served although it feels like the middle of the night. I had that same disorientated feeling too, like jet-lag when you are incredibly tired and over stimulated. 

Photo taken by Joyce who slept alongside me. Pleased to be going home.

I returned to a cosy home, a hot bath, and warm bed. Later that day there was a fierce gale and heavy rain. As I sat snuggled in a fleece watching back-to-back films and dozing, I imagined what it would have felt like if I was still out there – tired, and miserable with no place to shelter from the storm.

I hope that I never forget this experience. That I do not take for granted the luxury of my life and give back by serving others. 

If you would like to take part in next year’s Sleep Out or want to know more about Glass Door London https://www.glassdoor.org.uk

I posted a video diary of my experience here: https://fb.watch/8pGVv6m9mV/

Why new beginnings are scary

Beginnings, endings, and the pause between

Beginnings are always scary and endings sad. But it is the most natural cycle in life. In a world of uncertainty, the only things we can depend on happening are birth, disease, and death. Sorry to sound morbid but disease is part of the life-cycle whether we like it or not. 

At this time in my life, I attend more funerals than weddings. I often wonder about all the people who have passed from this life, within my lifetime and generations before. It makes me think of this time on earth as a short but precious experience within something much greater. If nobody died – ever – it would be pretty crowded down here. An overgrown garden with no room for the plants to grow and bloom. 

Our creator decides on our beginning and our end but we too are creators and within our lifespan will orchestrate many new beginnings: jobs, relationships, homes, works of art. The idea to start something new is like a tiny bud of new growth. At first, we may not see the tender shoot. It is hidden from our scrutiny, as we focus on what is familiar. The idea refuses to be ignored and grows. We may glimpse it when our mind is still and wonder – Could I do that?

Cocoparisienne Pixabay

When we are comfortable in our home, or our job, we can put up with a lot of dissatisfaction rather than disrupt what is familiar and step out of our comfort zone. However, when we ignore our idea to try something new it can make us unhappy because it won’t go away. For something new to grow we have to make room and that means cutting back the deadwood. It is hard to accept that something we once loved has run its course. Because endings are sad. We are saying goodbye to a friend that has served us well: a career, job, home, marriage. I retired from a very happy and successful career in health and social care this year to commit to my career as an author. It was five years after glimpsing the first green shoot of that idea.

It is exciting to start a new job, move to a new home, or begin a creative project but scary too. What if I have made the wrong decision? What if I fail? With all the deadwood cutaway we feel exposed. We can no longer hide behind our story – the way we have always done things. We have moved out of our comfort zone and that is when the magic begins because we grow. If what you are doing doesn’t scare you a little then the chances are you are not challenging yourself enough. To achieve our full potential, we need to listen to our intuition, recognise the buds of new growth and make room for them to grow.

I have just returned from staying with my daughter, who is between jobs. I am between projects as I have finished writing a novel and am about to start a new one. The pause between. In yoga, the pause between breaths is sacred as it is a place of stillness. Each new breath brings oxygen and life into the body, the exhale discards what no longer serves us. When we are still, we are at one with ourselves. Free of thought we can tune into our senses – how we feel: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. It can be an uncomfortable place as we often use activity and repetitive thought patterns to block feelings we do not want to acknowledge. However, to be still – to be present in the pause between, allows us to appreciate all that we have become through our experience and prepare us for the challenges ahead.

I am in a pause between books, my third novel set in the world of theatrical magic in 1980 which is doing the rounds with literary agents and a new story idea that has been nagging me to be told. I am having difficulty letting go of the completed novel. I have read and edited that book from beginning to end 5 times in the last month. Instead of moving on to the next project, I keep returning to tweak a chapter or a line. However, I am appreciating the pause between. I am using the time to replenish my creative well which has become easier now some of the lockdown restrictions have been lifted. Whilst visiting my daughter last week I visited three art exhibitions and it was as though I had watered my soul – it was parched. In fact, I am finding all sorts of things to do instead of starting to write that new story: updating my website, clearing out neglected cupboards, and spending time on social media. Yes, I am procrastinating. Maybe I am a little afraid of starting this new project. In my head it is an amazing story, but will it live up to my expectations? I will never know unless I start to write!

Wherever you are in your current journey – beginning, middle, or end. I wish you success, fulfilment, and joy.

How to be your own best friend

A good friend:

Can be relied on no matter what. 

Is compassionate and kind. 

Is forgiving, and respectful. 

Values you for all that you are.

Will always be in your corner to cheer you on.

Are you a good friend – to you? 

I think that we all find it a challenge to treat ourselves with the same, love, compassion, and respect that we show to others. Learning to love and nurture ourselves is an important life lesson, if we are to become our best self. When we achieve selflove our personal relationships are enriched. Instead of looking to friends and loved ones to validate us, we can offer unconditional friendship, secure in our self-worth.

Pxabay

Value your skills and experience

Have you read someone else’s profile, website, or biography and thought, I can do that, or have achieved that, but I didn’t think it worth mentioning? Maybe you have read an article or listened to a presentation and thought, I knew those things, they are obvious? I admit I have had these thoughts in the past. You may feel envious that someone who you consider no better than you in terms of experience is getting more recognition than you. It is a mean thought but I’m sure one we have all experienced at some time. The disappointment is with ourself for not honouring our worth.

Respect what you know and have achieved. Tell the world. Don’t belittle your knowledge and skills. We are always looking ahead to where we want to be, focusing on our deficits. Take the time to really appreciate and value where you are now. Remember, what you can do effortlessly today was once a challenge. Take stock of all that you have achieved and learnt. Others can learn from you. Don’t hide your light under a bushel. It is not boastful or proud to own your achievements. To recognise them is to value yourself. 

A few months ago, I was asked to give the keynote address at a conference. I was known for my work in health and social care but on this occasion was asked to talk about my new career as an author. I was surprised but thrilled to read myself described by the event host as an award-winning author. It was not an accolade I had claimed. I had indeed won two awards for my debut novel, but the title ‘award-winning author’ felt fake. Most creatives have imposter syndrome. Maybe everyone does. I am an award-winning author, so why did it surprise me to be described this way? It took someone else to use this title before I tentatively tried it on for size. 

Be a good friend to you by reminding yourself that you are awesome. You worked hard to get to where you are now. There may be another mountain ahead but acknowledge the one you have climbed and those before.

Pixabay

Be compassionate and kind

I drive myself hard and berate myself when I do not achieve my daily goals. I have been the line manager for more staff in my working life than I can remember. Those staff remember me kindly as years on I have received communications from people whom I have supported and nurtured thanking me. As a manager, I encouraged my staff to set achievable goals. I was forever adjusting their expectations so that they could exceed their aims rather than fail to deliver. I emphasised the need for self-care and was mindful of staff who were driving themselves too hard so that I could help prevent them from experiencing burn-out. If only I treated myself with the same care and attention. 

At the end of each day do you focus on what you didn’t get done or what you did? How do you reward yourself for your daily achievements? Are your goals realistic and achievable or are you setting yourself up to fail? Have you scheduled breaks for writing your blog, novel, or other project? I would not dream of treating a member of my staff the way that I treat myself. Fear of failure is what drives me. This in itself reflects a lack of respect for what I am capable of with time, patience, and compassion. 

Forgiveness

When we are learning new things, we will inevitably get some things wrong. That is how we learn. Self-publishing and marketing my books are new to me. At the beginning of 2020 I had no experience at all. In less than 18 months I have started to blog, published two novels, learnt how to record on Zoom, edit on i-movie, and broadcast on YouTube and podcast, and I have become established on Twitter. Looking back, I have missed opportunities by not recognising their importance at the time. I have failed to grasp Instagram, and Pinterest. My newsletters are not yet slick. Despite an incredibly steep learning curve, I still focus on what I have got wrong – not the things I have got right. 

As we get older and look back on our life there will be things that we are ashamed of- things we could have done better; perhaps how we handled relationships, addictions, or jealousy. We feel like that now because we have changed. We would not have changed and become who we are, without those life lessons. View yourself as a kind parent. Tell yourself that you are forgiven for your behaviours, you are not a bad person. Every experience that we have brings us the gift of learning. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself time to grow. Do not chastise yourself for what you consider your failings. 

Pezibear Pixabay

Be your own cheerleader

That job you have applied for, the query letter to agents, the competition you have entered, do it whilst cheering yourself on. If you don’t believe in yourself why would anyone else? When we tell ourselves that we are not worthy, that we don’t really expect to win, then we have already reduced our chances of success. We protect ourselves from disappointment by lowering our expectation. If we tell our family and friends that we don’t expect success or pretend we don’t care what the result is then they won’t feel sorry for us when we fail. Is that being a good friend to yourself. Would you tell your dearest friend not to bother applying for their dream job because they won’t get it anyway? Of course not. You would be telling them that the employer, agent etc would be lucky to have them. Be that friend to yourself.

I am practicing being a better friend to me. It is hard breaking the habits of a lifetime. I know how to be the best friend, sister, mother, employer – I just have to be a good friend to me.

Five Life Lessons from Running

I have enjoyed regular runs for nearly thirty years. What I take from each run is different every time and has changed over the years. Now, in my (early!) sixties I have a regular run 4k across the beach to the pier and back. Not far enough to tire me but perfect for clearing my head and stimulating creativity. When I started out running it was about protecting my time and making a commitment to run, then pushing myself to run further. This is what running has taught me.

Finding time

When I was in my early thirties, I was the mother of an under five, worked full-time in a high-powered job, and was studying part-time for a master’s degree. To eke out even thirty minutes for a run felt impossible. I was unfit and couldn’t run for a bus without gasping for breath. I lived in the countryside then and set myself a challenge of walking and running for a mile or so across fields and lanes. I enjoyed the fresh air, and time to myself but it was exhausting and it would have been easy to find excuses not to run. I committed to run twice a week and with great effort and determination managed to do so at least once a week, most weeks. This was an important lesson for me. If something is worth doing, if you want to reap the rewards, then you have to find the time. 

I have applied this lesson to writing, meditation, and yoga. Find the time. Show up no matter what. It is not always fun. Sometimes you have to make yourself, but it is always worth it and over time you will see big changes.

Pxabay

Setting achievable goals

The furthest I have run is a half-marathon 13 miles or 21 k. When I set that goal, I was running 7 or 8 miles regularly but that was a stretch. When I was training and felt I couldn’t run any further I told myself, just run to the next lamppost and then you can rest/walk. When I reached the lamppost, I always felt I could just about run to the next one. Little by little I completed the run – just one lamppost at a time.

How often are we dissuaded from having a go because we are overwhelmed by the size of the challenge? I would never have believed I could write a novel – 90k words is huge when the most you have written is a 5k assignment. That was how my first novel started. A creative writing tutor asked us to write a 5k story and to share instalments over four classes. That 5k story became the outline for my first novel. Every task can be broken down. Just focus on one short-term goal, then the next. One lamppost at a time. 

Resilience and determination

Keep going, when the going gets tough. A steep hill, or running against a strong wind, can really challenge a runner’s resilience. I often run towards the pier with the wind behind me but when I turn around and feel its force it’s a struggle to run back. My younger brother taught me a chant which I say in my head, ‘the wind is my friend it makes me strong.’ It works. I repeat this and gradually I believe it. And it is true, trials and tribulations strengthen our character and make us more resilient. 

I take this feeling of determination and resilience to my life as a writer. Creatives experience many knockbacks and rejections. When writers express disappointment after receiving a rejection on social media I remind them that a successful author receives on average 200 rejections. Every rejection is one step closer to success. We have to learn from adversity, use it to grow stronger. The wind is your friend.

Brigitte Pixabay

Nurture yourself

Although I have been running for many years, there were three years when I didn’t run at all. I was in my fifties and although I could easily run 5k or more, my hips hurt when I bent down to remove my trainers. The morning after a run I had discomfort in my hips and knees. Around this time, I sustained an injury (not from running) that resulted in a frozen shoulder. I visited a Chinese doctor, for a consultation on freeing my shoulder, and mentioned my stiff and aching hips. When I explained that they hurt after a run he laughed and said, ‘You are too old to run.’

I took this to heart. I bought a bike and thought my running days were behind me. A few years later, a fitness instructor told me that the reason I got pain in my joints after a run was because I didn’t warm up properly or cooldown by stretching fully. I took her advice and now I prepare for every run with ten minutes of yoga, and my mat is waiting for me on my return for a ten-minute cool down. I never experience any pain in my joints.

The lessons I took from this are:

You are never too old to do the things that you enjoy. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Listen to your body. You know better than anyone how your body, and mind work. Tune in to what is going on and then fix it. This means giving yourself time. Being compassionate. Don’t push on ignoring your body. 

Three weeks ago, I went for my usual Sunday run, despite having had my second jab the day before. I thought I felt fine and set off at a pace. The truth was, I hadn’t taken time to truly tune in and listen to my body. I had almost completed my run when I felt a little light-headed. A few seconds later, I had an almighty fall on a rail crossing. My injuries have healed but it has knocked my confidence. I’ll get back out there this week but will be more mindful in the future.

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Stilling the mind.

Every Sunday morning, I go for a run by the sea, and by the time I get home I know exactly what to write in my blog. I have come to have absolute faith in this process and do not fret in the days before my Sunday deadline. I run and then I write. 

Running is a bit like meditation. The steady rhythm of placing one foot in front of the other, attention to breathing, and the flow of energy, induce a calm state of mind. It takes me five minutes to reach the sea, and then I am pounding across the sand as I head for the pier. Ten minutes into my run, the chatter in my head reviewing what has gone before and what is to come quietens. The hush of gently lapping waves, seagull cries, the salty scent of seaweed, and the glitter of light on water fill my senses. My mind is open and ready to receive. It has been said that prayer is talking to God and meditation listening. You just have to still your mind and the answers come to you.

Meditation does not have to be sitting in silence. A walk in the woods can be meditative. Focusing on nature, filling our lungs with fresh air, ground us and calm the mind. If you are not a runner and find it hard to meditate, try walking in nature. 

Live your life mindfully, as every activity brings new learning and awareness. 

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 Creativity Can Change Your Life

I believe the pandemic has triggered a resurgence in creativity. When the constraints of our lives loosened and we no longer had to adhere to a busy schedule, we found space. Initially, a space where we faced fear, anxiety and confusion. Our worlds tilted and nothing made any sense. Livelihoods were threatened and we were filled with the necessity of finding a different way to be.

Creativity is not just about the arts, an ability to draw, paint, or write. It is about viewing the world from different perspectives, finding hidden connections and meaning, solving problems, and turning our ideas into reality. We are all creative. We are creation.

In these challenging times we need our creativity more than ever. The pandemic has forced us to find new ways to do things and, in some cases, to make a living. 

In the past year we have seen choirs and orchestras come together to perform using the internet, extraordinary fundraising activities such as Captain Tom’s sponsored walk, global meditation initiatives, and innovative approaches within communities, and families, to support one another and carry on. This is creativity at work.

Creativity connects us to one another in a meaningful way. It may be an idea that inspires others, or a collective energy as we come together with a common goal.

I have watched as people around me find time to pursue creative hobbies: writing, painting, craft work, sewing. When we become absorbed in a creative activity we relax and the constant chatter in our head is silenced. This stillness is like meditation. It is calming and improves our well-being. 

When it feels as though the world does not make any sense, we can connect on a deeper level through our art. In the past year I have engaged for the first time in social media. In the past I was reluctant to use Twitter or Facebook but I have been amazed by the kind, generous, and loving spirits I have encountered. A photograph of a sunset. An inspirational quote. Words of encouragement to a stranger. The message to a person who is afraid and suffering that they are not alone. A few words. An image. Sometimes, I imagine these beautiful souls like glittering diamonds connected in a magnificent web of light encircling our globe.

Pezibear Pixabay

On Sunday morning we changed to British Summer Time in the UK and our clocks went forward. It is interesting that this year my husband and I both woke up an hour earlier in the days before the clocks changed. I wonder whether we have become more in tune with nature in the stillness created by this quieter way of life? It is almost as if the global pandemic has given us a reset. 

It is a year since the first lockdown and we have all changed. It has taken me a while to adjust to a different rhythm. To stop railing against what I saw as restrictions and to welcome this time of solitude and reflection. To be still and listen to what is in our heart can be scary. It can expose difficult emotions, and memories. With self-love and compassion, we might be able to acknowledge these and find some peace. I remember a difficult time in my life some years ago. I had been looking forward to taking the whole of August off from work. I had such plans for relaxation and fun activities. It was one of the worst months of my life because when I stopped being busy thoughts and feelings surfaced that I had repressed for many months since the death of my mother. However, that month away from work was exactly what I needed to do the inner work and to put right the things in my life that needed to be addressed. 

Across the world we have experienced this time of change and reflection together. There have and will continue to be hardships. We have lost loved ones and a way of life that we treasured. But I believe we have found something else, our creativity, compassion, and resilience. If the world has had a reset, let’s start afresh and use what we have learned to create a better life.

How to find your perfect job

In my novel Just Bea, Ryan tells Bea that instead of trying to make herself fit she should find what fits her. 

Bea says to Ryan,

‘…I could at least prepare. Do everything possible to increase my chances of success. And I did. It’s harder for me because it doesn’t come naturally, fitting in.’ 

He replies

            ‘Maybe that’s because you’re starting from the wrong place. Take those Jiminy shoes. You didn’t go squeezing your foot into a pair that was too small or make do with ones that were too big? That would be daft. No, you found the right fit for your size and shape.’

The analogy of finding a shoe to fit came from advice I received when I had become stuck in my career. I was restless in my job; it no longer fulfilled me and I wasn’t getting shortlisted for the jobs I thought I ought to be applying for.

Up until my late thirties, my career progression had been linear. I always knew what the next step should be until I reached this stage in my life. I could only see two options: to stay where I was, or in a similar role, feeling frustrated and dissatisfied, or get promoted to the next level and that wasn’t happening.

A wise woman told me that I had outgrown my job and like a badly fitting show it was starting to pinch and rub. That I knew. But how did I fix it?

The advice was the same as Ryan gave Bea, ‘Find your shape and size and then find the job that fits you.’

Chris Kinkel Pixabay

I had tried everything else and was tired of throwing myself against the same wall – applying for jobs with high expectations, then disappointment when I got rejected. I had to find another way and although the advice seemed a bit vague, I decided to give it a go.

There were no instructions or rules so I made my own. I had to start with a clean sheet of paper – no preconceived ideas, a completely open mind. 

I made a list of things that I was good at and enjoyed. For example:

  • Researching what works well and why
  • Problem-solving
  • Mediating
  • Listening to and enabling others
  • Writing

Then I made a list of the things I didn’t enjoy in my current job.

For example:

  • Conflict
  • Internal politics
  • Operational management
  • Bureaucracy
  • Hierarchies

I kept on writing – brainstorming. When pages of paper were covered in lists, diagrams, and swirls I took stock. I had a job specification but I didn’t know whether there was a job that would meet it. The posts I had been applying for certainly didn’t. It was a template – my shape and size. Now I just had to find a job that would be a perfect fit.

The next time I opened my trade journal on the jobs page I didn’t look at the job titles, instead I checked the descriptions and then, if they were a possible, I requested a job specification. If I had not taken this approach then I would never have discovered the perfect job for me. My eyes would have slid past the job advert as I had become 100% focused on what I considered to be the next logical move. 

I had to go through a rigorous selection process but all of the exercises played to my strengths and of course, I was offered the job. It is a job that I loved and it led to many more exciting opportunities. 

There is a lesson for us here. When we hit a brick wall we need to stop and consider why. There is a reason. If we are too focused on one particular outcome then we are blinded to other opportunities and it takes longer for us to find the right path. 

We are unique individuals with our own special gifts. How can we expect others to see what we have to offer if we do not know ourselves? It takes imagination and self-belief to find our right path. Honesty and courage. The alternative is to stay still and be miserable or beat ourselves up by believing we are not good enough.

Whether you are looking for promotion, a change of career, or trying to get published, stop and take stock – recognise your unique contribution and then find the right home. I have done this in my journey to publication and in finding the best way to market my books. I know what I am good at and situations where I do not thrive. Nobody knows you as well as you do. So be kind and nurture yourself.