How to achieve your potential as a writer the mindful way, with author, Dr Gabriel Constans

In this second episode (season two) of The Mindful Writer, author Gabriel Constans, tells me how being mindful and finding balance in life has enabled him to achieve his life purpose.

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

I have just returned from a writing retreat with a wonderful group of writer friends. We have been meeting as a group for nine years. Everyone in our group of nine has developed as a writer and each of us taken very different journeys. One of our group became a best-selling Times author which made us all proud. 

We celebrate each other’s success whether it is finding the emotional courage to continue writing despite feelings of self-doubt, publishing a debut, or having a short story published in a magazine. I would not have survived this writing journey without the support of my writing group. It is perhaps the best advice I can give any writer – find a group of writer friends. We have critiqued one another’s work over the years learning from the critique process as well as the personal feedback. We beta read each other’s work, talk through writing problems, and are loyal cheerleaders. When one of us succeeds we all do as we are invested in one another’s journey and share the excitement.

When I celebrate the launch of my 3rd novel The Forever Cruise on the 1st December, I know that my writer friends will be there cheering me on. I honestly could not have written this book without Ellie Holmes urging me not to ditch the idea because it was too difficult and then inspiring me to create a fantastic plot, and Janet, Catherine, Peter, Ellie, and Anita, beta-reading because they helped to make the book shine. 

The group was formed when one of the group moved in to the area, leaving behind another writer’s group. This founder member put out a request on a local Facebook group and an advert in the independent bookstore. The rest is history. My point is, you can make it happen. If there is not an existing writers’ group in your area start one. It could be the best thing that you do to improve as a writer and to enjoy the writing journey. 

The FWG 2022 Writing retreat. Top left me and writer friend, Janet Bridger. Photos by Catherine Rendall

Now, let me introduce this week’s guest.

Gabriel Constans is the author of fiction, and non-fiction. His book A Brave Year (52 Weeks Being Mindful) draws on his lifetime practice of daily meditation.

In this episode Gabriel explains how writers can:

Find balance in life

Achieve writing goals with a calm and quiet mind

Fulfil their potential and purpose

You can spend more time with Gabriel by visiting his websites.

Website: http://www.gogabriel.com/books.html

Videos & Film: http://www.gogabriel.com/videos.html

Gabriel Constans

You can listen to the podcast here: Episode two (season 2) How to achieve your potential as a writer the mindful way, with author Dr Gabriel Constans

Or read the transcript below:

Deborah: Dr. Gabriel Constans has an impressive CV both as both as an author and a caregiver. His catalogue of fiction, nonfiction and short stories is too long to list here, but I will provide a link to Gabriel’s books in the show notes. Gabriel has served the community over the past few decades as a grief counsellor, a social worker, a massage therapist, a certified thought field therapist, a mental health consultant working with teams and ex-convicts on substance misuse, and as an advisor for the street children of Rwanda project. He has a doctorate in death education, a master’s in pastoral counselling, and a Bachelor of Science in Human Relations and organisational behaviour. 

Wow, your achievements are breath-taking. What has driven you on this journey, Gabriel? And what have you learned along the way? I should say welcome and hello, first of all, before I throw the question at you.

Gabriel: Oh, welcome, and it’s a pleasure to be with you. And thank you for that question. I think in some ways, it’s interesting what started me on this journey was a couple things when I used to work – as far as caregiving, I worked as a nursing assistant on the cancer unit at the local hospital. 

I saw a person in pastoral care, and how she interacted with people, and supported. And I decided, that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up.

So, I went back to school, and got all the degrees I needed to do it. And that’s why I about three years later, no, four or five years later, started working in pastoral care at the hospital. Before that I had already been involved with hospice for a long time. So that way, I was able to combine really a lot of what I did as a volunteer, with my work and vocation.

Deborah: Can I just ask you something there. First of all, how old were you when you saw that person working in pastoral care? And the other thing really is, do you think sometimes when we see something or hear something, it triggers something – a sense of purpose? I wonder if you could explore that with me.

Gabriel: Yes.  I already had felt a sense of purpose. For other things I was involved with, such as hospice and in counselling and that I had been doing since I was about 16 in different formats. But this was the first time I saw that, and thought, 

‘Oh, I can do this and have enough money to live on. And do something that is also perhaps the most helpful for other people at the same time. So, it gave me a purpose as far as my job, vocation.

The purpose as far as being with other people, and helping other people came before that. But this – when I saw Rosemary Helmer, who was the person who was in pastoral care at that time, that’s what inspired me to see it was possible to do both at the same time. I think I was about 20. See, we had one son, one daughter, one son we hadn’t adopted anybody yet. I was around 25. So, that’s what happened.

Image by falco from Pixabay

Deborah: So, where did you go from there in your life? You’ve had such an interesting life. Can you tell us a few of the milestones?

Gabriel: Well, I started actually, around that same time. I started writing again, a lot more. I hadn’t written since I did an alternative newspaper in high school years before and I started writing fiction again. That was a big turning point for me because I started realising two things, one that I enjoyed it, and that I have a lot to learn to make it better. And part of that started, in some ways, like you, when you were making up stories to a younger brother, and then to your daughter. When the children were little, I would make up stories and start just creating them as well as reading comic books but and then I realised there were stories that I wanted to start telling talking about. And I think it wasn’t. So, I started doing fiction and then after a while, I started doing a lot more nonfiction, doing profiles of people that I thought were inspiring. Getting things accepted in different newspapers, journals, and magazines in the US and around the world. Then, after some time, I started going back to writing more fiction. As the kids got older, the fiction changed.

Deborah: I was reading about one of your novels, the Buddhist’s Wife, and I wondered, do you have Buddhist beliefs yourself?

Gabriel: I do, although I don’t per se state that I’m Buddhist, because in many ways, it’s – for some people, it’s become a religion. But in other ways, 

it’s essentially practising being mindful and compassionate to people, and to yourself, and finding out what works and what doesn’t.

 So, there’s no – in its pure essence in Zen and Buddhism, there is no hierarchy. There is no church, or group. There are just people that are seeking what is true – what they discover what is true, in order to connect with other people. 

So, I started going to a Zen monastery when I was 16. It was the only thing in the area where I grew up – a small town and a lumber mill in Northern California, that I really connected with. And it was about an hour away. So that was my first introduction to it. And actually, the first time I got married, that’s where we got married at the Zen Buddhist monastery. So, in some ways, I guess I have been a Buddhist – in quotes since then.

Deborah: How have your spiritual beliefs influenced your daily life and your life as a writer? Either / or?

Gabriel:  I think primarily spiritual beliefs because through the years I went through different phases of girlfriend, a Jewish girlfriend who wanted to be Catholic, so I became Catholic. And we worked with Mother Teresa co-workers. And then at another time, I went to Quaker meetings for a long time.

I think primarily, 

it’s influenced me by realising there’s something beyond myself. And that we all have a similar connection of being human.

I think those are the two primary ways it’s influenced me. I found that through different practices, by paying more attention to myself, I was able to let go of myself more. And so, in that way it has helped me to be more present and helpful with other people, as well, the more that I practice in my own life. So, in that way, spirituality, which can mean a lot of things I know to a lot of people. That’s what it means to me. A way to get out of myself and connect with others.

Deborah: It sounds simple, but it’s incredibly profound. And it’s a work in progress. I should think, for everybody.

Gabriel: Absolutely.  It’s ongoing.

 It’s like I’ve been meditating for over 50 years, and I feel as though I have just started.

Deborah: Really. I’m new to it then because I’ve been meditating every day for four years and it seems I’m very much on the nursery slopes compared to 50 years.

Gabriel: You have all the time to serve. The time is irrelevant in a way. Just now is now. So yes, I think the thing that meditation – actually with a lot of spiritual practices, that probably is the most difficult for me which is one reason that I learned over the years and wrote the book, A Brave Year (52 Weeks Being Mindful) to make it easier for people to do.

 The thing that I forget the most is to just remember to be present, and to pay attention to what I’m thinking, feeling, and sensing with my senses.

Because it’s so easy to get caught up in what our mind is telling us. All the things we’re doing, or all the things we think we need to do, or what comes next, or what already happened. And that’s what our mind is, that’s for. 

Image by Nato Pereira from Pixabay

Deborah: It’s part of being human, isn’t it?  Very hard. It leads me to talk more about the writers’ journey and the process for writers, because I know lots of writers and other creatives listening will really be wrestling with the wanting to control and the difficulty in letting go when they’re thinking about their work, and getting it published – getting their voice heard, getting it out there. So, what advice or help might you pass on to other creatives?

Gabriel: Probably what I learned and keep remembering is – 

really be clear why it is that you are writing? What is your intention for writing?

No matter what it is, you’re writing – nonfiction, fiction, fantasy, regardless of the genre, what is your intention? Why do you want to write? Or why are you writing? I think that’s probably the most important place to start. And also come back to asking yourself that question. Because if it’s to have other people reaffirm you or to become well known, or to make money, or just to be creative – to create different worlds that take you outside of yourself. Or whether it’s journaling and writing something just about your own life and your experience as a way to take it out of your life and look at it and also to externalise it and let it be cathartic. All of those reasons are okay. Any reason as to why you are writing is okay. But if you’re doing it for some of those intentions, such as wanting to make money or being well known, or want lots of people to read what you write, or have people tell you positive things, ‘Oh, you’re such a good writer,’ or to reaffirm who you are, or to give meaning in your life, for those reasons, it can be very lonely and a long, long time. So, that’s why it’s important to look at why you’re doing it, and then doing it because you enjoy writing. And to continue doing that, regardless of the outcomes can be really life-saving as far as your energy, and your grief, and disappointment, and dealing with rejection. 

Because the more secure you feel in yourself, the more okay you are with who you are and how things are in the moment. Then you don’t get as attached to the outcomes

I still do sometimes. But it comes and goes more quickly. And it’s not so overwhelming. 

I still get excited about screenplays accepted or, you know, after years of trying to get something produced. I get all excited and, you know, dance around and etcetera but the other times when three producers don’t want to look at it. One or two finally look at it and then months later say they aren’t interested – the feelings that that brings up, I’ll acknowledge them as well. Usually, sadness and disappointment. But it doesn’t last as long and doesn’t prevent me as much as it used to in the past from continuing to keep writing and keep doing it.

Deborah: I agree with you entirely. Really helpful. And hearing you say it in such a thoughtful way is really helpful. I think it’s something that people will listen to and find really calming on this journey, which can be very rough, and tumultuous? How do you self-care? Because you will have times, as we all do, when, as you say, when you have had a setback or disappointment, or just life gets in the way and it’s a bit overwhelming. How do you self-care apart from the meditation? Do you have other things that you do to keep your equilibrium?

Gabriel: Yes. I balance out the day quite a bit. And it’s easier since I work at home now with pretty much everything. It is more difficult when you’re out at a job, or working, or doing other things or with raising children. I remember those times. Even though I’m still like raising children as adults sometimes. So, it’s much more difficult but having a balance helped the most when I had a really packed day. All those things are pretty much the same things I do now. Just not as much as I do now. And what those things were, and are: doing yoga in the morning. Meditating every morning. Doing tai chi. I love being outside, and we have a small garden – I never used to be into gardening at all. And then all of a sudden one day it just became my thing. I don’t know why. So, being outside if possible.

Nature is something bigger than yourself, other kinds of living creatures being around

You can do it in the city too, if you live in a city, if you live in London or a big city, and it’s pretty much all concrete. There are still little places you can go. You can find little parks.  Just going for a walk, being out in the air and paying attention to yourself and not necessarily all of the people and things around you. I love watching movies and reading books which are all things that take me outside of myself – my own cares and worries and stress.

Deborah: Sounds like you have a similar sort of life to me. I wake up I do my yoga. I have a lovely walk by the sea. I do my meditation, and I write, and I spend time with my lovely husband. So, yes, is it’s a good life.

Gabriel: Yes, wonderful. That sounds really wonderful.

Deborah: Like you I did work hard before I retired. So, life brings different things in different seasons.

Gabriel: Yes. What was the work that you did? It was in health care, wasn’t it?

Deborah: Varied. I started off by training and then working as an occupational therapist. And then, my husband gave up work when daughter was born. She’s now 32. And he didn’t go back to work. So, I’ve been the main wage earner, which was great, because that propelled me to fulfil my potential, I guess. And I’ve always loved what I do.

 So, I went into managing health services, and then into regulation. And in the latter years – the last 15 to 20 years, I lose count, I’ve had a management consultancy for health and social care. And I’ve been writing safeguarding adult reviews, independent inquiries, you know, domestic homicide reviews and chairing boards for safeguarding adults. So, I’ve been doing that in the latter years, but most of my career was working with older people. So, I did lots to do lots of work, both as a clinician and in informing government policy through national reports and things. So, my work also was very much writing before I was writing fiction, I was writing national reports, I was writing my safeguarding adult reviews. So, it was always writing, it’s just changed to writing fiction now. And I always say that now I write happy endings for people because they were never happy safeguarding reviews.

Gabriel: Yes, so many things are beyond your control. How wonderful. Thank you for the support and what you’ve done for so many people for so long to help them in different circumstances,

Deborah: And likewise, to you. I don’t know about you but I feel that it’s been a privilege and a pleasure, being able to work with people in health and social care. And I don’t know about you – you must tell me. But I feel that for so long, I’ve been listening to people who have experienced adversity, and have had to cope with incredible challenges in their lives. Perhaps feeling on the outskirts of society, and unheard. I’ve listened to them. And my paid job was making sure those voices were heard, and fighting for them, really. So now that I write fiction, those voices still kind of play out in my head. These characters come into my books, which are almost like the ghosts of the voices from my health and social care career. I don’t know whether you find that you carry a lot of that with you still in your work?

Image by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay

Gabriel: I do and actually especially with hospice because I went into homes and people’s families, as a social worker and bereavement counsellor for many years, and in all kinds of situations. A lot of those stories, and people have been reflected, not the same names, I changed the situations and stuff. But they had a big impact on me, and influenced how I write characters, as far as fiction. And then of course, with a lot of nonfiction I wrote. A lot of that is about death and dying, and trauma, and resilience, and how to live your life without – so obviously, those are drawn a lot from those experiences as well. But it has come out in fiction as well, in different ways. I think I learned a lot about, about people. And the variety of ways, the endless variety of ways, of how we comprehend and how we act. And what happens in our lives, and the beauty of how different people are. And yet also how similar in some ways so that we can all relate to a character. Even if it’s a fantasy that takes place somewhere zillion times in the future. I try to write fantasy. There are still certain characteristics about it that we can identify with.

Deborah: So why do you write? You were saying we should consider our purpose for writing? What is it that makes you feel you need to write?

Gabriel: For nonfiction, when I started writing a lot of nonfiction articles and books, there was very little about death and dying available to people. And it was still – it still is, but even more so – something people didn’t talk about or deal with grief and loss. It was the same with birth and midwives having it back in the home (home births). You’ve had it in the home a lot longer in UK, but up until the 70s it was still illegal in the US because the medical community pretty much hijacked it and said it was a whole technical thing that had to be done in hospitals. So, with hospice, and with people dying, it was very similar having it be in the home, as opposed to in the hospital. So, when I first started writing, I wanted to make it more available to people, what a natural thing grief and loss is. And reaction, and the differences between just grief and normal reaction to loss and complicated grief and how to get support. 

So, I think for a lot of nonfiction when I first started writing, it was to help support people, and inform people, help them make a difference. And with fiction, I always came up with a story, with ideas for things. And stories that I hadn’t seen somebody else do exactly the same way. Even though all fictional stories are the same, in many respects. Just those little things and different combinations of stories or characters, I just felt compelled to write about. Actually, the first fiction book – this may sound weird, being a male, 

I wanted to empower women’s voices in characters of women who have never been talked about – hardly ever in fiction, let alone nonfiction, for their experience to be available to people, or what I imagined their experience might have been. 

So those are some of the primary reasons I think that I still write fiction.

Deborah: I’m sure that your stories are helping people in the same way as your work and caregiving did.

Gabriel: I don’t know if it is or not. It’s something that I love doing.

 If it makes people laugh, or something touches them and gives them a break from other things going on, or something that was a bad they identify with. That’s wonderful.

Deborah: It’s a great thing as a writer, when you get feedback from readers that you’ve touched a chord and something’s meant something to them. I think that gives writers great joy, doesn’t it? 

Gabriel: For sure. 

Deborah: Well, you’ve shared many words of wisdom with us, is there a parting message you’d like to share?

Gabriel: A message I think that is probably the most vital is: 

If you are clear why you write and continue doing that, then be consistent about it.  

People with a lot of things, especially with writing, try it for a month or two and if they don’t have what they determine success, or people don’t say it’s ‘Oh, it’s wonderful’, then they stop.  I think one reason that I’ve been able to have so many things published and produced etc. was not because I’m a fantastic writer. But because I’ve been consistent and kept getting better, as the years went along. In the first years, I thought, ‘Oh, this is the best thing I’ve ever written’. Now, oh my gosh, I look back and think oh, this is horrible, how could I have thought that.

 So, being open to constructive criticism, getting somebody who’s willing to be really honest with what you write, I think makes a huge difference.

And then being open to changing things completely from how you thought they might go. And keep working on things.

Image by Dorothe from Pixabay

Deborah: Have you taken any of your early works down of have you left them out there?

Gabriel: I haven’t taken any of them down but I think some of them aren’t available anymore, because magazines don’t exist. Some of the publishers of the players I first wrote, I think they don’t exist anymore. 

Deborah: Thank you very much Gabriel. I really enjoyed meeting and talking to you. I wish you continued success.

Gabriel: Thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time and having this conversation. I hope it is as enjoyable to you as it has been to me.

Great words of wisdom from Gabriel. Why do you write? I write because it brings me joy. Of course, I love getting feedback from a reader that they have enjoyed a story. Entertaining a person, triggering emotions, or memories is a wonderful accomplishment. Connecting with readers through the written word is why I write. 

It has taken a couple of years and a lot of hard work finding my readers but now, with my third book about to be published, I am reaping the rewards. I have found my readership and I write with them in mind. It may only be a few hundred people today but I value each one of them and I know that my tribe of readers will continue to grow. Be patient and consistent writer friends. And above all find joy in writing.

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.

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How to turn disappointment and despair into success with playwright Jack Canfora

In this episode of The Mindful Writer, Jack Canfora and I explore the challenges of keeping a calm and positive mind despite disappointment and despair.

Welcome back to season two of The Mindful Writer. There are lots of great guests in this season. As always, they have been a joy to meet and I am looking forward to sharing their wisdom with you.  

In this episode, Jack Canfora and I explore the challenges of keeping a calm and positive mind despite disappointment and despair.

Before I introduce you, let me update you on my writing journey. Life has become incredibly busy for me – but exciting too. We returned from a Mediterranean cruise a week ago, our first venture abroad since the pandemic. It was a wonderful holiday and I returned with my creative well overflowing from the many fascinating experiences on our travels. 

The downside of a holiday is managing the workload before and after the break. I am following the advice I have shared here from guests – scheduling everything in my diary and only concerning myself with one day’s activity at a time. 

Alongside preparing for the launch of my next novel The Forever Cruise on 1st December, which is incredibly exciting because it will be my first in person launch event since the pandemic, I am helping to organise the Frinton Literary Festival in October. Paula Hawkins and Freya North are just two of the authors featured this year. 

I try to schedule at least two hours every day to write, as well as allocating marketing and admin time. It would be easy to neglect my writing if I did not make this a priority.

When there are many competing demands on our time and we feel overwhelmed by the to do list we often neglect our self-care. The truth is relaxation, exercise, family time – the things that make us feel good, are even more important because when we balance these with work we achieve more and become more resilient. 

My guest this week has experienced many highs and lows in his writing life and has a realistic perspective on what we might expect of ourselves in challenging times. So, let me introduce you.

Jack Canfora is a playwriter and podcaster. He blogs www.thewritingonthepaddedwall.com, has an

online theater company  www.newnormalrep.org with a podcast “New Normal Rep’s Play Date” on most platforms.

In this episode we explore:

What we can and can’t control as writers and when to let go

Coping with envy and disappointment

How we can learn from our suffering, turning it into something positive

Jack Canfora

You can listen to the podcast here: Season Two, episode One.

 How to turn disappointment and despair into success with playwright, Jack Canfora.

Or read the transcript below.

Deborah: Jack Canfora, playwriter, podcaster and writing coach, I came across you through the Pointless Overthinking blog as you’re a regular contributor. However, since then, I’ve discovered and listened to your podcast NNR, the New Normal Rep Theatre Company podcast, and I love your energy and sense of humour. There have been numerous regional productions of your plays, and you’ve won several playwright awards. So, I consider you to be very successful as a writer. This is something you and I have discussed – how do we measure success? So, Jack Canfora, what does success look like to you?

Jack: Well, I can tell you what I aspire that answer to be for me, which is – and I’m getting better at it, I feel I’m getting closer to it – is thinking of success in terms of doing what you’re doing, in my case writing, as well as you can possibly do it. In whatever that means to you, you know, for me, it is to be honest, and it’s hopefully entertaining, but also accomplishing what I set out to do, which is writing a play – simply writing a good play. And if you get people to perform it, that’s even better, of course. But ultimately, those are all things beyond your control – beyond my control, certainly, and the only thing I can control is how well I write. And if I feel satisfied with what I’ve written – relatively, because I’m never completely satisfied, right?  I think someone said, forget who – they said about plays, the plays are never finished, they’re just abandoned. And I think that’s true of probably all writing. But as long as I can feel at the end of the day, I’ve done the best I could do, then that should be my definition of success. And there are days where I’m pretty close to that. And there are days also when I get to work with some talented people, which I’ve been very lucky to do pretty regularly, and get to spend time in a room with them working on a play that I wrote, and they take the trouble to remember the lines I wrote.  I mean, that’s pretty great in and of itself. There’s a sense in which, you know, what more could you want from from life? In fact, that’s the most fun for me – being in the rehearsal room and doing those things in collaboration. There are external things sure, like, having your name better known and having some money. I wouldn’t lie and say that I’m not so profound, that those things don’t matter to me. But I think in the end, I have to try to measure and I think all I can do is try to measure what I can do, and leave the other things to the fates. So, is that too long a winded answer?

Deborah: No, it’s not at all, but there are a few things I want to pick up with you on the interesting points you made. First of all, the point you made about the things we can and the things we can’t control, that’s quite difficult, isn’t it?  To think about what we can control and letting go of the things we can’t.  I know you coach writers, how do you help them cope with the letting go of what they can’t control?

Jack: Well, first of all, do as I say not as I do to a certain extent. I mean, I think it’s something that’s aspirational. Like I would argue, mindfulness is probably. You know, attaining that perfect sort of Zen – just being in the moment and letting everything go. Very few people can ever really, truly accomplish that for any length of time. But that’s always the goal. And you can’t – paradoxically, you can’t measure your time there in terms of goals. It’s just, you know, being in the moment in terms of letting go of the stuff you can’t control. I think it’s a tough reality to square with what your dreams or ambitions may be. I have to tell myself this on a regular basis. I read – someone posted something recently, and they said that ‘the theatre is at least twice as old as the Christ’s tale and it’s been disappointing disciples ever since and that – art owes you nothing. And you owe yourself the best you can do. The things that are beyond your control – you’re going to have to let go one way or another, are you going to let go of it freely? Or even let go of it? Or are you gonna have it prised from you kicking and screaming? Either way, you’re gonna have to let it go.

Deborah: We’ve all had that experience – that kicking and screaming, when you rail against the world that ‘why hasn’t this or that happened?’ and, ‘it’s not fair.’ The energy we waste on that.

Jack: Oh, my goodness, yes, that’s, you know, more of my week than I would like to admit.

Deborah: Another point you said, is knowing when to let go – when it’s finished. Saying that, you can keep on and on and on, and you say ‘a play is just a play that’s been abandoned because it’s never finished.’ There are two things there: How do you decide it’s good enough? And also, when you’re doing the best, you can, for yourself – to show your best work, how do you stop those voices in your head, that are the critics – the voices questioning how it’s going to be received that get in the way?

Jack: Yeah, well, again, it’s sounds like this is going to be a wishy-washy answer. But I think that it’s a little bit of both. I think you do have to silence those critics at a certain point. But I also think it’s important to listen to them to a degree. Because, I think, if you don’t, you run the risk of becoming sort of self-indulgent. And the minute I think, as a writer, and as a novelist, or a poet, or short story writer, or a playwright, or what have you, you send – you know, you write your work and keep it to yourself, that’s fine, you can be as self-indulgent as you like, it’s sort of freeing in a way – but the minute you send it out for someone else to read, then I think you have an obligation to not be that way, to yourself as much as anyone else, because probably no one’s going to want to read it or do it if it’s that way.

 I have been lucky enough to cultivate relationships with a few people in particular, whom I have great respect for. And so, just to give you my own experience as a playwright, if I’m in a room with people whom I trust, you know, in terms of their intellectual and emotional judgement about a work, and they say, X, and I was thinking Y, then, that doesn’t mean I’m wrong necessarily. Or there is a wrong. But if you’re saying X, and my intent was Y, it behoves me to at least consider X, because three very smart and dedicated people have said this whom I trust. And again, I can’t emphasise that enough, because there are people who, whose judgments won’t jive with yours. And so, you need you need to be open to that critic. 

But on the other hand, you also have to say, you sort of have to feel I think, when you’ve reached a wall. The great thing for me as a playwright is if my play is being produced, there reaches a point where the script is what they call frozen, and the actors and you are no longer allowed to make changes. And that is a great thing to do, you know, to a writer actually, because you can overwrite things. I think, a lot of problems for playwrights and also my guess is for novelists or other fiction writers, you can workshop things to death. And there is a point where, you know, there’s little quirks in the play that technically may not be by the book correct. If you sand all those away, it becomes pretty nondescript. So again, it’s a question of taste, right? I mean, I readily accept that not everyone is going to like my plays. I say that, but I don’t really think that!  But I aspire to that. I mean, Tolstoy hated Shakespeare, so Shakespeare can’t be beloved. I do feel the onus of having everyone like me, is definitely lifted off of my shoulders. You know, I just have to do the best I can. And you know, again, it’s a constant practice. I think it’s a practice and I’ve never gotten there completely. I may never achieve that at all. But that’s certainly what I what I aspire to do. 

What I would advise is constantly tug back and forth with yourself. Be absolutely as forgiving to yourself as you can be while you’re writing and then as ruthless with yourself as you can be when you’re editing. It’s a bit of a back and and forth, I think.

Image by Hoàng Anh Vũ from Pixabay

Deborah: Do you use anything like yoga or meditation? Because as you were talking, and you were saying, keep going back to it, it made me think of when we’re meditating. And your mind wanders, and you come back to the stillness. So, do you have affirmations or meditation or anything to help keep you in the right state of mind? 

Jack: Yeah, I think I would benefit enormously from it. And again, I think my story is very typical. But I have tried meditation on several occasions and have found it bafflingly hard. And I am ashamed to say I have, you know, I’ve sort of walked away from it. But, you know, it’s, it’s clearly to my benefit to try it again. I guess this is the word of the day, I aspire to get to that place where I can incorporate that as part of my life, because I have no doubt that it would help every aspect of my life.

Deborah: I’m a great believer in in meditation and yoga. It’s part of my daily practice. And it has made a huge, huge difference. In fact, I started a daily meditation practice, when I knew I was going to be going through a challenging time as a writer. This is about four years ago, when a book was out with an agent, to find a home for it – a publishing contract.  I started doing it then – planning to do it in the 40 days for Lent before Easter. And I’ve carried on, I think about four years into it now, for daily practice. 

Jack: That’s wonderful.

Deborah: When I compare how I was, emotionally, and mentally, at that point – when I was waiting for to hear back about my work, compared to how I am now. All the things you say about letting go and being calm and accepting. I’m totally – I can feel, in that place. And I just noticed such a huge difference.

Jack: Yeah. I guess I would want to drill down on that a little bit. So, like you said, that you’re in a completely different place? And is it that you just feel calmer and more at ease? Or is it something more profound than that?

Deborah: I wouldn’t say – profound, in terms of great spiritual-awakening-type things, to dress it up. It is a sense of absolute calmness. But the greatest thing for me is really being open to possibilities. And knowing that I’m not giving responsibility for my happiness into an agent’s hands or in the outcome. I’m not wedding myself to one particular outcome. I absolutely feel uplifted by the number of potential outcomes there might be. And I truly, truly believe 100% that the right thing will find me at the right time. And I have absolute faith in that. It takes an awful lot away from the anxiety. And I think that positive attitude, and that feeling of well-being, you’re more likely to attract something, just by the fact that if somebody is positive and happy, and not chasing something, they’re more attractive to a person, whether it’s dating or a job or anything. The desperate person, the uptight person has a closed mind and can’t see the wood for the trees. So, I think it’s just practical, you know?

Jack: Well, I think that’s a much better answer than I gave about what you would tell the student in terms of letting go. Yes, absolutely, that sounds wonderful. I hope to get there someday. But yes, I mean, I think that’s exactly it. It’s not living and dying with every rejection. Because if you do that, you’re I mean, as a writer, as an artist, you’re just really asking for it. I mean, I think you’re asking for it as an artist to begin with, right? You know, the odds are stacked against you, in terms of what you can control in terms of, you know, the standardised in normative sense of what success, you know, means. So, if you go chasing after that, and if you go chasing after that doggedly, with only one sense of what constitutes happiness or success, or, you know, and I think, you know, as a writer, and just as a person, if you do that, then you’re bound to be, you know, the irony is, I think the more you do that, the less likely you are to, to get that specific thing, because you’re never going to. It’s never going to be played out the way you expect it to play out – good, and bad or indifferent. You just have to sort of be flexible enough to bend with the wind.

Deborah: So, looking at your journey Jack because often when you look back, you can see oh, that happened. If that hadn’t happened, this wouldn’t have happened. And it all starts to make sense. What has your journey been like? Because as I said, you are successful, and it can’t have always been easy. So, what were the breakthroughs for you that you can look back on and say, ‘Oh, well, I’m glad it happened that way?’

Jack: Again, success is such a relative thing. I mean, you know, it’s there. I’ve been very lucky in many regards, with plays done regionally in and off Broadway, and I’ve a couple, you know, published for sale on Amazon, by the way. 

Deborah: Which I will promote in the show notes (see below).

Poetic Licence and Jericho

Jack: But, I think inevitably, the answer comes down to relationships for me. You know, I’ve been able to meet people and some people fall away, just like you fall away from certain people’s lives. But I’ve been very lucky in cultivating some really good relationships with people who have helped me both pragmatically, but also just grow as a person and as a writer. So really cultivate those relationships, and not let in a cynical’ What can I get out of this person?’ way, but in a genuine form of connection. 

I have had it pointed out to me by a few people who have seen my plays, that a common thread is running through them, because the subject matters differ pretty wildly. But a common thread is – people sort of seeking a community or connection. And I think that’s probably true. It’s never in my mind as I’m writing it. But I think it’s probably true. And I think, especially these days, I think, you know, our culture is sort of, you know, finely crafted to promote alienation. And so, I think that it’s something we all need. And I remember, as a kid, I found that with people doing theatre, or as a musician, when I was in the band, you know, a lifetime ago. But, yeah, it’s always about the people to me, and I think I would, I would give myself this much credit that even a while ago, even at a fairly young age, even if I didn’t know it, intellectually, I intuited that really, the point of things is relationships, and other people. Not that you should become dependent on other people, but that you should be welcoming of other people. And so, yeah, like I said, I think that’s the one key thing for me that I’ve realised over and over again, that inevitably boils down to the relationships you have with people.

Deborah: Excellent advice. I agree. Absolutely, networking is so important, you don’t know who might come into your life that can have a huge influence, and how you can help other people. 

Jack: Yes, has to be reciprocal. I completely agree, and you have to be fine with it, you know, doing something with someone when they have some sort of pragmatic success from it, and you don’t necessarily. That’s certainly happened to me. And you have to sort of let go of that little childish self that says, ‘Well, why didn’t I get some?’ Which very much exists within me, but yeah, I am much happier, when I can be happy for that person. You know, and it’s just a very nice feeling.

Deborah: That’s a really good thing to pick up. Because I think we would be lying if any of us said we didn’t, at some time feel envy for a fellow writer who we wished well, who we loved with all our hearts, but we thought, That’s not fair. And then, you feel awful that you think that’s not fair when you really do wish them well. Feeling why not me? And it’s, as you say, it’s a childlike emotion, because that’s where we are.

Jack: Yeah, that’s where I am certainly. I think it was Gore Vidal said, ‘Every time a friend of mine succeeds, I die a little inside’, which is a little too acidic, I think, for it to be, you know, entirely true. But yeah, we all have those feelings. And I think it’s okay. You know, as I’ve grown up or attempted to, I think, one of the things you learn is that your feelings are going to show up, and they’re going to take whatever form they take. It’s a question of, you know, you can’t judge yourself for that, because there’s a sense of what you’re not, you’re not in control of your feelings. What you can control is what you do with those feelings and what feelings you choose to dwell on and to focus and to foster. That’s your choice. But the feelings themselves aren’t either good or bad. They just exist.

Deborah: When I do my meditation, if I feel like that, I do two things. One, I acknowledge, that’s how I feel and I don’t give myself a hard time about it. I just feel where it is in my body. I can feel it and recognise it’s there. And then I think about that person, wishing them love, wishing them the best and sending light and love. It sounds a bit hippy, but it’s sending a sense of feeling to them that I genuinely want well for them, and then with those two combined, and trusting that there’s a different path for me – and that’s okay. Those two techniques really helped me.

Jack: Yeah. I think that wonderful and it’s down to you, if you can put out that feeling genuinely – out there to the world. To quote someone else – the Beatles said, and  I think it’s very true, ‘The love you take is equal to the love you make.’ And I think really the point of that is – you need to learn to give and feel good and feel love wherever you can find it. And just, again, let go of anything negative and don’t judge yourself for it. You know, everything is transient. Even your darkest feelings are going to pass. Don’t try to label them. And more importantly, don’t label yourself based on what you’re feeling at any given moment.

Deborah: I was listening to something on TV about Julie Andrews’s life, you know, Mary Poppins, My Fair lady? 

Jack: Oh yeah!

Deborah: Well, this is a great true story. I hadn’t really realised at the time but Mary Poppins, not Mary Poppins, sorry, Julie Andrews – she’s just a real person! Julie Andrews had done My Fair Lady on Broadway and in London. And it was huge, huge success. So, when they were coming to choose an actress to be in the film, she assumed it would be her. And of course, it wasn’t.  It was Audrey Hepburn. And can you imagine her disappointment, you know, as an artist, when that happened? How devastated she must have felt? She really believed it was hers. And it wasn’t. And then a few months later, the role of Mary Poppins fell into her lap. And she was asked to do that. Then when it came to the awards, that film and her as leading actress, got more awards than my fair lady. I take from that, when things don’t go the way that you hope they will or expect them to, very often, there’s something much better that you hadn’t envisaged just waiting for you.

Jack: That’s absolutely true. And that’s true of my life as well. In low moments, it’s very hard to see that maybe this is a new opportunity, in that this clears the path for you to go a way and you’ll actually get more out of. I’ve had multiple experiences of that my life. 

Deborah: Yes, me too. And I think the older you get – I’m sure I’m older than you.

Jack: You’re more mature than I am, I’m sure.

Image by Wolfgang Eckert from Pixabay

Deborah: As you go through life, the more experiences that you have that you can look back on. You can use those as a reference point to think, ‘Ah, but when that didn’t happen, X happened. And when that didn’t happen, that happened.’ And you get more and more affirmations that this is the way life can work – is, working for you. And that fills you, I think, with positivity. If you can go back and remember that.

Jack: Yes, absolutely. It’s so hard for me to claim to be committed. It’s so hard for me in the moment, where I’m expressing or experiencing disappointment to, to remind myself of that, but it is vital to do that. You’re absolutely right.

Deborah: It’s a journey. We’re all a work in progress.

Jack: Yes. Very much so very much. 

Deborah: That’s why the journey is so interesting.

Jack: Yes, that’s right. I won’t pretend this is an insight of mine, it’s pretty much common knowledge. But, you know, suffering is awful, it’s why they call it suffering, but it’s also imperative that you have it without that you wouldn’t grow in any way. I suffer a lot from depression, and I don’t recommend it to anyone, if they have a choice. But having said that, I also have to, in my less desperate moments, realise that it’s actually been a pretty, a very strict and mean, but very good teacher. At times, I think I’m a lot more empathetic than I would have been, had I not had those feelings. I think, whatever abilities I have, to whatever degree I have them, have been sort of sharpened I think, by that experience. I mean, certainly, I don’t think I would have been a writer. And I certainly wouldn’t have been, you know, as however good or bad or I may be, I wouldn’t have been able to reach the potential I’ve reached, you know, to whatever degree that may be without that suffering. And so, I think it’s you have to accept, you know, the yin and the yang as they say.

Deborah: It’s a really good point to make. Thank you. How would you like to be remembered?

Jack: Well, if I’m remembered at all that would be a little surprising for me. I think ultimately, you know, I mean, cliched answers are really cliches for a reason. I really want to be – I have two children who mean the universe to me. And so, I want to be remembered by them, as someone who loved them and did his best even when he – you know, although I am far from perfect father, but that they knew that they were loved and that I love them. And then, beyond that, I would love to be thought of fondly by my friends and most of the people whose lives I’ve been in, that won’t be 100%. But it’ll hopefully it’ll be nice. And then maybe if in my small, totally unverifiable via data way made the world just made, like a half a centimetre nicer, you know, slightly, slightly better than when I showed up. 

Deborah: I’m sure you’ve already done that, because my favourite film is, It’s a Wonderful Life.

Jack: Oh, that’s a beautiful one. The day, I don’t cry at the end of that movie is the day I really need to worry about myself.

Deborah: So, I’m sure you already touched a lot of lives through your plays and your work.

Jack: Well, that’s very kind. Thank you. Then of course, lastly, I would love it if a play or two of mine survived into the next generation, but ultimately, I won’t be around. So, the most important thing is to just, you know, be as kind as you can be, as often as you can be. There are days in which the bar for my ability to be kind is pretty low. So that varies, obviously, but I think that’s our main job – to try to be kind. When I was younger, I really valued talent and intelligence. And it’s not that I don’t value those anymore, but I place a lot more stock in than just being a good person, you know, a nice person, which sounds idiotic, but I think it’s true. I mean, I think being proud of, you know, your intellect, for example, is like being proud of your blood type it is sort of an accident of birth. But kindness is something you have to work at. 

Getting back to our earlier point about what do you have control of, you don’t have control over a lot of things. And you don’t really have control over your talent to a degree. I mean, you can work at it and shape it, and I think you should, but you don’t have control to a degree in your intelligence, for example. But you do have control in how kind you are, and how you treat other people. So ultimately, I think that’s what I respect that, more than anything.

Deborah: Again, this is probably a cliche, but when I heard it, which wasn’t that long ago, for the first time, it had an impact on me. I was at a funeral. And the celebrant said, ‘It’s not what we have achieved, but what we have become that’s important in life.’ And I thought that was so true.

Jack: Yes, that’s really wonderful. It’s far better than I would have come up with, but I think it’s so true. And I think that, you know, in life as I get older, I think that most of life is a verb as opposed to a noun. You know, it’s about acting, whatever way you want to, but acting in the best way you know how for yourself and for others, rather than just thinking things will come to you or thinking things are facts – unalterable and permanent. You know, it’s about, it’s about trying to do these things that matters more.

Deborah: I nearly said, ‘absolutely.’ And I’ve noticed when I’ve been editing my show notes, I say absolutely too much. Absolutely.

Jack: Well, good. Good. I got a couple of them out of you so I succeeded today.

Deborah: Great. So finally, what words of wisdom would you impart to your younger self, when you go back to when you first started out writing and you felt overwhelmed by what you wanted to achieve and where you were? Looking back, what would you say to yourself?

Jack: Well, I would say to myself, and I think is what I would say to myself today, and will say to myself tomorrow, which is much of what we’ve been talking about is – ‘Just do the best you can do and don’t worry so much about the other things.’ 

Everyone would always like to have accomplished more materially. I certainly would, I’m not ashamed of saying that, but and I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as some and I’ve been fortunate enough to accomplish in the material sense, more than other people. Although, again, at the same time, you also have to realise a lot of it doesn’t have to do with you, a lot of it has to do with luck, and it’s not really necessarily in any way a definitive quantification of your abilities. 

You just have to do what you can do and try and enjoy the relationships and just enjoy the work as much as you possibly can, even when – this is gonna sound ridiculous, but even when it’s not fun. You should still enjoy it as much as possible. And, again, do everything you can to succeed materially, but don’t use that as the arbiter of whether or not you’ve succeeded or failed.

Deborah: Those are great words of wisdom. Life goes by far too quickly for us to waste our energy being unhappy. 

Jack: Yes, absolutely. Now I’m saying it now. You’ve started a trend.

Deborah: Brilliant.

Jack: It’s your catch phrase.

Deborah: (laughs) I’ve really enjoyed talking to you Jack Canfora.

Jack: Likewise. Thank you so much for having me on.

Deborah: It’s a pleasure. So, I will give links to your work in the show notes. 

Jack: Please do. Thank you so much. And again, it was such a pleasure talking to you. A lot of fun. Thank you. 

I really appreciate Jack’s honesty in talking to me about disappointment, envy, and suffering because we all experience these feelings at some time, even the most successful of writers. It is what we do with them that makes us stronger and better – both as a person and a creative.

Since chatting with Jack he has told me about an audio play that is going to be released on all podcast platforms in October, called Step Nine. You can find out more by visiting his theatre company’s website www.newnormalrep.org. I recommend you subscribe to New Normal Rep’s YouTube page, which has lots of amazing free content, including an online production of Jack’s last play Jericho, directed by Marsha Mason. 

I will be away on a writer’s retreat before we next meet. I’m so looking forward to spending a few days hidden away in the wilds of Norfolk with my writer friends, where I intend to lose myself in my WIP. When life gets this busy I have to remind myself that I love everything that I do and try to enjoy each moment instead of fretting over getting everything done!

Please check out The Forever Cruise available for pre-order on Amazon for just 99p/99c until publication day on 1st December. 

So, 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 be Open to Possibility with author C.D’Angelo

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

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

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

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

C.D’Angelo

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

https://books2read.com/TheDifferenceCDAngelo

https://books2read.com/TheVisitorCDAngelo

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

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

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

Listen to the Podcast here: Episode Three

Or read the transcript below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C. D’Angelo: Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pexels – Pixabay

Deborah: Tell me more

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

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

C. D’Angelo: Definitely.

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

C.D’Angelo: I enjoyed that. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deborah: Finding a writing community on online. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C. D’Angelo: Yes. 

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

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

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

C. D’Angelo: Yes. Yes. 

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

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

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

C. D’Angelo: Okay. I will. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

How to keep positive when the going gets tough

This morning’s run was not the one I had hoped for. I had it all planned. If I was on the beach by 7.30 am the tide would still be far enough out to run on the sand. I woke naturally at 8.30 am having enjoyed over ten hours of sleep so by the time I hit the beach it was a little after nine and the tide was coming in.

Instead of running across a swathe of uninterrupted sand, the rising tide pushed me further up the beach where wooden groynes divided the beach. I pushed myself to sprint each section and even managed a few hurdles. When it was almost full tide, I challenged myself further by running up and then down the steep slopes linking the upper greensward with the promenade below.

Life is not always what we hope for or expect. I would not have chosen the workout that I experienced this morning. It was hard enough getting out of bed and venturing into the cold but it made me stronger and for that I am grateful.

It is frustrating and disappointing when life does not unfold according to our plans. We rail against a God who doesn’t seem to be listening to our prayers. It is easy to look back with hindsight and understand why things happened as they did but that doesn’t help at the time. Last week I heard two stories both with the same message. The first was a documentary about the life of Julie Andrews.

Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews had great success early in her acting career as Eliza Doolittle in the Broadway production of My Fair Lady. The show continued its success in London. When Jack Warner planned a film production of the musical, Julie Andrews was devastated not to be cast in the leading role. You can imagine how she must have felt – the disappointment, maybe feelings of self-doubt, anger at the injustice of being passed over. I don’t know how long she had to wait before Walt Disney approached her offering the role of Mary Poppins. My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins were both released in 1964. It was the perfect role for Julie Andrews and made her a beloved household name. It is hard to believe when we don’t get what we want and think we deserve that something better awaits us but very often this is the case. We just need patience and faith.

The second story was more recent and closer to home. A bookshop owner and friend experienced a couple of tortuous years fighting to keep her independent bookshop – a treasured community resource alive. A new and ruthless landlord made unreasonable demands. As soon as one demand was met another followed. Although my friend showed determination, courage, and stamina she realised that staying put was not an option. When she was forced to sell the business, my friend took time out to ponder what she would do instead. Now, a year after selling the business, she is a hypnotist practitioner. Yesterday, my friend told me that she couldn’t be happier and wished that she had embarked on this rewarding career sooner.

Peter H – Pixabay

Sometimes, by clinging too hard to what we think should happen we block out the new opportunities waiting to come into our lives.

As we start a new year I have ambitions, and hopes for my writing career. I would love a traditional publishing contract and have held back from independently (indie) publishing my latest works. If I am successful in securing a contract it feels like the easier route. I would be supported by an agent, and a publisher would initially meet the costs of production. Alternatively, I could commit one hundred percent to being an indie author. It is hard work but brings rewards in creative autonomy. At this crossroads, I am keeping all options open. 

I will share my journey with you – the ups and downs. Like this morning’s run, my journey may not be the one I hope for but the challenges will bring their own rewards. And I will try to remember the next time I experience disappointment that something much better could be just around the corner.

Why you are special

Do you sometimes despair believing that you have no chance of being seen when there is so much competition? Maybe you are a musician, a writer, an actor, or just applying for your dream job and facing one rejection after another. To keep on, keeping on, when it feels the odds are against us is tough. We may start out optimistic and full of energy but to survive one knockback after another requires resilience and determination. There will be times when we question whether our efforts are in vain, after all, there are a million others like us with the same dream. What makes us so special?

We are special because each one of us has been created to fulfil a purpose. We are unique; a precious part of the whole. Imagine the universe. A cosmic system of a billion stars and galaxies, containing all of the energy and matter that there is. Every tiny detail created to work in perfect harmony. It is magnificent – awe-inspiring, and we are part of that universe. 

When I was younger and had several knockbacks in my career, I remember walking on a stony beach. I picked up a pebble and questioned – why that pebble when it might have been any one of the million on that beach? It was chance, so what chance did I have of being picked for my dream job? 

As it happened, the job I thought was right for me was not. When I let go and trusted the universe, I was rewarded with a future that was more than I could have imagined. I truly believe that the great creator of all things has a perfect plan and we just have to let go and trust. So, shine bright and know that you are special. 

How to survive querying agents or a job hunt

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

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

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

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

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

Before 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christos Giakkus Pixabay

During 

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

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

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

After

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

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

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

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

5 steps to attract what you want into your life

‘I want this more than anything.’

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

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

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

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

Albrecht Fietz Pixabay

1. Focus on what is within your control

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

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

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

Noel Bauza Pixabay

2. Invite new opportunities into your life

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

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

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

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

Beate Bachmann Pixabay

3. Do not attach yourself to one particular outcome

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

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

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

Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke Pixabay

4. Open your heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jplenio Pixabay

5. Trust the journey

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

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

How to Sow Seeds for Success

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

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

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

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

I just read a tweet from @HutchinsAuthor 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to stop self-sabotage

If you had suggested a year ago that I was self-sabotaging my chances of success in securing a publishing contract I would have denied it vehemently. I had done everything in my power to make that dream come true. I had an agent and my novel went out on submission, there was nothing I could do to influence the outcome. All of that is true. However, I have come to recognise a pattern of self-sabotage when I am striving for the things that I want most in my life. I hope that by sharing this with you I might help you to recognise similar patterns of behaviour in yourself. 

We may not understand why we self-sabotage, but to achieve our dream we don’t have to. We just need to become aware, to observe with compassion, and by fractionally changing our direction of travel – steering that cruise ship one degree East, we can end up in a different place. 

Understanding my behaviour and its impact has been a gradual process. In an earlier blog on How to stay the course and succeed I described how early signs of success and encouragement have led me to overreach in the past – trying to run before I can walk and then throwing up my hands in frustration when things don’t pan out as I had hoped. This is an over-simplification of a complicated thought process but it was the beginning of my growing awareness.

Couleur Pixabay

Is there a goal, an elusive dream, that you have failed to achieve despite doing everything within your power to make it come true? If you are a writer, it may be getting an agent or a publishing contract, but it could be anything: losing weight, finding a loving partner, getting a promotion. For me it has been, getting into OT college (age 18), getting a promotion (age 39), getting a publishing contract (recent years).

Every time that I was bashing myself against an unyielding wall, I thought I knew why things weren’t happening for me. I blamed other people, my circumstances, an unfair system. I would have done anything within my power to achieve my goal and had proved that through my hard work, determination and perseverance, so it had to be out of my control. 

If I had kept an open mind and gently looked inward, not judging myself but with patience and kindness, I might have discovered how some of my behaviours were having a negative impact. These are the patterns I have observed in my behaviour:

Rushing off an application/submission 

Have you pressed send on an important job application, competition entry, or query letter and then regretted being so hasty because you could have done a better job? I do this all of the time. I put it down to being efficient and getting a job done or being an impatient person. Neither of these is completely true. I am meticulous about writing a professional report for work and I am a perfectionist when writing and publishing a novel. So why do I dash off an application/submission when it is so important to me? I am protecting myself from rejection. If I get a negative response, I can say it is because I messed up my application. When we want something too much, we fear disappointment and so we take control – in this case, I was taking control of my failure.

Another move is to say, ‘I don’t know whether I want this job or not.’ I have heard myself and members of my family claim this when applying for a job. The line that follows is, ‘So I won’t be disappointed if I don’t get it.’ We are telling our loved ones please don’t pity me or be disappointed when I’m rejected. We don’t want to let them down. But by going into an interview with this thought, however peripheral, we are sabotaging our chance of success because the lack of interest will be apparent. I have done this myself. I even got the feedback that I was the best candidate on paper but I came over as not wanting the job. 

Thorben Ki Pixabay

Ignoring advice

It is annoying when someone suggests that we do something a different way, or learn new skills to achieve our goal. It means that we are not as ready as we believed ourselves to be. There is a knowledge/skill gap and as we look into what seems to be a gaping hole, we lose confidence. What if we are not good enough? We aren’t that person. We don’t fit. We will be found out. Instead of filling the gap and adapting our approach, we close down. I know that to be commercially successful as an author I need to be more genre-specific. I have spent years denying this and justifying why I can’t make my writing fit into one genre. The result is that whilst I can write books that are well received with great reviews, I will never achieve my dream of reaching a wider audience of readers until I learn to adapt. 

‘I can’t.’ ‘I’ve tried.’ ‘It doesn’t work.’ How often have we cried out in defeat instead of knuckling down and doing the work: Learning a new skill, Trying a different approach? Sometimes we have to take what feels like a step backwards so that we can move forwards. 

When I finished writing the first draft of my first novel, I sent it out to an agent and got a very encouraging response. It was a revise and resubmit letter with pages of comments to inform the rewrite. Instead of doing the work, I abandoned the manuscript and started on a new project. I threw away a golden opportunity. I justified this later by saying at that time  I didn’t understand the implications of this positive and generous response. I misinterpreted it as ‘You are not good enough. Try again.’ This was what I was telling myself not the agent. For some reason, I did not think I deserved to be taken seriously.

There are lots of reasons why we might self-sabotage and our ingenious minds find subtle ways to do this. The good news is that as soon as we become aware of these patterns of behaviour we start to change. 

Don’t beat yourself up if you think that you are self-sabotaging. You are just protecting yourself. Be kind and compassionate to the part of you that believes you are unworthy, is afraid of failing, disappointing others, or feels a bit overwhelmed by the idea of success. 

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut believing that this is all we can have – if we expose ourselves as self- sabotaging then we have to accept that we may have wasted opportunities and that can be painful. I believe that the right thing happens at the right time. It may have taken me longer to get to where I am now but that is because I had to work through those experiences.

Changing my behaviour will not happen overnight but I feel as though my compass has been reset. I am cruising towards my paradise. I just had to change course a fraction. 

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. 

Meditation Challenge part three

Blue boat photograph with kind permission of Edana Minghella

In The Meditation Challenge part two, I told you how the wise words of Tara Brach helped me to gain a perspective on the outcome of submitting my novel to publishing editors, and how meditation helped me to be more creative (I will dedicate a future blog to using meditation for creative energy). My agent had said my novel was ready to send out to editors but I had heard no more, and so I asked for an update.

Meditations for disappointment

If hearing the news that my novel was ready to go out on submission was a high, then it was followed by a low. Apparently, there had not been a great response to ‘the pitch.’ It was going to be a challenge to find a home, as it wasn’t ‘on-trend’ right now and editors were being cautious in the current market. This was before the pandemic and I suspect times are even tougher now for debut authors. Meditation came to my rescue again.

Whatever you need meditation to help you with, type it into the YouTube search engine. It’s an amazing resource. I typed in guided meditation for disappointment and found. Guided meditation for healing disappointments. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyUDFlCjLog  

I have used it again and again. It’s really effective.

Attracting abundance

My agent’s marketing strategy was to first send my novel to one of the big five publishers on an exclusive. This means that they have first refusal, rather than having to bid against other publishing houses. 

I overdosed on meditation. Instead of driving myself crazy imagining different scenarios, I meditated with vengeance. I meditated to invite abundance into my life. There are lots of meditations on using gratitude to create abundance, the theory being that when you are thankful for the good things in your life you attract more. I had a lot to be grateful for – my ‘cup over-floweth.’ In fact, I felt as though I already had too much and I was wrong to want more. But I did. I desperately wanted a publishing contract. 

Some of the meditations on abundance are about using meditation to create prosperity and wealth. I avoided these at they didn’t sit well with me, but I did enjoy The Honest Guys, The Wishing well of Abundance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MPpGZf8wjA

Trusting the journey

It didn’t work. By September, the editor who had my manuscript rejected it and from her comments, I don’t think she could have read it. But, there was a plan. My agent resolved to get my novel into the hands of the right editors and proposed a list of thirteen. We waited until after the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. And waited.

I really believed that good things were going to happen for me. I had absolute faith and confidence. When I wobbled, I repeated my mantra, The right thing will happen at the right time in the right way. You are exactly where you are meant to be right now. I had reason to be optimistic, I had a brilliant agent and my manuscript had been sent out to a number of publishers. There was nothing I could do except concentrate on writing my next novel, which was progressing well.

I am a bit of a control freak. This served me well in the past, as I founded two successful businesses but I needed to learn to let go and trust the process. My daily meditations now included ones to help me do just that.

Meditations for letting go

  • The Mindful Movement – Trust the Journey
  • Jason Stephenson – Surrender Meditation, letting go of control. This one is also good for disappointment or coping with life changes.
  • Honest Guys. A guided meditation for letting go.

As weeks passed without any news, I managed my anxiety by imagining that I was in a rowing boat. I pulled the oars inside and lay back to allow the boat to take me along the river. When the boat got caught on reeds, I waited patiently knowing that the flow of the river would dislodge us and carry us to the ocean. It was a soothing thought.

‘If we haven’t got an offer by Christmas we’ll meet to discuss the next steps’, my agent reassured me. So, there were next steps. This wasn’t the end of the journey. Equipped with positive affirmations, I clung to the sides of that little boat and willed the river to carry us onward. 

In the fourth and final blog of The Meditation Challenge, I will tell you where the river took me.