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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me introduce you.

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

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

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

Matthew Williams

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

Or read the transcript below:

Deborah: Hi, Matthew. 

Matthew: Hi there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Jobs

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

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

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

Deborah: Excellent. Thank you. 

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

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

Matthew: You’re welcome. Thank you.

Links from Matthew:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to 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.

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 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. 

The magic outside our comfort zone

Many years ago, I watched a television programme that left an impression on me. An older woman explained why she took up sky-diving in her sixties. It was an antidote to the risk of an ever-diminishing life, as a result of living within her comfort zone. As we get older, we can be less inclined to take risks and settle into a comfortable routine. Sky-diving is a bit extreme. I considered trying a tandem skydive but the thought of jumping out of a plane terrifies me. In the 2001 film Kate and Leopold, Meg Ryan has to step off the Brooklynn Bridge, to be reunited with Leopold and to live the life she truly desires. I love that film, but every time I watch it she goes to jump and I think, I couldn’t do it. I would lose everything because I would be too afraid.

There is a parallel here to life. It’s great being comfortable, feeling calm and secure. When our world changes, establishing a routine can help us to feel in control.  During lockdown, a routine helped many of us create a sense of stability in a scary world. However, over time we can become stuck, moving within the boundaries we have established. Comfort turns to discontent as we become aware of our unfilled potential. It is frightening to step out of our comfort zone: fear of failure, rejection, or disappointment. But we risk losing much more if we stay put. We risk losing the opportunity to fulfil our potential, and to discover new interests and passions. We aren’t just denying ourselves the expression of our true self and all that we can be, we are denying it to the world. We have a responsibility to fulfil our potential and that means continuing to learn and grow, whatever stage of life we are at. 

In an earlier blog Welcoming change, I told you how I was letting go of a successful career as a management consultant to start a new one as an indie author entrepreneur. It was and is scary. I was very comfortable with my working life, but this meant that nothing challenged me. I had decades of experience in health and social care. I could take on any management consultancy job in my field and know that I had the skills and experience to deliver. It was a great place to be and paid the bills. Outside of my comfort zone was my unfulfilled potential. I knew I wanted to be a published author and there were other things, other versions of me that I needed to explore. I am only just discovering some of that potential, as I try out new things. 

Yes, we may fail. I made my first book promotion video without looking at the camera because I didn’t know where it was on my phone. I’ll know next time, so it isn’t failure; it’s my first attempt. I like the old adage that when we mess things up we just need to use the experience as manure to nourish future projects. 

The past six months have been a steep learning curve for me. I have learnt how to: commission and work with a creative team (editors and book cover designer), format a manuscript for publication, self-publish, set up and write a blog, use Mailchimp to share a newsletter, and use social media (Twitter, Instagram, Business page on Facebook). I am planning a YouTube channel to broadcast twice a week from January 2021, and I am writing and publishing another two novels next year.

 I am sixty and so I have not grown up with the technology that younger people are experienced in using. Of course, I have experienced frustration and felt stupid. What happens if my investment of time and money doesn’t pay off? I have felt weary, exhausted from the effort and relentless drive to succeed. But, I am growing. I am learning. And I am transforming. I am becoming a new me. I am pushing out into the unknown and with each step into that magical terrain, my world becomes bigger. Instead of feeling the weight of fear and uncertainty, I am going to embrace each new experience and find joy in learning. 

There’s just one other thing I will resolve to do. This is the scariest of all. I am going to visit my local swimming pool and jump into the deep end. It is a first step. I will not jump out of a plane, but maybe, if I can learn to do that without fear, I might just be able to jump back in time to be with the love of my life, should a Leopold beckon me one day. 

Abundance – or how to get more followers

To receive without asking

It has become a joke between my daughter and me that, Sherman, my husband, always gets preferential treatment at holiday buffets. For example, several years ago, Sherman and I were on a cruise of the Nile. I was standing in a long line of people waiting for the chef to prepare an omelette. Sherman is not even in the queue, he is helping himself to a bread roll close by the omelette station. The chef calls him over and, with a grin and a wink, slides a fluffy omelette onto his plate. Why? Why does Sherman get his needs met without having to ask? I know it doesn’t seem fair.

We have been married for thirty-five years and I have learnt that shop assistants, strangers in cafés, and people we occasionally pass on the street, all want to talk to Sherman. Faces light up when he approaches. We visited a pub on one occasion whilst on holiday in Whitby, Yorkshire. Seven years later we returned to the same pub and the publican greeted Sherman recalling his last visit. I know that Sherman would have bought him a pint when they first met and would probably have made him laugh. But beneath his banter is a man who genuinely cares. He notices people and makes them feel special and included. He doesn’t do it for any kind of return. He loves people and has a generous nature.

My daughter told me that she tried the ‘Sherman technique’ whilst on holiday hoping that she would get preferential treatment at the buffet, and was disappointed to find that it didn’t work. And there is the trick – the lesson to be learned.

If you do something hoping to be rewarded in kind, you will be disappointed. Life doesn’t work like that. When I first started this blog, I checked the statistics a few times each week driving myself crazy with negative thoughts. Why would anyone follow my blog when there were more experienced people out there writing much more interesting stuff than me? Was I wasting my time? 

Checking stats

Then I had a revelation, and I have Lauryn Trimmer prostorybuilders.wordpress.com to thank for that. In a blog, Lauryn said quite simply, Don’t look at the view count on stats. Just don’t do it. That was all it needed. I went for a run and thought, why am I worrying about the stats? I am doing something that I love. The blog, sharing thoughts and ideas with like-minded people on social media, reading and reviewing other authors’ work, being part of a readers’ and writers’ community – I love these experiences and opportunities. By the end of that run, my mind set had changed. Now, I commit to all of these things for the joy that they bring – not for any expected return.

The law of abundance

Meditation teaches us that gratitude, love, and joy bring abundance into our lives. That people are attracted to positive energy. Abundance does not work like a weighing scale with each good deed or good thought rewarded in kind. By being happy with where you are and who you are, you radiate positivity. 

If you have been following my blogs, you will know that I started this journey as an Indie author/creative entrepreneur with mixed feelings: excited by the possibilities, but daunted by the challenge that lay ahead. It is still early days, but as I relax and enjoy connecting with other creatives without expectation, just a willingness to support others on a similar journey, people and opportunities have come into my life that I could not have anticipated. 

Networking

Social media can be a valuable tool for networking and may lead to more meaningful connections with others. It can also be soul destroying if you value your worth by how many followers or ‘likes’ that you have. Take pleasure in the process. Be kind. Be authentic. Don’t expect any return– but don’t be surprised when you are called to the front of the line to receive an omelette before having to ask.

I am ending this week’s blog with a favourite poem of mine. Many years ago, this was pinned above my desk as the words really resonate with me. It is by Robert Muller, former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Decide to Network

Decide to network
Use every letter you write
Every conversation you have
Every meeting you attend
To express your fundamental beliefs and dreams
Affirm to others the vision of the world you want
Network through thought
Network through action
Network through love
Network through the spirit
You are the center of the world
You are a free, immensely powerful source
of life and goodness
Affirm it
Spread it
Radiate it
Think day and night about it
And you will see a miracle happen:
the greatness of your own life.
In a world of big powers, media, and monopolies
But of six billion individuals
Networking is the new freedom
the new democracy
a new form of happiness.

Robert Muller

Welcoming Change

Beginnings are scary.

I am writing this blog on the first day of the summer solstice, here in the Northern hemisphere. It seems fitting, as today I am writing about change. 

Steven Rogers said, ‘Beginnings are usually scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s what’s in the middle that counts.’ I am embarking on a change in my career and it is scary. I have been here before, when I moved from the clear career path as an executive manager in the NHS to a very different role working for the Audit Commission, a national regulator of local authority and health care services. Then, as now, I moved from the safety of a role where I was respected and knew what I was doing, to one where I felt like the new girl – clueless and deskilled.

In recent years, I have been letting my profile as a consultant in health and social care decline, so that I can commit more time to writing. Just thinking about this change gives me palpitations. It’s a mixture of fear and excitement. I worked hard to establish my management consultancy and it has been successful, but since my mother died a few years ago, I have been pursuing my passion for writing. Maybe her passing made me realise that I had to make the most of every day.

Finding the courage to take a new direction

It is easy to stay in a place where we feel comfortable, instead of taking a risk to follow our dreams. I am not suggesting writers should give up paid work to write full-time when they have no guaranteed income. I am in a fortunate position of being semi-retired and so I can afford to bring in less money and focus more on writing. But, when I was a hospital manager and stepped off the career ladder to take a route that was unfamiliar I had to be brave. It was the right decision for me and led to greater things than I could ever have imagined, but it took a leap of faith. 

Your heart tells you when it is time to make changes in your life, although it may take some time before you get the courage to listen to that inner voice and act. Letting go is the hardest part of that journey. If you are at the top of a mountain, feeling successful and valued, albeit unchallenged, stepping into the unknown is scary. If you have established a home routine that works and is comfortable, but no longer meets your needs, then disruption is scary.

The space between ending and beginning

Then, as now, emails relating to my day job went from a torrent of daily communications to a trickle and then nothing. Did that mean I was no longer important? I wasn’t needed? In the NHS Trust, there had been a reorganisation, and I had talked myself out of a job as I searched for a role that would enable me to improve services. All was quiet and I was afraid that I had wrecked my career.

 In that quiet time, I meditated and reflected. A mentor suggested the role I was in no longer fitted me. She suggested I spend time working out ‘my shape’ and then find a job to fit – keeping an open mind. If it hadn’t been for that space between the ending and beginning I would never have found my path. 

I am back in that place again today. I have intentionally let my consultancy business decline, turning down work, and moving my focus from networking with health and social care colleagues to networking with the writing community. I am in the space between, feeling my way, uncertain what the future may hold. Everything is unfamiliar and I am pushing myself every day to learn new skills: setting up this blog, using social media to network, publishing my debut. I am no longer the expert, the person to go to, a person well connected within a community. Maybe one day I will be, but now I am at the bottom of a mountain, with a steep climb ahead.

Fulfilling our potential

Everything has a season. A beginning, a middle and an end. Like our breath. It is the pause between breaths, the space between thoughts where the divine happens. We have to be still, to hear what is in our heart, and be open to new possibilities. We don’t know what the future will look like, we just have to have enough faith to let go of the old. Then wait. Beneath the ground nature takes its course and seeds germinate. Looking at bare soil is very, very scary. 

If we cling to what we know and never have the courage to learn something new, then we fail to fulfil our potential. Isn’t that what we are all here to do? To be the best version of ourselves that we can? This weekend it is International yoga day and the summer solstice here in the UK. As we go into the first day of summer, I hope that your harvest is plentiful and your dreams fulfilled. Namaste. 

Meditation Challenge part four

If you have been following my journey in the past three blogs, you will know that I used a daily meditation practice to help me to manage the emotional highs and lows of the path to publication. Lots of other things were going on in my life, but I have used this one example to show how meditation changed the way I responded to things. If you have taken on this meditation challenge, please tell me how it has helped you. 

My novel was out on submission at this stage in the story.

A revelation

As I waited and meditated, I realised that I hadn’t fully understood the law of abundance. I was using meditation to wish, like a talisman. If I meditate enough, my wishes will be granted. It was no different from the early days, before meditation when I constantly fretted about the future. 

Meditation taught me that abundance is about inviting what we need into our life. When we are very still and not distracted by our noisy thoughts, we are more observant of things that come our way: the comment made by a friend, a social media message that attracts our attention, something we thought might come in useful but had forgotten. These are like breadcrumbs that lead us to the right path. When you are curious and open to ideas and opportunities, things start to happen. Meditation helps you to see more clearly, to understand what you truly want, and opens your heart and mind to receive what comes your way.

I started out wanting validation as a writer. By picking out my submission from the hundreds that are sent to her every week, my agent had done just that. The wonderful rejections from top publishing editors that glowed with praise were also validation.

What I truly wanted now was to reach out to readers, in the hope that my stories would have some positive impact. I wanted to connect with readers in a meaningful way. Fame and fortune were never my goal. 

Maybe, I was just preparing myself for disappointment but it didn’t feel like that. I didn’t want to rely entirely upon this one agent, who despite her best intentions to serve me, was incredibly stretched as a result of her success and brilliance. How could I be open to new possibilities, if I wasn’t looking around me and making connections?

What next?

Eventually, I was forwarded four rejections. Two of them gave such glowing reviews that for a while I pinned these above my desk. However, the bottom line was, they didn’t know how to market my novel. I didn’t hear anything from the other nine, maybe my agent did but she never said.

I had completed a second novel, which would be appreciated by fans of the first, but I suspected, would have the same problems with marketing. 

My agent and I agreed to part company for the time being, so that I could pursue other opportunities to get my two novels published. 

Reaping the rewards of meditation

A year ago, possibly even six months, I would have been devasted to think I no longer had an agent and was back to square one. It was my biggest fear, in The Meditation Challenge part one. Now, it felt liberating. I had been set free! No more waiting for responses, waiting to be chosen. I chose ME. And it felt really good.

It was then that things started to happen. New people came into my life to support me, I came across resources and ideas that excited me. I realised then what inviting abundance into my life really meant. 

A guided meditation around this time told me that when bad things happen, our body’s natural defence is to avoid getting hurt again. I must admit, that my first instinct after parting with my agent was to not put myself out there again. The thought of trying to find another agent depressed me. Then, as a result of meditation, I considered again, with a calm and rational mind. I wrote to a few agents who I thought might be interested in representing me, I contacted a few independent publishers and I investigated Indie publishing. This time, I did not attach myself to any one outcome, I just threw out some seeds to see what would happen. I could not have done that a year ago. 

So, how has a daily meditation practice helped me over the course of a year?

  • No more headaches or eczema
  • I am no longer agitated and distracted and so I can savour each moment of my day
  • I am excited and positive about the future
  • If I do feel anxious, I know that meditation will calm me
  • New people, resources and ideas are already coming into my life 
  • My relationships are healthier and happier.

I will offer you one final meditation, The Honest Guys Positive Life Affirmations.

You may even write a few of your own. I have my favourites, and repeat them when I’m running!

I wish you the best in your writing journey, wherever you might be. I hope that you have found these blogs helpful, whether or not you are a writer. 

In my next blog I will talk about using meditation to develop creativity. 

Part one

Part two

Part three