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.

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Congerdesign – Pixabay

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

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

Grace Sammon

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

http://gracesammon.net

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

How to manage unexpected or unwanted life transitions.

How to find purpose and joy however unlikely it seems.

The advantages of writing novels later in life.

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

Or read the transcript below:

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

Grace: Good morning and thank you for having me. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you always had a sense of purpose Grace? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courteously of Timur Kozmenko Pixabay

Deborah:  Absolutely. Yes, most definitely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace: Thank you.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deborah: Thank you.

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

Turn those scars into stars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to 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.

How you changed the world last year

At the beginning of a new year, we often reflect on what we achieved the previous year and plan for the coming one. The big achievements are easy to identify, maybe you started a new job, completed a creative project, or lost some weight but we are not always aware of the smaller actions that have had an impact on others.

In the lead-up to Christmas, I love to watch the James Stewart film, It’s a Wonderful Life. This 1946 classic is about an angel who is sent to earth to show a disillusioned man what the world would have been like without him in it. He learns how his actions had an impact on others – the ripple effect.

Last year I discovered a new favourite film Journey Back to Christmas. It is a delightful family film about a WW11 nurse who is transported to 2016. She thought that her life had no purpose until, on the night of a comet, she is transported to the future and sees for herself the impact of her small actions.

Its a Wonderful Life

Both of these films are great reminders that we are powerful individuals who, by being part of creation, impact those around us in profound ways – even though we cannot always see this.

We can all recall a conversation or the comment of a friend – maybe a stranger, that has led us in a certain direction. It was an advert for a creative writing group in my village that reminded me of a passion I had neglected for years. I joined a small group that met in the home of a writer. This writer had self-published a novella and the creative writing group that she set up was to help build her confidence as she had anxiety and was trying to get back into the workplace. One week, she suggested that we try writing a story of 5k words and then share 1k of that story each week when we came together. The creative writing group folded before we got to share more than the first 2k words of our stories but my 5k story became my first novel. I did not publish it then but went on to write four more novels. However, last year I reworked that first novel and it is out on submission for publication. The young woman who started that creative writing group may not consider it a great achievement. She may even have beaten herself up for not being able to continue the project. I would love to tell her the impact that she had on my life.

I have many more examples and I am sure you will have a few of your own. A chance remark that led you to apply for a job, a story on TV that inspired you to try something new, or the kindness of a stranger that made you feel valued and restored your hope for the future.

John Bain – Pixabay

Just because we cannot see the impact of our actions that doesn’t mean they are insignificant. Perhaps our greatest achievements are those that we will never know. So, when you sit down to write what you have achieved at the end of the year remember that by being open and kind you may have achieved more than you thought.

I believe that we are all connected and great things happen through us when we are receptive. Miracles and angels are a result of this – remember the saying God works in mysterious ways?

You may be somebody’s angel today and you will never know.

How to accept the things that we cannot change

We all know the serenity prayer with the line: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.’It makes absolute sense, if we can’t change something or influence the outcome then why would we waste energy trying to do the impossible?  And yet this is what we find ourselves doing again, and again, at least it was a pattern for me.

As this is a blog about the inner journey of the creative, I am going to focus on the things that creatives cannot control in their creative journey, and how to live peacefully accepting this fact. Creatives create. We pour our heart and soul into our work; what we cannot control is how our work is received when it goes out into the world. Authors, artists, songwriters, and performers suffer whenever they release new work. Waiting for critics, agents, publishers, or the public to respond can feel torturous.

S. Hermann & F.Richter – Pixabay

 Through meditation, I learnt how to live peacefully during these periods of uncertainty, letting go and trusting God. I have used the word God because that is what I believe however, replace God with the Universe or anything else that is meaningful to you. What is important is an acceptance that there is a higher power.

I think of it like this. My job spec is to create – to produce the best work I can. Improving my craft, getting feedback, striving for excellence – these are all within my control. My boss – the higher power, has a different job. He (she /it) governs the universe, is the creator of all things, and knows exactly what is required and when. I believe that God is working in my best interests so that I can fulfil my life purpose according to his plan for me. You might reword this to say that the Universe or your higher self knows your purpose and will manifest what you need to become the person you are meant to be. 

So, imagine you have this boss who has the power to make anything happen – to perform miracles, who knows everything – what is, and what will be. With a boss like that, we can safely let go of control. All we need to do is keep the lines of communication open so that we see the opportunities presented to us, and follow our intuition. I truly believe this and it has brought me peace. If things do not go the way I had hoped or expected then I accept that there is a bigger picture and in time I will understand.

AllNikArt – Pixabay

 We are driven by what is in our heart and I believe that seed has been sown for a purpose – it is what we are meant to pursue. How and when that dream comes to fruition is out of our control but everything in the Universe works in perfect harmony. When I let go, believing that what is meant to be will be, I have more creative energy, insight, and clarity. I am not wasting my energy interfering in what is God’s business – I am getting out of my own way so that good things can happen.

It is human nature to try and control everything in our lives, especially when it matters so much to us. Of course, I have moments when I am fearful and question my faith, what if I am deceiving myself? At these times I think of myself kindly and talk to the inner child. A child has a limited perception of the world. I try and reassure this part of me from another place that has greater understanding. I think that having the serenity to accept the things we cannot change is perhaps one of the greatest challenges for creatives. 

Why waiting on God or the Universe is a gift

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

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

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

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

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 1994 film adaptation

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

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

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

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

David and Goliath

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

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

Why 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. 

Why new beginnings are scary

Beginnings, endings, and the pause between

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

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

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

Cocoparisienne Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

How to 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.

How to be one in a million

When I was in my thirties, frustrated at my failure to achieve the next step on the career ladder, I remember walking on a pebbly beach. I thought, I am like one of those zillion pebbles, why would an employer pick me? There was so much competition, I felt as though I was invisible and my dreams unachievable. 

What I have learned since is that every single pebble on that beach is perfect and unique. Together they are astounding but each and every one of them has a place and purpose. I found my purpose – the perfect job for me but it wasn’t until I relaxed and valued myself that my future found me.

Whether you are applying for jobs, querying agents, or submitting to publishers, there is a lesson to be learnt from those pebbles on the beach. 

You are unique and perfect. Take stock of what you have achieved, your skills, your experience. Everything that makes you who you are today – right now. The opportunity you are seeking needs to fit your perfect shape.

 Every pebble, shell, and grit of shingle fits perfectly into a whole. The sea smooths rough edges, it carries flotsam in its tide, and welcomes the rivers and streams that flow into its vast ocean. We are part of something bigger.

Nature will find your perfect fit, what you need to evolve and become the person you are meant to be. Your job is to be clear where you are now in your development so that you can recognise the right opportunity when it arises – and it will. 

Taken at Isles of Scilly

You are one of a million, but you are also one in a million. Nobody else has your unique combination of skills, knowledge and experience. The job, agent, or publisher that is right for you – the perfect fit, will be drawn to you when you know what you are looking for. 

Think of putting together a jigsaw puzzle. At first the mound of jigsaw pieces can feel a bit overwhelming, but when you hold one piece in your hand and really study its form, the exact shape of each side, then it becomes much clearer where that piece fits within the bigger picture.

Just as the sea shapes and moves, your life will unfold in its own time. Keep present and trust the process. Everything happens at the right time. Because nature is perfect and we are part of nature.

For practical guidance on finding the perfect job this link will take you to an earlier blog. 

Why we need holidays to see things differently

I have just returned from a relaxing break in a woodland lodge. Surrounded by trees, rhododendrons, and wildlife it was easy to switch off. I found myself gazing into space, my mind completely free of thought. A state which normally takes concentrated meditation now felt like a default setting. To be still with no thought can seem counter-productive. No divine inspiration, thunderbolt realisations – not even a new story idea. We drive ourselves in pursuit of achievement, ever faster and more intense, willing our dreams to materialise – believing we have control. Allowing stillness feels counterintuitive – lazy. We are brought up with the belief that hard work brings rewards and success. This is true to a certain extent but it is also important to know when and how to relax and give our minds a break.

With the pandemic, few people have taken a proper holiday and it is something we all need given the stresses of this past year. Escaping to a different setting from our home and familiar environment provides a temporary respite from our worries. We can step off the hamster wheel and take a breath. 

Peter Pyw Pixabay

Confined to our homes and the same four walls, books have provided an escape for many. Romcoms set in Italy, Greece, and other exotic locations, have been popular with many new publications this year. Last week, I interviewed author Lizzie Chantree for Castaway Books. Lizzie was a successful entrepreneur when her daughter experienced a life-changing illness she had to close her business. Sitting up most nights, she passed the time by writing. The story she wrote enabled her to escape to sunshine, romance, and friendship. This eventually become her debut novel Babe Driven and was the launch of a very successful career as an author. Her readers must have enjoyed the same feelings of escape that Lizzie did in writing this novel.

I am told by fans of fantasy, that the attraction is in escaping from this world. A writer friend explained how she could only write fantasy. To write stories set in the real world would be difficult for her, as it was a place where she had experienced childhood trauma and writing was a means of escape – a place to explore her thoughts and feelings in a different setting.

Whether it is a holiday or a novel that provides a means of escape, when we relax and shift our perspective, we gain new insights on our inner world. Our mind is relaxed and open to inspiration. We return to our daily life and see things a little differently.

It is a bit like being a sculptor. Up close we cannot see what we are creating, we have to stand back and view our work from different angles. 

There are other benefits from taking a holiday. My husband and I, like most families, have seen few other people and spent more time in each other’s company that we would in normal times. However, going away together for a few days meant that we spent quality time together. No phones, or social media – there was no signal in our woodland escape so that made it easier. Relaxed and carefree we were kinder, more considerate to one another, and more attentive.

I did have one epiphany during my four-day break. In the scheme of things our little world is a spec in the universe, and our civilisation has been here for a fraction of time. It made me wonder at my significance and the importance of my dreams and wishes. And then I thought about the magnificent feats of nature: sunrise and sunsets, the magnolia in my garden that flowers for a few weeks of the year but is glorious, so many breath-taking creations – each and every one precious. We are equally special, and when our dreams come to fruition we too will blaze in splendid glory. To let go is not to give in or give up, it is to trust the power of creation and to be secure in the knowledge that our life will flow in the magnificent way that is intended.

So, I too returned from my break with a slightly different perspective on my world.