Unleashing creativity and purpose

September a time for new beginnings

September has always been my favourite month of the year. A new school-term. A new rough book and a sharp pencil. A new teacher, excited to introduce the term’s work, and to learn our names. It’s a time of new possibilities. The harvest has been gathered in and the fields lie fallow, waiting for new crops to be sown.

It is the month I got married, and the month our daughter was born. When the leaves start to fall and my pockets fill with shiny conkers and acorns snug within their cups, my heart soars. I went for a run this morning, delighting in the crunch of leaves beneath my feet and the golden glow of sun, low in the sky now that summer has been spent. I got to thinking. This time in my life, it is like the fall. My achievements: building a successful business, raising a family, caring for ageing parents, are my harvest. I have toiled hard and loved every moment, but it is now done. Like the bronze and gold leaves at my feet, I have shed these responsibilities, and I am at a new stage in my life. A time to create something new.

Creativity increases during and post menopause

There is scientific evidence that women become more creative during and after menopause as a result of hormonal change (Dr. Christaine Northrup https://www.drnorthrup.com). I believe it is more than hormonal change. Men and women reach a time in their life when they experience a freedom that they haven’t known before. The harvest has been gathered and we reflect on the fallow field before us. We become introspective, questioning our true purpose in life. No longer required to serve others, we can dance to our own tune. In this time of reflection, we discover our intuition and insightfulness. It is no wonder we experience a surge of creativity. Alan Titchmarsh, once said on a Gardening programme, that we become invigorated in the spring because we can smell the plant sap of new growth. Maybe it is sensing our unfulfilled potential that awakens our longing to create when we begin our autumn years.

Don’t let a believe that it is too late to fulfil your dreams hold you back. I was really inspired by Penelope Fitzgerald’s story, (see Hermione Lee’s biography). Fitzgerald started publishing her books at the age of sixty. At the age of eighty, she became famous after winning the Booker Prize in 1978 for her novel Offshore, and then international fame when The Blue Flower won a major award in America. Her novels, like mine, tend to be about people living on the edges of society, combining pathos with humour. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to her work. She was a remarkable woman who led a full and fascinating life, experiencing hardship herself for many years.

Your creative yearnings may not be as a writer. We are all creative, and fulfilling this need is as important as our spiritual, physical, psychological, and emotional needs. Your creativity might be expressed in the interior design of your home, a meal prepared for friends, quilting, or gardening. The list is endless. What is important is that you make time to express your creativity and enjoy it.

A new term

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I remember travelling home from work on the train one evening on the first day of term. The carriage was static with excitement and anticipation as students of all ages chatted about the courses they were studying. A couple of women were getting to know one another, as they spoke about the healthcare module they had just begun. A group of teenagers compared subject choices, eager to share how they saw their future unfolding with university options and careers. I breathed in the energy and felt high! 

Autumn is a time of change. Of new beginnings. Maybe you are thinking about retirement or your children have left home for university. Approach the coming months as though it is a new term. There is a fallow field before you. Now is the time to unleash your creativity. It is exciting and it may be a little scary, but beginnings always are. 

I will be spending the months leading up to Christmas writing my third novel, Misdirection, and learning about marketing as I prepare to launch my second novel Just Bea on 1st February. I would love to hear about your plans whether it is a craft project, your garden, or your novel/poetry. Let’s be like the teenagers buzzing with news about their plans on the first day back at school!

You are not what you think

Cognitive dissonance

When I was a young occupational therapy student studying psychology, I was delighted by the word cognitive dissonance and it’s meaning. In simple terms, it’s when you are not sure that you are doing the right thing and so you balance reasoning in favour of the action you have taken. Like convincing yourself that the dress you bought was a good buy because although it doesn’t fit right now, it will when you lose that additional weight, and it was half price in the sale. It’s human nature that we always want to be right. In our quest to be right, our brains work overtime coming up with all the reasons that we are doing the right thing, even when our gut says we aren’t. 

Head or heart

In my blog Meditation challenge part two,  I was working with a leading literary agent to get my novel ready for submission to publishers. There are other times in my life where I have been led by my thoughts and not my heart, but I am going to use this example as I have learned something from the experience, that I would like to share.

I can put my finger on the date when I should have paused and taken stock. It was my birthday and I was out having lunch with a girlfriend when the email I had been waiting for showed up on my phone. Two weeks prior to this, I had submitted my edited manuscript to my agent. I was excited, as I believed I had responded to all of the points raised, and I was really pleased with what I had accomplished. This email was going to be BIG. She would love it! What if she didn’t? My hands trembled as I opened the message. It was a holding email; my agent was busy and would get back to me in a month. In fact, it was four months before I got a response. 

Thoughts are just thoughts

Our thoughts can drive us crazy, as we use them to try and make sense of our world – confirming our worst fears or imagining the reality we want to believe. Thoughts are not the reality, they are just thoughts. My thoughts at that time were: this is my only opportunity. Everything hangs on this agent’s response. When I didn’t hear back, I assumed the worst. I judged myself and started to lose confidence in my writing ability. My thoughts imprisoned me in a false reality.

Psychology tells us that our thoughts are not always rational. I got stuck in a loop where my thoughts resulted in a fear of failure. My emotional response to  perceived reality triggered further irrational thoughts. If only I could have broken that cycle by realising that they were just my thoughts. 

We always have choices

A good friend suggested to me that by not meeting with me or getting me to sign a contract, my agent was avoiding any attachment so that she could more easily drop me if we didn’t get a publishing contract. I didn’t disagree, all that my friend said was true. I was acting with my eyes open. However, this is where cognitive dissonance came in as I convinced myself that I didn’t have a choice. I reasoned that it didn’t matter because my agent was going to bring my manuscript to the attention of top publishers. She had an amazing reputation and I was lucky to have her representing me. I had nothing to lose. Besides, what if nobody else wants to represent me? a little voice in my head whispered. I didn’t think I had much choice. 

Feeling stuck

So often, we get stuck in a situation that is not serving us well, but we convince ourselves that there is no other way.

When we feel stuck it is often because we are believing something that is not true. There is always another way. Sometimes it feels as though there isn’t, but we just have to use our imagination – and that should be easy to us. We are creative people. 

Instead of trying to justify our actions or inaction by building a wall of perceived truth, we need to listen to our hearts. My heart was telling me that I wasn’t happy. If I had honoured myself with kindness, and acknowledged that although they felt real, my thoughts were just thoughts not reality, I might have broken free sooner. 

Sometimes we knock ourselves out by repeatedly hitting against a wall when all we have to do is walk around it. There is always another way.

Going forward

Looking back, I can understand now that my agent’s success at that time led to changes in her working life that she had not anticipated. When we parted company, she explained that her world had changed significantly since we started working together. I realise now that her lack of communication was no reflection on my writing ability, and wasn’t personal. I had responsibility for myself. There were other options. The editor who was working with me at that time also worked freelance. Since becoming an Indie author, this editor has worked with me on my next novel, and I hope that we will continue to work together.

It was fourteen months after receiving a holding email that signalled a change in my working relationship with my agent that I suggested it might be better for us to part company. I have had no regrets since, but I could have saved myself the misery and self-doubt of my negative thoughts.

Of course, I can still list all of the positives that justify why I stayed with that agent for a year longer than I perhaps should have done. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing. But, I have learned from this experience.

Lessons learned:

  • When something doesn’t feel right, listen to your heart (gut/intuition)
  • List the thoughts that are limiting you and then let them go.
  • When negative thoughts stick, be kind to yourself and allow time to shift your thinking.
  • Honour yourself with courage and respect, you are responsible for your destiny – nobody else has this power. 
  • When we still our thoughts and listen to our heart, a greater power reveals itself.