Five ways to beat Writer’s Block with poet E.L. Jayne

In this seventh episode of The Mindful Writer, I chat with Ellen Jayne, about the challenge some writers experience in finding time to write and how she learnt to overcome writer’s block.

Before I introduce you, let me update you on my writing journey. I have just returned from a week’s holiday in Norfolk where we stayed in a woodland retreat. The weather was perfect, warm, but surrounded by trees we had plenty of shade. I sat on the porch of our lodge reading and planning my next novel. Wrestling an idea into a cohesive plot can be frustrating until it all comes together and then joy. 

I am still at the stage of feeling frustrated. I have to remind myself that this is part of the process. I had several false starts to The Forever Cruise and was on the verge of giving up on the idea altogether. Fortunately, a writer friend listened to my fragmented thoughts over a leisurely lunch last summer.  After talking the story through with her I returned home and scribbled down the outline in 35 chapters – a line for each. Sometimes you just need to talk it out. Another writer friend who works in computer programming calls this rubber ducking. I much preferred talking to my warm, and generous friend than a rubber duck but apparently, that can work too. Evidently time for another lunch. 

We all experience vexation at some point in the writing process, whether it is finding an idea that excites us, plotting and planning, feeling stuck midway, or that chapter that just won’t flow. This is the topic of our conversation this week as Ellen Jayne shares her experience. So, let me introduce you.

In this chat with Ellen Jayne, poet and blogger, we share: 

Five ways to be more productive

To self-care

And some helpful resources.

Ellen Jayne

You can listen to the podcast here:

https://themindfulwriter.buzzsprout.com

or read the transcript below:


Deborah: I’m delighted to welcome Ellen Jayne to the mindful writer podcast, because I have been following a blog Pointless Overthinking of which Ellen is the co- CEO. It’s an excellent blog, and I shall put a link in the notes so you too, can read it. It’s a community of thinkers and writers about understanding the world we live in. It’s a really inspiring blog, and it’s got over 27,000 subscribers. Ellen is also a poet, and you can find her poems on Poems and Prose blog as well. So, lots to share with us. I am delighted to welcome you, Ellen.

Ellen: Thank you for having me.

Deborah: So, my first question is, how did you come to be part of Pointless Overthinking? And tell us a bit more about it?

Ellen: Yeah, sure. So, I came to be part of Pointless Overthinking at a time, when I wanted to start a new chapter in my life. I wanted to use my free time for more fulfilling purposes, rather than just browsing through social media. So, at this point, I had a blog for a few years prior; I started it when I was studying abroad in London, and then kept it when I moved to Spain then and Italy. I had just moved back from Italy. And I’m wanting to prioritise things that were going to help me achieve my next big goals in life. And part of that was making more meaningful interactions on my blog. 

So actually, the first day of this practice, I commented on my now co CEOs, posts, and he answered something like, ‘Thank you for your response, I can see that you’re a very critical thinker by nature, and we’re looking for more writers. So if you’re interested in joining our team, please feel free to email me.’  So, I was. I guess I’ll just explain a bit, when I say more of a meaningful interaction, I mean, something that is more than just ‘oh, great job on this post. I really liked what you wrote, but really taking the time to get my thoughts out there and give some great feedback and just more connections like that. I was really excited to find a connection in the first day that I started this practice. So, from there, I sent in three articles that I wanted to be posted on our blog of Pointless Overthinking. And if the readership took well to them, then I would be able to join the team. So thankfully, our readers were very welcoming to me. I sent over three articles that were called, I’ve studied abroad three times, and I’ve learned nothing. And then also American students abroad: Culturally savvy or road to tragedy? and then The unattainable open mind. So, yes, the readership took very well to them, and I joined the team got my own credentials, and the rest is history. 

So, I’ve been co-managing the blog with my colleague, Troy Hedrick, and we have a team of 13 talented writers. A lot of us live lives as professors, pilots, playwrights, life coaches, and we come from all over the world, including Hong Kong, Kenya, Turkey, and the list goes on. So really grateful to be a writer alongside such inspirational and intelligent, open-minded people. We have meetings a couple of times a year. And it’s just great to have gotten to know them. And we’re all truly here to connect with our readers and make this world a little bit less of a lonely place.

Deborah: Absolutely inspiring. It’s an amazing project, I was so pleased to have discovered it, as you say, the team of writers are excellent. And they’re all very different in their approaches. 

Ellen: A lot of us have different topics and philosophy, and different life lessons. Those seem to be pretty heavy topics on our blog. But I know the main thing that we all love is being able to connect with our readers. I have quite literally been in tears many times, just from some of the comments from my readers, and it really is fulfilling to me and helps me feel like I’m working towards my purpose here in this life. And I’ve just been so grateful to have been a part of it.

Deborah: Fantastic. The blogs that I read that have been by you are very much about the about writing practice, you wrote one on, There’s no such thing as writer’s block, which is something that I know listeners, fellow writers will identify with. Some people experience it but you say, There’s no such thing. Can you explain a bit about that blog? And why you say there’s no such thing?

Ellen: Yeah, sure. So, I guess a few months ago, I would have disagreed with the title of the post, I thought I suffered pretty bad, or a lot, from writers’ block, like many others, I’m sure can relate. But after reading Seth Godin book it’s called The Practice: Shipping Creative Work, it really changed my perspective. So, writer’s block is something that I’ve personally described as the metaphysical Muse that causes us to create out of the blue. It’s a fantastic feeling. It’s when you start creating, and you keep on creating, start writing, you don’t stop writing right until midnight until you’re low on sleep for the next day. But it’s worth it because you are full of words and ideas. But unfortunately, those involuntary instances of inspiration have been far too few to be a professional writer. So historically, I have put off writing until I’m in the right mindset, until I have an evening with no plans, until I finished everything I needed for the day. And especially until I feel like I have an idea that’s good enough. So, you can see the dilemma. professional writers can’t wait all that time to be inspired, you have to get work out and you have to create. You can’t always wait for the Muse, you don’t have the time.

 So, something that I’ve practised is that I write every single day, no matter what – for the past four years. It’s really been part of my subconscious. And it’s not necessarily that I’m sitting there and busting out articles, full articles or full poems, but I am always writing different ideas that I have throughout the day. Sometimes I’ll hear a different word, either in conversation or from a book I’ve read and I’ll just write that word down, because I feel some sort of inspiration from that one single word. So, I’ll jot it down in my notes, and either on my phone or on my laptop, and then I’ll come back to it at a later time. I have a 30-page working document of poetry lines on my laptop. And I also have just notes, and notes on my mobile phone. 

Another routine that I have, that I try to do weekly –  I am fortunate enough to have a great environment here in Salt Lake City, Utah. I have the mountains, and nature has always been very inspiring for me. It’s inspired the movement of romanticism from the poet’s Wordsworth and Keating, back in northern England, which I’m sure you’re aware of in the Lake District. They were all very inspired by nature. And I feel the same inspiration from nature. So, one of the things I really love to do is go on a hike, a solo hike by myself, and I’ll take a good book and my journal up there as well. So, I’ll start by reading and get some inspiration. And then I’ll go into writing and I always feel like I have the best ideas up there. The best words and lines of poetry, and ideas for articles, and for my novel, come to fruition while I’m sitting up there all alone surrounded by so much beauty.

Deborah: I didn’t know that you also wrote a novel, – you’re writing a novel.

Ellen: Yes, it’s just been in the background for a few years, but my priority is my poetry collection, and then the articles on my blog. So that will be on the backburner for now.

Deborah: Excellent. I agree with you about getting out into nature to help stimulate creativity. I live by the sea, and I go for a walk by the sea pretty much every day that, like you, are where I get lots of my inspiration. I think when you’re calm and you’re relaxed, that’s when the ideas come. Stephen King says ‘the boys in the basement doing their work’ – working through your plots and ideas, even when you’re not aware of it. And when you’re relaxing, they come to the fore.

Ellen: Exactly. I think that’s why so many people love nature. And also, you get so many ideas when you’re able to relax and not think about the next thing that you have to do during the day.

Deborah: I too try and write every day. When I’m writing a novel, I have to write every day to keep myself in the plot. And I’m so eaten up with telling the story I have to write every day for myself. I can’t not write. But you wrote another blog about Should you force yourself to write? So, let me ask you about that. Do you think there are times when we should break from writing? Or should we make ourselves sit down every day regardless?

Ellen: I think that is a great question. And I think the word that I have an issue within that question is forcing yourself. I don’t think that you should ever force yourself to write because I think more so the most important part is to have a healthy relationship with writing. But I do think it’s very important to create on a scheduled basis, and if you can to write every day. So, if I had to answer I would say No, you shouldn’t force yourself to write but you should write every day. Forcing yourself to write seems a bit too draconian for me. And you need to have good writing habits to be a writer. I think you should make it a daily habit. And maybe if it’s not the next thing you do, maybe take some time and decompress, do something that refills your cup. For example, you can do a monkey mind journal where you just write whatever’s on your mind, then maybe some ideas will come to fruition in what you are actually looking to write about. But I would like to share a quote from one of my favourite writers about this topic. He’s actually a poet from Portugal and South Africa. So, he says, 

We may think the book that we will write will be bad. But even worse will be the one we put off writing. At least the book that has been written exists.

Fernando Pessoa. 

Deborah: Absolutely. That’s a good one. I always say when you’re writing the first draft, it’s just you telling yourself the story. You just need to get your story down. And writing is all about rewriting anyway. But what would you say to listeners who are struggling to find the time to write perhaps they’ve got a story they want to write, they want to be a writer, but they think ‘I haven’t got the time’ – they’ve got a young family, they’re working full time? They just can’t find it. They’re not seeing it as a priority. How do you find the time when you’ve got a very busy life with lots of demands on you?

Ellen: Yeah, that is a great question. If you have a busy life, I think one of the main things is finding some free time to write and trying to make it a daily habit, whether that’s sitting down for longer chunks of time and just mapping out your story and where you want to go. And then maybe for five minutes a day, you can just touch on it and revise it a little more and more each day. But I think it’s important to have that writer’s mind and be able to work on it each day and make it a priority because it is something that’s important to you, and it is important for you to get your story out there.

Deborah: Absolutely. I think, especially – and this sounds a bit of a sexist thing -but I think especially with women, because many of us are carers, whether we’re caring for older parents or for children, babies. We often put everyone else’s needs before our own. 

I’ve spoken to women who’ve said, ‘I don’t think my husband would like it if I disappeared to write.’ Or  ‘My family would think, you know, I’d feel selfish if I shut the door and ignored them for a time to write.’ And I think you’re absolutely right. If you’ve got it in your heart, something you want to do, you should be true to yourself, and you should find time and you should honour your wish and your dream and make that time. You will be a better person, a better family member, a better wife, a better mother. You’ll be able to care and love those around you better when you’ve loved yourself and honoured what’s in your heart – to fulfil that wish. 

But actually, finding the time you need, not everybody has the luxury of having an hour or two to set aside. But I’ve had times when it has been a challenge. My father died last year, he had dementia, but I was the main carer for him. And I was working and I was writing. I went through a period where I was so stretched with all the things I was doing that I found little moments to write. So instead of having a two-hour slot, I would have 30 minutes here, 20 minutes there, it would be anywhere and everywhere. I would find a little slot to write. And it’s amazing with the 20 minutes here and 20 minutes there, how much that writing adds up to over the course of a week. But I think the first thing is recognising – if this is important to you – to do it. You know, to self-care and to follow that through. You can always find a bit of time.

Ellen: I think that’s a brilliant idea. It’s definitely something I wanted to bring up as well, because it’s very true, we don’t have two hours every day. I’d be lucky if I found two hours on the weekend days. But I think you have a brilliant point with finding the time and the 20 minutes here and maybe 15 minutes there. I think one of the struggles with that is you might have a hard time getting into the zone of writing into the, you know, mindset of writing. Because writing has always seemed to me to be a bit different than my logical practical, day to day self. I kind of like to be more relaxed. And one of the things that has helped me get into the writing zone faster, to make more use of those 15 or 20 minutes, is doing some grounding practices. They can be meditative practices, or anything that really helps you be in the moment. Working with your senses is something that always helps ground you. And for example, something that pertains a little bit more to writing for me is I will sit in the moment, and I’ll think of five different adjectives that describe the environment around me. And they can be anything. I’m not looking for brilliant words, or great adjectives. I’m just looking for any words that come to mind, no judgement. And I’ll just jot those down. I’ll be more in tune with the environment around me. Sometimes I’ll describe all the unique colours that I see, I’ll go through the rainbow of colours. So, for example, I’ll see a red glass over there, or an orange towel over there. And that is something that helps me feel grounded sooner, and then I can start writing sooner so I can make more use of that time.

Deborah: Excellent. It’s letting all of that noise in your head – all the must do’s, should do’s out – so, that you can then go into your inner self, which is where the writing comes from. 

Ellen: Exactly.

Deborah: I heard some good advice; I’ve forgotten where from but it’s stuck with me. So, I’ll share it anyway. And that was when you’re sitting at the computer, perhaps you’re writing something and you just cannot find the right words to say, it just doesn’t feel right. The advice I was given was, ‘That’s because you don’t actually know what you want to write yet.’ You think you do. You go to your computer to write a blog or you’re writing a chapter and it’s just not coming out, right? You haven’t done enough reflection to really understand and get underneath what it is you really want to say. So, stepping back from the physical writing to really tune in and understand and explore what you want to say is another way – then to come back to your keyboard and flow through.

Ellen: Yes, I love that. I think that’s a great idea to just pause for a moment and think about what you really want to say maybe map it out or try to understand the final point of where you want to go – the final destination.  

In terms of different tools that could be used – because I have many times been sitting at my laptop and just been stumped for words. But in terms of other tools that I use that have been very helpful for me, is always having a thesaurus open, a dictionary as well. I have Rhyme Zone, which is a website that gives you all of the different words that rhyme with a certain word. And then I also have a random word generator site open as well. And those four sites really help me open up my mind to different words, and use a greater array of vocabulary in my writing as well. And I think it helps me a lot sometimes because I’m really looking for that certain word, especially with poetry. You are limited to how many words you can use. It’s not like prose. And when I find that one – that one word that is, that just fits just right, it’s almost a euphoric feeling. And I feel extremely satisfied when I find it. And actually, that is the tagline of my poetry blog. So, the finest part about poetry is the accentuated emphasis of the individual word, the epitome of less is more.

Deborah: Beautiful.

Ellen: Thank you. 

Deborah: I’ll just give a plug for another thesaurus source. I have this source open on my computer when I write – and there’s a book. The Emotional Thesaurus and The Conflict Thesaurus, both by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman.

And it means that if you were looking at anger, anxiety, affection, all the different feelings, it has all the different ways it might be described, what the physical sensations will be, what the facial expression might be. So, you don’t always have ‘she sighed,’ or ‘he shrugged his shoulders.’ We all have our favourites for describing an emotion and this gives alternative suggestions.

Ellen: Wow, that’s genius. I would love to read that.

Deborah: I will put it in the show notes. But if you Google  the Emotional Thesaurus or go on Amazon, you’ll find it. Yes, it’s very good.

Ellen: That’s brilliant. I’ll look that up. Many times, I am describing a character or somebody in one of my poems, and I feel like that would be very helpful. So, thank you.

Deborah: We all have our favourite words; we keep on using the same expressions. 

Ellen: Exactly. That’s why sometimes – like throughout the day, if I hear a different word that describes somebody, or in a book that I’m reading, if it’s a great character trait that I’ve seen described, that I haven’t used before, I’ll jot it down. And I think that’s another important topic to stress as well. When I started writing, I was very scared, almost I would say, to sound like a different author – sound like another author, to not sound like myself. And to seem like I was copying another writer’s style. But the truth of it is we are all an amalgamation of our experience in the environment around us and of other artists around us. There’s a book called Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. And I think that topic is also very near to my heart, because we are all just the impact of the influences of the environment around us. So, if we can kind of let go of the judgement of being grouped like somebody else, I feel like we can really bloom and blossom into our own author’s voice that we want to hear.

Deborah: And trust it. Trust your voice and the story you have to tell. Because sometimes we’re so busy criticising – all that noise in our heads. You try to be different, then you start criticising yourself, ‘I’m not fitting in enough.’ ‘I’m not enough like this writer or that writer.’ But we are, as you say, we are all unique, a combination of different experiences and the things we bring from our journey. We all have our own story to tell. So, trust your story, and trust the journey.

Ellen: Exactly.

Deborah: Thank you so much, Ellen, you’ve shared some wonderful words of wisdom. I will capture these in the show notes, along with links to anything we’ve mentioned. But I’m going to finish the show by asking you to read one of your beautiful poems. So, we’ll sign off with your poem.

Ellen: Awesome thank you for having me

E.IlReference Points a poem by E.L. Jayne from her blog Poems and Prose

Lots of great tips there. To summarise:

  1. Try and find a writing schedule/routine even if it’s 15 – 20 mins here and there.
  2. Use grounding techniques to get into the zone faster e.g. using your senses, describing what you can see, smell, and hear.
  3. Spend time in nature where you can relax.
  4. Honour what is in your heart, By making time to write you will be able to love and care for those around you better as you have first taken care of yourself.
  5. Be kind to yourself. Do not force yourself to write but develop a healthy relationship with writing finding time in a way that suits you without judgement.

The resources shared:

The Emotional Thesaurus, by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman.

The Conflict Thesaurus,  by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman.

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.

RhymeZone

Please get in touch to share your tips. If you too are struggling to plan your WIP maybe we can act as a rubber duck to one another!

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

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

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

Why Okay is Okay: Finding the quiet path between extremes

My thanks to yoga instructor, Jocelyne Leach, for inspiring this week’s blog post.

The world feels as though it is full of extreme views right now. When we listen to the news, it is no wonder we feel the antagonism. In recent years, conflicting views about politics, policy, and the behaviour of world leaders, have divided families, and friends – certainly here in the UK, and from what I hear, in the USA. 

We take these thoughts and feelings into our daily lives, as we absorb the negative energy. So, finding our equilibrium – a fulcrum on which to find a balance between extremes is needed now more than ever. 

Creatives are prone to extremes in emotional response. It seems agents/publishers are fond of saying I/we loved … before going on to give an honest and balanced critique. It is IMHO an overused word in the publishing world – used, maybe, to manage our fragile egos.

Authors want readers to love their books and fear that they might hate one. It is always love or hate. We swing between feelings of elation and despair. Those great highs are often followed by an adrenalin dip, and/or the need for another high. That is perhaps why we feel the need to constantly check sales, reviews, or social media comments. It is an addiction to receiving positive reinforcement. 

I know that I have a need for approval. For most of my life I have had a habit of ending my statements with a question – isn’t it? Don’t you? A boyfriend once pointed this out to me. 

Like many new writers, it was important to me to receive validation. I have had this through the belief of my agent, feedback from editors, book reviewers, and readers. This should be enough but l find myself swinging from either end of that scale – it’s all fantastic or doom and gloom. I am trying to focus on that steadying fulcrum in the centre, to accept the reality, the ways things are – perfectly OKAY. 

I know that my need for approval goes back to my childhood, wanting the approval of my parents, particularly my father. There are some painful childhood memories that I have buried but there lies the root of my need for approval. Understanding myself is the first step to letting go of that need. 

There is nothing sexy or exciting about OKAY. To accept what is and be still with it will take time and patience for me. I am trying to break the habits of a lifetime. I will do this through meditation. By noticing my emotional responses with compassion and then letting them go.

Julia Cameron wrote in The Right to Write, Keep the drama on the pageCreatives love drama, but there is no need to play them out in our lives. Let’s try and find that quiet, mindful path, between extremes. 

Bessi Pixabay

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 overcome obstacles or a setback

In this week’s Mindful Writer podcast, Kamina A Fitzgerald author of Class Dismissed: Life Lessons and Short Stories and her blog of the same name http://schoolspiration.com joins me to talk about three bible stories which have important lessons for us as creatives. 

I went for a run by the sea this morning. The sun was shining and the was tide out. There was even a shard of rainbow suspended between an arc of clouds. Whenever I go for a run by the sea, I get so many ideas and find clarity on some of the things that have been troubling me. It’s as though I have a conversation with my inner self or a greater power.

Anyway, on this morning’s run I was thinking about a film I watched on Netflix this week, Paycheck with Ben Affleck. It is an exciting thriller, but it also has a message: When things don’t go the way you planned and you are disappointed trust that God or the Universe has a better plan for you. Follow the signs even when you don’t know what they mean. Of course, the film makes no mention of this but I drew a parallel. If I tell you anymore, I will spoil the film for you. It’s well worth watching – very exciting.

Stories have been used for thousands of years to pass on wisdom and learning. In today’s podcast, Kamina Fitzgerald, reminds us of three stories from the Bible which have powerful messages to help us on this writing journey. 

dkauthor@btinternet.com

Now on to the interview ….

Kamina Fitzgerald

Why should we be patient when the Universe or God seem to be taking too long to manifest our dreams?

How do we overcome obstacles or move forward when we feel stuck?

Why is it important to nurture, cherish and protect our talents – our special gifts?

Kamina explains all of this using three bible stories. The messages are inspirational and have helped me on this writing journey.

A transcript of the interview is below, or Click here to listen 

Deborah: Hello, Kamina Fitzgerald. I’m absolutely delighted to welcome you to the mindful writer podcast, because I discovered you through reading your blog posts. The School of Life Sessions. I love the way you introduce them with, The school bell has rung …

Kamina: Hello, Deborah. It’s a pleasure being on your podcast today. And the main way I start my blog is The class is now in session. And then at the end, I will say, The school bell has rung, class is dismissed. 

Deborah: Excellent. And that comes from the fact that you are a teacher by profession, and currently the vice-principal of a business school?

Kamina: I’m vice principal of a middle school here in North Carolina, and I was a business teacher. So, you are correct. And so, I look at not only teaching as being – teaching the lesson, but also teaching life lessons. So, my blog is really centred around sharing those stories to motivate and inspire. And I look at it as a lesson – everything that I write.

Deborah: And you’ve also written five books about life lessons, for which I will give links in the show notes. Could you tell us a little about them?

Kamina: Okay. Well, mostly the first book I wrote was a children’s book called Bumper Stucco Village – Patience as a virtue. And I wrote that a long time ago. It has kind of a Disneyland feel of a girl who is going to be promised to someone. And she was worried about that because she wanted to marry for love and she met someone and wished she could marry that person. And at the end, she gets a chance to, so it was kind of a story. If you want to read it; it’s interesting because she thought she was going to lose out on that opportunity, but through being patient she ended up getting the desires of her heart after all. 

I’ve also written inspirational stories. They didn’t have much rhyme or reason. I guess they were more about friendship, life, managing your careers, choosing your career.

I write a lot of career focused things because I used to be a workforce development person, where I tried to help students understand their career choices and what they needed to go to university to make that career happen. So, some of my things have a lot of helping you make decisions on the career front as well.

Deborah: I got so excited, which is why you paused. Because you could see that I was desperate to say something.  When you were talking about the first book, the fiction book for children, you mentioned a story about how the girl had to be patient and wait. That made me think of one of the blogs that you wrote that really inspired me, which was Do not go ahead of God.

The stories in the Bible teach us lessons through stories. And that that’s very interesting that you’re using a story as well, to give a similar sort of message. Now I’m a very impatient person by nature. And I can think of several times in my life where I have gone ahead of God. I’ve jumped in being too impatient – I’ve got to make things happen. My good fortune in life has come despite me. I mean this a classic example for me. It was when I desperately wanted to be an occupational therapist when I was at school, it’s all I ever wanted to do. And when I got a letter from the clearing house saying, we suggest you seek another career – because I wasn’t studying the right subjects and didn’t have the qualifications, I thought, Right. That’s it. So, I left. I got a job in an insurance company and then eight or nine months later, I got a letter inviting me to interview for my college and I didn’t have the qualifications. 

Kamina: Wow. 

Deborah: I’ll let you talk in a minute! But the good result from that – a little miracle did happen for me because I went for the interview really enthusiastic and said, Oh, you know, I really, really want to become an occupational therapist. And they said, Well, if you go away and you pass these exams. Would you come back next year?  And I said, Yes, I will. And something went wrong with the administration because a week later I got a letter saying, As you have now got these qualifications you can start this September. 

Kamina: Oh, wow. 

Deborah: And I never told them, but that was when the rules were different and I’ve been on the right path, despite me jumping in.

Kamina: Wow, that’s amazing that it ended up happening anyway, even though you tried to you know, plan it yourself. That’s the graciousness I think of God, that sometimes we have a tendency to jump ahead and he still lets us get what we want. 

Deborah: Anyway. Tell me about the Bible story that you used in your blog. 

Kamina: Sure. So, with the Don’t get ahead of God story, I was referring to the five promises that God gave Abraham when he was promising to, you know, make him a great nation and give them a great land of promise. And it was certain things that he promised him. And Abraham was a person of faith and he, he believed God, even if it seems as if he was delayed. But Abraham’s wife, Sarah, she, you know, wanted to help things along. Especially when it came to her being a mother, she I believe was around 99 years old when she got pregnant.

So, of course we all can think that, she could be a little worried. Okay. I’m going to be a mother of many nations, but I’m 99. So, she thought maybe she can help God along. And it caused a lot of heartache when she tried to do things herself. So, I just talked about waiting on the promises of God. Just from us reading those stories, hopefully it can encourage us to just continue to be patient and to wait. Because it’s worth the wait whenever you’ve got promises for things in your life. And sometimes, even with Sarah and doing that in spite of herself, she still was blessed with Isaac. So, you know, I think that that still happens for us today.

Deborah: Like me. I tried to sabotage, but despite me, I still got what I needed.

Kamina:  Exactly. So it still happens even now. And I’ve been the same way with several different occasions where, you know, I would try to make things happen, but then when I’m praying about it and something better comes along, it makes me happy because even though what I did may not have worked, usually God can open a better door for me. So, I’ve been grateful for that. At first, you’re disappointed, but when something else better happens, you’re like, wow, I could have just waited on this instead of trying to force the other situation.

Deborah: Absolutely. I found that as well. And what has absolutely amazed me, particularly when I was about 40 years old. I was pushing myself along a career trajectory. You know, next job was chief executive and was applying for these jobs. And I thought that’s where I need to go. And I was completely stuck in that thinking that mindset, so I was disappointed and disappointed repeatedly. What ended up happening was something far better and greater than I could have imagined. That was much, much more in fitting with what I could give- it fitted me. It was the right path. And I would never have been able to imagine that in a million years it was, it was wonderful. A wonderful blessing that came my way, taking me on a different path.

I think sometimes we can get so frustrated, can’t we? We think, well, why won’t you give me what I want? Why? Because we don’t know what we don’t know. 

Kamina: And sometimes, like you said, it’s amazing how another opportunity will come and it’s so perfect for you and you never imagined it. That happens a lot too. So, I think if, you know, that can happen, then maybe that’ll make you more patient. Because that has happened to me before too, where God knows you better than you know yourself. So, you can say, Why didn’t I get that job? I was trying to move up or I tried to apply forward. I’m qualified. But then another door can open that you did not perceive could open. I think that is always amazing when that happens. 

Deborah: Absolutely. And timing. I mean, God’s timing, isn’t our timing. I say, God, but I’m going to say God/ the Universe, because some people have different sorts of faiths and it doesn’t matter whether you believe it’s the Universe or you believe it’s God. It is having that faith in a greater power. But the timing could be very different to what we think the timing should be. 

Kamina: Very true I’ve actually been reading this in a research study I was doing about the Kairos time and that being a divine time. When I was younger, there was a pastor who wrote a book about God’s appointed time and it was talking about the Greek word Kairos. We know in chronological time, it is like, you said, In two more years I need to be here, in three more years I need to be there ….  But with Kairos there is an interruption when you know, I’m looking with tunnel vision and then this certain situation happens out of the blue, and I couldn’t even imagine it happening, but it’s perfect for me, or is causing me now to have to make a decision or see things differently.

So, it’s amazing. I believe there really is a such thing as a divine time that happens that interrupts your trajectory of your goals for yourself, and then you have to decide: Am I going to keep going on the path that I have for myself, or am I going to step into this possible opportunity that I didn’t perceive happening? 

Deborah:  To do that, you have to be open to opportunities and different solutions. If you get really wedded to one option, This is the only way for me. You don’t see other things along your way. 

Kamina: That is so true. 

Deborah: There’s a message there, especially for writers who are trying to get published. Because the reason that I launched this podcast is because of the emotional turmoil that authors go through as they try to get published. It’s a rollercoaster of emotion for many writers, who are trying to get published, get turned down by agents, and they’re trying to cope with rejection, and the frustration of that. It’s knowing that sometimes you have to go through that for a reason. And one of the reasons can be that your writing hasn’t matured sufficiently for you to be able to give your best. It might be good enough. It might be better than many other writers, but it might be that if you give yourself time to grow what you gain to finally bring to fruition is much greater. And that might be where you need to start, because otherwise you do yourself a disservice. So, there’s all sorts of reasons why things might be. And we get so hung up on feeling it’s a judgment or a criticism of us and letting it affect our self-esteem, but there can be all sorts of reasons why you need to wait.

Kamina: Yes, I like that. And that’s very encouraging for you to say that because a lot of times you can think that you’re ready for something or that you are at your best when really, you’re not. And a lot of the times you won’t stretch yourself if you’re not rejected. I think growth happens a lot when you are rejected, it just depends on how you interpret it and what you do with it. So I do like what you just said, and I think that should be encouraging for, you know, most of the writers or artists or anyone who is, you know, setting goals for themselves who have been rejected to just don’t look at it like it’s a rejection. Look at it as a growth opportunity for yourself to be better. And maybe that persons rejecting you and then the next person is going to see your work and it’s going to work for them.

Deborah: It’s a bit like people waiting for the perfect partner, the younger people who want to fall in love. I think falling in love is a bit like finding an agent to represent you or a home for your book. The person is out there. You just haven’t met them yet. You might not meet the one that’s the perfect match for you because they might not be ready to meet you yet because there’s something else going on in their life. 

Kamina: Exactly. They may have to have a person to break up with or something. 

Deborah: Or they might be about to become an agent, but they’re not an agent yet and you’ve got to wait for them. 

Kamina: Yeah. It was like, Don’t get ahead of God now or don’t get ahead of yourself. Just wait until it is all aligned, then you’ll be glad you did. 

Deborah: We are all part of something bigger, everything has to be in place because it’s not just about us. It’s about the people who come into our lives and being the right time for them as well as.

Kamina: Exactly. I agree.

Deborah: Now this goes onto another one of your very inspirational posts where you talked about Jesus telling Simon to cast once again, his net into the sea. And I should get you to tell us a bit more in a moment, but it, it makes me think about when somebody says to you, Have you tried this? Have you tried that? And you think, Oh, don’t tell me that, I know better than you. But sometimes that’s what you need to do. You tell us in your own words. 

Kamina: Okay. Well, with that story, I was referring to when Simon Peter had been fishing all night and all day, and he hadn’t caught anything and anyone who knows Peter, he was a professional fisher. He was a fisherman by trade. So, he knew everything that you really need to know to fish. So, when Jesus walked up to him and said, Go out further, launch yourself out into the deep. Simon Peter was really annoyed and kind of like, What do you know? You’re telling me and this is what I do. And of course, Jesus was a carpenter by trade. So, he was a little annoyed, but he said, Nevertheless, at your word, I’ll go do it. And he did it. And he had so much fish that he couldn’t contain it in the net. 

So, it’s a lesson to me that we have to make sure that we make decisions not based on what we’re comfortable with, that we don’t make decisions based on our, I guess you could say study, or maybe what we know, but be open to other suggestions, especially if what you’re doing isn’t working. I think that’s the main thing. Because no matter what I do every day or my professional job, if it’s not working, I should be open to a suggestion or reflecting, Hmm. Maybe I should try something else. So, I think that was kinda my thinking was to just be mindful of, you know, for me spiritual counsel and being willing to hear other perspectives.

Deborah: And isn’t it interesting that you can get these suggestions or these little directions, the most unlikely sources and unexpected times? If you keep your mind open and you hear and you respond. It could be something that you read. It could be a stranger saying something. It could be, it could be anything.

It brings to mind when I was working as a management consultant and I had lots and lots of work, then suddenly the work dried up. I kept on going out to try and find work you know, bidding for work. It wasn’t happening. I was so frustrated. And then somebody who I had worked with in the past, who had had no contact with me for a long time sent me an email out of the blue saying, Have you seen this advert? They’re looking for a chair of a safeguarding adult board in a London council. And I thought, Well, why would I do that? I don’t think I’m qualified. I wouldn’t even think of doing that. I did. Not only did I get that job, but it then led into a ten-year career around adult safeguarding. I chaired five different boards. I wrote safeguarding adult reviews. I became an expert on it. I wrote journal articles.

It was absolutely where I was, where I needed to be. But if I hadn’t listened to that woman who happened to say to me, Have you thought about? And I sometimes think that these people are put there like little angels.

Kamina: That’s exactly what I had. What I read in my book about the Kairos moment. It was just like that.  You’re looking, things aren’t really working. And then one little word or sentence or suggestion can just turn you upside down and it gets like:  What? That’s nothing I’m qualified for, but like you said, you actually adhere to the Kairos moment or the divine appointed time and, and they opened up a whole other career level for you. So that’s amazing. 

Deborah: Interesting. I picked out three posts, which I told you in advance. The other one was, I’ll get it right this time, Samson and Delilah.

Kamina: Okay. In that one, I’ve talked about the spirit behind Delilah. I shared a lot of her characteristic traits that I pointed out: A person who looked good on the outside; a person who was very cunning and complimentary and flattering. Just the traits of who she was and how she led Samson to finally share his secret.

It just really stood out to me. So, I just wanted to talk about those traits because I think it’s still around today that a lot of us can think of times where we have been deceived by people. We never would have seen deceiving us. It’s just something, a lesson that I think even a child or an adult can learn from just to be mindful of people in your life. When people come in, you know, come around you that you’re not deceived. It is more so a story about deception and just being, being careful about that in your life. Delilah  looks good on the outside and said all the right things. 

Deborah: You were saying in this story that again, and again, Samson would catch her out and see that she was trying to cut his hair but he saw only what he wanted to believe. I think it’s the way that we fool ourselves, because if we want to believe something, we ignore all of our instincts. Just as I was saying that we need to be open to hear things and see things – in the same way you can completely close off if you only see what you want to believe, can’t you? You can completely close down.

Kamina: So true. I think that, you know, I can definitely remember times where I saw what I wanted to see. And you may have a family member or a good friend that are trying to tell you, Be careful. You know, do not see this. And it’s amazing how we can trick ourselves. Even if you read my blog, you may still fall for it. So, you know, I mean, Samson was, was smart and he was anointed and, you know, he destroyed so many of the Philistines, but this one person came in his life who looked good on the outside, and he liked her so much he was willing to lose everything for her. So, I just think it’s important that we regard ourselves as well, because we all have something that we can offer the world. We have gifts and we have to be careful. Just be mindful that not everyone is your friend or means well for you.

Kamina:  Other people suffer.

Deborah: Absolutely. We have special gifts. Every one of us is amazing, unique and not to give all of that away, but have self-respect and belief. You owe it to others as well as to yourself to nurture, cherish, and protect those special gifts that you have so you can use them. And when we give it all up for somebody who’s not worthy and we don’t listen then…

Deborah:  Absolutely. As well as ourselves. 

Kamina:So true. 

Deborah: I always like to think the best of people. I always see the best in them. And I can think of examples like that because it breaks my heart to think that somebody has let me down who I’ve trusted. So, I go back to trusting them again.

Kamina: Yes because it’s a bad feeling to get to a point where you don’t trust anyone, you know, that’s a terrible thing to feel like I can’t trust anyone because I’ve been hurt. So, we usually try to see the good and isolate that bit whenever we have been hurt or deceived by someone. You know, we’re human.

Deborah:  I found it so inspiring talking to you as I do your blogs, and I’m now going to be looking at your books as well, which I’ve discovered.

Kamina: Thank you, I’m inspired by you. I didn’t know, you know, your story. So, I think that you’ve inspired me as well, especially since I am still in my career and trying to work hard and eventually get to the point where I can be like you.

Deborah: Oh, thank you.

Kamina: It made me feel better to know that I need to be open to suggestions and make sure that I’m not just seeing things through one way or through having a tunnel vision about things.

Deborah: Excellent. Thank you. 

Kamina: You’re welcome. Goodbye. 

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

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

How to succeed as a creative

The problem is, there are millions of other books out there, so why is someone going to pick yours?’

Ian Miller

Recently a fellow blogger and author Lizzie Chantree posted this quote on her Facebook page to stimulate discussion. It is perhaps one of the most common thoughts a new author or even a seasoned one has. It is what relatives and friends will tell aspiring authors. Why bother?

My brother is excited to be on the Faber Academy novel writing course. One week their tutor asked them to write down and then share their secret fears about becoming an author. All of them said similar things: I’m not good enough. It’s almost impossible to get a publishing contract. What if I put in all of this effort and nobody reads my books?

Every aspiring author has these doubts. Musicians and artists have similar concerns. We perceive an impenetrable gate guarded by gatekeepers who will send us on an impossible quest to win our heart’s desire.

Bernswaelz – Pixabay

Last week I had a dream. My brother was suffering from this familiar writer’s angst and so I explained to him why he had to follow his dream and how he had complete control over his future success and happiness. When I woke up, I felt as though a weight had been lifted from me. My dream changed my mindset. Of course, I had and will continue to have, those same fears that every creative experiences but my subconscious/ higher self/ God spoke to me in my dream and so I will attempt to share this with you.

We have become brainwashed to believe that success means fame and fortune. This is reinforced daily through the media, from comments by family and friends, and our ego as we compare ourselves to others.

This interpretation of success is based on a commercial world where the gatekeeper’s goal is to make money. There is nothing wrong with that we all need to earn a living. A writer needs to be both creative and mindful of the business of publishing. However, we should understand that interpretation of success is a commercial one and has absolutely nothing to do with our personal success.

We have come into this world with a purpose. A seed of desire has been sown in our hearts. Just as an acorn has everything within its DNA to become a magnificent oak tree, we have within us an infinite potential to fulfill all that we desire.

To succeed is to follow that dream. To be courageous and audacious. To put everything that we have into being the best that we can be. There are no gatekeepers. The only thing that can stand in our way is our lack of self-belief and fear of failure.

Mabel Amber- Pixabay

Last year, I told you about my plan to broadcast a new podcast The Mindful Writer. It’s something I have thought about for months. I’ve been sharing my inner journey as a writer with you here but I wanted to talk to other creatives to hear about their experiences. The idea wouldn’t go away. It felt like something I had to do but something held me back. I was afraid of putting myself out there and asking other creatives to do the same. To voice out loud our fears and vulnerabilities is a big ask. I was also a bit overwhelmed by the amount of work required – the knowledge and skills I would have to learn. Then there was that voice – the thought goblins: There are so many podcasts out there who is going to listen. Is it really worth the effort?

I truly believe that when something is in our heart, an idea that won’t go away, then we have a responsibility to act on it. Yes, this took me out of my comfort zone but that is when the magic happens – when we start to grow. At the beginning of February, I reached out to potential guests and I have been overjoyed with the response. I have a project plan and I am taking one step at a time. It’s exciting and scary. This is success.

I have indie published two novels, The Borrowed Boy and Just Bea. My third and fourth novels will be ready to publish this year and I am hoping to secure a traditional publishing contract. However, I am not looking to this outcome as the answer to my dreams – it is just one possible outcome. To look to the gatekeepers of the creative industry as the people who can grant you what your heart desires is to hand over responsibility for your happiness. No wonder it feels so painful and wrong.

Gerd Allman – Pixabay

If you are waiting for an agent to represent you, or a publisher to offer a contract, and feel the angst that we all feel then try visualising it as a tight ball in your diaphragm – that’s what it feels like to me. Take that ball of negative energy and place it outside of yourself. Maybe you can see it now that it is detached from your body? Let it stay there.

Now, look upon yourself as a loving parent, a wiser version of you – be kind and compassionate. Fill yourself with positive, loving energy. Remember that you have everything that you need to fulfill your dreams.

As you listen to your heart and follow those dreams you will be surprised by the miraculous things that happen. I am every day. The messages I receive from readers who have enjoyed my books, contacts made with like-minded people from all over the world, invitations to speak at book clubs, being featured on other writers’ blogs, comments on my show Castaway Books. The list is endless.

So, the advice I gave my brother in my dream was to:
Redefine the meaning of success
Remember you hold the power to your peace and happiness
Be the best that you can be
Be joyful – you are doing what you love
Celebrate every success however small

You are amazing!

One final note. Lack of recognition and financial reward did not stop Henri Toulouse- Lautrec, Johannes Vermeer, Vincent Van Gogh, or Emily Dickenson from creating incredible works of art – thank goodness. All died penniless not knowing the impact of their work.

Season one of The Mindful Writer starts on 4th May 2022. If you would like to be a guest on this show contact me at dkauthor@btinternet.com telling me why you would like to share your story.

Why waiting on God or the Universe is a gift

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

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

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

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

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 1994 film adaptation

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

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

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

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

David and Goliath

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

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

Why 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. 

The pause between breaths

In yoga and meditation, we are taught to focus on the pause between breaths. Mindful breathing- slow deep breaths, help calm the mind and relax the body. But it is the pause between breaths where transformation happens. In these moments of stillness, we switch off our thoughts and go inward. 

‘Breathe in for four counts, hold your breath for seven, and breathe out for eight,’ Jocelyn our yoga teacher instructs, us as we start the class. I have been practicing patterns of breathing for years both in yoga and meditation. I knew that focusing on my breath helped me to shut out my thoughts and become more present but I did not fully understand what happened in the pause between. It only lasts for a few seconds but in that moment, we are outside of thought – observing. 

Maybe that experience builds with each practice because over time I have come to recognise that sacred place and can take myself there when I need clarity and direction. Some people may call this prayer. Prayer. Meditation. For me, it is about switching off the incessant chatter of my thoughts and creating a stillness in which I can receive wisdom.

I am writing this post today because it feels as though I am experiencing a pause between activities in my life. I have spoken before about our cyclical nature which mirrors that of the seasons. How we need to recognise the natural ebb and flow of our energy and creativity. There is a time to be still: to reflect on what we have achieved, Gather the harvest, Nourish and restore – before starting afresh on new ventures. Sometimes the pause between is of our own making, sometimes it is thrust upon us and we rail against the injustice, other times things just run their natural course.

When we have been super busy and productive with project plans and objectives, daily to-do lists, and lots of interaction on social media, etc, it can feel a bit discombobulating. We may feel lazy. Worry that we have lost our sense of purpose and direction. Or fear that we will lose what we have achieved. It is really hard to ignore those negative thoughts. I am mentally chiding myself for what part of me perceives to be lazy. Fortunately, through meditation – and yes, breathing exercises – I have learnt to hear the negative thoughts and recognise them for what they are.

Gerd Altmann – Pixabay

The novel I completed earlier this year and was about to self-publish is being considered by a literary agent and so I am waiting for a response. A few years ago, before I practiced daily meditation, I would have been incredibly anxious waiting to hear back from an agent following a full manuscript request. This time, my experience is entirely different. The positive comments in the agent’s reply to my submission were enough to satisfy me that I am on the right track. I have had a couple of full MS requests for this novel along with some very positive and encouraging rejections. So, I have choices: if this agent does not offer representation, then I can self-publish again, I can approach other agents, or I can hold back on the publication of this novel and look for representation when I have finished my current WIP. I do not know which path I will take but I have confidence that it will become clear in time.

The podcast and YouTube programme Castaway Books came to an end this week after broadcasting 28 episodes. I loved hosting the show but was ready to try something new. My plan is to start a podcast on the Inner Journey of the Creative, interviewing guests as well as sharing my experience. A transcript of the show will replace this blog. To do this well, I need to reflect on what would make a great show and plan the first season. The impatient part of me is nagging, ‘Get on with it. What’s taking you so long?’ But I know that my ideas need time to develop and I am enjoying considering the possibilities.

Similarly, the weekly tweet-chat that I hosted for a year has changed format and I am now sharing the hosting with other writers. This has released more time for me. I am thinking about hosting a virtual writing retreat for the writing community.

Lots of things are happening but at this stage they are ideas. I know that when the time is right my vision will become a reality but for now, I am experiencing that pause between. Recognising that my energy levels are low, that I need to be kind to myself and create the time and space for ideas to flourish. In the meantime, I am completely immersed in writing my next novel and enjoying the relaxation that this brings.

I think of Autumn and Spring as the pause between breaths– Autumn the end of a long inhale when we are full with the plentitude of summer and Spring when winter has depleted our reserves and we are ready to fill our lungs again with fresh, cool air. So, it is fitting to pause in the autumn to reflect on all that we have achieved and rest without self-judgement so that we can restore and renew. 

Sometimes we need to be still – to pause – to break habits. A circuit breaker. My habit is to be impatient. To rush ahead trying to take control. A blog by Kamina A. Fitzgerald Caution do not go ahead of God was a great reminder for me to be still and wait for that inner wisdom. However long it might take. 

How to survive the writer’s journey

How are your energy levels right now? Do you sometimes lose your oomph? Fatigue and sometimes burnout are part of the writer’s life but we can be kinder to ourselves and find a natural rhythm that enables us to give our best and enjoy the writing journey. 

I have not written a blog post for a few weeks. As I explained in my last blog, I am planning to record podcasts on the inner journey of the creative – chatting with writer friends, and will post transcripts of these podcasts as blogs. However, this change of direction, will take a little time to come to fruition. In the meantime, I am missing this weekly communication! It has become part of my Sunday ritual – a run by the sea where I reflect on what I have learnt that week and then, on my return, sharing it with you.

 I felt I had nothing new to say about the inner journey of the creative, and my posts were in danger of becoming repetitive. Maybe I just needed a break to consolidate what I had learned. It has also been an exhausting six weeks. First my father’s memorial service which I planned and then hosted, and a couple of weeks later a fundraising tea party in aid of Glass Door – a charity that helps people find a path out of homelessness. I just did not have the energy to run and so lost the inspiration that I always gain from this morning ritual. But today I enjoyed my Sunday run by the sea and felt compelled to share my thoughts.

For me the marathon of writing, publishing, and marketing novels began in March 2020. I limbered up, and set off from the starting line as if I was in a hundred metre sprint. I kept up an incredible pace, keeping my sight on the finish line – a time in the not too distant future when my efforts would have paid off: the expenditure on publishing my novels would be returned in sales and there might even be some profit, I would have an email list of a thousand devoted readers eagerly awaiting my next novel. I tried everything in marketing and attended on line workshops which promised incredible results. Although I continued to write, the joy of relaxing into my writing was marred by the pressure to sell – to keep up with the targets I had set myself and what the experts told me I should be doing. Does that sound familiar? 

A writer friend warned me that if I continued at that pace I would risk burn-out. Fortunately, I did not, but I did recognise an ebb in my energy and motivation. This did not affect my writing as I never have difficulty sitting down to write and that is a blessing. I also listened to my own inner wisdom. This is not a sprint it is a marathon and as writers we need to pace ourselves. To accept our personal seasons of creativity. To step back and reflect on what works for us and what does not. To allow ourselves to make mistakes without beating ourselves up. To accept that everything we do as writers can be changed – including book covers, titles and blurb. We can reinvent ourselves. Try writing in a different genre. Explore and have fun with different marketing approaches. And writing should be fun. Why would we devote so much time and energy to this writing life if it did not bring us joy?

Yesterday I downloaded the latest writing craft book by the wonderful Joanna Penn. The Relaxed Author was written by Joanna with Leslie Lefebvre. The title spoke to me and as soon as I opened the pages, I found gems of wisdom. 

I started this blog by describing the writer’s journey as a race but that is not a good analogy because it is not a competition. We all compare ourselves to other writers, measuring our success against theirs even though we know it is not healthy. It is unkind – when we need to be our own best friend and cheerleader. We each have a different journey, one that is unique and perfect for us as we learn, grow, and fulfil our potential. Patience, resilience, and self-care are essential to succeed as a writer. 

I have made a conscious decision to slow my pace. To enjoy the journey. I will continue to work hard and set myself goals but I will listen to my inner self and be kind. I will value times of inactivity respecting the natural ebb and flow of creativity and the need for renewal. 

Tomorrow I am going away for a few days on a writer’s retreat. I am looking forward to a break from social media and the opportunity to focus on me and my writing. If I do not blog every week I know that you will not judge me and neither will I judge myself – although I have to admit, that is still a work in progress.

How to coax your muse out of hiding

All writers have days, sometimes weeks when the words will not flow on the page. It is frustrating when you think you know what you want to say but it doesn’t come out right. I have had that experience in the past when describing myself and my writing for my website author page, and this week when making several false starts on my new novel. I have learnt that the reason I cannot find the right words is because I do not truly know what I want to say. I am not ready to start writing because my ideas are not fully formed.

Dig Deep

I have been working on my author page this week and after a year of grappling with my identity as an author, I am now able to write confidently about who I am and what I write. It sounds simple but any author who has tried to do this in the first few months of their career will, I suspect, identify with this. There is a bit of imposter syndrome. Fear of exposing who we really are – being authentic makes us vulnerable, as we get used to presenting to the world the image of ourselves that is most acceptable. Writing this blog and digging deep as I write my stories has helped me to see and value what makes me unique. That thing which once seemed so nebulous – my writing voice. If you are struggling to describe yourself as a writer – don’t read other author’s pages looking for inspiration – go within. Sit with yourself and take the time to understand who this amazing person is – because you are extraordinary. Only you can write what you write because it comes from your unique experience of the world. 

StefanKeller Pixabay

Be patient

Starting to write a new novel is exciting. It is also a little scary as I explained in last week’s blog. I have been thinking about this novel since I had the first inspiration in February 2019. I have pages of notes, loads of research and I know the beginning, middle, and end. What I don’t yet know are the characters or how to get into the story. I read a note by Rachel Joyce in the back of her novel, Miss Benson’s Beetle – a novel I greatly enjoyed and can recommend – she said that she walked around her story idea as though it were a house and couldn’t find her way in. For Rachel Joyce, it was seeing an old photograph of two women that spoke to her and enabled her to dive into writing that story because it was then that she discovered her protagonists. 

I have stopped trying to hunt down my ideas because the more I stalk them, the further into hiding they go. It is a waste of my time sitting at my computer attempting to write yet another chapter that will end up being deleted, or scribbling longhand in my notebook. My mind needs to be still and diverted for inspiration to come creeping out. I woke up this morning with a revelation. I was starting my novel in the wrong place and from the wrong point of view. It was as though my ideas had been given a good shake whilst I slept and now, they came tumbling in a different order giving me a new perspective. My first attempts did not work because the ideas were not fully formed. Understanding the heart of your story and the journey you want to take the reader on is crucial. The magic in writing is that the story unfolds as you go along but you need to be true to what you set out to achieve. 

MarDais Pixabay

Have faith

When I first started writing this blog, I was afraid that I would run out of ideas. Each week I fretted over what I would write and if I had not written and scheduled the blog by midweek I panicked. Now, I have a weekly ritual. Every Sunday I get up early for a run by the sea. I warm up with 10 minutes of yoga then head out. This morning, I was blessed as the tide was out exposing a long sandy beach. There was a mist on the horizon and the air smelt so good – of roses from the green slopes above mingled with the scent of the sea and a promise of rain. It is easy to empty the mind running in such a beautiful setting. I never set out to think of a topic for my blog but at the end of each run, I know what to write. It is a time of quiet reflection when I listen to my inner voice. On my return, I scribble a few notes to capture ideas for future blogs, before doing ten minutes of post-run yoga and my daily meditation. This is the only time in my life when I can honestly say that I completely let go of control and trust the process. When I was running today, I wondered what might happen if I applied the same faith to my daily life. 

The creative process is a miraculous thing. It comes from somewhere deep inside. We are conditioned to be busy and productive but that is not how creativity works. It takes its own time and requires us only to be still, to trust, listen, and to be patient. Because that is when the magic happens. 

5 steps to attract what you want into your life

‘I want this more than anything.’

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

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

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

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

Albrecht Fietz Pixabay

1. Focus on what is within your control

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

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

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

Noel Bauza Pixabay

2. Invite new opportunities into your life

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

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

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

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

Beate Bachmann Pixabay

3. Do not attach yourself to one particular outcome

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

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

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

Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke Pixabay

4. Open your heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jplenio Pixabay

5. Trust the journey

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

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

How to Sow Seeds for Success

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

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

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

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

I just read a tweet from @HutchinsAuthor 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Creativity Can Change Your Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pezibear Pixabay

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

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

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

Three mindful steps to success as a creative entrepreneur

The creative entrepreneur is full of ideas, can find creative solutions to problems and spot gaps in the market. They are self-starters, full of passion and drive. We have a vision of what we want to achieve and go after it like the Road Runner.

The downside of being a creative entrepreneur is our low boredom threshold and impatience to see results. There have been several occasions where I have self-sabotaged my success by allowing my ego to derail me. Fortunately, over-time I have learnt four important lessons.

Self-belief

You need to be your biggest champion and have absolute faith in yourself to succeed. The road to success is tough and you will have many setbacks. Know that you have something special, you have everything that you need to succeed. Each knockback is making you stronger. Believe in yourself. Listen to the negative thoughts, it is your ego trying to protect you from disappointment and failure – but respond from your brave heart, you’ve got this. There is nothing to fear. You can do this. Champion yourself with love and compassion.

Believing in yourself does not mean ignoring any negative feedback or criticism, neither does it mean doing the same thing the same way despite the lack of success. This feedback is precious. It is helping us to become better at what we do. Reframe rejection and/or failure as gifts to help us improve. Road signs if you like to help us find the right path.

To believe in yourself, you first have to know what makes you special and unique. Write down all of the things that you are good at and enjoy – these are usually the same thing as we excel at what we love. Then, the things that you are not good at and prefer not to do. We are all different. It is important to know and understand your strengths so that you can make the most of them, for example, when it comes to developing a marketing strategy and plan. 

I know a successful Indie author who creates beautiful images easily and uses these to promote her blog and books on Pinterest and Instagram. She has a Facebook group and uses images with questions to stimulate discussion. Another successful author uses her love of travel and enthusiasm for independent publishing to connect with readers through podcasts, preferring to talk to her audience. There are so many different ways to market your product you need to find a strategy that uses your strengths and that you will enjoy.

Mimzy-Pixabay

Comparing to others.

Don’t. This is much easier said than done. Of course, we all compare ourselves and usually find ourselves wanting. We congratulate other creatives on their success, the new book contract, a best-selling debut, getting an agent, or even a full manuscript request. Sometimes, it feels as though everyone else is enjoying a party and you are on the outside banging your fists on a closed door. 

Everybody’s journey to success is different. A writer at a conference I attended said in a pre-dinner speech that an author’s journey to success is a bit like childbirth. You can plan and think you are prepared but how it happens – your unique experience will be nothing like you expect it to be. I remember making a birth plan and watching a soft-focus film of a delivery in ante-natal classes. Needless to say, my experience was completely different as it will be for every single woman who gives birth. Authors will tell you about winning a competition, a chance meeting with an author or publisher, being approached by an indie publisher after self-publishing successfully, achieving success independently – there are as many different journeys as there are authors. What I am trying to say is that your journey to success is unique to you. Comparing where you are to others is pointless because you are on a different path. 

With comparison comes envy. That green goblin that gobbles your soul. Do you find yourself thinking negative thoughts? I don’t mean wishing evil upon the person you envy – although you might have such feelings. The judgements: It’s all very well having a debut best-seller but will they be able to follow it? That publisher is too small to have any impact on sales. I wouldn’t want to churn out fiction like that it can’t be any good. These thoughts are partly to protect ourselves, to diminish the pain of envy – I wouldn’t want that anyway. But they are destructive. When we have negative thoughts about other creatives, we are also harming ourselves. It is the same voice that says, You are no good and will fail. We are all part of the universe, made from the same stuff. The synchronicity that brings fortune to us is dependent upon everything coming together in our favour. We are all dependent on one another. Negative thoughts about other creatives pollute the air we breathe – the life-giving force that should be nourishing us.

Steve Buissinne – Pixabay

Consistency

I started this post by recognising the downside to being a creative, the short attention span. A new project is exciting, the adrenalin rush as you put everything into getting it off the ground. In a big organisation you might be able to hand over the project once it is up and running but many creative entrepreneurs work alone or with a small team of experts. We do not have the resources and/or manpower to trust someone else to implement the big idea whilst we move onto a new one. We also want to see results quickly and can lose patience if they are not immediately apparent. 

I am learning how to refine and systemise approaches so that they are fully embedded. It means paying attention to detail, improving quality and efficiency. It means slowing down and being present – fully focused on the task. 

It is when you have grown tired of writing your blog or recording your YouTube channel that your audience starts to discover you. By giving up too soon you do not allow success to find you. An entrepreneur who is always moving on to the next new thing will miss out on reaping the rewards from their work. 

You won’t always feel like sitting down each week to write your blog, or record your film, especially if that negative voice in your head is telling you: What’s the point? Nobody reads it? Listens to it? But you must because success is about being consistent. Showing up even when you don’t feel like it. 

Mariya- Pixabay

My final message is this – Be joyful and carefree.

We seem to believe that is we are to achieve success we have to suffer in the process. You are doing this – whatever it is – because it is your passion. Fear of failure, self-doubt, and negative thoughts are burdensome. Have absolute faith in yourself. Know that you will achieve all that you dream of and more, and trust the universe to guide you towards that goal. Take pleasure in all of the tasks you commit to. Remember why you chose to do this and be patient. When things are not happening as quickly or in the way that you expect, be curious. Reflect on what you can learn from this moment by being present and grounded. Sometimes we just have to stand still long enough for success to find us.

How to stay the course and succeed

Ambition is great, it drives us to achieve our goals but it needs to be tempered with patience if we are to keep on track and avoid crashing. This has been a hard lesson for me and although looking back on my life I ended up in the right place, there were times when I caused myself unnecessary distress and almost sabotaged my chances of success as a result of my impatience. 

A pattern that I recognise in my behaviour starts with a heartfelt wish or passion. I put everything that I have into achieving this goal. Early achievements indicate that I am on the right track and I have what it takes. This is all good. We are inspired by our dreams to find our life’s purpose. The little markers of success along the way, for example, praise from a line manager, achieving a weight loss goal, or winning a writing competition, are like flags waving us on. There is a moment of realisation as we start to believe that we can achieve our dream.

In the past, this has been the point at which I start to sabotage my chances of success. It is a critical stage where patience is essential if we are to keep on track. 

Have you heard of the Terrible Twos? It is an expression used by parents to describe the developmental stage of two-year-old children who are prone to temper tantrums. At this age the child wants to be independent and can become frustrated when they discover that they do not have the motor and cognitive skills needed to achieve a task. The child might imagine themselves doing this activity and cannot understand why it is not possible. 

This is me. In my mind’s eye, I am already capable. The passion to achieve deceives me into believing I am ready. When the world does not recognise this and give me what I want I throw my hands up in despair. Then comes the self-doubt. The resentment and feelings of not being good enough. What a waste of energy and unnecessary grief. I get there in the end but looking back on my past experience I can see now that there is an easier way.

It is hard to stay present when you are used to striving for success. The business world teaches us to inflate our achievements to show that we have reached or exceeded targets. I am incredibly tough on myself, setting unrealistic goals of what I expect to achieve on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. When I fall short, I berate myself for failing and work harder. The result is inevitable:  Burn out. Poor decision making, and shoddy work as I am not taking my time. 

When we let go of trying to control and trust the journey, we get there a lot faster. The passion that is currently driving me is to publish my books and reach a significant number of readers. In March 2020 when the UK first went into lockdown I had not published any books and I didn’t have a social media presence. In eight months, I have published my debut, The Borrowed Boy, and my second novel, Just Bea, is in the process of being formatted for publication. I started this blog and have posted weekly. I have over 1k followers on Twitter and host a weekly tweet chat Friday Salon. I have also filmed a pilot for a YouTube programme Castaway Books. It’s exhausting just reading this.

This week I had a reality check. There is no hurry. Everything will unfold in its own time. Writing this blog brings me great satisfaction as I am developing self-awareness and making valuable connections with readers. I love hosting the Friday Salon tweet chats as it feels as though I am meeting with writer friends in the pub. I am learning new skills. Last week I was amazed to find myself editing a film for YouTube. 

When I relax into enjoying my work with no expectation it becomes a pleasure. I can savour each moment, immersing myself in the task without keeping one eye on the clock. I still have a diary with daily goals but they are more achievable. Every day, every hour I am learning and growing. Like the two-year-old, I do not yet know what I don’t know, but as I try things out and practice new skills I am discovering. It is a joy to learn, and the connections I am making with people on this journey are enriching my life. 

In my blog on Learning to be patient, I spoke about the lessons from nature. That we have what we need to become the person we are meant to be but just as a plant develops through the seasons so do we. We cannot rush nature. 

Be patient. Trust the journey. And have fun. You are exactly where you need to be right now. And above all be kind to yourself.