To prepare for the launch of my book, The Forever Cruise, I wrote a new short story as a giveaway. I say, ‘new’ but the truth, is I wrote a version of this story ten years ago. I had recently joined a small creative writing class in my village. Our facilitator suggested we try entering a short story competition. The brief was to write about the senses. I wrote A World of Difference, a story about a sighted boy in a world of blind people, where his sight was considered a disability. I won this competition and as a result had my story published in an anthology by Chuffed Buff Books. So, I have been a published author since 2013!
It was my first flag of encouragement. We need these affirmations along the way when we follow our heart, unsure where we are headed.
Chuffed Buff Books sadly folded a few years ago. So, when I was searching for a short story to write as a giveaway, I pulled it out to see if it still had some merit. I love the premise. The idea came to me because as a young occupational therapist I was angry and frustrated that people were made to feel disabled as a result of their environment. That the environment disabled people. I was idealistic at twenty and believed that one day things would be different. Huh!
The premise still rang true but my writing needed much improvement, as did the plot. I have of course become a better writer over the past ten years. So, I set about rewriting the story.
What is really interesting is the feedback from two beta-readers. The first, a writer friend who is regularly published in women’s magazines. This writer friend was very encouraging and gave me a couple of pointers on the romance side of things. The second beta-reader was Anneliese Knop, a blind author. I asked Anneliese for a sensitivity review. Boy, was that interesting!
In the draft I shared with Anneliese, I wrote:
‘It is rare for a person to be sighted. A sighted person may not have a well-developed sense of smell. They may have difficulty hearing some pitches that are easily heard by non-sighted people. Their responses can at times be slow as they tend to lose concentration easily, this may be because they are distracted by sight.’
This is what she said: ‘My first impression was that it was clearly written by a sighted person, in that you used the words “sighted” and “non-sighted” in the opening paragraph, and throughout the story. A sighted person only thinks of themselves as “sighted” when they encounter a blind person. A blind society wouldn’t think of themselves as blind until they come into context of sight, and in that case, they wouldn’t use the negative “non” to refer to themselves. After all, they’re not lacking anything, from their perspective. The “sighted” person has something extra, like a growth or excess of something. They might more accurately think of themselves as normal, and the random sampling of sighted people as “photo-sensitive,” or something else denoting their excessive awareness of light. I imagine some additional health concerns like headaches might be listed in the disadvantages of having sight. Sure, blind people can and do get headaches, but a lot of headaches come from eye strain and excessive brightness. On a sunny day in a world without sunglasses, the poor photo-sensitive people would be considered infirm.’
Who would have thought that we are at a disadvantage being exposed to bright light? As a migraine sufferer I could identify with this. Thank goodness for sunglasses which would not have been invented in a world of blind people.
My story now opens with this paragraph:
Headaches and photosensitivity can be particularly disabling for a sighted person. Their sense of smell will be underdeveloped, and they may have difficulty hearing some pitches. Their responses can be slow as they lose concentration easily, this may be because they are distracted by sight. Only a small proportion of the population experience the disabling condition of having sight. Awareness of the sighted person’s experience and careful adaptation of the environment can greatly enhance the sighted person’s feeling of independence and wellbeing.
The comment that I loved most from Anneliese was this:
‘As I understand it, infatuation and sexual attraction doesn’t generally lead to people wanting to grope each other’s faces. Now, in a biology geared more toward touch than sight, this might be different. The modes of determining genetic compatibility would have to be different. But then, the face would probably be slightly less important than the arms, chest, shoulders, torso. The face’s ability to project strength and intelligence is only useful to prospective mates with sight. A blind society would have evolved seeking signs of these things in other body parts.’
I found Anneliese’s perspective fascinating. My protagonist no longer wants to ‘grope’ the face of a handsome stranger.
A World of Difference is an uplifting story about a single mother and her teenage son as they negotiate the difference in their worlds, and prepare for more change: he is on the brink of adulthood and she is preparing for an empty nest.
In this third episode of season two, The Mindful Writer, Isabella May talks frankly about her writing and spiritual journey. It was recorded some months ago, and listening to it today, I realise how my writing life has changed since that interview. At that time, I had two complete manuscripts and was undecided whether to pursue a traditional publishing route or Indie publish. Now, I am approaching the launch date of The Forever Cruise – the paperback is already on sale with Amazon. I needed to make sure I could order copies in time for my book launch and with postal strikes and Christmas approaching I didn’t want to risk any delay. Anyway, listening to Isabella’s philosophy about being true to yourself, and trusting you are on the right path, it reinforced the decision I had already made. Before we get to that fascinating interview let me update you on my writing journey.
Since my holiday, which was only six weeks ago, life has been hectic. All great things – and related to writing but too much. When I plan and commit to things, I underestimate how much time and energy each activity takes. Everything is in my diary but I do not take account of how much energy I have. Sometimes I think of my energy like a jug of water. There is only so much available to me each day. I have to stop planning activities by time and start thinking about the energy they use. It’s no good filling every hour with tasks if there is no water left in that jug! And I have to replenish the jug with relaxation. I am celebrating my 63rd birthday this week and although I am in excellent health, I am beginning to realise that maybe I need to listen to my body and slow down – just a little.
Writing news – my WIP on a sunken village is progressing well. The Last Act is out on submission with publishers. And The Forever Cruise will be published as an e-book 1st December. Life is good!
Now on to the interview.
Isabella May is a level 4 pranic healer, and the author of foodie, romance, journey books. Having experienced domestic violence and the birth of a still born daughter, Isabella went on a spiritual journey.
In this interview Isabella tells me how her understanding of The Law of Attraction, and Pranic Healing have transformed her life and led to her to a deeper understanding about her journey as a woman, and as a writer.
Deborah: Hi, today I’m talking to Isabella May. Hi, Isabella.
Isabella: Hi, thanks for inviting me.
Deborah: An absolute pleasure. Isabella May, is author of eight foodie, romance, journey books. And I love saying that because they are my three favourite things: food, travel and romance. She’s a successful author, and has a life that Isabella described in a blog once as ‘pretty damn rosy.’ In fact, you’re joining us from the Costa del Sol in Spain as we speak, which is where you now live.
Isabella’s journey has not been an easy one, her experience of school bullying, a decade of domestic violence, and the heartbreak of a stillborn daughter, are life events that many of us would not recover from. Isabella attributes the positive changes in her life to a spiritual awakening.
She is now happily married with a family, and was traditionally published before embracing the opportunities of being an indie author.
Isabella, this is quite a journey. Can we start with your spiritual awakening? Perhaps tell us a bit about this experience and how it helps you to manage the highs and lows of being a writer. As I said, being a writer can be a very emotional experience. But it should be a picnic in the park compared to what you’ve been through. Tell us about your learning how you’ve used that.
Isabella: In many ways it has been a lot easier. So, I grew up in Glastonbury, which I don’t know if every single person listening has heard of it, but it’s a very spiritual, mythical town in the UK, in Somerset. And I think that really sets the tone for my spiritual journey. You have always got that intrigue, and there’s something about being born – I wasn’t born on the ley lines, but I lived in Glastonbury from toddler through to 27. So, I think you absorb that energy. And that stays with you, even if you move.
Yes, I now live in Spain, and in between that I’ve lived in various cities in the UK. I did a degree in languages. I was based in Bordeaux and Stuttgart – so, France and Germany. And around my early 20s, I started to get into self-help books. Let’s just say, I started off with Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, like many people would have. And that piqued my interest. And then, you know, I started to devour quite a few mainstream books, and you start thinking alternatively. And then, eventually, when we moved to Spain,
I stumbled across the secret, as many people will have, on the law of attraction. And that’s when things really started to kick into gear.
I’d been through, as you say, all of those awful experiences. Financially, we weren’t in a great position as a family. I had walked away from a career – a really good jet-set career in foreign rights and selling children’s books overseas. So, I was flying off to different countries regularly every few weeks. And yeah, it was a really great time. But unfortunately, I ended up working for a company toward the end of that career, that treated me very badly as a woman, particularly in light of the stillbirth I went through
I was very backed into a corner by many male members of staff, let’s just say – and it was an awful, awful experience. So that’s another one to add to the list.
I think I started to piece together around that time, when we came to Spain, that things weren’t happening to me. It was a cause-and-effect thing. It was a law of attraction thing. And that’s what really, really got me thinking.
I was in a position then where my husband basically said: Look, you know, your career in foreign rights, obviously, it’s over. We had two young children to look after. So, I had two other children – one either side of the stillbirth. And I couldn’t really continue with my foreign rights publishing career, but I’d always wanted to write. I always wanted to write – I wanted to write a book, which was very different to the usual rom coms that are out there.
I wanted the book to include domestic violence, because it’s something I have been
you through. But I wanted readers to understand that it can happen – even when you have good things going on in your life.
So, for example, for me, I was working in publishing and one side of my life was very rosy. And, you know, I’d step out the door and I was one person. But when I came back home, at the end of the day, I was the downtrodden. I wasn’t a housewife – I wasn’t married, but I was the downtrodden housewife. And I wanted to put that out there.
So yeah, my husband, who was not part of that domestic violence relationship, he was very supportive. And he basically said: Look, you know I’ve got this job in Gibraltar. You can’t really do much with the school hours that the children have here, because they are very short in Spain. Start jotting ideas down and you know, go for it. Use this time to write that book.
So yeah, The Secret, kind of tied in with all of that, and it felt like I was on a path that I should have always been on – the signs always been there. I hope I’m not taking too long to, to answer this question. Along the way – the signs had always been there. They had been there since I was a toddler on a potty, when I used to have a pile of books by the side of me, and I wouldn’t get off – and I’d end up with a red ring around my bottom. And I used to – also when I was a young child – make up quirky, silly stories about the people on our street. I’d draw illustrations to go with them. And they were always a bit wacky – a bit different, you know. They always had that sense of humour laced through them. So, I think that’s where the rom com aspect comes from.
Deborah: That’s fascinating. I want to pick up on something you said earlier, before we get too far ahead. You said something very interesting. You said you realised things weren’t happening to you. It was two-way. That’s interesting, because lots of writers can feel –when they’re experiencing rejection, and they are feeling that they are outside and can’t get into that traditional publishing process – frustration. They can feel very victimised – things are happening to me. So, can you just shine a light on that and tell us a bit more about what you mean by that which might be helpful?
Isabella: Yes. So, I think it’s just – sort of, that realisation that your thoughts –
your thoughts, your feelings, your actions, everything is energy.
I’ve learned to expand on that much more now. Because after The Secret, the Rhonda Byrne Law of Attraction books, I went on to study Esther Hicks, and Abraham. And then after that, shortly after that, pranic Healing came into my life. And that changed everything. It was like the missing piece of the puzzle.
And it’s the understanding that you’re planting seeds all the time, everything you put out there, is multiplied and comes back to you.
So, you know, if you want good things to happen in your life, if you want success – you’ve got to stop looking at yourself in a certain way. And I can’t speak for everyone, because I think you’ve got to be at a certain point on your spiritual journey to accept that and to understand that – you know, you can’t kind of force it down anyone’s throat. And I must admit, I did start to do that when I got into The Secret. I’d have people come over to stay here and I’d leave copies in the spare room – like a preaching sort of fairy godmother, but everyone’s on their own journey.
I was at that stage in my journey where I was ready, the student was ready the teacher appeared in the form of these books.
And yeah, I really sort of started to realise – particularly with pranic healing, which is just such a high level of spiritual truths, that everything I was doing, you know, everything I received was of my own making. And when you start looking at things in that way, and realising everything’s energy – and taking karma and things like that into consideration, you look at things differently. But again, I know this isn’t going to gel with everybody and I know this is something that will really be difficult for some people to accept, let’s say.
So, you know, for me, that’s where I’m at in my spiritual journey and it’s made all the difference. All the difference. It’s made my life so much clearer. It’s helped take away the bad emotions associated with writing because I went through quite a struggle with the whole rejection side of things as you say. I take critique and rejection really badly – I always have done. I sort of felt like a star shaped peg really trying to fit into a square hole for a long, long time.
And, you know, whatever I tried – I’m going on to sort of answer another question here – but whatever I tried, it felt like I was pushing all the time – pushing, and pushing, and pushing. And I also felt like the industry owed me because I’d worked on foreign rights for so long. I think I’d spent 12 to 15 years in foreign rights in some form or another. I’d sold books in 45 plus languages everywhere from Korea, South Korea, to Iceland, to the Dutch Island of Aruba, to South Africa. And I felt like, hang on a minute – the traditional industry owes me. I’ve done all of this for them. Now, I want them to put my books out there.
But you get to a point when you realise, you have to surrender because your mental health is on the floor from constant rejections.
And I was always so close. It was always Yesbut. Yes, you wrote really beautifully.We love it, but you’re trying to do too much. That was the usual old chestnut rejection I would get.
For me, things came to a head when – I’ll be quite honest, I did a Romantic Novelist Association thing. Kind of like a conference where they pair authors with an agent or an editorial director. You choose your top three, and they put you together and you have a chat. You send off your manuscript, and they look through it and appraise it. I don’t think any of them had kind of looked at the fact I’d been traditionally published before. And they were just – It was awful. They were teaching me how to suck grapes, basically. And one of them basically said – this was someone from a big top five publishing house. No, you need to write the whole thing over again. That was from my book, The Chocolate Box. You need to write the whole thing over again. And we would suggest you base it in a hotel, and you have the character dropping chocolates under the pillows … And you do this and you do that. I thought, hang on one minute, you’re rewriting my entire story. That doesn’t happen in it at all – you know, it’s just not what it’s meant to be. It’s based in a French Gite. And it’s a team-building retreat run by this woman who’s faked her CV to be HR manager, so she can get the guy who works at the company. No, I don’t think I’m basing it in a hotel. Yeah, so I think that was it for me. I just thought, why you’re putting yourself through this? I just didn’t know why I was doing it anymore. It’s not working.
You know, and I’ve also seen so many writers spend two years of their life constantly sending off subs and things and it’s great when it works. But sometimes it’s not meant to work – sometimes trad isn’t the path to take and the universe is trying to tell you something, you know?
Deborah: I must jump in there, because you’ve touched on something that is very relevant to me for where I am in my journey. I’ve self-published two novels. I’ll be frank too. I had a leading literary agent representing me on my first book, who said that she thought it’d be snapped up by the industry – that it really deserved to be published. I was so excited. And she went out to the big five. And anyway, 18 months later – I mean, I had to keep doing rewrites – rewrites, and rewrites for her. But the end result – we were pleased with that, but I didn’t get a publishing deal. And then, she dropped me because I’d never actually signed a contract. It really – looking back – it was only if I’d made it with that book, that she was going to sign me. So, that was it. I was completely back into having to find an agent again. That’s the reason I self-published. For me, it was wonderful – not just the self-publishing experience, the indie author experience, which I’ve loved. It was realising that I didn’t have to give away the control or responsibility for my happiness to a person or an industry – that I could take control of that.
I loved that freedom, becauseit can really wear you down that whole waiting for somebody to say, Yes, I approve of you. Yes, you’re good enough.
And all the things that we read into it – which they’re not saying, but we read into it. Our esteem is held in, you know, in their hands as far as we see it at the time. So, I moved past that. But now, I’m at the point where I’ve got two full manuscripts and I’m going through that process again, this time with a very different attitude because I’m much lighter of heart. I’m not handing responsibility to anyone. I know there are options. And I keep on looking to the universe for answers – am I to carry on as an indie author? Or am I to go this way? And it’s difficult. I’m older than you. And I think to myself about how much time I’ve got, you know, whether you can waste 2- 3 or 5 years, waiting for a yes, when you don’t know how many writing years you’ve got in you.
Isabella: I totally understand what you’re saying. And that, for me is one of the things that you really, sort of, take into account. I mean, no, I don’t like comparing myself to other people. But I’ve started on this writing journey at the same time as other friends and some of them have been messed about by literary agents to be quite frank – they won’t be listening to this podcast – I don’t think, but if they are – sorry. They have been.
And they are younger, okay. And that’s their path, perhaps. But I can’t help but think, well, I’ve got 10 books out there in that space of time, and it’s not quantity, obviously, it’s quality.
But I think as long as you stay true to yourself, as long as you know – if you get to that point eventually, where they’re not discrediting your unique voice – the agent or publisher that signs you. But if you’re being asked to rewrite things so much, that it’s a totally different story and it’s not what’s come from your heart, and your soul, then I think it’s hard to sit with that – as how to stand in front of that book and feel as proud about it as you could be. And I mean, in a way, I kind of liken it to the same way that women, in particular, have fought to be heard for centuries. You know, we have writers and stories who don’t naturally fit in, we’ve all got a unique storytelling voice. And if that’s being watered down too much, that’s not what we’re here to do.
I think we’ve all got unique voices and unique ways of expressing ourselves. And we do ourselves a massive discredit, if we are moulding ourselves too much to fit into the industry.
I think as long as you’re not forging your creativity by ticking all the boxes of an agent or publishing house, then that’s fine. But I don’t think anyone will ever truly be satisfied if they go down that route and have to do that too much. And I think then, success is fleeting and meaningless in a way.
And what I love is the way that traditional publishing has been shaken up at the moment, we’re entering – or we already have, into the Age of Aquarius, and creativity really needs to shine now. That’s what we’re being called to do.
So, there’s new ways of doing things, you know, evolution is part of it. And we don’t need these badges of honour from these big companies. They are lovely but like you say, you’re seeking an outsider’s approval all the time. And for me, that should really only come from the readers, not from the gatekeepers.
I find that frustrating – we only, really, need our own approval, and obviously, some readers – otherwise nobody’s going to buy our books. And obviously, a good editor. We can’t just throw material out there willy-nilly. But yeah, everything’s changed so much. And you can see that as well with, for example, with Booktoc. So, I’m a big part of the Booktoc community at the moment.
Deborah: Sorry. What is that Booktoc?
Isabella: Tik Tok
Deborah: Oh, Tic Tok – Booktoc. Got it.
Isabella: I didn’t want to get involved, initially. Actually, Lizzie, who was on this show before, she coaxed me into it. And yes, it’s made quite a difference in terms of daily sales on daily Kindle Unlimited patriots. And what I love about it is that you can truly be yourself on that platform, to people of all ages, all backgrounds, all genres of writing, and we are just on there for the books, we’re not on there for anything else. We’re literally just on there for books. So, we have our own book talk hashtag, but you can be yourself on there. So that’s a great place for your personality to shine and it then creates a level playing field for all of us. There is no advantage over being a traditionally published author on there. And you’ll find that indies are selling many, many times more books than the traditional authors because indies have more time to go on there and do it. The traditionally published authors are like, Well, I’m not doing this marketing. My publisher should be doing that.So, you know for me, it’s made a huge difference.
And it’s free as well. It’s a really creative platform. There’s so much you can do with it. And I find it very exciting. And the fact that sort of turned up the year that I made the decision to be completely self-published, I think that’s great. It’s really exciting. I mean, I’m not obviously selling millions of books. It’s changed things. It’s definitely changed things andyou realise you can then be directly in touch with your readers. You don’t need anyone gatekeeping, or telling you your books are good enough, you know – they will.
Deborah: I love that. I didn’t know that there was this Booktoc I knew about Tik Tok. But there’s so many horrible things on Tik Tok, I decided not to get involved. I’m going to check it out now.
Isabella: It’s in Tik Tok – If you see what I mean? It’ll be #booktoc once you’re in TikTok. And yeah, I’d heard a lot of bad things about Tik Tok, I really had. I was very reluctant to join. I understood, it was all teenagers lip synching, and dancing around in bikinis and all that kind of thing. And honestly, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a very positive, supportive community.
So, I will go there as opposed to spending my time on Twitter, for example. I’m not on Twitter very much anymore. And I kind of switched my time marketing #booktoc. So, you’ll find Mind Body Spiritual Authors on there, as well, you know, all sorts of authors, from all different genres. It’s really good.
Deborah: So, Isabella, how do you find your emotional courage, your resilience, and your determination when you need it? Where does that come from?
Isabella: Well, it’s certainly been tested through the pandemic, like most people’s but meditation. So, I do a very specific meditation called Twin Hearts, which I try to do every day. But it really does cleanse the aura of stress and negative energy. It really calms everything down and stops all the mind chatter. It’s great. And then, where I’ve learnt pranic healing, I also apply pranic psychotherapy techniques to physically remove stress, anxiety, depression – anything like that, from the chakras. So, that’s amazing. It really, really helps. And it also boosts motivation.
And also, I suppose having a sort of sense of purpose and a sense of destiny. And knowing deep within that I am on the right path now, now that I’m self-publishing.
And having a vision as well, I think it’s important to keep a vision in mind and not to compare yourself to others.
That is one of the worst things that you can do as a writer, and I’m very guilty of doing it from time to time.
Deborah: One of my biggest fears, I guess, because I’m further back in the journey than you are – having only indie published two novels. I spent a lot of money on getting it done probably: structural edits, copy edits, good cover design. I did it all properly. But there’s a lot of financial investment, and what I find difficult – where my courage is affected, I kind of know that the more books I get out there, and the more promoting and advertising, it will eventually pay off. But I feel very uncomfortable about spending that much money. Without – you know, my courage fails me when I don’t see the income coming anywhere near to matching the expenditure. How do you how do you cope with that?
Isabella: Again, go back to the pranic healing side of things that’s been incredible with helping me with all aspects of life. Pranic healing covers finances as well. So, it covers health, spirituality, relationships, and finances. And yeah,
it’s just having that understanding that you have to give to receive, you have to exhale to inhale. Everything’s a cycle.
You have to kind of look at it in that way. But it can be very difficult. I understand that at a grassroots level, when you’re in the thick of it and you’re thinking oh my goodness, you know, I’m spending out on editing – I’m doing this, I’m doing that. It’s difficult to justify carrying on but what I look at, as well, is the fact that abundance and prosperity comes in from many, many different channels. Sometimes it doesn’t come back to us directly from our books, but it will come through other means. And that’s been really interesting to look at.
My books have a very kind of uplifting, good energy feel to them, I suppose. They help people escape and they’re infused with positivity. Ultimately, of course, they have some baddies and things like that, but they’re very uplifting. And I think when you’re putting words out there, obviously words have vibrations, or on the spiritual side – they literally do have vibrations.
So, if you’re putting good words out there, and you’re helping people in some way to perhaps think about improving areas of their life, and you can sow these kinds of seeds into a romcom even, then I think, ultimately, you are going to get that good karma back at some point.
It might not be immediate, but the more you put out there, the more it will come back. And so, it’s just trusting really, but it is hard at times. It’s hard when you don’t see that instant gratification as you would with, you know, a nine to five office job where you’re getting paid at the end of the month – you know what’s coming in, and it’s regular.
Deborah: That’s really helpful. Thinking as well, about some women – I know some women who have expressed a feeling that they’re being selfish if they spend time to write instead of being with their partner. And, again, spending money on something if they have a joint account with their partner. Now, I’m not talking about me here, but I’m talking about other women who might be listening, who have felt that to pursue a creative hobby or interest that maybe a partner sees as a hobby, feels selfish. And so, what would you say to them?
Isabella: Well, I think it harks back to – and I’m, you know, this is such a timely question – I’m reading so many books at the moment where women’s rights, you know, the suffragette movement, all sorts of things, are coming into whatever fiction I’m reading. And I just look back at it, and I think we have to keep pushing for this, you know,
we have to let our voices be heard, whether it be in our writing, our storytelling, whether it be in voting or you know, equality – when it comes to things like abortion. It encompasses everything we do.
That’s one of the reasons I write foodie, romance journeys, because I get so fed up with hearing women justify how many calories they’ve eaten, and that side of things. It’s the sort of everyday nuances that get swept under the carpet if we don’t stand up for them. I would say that many women, not all women, but many women have had families, and we have brought children up and we’ve mothered and now it’s time for us, we’ve made sacrifices with our careers. And just because the money isn’t coming in immediately, you know, we are entitled to do this. It’s something for us, whether we’re doing it for a hobby, or we’re doing it as a career. You know, we’re entitled to have this time to express ourselves creatively. And we’re not just doing it for ourselves, we’re doing it for all the women who’ve come before us – for all of them, who struggled and fought to get us to where we are today. And we still got a long way to go on this journey. So, it’s really important, I think, and I understand, it’s not easy.
When I got together with my husband, I was the breadwinner and things have totally turned around since children – as they do, and now he earns a lot more than I ever did back then.
But I just think you support each other. And you know, if you’ve got a partner who doesn’t support you, then well, I don’t like to say it. But maybe it’s time to ask questions as to your relationship and things like that.
Deborah: Thank you. Thank you. I’m getting a lot out of talking to you. I hope – I’m sure, everybody will. But I personally thank you as well, for so much. So, Isabella, what words of wisdom would you impart to your younger self? It’s a question I ask everybody that comes on to this podcast. If you were to look back at that time when you were really at your lowest as a writer and struggling – from where you are now what would you say to your younger self?
I would say it’s all happening perfectly and stop comparing yourself to everybody else.
I still do it now and I still have to tell myself off for doing it. But I do. I will compare myself to other writers. I think, well, you know, they’re signed up with that publisher, and they have all these books out, and have been translated into all these foreign languages. Something I would love – seeing as I worked in foreign rights for so long. I hope they appreciate how lucky they are. You know, they’ve won this award, or that award. They’ve done, this, that, or the other. And then, I look at them and think – well maybe that don’t have a family. Maybe it’s easier for them to write and produce more. Maybe they are older than me. Maybe they started their writing career in their twenties. There are so many variables, and we are all such different people. And so, you can’t, and shouldn’t, compare yourself to anyone else because no two journeys are the same. But I also do believe that it is all happening perfectly and even the books that you’re not so proud of – or for me, I’ve changed my covers multiple times – you look back and think – yes, but if that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be here now at this point. It was a learning curve and a steep learning curve too – being a self-published, indie author. It’s perhaps a steeper learning curve for us than traditional authors. So, I think we have to give ourselves a huge pat on the back, because we have to do so many things, and wear so many hats: writing, and marketing, and publicity. You know, all the variables. And so, yeah, I think we’re doing an amazing job.
Deborah: That’s true. There are so many things I could ask you. You are so fascinating. I’ll have to ask you to come back again on a future show, I think. But before you go – any parting thoughts to encourage writers out there?
Isabella: I would just say:
Stay true to yourself. Don’t be too seduced by traditional publishing.
This is the mistake I made. I was published traditionally with a small press, and they were lovely – Crooked Cat Books. However, they then changed their list and decided to go dark, so my books didn’t fit. So, me and a number of other authors – we all got our rights back. At that point, I thought, that’s it I’m going to have my big break now. I’ve had three books out there. Everybody is going to want to snap me up. I’ve got a nice – small, but loyal readership. I had been with a small publisher and obviously they couldn’t afford much marketing. I thought – That’s it now. Who wouldn’t want me? You know, I write books about food, and romance, and they’ve got good reviews. I got a bit big for my boots, I suppose – I’ll be honest. But I was so fixated on success happening only via the traditional publishing industry – and that was my mistake. Things are really different now, you know. Indies, self-published authors have shaken up the industry so much. It’s not what it was. The hey-day, the golden years, have absolutely gone. They really have. We can go straight to market now, with books, and things are very different.
We hold our destiny in our own hands.
And so, I know it is a question of finances – as some of us are paying for editors, and good cover designers, and all the rest of it – but I would think seriously about spending years: chasing, and subbing to agents, and you know, going through all that turmoil because it can be. If you’ve got a thick skin, fine go for it. But even then, you know, you can get snapped up and you find, quite often, that there are one or two authors who are cherry picked and have all the marketing thrown at them – and you still have to do your own marketing. So really, in many ways, you might just as well self-publish. And it is so much fun. It really is.
Whether your writing journey takes you on a traditionally published route, an independently published, self-published, or a hybrid one the most important thing is to embrace the experience. Be open to possibilities as you plough your own furrow. I have never been more content and rewarded in my writing life as I accept where I am now with gratitude.
So until next time, take care of your beautiful self and trust the journey.
‘Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.’
At the beginning of last week’s podcast, The Mindful Writer, I told you how I was applying Know Yourself to my writing journey. Understanding our personality type, our strengths, and our weaknesses have, for many of us, been part of our professional life. The personality tests, which at one time seemed to be a requirement of the job recruitment process, labelled us so that we could be fitted into an organisation. But there are trillions of shapes and sizes – every one of us is unique. And nobody knows us better than ourselves.
We have an amazing resource of inner knowledge, gained through a lifetime – maybe many lives. We are the best textbook on ourselves; we just have to look inside.
When we take time to learn who we are: How we think, feel, react, learn, grow What makes us happy, sad, frustrated, fulfilled Our values, and beliefs What we are good at and where we struggle Motivations, aspirations, fears
The list goes on.
We can use this self-knowledge to flow through life with less resistance and angst. As creatives, we can achieve our best work and reach our audience.
I believe that by knowing and accepting our unique selves we can take joy in the writing journey. Envy, shame, imposter syndrome, despair, and fear of failure become a thing of the past.
Getting to know ourself takes time, it is our life’s work, but if we stop and look inward there is so much knowledge already there. The truth is, we try and deny it. We are too busy trying to be like someone else instead of honouring our unique selves.
I have got to know myself over the years through: Journaling Meditation Yoga Mindful activities such as walking in nature Reflection Observation
It helps me to write down how I am feeling. To reflect back on how I behaved in the past and the consequences of my actions – there are behaviour patterns for me: Starting a new project with energy and enthusiasm then burning out. Impatience – stepping in to try and take control of a process rather than allowing events to unfold in their own time. Driving myself hard with high expectations lead to feelings of failure and disappointment when I do not achieve my goals in the anticipated time frame.
By recognising these behaviour patterns, I can treat myself with compassion. It is like being a caring, and wise line manager/supervisor. Journaling has helped me to have these conversations with myself. To set realistic goals, to keep motivated, and to self-care.
In last week’s Mindful Writer, Grace Sammon talks about finding meaning in the moment. What is this moment teaching me? It is a good way to stop and reflect on how we are feeling – to check in on ourselves, before reacting.
There are many books on how to write a novel. I know that I work best starting with an outline plan – nothing detailed just the beginning, midpoint, ending, and the key pinch points. Every time I start to write a new novel, I wonder how I achieved it before. Every time is different.
A best-selling author friend of mine wrote a letter to herself as a reminder that: She will experience overwhelm and despair at some point in writing the first draft. She will panic and be terrified of failing. Because this is what always happens to her. She wrote to herself with compassion reminding herself that this is part of her writing process and that she always comes through it.
Understand the different approaches on writing a novel and then find one that is right for you. There is no right or wrong way – but there is the best way for you. And you are the expert on this.
Similarly, the time it takes to write a novel. How often and how much we write. I like to write every day when I am working on a story. I typically write one chapter a day, because my chapters are short and this satisfies me. Another person may prefer writing on one or two days of the week. I write early in the morning because I am a morning person, another person may prefer late at night. Do what works for you and don’t compare yourself to others.
We bring to our writing life skills, knowledge, and expertise, from other areas of our life. Understanding what we are good at, and enjoy doing, should form the basis of our marketing plan.
Facilitating group work, listening to people and enabling them to be heard, sharing good practice and resources – have been key components of my working life for the past few decades. It makes sense for me to use this experience in my approach to marketing.
Networking is the basis of all marketing practice – making meaningful connections with other writers and readers. My podcasts, Castaway Books, and The Mindful Writer, allowed me to sit quietly with my guest and listen to how they have experienced life, using questions to explore with them deeper meaning. This comes naturally to me after a career in health and social care.
The Friday Salon tweet-chat and virtual writing retreats draw on my management consultancy experience facilitating groups and sharing good practice.
My marketing approach will be different from yours because you will bring to it different knowledge, skills, and experience. For example, one of my writing friends worked in quality control and is skilled and knowledgeable about systems. He used this expertise to develop a quality system for writing a novel in one month – The Efficient Novelist. Sharing this model through social media, seminars, and a book has been an important component of his marketing plan.
Another writer was in advertising and sales. This writer uses Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook to share beautifully designed posts. She finds visually appealing content to share with readers and writers.
There is no one marketing plan to suit everyone. If we know ourselves then we can find an approach that, not only are we good at, but one that we enjoy. When we find that niche approach it doesn’t feel like work. I forget that my podcasts, and meeting with Friday Salon friends started as marketing. I am making meaningful connections. My networks continue to expand, and amazing people have come into my life as a result. This is what marketing is about. By forming these networks and connections we invite new opportunities.
So, take time to know yourself. Go inward and listen. What brings you joy and what fills you with dread? Where is fear holding you back? Be honest with yourself. Be compassionate and kind. Know that we are one of a kind – one in a million. When we do what comes naturally, we flow with ease.
This is a work in progress for me. I keep forgetting that there is nothing to worry about. That everything is working out just fine.
In this third episode of The Mindful Writer, Indie author C.D’Angelo tells me about her writing journey, how she overcame disappointment to embrace new opportunities and found unexpected treasures.
But first, an update on my writing journey. Whilst two of my unpublished manuscripts are doing the rounds as I seek a publishing contract, I have been thinking about my next novel. Like most authors I have been collecting ideas, so many stories to tell – but none of them felt right. Sometimes you have to wait for the right time to write a particular novel.
My thoughts kept going back to an image I saw several years ago of a sunken village in Yorkshire. The spire of a church was visible in the middle of a reservoir. I knew I had to write about that village.
I did some research and found that it was situated in a hard to reach place – for me anyway, as I was travelling by public transport. A series of amazing events led me to a wonderful woman who lived just three miles from the sunken village. Not only did this stranger open up her home to me but she volunteered her services and those of her friends to help me in my research. I will be spending a few days in North Yorkshire at the end of July, and will tell you more then. It really does show that miraculous things can happen when you open up your mind and heart to new possibilities. Which leads me on to this week’s interview with author C.D’Angelo.
C.D’Angelo is author of The Difference and The Visitor. See links below to buy.
Deborah: C. D’Angelo. I’m so happy to welcome you to the Mindful Writer Podcast. Your debut, The difference, was published last year, and your second novel, The Visitor is published this week. So happy publication day! It’s important to celebrate each step of the journey to publication, you know, from whether it’s writing a difficult chapter or completing the first draft.
I wonder if you can tell us about some of the highs and lows in your journey to publication and what you’ve learned about yourself in the process?
C. D’Angelo: Oh yes. There are many highs and lows. First of all, with The Difference, I had a shift in how it was going to be published that I had to manoeuvre kind of at the last minute.
And I ended up self-publishing, which was not expected. So, dealing with that change was really difficult and actually making the decision to do that instead of waiting, God knows how long, for another agent or publisher, or whatever, was a very difficult one. And I made sure that I: wrote out choices, talked to people in the field, talked to my friends and family, really did some soul searching and figured out what’s the most important thing. It was not the way it was published – just that it was published to me at that point. So that is, that was, the hardest thing so far for me, but I am really glad that I moved forward and I have no regrets about it because now it’s out in the world and it’s been bringing people pleasure.
And, and so, you know, there’s always going to be highs and lows even much more minor than that. I mean, just last week I thought, oh gosh, I’m still, you know, stuck at a certain level of review numbers. And I wish that I could have more reviews and things like that. You know, everyone who’s an author thinks about, but then, you just keep pushing and you keep doing what you’re doing.
I’m going to stick to me. I’m going to stick to what I do and it’s going to come. I believe that.
Deborah: Really interesting. A couple of things I want to pick up there. One is about that heartache, that heartache and disappointment that all authors go through when they have a submission, a query out there with agents, or a submission with publishers. We kind of give the responsibility for our happiness over to somebody else.
C. D’Angelo: Yes.
Deborah: We put everything, don’t we, on whether or not you’re going to choose me? It’s like, Choose me, choose me. And all of the feelings that you have of rejection when you’re not chosen. You did a brave thing, you said, Well, it’s not going to happen that way – traditional publishing on this occasion, therefore I’m going to take another route independently publishing.
I think that sometimes we can get too focused on one particular outcome it is the be-all and end-all and we put all of our hope into it. And that can be so destructive, can’t it?
C. D’Angelo: Oh yes. It actually in the end does not matter because when you’re a reader reading a book, are you really looking to see where it came from?
No, you’re just enjoying the story. And so, us on the other side, the authors, you know, we get so swept up in these ideas and the way that we thought it should be and all of that stuff. And it can really do damage to your mindset and your self-esteem because yeah, that rejection, that’s hard to face all the time.
You know, to be successful, you have to keep pushing, but you will have those moments as well. That’s just human.
Deborah: Absolutely. I went through a similar journey to yours, which we’ve shared in the past. I too was thinking I was going to get a traditional publishing deal and then took the option of going to be independently published. I have absolutely no regrets. I’d like to be hybrid published in the future (both traditional and indie) because I can see all the options have opportunities within them. But it meant that my father got to see the book that had a dedication to him and my mother in the front before he died. And he was so proud. He showed everyone in the care home. ‘My daughter wrote this, my daughter wrote this.’ I know that he had dementia but he knew very well that he was telling everyone again, and again, he’d say, ‘I’ve probably told you this, but my daughter…’
C. D’Angelo: That is the sweetest story. Oh my gosh. That’s … see that’s everything. That was meant to be.
Deborah: Absolutely. So no, no regrets on that. And like you, I know I’ve seen on your social media feeds, you’ve been to book shops where you’ve signed, you’ve had wonderful responses from readers and that’s so uplifting too, isn’t it?
C. D’Angelo: Yes. That means so much to me. I wrote the story The Difference just, you know, needing to get that story out there, but it is a very deep story for me because really, isn’t in honour of my grandpa and his immigration to the US and all the implications of that.
But also, I have a lot of mental health issues in there because I’m also a mental health therapist. And so I knew people could relate to it, but I didn’t really think about it on that deep of a level. I just thought, ‘I think people will like it, you know, but people’s response to, it has been extremely heart-warming, especially with the mental health aspect. People are very much relating and even saying, Thank you. I feel heard. I feel seen. And you treated anxiety in such a real way. Whereas in a lot of other books it’s not. And, you know, cause I, I can get all the innuendos cause, I’ve been doing therapy for 20 years. And I’m an anxious person myself, but anyways, so yeah. It’s been such a great pleasure to be able to have that feedback. Some people that I didn’t really think about ahead of time, you know, you’re just on a mission to get it done, get it out there, but this is a true joy in, in having the book published.
Deborah: Absolutely. You were saying about people felt that they’d been heard. Again, I draw a parallel because as I’ve told you before my professional background was an occupational therapist, and then I worked in writing serious case reviews and domestic homicide reviews. So, I was listening to people who’ve been through a lot of pain, who were often on the outskirts of society. And their voices are in your head.
I feel that if I have a mission in life, right back from when I was an occupational therapist through my whole career, and now I’m an author; If my purpose has been anything, it’s listening with empathy and giving voice to people whose voice feels unheard. And that’s another way we can do that. Not just in our professional lives, but as authors. Not intentionally, I never set out to write a book to show people this or that. It’s just those voices get in your head and you feel like you’re still doing a service in making sure they’re recognized, and seen, and heard.
C. D’Angelo: Yeah. And it’s really interesting because it brings me to this idea of just being open to possibility. Which you can’t, you can’t predict what’s going to happen along this journey, and so, don’t even try. Just kind of go along with it and, and keep trying your best, you know? But these great things come that you didn’t expect, that you didn’t plan for, and it’s sometimes even better than you thought.
And it’s interesting because in The Visitor, my second book, there’s kind of a theme in there of a certain character – I literally write, Be open to possibility, because that’s so meaningful to me now.
Deborah: Tell me more
C. D’Angelo: In the visitor, I have a character that I have reflecting on being open to possibility and I mentioned it a few times in there. It’s kind of like a scene for her. So that. really hit me with the first book’s journey: Just be open to possibility. And so, I made sure I integrated that into this second book, The Visitor.
Deborah: That’s a wonderful mantra, to be open to possibility. It’s true. And that’s one of the most wonderful things about this writer’s journey – when you open yourself up, with an open heart and mind, a generous spirit, the things that come to you are unimaginable sometimes far greater than you would have dreamed for yourself. It’s incredible.
C. D’Angelo: Definitely.
Deborah: And the way those little links and connections are made, that lead you down a path, or bring people to you. I mean, you and I would never have met had you not contacted me about my last podcast, Castaway Books books.
C.D’Angelo: I enjoyed that.
Deborah: And it’s a wonderful connection – you introduced me to the Author Talk Network.
We’ve had some fabulous guests from there and I’ve met some amazing women. So, all of those opportunities that bring new networks and new opportunities into your life. It’s incredible.
C.D’Angelo: It is. I love that you’ve been talking to the Author Talk Network people. They’re wonderful. I’m so happy to be part of that. And also, this writing community has just been such a huge addition to my life. I mean, I now have people that I talk to all the time and consider friends, even though I haven’t met them in person, you know, it’s the funniest thing to me, but they are best friends at this point.
I love how we can communicate and support each other on Twitter in a, Like, in a comment. And it’s just fun to keep that connection. So again, had no idea that that would happen when I started this journey.
Deborah: I know I’ve been so impressed by the writing community and social media, because I didn’t really get into all of this until the beginning of the pandemic, beginning of 2020 when I decided to indie publish and thought, I’d better dip my toes in the Twitter and Facebook world et cetera. I wasn’t expecting to find such a generous, supportive, amazing community, the writers, especially on Twitter. Like you, I’ve made connections and friends. I have zoom chats with people as I’m doing this for our podcast. I can look at you and you’re, you’re in the States and I’m in the UK, but I have other writer friends from around the world and we meet on Zoom. It’s incredible.
C. D’Angelo: It really is. And especially, I mean I’m of an age where growing up – You were told, Don’t talk to strangers – especially when the internet came around, Don’t talk to strangers on the internet, that’s dangerous. And now it’s this completely different world where some of this is very safe and fine and actually adds a richness to your life. So, it’s really funny to think about the flip side.
Deborah: I’m older than you and I’m of the generation where this is all very new. I think younger people, they think now, Of course, you do that. They’ve been doing it for years, but it was really only beginning of 2020, I was launched into this world.
C. D’Angelo: Yeah. Well, me too, really. I mean I was online. I had, you know, social media and things like that, but I wouldn’t talk to people I didn’t know. So I would say it started a little bit before that with the writing community though, because I had started to build my platform, I would say, I think it was 2019, maybe, Oh, 2018 at the end of 18. So yeah, a good solid year before the world teams.
Deborah: What would you say to people who are listening, who perhaps have only just started writing or are a bit shy of getting involved in the writing community on social media. Where would you say for them to start, if they were just getting involved?
C. D’Angelo: Well, okay. So talking about getting involved, you mean online?
Deborah: Finding a writing community on online.
C. D’Angelo: Oh, yes, yes. I knew that having a Facebook account, an Instagram account and a Twitter account were pretty standard. And so, I had already had those, personally. So I thought, Okay, I’m familiar with them I’ll just do that. And then of course I kind of have my favourites now, but I think it was very valuable for me to be on Twitter actually. Using the hashtag writing community. That is what brought me, everyone there. And just, it’s kind of a tradition on that platform, in that community where people will introduce you.
And so maybe someone will see that and say, oh, hi, CD Angelo, welcome to the community. And then they’ll tag other people. So, then they see you’re new and then it carries on.. Literally, that’s how it started on there one kind soul said, Oh, you’re new. Oh, here. Okay. I’m going to introduce you to people. And it just grew from there. And so then, you know, you just start commenting back and forth with people and it, and it really grows before you know it and unpredictably.
Deborah: I found that the tweet chats have really helped me make meaningful connections with people. I set up one myself, which is #FriSalon for Friday Salon. We meet every Friday using the hashtag #FriSalon. I found that by talking to the same people, or not just same people, because other people would join us, but a whole network of people every week, we got to know each other well. Not only do we meet now once a week, we’ve been beta- readers for each other’s books. We’ve met up on Zoom. They’ve become friends. They always welcome other people in, and now I’m joining in other people’s tweet chats because I think it’s the meaningful connections you make, rather than just surfing – looking at things and commenting. I think when you get involved in tweet chats, you have perhaps more meaningful exchange that can lead to other supportive, fun opportunities amongst writers.
C. D’Angelo: For sure. A long time ago on there, someone that I just would comment back and forth with a lot put me and a few other people into a Twitter group, like in the messages – I don’t know what you call that – it’s like a group chat kind of thing, you know? And we keep in touch every day, all the time. It’s been wonderful. And then some of those people from Twitter in general, not just in the group chat, are also on the other platforms and then you make connections on there.
I think we need, as authors, to support each other and share each other’s work. Be a cheerleader for each other. It really brightens my day when I, all of a sudden, see someone shared a post that I made, that I spent a lot of time on and someone appreciates it, you know? Oh my gosh!
Deborah: Networking is so important to bring new opportunities and open up more possibilities to make friends, and for mutual support. I can’t say strongly enough how important it is to network.
C. D’Angelo: Oh yes, definitely. But, oh, sorry. I was just going to say, not only for just, you know, the kind of sharing, and everything, of posts, and things that are happening, but the
non author stuff that goes deeper. The everyday things, the challenges, you know, like just, oh gosh, how do I continue? Or am I good enough for this, you know, kind of the imposter syndrome? Things like that too. I mean, those people really have gotten me through. I just want to add that in, because that is so important.
Deborah: Yes, absolutely. So, C. D’Angelo, if you were to write a letter to your younger self now, perhaps thinking about the time when you had written your first novel and it wasn’t going down the path you expected it to go, what words of wisdom would you impart?
C. D’Angelo: Trust the process. Have faith that what is, is meant to be, will happen.
If you push sometimes too hard, I think your energy is spent in a place that’s not meant to be. And so sometimes you have to just kind of let go, and then what you want will happen, although maybe in a different way. So, trusting that process, it’s going to happen. Just keep putting in the hard work and you’ll get there.
Deborah: Such good words of advice. Absolutely. Trust the journey. Let go and trust the journey.
C. D’Angelo: Yes.
Deborah: Very often better things than you envisaged will happen. They’ll happen at the right time, in the right way.
C. D’Angelo: Exactly. Yes. And that’s hard sometimes to keep in mind when you see some of the things that are happening to other people that you wish would happen to you, you know, and you have to just keep checking yourself and say, That’s okay. It’s not my time yet. It will happen. Or what is meant for me will happen.
Deborah: Exactly. Don’t compare. We all compare, don’t we?
C. D’Angelo: Yes. Yes.
Deborah: It’s not healthy. We will have different journeys for different reasons, which is perfect for us.
C. D’Angelo: Exactly. I wrote a blog post on this a while ago. I think it was last March. And it’s called Just say no to comparison. We need apples and oranges in the world and so both have their place. Both are beautiful and it’s okay. They’re going to serve different needs. So, we can’t compare.
You must give me a link so I can put it in the show notes.
C. D’Angelo: Okay. I will.
Deborah: Thank you. So how do you look after your wellbeing? Because you’re working full time and you’re still being a prolific writer, and doing all your marketing and networking. So, how do you find time to do all those things, and how do you self-care?
C. D’Angelo: Well, as far as the time, I just have to make sure I prioritize what is needed, but also one of the priorities is my self-care.
Getting The Visitor out there, there have been times where I had to spend all of my time when I wasn’t working, including weekends, editing, doing everything needed to make the deadlines for the different editors and the different appointments and things like that. But most times I could at least have the break of a whole Saturday and maybe half a Sunday, and then just spend a little bit of time on Sunday, doing what I need to do.
I make sure that I keep a consistent schedule. I do book things on Sundays, so it may be writing my blog. It may be catching up with a tour guide/ host of the bookish road trip on Facebook and Instagram. And so, I have duties for that. I may do those things on Sundays. Otherwise, I really try to give myself a break all day, Saturday, and hopefully Friday night too.
During the week nights, it depends on what I have to do. Usually, if I’m not in the deep edits of a book, I don’t have to do much book stuff except maybe social media. But that, to me, isn’t a big deal. That’s just, I’m kind of laying on the couch, doing some things on my iPad. So, prioritizing what I need to do for the week, keeping a schedule on my weekend, but also including my self-care.
Deborah: And what is self- care to you? What do you do to self-care? Finding time to relax – but what do you do to relax?
C. D’Angelo: Yes. Sorry about that. I got lost in my other thoughts. I love to talk with my husband just zone out and read or watch TV or a movie. I do a lot of other types of arts. So sometimes I’ll draw, sometimes I’ll crochet. I have a ukulele that I play. So, those are some other kinds of outlets for me.
Deborah: Finding time, quality time, to spend with family is also something we have to fit into our schedule, otherwise we can be too insular getting on with our writing every free time we have. And then there’s the danger that when we are with them our brains are working on our books and not giving them our full attention.
C. D’Angelo: That is so true. Yes. Sometimes my husband says we need to talk about other stuff than books stuff, you know?
Deborah: My husband’s just as bad because he composes music and I will know he’s thinking about the music and not what I’m saying, when I see his fingers playing the piano ne his leg, my thigh, or on the arm rest.
C. D’Angelo: Sure. That’s so funny. Well, that’s what happens when you’re so ingrained in something, you know, you think about it a lot of the time.
Deborah: Absolutely. It’s been a pleasure talking to you C. D’Angelo and congratulations on The Visitor. It’s publication this week and there’ll be links to your book and anything else you’ve mentioned in the show notes, because you did mention something else – your blog.
I am excited to introduce the first episode of The Mindful Writer podcast.
Before I introduce this week’s podcast with guest Jessica Redland, let me update you on my writing life.
The past few weeks I have focused on preparing this podcast and blog post. I’m afraid poor Jessica is like the first pancake out of the pan. I had the idea for The Mindful Podcast several months ago but to be honest I was afraid to make the leap and have a go. I have had some experience of recording podcasts as last year I recorded Castaway Books. However, this venture was different as I was going to ask creatives to share their emotional and spiritual experience of the writing journey.
When we get an idea that won’t go away, I believe we need to follow it and see where it leads. Moving outside our comfort zone is healthy as we are learning new things and opening ourselves up to new opportunities. So, I pushed myself to follow through with the idea. I was amazed by the incredible writers who came forward and the honesty of their stories.
Learning to use new software was a huge challenge for me. I’m not there yet but I’m learning and I hope you will excuse the occasional blips as I get more proficient. I was striving for excellence but had to accept this is the best I can do for the first attempt – having spent many hours/days trying.
Although my recording and editing techniques may not be great, the interviews with guests are truly inspirational. I learnt so much from each and everyone. These conversations have lifted and inspired me. I hope that they do the same for you.
What are you working on now? How have you pushed yourself to try new things outside of your comfort zone? Please drop me a line with your news as I wouldlove to hear from you.
From struggling Indie to a best-selling author with two 12-book publishing contracts, Jessica Redland shares the highs and lows of her writer’s journey:
How she found time to write eight books as an Indie whilst working full time and raising her daughter.
How she coped with the transition to a full-time author with what others might perceive to be overnight success – experiencing Imposter Syndrome and continually shifting goals.
The words of wisdom that she would have shared with her younger self when she was struggling as an Indie author to sell her books and questioning, ‘Why do I bother to put so much emotion and energy into my writing when I sell so few books?’
I was inspired and motivated by Jessica’s journey. She really does prove that you should never give up on following your dreams.
Jessica refers to a mini-series on Imposter Syndrome she posted on her blog.
This is an excellent series, well researched, informative, and helpful. I recommend you find time to read through all five starting with part one dated September 21st 2020 here: https://jessicaredlandauthor.com/2020/09/
Jessica ends the interview by reading a poem that she wrote several years ago, before experiencing the success she has achieved in recent years.
Transcript of Interview with Jessica Redland
Jessica Redland is the best-selling author of fifteen novels including The Starfish Café, and Hedgehog Hollow series.
Deborah: Hi, Jessica. It’s an absolute pleasure to chat with you today because as you know I’m a big fan. I love your books and you have been an inspiration to me through your writing journey. And that’s why I particularly wanted to talk to you so that you can share some of your wisdom with our listeners.
Jessica: Hi, thanks for having me.
Deborah: So, Jessica, you are a prolific writer. You’re an author of 15 books today. And in 2020 you became a full-time author with many best sellers in the Kindle charts. This phenomenal success came after signing a 12-book contract with Boldwood Books and I understand you’ve signed another 12-book contract since.
So, goodness me, we’re only in 2022 and you have been contracted to write 24 books, which is absolutely incredible. You were a finalist in this year’s Romantic Novelists’ Association for romantic novel of the year with Snowflakes Over the Starfish Café.
Jessica, these are incredible achievements, very well-deserved. As I say, I love your books and I have great admiration for you, but you didn’t achieve overnight success.
Jessica: Definitely, definitely not been an overnight success, quite a long journey and five difficult years to get where I am now. So, the starting point was very much me joining the Romantic Novelists Association RNA New Writer Scheme in 2012. That gave me a push to finish my first novel. I put that through the scheme twice. And then, at that point, I put that out four rounds of submissions to a mix of agents and publishers. The submission process is challenging because everybody wants something different. And, of course, you are dealing with the rejection side of things, although I tend to see it as a process, so they didn’t hit me too hard. I secured a publishing deal just under a year after I started submitting and thought, That’s brilliant. This is it. Got it made. But then I started to have doubts about that particular publisher and the direction they wanted to take my writing.
I was seriously thinking, should I go Indie? But then another publishing deal came along that felt a lot better. I accepted that one and started working on my edits. My very first book came out in spring, summer 2015. That publishing company was new and if they had been able to match their enthusiasm to their ability, things would have been brilliant, but unfortunately, they struggled to make an impact. After about 18 months with them, we parted company because the publishing house was going to cease trading. So, I got back the book rights for my trilogy. Then, I had to kind of panic design the covers, and get them out there as Indie. To be honest, they tanked. That was really hard – starting back at the beginning.
I wrote a brand new book, brought that out in March, 2017. That didn’t do well either. I kind of went into a few years of being a struggling Indie. Pretty much, no sales, certain points where I did okay – a couple of Christmas books that did well.
Then, in 2018, I realized that that things were going to need to change and decided to start submitting again. I was very selective as to the companies that I went out to. I got some kind of close, close calls, but didn’t quite get there. It was really, really devastating because at this point, I’d written eight books. knew I could write, had some good feedback, but they just weren’t what the publishers wanted.
Fortunately, in February, 2019 Boldwood Books opened for business. I submitted on their very first day and the rest is history. I got a book deal to take on new books plus my backlist and it’s been absolutely phenomenal. It changed my life.
Deborah: Fantastic. So, how did you manage to be a prolific writer whilst still working the day job?
Jessica: I’m now self-employed and my husband has been all along, so he’s understood that when you’re self-employed you often work erratic hours. You often do need to work evenings and weekends. He’s a type setter, so he lays out pages of textbooks, and plays, and journals, and things. He works when the customer needs him to work.
If something comes through at six o’clock in the evening saying, ‘We’re going to print tomorrow. We need these edits,’ he will get on with it. And so, he’s very much understood and accepted my working life. We often have some time during the day with both of us working from home. Sometimes we go out for lunch together.
When my daughter was very young, I did my writing when she went to bed. At the weekend we always try to have at least one family today together. So even if I write and do things on the other day, there is this one day of devoted family time.
Deborah: I think that’s important – structuring your time. I’m in the position of being semi-retired. My husband gave up work when our daughter was born and so he’s at home too. I’m aware of when I’m not spending much time with him and then I actually compartmentalize time for him. I mark out in my head certain periods of the day, for example, we might go out for breakfast or there’ll be something we do in the afternoon. I ring fence about three hours of my time for my husband and then I’ve got a good five hours of time, which is for me, for my work.
I learned something when I was a mum and working full time. I think lots of mothers go through this. If I was at work, I felt guilty I wasn’t with my daughter, and if I was with my daughter, I felt guilty that I wasn’t at work. At that time a very wise woman said to me, ‘Give a hundred percent to what you’re doing at that time.’ And that was it. That was the lesson I learned. So now when I have time with my husband, go out for breakfast, or drive, or just doing something nice together, I really make an effort to give a hundred percent of my attention to him and not have my mind working on a plot or something else. It was a good lesson to learn. When I’m at my computer, I’m working with complete focus. There’s no housework. There’s no listening to anyone else. I completely switch off the outside world.
Jessica: No, that’s great advice that is, definitely. If I’m downstairs with my husband and we are watching TV, or a film together, I tend not to take my phone down with me. I’ve never been a phone obsessed person, but that means that I’m not checking anything. I’m not seeing if I’ve had any emails or notifications. I’m not nipping on Facebook. So, even if it is just watching TV or a film, it is time together, away from the tools of the trade.
Deborah: It’s important for two reasons, isn’t it? For your own self-care that you switch off sometimes from work and also to show respect for somebody who’s important to you.
There’s something else I want to ask you because our time is limited and there’s so much, I want to get from you. I would like you to tell me about five blog posts you wrote in a series about Imposter Syndrome, which I found fascinating. I’m going to give links in the show notes to this because it’s very relevant for the mindful writer. I just wondered if you could spend a little time talking us through what Imposter Syndrome is from your experience of it and your coping mechanisms.
Jessica: I wrote the blog because I found that in 2020, once I heard, and I’d got my first contract with Boldwood that I was experiencing this. I’d had a new book and four of my backlist books released. I was loving, being a full-time author; that had always been my goal. But I was getting myself, worked up about certain things and I identified that as being Imposter Syndrome. So, I took a little bit of time out looking into it because I thought if I really understand how and why it manifests itself, then I could find ways of coping with it.
I’ll read a quote from my blog. This is from Gail Corkindale Harvard Business Review in 2008. She says ‘It’s a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persists despite evident success. Imposters suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that overrides any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.’
So, it’s basically at a point that somebody has achieved some success, and they think that they’re going to get found out. They think that they don’t deserve to have got that success. They’re not good enough to have had that success. It’s not about self-confidence, that’s something separate, but it is about self-doubt.
I was suffering massively from this – this kind of feeling that somebody was going to tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘You know, those top one hundreds that you’ve just had? You’re not – you’re not all that, and you can’t really write. And you’re not going to be able to continue that success in the future.’
So, I did quite a bit of thinking as to where that comes from and why it happens. It was really fascinating understanding the typical triggers for somebody having Imposter Syndrome, particularly for me, because I’m actually a really confident person. My day job was as a trainer. I’m used to standing in front of audiences capturing people’s attention. I’ve presented to audiences of a thousand plus before, so the idea of public speaking, that a lot of people are terrified of, was no problem whatsoever for me, but I was thinking, why do I feel like an imposter?
It came back to some issues in the workplace and being passed over repeatedly for promotion. And, you know, I knew partly why, it’s because I didn’t play the politics game. I’m somebody who believes in progressing on your own merits. I therefore had to be so much better at my job to prove my worth for any promotion than somebody who did play the game. And it just became this thing. Like I just had to prove myself constantly: always trying to be a perfectionist, always striving to do better.
It even got to the point that New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms really, really, took off and it got as high as number 14 in the Kindle UK chart, which is just absolutely phenomenal. I started beating myself up that it hadn’t made it into the top 10 and I just thought, What is going on in your head?
Before I got my deal with Boldwood to get into the top thousand – top 10,000 even, would have been a dream come true, but your goals shift and that’s natural, but mine were linked to Imposter Syndrome. I was looking at other authors and comparing myself to them. We’re all on a different journey.
It’s really not worth comparing yourself to anybody else. But I kept thinking, Boldwood are going to regret signing me. Then, when I got my second book deal for another 12 books I started thinking, Oh, we’re going to get so far into these and then they’ll go – Do you know what, we’ve made a mistake? Can we just knock 10 off and just make that another twoand then let’s part company?
It was really taking away from my enjoyment of – basically, a dream job. I had got everything I’d wanted: to be able to write full-time, and to have a supportive family but I couldn’t live in the moment. I couldn’t enjoy it. I’m not the sort of person who gets anxious about things, and so this didn’t sit with my personality, but I could sometimes just stare at my computer screen. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t write anything. Now, I can absolutely trace it back to Imposter Syndrome. Once I’d understood where it came from, how it displayed itself, I could then look at things I could do to change how I felt.
Occasionally it might just pop its ugly, head up and I’ll give it a little slap and it disappears- than all is good in the world. But it really, really stopped me in my tracks in 2020. It was quite horrific, so I completely understand anybody going through it and hopefully the blog post if anybody does read it will help. It’s long, but it really breaks it all down – all the different ways Imposter Syndrome manifests.
Deborah: It’s an excellent blog post and I recommend people read it. As I say, the link will be on the show notes. I wonder why we all do that to ourselves? Every attribute that we have has a positive and a negative side doesn’t it? So, the same thing that pushed you from being independently published, all the books you’ve produced and then getting your contract with Boldwood that is the positive. The flip side of that is the same thing that drove you to do better and better is still driving you to say, It’s not good enough. It’s not good enough. You’ve got to do better. You’ve got to do better. And we never stop to just enjoy and celebrate our success. To say, I’ve done a really good job.
Jessica: No, we don’t. It’s funny because we’re continually shifting goalposts, We don’t pause to say, wow, I’ve met one. I’m so proud of that. Take a little bit of time out, celebrate that success. You just immediately think – What’s the next one?
Before I’d thought massively about having imposter syndrome, I was aware of it as it would come up in other ways, but not really before I achieved success as an author.
I wrote a poem some time ago, which is also a blog post about shifting goals. It starts off with the idea of wanting, just to write a book, see if you can, and then to write more than one book and then it’s, I want it to be in this chart position. It goes through all the goal shifts: ultimately wanting movie deals, and all sorts of things. You have to take yourself to what is the original goal. I often say this anytime I’m having a conversation with an author friend who is struggling a bit because we all do. And it’s – Go back to – what was the goal that you started off with? And if that was, like me, you just wanted to write a book and then you wanted to become a writer and write full time then you’ve already achieved that. Anything that you achieve over and above that is an absolute bonus.
I look at all of the chart positions, the sales, they are bonuses. I earn enough to write full-time and that’s all I ever wanted out of it. I keep reminding myself of that goal.
Deborah: I think there’s two different things that drive us in in what you’ve been talking about. One is looking for recognition: where you are in the charts, getting that feedback, that is perhaps the unhealthy aspect. I think the positive is: I want to do this and now I’m going a bit further – pushing myself to achieve. Because I see that as following a dream in your heart.
I always say there’s a seed sown in your heart. It is from your soul and you are compelled to follow. When you listen to that inner voice it can take you on the right path and journey for you to become your true self and fulfil your potential.
That’s the positive aspect. The negative one is all of those voices, those goblins in the head – the Thought Goblins: You can do better. She’s doing better than me. Where am I in the charts? It is about trying to silence that voice.
Jessica: I now refer to that and other people do as well me, as being the noise. It’s not my term. It’s all that noise around you. And, and the thing is if you were to look at another author who has got a book, say at, number 10 in the Kindle chart, that’s not reflective of everything. They may be number 10 because there’s just been a promotion at that moment. It may be, because their price is different. It may be that they’ve just gone into prime reading. And it may be that whilst they get that higher position, they drop out the charts faster and long-term don’t sell as many copies. There’s just so much influencing this that you can’t put much stock in a chart position.
There’s also, if we’re talking Amazon, algorithms that with the books that are part of their own publishing houses will chart higher. There are all sorts of factors that you just don’t know – behind the scenes, how it’s all working. Chart position is one thing, but it’s not everything. If you look at the Sunday Times best seller list, you don’t actually have to sell a phenomenal number of books to appear on that, but to appear at the top of the Kindle chart, you have to sell quite a phenomenal number of eBooks. And yet so many people equate being on the Sunday Times bestseller list as what success is and not so much on the Kindle top one hundred. The volume shifted is much, much greater for a book to be in the Kindle top hundreds. So, there’s all sorts of things that just go on and you just have to silence it and feel proud of your work or you could drive yourself crazy.
Those days when there are zero sales you can you start questioning. Why am I bothering? The time I’m investing in this book, the amount of emotion I’m putting into this and nobody’s buying the book – so, what’s the point? But then when your royalty statement comes through or whatever, it can be pleasant surprise.
Deborah: So that brings me to a question for you. You were an Indie author for a good few years before you were published by Boldwood; looking at where you are now, if you were talking to yourself in those early days, when I think you said in your blog, perhaps only your mum and your close friends were reading your book – maybe thinking: Why am I bothering? What would be the words of wisdom you would whisper in the ear of your younger self who was feeling despondent?
Jessica: It would be: Just keep believing. I mean, I would never have written a book, if I didn’t think I could write a book, and I didn’t think it was a good enough story, and I didn’t think I was a good enough storyteller. So, keep going back to that. The self-belief in the story that you have, that people will want to read. Accept that the roller coaster, to use a bit of a cliche, but the roller coaster absolutely is how publishing works.
There are highs and lows, even those who have a contract, maybe for two or three books, if one of the big five publishers, they can suddenly find that that their contract is not renewed, or they choose not to renew it. Maybe book one does phenomenally well but book two doesn’t. You know, there are so many peaks and troughs in what we do.
I got a publishing deal right at the front. And at the point I was about to give up with the submissions process thinking, I’ve got it made. I’m going to be an author. Brilliant. But the publishers didn’t do very well and went bust and I got my rights back and became Indie for five years. So, you know, so, so much can change just in the blink of an eye.
And so, keep believing, keep going, have that resilience. If you have stories to tell burning inside of you. Keep, keep, telling them because at one point it could all change. And I would remind myself about the importance of finding your tribe, finding a group of writers around you, who understand it, who get what it’s like when you are having Imposter syndrome, Comparisonitis, all the other things that go with us, those high moments, those low moments.
I’ve been part of a writing collective for about nine years. It’s just been really encouraging, seeing everybody become a published author, indie, traditionally, or hybrid, and just having that support network because when somebody is on a high, somebody else might be on a low and they can support them with that and vice versa.
I’d love to have had a crystal ball and said, look, this is where you’ll be in in five year’s time. Just keep going that. That’s my message to keep going. Don’t give up because this, this was a dream. This is what I wanted to do.
The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why
On the day that I, I got my first novel published my husband got me a canvas of that novel, and also a novella that had come out before. So, two canvases of my covers. But he also got one that sits in the middle that has a quote on it by Mark Twain, which says: The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why. And then it’s got the date that my book was published and it says: The day life changed for Jessica Redland on it, love from him and my daughter. I usually actually get quite tearful when I read that I was trying to kind of keep the emotion in check then. And it’s just such a perfect quote because all my life although I didn’t know it I was working to this point.
I’m not somebody who wanted to be a writer from a young age. It never even entered my head to be an author when I was a reader, you know, it was something other people did. It was only when I hit about 30 that I even thought about it. But it was as though I’d been building up to that all my life. My favourite subject in school was English. My favourite jobs were always the ones in HR that involved some sort of creative writing. I used to design assessment centre exercises. I used to create scenarios of characters that were part of that. Little did I know that I was building up to becoming an author and creating characters.
Around that time somebody said to me, I should write a book. I just said. Gosh, I should. I’d love that. And then everything from that point just fell into place. So, yeah, that was the day that I found out why I was born. I was born to be a writer. And the big thing is I get so many messages from readers talking about how my books have helped them through dark times through three years of the pandemic, particularly more recently, but even some of the subjects that I tackle in Snowflakes over the Starfish Cafe, that you mentioned at the beginning, that book was up for an award. It deals with bereavement. And I’ve had messages from people saying it’s been so cathartic reading that because I’ve suffered some extreme bereavements as well.
For readers to read the feelings of main characters and feel that I’m normal in feeling like that. It’s just, it’s made me turn a corner and you just think, wow, I never thought about any of that when I started out as a writer, that we can make a difference in our own little way through the characters that we create and the stories that we tell.
That’s the reason in the moments when I wasn’t selling any books and thinking It’s never going to work for me – that’s the reason to keep going.
Deborah: Fantastic. I absolutely loved that story and it really chimes a cord makes I’m often writing in my blog about the seeds of desire in your heart and to listen to that and to follow it.
And, you know, I also think that our whole life is like a book. Everything happens for a purpose in terms of all of our experiences. As you say, they all, come together and you go, Aha. That experience is making me who I am and that’s why because this is what I’ve got to do. And the other thing you said about somebody saying to you, You should try to write a book – It’s those little miracles, all the people that come into our lives. They may be strangers. Sometimes a person says something that takes you off on a path, or something, you read. They are whispers to point you in the right direction.
Jessica: It’s so funny because it was my manager at work. I used to write lots of reports and he would laugh reading them. One day he said, ‘I love reading your reports. They’re like a story. Maybe you should make them a bit more business-like. But have you ever thought about writing a book, you really should? Nobody had ever said that to me. And it was like this light bulb, just kind of fireworks explosion. Yes. Yes, I should. The next thing was finding an idea for a book, but then by some pure coincidence a set of events happened in my life that gave me the premise of my first book.
Deborah: So again, as you say, little things present themselves and you go, Oh wow. I can do something with that. Which shows why we have to be open to listen to what’s around us.
When we get too much into our head, we’ve got all that noise going on. We don’t pick up on little messages which are there for us to see and listen to. We need to go inward and be at receptive so that we can pick up on ideas and opportunities.
Deborah: Before you go, please tell us about the latest books that you have got out. I will provide links in the show notes so people can find out more about.
Jessica: Thank you, Deborah. I have a new novel that just came out in early April, called Spring Tides at the Starfish Cafe. And that is a sequel of Snowflakes over the Starfish Cafe. I’ve been doing a bit of a promotion and celebration of that. I’ve also just about hit the ends of the final edits on the fifth book in the Hedgehog Hollow series called Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow which is out on the 28th of June, but available for pre-order. And I’m just about to dive into the final book in that series, which is out on the 6th of September. That’s set at Christmas. Although we don’t quite have a title, we’ve got a couple of working titles at the moment and that’s pretty typical. I write four books a year, so quite often I am promoting one, finishing the edits on another, and writing the next one. So, kind of working a few books in advance.
That will take me up until about probably June to have worked on that Christmas one. And then I will be writing my first 2023 release, which sounds really scary talking that far ahead. I work about eight months in advance.
Deborah: And this is why I admire you. You’re a prolific writer. You’re determined. You’re resilient. Absolute pleasure talking to you Jessica.
Jessica: Thank you. And thank you so much for inviting me as a guest. I will look forward to listening to the other podcasts.
Deborah: I’ve got loads of interesting guests that I’m chatting with. So, me too.
Never Enough by Jessica Redland
All I want is one idea How difficult could that be? A plot that has some mileage That would be enough for me
All I want is to write a book What an achievement that would be 300 pages, a brand new world That would be enough for me
All I want is for someone to read it A friend or family If they said it was good; that I could write That would be enough for me
All I want is an eBook publisher How amazing would that be? To believe in my story and share my work That would be enough for me
All I want is to make some sales Just one, or two, or three A handful of readers to download to Kindle That would be enough for me
All I want is some good reviews How flattering would it be For strangers to say they love my work? That would be enough for me
All I want is to climb the charts It would make me so happy To see my ‘baby’ go up and up That would be enough for me
All I want is a bestseller tag In some obscure category That orange flag would scream success That would be enough for me
All I want is to break the top hundred I know there’s no guarantee But then I’d know I’ve got some talent That would be enough for me
All I want is to be top ten Can anyone hear my plea? Side by side with my favourite authors That would be enough for me
All I want is a number one I’d barely contain my glee That coveted slot and all those sales That would be enough for me
All I want is a paperback Something I can hold and see To say “I wrote this”, oh my word That would be enough for me
All I want is to write full time A lady that lunches? So me! Full days in my office, creating away That would be enough for me
All I want is an audio deal Listening while sipping my tea Those accents, those sounds, my world brought to life That would be enough for me
All I want is my books on the shelves Of a supermarket: big four. Or three The sales, the success would remove all the stress That would be enough for me
All I want is a top five publisher The validation? My pants I would pee! I’d finally know that I really can write That would be enough for me
All I want is to make foreign sales Australia? France? Germany? Translations galore, the world at my door That would be enough for me
All I want is the film to be made The big screen for everyone to see Amazing reviews, the compliments ooze That would be enough for me
All I want is an Oscar win I’d really be top of the tree Best screenplay? Oh my, I think I would cry That would be enough for me
All I want is some book two success And the same for book number three Doing even better than first out the grid That would be enough for me
All I wanted was one idea To write a book, just for me But the goalposts kept changing, my life rearranging And it’s never enough for me
It’s easy to feel so overwhelmed When sales aren’t what I’d hoped And reviews are mean and personal And very unprovoked When all the writers that I know Seem to do so great And the day job takes priority So my writing has to wait
So it’s back to the start to recapture that feeling When first I typed “the end” When someone said, “I loved it!” Even though they were a friend When I sat at my keyboard and laughed and cried As my characters found their voices When the publishing world was unexplored But filled with exciting choices
The task once seemed impossible: To write a full-length story A big fat tick against that goal I should bask in the glory That I achieved what many don’t And repeated it six-fold I am a writer BECAUSE I WRITE; Not for how many I’ve sold
The problem is, there are millions of other books out there, so why is someone going to pick yours?’
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org telling me why you would like to share your story.
At the beginning of a new year, we often reflect on what we achieved the previous year and plan for the coming one. The big achievements are easy to identify, maybe you started a new job, completed a creative project, or lost some weight but we are not always aware of the smaller actions that have had an impact on others.
In the lead-up to Christmas, I love to watch the James Stewart film, It’s a Wonderful Life. This 1946 classic is about an angel who is sent to earth to show a disillusioned man what the world would have been like without him in it. He learns how his actions had an impact on others – the ripple effect.
Last year I discovered a new favourite film Journey Back to Christmas. It is a delightful family film about a WW11 nurse who is transported to 2016. She thought that her life had no purpose until, on the night of a comet, she is transported to the future and sees for herself the impact of her small actions.
Both of these films are great reminders that we are powerful individuals who, by being part of creation, impact those around us in profound ways – even though we cannot always see this.
We can all recall a conversation or the comment of a friend – maybe a stranger, that has led us in a certain direction. It was an advert for a creative writing group in my village that reminded me of a passion I had neglected for years. I joined a small group that met in the home of a writer. This writer had self-published a novella and the creative writing group that she set up was to help build her confidence as she had anxiety and was trying to get back into the workplace. One week, she suggested that we try writing a story of 5k words and then share 1k of that story each week when we came together. The creative writing group folded before we got to share more than the first 2k words of our stories but my 5k story became my first novel. I did not publish it then but went on to write four more novels. However, last year I reworked that first novel and it is out on submission for publication. The young woman who started that creative writing group may not consider it a great achievement. She may even have beaten herself up for not being able to continue the project. I would love to tell her the impact that she had on my life.
I have many more examples and I am sure you will have a few of your own. A chance remark that led you to apply for a job, a story on TV that inspired you to try something new, or the kindness of a stranger that made you feel valued and restored your hope for the future.
Just because we cannot see the impact of our actions that doesn’t mean they are insignificant. Perhaps our greatest achievements are those that we will never know. So, when you sit down to write what you have achieved at the end of the year remember that by being open and kind you may have achieved more than you thought.
I believe that we are all connected and great things happen through us when we are receptive. Miracles and angels are a result of this – remember the saying God works in mysterious ways?
You may be somebody’s angel today and you will never know.
I started to write my first novel when I was in my fifties. I am 62 next month and have had two novels published The Borrowed BoyAug 2020and Just Bea February 2021. I always wanted to write a novel and have been a writer all of my life from writing stories and making books as an eight-year-old, to writing national reports for NGOs, and editing an International Journal Working with Older People. There were many reasons I did not pursue my dream at a younger age. I was the main breadwinner as my husband was a stay-at-home dad. When I wasn’t working, I was compensating for not being a full-time mum – always torn between building my career and spending quality time with my daughter. I have no regrets as I had a wonderful career and all the while I was writing reports, and national publications on health and social care I was honing my writing skills.
An article in the Guardian 20th August 2021, about the new award announced by Women’s Prize in partnership with Good Housekeeping, argued that the upper age limit of 35 years should be scrapped and prompted debate on social media. Some felt it was discriminating against older women and Joanna Walsh writing in The Guardian believed assumptions were being made about older women having financial security with no need for recognition.
There is no right time to write. My brother has had considerable success as a songwriter and now in his sixties has started to write a novel. We have shared our feelings about having so much we still want to achieve and a sharpened awareness of how quickly time can pass. The truth is none of us know how much time we have. Using our time the best that we can, valuing how precious it is, and making the most of every moment is important at every stage of life.
Mary Wesley had her first adult novel published at the age of 71 and followed with several best-selling novels. Penelope Fitzgerald was first published at 60 and became famous at 80 after winning the Booker Prize for Off-Shore then went on to achieve international fame with The Blue Flower. It is never too late.
There is scientific evidence that creativity increases during and after menopause (Dr. Christaine Northrup https://www.drnorthrup.com). I believe it is more than hormonal change. Men and women reach a time in their life when they may experience a freedom that they haven’t known before. Children may be less dependent and a person’s career more established. It is a time of reflection as we become introspective, questioning our purpose in life. Also known to some as a mid-life crisis. We are all creative beings and have an innate need to express ourselves. The pressures of earning a living and raising a family can deny us the fulfilment of this need if we consider it an indulgence.
For me now is the perfect time to write. At this stage of my life, I have:
Stored more life experiences that I can draw on in my writing.
I am fortunate enough to have financial security and so earning a living from writing is not be a necessity.
With children grown and parents no longer in need of my care, I have fewer demands on my time.
I have acquired skills from my working life such as marketing, public speaking, financial management, and contract negotiation.
I know how quickly time passes and so make the most of every opportunity.
I am more confident having achieved success in other areas of life.
I have more leisure time.
There is never a right time to write but neither is there a cut-off point. Creativity should not discriminate by age, gender, race, faith or sexuality. It crosses all divides and connects us in a meaningful way. Writing has deepened my self-awareness and I have discovered a wonderful writing community.
Sending out a query letter to literary agents, or applying for a job that you desperately want is scary. You pin so much hope on your submission and feel as though you have handed over responsibility for your future happiness. It doesn’t have to feel like that. In my post, 5 Ways to attract what you want into your life I share practical steps on managing feelings when you want something too much.
Maybe, like me, you have been burned before and so are cautious this time around. My third novel is ready to submit to agents. I have had a literary agent in the past and lived through the anxiety and trauma of finding an agent and a publishing contract. It is not for the faint-hearted. This time I am in a good place as:
I am not attaching myself to one particular outcome
I am not looking for validation
I know that I have options and I am in control
I have faith that the right solution will find me so long as I am open to possibilities.
However, despite having done a lot of inner work to reach this healthier state of mind the prospect of seeking an agent and contract is still daunting. When something is important to us, we will always feel some trepidation.
I have enjoyed taking regular runs for many years. When I was in my fifties, I experienced pain in my hips after a run. As a result, I gave up running for a few years. Then, a fitness trainer explained to me that if I prepared properly for a run by stretching and did the same post-run then I would not experience any joint pain. She was right. I am using this analogy to explain how the pain of trying to get a job or an agent can be avoided with proper preparation and after-care.
I successfully self-published my first two novels The Borrowed Boy and Just Bea, receiving great reviews and three awards. However, it is a challenge to reach the audience I would like to attract without a publisher and agent championing me and helping to promote my books. This is why I am going to approach agents and some independent publishers with my new novel.
Before applying for a job, querying agents, or approaching publishers be very clear about what you want, why, and what a good fit would look like.
My goal is for my books to be visible to a wider audience of readers and to increase sales. I want to achieve this so that I can share my stories, engage with readers, and be heard. For me, a good fit with an agent would be one where there is mutual respect, a partnership with both parties listening to the other, an agent who loves and understands what I write.
Just as the wrong job for you can be damaging to your career, so can the wrong agent. It is not a one-way street – you are looking for the right job/agent just as they are looking for the best person to employ/ sign to their list.
Do your research. Now you know your needs and what you are offering, invest time in finding potential agents/jobs that are a good match.
There are several ways you can achieve your goals. Be imaginative and brainstorm other options to get what you need. Getting an agent is not the only, or necessarily the best, outcome for me, it is just one. I have other options:
Find an Independent Publisher to publish novel three and potentially my first two novels.
Enter competitions to attract an agent or publisher.
Rebrand my first two novels with my third and fourth to make them more marketable. This would include changing the covers to make them recognisable for the genre and my brand. Invest in advertising.
I am excited about the third option and have a long-term strategy to promote sales. It is important not to attach ourselves to one particular outcome. This week I read a meme on Instagram God’s plans are greater than our dreams. This spoke to me as in the past I have found this wisdom to be true. I am thankful that I am not the creator of my future because what has unfolded in my life is more than I could have imagined or hoped for.
If an agent rejects our submission, it is because they do not think that we are a good fit. I know my shape and size – I am holding a jigsaw piece up to see where it goes. The agent is another piece of the jigsaw and they too know what they are looking for. It has to be a perfect fit for the author and the agent. That means trial and error before finding a match.
You have applied for the job or sent out query letters now it is time to wait. You can check your inbox every few minutes or put the time to good use. I will be using the time to do a much-needed revamp of my website. I will also be plotting my next novel. By focusing on the next project, you can save wasted energy worrying about the outcome of your submission. When you get a full manuscript request you will need the distraction of a shiny new project to stop you from imagining every scenario from a harsh and crushing rejection to the opening night of your book to film premier. When The Borrowed Boy was out on submission to publishers, I wrote my next novel, Just Bea.
Focus on other options. You might well get the positive response you are hoping for but there is no harm in thinking ahead and planning the next steps.
My daughter was recently disappointed when, following a lengthy recruitment process, she got the call to say that whilst it was a close thing, she had not got the job. On reflection, my wise daughter had come to a similar conclusion. A few weeks later, she got a call from the same organisation inviting her to apply for another job which they considered a better fit. I am delighted to say that she got this job and much prefers it to the original one.
You have had an interview or maybe you have been invited to meet with a prospective agent. Be fully prepared.
Research everything that you can about their organisation and how they work.
Clarify the questions that you will want to ask.
Be clear on what you would be expecting from your future employer/agent.
Consider the terms and conditions that are acceptable to you.
and you will be confident in your decision to accept or not.
If you do not get an offer then you know that you have other options. Do not standstill. Be positive and pro-active in improving your application/submission for next time, network, raise your profile on social media, improve your skills, try new things – a different genre, or short stories. Do not whine and complain on social media. Lick your wounds for one day if you need to but then get back up and out there. A positive, confident employer/author is more attractive and therefore attracts more opportunities than a negative one.
When I was in my thirties, frustrated at my failure to achieve the next step on the career ladder, I remember walking on a pebbly beach. I thought, I am like one of those zillion pebbles, why would an employer pick me? There was so much competition, I felt as though I was invisible and my dreams unachievable.
What I have learned since is that every single pebble on that beach is perfect and unique. Together they are astounding but each and every one of them has a place and purpose. I found my purpose – the perfect job for me but it wasn’t until I relaxed and valued myself that my future found me.
Whether you are applying for jobs, querying agents, or submitting to publishers, there is a lesson to be learnt from those pebbles on the beach.
You are unique and perfect. Take stock of what you have achieved, your skills, your experience. Everything that makes you who you are today – right now. The opportunity you are seeking needs to fit your perfect shape.
Every pebble, shell, and grit of shingle fits perfectly into a whole. The sea smooths rough edges, it carries flotsam in its tide, and welcomes the rivers and streams that flow into its vast ocean. We are part of something bigger.
Nature will find your perfect fit, what you need to evolve and become the person you are meant to be. Your job is to be clear where you are now in your development so that you can recognise the right opportunity when it arises – and it will.
You are one of a million, but you are also one in a million. Nobody else has your unique combination of skills, knowledge and experience. The job, agent, or publisher that is right for you – the perfect fit, will be drawn to you when you know what you are looking for.
Think of putting together a jigsaw puzzle. At first the mound of jigsaw pieces can feel a bit overwhelming, but when you hold one piece in your hand and really study its form, the exact shape of each side, then it becomes much clearer where that piece fits within the bigger picture.
Just as the sea shapes and moves, your life will unfold in its own time. Keep present and trust the process. Everything happens at the right time. Because nature is perfect and we are part of nature.
I think that we all find it a challenge to treat ourselves with the same, love, compassion, and respect that we show to others. Learning to love and nurture ourselves is an important life lesson, if we are to become our best self. When we achieve selflove our personal relationships are enriched. Instead of looking to friends and loved ones to validate us, we can offer unconditional friendship, secure in our self-worth.
Value your skills and experience
Have you read someone else’s profile, website, or biography and thought, I can do that, or have achieved that, but I didn’t think it worth mentioning? Maybe you have read an article or listened to a presentation and thought, I knew those things, they are obvious? I admit I have had these thoughts in the past. You may feel envious that someone who you consider no better than you in terms of experience is getting more recognition than you. It is a mean thought but I’m sure one we have all experienced at some time. The disappointment is with ourself for not honouring our worth.
Respect what you know and have achieved. Tell the world. Don’t belittle your knowledge and skills. We are always looking ahead to where we want to be, focusing on our deficits. Take the time to really appreciate and value where you are now. Remember, what you can do effortlessly today was once a challenge. Take stock of all that you have achieved and learnt. Others can learn from you. Don’t hide your light under a bushel. It is not boastful or proud to own your achievements. To recognise them is to value yourself.
A few months ago, I was asked to give the keynote address at a conference. I was known for my work in health and social care but on this occasion was asked to talk about my new career as an author. I was surprised but thrilled to read myself described by the event host as an award-winning author. It was not an accolade I had claimed. I had indeed won two awards for my debut novel, but the title ‘award-winning author’ felt fake. Most creatives have imposter syndrome. Maybe everyone does. I am an award-winning author, so why did it surprise me to be described this way? It took someone else to use this title before I tentatively tried it on for size.
Be a good friend to you by reminding yourself that you are awesome. You worked hard to get to where you are now. There may be another mountain ahead but acknowledge the one you have climbed and those before.
Be compassionate and kind
I drive myself hard and berate myself when I do not achieve my daily goals. I have been the line manager for more staff in my working life than I can remember. Those staff remember me kindly as years on I have received communications from people whom I have supported and nurtured thanking me. As a manager, I encouraged my staff to set achievable goals. I was forever adjusting their expectations so that they could exceed their aims rather than fail to deliver. I emphasised the need for self-care and was mindful of staff who were driving themselves too hard so that I could help prevent them from experiencing burn-out. If only I treated myself with the same care and attention.
At the end of each day do you focus on what you didn’t get done or what you did? How do you reward yourself for your daily achievements? Are your goals realistic and achievable or are you setting yourself up to fail? Have you scheduled breaks for writing your blog, novel, or other project? I would not dream of treating a member of my staff the way that I treat myself. Fear of failure is what drives me. This in itself reflects a lack of respect for what I am capable of with time, patience, and compassion.
When we are learning new things, we will inevitably get some things wrong. That is how we learn. Self-publishing and marketing my books are new to me. At the beginning of 2020 I had no experience at all. In less than 18 months I have started to blog, published two novels, learnt how to record on Zoom, edit on i-movie, and broadcast on YouTube and podcast, and I have become established on Twitter. Looking back, I have missed opportunities by not recognising their importance at the time. I have failed to grasp Instagram, and Pinterest. My newsletters are not yet slick. Despite an incredibly steep learning curve, I still focus on what I have got wrong – not the things I have got right.
As we get older and look back on our life there will be things that we are ashamed of- things we could have done better; perhaps how we handled relationships, addictions, or jealousy. We feel like that now because we have changed. We would not have changed and become who we are, without those life lessons. View yourself as a kind parent. Tell yourself that you are forgiven for your behaviours, you are not a bad person. Every experience that we have brings us the gift of learning. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself time to grow. Do not chastise yourself for what you consider your failings.
Be your own cheerleader
That job you have applied for, the query letter to agents, the competition you have entered, do it whilst cheering yourself on. If you don’t believe in yourself why would anyone else? When we tell ourselves that we are not worthy, that we don’t really expect to win, then we have already reduced our chances of success. We protect ourselves from disappointment by lowering our expectation. If we tell our family and friends that we don’t expect success or pretend we don’t care what the result is then they won’t feel sorry for us when we fail. Is that being a good friend to yourself. Would you tell your dearest friend not to bother applying for their dream job because they won’t get it anyway? Of course not. You would be telling them that the employer, agent etc would be lucky to have them. Be that friend to yourself.
I am practicing being a better friend to me. It is hard breaking the habits of a lifetime. I know how to be the best friend, sister, mother, employer – I just have to be a good friend to me.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!’
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.’
If you had suggested a year ago that I was self-sabotaging my chances of success in securing a publishing contract I would have denied it vehemently. I had done everything in my power to make that dream come true. I had an agent and my novel went out on submission, there was nothing I could do to influence the outcome. All of that is true. However, I have come to recognise a pattern of self-sabotage when I am striving for the things that I want most in my life. I hope that by sharing this with you I might help you to recognise similar patterns of behaviour in yourself.
We may not understand why we self-sabotage, but to achieve our dream we don’t have to. We just need to become aware, to observe with compassion, and by fractionally changing our direction of travel – steering that cruise ship one degree East, we can end up in a different place.
Understanding my behaviour and its impact has been a gradual process. In an earlier blog on How to stay the course and succeed I described how early signs of success and encouragement have led me to overreach in the past – trying to run before I can walk and then throwing up my hands in frustration when things don’t pan out as I had hoped. This is an over-simplification of a complicated thought process but it was the beginning of my growing awareness.
Is there a goal, an elusive dream, that you have failed to achieve despite doing everything within your power to make it come true? If you are a writer, it may be getting an agent or a publishing contract, but it could be anything: losing weight, finding a loving partner, getting a promotion. For me it has been, getting into OT college (age 18), getting a promotion (age 39), getting a publishing contract (recent years).
Every time that I was bashing myself against an unyielding wall, I thought I knew why things weren’t happening for me. I blamed other people, my circumstances, an unfair system. I would have done anything within my power to achieve my goal and had proved that through my hard work, determination and perseverance, so it had to be out of my control.
If I had kept an open mind and gently looked inward, not judging myself but with patience and kindness, I might have discovered how some of my behaviours were having a negative impact. These are the patterns I have observed in my behaviour:
Rushing off an application/submission
Have you pressed send on an important job application, competition entry, or query letter and then regretted being so hasty because you could have done a better job? I do this all of the time. I put it down to being efficient and getting a job done or being an impatient person. Neither of these is completely true. I am meticulous about writing a professional report for work and I am a perfectionist when writing and publishing a novel. So why do I dash off an application/submission when it is so important to me? I am protecting myself from rejection. If I get a negative response, I can say it is because I messed up my application. When we want something too much, we fear disappointment and so we take control – in this case, I was taking control of my failure.
Another move is to say, ‘I don’t know whether I want this job or not.’ I have heard myself and members of my family claim this when applying for a job. The line that follows is, ‘So I won’t be disappointed if I don’t get it.’ We are telling our loved ones please don’t pity me or be disappointed when I’m rejected. We don’t want to let them down. But by going into an interview with this thought, however peripheral, we are sabotaging our chance of success because the lack of interest will be apparent. I have done this myself. I even got the feedback that I was the best candidate on paper but I came over as not wanting the job.
It is annoying when someone suggests that we do something a different way, or learn new skills to achieve our goal. It means that we are not as ready as we believed ourselves to be. There is a knowledge/skill gap and as we look into what seems to be a gaping hole, we lose confidence. What if we are not good enough? We aren’t that person. We don’t fit. We will be found out. Instead of filling the gap and adapting our approach, we close down. I know that to be commercially successful as an author I need to be more genre-specific. I have spent years denying this and justifying why I can’t make my writing fit into one genre. The result is that whilst I can write books that are well received with great reviews, I will never achieve my dream of reaching a wider audience of readers until I learn to adapt.
‘I can’t.’ ‘I’ve tried.’ ‘It doesn’t work.’ How often have we cried out in defeat instead of knuckling down and doing the work: Learning a new skill, Trying a different approach? Sometimes we have to take what feels like a step backwards so that we can move forwards.
When I finished writing the first draft of my first novel, I sent it out to an agent and got a very encouraging response. It was a revise and resubmit letter with pages of comments to inform the rewrite. Instead of doing the work, I abandoned the manuscript and started on a new project. I threw away a golden opportunity. I justified this later by saying at that time I didn’t understand the implications of this positive and generous response. I misinterpreted it as ‘You are not good enough. Try again.’ This was what I was telling myself not the agent. For some reason, I did not think I deserved to be taken seriously.
There are lots of reasons why we might self-sabotage and our ingenious minds find subtle ways to do this. The good news is that as soon as we become aware of these patterns of behaviour we start to change.
Don’t beat yourself up if you think that you are self-sabotaging. You are just protecting yourself. Be kind and compassionate to the part of you that believes you are unworthy, is afraid of failing, disappointing others, or feels a bit overwhelmed by the idea of success.
Sometimes we get stuck in a rut believing that this is all we can have – if we expose ourselves as self- sabotaging then we have to accept that we may have wasted opportunities and that can be painful. I believe that the right thing happens at the right time. It may have taken me longer to get to where I am now but that is because I had to work through those experiences.
Changing my behaviour will not happen overnight but I feel as though my compass has been reset. I am cruising towards my paradise. I just had to change course a fraction.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.