How cyclical living can improve creativity

For everything there is a season, A time for every activity under heavenA time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Whatever our religion or beliefs, we all experience the changing of seasons. Here, in England, it is feeling very autumnal despite it being mid-August. The sun is lower in the sky, and I have spied a few bejewelled spiders webs early in the morning when the scent of dew on grass reminds me of camping or the first day back at school. I love September. Although it is decades since I lived by the rhythm of school terms, to me, September always feels like a new beginning. 

I host a weekly chat on Twitter #FriSalon. Last week the topic was the impact of summer on our writing. August, is traditionally the month of holidays, a time when business slows down. In the past, factories closed; school holidays were originally planned so that children could assist with bringing in the harvest. Although some of the writers in our chat were required to work harder in August due to work pressures (not necessarily writing), the majority saw it as a time to unwind, to relax with family and friends. We talked about the natural cycle for writers – how ideas could flow triggering great productivity, and the times between when ideas could not be forced. Recognising when we need to take a break from writing to refill our creative well and sometimes to just rest.

Everything in nature has a season, these invisible rhythms flow through every living thing. Often our moods match the time of year, a lethargy and wish to hibernate in the winter, a surge of energy in the spring, but we also experience our own cyclical changes. I have always been driven to achieve my goals and impatient with myself when I feel as though I am failing. Learning to be kind to myself is an ongoing challenge for me. 

JillWellington – Pixabay

In past blogs I have talked about consistency, showing up every day no matter what and I do believe that these daily habits help us to shape the life we want to live. However, we need to do this with self-awareness. Recognising when we need to be still and rest. When having fun and experiencing life is more important than writing about it. If we need to curl up with a book and hibernate, to honour that need. By recognising our cyclical nature and allowing those natural rhythms to flow we will achieve more. 

I have slowed down a little since losing my father earlier this year; this month we are having a memorial service and interment so we can say goodbye properly. It hasn’t stopped me from completing my third novel, Little Gold Lies, or starting a fourth but I feel quieter and less energised. Reflecting on how to live cyclically has helped me to accept this change of pace and to allow myself time to adjust. The past year has taken its toll on us all. There will be new growth and abundance but it is okay to be still and take stock.

I have achieved a great deal since the start of 2020 channelling my creative energy and determination into exciting new projects. Now, it is perhaps a time for me to enjoy the harvest. To consider where I am and where I want to be. To prepare the ground for new seeds of possibility. 

August may feel like a wash-out weather wise as we have had lots of rain in the UK, but there are still a few weeks left of the holiday month. I intend to have fun, maybe plan a trip into London to visit an exhibition or a museum, to work my way through the books on my Kindle and bookshelf, and maybe even watch a film or Netflix series during the day – that is something I would never normally do. When September comes – a new term, I will be refreshed and ready to take on new challenges with energy and enthusiasm. 

I hope that you are enjoying your summer and nurturing your creativity by allowing it to lay dormant if that is what it needs or indeed flourish. Go with the flow!  

How to coax your muse out of hiding

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

Dig Deep

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

StefanKeller Pixabay

Be patient

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

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

MarDais Pixabay

Have faith

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

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

How Creativity Can Change Your Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pezibear Pixabay

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

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

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

The writer’s notebook.

I know from conversations on social media that most writers have many notebooks. We love choosing or receiving notebooks with pretty covers to fill with scribbled thoughts. I currently have nine notebooks that are still ‘open’. Which means there are still empty pages to fill, and ideas I want to pursue. I kept journals long before I started writing, and could not count how many I filled over the past decades. Fortunately, most of these have been disposed of, or I would have to buy a bigger house. Although I did tear out a few important pages to keep because they still have meaning today.

Each notebook has a different purpose, although ideas spill over from one to another in a jumble of ideas and impressions. Doris Lessing famously kept five notebooks, which she wrote about in the 1962 feminist classic, The Golden Notebook. Each notebook was of a different colour: autobiographical, confessional, a writer’s observations, political musings, and a golden notebook that pulled all of the threads together. I read this book a long time ago and although I struggled with some sections it left an impression on me. It is perhaps time that I read it again now I am older and have a different perspective on life.

Courtesy of Gimp Workshop Pixabay


The pages I have kept are those which serve to remind me that all will be well if I go inwards to listen to what is in my heart; to find guidance from God, the universe, guardian angels, inner wisdom, whatever you choose to name that power. The journals that I filled in my thirties were full of angst about my career development and frustration that the path I had envisioned seemed closed to me. Years later when I read those journal pages I was filled with compassion for the younger me. Everything turned out perfectly, better than I could have imagined. I just needed to be patient and open to new opportunities. Using a different coloured pen, I wrote responses to my younger self between the lines and in the margins. I reassured myself that all would be well. These are the journal notes I have kept, because now if I pour my angst out on the page I imagine an older version of me responding in the margins – all will be well. 

‘In the diary you find proof that in situations which today would seem unbearable, you lived, looked around and wrote down observations, that this right hand moved then as it does today, when we may be wiser because we are able to look back upon our former condition, and for that very reason have got to admit the courage of our earlier striving in which we persisted even in sheer ignorance Franz Kafka.’ The Diaries 1910-1923


‘I am anxious, and it soothes me to express myself here. It is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.’ Bram Stoker Dracula

courtesy of S.Hermann F. Ritcher Pixabay

Morning pages

Writer’s keep notebooks to jot down impressions, observations, and ideas. Inspirations for stories, snatches of dialogue, and interesting names. I always take a notebook on holiday with me to record the scents, sounds, and sights that make a place unique. I have one notebook especially for holidays so that I can dip into this if I am describing a location.

Julia Cameron introduced a writing exercise Morning pages in her book The Artist’s Way. She encourages writers to warm up each morning by writing freely for a few minutes. It is a way to relax into using the right side of the brain and to stimulate creativity. My morning pages are scattered throughout several notebooks. As these scribblings are intended to be disposable, they randomly fill gaps – but amongst those scribbles, there are a few ideas that one day maybe the seeds of a story.

‘Your subconscious mind is trying to help you all the time. That’s why I keep a journal – not for chatter but for mostly the images that flow into the mind or little ideas. I keep a running journal, and I have all of my life, so it’s like your gold mine when you start writing.’ Jim Harrison


I don’t journal to ‘be productive.’ I don’t do it to find great ideas or to put down prose I can later publish. The pages aren’t intended for anyone but me. It’s the most cost-effective therapy I’ve ever found.’ Tim Ferriss


Planning novels

Then, there are the special notebooks. The ones that I designate for each novel. All of my ideas, planning, character development, photographs, news clippings, notes from research visits, etc. are recorded here.

When I designate a notebook for a novel I know that I have committed to writing that story. I have a notebook for an unnamed novel that I have yet to write. Whilst I am writing, Misdirection, and preparing Just Bea for publication, I am also jotting notes and references in a notebook for this unnamed novel.

All of the ideas that seeded my novels came from scribbles in notebooks. Passing thoughts that I captured and pressed between the pages for safekeeping. Although I might flick through my notebooks looking for inspiration, there is no need. The unconscious mind is busy sifting and selecting the thoughts I have recorded. Overtime a story emerges, sometimes fully formed and it nags to be told. 

courtesy of Raphaël Jeanneret Pixabay

Acquiring a journaling practice

You don’t have to be a writer to keep a journal. It is a form of meditation and reflection. A way to make sense of the world, and to self-care. Don’t think about what to write, just write. It is when you are relaxed with no expectation that thoughts flow. 

The notebooks and diaries of many famous writers have been published: William Somerset Maughan, Coleridge, Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain, Sylvia Plath, and Thomas Mann, to name but a few. Anne Frank’s diary deserves a line of its own.

How do you use your notebooks?

Unleashing creativity and purpose

September a time for new beginnings

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

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

Creativity increases during and post menopause

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

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

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

A new term

Photo by Pixabay on

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

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

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

No more writer’s block

Writing, painting and, playing music are like meditation. You know that feeling when you’re in the zone? For me, it feels like slipping into a quiet place in my head, where ideas flow without me having to think too much about it. 

Using the right side of the brain

I came across Betty Edwards, Drawing on the right side of your brain, when I was practicing life drawing, several years ago. She explains that the left side of our brain is concerned with logical thought and the right with creativity. Betty Edwards, can explain this much better than me, see her website and blogs

When we are writing or drawing and allow the right side of our brain to lead, we allow our creativity to flow unchecked. The left side of our brain wants to analyse what we are doing and judge how good it is. When I was worried about whether my debut novel would find a market, my mind went blank. I didn’t think that I had another novel idea in me. Everything that came into my head, I dismissed. The left side of my brain squashed any glimmer of creative thought.

Writers’ block

 Writers and artists need to have a business head, selling our work is a business. But we have to separate this from the creative process. When a person complains of writers’ block, I believe it is because they cannot quieten the left side of the brain and tune in to their creativity using the right side. 

Meditation Writing Exercises

This is where meditation helps. The deep relaxation of meditation stills your mind. That feeling of being aware but also in a dreamlike state is similar to being in the zone. If you can prepare to write by first meditating, you may find that ideas come more easily and you switch off the critical part of your brain that tries to censor what you write. 

Julia Cameron introduced Morning pages in her book The Artists Way (1992). Check out Julia’s blogs on creativity

Morning Pages are a daily practice of writing first thing in the morning, allowing a stream of consciousness to flow, to stimulate creativity. This exercise is making the most of your body’s relaxed state on waking, to tune in to the right side of the brain. 

Try writing something immediately after your meditation practice. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or sentence structure. Just write. I use notebooks for these and never travel without one. When I read them back, I’m sometimes surprised at the beauty of the writing. If I had set out to write in that way, I wouldn’t have been able to. It comes from somewhere deep inside and I need to be in that relaxed meditative state. 

You might also try a guided meditation on creativity. There are a few but I recommend Mind Valley’s one, see my blog Meditation Challenge Part Two.

The Artist Within

I started this blog by saying, writing and drawing are like meditating. To improve any of these skills, you need to practice, ideally a daily routine. When you first start to meditate you will find that your mind wanders and you have to gently bring it back to the present. It’s the same when you’re writing. You want to focus inward but the left side of your brain keeps trying to tug you back, distracting you with daily trivia or criticising your inner voice. That’s okay, just as in meditation, you patiently refocus until you find yourself in the zone. 


At the end of a yoga class we say to one another ‘Namaste’. This, as you no doubt know, means, ‘The divine in me bows to the divine in you.’ 

I think that as writers and artists we are connecting the divine in us with the divine in others. Creating from the heart, we are offering up something of ourselves. It will be received and interpreted by others, as it touches something in them, this could be excitement, empathy, joy or inspiration. A good book makes you forget the outside world as you absorb yourself in an imaginary world. Art and music can touch us in a profound way.

Keep yourself in brackets

When I was learning how to facilitate group work as a health and social care professional, a wise mentor said to me, ‘You need to keep yourself in brackets.’ I think that we have that same responsibility as writers. If the divine in me is to connect with readers on an emotional level, they need to believe in the world I have created and not be jarred into the present by an awareness of the writer. That can be a narrative tone, which is like the writer looking over your shoulder explaining why they wrote a particular line or too much disclosure on social media. There is a fine balance between getting to know a writer and maintaining a sense of mystery and awe. I hate it when I love an actor in a particular role and then I find out that they are not a nice person. 

And so, I will refrain from telling you about the contents of my laundry basket and instead wish you Namaste, until next week when the topic will be how reading and writing can help us to develop greater empathy. 

Meditation Challenge part two

Learning to be patient

In The Meditation Challenge part one, I told you how mindfulness meditation helped to still my mind so that I could stop fretting about the approval of a literary agent and instead focus on writing my best work. If you are having a go at meditation to help you manage similar anxieties, I would love to hear from you.

I knew, in my heart of hearts, that if this draft of my novel didn’t meet with my agent’s expectation then we might well be saying goodbye. I should add here, that whilst I had been working with an agent for over a year, I hadn’t actually signed a contract, or met her, or even spoken on the phone, although her in-house editor did have a very helpful phone conversation with me early on in the process. This agent is one of the best, many of the authors she represents are international bestsellers. Her agency was growing and changing. It’s no wonder that she could spare me little time and was slow in replying to emails. 

Writer friends cautioned me but I was willing to accept these terms as I was gaining a lot from the editorial comments on each draft of my manuscript. In my head, I likened it to dating. The same feelings of excitement and apprehension as I waited impatiently for her reply.

I needed meditation more than ever. By now, I had progressed to longer meditations. I particularly liked:

If that one thing would happen – my life would be different.

Tara Brach generously shares hour-long seminars on meditation practice. I would listen to these whilst ironing or making the evening meal, headphones on. In one of these seminars she said something that struck a chord with me. I’m sorry but I can’t remember which one it was. Anyway, it was something like this: 

We believe that if this one thing would happen, maybe meet the right man/woman, get a promotion, or in my case get published, that everything in our world will be better. We give this monumental importance. Just as we do in fearing something really bad. But, when this ‘thing’ actually happens it’s just a blip up or down in our state of being. Think about it – that job you finally got, getting pregnant, meeting the man or woman of your dreams. Or, the bad stuff, being made redundant, having your manuscript rejected. There’s a short period of euphoria or depression and then life resumes. It doesn’t change everything. 

I have just discovered Daniel Nussbaummüller’s  blog Thoughts Make You Suffer, says a similar thing. 

So, when my agent responded in May to say that she loved the changes that I had made to my manuscript and with just a couple of tweaks, she would be excited to send it out to publishing editors, I was of course thrilled. My journal reads, ‘It has finally happened. I have reached a milestone – jumped a hurdle. My novel is to be sent out to publishers and an amazing agent wants to represent me.’ I checked that she really was my agent, just in case I had been deceiving myself, and she confirmed that she was. I told my writer friends on Facebook, did the edits and sent it back. My agent said that she would send me her marketing strategy and so I waited. 

I don’t know whether it was Tara Brach’s influence or my meditation practice but I was very calm. I think as writer’s we take tiny steps. I imagine us all hiking up a mountain, the path curving around and upward, like a spiral. Each step is small, it’s only when you look down that you see just how far you have come. 

Maybe, it’s watching or reading about drama’s, great personal success stories, that we crave the elation of those dizzying heights. The reality is, change is more often gradual. But that doesn’t make for a sensational story.

Meditation to help generate new ideas

Whilst sending off each rewrite of my novel and waiting for my agent’s response, I had gone back to two of my unpublished novels trying to rework them in readiness for my agent’s approval. That was before I started my meditation challenge and it hadn’t gone well as I was just too critical of my work. I was afraid that I didn’t have anything else to offer. Now, with the benefit of meditation, my mind was more open to new ideas.

 I found an excellent meditation for creativity through Mind Valley It is free to access on YouTube.

 I did this creativity meditation several times. On one occasion, I did it before going to bed. At around four in the morning, I woke up with so many ideas, I jumped out of bed and wrote them down. My second novel came to me so fast I couldn’t stop writing. I forgot to worry about not receiving a publishing plan from my agent. Until July when I prompted her.

 In next week’s blog I will tell you how meditation helped me to manage my expectations and anxiety when my novel was out on submission ie. being considered by publishers.

Part one

Part three

Part four