Why everything is working out perfectly for you, with author, Isabella May

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.

To connect with Isabella on social media:

http://www.isabellamayauthor.com

Twitter – @IsabellaMayBks

Instagram – @isabella_may_author

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMayAuthor/

Isabella May

You can listen to the podcast here: Episode two (season 3) Why everything is working out perfectly for you, with author Isabella May.

Or read the transcript below:

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 Yes butYes, 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, because it can really wear you down that whole waiting for somebody to say, Yes, I approve of youYes, 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?

Isabella:

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.

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

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

Advertisement

How to turn disappointment and despair into success with playwright Jack Canfora

In this episode of The Mindful Writer, Jack Canfora and I explore the challenges of keeping a calm and positive mind despite disappointment and despair.

Welcome back to season two of The Mindful Writer. There are lots of great guests in this season. As always, they have been a joy to meet and I am looking forward to sharing their wisdom with you.  

In this episode, Jack Canfora and I explore the challenges of keeping a calm and positive mind despite disappointment and despair.

Before I introduce you, let me update you on my writing journey. Life has become incredibly busy for me – but exciting too. We returned from a Mediterranean cruise a week ago, our first venture abroad since the pandemic. It was a wonderful holiday and I returned with my creative well overflowing from the many fascinating experiences on our travels. 

The downside of a holiday is managing the workload before and after the break. I am following the advice I have shared here from guests – scheduling everything in my diary and only concerning myself with one day’s activity at a time. 

Alongside preparing for the launch of my next novel The Forever Cruise on 1st December, which is incredibly exciting because it will be my first in person launch event since the pandemic, I am helping to organise the Frinton Literary Festival in October. Paula Hawkins and Freya North are just two of the authors featured this year. 

I try to schedule at least two hours every day to write, as well as allocating marketing and admin time. It would be easy to neglect my writing if I did not make this a priority.

When there are many competing demands on our time and we feel overwhelmed by the to do list we often neglect our self-care. The truth is relaxation, exercise, family time – the things that make us feel good, are even more important because when we balance these with work we achieve more and become more resilient. 

My guest this week has experienced many highs and lows in his writing life and has a realistic perspective on what we might expect of ourselves in challenging times. So, let me introduce you.

Jack Canfora is a playwriter and podcaster. He blogs www.thewritingonthepaddedwall.com, has an

online theater company  www.newnormalrep.org with a podcast “New Normal Rep’s Play Date” on most platforms.

In this episode we explore:

What we can and can’t control as writers and when to let go

Coping with envy and disappointment

How we can learn from our suffering, turning it into something positive

Jack Canfora

You can listen to the podcast here: Season Two, episode One.

 How to turn disappointment and despair into success with playwright, Jack Canfora.

Or read the transcript below.

Deborah: Jack Canfora, playwriter, podcaster and writing coach, I came across you through the Pointless Overthinking blog as you’re a regular contributor. However, since then, I’ve discovered and listened to your podcast NNR, the New Normal Rep Theatre Company podcast, and I love your energy and sense of humour. There have been numerous regional productions of your plays, and you’ve won several playwright awards. So, I consider you to be very successful as a writer. This is something you and I have discussed – how do we measure success? So, Jack Canfora, what does success look like to you?

Jack: Well, I can tell you what I aspire that answer to be for me, which is – and I’m getting better at it, I feel I’m getting closer to it – is thinking of success in terms of doing what you’re doing, in my case writing, as well as you can possibly do it. In whatever that means to you, you know, for me, it is to be honest, and it’s hopefully entertaining, but also accomplishing what I set out to do, which is writing a play – simply writing a good play. And if you get people to perform it, that’s even better, of course. But ultimately, those are all things beyond your control – beyond my control, certainly, and the only thing I can control is how well I write. And if I feel satisfied with what I’ve written – relatively, because I’m never completely satisfied, right?  I think someone said, forget who – they said about plays, the plays are never finished, they’re just abandoned. And I think that’s true of probably all writing. But as long as I can feel at the end of the day, I’ve done the best I could do, then that should be my definition of success. And there are days where I’m pretty close to that. And there are days also when I get to work with some talented people, which I’ve been very lucky to do pretty regularly, and get to spend time in a room with them working on a play that I wrote, and they take the trouble to remember the lines I wrote.  I mean, that’s pretty great in and of itself. There’s a sense in which, you know, what more could you want from from life? In fact, that’s the most fun for me – being in the rehearsal room and doing those things in collaboration. There are external things sure, like, having your name better known and having some money. I wouldn’t lie and say that I’m not so profound, that those things don’t matter to me. But I think in the end, I have to try to measure and I think all I can do is try to measure what I can do, and leave the other things to the fates. So, is that too long a winded answer?

Deborah: No, it’s not at all, but there are a few things I want to pick up with you on the interesting points you made. First of all, the point you made about the things we can and the things we can’t control, that’s quite difficult, isn’t it?  To think about what we can control and letting go of the things we can’t.  I know you coach writers, how do you help them cope with the letting go of what they can’t control?

Jack: Well, first of all, do as I say not as I do to a certain extent. I mean, I think it’s something that’s aspirational. Like I would argue, mindfulness is probably. You know, attaining that perfect sort of Zen – just being in the moment and letting everything go. Very few people can ever really, truly accomplish that for any length of time. But that’s always the goal. And you can’t – paradoxically, you can’t measure your time there in terms of goals. It’s just, you know, being in the moment in terms of letting go of the stuff you can’t control. I think it’s a tough reality to square with what your dreams or ambitions may be. I have to tell myself this on a regular basis. I read – someone posted something recently, and they said that ‘the theatre is at least twice as old as the Christ’s tale and it’s been disappointing disciples ever since and that – art owes you nothing. And you owe yourself the best you can do. The things that are beyond your control – you’re going to have to let go one way or another, are you going to let go of it freely? Or even let go of it? Or are you gonna have it prised from you kicking and screaming? Either way, you’re gonna have to let it go.

Deborah: We’ve all had that experience – that kicking and screaming, when you rail against the world that ‘why hasn’t this or that happened?’ and, ‘it’s not fair.’ The energy we waste on that.

Jack: Oh, my goodness, yes, that’s, you know, more of my week than I would like to admit.

Deborah: Another point you said, is knowing when to let go – when it’s finished. Saying that, you can keep on and on and on, and you say ‘a play is just a play that’s been abandoned because it’s never finished.’ There are two things there: How do you decide it’s good enough? And also, when you’re doing the best, you can, for yourself – to show your best work, how do you stop those voices in your head, that are the critics – the voices questioning how it’s going to be received that get in the way?

Jack: Yeah, well, again, it’s sounds like this is going to be a wishy-washy answer. But I think that it’s a little bit of both. I think you do have to silence those critics at a certain point. But I also think it’s important to listen to them to a degree. Because, I think, if you don’t, you run the risk of becoming sort of self-indulgent. And the minute I think, as a writer, and as a novelist, or a poet, or short story writer, or a playwright, or what have you, you send – you know, you write your work and keep it to yourself, that’s fine, you can be as self-indulgent as you like, it’s sort of freeing in a way – but the minute you send it out for someone else to read, then I think you have an obligation to not be that way, to yourself as much as anyone else, because probably no one’s going to want to read it or do it if it’s that way.

 I have been lucky enough to cultivate relationships with a few people in particular, whom I have great respect for. And so, just to give you my own experience as a playwright, if I’m in a room with people whom I trust, you know, in terms of their intellectual and emotional judgement about a work, and they say, X, and I was thinking Y, then, that doesn’t mean I’m wrong necessarily. Or there is a wrong. But if you’re saying X, and my intent was Y, it behoves me to at least consider X, because three very smart and dedicated people have said this whom I trust. And again, I can’t emphasise that enough, because there are people who, whose judgments won’t jive with yours. And so, you need you need to be open to that critic. 

But on the other hand, you also have to say, you sort of have to feel I think, when you’ve reached a wall. The great thing for me as a playwright is if my play is being produced, there reaches a point where the script is what they call frozen, and the actors and you are no longer allowed to make changes. And that is a great thing to do, you know, to a writer actually, because you can overwrite things. I think, a lot of problems for playwrights and also my guess is for novelists or other fiction writers, you can workshop things to death. And there is a point where, you know, there’s little quirks in the play that technically may not be by the book correct. If you sand all those away, it becomes pretty nondescript. So again, it’s a question of taste, right? I mean, I readily accept that not everyone is going to like my plays. I say that, but I don’t really think that!  But I aspire to that. I mean, Tolstoy hated Shakespeare, so Shakespeare can’t be beloved. I do feel the onus of having everyone like me, is definitely lifted off of my shoulders. You know, I just have to do the best I can. And you know, again, it’s a constant practice. I think it’s a practice and I’ve never gotten there completely. I may never achieve that at all. But that’s certainly what I what I aspire to do. 

What I would advise is constantly tug back and forth with yourself. Be absolutely as forgiving to yourself as you can be while you’re writing and then as ruthless with yourself as you can be when you’re editing. It’s a bit of a back and and forth, I think.

Image by Hoàng Anh Vũ from Pixabay

Deborah: Do you use anything like yoga or meditation? Because as you were talking, and you were saying, keep going back to it, it made me think of when we’re meditating. And your mind wanders, and you come back to the stillness. So, do you have affirmations or meditation or anything to help keep you in the right state of mind? 

Jack: Yeah, I think I would benefit enormously from it. And again, I think my story is very typical. But I have tried meditation on several occasions and have found it bafflingly hard. And I am ashamed to say I have, you know, I’ve sort of walked away from it. But, you know, it’s, it’s clearly to my benefit to try it again. I guess this is the word of the day, I aspire to get to that place where I can incorporate that as part of my life, because I have no doubt that it would help every aspect of my life.

Deborah: I’m a great believer in in meditation and yoga. It’s part of my daily practice. And it has made a huge, huge difference. In fact, I started a daily meditation practice, when I knew I was going to be going through a challenging time as a writer. This is about four years ago, when a book was out with an agent, to find a home for it – a publishing contract.  I started doing it then – planning to do it in the 40 days for Lent before Easter. And I’ve carried on, I think about four years into it now, for daily practice. 

Jack: That’s wonderful.

Deborah: When I compare how I was, emotionally, and mentally, at that point – when I was waiting for to hear back about my work, compared to how I am now. All the things you say about letting go and being calm and accepting. I’m totally – I can feel, in that place. And I just noticed such a huge difference.

Jack: Yeah. I guess I would want to drill down on that a little bit. So, like you said, that you’re in a completely different place? And is it that you just feel calmer and more at ease? Or is it something more profound than that?

Deborah: I wouldn’t say – profound, in terms of great spiritual-awakening-type things, to dress it up. It is a sense of absolute calmness. But the greatest thing for me is really being open to possibilities. And knowing that I’m not giving responsibility for my happiness into an agent’s hands or in the outcome. I’m not wedding myself to one particular outcome. I absolutely feel uplifted by the number of potential outcomes there might be. And I truly, truly believe 100% that the right thing will find me at the right time. And I have absolute faith in that. It takes an awful lot away from the anxiety. And I think that positive attitude, and that feeling of well-being, you’re more likely to attract something, just by the fact that if somebody is positive and happy, and not chasing something, they’re more attractive to a person, whether it’s dating or a job or anything. The desperate person, the uptight person has a closed mind and can’t see the wood for the trees. So, I think it’s just practical, you know?

Jack: Well, I think that’s a much better answer than I gave about what you would tell the student in terms of letting go. Yes, absolutely, that sounds wonderful. I hope to get there someday. But yes, I mean, I think that’s exactly it. It’s not living and dying with every rejection. Because if you do that, you’re I mean, as a writer, as an artist, you’re just really asking for it. I mean, I think you’re asking for it as an artist to begin with, right? You know, the odds are stacked against you, in terms of what you can control in terms of, you know, the standardised in normative sense of what success, you know, means. So, if you go chasing after that, and if you go chasing after that doggedly, with only one sense of what constitutes happiness or success, or, you know, and I think, you know, as a writer, and just as a person, if you do that, then you’re bound to be, you know, the irony is, I think the more you do that, the less likely you are to, to get that specific thing, because you’re never going to. It’s never going to be played out the way you expect it to play out – good, and bad or indifferent. You just have to sort of be flexible enough to bend with the wind.

Deborah: So, looking at your journey Jack because often when you look back, you can see oh, that happened. If that hadn’t happened, this wouldn’t have happened. And it all starts to make sense. What has your journey been like? Because as I said, you are successful, and it can’t have always been easy. So, what were the breakthroughs for you that you can look back on and say, ‘Oh, well, I’m glad it happened that way?’

Jack: Again, success is such a relative thing. I mean, you know, it’s there. I’ve been very lucky in many regards, with plays done regionally in and off Broadway, and I’ve a couple, you know, published for sale on Amazon, by the way. 

Deborah: Which I will promote in the show notes (see below).

Poetic Licence and Jericho

Jack: But, I think inevitably, the answer comes down to relationships for me. You know, I’ve been able to meet people and some people fall away, just like you fall away from certain people’s lives. But I’ve been very lucky in cultivating some really good relationships with people who have helped me both pragmatically, but also just grow as a person and as a writer. So really cultivate those relationships, and not let in a cynical’ What can I get out of this person?’ way, but in a genuine form of connection. 

I have had it pointed out to me by a few people who have seen my plays, that a common thread is running through them, because the subject matters differ pretty wildly. But a common thread is – people sort of seeking a community or connection. And I think that’s probably true. It’s never in my mind as I’m writing it. But I think it’s probably true. And I think, especially these days, I think, you know, our culture is sort of, you know, finely crafted to promote alienation. And so, I think that it’s something we all need. And I remember, as a kid, I found that with people doing theatre, or as a musician, when I was in the band, you know, a lifetime ago. But, yeah, it’s always about the people to me, and I think I would, I would give myself this much credit that even a while ago, even at a fairly young age, even if I didn’t know it, intellectually, I intuited that really, the point of things is relationships, and other people. Not that you should become dependent on other people, but that you should be welcoming of other people. And so, yeah, like I said, I think that’s the one key thing for me that I’ve realised over and over again, that inevitably boils down to the relationships you have with people.

Deborah: Excellent advice. I agree. Absolutely, networking is so important, you don’t know who might come into your life that can have a huge influence, and how you can help other people. 

Jack: Yes, has to be reciprocal. I completely agree, and you have to be fine with it, you know, doing something with someone when they have some sort of pragmatic success from it, and you don’t necessarily. That’s certainly happened to me. And you have to sort of let go of that little childish self that says, ‘Well, why didn’t I get some?’ Which very much exists within me, but yeah, I am much happier, when I can be happy for that person. You know, and it’s just a very nice feeling.

Deborah: That’s a really good thing to pick up. Because I think we would be lying if any of us said we didn’t, at some time feel envy for a fellow writer who we wished well, who we loved with all our hearts, but we thought, That’s not fair. And then, you feel awful that you think that’s not fair when you really do wish them well. Feeling why not me? And it’s, as you say, it’s a childlike emotion, because that’s where we are.

Jack: Yeah, that’s where I am certainly. I think it was Gore Vidal said, ‘Every time a friend of mine succeeds, I die a little inside’, which is a little too acidic, I think, for it to be, you know, entirely true. But yeah, we all have those feelings. And I think it’s okay. You know, as I’ve grown up or attempted to, I think, one of the things you learn is that your feelings are going to show up, and they’re going to take whatever form they take. It’s a question of, you know, you can’t judge yourself for that, because there’s a sense of what you’re not, you’re not in control of your feelings. What you can control is what you do with those feelings and what feelings you choose to dwell on and to focus and to foster. That’s your choice. But the feelings themselves aren’t either good or bad. They just exist.

Deborah: When I do my meditation, if I feel like that, I do two things. One, I acknowledge, that’s how I feel and I don’t give myself a hard time about it. I just feel where it is in my body. I can feel it and recognise it’s there. And then I think about that person, wishing them love, wishing them the best and sending light and love. It sounds a bit hippy, but it’s sending a sense of feeling to them that I genuinely want well for them, and then with those two combined, and trusting that there’s a different path for me – and that’s okay. Those two techniques really helped me.

Jack: Yeah. I think that wonderful and it’s down to you, if you can put out that feeling genuinely – out there to the world. To quote someone else – the Beatles said, and  I think it’s very true, ‘The love you take is equal to the love you make.’ And I think really the point of that is – you need to learn to give and feel good and feel love wherever you can find it. And just, again, let go of anything negative and don’t judge yourself for it. You know, everything is transient. Even your darkest feelings are going to pass. Don’t try to label them. And more importantly, don’t label yourself based on what you’re feeling at any given moment.

Deborah: I was listening to something on TV about Julie Andrews’s life, you know, Mary Poppins, My Fair lady? 

Jack: Oh yeah!

Deborah: Well, this is a great true story. I hadn’t really realised at the time but Mary Poppins, not Mary Poppins, sorry, Julie Andrews – she’s just a real person! Julie Andrews had done My Fair Lady on Broadway and in London. And it was huge, huge success. So, when they were coming to choose an actress to be in the film, she assumed it would be her. And of course, it wasn’t.  It was Audrey Hepburn. And can you imagine her disappointment, you know, as an artist, when that happened? How devastated she must have felt? She really believed it was hers. And it wasn’t. And then a few months later, the role of Mary Poppins fell into her lap. And she was asked to do that. Then when it came to the awards, that film and her as leading actress, got more awards than my fair lady. I take from that, when things don’t go the way that you hope they will or expect them to, very often, there’s something much better that you hadn’t envisaged just waiting for you.

Jack: That’s absolutely true. And that’s true of my life as well. In low moments, it’s very hard to see that maybe this is a new opportunity, in that this clears the path for you to go a way and you’ll actually get more out of. I’ve had multiple experiences of that my life. 

Deborah: Yes, me too. And I think the older you get – I’m sure I’m older than you.

Jack: You’re more mature than I am, I’m sure.

Image by Wolfgang Eckert from Pixabay

Deborah: As you go through life, the more experiences that you have that you can look back on. You can use those as a reference point to think, ‘Ah, but when that didn’t happen, X happened. And when that didn’t happen, that happened.’ And you get more and more affirmations that this is the way life can work – is, working for you. And that fills you, I think, with positivity. If you can go back and remember that.

Jack: Yes, absolutely. It’s so hard for me to claim to be committed. It’s so hard for me in the moment, where I’m expressing or experiencing disappointment to, to remind myself of that, but it is vital to do that. You’re absolutely right.

Deborah: It’s a journey. We’re all a work in progress.

Jack: Yes. Very much so very much. 

Deborah: That’s why the journey is so interesting.

Jack: Yes, that’s right. I won’t pretend this is an insight of mine, it’s pretty much common knowledge. But, you know, suffering is awful, it’s why they call it suffering, but it’s also imperative that you have it without that you wouldn’t grow in any way. I suffer a lot from depression, and I don’t recommend it to anyone, if they have a choice. But having said that, I also have to, in my less desperate moments, realise that it’s actually been a pretty, a very strict and mean, but very good teacher. At times, I think I’m a lot more empathetic than I would have been, had I not had those feelings. I think, whatever abilities I have, to whatever degree I have them, have been sort of sharpened I think, by that experience. I mean, certainly, I don’t think I would have been a writer. And I certainly wouldn’t have been, you know, as however good or bad or I may be, I wouldn’t have been able to reach the potential I’ve reached, you know, to whatever degree that may be without that suffering. And so, I think it’s you have to accept, you know, the yin and the yang as they say.

Deborah: It’s a really good point to make. Thank you. How would you like to be remembered?

Jack: Well, if I’m remembered at all that would be a little surprising for me. I think ultimately, you know, I mean, cliched answers are really cliches for a reason. I really want to be – I have two children who mean the universe to me. And so, I want to be remembered by them, as someone who loved them and did his best even when he – you know, although I am far from perfect father, but that they knew that they were loved and that I love them. And then, beyond that, I would love to be thought of fondly by my friends and most of the people whose lives I’ve been in, that won’t be 100%. But it’ll hopefully it’ll be nice. And then maybe if in my small, totally unverifiable via data way made the world just made, like a half a centimetre nicer, you know, slightly, slightly better than when I showed up. 

Deborah: I’m sure you’ve already done that, because my favourite film is, It’s a Wonderful Life.

Jack: Oh, that’s a beautiful one. The day, I don’t cry at the end of that movie is the day I really need to worry about myself.

Deborah: So, I’m sure you already touched a lot of lives through your plays and your work.

Jack: Well, that’s very kind. Thank you. Then of course, lastly, I would love it if a play or two of mine survived into the next generation, but ultimately, I won’t be around. So, the most important thing is to just, you know, be as kind as you can be, as often as you can be. There are days in which the bar for my ability to be kind is pretty low. So that varies, obviously, but I think that’s our main job – to try to be kind. When I was younger, I really valued talent and intelligence. And it’s not that I don’t value those anymore, but I place a lot more stock in than just being a good person, you know, a nice person, which sounds idiotic, but I think it’s true. I mean, I think being proud of, you know, your intellect, for example, is like being proud of your blood type it is sort of an accident of birth. But kindness is something you have to work at. 

Getting back to our earlier point about what do you have control of, you don’t have control over a lot of things. And you don’t really have control over your talent to a degree. I mean, you can work at it and shape it, and I think you should, but you don’t have control to a degree in your intelligence, for example. But you do have control in how kind you are, and how you treat other people. So ultimately, I think that’s what I respect that, more than anything.

Deborah: Again, this is probably a cliche, but when I heard it, which wasn’t that long ago, for the first time, it had an impact on me. I was at a funeral. And the celebrant said, ‘It’s not what we have achieved, but what we have become that’s important in life.’ And I thought that was so true.

Jack: Yes, that’s really wonderful. It’s far better than I would have come up with, but I think it’s so true. And I think that, you know, in life as I get older, I think that most of life is a verb as opposed to a noun. You know, it’s about acting, whatever way you want to, but acting in the best way you know how for yourself and for others, rather than just thinking things will come to you or thinking things are facts – unalterable and permanent. You know, it’s about, it’s about trying to do these things that matters more.

Deborah: I nearly said, ‘absolutely.’ And I’ve noticed when I’ve been editing my show notes, I say absolutely too much. Absolutely.

Jack: Well, good. Good. I got a couple of them out of you so I succeeded today.

Deborah: Great. So finally, what words of wisdom would you impart to your younger self, when you go back to when you first started out writing and you felt overwhelmed by what you wanted to achieve and where you were? Looking back, what would you say to yourself?

Jack: Well, I would say to myself, and I think is what I would say to myself today, and will say to myself tomorrow, which is much of what we’ve been talking about is – ‘Just do the best you can do and don’t worry so much about the other things.’ 

Everyone would always like to have accomplished more materially. I certainly would, I’m not ashamed of saying that, but and I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as some and I’ve been fortunate enough to accomplish in the material sense, more than other people. Although, again, at the same time, you also have to realise a lot of it doesn’t have to do with you, a lot of it has to do with luck, and it’s not really necessarily in any way a definitive quantification of your abilities. 

You just have to do what you can do and try and enjoy the relationships and just enjoy the work as much as you possibly can, even when – this is gonna sound ridiculous, but even when it’s not fun. You should still enjoy it as much as possible. And, again, do everything you can to succeed materially, but don’t use that as the arbiter of whether or not you’ve succeeded or failed.

Deborah: Those are great words of wisdom. Life goes by far too quickly for us to waste our energy being unhappy. 

Jack: Yes, absolutely. Now I’m saying it now. You’ve started a trend.

Deborah: Brilliant.

Jack: It’s your catch phrase.

Deborah: (laughs) I’ve really enjoyed talking to you Jack Canfora.

Jack: Likewise. Thank you so much for having me on.

Deborah: It’s a pleasure. So, I will give links to your work in the show notes. 

Jack: Please do. Thank you so much. And again, it was such a pleasure talking to you. A lot of fun. Thank you. 

I really appreciate Jack’s honesty in talking to me about disappointment, envy, and suffering because we all experience these feelings at some time, even the most successful of writers. It is what we do with them that makes us stronger and better – both as a person and a creative.

Since chatting with Jack he has told me about an audio play that is going to be released on all podcast platforms in October, called Step Nine. You can find out more by visiting his theatre company’s website www.newnormalrep.org. I recommend you subscribe to New Normal Rep’s YouTube page, which has lots of amazing free content, including an online production of Jack’s last play Jericho, directed by Marsha Mason. 

I will be away on a writer’s retreat before we next meet. I’m so looking forward to spending a few days hidden away in the wilds of Norfolk with my writer friends, where I intend to lose myself in my WIP. When life gets this busy I have to remind myself that I love everything that I do and try to enjoy each moment instead of fretting over getting everything done!

Please check out The Forever Cruise available for pre-order on Amazon for just 99p/99c until publication day on 1st December. 

So, until we meet again look after your beautiful self, and trust the journey.

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

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

How to build stamina, resilience, and a quiet mind with author Sherri Leimkuhler

In this ninth episode of The Mindful Writer, author, Sherri Leimkuhler tells me how training for the Ironman and yoga have taught her valuable life lessons.

Before I introduce you to Sherri, let me update you on my writing journey as it has been particularly exciting this past week. I have had an adventure! Earlier this year I decided to write about a sunken village that I had seen in an image on the internet many years ago. It was a photo of a church spire just visible in the midst of a newly created reservoir. I did some research and found out that this reservoir was in the wilds of North Yorkshire. I was travelling by public transport and had no idea where I might stay or how I would reach the reservoir. By a stroke of luck or serendipity I found a lovely woman, Sheila, who no longer provided B&B but was willing to provide accommodation in her home. She lived just three miles from the reservoir. We started chatting by email. Sheila was incredibly helpful. Not only did she offer me comfortable accommodation – she hosted an afternoon tea so that I could chat to her friend who had grown up in the now submerged village, she drove me around the area so that I could explore, and put me in touch with a local historian among other locals who each spent considerable time sharing their knowledge and memories with me.

I was overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of this community. I am excited to write this story and hope that it will now more accurately reflect real life experience of the flooding. I love writing about communities. Meeting people and hearing about their experience is one of the things I love about being a writer.

None of that has much to do with the topic of today – but I had to share my excitement with you.

Now to the interview.

Sherri Leimkuhler is an author, athlete, and yoga instructor. In this episode she shares some valuable life lessons on how to survive the writing journey by developing stamina, resilience, and a quiet mind.

Sherri Leimkuhler

You can listen to the podcast here: Episode Nine How to build stamina, resilience, and peace of mind with author Sherri Leimkuhler

Or read the transcript below:

Deborah: I’m delighted to welcome Sherri Leimkuhler to the podcast today. Sherri is the best-selling author of What’s Left Untold. She has also been writing a health and fitness column, For the Fun Of IT, for Carroll County Times, for nearly a decade. As well as being a writer, Sherri is a former pilot, a competitive triathlete, a two-time Ironman finisher, and is also a yoga instructor. So, hi Sherri. 

Sherri: Hi, Deborah, 

Deborah: I should say, Sherri’s joining us from Maryland.

Sherri: Thank you so much for having me.

Deborah: So, you’ve achieved a great deal, Sherri. And you’re evidently highly motivated and determined. Yoga and meditation are part of my daily routine. And I get loads of inspiration out of my weekly run. Both of those things have become so important to me – meditation, and yoga. Then, once a week when I’m running, that’s where I get all the ideas for my blog, because your mind is resting and it all comes as inspiration. So, what I wanted to ask you – because, you teach yoga, what has yoga taught you about yourself? And how have you applied that to your life?

Sherri: Yoga has taught me that I need to slow down. And I need to appreciate a slower pace. I know that you were talking on your blog about focusing on the spaces between the breath, and that’s something that I have been working to be better at. I do spend a lot of time focusing on the breath. But it’s those pauses in-between that I need to be better at letting them rest and not always trying to fill them with something. As you read in my bio, I’m a very active person, not an idle person. And so, I’m often running with all cylinders firing and wishing for that moment to just slow down and breathe. I have a terrible habit of every time I do get that moment, I fill it with something else immediately. It’s just – I’ve always been that way. And so, yoga has really allowed me to silence the noise a little bit. Taught me how to draw my awareness inward and listen to what I really need – what my body’s telling me. And to try to appreciate those quiet moments when they when they make themselves available.

Deborah: I think that’s hard to do. Because the on the other side of the coin from being determined – having all that energy – what’s the name of the yellow chakra around the navel area? What’s it called? Has it got a proper name?

Sherri: The solar plexus chakra?

Deborah:  That’s the one. When it is really strong, and you’ve got lots of energy and motivation, which you have, it’s great. But then there’s also the downside of it, that it’s fire could kind of get a bit out of control. And that’s when we wear ourselves into the ground and we get burned out. 

Sherri: Absolutely, yes. That fire quickly does get out of control. And so, just learning to give myself permission and help my students recognise that and give themselves permission to let go of guilt. I think there’s a lot of us carry around a sense that we always need to be doing something there’s a lot of, should. The word should I’m trying to get that word out of my vocabulary, because a lot of times it can be associated with positive things. But it’s also associated with things that just bring us guilt –  like, I should be doing this, or I shouldn’t be doing that, or I should have done that. And so, I think it’s important to just enjoy the moment and give ourselves permission to do that without always feeling so obligated to do other things. 

Deborah: And to be in that moment and not be thinking about what you ought to be doing instead of. 

Sherri: That’s right. That’s right. And that’s why savasana is so difficult. It is often considered the most difficult or most challenging part of the yoga practice to stay in that moment. Breathe in that moment – exist in that moment, instead of trying to stop our minds already racing to what’s next. What’s happening. What am I doing after my practice? What am I doing next, instead of staying in the now? It’s a challenge.

Deborah:  Absolutely. Absolutely. There’s another thing I think about with the pause between breaths. It is the pause between events in our life. When you’re driving yourself to achieve something, or perhaps you’ve come to the end of a project and you don’t know what’s coming next. Trusting that space, allowing the space so that the right thing comes to fill it and you’re tuned in to receiving that right thing. Because when we are constantly filling every gap of our time – project to project, we don’t leave any gap for anything new to come into our life.

Sherri: That’s so true. And it’s so important to allow that space.

Deborah: I had a friend recently who was reducing her hours to semi retire. And she’s a very busy woman all the time, and she was cutting down her days. She’d barely done it for a week, when she said, ‘I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I’ve got to fill my days.’ And I said, ‘Things will come to you, those days will be filled. But you’ve got to leave them free long enough for the right thing to come into your life. Don’t keep filling them out of fear. And maybe it is just fear that makes us want to fill every moment of every day, and not allow space. 

Sherri: Yes, that’s an important word, the fear – maybe what we’re trying to ignore, maybe what we don’t want to see or find when we stop and have that quiet time to reflect – sometimes those are the difficult things that we’ve been putting out of our mind. So, we don’t have to deal with it. And as long as we stay busy and keep moving, you know, maybe that what we fear – that’s resting within – we might not want to acknowledge and we can ignore it that way. 

Deborah: That’s really important. You’ve brought back a memory for me. It was several years ago. I had booked myself the whole month of August off work, because I worked for myself. And I thought I’m going to really relax for August and just do all the wonderful things I planned. Just restful things, you know, picking fruit, cycling, days at the beach. And as soon as I stopped working for that month, my world fell apart. Absolutely fell apart. Because I found myself having to face up to things in my life that I hadn’t addressed in probably a year since my mum had died. It had an effect on my relationships. Just everything came in at once. And I spent the whole of that month in absolute emotional turmoil. But then, when I think now back to that now – that’s probably exactly what I needed, because I resolved things and moved on. But we push things away, don’t we? We don’t deal with things. We don’t listen to our emotions. And sometimes you do have to stop still, and not be afraid to face up to some feelings that you are repressing. 

Sherri: That’s right. And I think it’s important to also note that there’s a lot of freedom on the other side of that, you know that all that you were holding inside was probably maybe weighing you down or affecting how you felt, and then trying to avoid addressing that uncomfortable feeling or the sad feelings. It’s always still within you, weighing on you and keeping you from really being free of that and feeling that sense of peace. 

Deborah: Do you ever go on writing retreats?

Sherri: I have that as a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. I have been on retreats that are very interactive, in that they were less introspective and more about learning the craft, and networking, and connecting with fellow writers. So, I have always wanted to go on a retreat that was a little more. I love that women’s fiction writers experience. But I think it would be a fully different experience to have the retreat that’s really just time set aside, to be quiet and to write. There’s actually a group here in Pennsylvania, it’s actually called the Mindful Writer’s Retreat. And that is on my list of things to hopefully do. The group comes together for meals. But other than coming together for a common meal that shared, it’s quiet. It’s a quiet experience. There are hiking trails or walking in nature. I think they do have a morning meditation, that’s optional, but the goal is just to be in that shared space and that shared silence with other people and allow that creative muse to just come out and be free. And try to be in that moment instead of you know, focusing on conversation, or connecting, or learning craft and really just see how that creativity will speak to you in that type of environment. 

Deborah: Sounds blissful. It sounds like sinking yourself in a warm bath. 

Sherri: Yes. So, if I ever get there, I will let you know. They do four a year, one each season. And so, the timing hasn’t been right. I’ve still got children at home. So, the timing hasn’t been right for me yet. But when my oldest heads off to university, I’m hoping that might be something I can put into the schedule. 

Debotrah: I was just thinking there’ll be listeners here, authors who perhaps have young children – they might be working full Time and caring for young children. They’re probably thinking, If I just had 15- 20 minutes to myself it would be blissful.

Sherri: Exactly. Time is … the most elusive element of time – that we’re always trying to work everything else around. And it’s always shifting. It’s always different.

Deborah: You do lots of physical training, which compliments the yoga, doesn’t it? 

You know the Ironman and the triathlon. Remind me what the Ironman is? Is it? No, tell me what tell me what the Ironman is. I think I know but please tell me. 

Sherri: Ironman technically is the brand name for an ultra-distance triathlon. So, there are ultra-different distance triathlons that are the same in physical aspect that aren’t necessarily called the Ironman, but that’s sort of the gold standard for what is a two-and-a-half-mile swim 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles on the bike, and then a full marathon at the end. 

Deborah: Wow, you must be incredibly fit.

Sherri: Physical Fitness is important to me, for my own wellbeing. I’ve always shaped it around how it makes me feel and never about how it makes me look. That was very important. Raising my daughters – for us in our house eating is for nourishment and exercise is for health and wellbeing and not to fit a certain image or size or anything like that.

So yes, I think it’s almost an extreme. Ironman training was a challenge. 

I had three children in four years. And I was just looking to make sure that that wasn’t going to be the only thing that was defining me. And it was something my husband and I did together. I don’t know how couples do that survive that with only one. Because it’s very time consuming. It is like a part time job. And while other couples might be going out to dinner, and a movie for a date night, which is lovely. We often were having a babysitter, and going for a swim and a bike ride. And that was how we spent our time together. But I loved it. I’m so grateful for that experience. 

But after 10 years, it was too much. And that was one of those moments where I was listening to myself and my body – on the other side of it was starting to break down a little bit. There was a lot of fatigue, physically, emotionally. And I knew it was time for me to take a step back and, and really make sure I was again, just focusing on it for my own enjoyment and fulfilment and not time goals, and speed goals, and distance goals. And so, that’s where I am right now. I don’t even wear a GPS watch. I don’t want to know how fast I’m going or how far. I just go out on the trails in the woods and nature and just run because it feels good.

Deborah: There’s a parallel there for people surviving the writing journey. There is what feels like a marathon, especially when people start out and haven’t even written the first draft – writing a book and getting it published. That is like surviving a marathon. And then the wanting to do better, better, better. The bit about looking at how are your sales? comparing yourself to others? I can see lots of parallels there with the writing journey. What What can you take from your experience as an athlete to help writers to sustain that journey?

Sherri: There are so many parallels there. I think probably the best way to start that conversation is that it’s never wise to just wake up one day and go out and run a marathon. You don’t go from zero to 26.2 miles. Without the training, without the patience, without putting in the time. You need to set a goal for yourself. And there’s so many steps to take before that goal.

Creating a training plan, creating a progression that makes sense. The little steps along the way to achieve that ultimate goal is to develop strength and patience and realise that there’s going to be setbacks and obstacles and that doesn’t take you off of your course to the point that you won’t be able to achieve your goal but to just recognise they will be there and kind of have a plan on how to deal with those things when you come off course. Not to look back to keep moving forward. 

When I was training for Ironman, there were two golden rules. One was that you never skip rest day. There always had to be a rest day. And the other was that you didn’t try to make up workouts that you missed, you kept moving forward. So, you didn’t deviate from that plan in that way. You just kept looking to the ultimate goal.

And enjoy. Remember to enjoy the journey. The goal is just one part of the whole experience. But there’s so many moments of joy and things to appreciate along the way. It’s important to keep that in sight as well. 

Deborah: Some absolute gems in there. Just thinking about the setbacks. When we get setbacks, when you are disappointed, you can experience rejection, you think you’re going down one route, and then it doesn’t happen for you the way you thought it would. That’s really hard for writers. They might then start to feel imposter syndrome, or It’s never going to happen for me and get disheartened. But you’re saying, accept those setbacks just as you do as an athlete. Are there any words of advice you can give  for people going through that emotional turmoil? 

Sherri: Oh, absolutely, definitely stay flexible, and open minded. But I think the important things – I wrote a blog article, and I’m able to send you the link to it about Seven Tips For Writing Success and Sanity. And a couple of those in there were, first to write the book that you want to write. There’s so many different expectations in the industry, or maybe there’s a fad genre, like when Twilight came out, there was suddenly vampire books everywhere. And that’s it’s so rapidly changing. I think it’s really important for an author to tell the story that’s within them, that wants to come out. And stay true to that, and know that there will be readers for that story, people who want to read that book, and publishers who want to publish that book. And it might take some time to find the right home for that work. 

I think there’s a difference between taking craft advice and making the work the best it can be, versus completely changing the story that you want to write. So, I think it’s important to stay true with that. And if it’s helpful at all, it took 11 years for my first book that we published – 11 years from the point that I had the spark of inspiration when I knew what I wanted to write about to actually putting that book out in the world. It is a little different than traditional women’s fiction. Some of the rejections I received were because publishers weren’t necessarily comfortable with a controversial ending in my book. And it was a risk they maybe weren’t willing to take with an unknown or a new author. I might have been able to find a publisher sooner, if I had changed the way the book ended. But I really wanted to stay true to the story. Embrace what was unique about it and different about it. And I did eventually find a very supportive home for that book. And that’s What’s left Untold (link to buy). 

Deborah: Yes.  Excellent. I will sure that we there are links to your author page and the book in the in the show notes so people can find out more. And you’ve had great success with it. 

Sherri: Thank you. I was so excited. One of the high points of the journey, for sure was when the book hit the USA Today bestseller list. So that was a really exciting moment. It was a difficult time in the midst of the pandemic to release a book as a debut author was not able to meet in person, you know, with readers and with bookstores, the way I always imagined it would be. The moment that I learned about the USA Today list, I was out on a boat with my husband celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary and we always envisioned we would be in in Italy, cycling the Amalfi Coast. And of course, that didn’t couldn’t happen at that time. So, we were kind of just in a remote location on a boat by ourselves. And I got word, you know, I didn’t even have reception on my phone some of the time. And so, it was a really unique and exciting moment to learn that.

Deborah:  Fantastic. I’m so happy for you, and 11 years. So, what advice would you give yourself when you were going through times thinking, This, is never going to happen for me? What advice would you give your younger self looking back?

Sherri: Definitely. It would be to never, never give up. Never give up on the story and never give up on the process. It should be a labour of love. I don’t know that there’s any reason an author should want to write a book that’s any greater than – it’s just because they have a story they want to tell, and they want to share it with others. I definitely didn’t set out to make any lists or win an award or, you know, even sustain myself as a full-time career. I just wanted to enjoy the creative process of writing. And so, it was frustrating, because I do think – one of Stephen King’s – he has a book called On Writing. And one of his tips is to write every day, even if it’s only 15 minutes write every day. And that was a very hard thing for me to do. But I could see the value in it, because the longer I would be away from the story, the more disconnected I felt from it, and had to go backtrack, to kind of get back into the pace, in the spirit of the story. So that’s definitely if writers can find the discipline to just do a little bit each day, and try to keep connected with the momentum of the story, just to never give up, it will happen. If it’s meant to happen, it’s going to happen. If it’s a passion of your heart, and your spirit, it’ll get there and there’s not a deadline on it. 

Deborah: I believe that. I believe that if you’ve got a passion for anything, whether it’s to write a book or music, whatever it is, it’s in your heart, it’s in your heart for a reason. And when you listen, you go inward, and you listen, that’s what your soul wants you to do. And if that’s what you’ve got to do, then as you say, it’s going to happen. It may not happen the way you expect it to, or in the timescale you want it to, but it will happen. And I always say trust the journey.

Sherri: Trust the journey. And what a journey it is!

Deborah: How do you relax? Maybe you find your physical exercise  a way to relax, but your life sounds very, very full. How do you self-care?

Sherri: I do get do something physical every day. That is a non-negotiable for me – every day, even if it’s just 30 minutes, I do something. And if I’m very protective of my personal time, in terms of finding a work life balance. I’ve learned to be very strong in protecting that space. And to say no, it’s okay to say no.

I try not to work in the evenings. And I try not to work on the weekends, because that’s the time with my family. And I need that downtime away from work. And that’s one of the things I remind myself all the time, kind of dovetailing back to your previous question. I take time to remind myself that I already have everything I need. I have my health, I have my family, I have love. And those are the most important things above all, above all of these other things. And those are the things I want to make sure that I continue to nourish. So, I definitely take breaks and make sure I protect that. That special time with my husband and my kids is precious. 

Deborah: Thank you. That’s great.

Sherri: Before we leave any other any other words of wisdom you want to pass on to any listeners? 

Sherri: Oh my goodness. I definitely think – just you know, enjoy the ride is a big thing.  To let go of the guilt and the ‘shoulds.’ One thing that I always say to my kids is to sleep on it. Everything always is better in the morning, being tired and having a muddled brain that’s just exhausted after a day of stress and doing so many things and trying to be everything to so many people. It can get overwhelming and it can put things out of perspective and seem a much bigger problem than it might be. 

One of the visualisations I use in my yoga class is to let my students acknowledge anything that’s worrying them any troubles or concerns, acknowledge that it’s there, and then actually visualise putting it inside a drawer and closing the drawer and putting it away. It’s not lost. It’s not forgotten. It’s not overlooked. But it doesn’t have to be dealt with right in that minute. You can come back to it when you have a better perspective, when you’ve had some rest.  When you’ve had a break. And then you might find solutions that that weren’t available before in that moment of stress.

Deborah: I’m glad I asked you for the final gem of advice because that’s a wonderful one. I love that one. Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure talking to you, Sherry. 

Deborah: It’s been so wonderful to talk to you as well, Deborah. Thanks so much for having me here today.

You can connect with Sherri to find out more:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sherrileimkuhlerauthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sherri.leimkuhler/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SherriLeimkuhl1

Website: http://www.sherrileimkuhler.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20290080.Sherri_Leimkuhler

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/sherri-leimkuhler

Amazon Authors: https://www.amazon.com/Sherri-Leimkuhler/e/B0882Y5KY9

I hope you enjoyed that episode as much as me. We may never achieve the Ironman but surviving this writer’s journey with a calm and quiet mind takes stamina, resilience, and patience. How do you keep your sanity? I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line at dkauthor@btinternet.com or leave a comment on the blog/podcast.

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

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

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

How to rewrite the story of your life with author and life coach Matthew Williams

In this eight episode of The Mindful Writer Author and Life coach Matthew Williams tells me how he wrote himself out of what he describes as a shit place to write himself a better life story. Although Matthew hit rock bottom in his personal life he used this experience to create something amazing.

Before we launch into the interview I will update you on my writing journey.

After escaping Covid for more than two years it finally caught up with me. Like many others I picked up the virus whilst on holiday. To be precise Sherman, my husband contracted it on the last day of our holiday and I caught it from him four days later.

It is 14 days since I tested positive. One week in I tested negative and thought right – I’m fit. Back to work! I thought I had recovered 100% and wanting to make up for lost time threw myself into work and catching up on social engagements. Two days later I had an almighty migraine.

It is hard to let go of a busy agenda and resign ourself to what is. Being unwell filled me with appreciation for my usual state of good health and gratitude for the scientists who developed a vaccine and those who administered it.

We cannot control the things that happen to us only how we react to them. Matthew Williams is an incredible example of this. In this week’s podcast he tells me how he was compelled to share his story with the world so that others could journey with him from what was a very dark place.

Let me introduce you.

Matthew Williams is an author, public speaker, and life coach. In this episode he tells me:

How writing took him from a ‘shit place’ to achieving remarkable things

How you can change the story of your life by taking control of the pen.

Matthew Williams

You can listen to the podcast here: Episode eight How to rewrite the story of your life

Or read the transcript below:

Deborah: Hi, Matthew. 

Matthew: Hi there.

Deborah: I’m particularly interested in exploring with you today your story, how you journeyed from what you describe as ‘a shit place,’ to where you are now as an author, speaker and coach. So welcome.

Matthew: Thank you very much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here. And like you said, describing where my journey, my story started – it’s, yeah, it’s a long way away from there. And to have the opportunity to be sat here speaking as an author when it seemed like a million miles away. So yeah, it’s great to be here.

Deborah: Excellent. And we’re going to explore that with you because you have had a remarkable journey. But let’s just start with telling us about the significant changes in your life, which were a divorce, and struggles with mental health, which led you to becoming a published author, and an active campaigner for mental health, and setting up an online course to help others change their story. 

Matthew: Yes, so my blog was where it all started really. That was, where are we now? So back in December 2015. So maybe seven years ago now. And it was a year on well, over a year on, from a marriage breakup. We’d been together 20 years, and married for nearly nine of those. And, and the year following the breakup I thought I was kind of running on adrenaline really. And again, all this is kind of, in hindsight, but once the initial kind of shock, you know, shock of what was happening – you have to start looking forward and obviously how your life is gonna be. I think then your focus is on the immediate term, and the practical things, you need to get sorted out – find somewhere to live – all of this kind of thing. I think the biggest thing for me is adjusting to the changes with my kids, my children. So, you know, from being there every day to suddenly not being there was very difficult. But like I say, I was mostly taken up with those kinds of practicalities. 

I met someone and so, you know, one of the things I really found difficult was not being in that kind of family unit anymore. It was something that had always been very important to me. So, you know, I met someone and I felt that I kind of had that again. But you know, it’s such a tumultuous time. That relationship didn’t last – about 10 months. It was kind of a few months after that ended. And that was all very amicable. We were in different places, really. 

It was one night in December 2015, when a lot of things kind of hit me all at once. You know, my ex-wife was kind of moving on with her life with a new partner and my ex-girlfriend was the same, and then you know, facing my first Christmas on my own and yeah, it was just a lot of things hit me all at once. I felt shit to put it mildly. It was not a nice time. 

But it was really strange that I was in this hotel one evening, I was working away and I just felt compelled to write about it. And I’ve never, never done anything like that before. I mean, I’ve always been an avid reader, but I never thought that I could write. I just felt compelled to. That’s the only way I can describe it. I just knew I had to put it, put it down on paper. Type it on the screen and So I did. That evening, I just wrote how I was feeling and what I was going through at that particular time, downloaded the blogging app and published it, and so there wasn’t really a huge amount of thought, I just did it. And I had no idea what to expect. 

But, you know, I got really encouraging feedback from people. I was obviously able to articulate what I was experiencing in a way that connected with people. And then, once I’d started, it just didn’t stop it. Again, I felt compelled to do this. There was loads more stuff I wanted to say. The mental health side of things – now, it was something I had already experienced twice, by this point. So, in 2006, and in 2013, I’d had some really difficult struggles with depression. And so, when my marriage ended, that was kind of at the back of my mind that obviously, I didn’t want to go back there. And same for over for over a year, I like to say, I’ve been kind of going on adrenaline or whatever, I’ve never felt any sign that I was slipping back. But at that point, it when I started writing I knew I was struggling, so it helped me really kind of process things. And so, I didn’t set out to write about mental health, you know, but I realised that it was such a big part of what formed me that I had to. It was about my third post that, I wrote about having suffered with depression. And again, that had a really big impact with people. I got opportunities to write and publish on different websites and things and yeah, I guess, I found my voice. I found what I was passionate about. It’s such an alien experience to go through, you know, a severe episode with your mental health. And to find that I could articulate this in a way that people understood and could relate to, you know, I realised it was something that I needed to use and make the most of really. As I say, I wanted to help people. And so yeah, through that I got involved in campaigning – various campaigns working for big charities. And, and that whole process led to the creation of my on-line course.

Deborah: Excellent. Let’s just stop there to unpick a few things there. Listening to you – it’s a really emotional journey. And you wrap it up as if it happened just like that. But it must have been incredibly painful time for you. And the growth, the emotional courage that you had to survive that and the growth you went through, to get from where you were to where you are now is incredible. And I just wanted to talk to you about a couple of things. One is that point where you were in a really dark place, which you describe as a shit place – which I think is a great way to describe it – from that shit place you had this sense of purpose, I need to write this down. And I just wanted to explore with you how that feeling of purpose drove you and reflecting back, what your thoughts are about the things that drive us to do what’s in our heart? What is it that leads us to do these things? And how do we listen to them and act on them? Perhaps just explore that with you a bit?

Matthew: It was a really emotional time and experience. Initially, I had a bit of an argument with my parents, my dad in particular. Back then, I was putting stuff out there that was very raw. And, you know, and they were my parents and were kind of concerned about me, a lot of people were, you know, seeing what I was writing. And what, yeah, I did, I felt driven to do.  But initially, I think it was a really good way of me processing what I was going through and I, you know, my dad said, ‘Why can’t you just write about it? Why does it have to be public?’  And I really had to reflect on that because I’ve never been someone that wanted the limelight or attention. But I felt a real need to put it out there and I questioned myself about that. And what I realised was that by writing about it, I had to find a meaning for it. I had to find a purpose for it. It couldn’t just be, oh, look, I’m going through a shit time, you know. It had to mean something. And so, I had to find positives. I had to find a way of reframing it so that’s what I wanted to put out there. And this may be weird as well but I had a sense, right from the start that it was significant. When I started writing that it was a significant moment in my life, and it was going to mean something. And I just knew it. Even though I was in a really bad place, even though I’d never written anything before – I didn’t think, you know, I’m gonna be this great writer – I just had a sense that it was going to mean something. And one of the things that drove me one of the things that drove me

is that, at some level, I had this sense again – it’s not like I was consciously thinking, This is what’s going to happen. But somewhere, it was almost like, if I show myself at this real low ebb where I’m feeling vulnerable, exposed, and, and all of that kind of thing. At some point, there’s going to be a point at which to say, look, what all that led to. It was because of all that this happened. And by exposing myself in real time, it was almost like, people would see that. And people would know that yeah, you know, whatever- good does come out of it they’ve seen all the crap that happened for me to get there. That these things don’t just magically happen. There’s always a real struggle behind it. Again, not saying that, you know, I ever imagined some great pinnacle that I’d be on. But, you know, amazing things have happened.

I guess, it’s been difficult, again, isn’t that things, you know suddenly everything kind of falls in your lap. By being out there and putting yourself out there and making the connections that enables this because you’re coming from a place that is real, and people identify with that. I just felt a drive to do that.

Deborah: You’ve put that very well. And as you’re speaking it through, it sounds as if you are doing exactly what you say you do – you talk about changing your story. And as you’re talking about the process of writing down what’s happening to you with the faith that it would all turn out, okay, you’re kind of taking control of your story and writing it. But you’re doing it very publicly, which took a lot of courage to expose yourself in that way, which we’ll talk about. But you’re also sharing a narrative that other people can identify with. And you went out there doing that with a faith that it would end up okay. And it has, which is remarkable.

Matthew: Yeah, and that to be honest, that’s been one of the things that my struggles with mental health taught me. You asked about – I can’t remember exact wording, but you said something about people in a similar situation. But it wasn’t that… I’m trying to think how to put it. It’s almost that you have to strip away what’s stopping you doing it. So, again, I felt a need and a compulsion to do it. The challenge is then, do you take that step? And to me that’s about stripping away. I think a lot of people are held back from their potential because they are scared of what other people will think, or scared of failing, you know, whatever expectations people have on them and how they should live. And so, it’s more about removing the things that are stopping you. Because I think inside us, you know, that it’s there – you have to kind of uncover it and clear away the crap. It’s there in us and, and for me, it was actually my experiences with depression that helped me to do that, because it kind of freed me from fear and other people’s expectations because where it took me too and how bad it was – nothing can be worse than that nothing. And, you know, when I was in this room, and I could barely move, it didn’t matter what anyone else thought about me all that mattered was whether I could somehow find a way out of it. And at that time, I didn’t think I could, but I did. So, having got through that I wasn’t going to let what someone else thought of me stop me from living my life. Because when it comes down to it, when you’re in those places, you know, there’s no one around. There was no one who could drag me out of it but myself. And so yeah, it’s given me a great a trusting and faith that I can push through things because what I’ve already been through is, you know, nothing can be worse than that. 

Deborah: And doing it once and getting that reinforcement that yes, this works. I can push through and achieve. It gives you more confidence and faith to do it again. So, you go on a positive trajectory, don’t you? It just gets better and better.

Matthew: Yes, absolutely. And it’s interesting you say that you know about fear. For me, one of the things I realised was that I think I’d always thought that I’ve been lucky. And I was constantly thinking, what if my luck runs out? But then I’m 47 now, and I’ve got enough life experience behind me to be able to trust more that things always have worked out, and not only has the crap time gone away, but something good has come out of them. So, I feel more that I can hang on to that. It’s always with me now. And that sense that at some point, my luck will run out – I don’t feel that now. I think there’s so much more at play. And a big part of it is knowing who you are and trusting your gut, your instinct and eradicating those fears and the blocks that hold you back. And yeah, I guess I trust in that a lot more now.

Deborah: In your online course Change Your Story, you work with other people to help them change their story. Can you tell us a little about that? The sorts of things that hold other people back and how you help them to tackle those obstacles just as you did?

Matthew: Yes. I’ve done a lot of work over the years. My career previously I was in sport, but I very much work with people on self-development, personal development.

And then I did the same in mental health for a while.  A lot of people found it difficult to articulate their strengths, and would often underplay – downplay, their strengths and minimise them. Almost taking them for granted. Not even recognise them – you know, that’s just something they could do. And, you know, I think we’ve got this thing certainly in the UK, I think that we do that – kind of apologetic about the things that we can do well, especially if it’s something that we haven’t had to work at. But actually, there’s this focus that we identify weaknesses and try and get rid of them. I think well, one is the thing about knowing your strengths, and are you making the most of your strengths? And then that’s where, you know, you really live a kind of rich life where you’re using those strengths and can use them to help others in particular and that, is very fulfilling and rewarding. And also, reframe your weaknesses as, just characteristics, attributes. And what might be a weakness in one situation can be a strength in another. So again, it all came back for me as about being in the right story. Like you’re using the analogy of you being the leading actor in a story of your life. Well, that story needs to be the right story for you. And if it isn’t, that can cause a lot of mental distress and potentially mental illness. And so, I sum it up as like you wouldn’t put Rocky in a romcom – boxing is my kind of big thing – because it doesn’t fit the character. And that seems to resonate with people. 

I think we often do drift in life and this is what happened with me, it was divorce, and mental health. It’s when things come along, that just shake you out of that and drifting along just isn’t an option anymore. Certainly, for me, clearly the mental health because you’re just not yourself anymore. I really questioned a lot of these things, who you are and what you’re doing in your life? So yeah, and I think that the analogy of a story, it puts some distance – it helps people to view their life more objectively and see things differently. We get very tied to the stories we tell ourselves. And the idea is that, well, it is just a story. And you’ve got the pen and you can rewrite it. Again, I think that’s an analogy that people can relate to. And it’s really interesting the realisations people have – little light bulb moments. You know, say I’ve done my job, when people have those lightbulb moments, but it’s true –  I’ve given them a framework to look at things differently.

Deborah: I love that framework. I read somewhere, that at the end of your life, you’ll look back, and your story will all make complete sense. And being an author myself, that really resonates with me, because as writers, we put our protagonist through hell, but we know they’re going to have their happy ending. And all the little breadcrumbs we drop in our stories of things happening, that the protagonist has to pick up on to find where they’re meant to go, that happens to us in our lives. And it’s only when we can see that– just as you were able to go inwards, and pick up what it was you wanted to do, and understand who you were and what your story needed to be. And so, it’s only when we do that, we kind of pick up all the hints around us which are leading us in the right direction, if only we open our eyes, heart, ears and listen.

Matthew: Definitely. And it. Was writing that really taught me that and writing my own story. It is amazing how you recognise threads and themes in your life. And again, this is something that became part of my programme about, you know, What’s the plot of your story to date? It reveals things about how, again, how we view our life and what we’re capable of in life. And yeah, it was amazing how, again, different things, you know, seemingly disparate events suddenly form part of a bigger whole.

The quote that sums all that up for me from Steve Jobs, and it opens my book about the connecting the dots. That you can only connect the dots looking backwards. So, you’ve got to trust in something. And you’ve got to trust that those dots will connect in the future. And so, you have to have faith in something, whether it be your gut, intuition, God the Universe, wherever it is, but you have to trust that something is leading you to that. And that is so powerful to me. I think it echoes in everything that I do, really that, you know, that idea that whatever is happening, finding some sense of meaning and purpose from it and turning it into something that, again, where there’s a moment in which I yeah, that’s why that happened.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future

Steve Jobs

Deborah: There’s some wonderful insightful gems there, which I’m looking forward to sharing with listeners. I will give the Steve Jobs reference in the show notes, and a link to your on-line course Change Your Story.

Before you go, can you share with us your words of wisdom? What is the key thing – you’ve told us about sharing the story, can you put that into a mantra or something that listeners can take with them?

Matthew: Oh, the big thing for me is that we as a species, we’re storytellers. We create narratives around everything that happens in our life, who we are, our relationships to others. All of that is a story that we tell ourselves. And the question is who, who is holding the pen? And who is writing that story? Are you consciously creating the story of your life? Or are you allowing it to be written for you by other people’s expectations – by a particular person in your life, whether it be a partner, a parent, an employer? Are you handing the pen to somebody else? At any point, you can take that pen and you can create your story. And so what this is about – it’s about taking more control over the pen that writes your story.  And talk about plot twists – you can’t control everything, and the last couple years have shown that more than more than most, I guess. But we can always choose how we respond to it. And again, and we can use the lessons from those changes to take a new direction, to learn new things about ourselves, to become more who we’re meant to be. And it all comes back to that. You taking control of the pen and you deciding which direction your story’s going to go in.

Deborah: Excellent. Thank you. 

Matthew: That’s a bit of a long mantra that.

Deborah: No, no, you’ve said it very well. Take control in writing your own story. Perfect. Thank you, Matthew.

Matthew: You’re welcome. Thank you.

Links from Matthew:

For information on Knock Out Depression please visit my website: https://changeyourstory.org.uk/KODepression/

Visit my Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Matthew-Williams/e/B074QRTXWV/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/matthewwilliamskodepression

How has writing transformed your life? I know that I would not have gone through a journey of self discovery had I not experienced disappointment and frustration on my writing journey. I would not have started my blog or this podcast. I would not have met amazing guests from across the world or connected with you. Writing brings us so much more than the end product of a book.

I would love to hear from you. You can write to me at dkauthor@btinternet.com or leave a message here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to be Open to Possibility with author C.D’Angelo

In this third episode of The Mindful Writer, Indie author C.D’Angelo tells me about her writing journey, how she overcame disappointment to embrace new opportunities and found unexpected treasures.

But first, an update on my writing journey. Whilst two of my unpublished manuscripts are doing the rounds as I seek a publishing contract, I have been thinking about my next novel. Like most authors I have been collecting ideas, so many stories to tell – but none of them felt right. Sometimes you have to wait for the right time to write a particular novel.

My thoughts kept going back to an image I saw several years ago of a sunken village in Yorkshire. The spire of a church was visible in the middle of a reservoir. I knew I had to write about that village.

I did some research and found that it was situated in a hard to reach place – for me anyway, as I was travelling by public transport. A series of amazing events led me to a wonderful woman who lived just three miles from the sunken village. Not only did this stranger open up her home to me but she volunteered her services and those of her friends to help me in my research. I will be spending a few days in North Yorkshire at the end of July, and will tell you more then. It really does show that miraculous things can happen when you open up your mind and heart to new possibilities. Which leads me on to this week’s interview with author C.D’Angelo.

C.D’Angelo

C.D’Angelo is author of The Difference and The Visitor. See links below to buy.

https://books2read.com/TheDifferenceCDAngelo

https://books2read.com/TheVisitorCDAngelo

In this week’s episode C.D’Angelo tells me:

Why we must be open to possibilities and not attach ourselves to one particular outcome.

How to build meaningful connections with other writers using social media.

Listen to the Podcast here: Episode Three

Or read the transcript below:

Deborah: C. D’Angelo. I’m so happy to welcome you to the Mindful Writer Podcast. Your debut, The difference, was published last year, and your second novel, The Visitor is published this week. So happy publication day! It’s important to celebrate each step of the journey to publication, you know, from whether it’s writing a difficult chapter or completing the first draft.

I wonder if you can tell us about some of the highs and lows in your journey to publication and what you’ve learned about yourself in the process? 

C. D’Angelo: Oh yes. There are many highs and lows. First of all, with The Difference, I had a shift in how it was going to be published that I had to manoeuvre kind of at the last minute.

And I ended up self-publishing, which was not expected. So, dealing with that change was really difficult and actually making the decision to do that instead of waiting, God knows how long, for another agent or publisher, or whatever, was a very difficult one. And I made sure that I: wrote out choices, talked to people in the field, talked to my friends and family, really did some soul searching and figured out what’s the most important thing. It was not the way it was published – just that it was published to me at that point. So that is, that was, the hardest thing so far for me, but I am really glad that I moved forward and I have no regrets about it because now it’s out in the world and it’s been bringing people pleasure.

And, and so, you know, there’s always going to be highs and lows even much more minor than that. I mean, just last week I thought, oh gosh, I’m still, you know, stuck at a certain level of review numbers. And I wish that I could have more reviews and things like that. You know, everyone who’s an author thinks about, but then, you just keep pushing and you keep doing what you’re doing.

I’m going to stick to me. I’m going to stick to what I do and it’s going to come. I believe that.

Deborah: Really interesting. A couple of things I want to pick up there. One is about that heartache, that heartache and disappointment that all authors go through when they have a submission, a query out there with agents, or a submission with publishers. We kind of give the responsibility for our happiness over to somebody else.

C. D’Angelo: Yes.

Deborah: We put everything, don’t we, on whether or not you’re going to choose me? It’s like, Choose me, choose me. And all of the feelings that you have of rejection when you’re not chosen. You did a brave thing, you said, Well, it’s not going to happen that way – traditional publishing on this occasion, therefore I’m going to take another route independently publishing.

 I think that sometimes we can get too focused on one particular outcome it is the be-all and end-all and we put all of our hope into it. And that can be so destructive, can’t it?

C. D’Angelo:  Oh yes. It actually in the end does not matter because when you’re a reader reading a book, are you really looking to see where it came from?

No, you’re just enjoying the story. And so, us on the other side, the authors, you know, we get so swept up in these ideas and the way that we thought it should be and all of that stuff. And it can really do damage to your mindset and your self-esteem because yeah, that rejection, that’s hard to face all the time.

You know, to be successful, you have to keep pushing, but you will have those moments as well. That’s just human. 

Deborah: Absolutely. I went through a similar journey to yours, which we’ve shared in the past. I too was thinking I was going to get a traditional publishing deal and then took the option of going to be independently published. I have absolutely no regrets. I’d like to be hybrid published in the future (both traditional and indie) because I can see all the options have opportunities within them. But it meant that my father got to see the book that had a dedication to him and my mother in the front before he died. And he was so proud. He showed everyone in the care home. ‘My daughter wrote this, my daughter wrote this.’ I know that he had dementia but he knew very well that he was telling everyone again, and again, he’d say, ‘I’ve probably told you this, but my daughter…’

C. D’Angelo:  That is the sweetest story. Oh my gosh. That’s … see that’s everything.  That was meant to be. 

Deborah: Absolutely. So no, no regrets on that. And like you, I know I’ve seen on your social media feeds, you’ve been to book shops where you’ve signed, you’ve had wonderful responses from readers and that’s so uplifting too, isn’t it? 

C. D’Angelo: Yes. That means so much to me. I wrote the story The Difference just, you know, needing to get that story out there, but it is a very deep story for me because really, isn’t in honour of my grandpa and his immigration to the US and all the implications of that. 

But also, I have a lot of mental health issues in there because I’m also a mental health therapist. And so I knew people could relate to it, but I didn’t really think about it on that deep of a level. I just thought, ‘I think people will like it, you know, but people’s response to, it has been extremely heart-warming, especially with the mental health aspect. People are very much relating and even saying, Thank you. I feel heard. I feel seen. And you treated anxiety in such a real way. Whereas in a lot of other books it’s not. And, you know, cause I, I can get all the innuendos cause, I’ve been doing therapy for 20 years. And I’m an anxious person myself, but anyways, so yeah. It’s been such a great pleasure to be able to have that feedback. Some people that I didn’t really think about ahead of time, you know, you’re just on a mission to get it done, get it out there, but this is a true joy in, in having the book published.

Deborah: Absolutely. You were saying about people felt that they’d been heard. Again, I draw a parallel because as I’ve told you before my professional background was an occupational therapist, and then I worked in writing serious case reviews and domestic homicide reviews. So, I was listening to people who’ve been through a lot of pain, who were often on the outskirts of society. And their voices are in your head. 

I feel that if I have a mission in life, right back from when I was an occupational therapist through my whole career, and now I’m an author; If my purpose has been anything, it’s listening with empathy and giving voice to people whose voice feels unheard. And that’s another way we can do that. Not just in our professional lives, but as authors.  Not intentionally, I never set out to write a book to show people this or that. It’s just those voices get in your head and you feel like you’re still doing a service in making sure they’re recognized, and seen, and heard.

C. D’Angelo: Yeah. And it’s really interesting because it brings me to this idea of just being open to possibility. Which you can’t, you can’t predict what’s going to happen along this journey, and so, don’t even try. Just kind of go along with it and, and keep trying your best, you know? But these great things come that you didn’t expect, that you didn’t plan for, and it’s sometimes even better than you thought.

And it’s interesting because in The Visitor, my second book, there’s kind of a theme in there of a certain character – I literally write, Be open to possibility, because that’s so meaningful to me now.

Pexels – Pixabay

Deborah: Tell me more

C. D’Angelo:  In the visitor, I have a character that I have reflecting on being open to possibility and I mentioned it a few times in there. It’s kind of like a scene for her. So that. really hit me with the first book’s journey: Just be open to possibility. And so, I made sure I integrated that into this second book, The Visitor.

Deborah:  That’s a wonderful mantra, to be open to possibility. It’s true. And that’s one of the most wonderful things about this writer’s journey – when you open yourself up, with an open heart and mind, a generous spirit, the things that come to you are unimaginable sometimes far greater than you would have dreamed for yourself. It’s incredible.

C. D’Angelo: Definitely.

Deborah: And the way those little links and connections are made, that lead you down a path, or bring people to you. I mean, you and I would never have met had you not contacted me about my last podcast, Castaway Books books. 

C.D’Angelo: I enjoyed that. 

Deborah: And it’s a wonderful connection – you introduced me to the Author Talk Network.

We’ve had some fabulous guests from there and I’ve met some amazing women. So, all of those opportunities that bring new networks and new opportunities into your life. It’s incredible. 

C.D’Angelo: It is. I love that you’ve been talking to the Author Talk Network people. They’re wonderful. I’m so happy to be part of that. And also, this writing community has just been such a huge addition to my life. I mean, I now have people that I talk to all the time and consider friends, even though I haven’t met them in person, you know, it’s the funniest thing to me, but they are best friends at this point.

I love how we can communicate and support each other on Twitter in a, Like, in a comment. And it’s just fun to keep that connection. So again, had no idea that that would happen when I started this journey. 

Deborah: I know I’ve been so impressed by the writing community and social media, because I didn’t really get into all of this until the beginning of the pandemic, beginning of 2020 when I decided to indie publish and thought, I’d better dip my toes in the Twitter and Facebook world et cetera. I wasn’t expecting to find such a generous, supportive, amazing community, the writers, especially on Twitter. Like you, I’ve made connections and friends. I have zoom chats with people as I’m doing this for our podcast. I can look at you and you’re, you’re in the States and I’m in the UK, but I have other writer friends from around the world and we meet on Zoom. It’s incredible. 

C. D’Angelo: It really is. And especially, I mean I’m of an age where growing up – You were told, Don’t talk to strangers – especially when the internet came around, Don’t talk to strangers on the internet, that’s dangerous. And now it’s this completely different world where some of this is very safe and fine and actually adds a richness to your life. So, it’s really funny to think about the flip side. 

Deborah: I’m older than you and I’m of the generation where this is all very new. I think younger people, they think now, Of course, you do that. They’ve been doing it for years, but it was really only beginning of 2020, I was launched into this world. 

C. D’Angelo: Yeah. Well, me too, really. I mean I was online. I had, you know, social media and things like that, but I wouldn’t talk to people I didn’t know. So I would say it started a little bit before that with the writing community though, because I had started to build my platform, I would say, I think it was 2019, maybe, Oh, 2018 at the end of 18. So yeah, a good solid year before the world teams. 

Deborah: What would you say to people who are listening, who perhaps have only just started writing or are a bit shy of getting involved in the writing community on social media. Where would you say for them to start, if they were just getting involved?

C. D’Angelo: Well, okay. So talking about getting involved, you mean online? 

Deborah: Finding a writing community on online. 

C. D’Angelo: Oh, yes, yes. I knew that having a Facebook account, an Instagram account and a Twitter account were pretty standard. And so, I had already had those, personally. So I thought, Okay, I’m familiar with them I’ll just do that. And then of course I kind of have my favourites now, but I think it was very valuable for me to be on Twitter actually. Using the hashtag writing community. That is what brought me, everyone there. And just, it’s kind of a tradition on that platform, in that community where people will introduce you.

And so maybe someone will see that and say, oh, hi, CD Angelo, welcome to the community. And then they’ll tag other people. So, then they see you’re new and then it carries on.. Literally, that’s how it started on there one kind soul said, Oh, you’re new. Oh, here. Okay. I’m going to introduce you to people. And it just grew from there. And so then, you know, you just start commenting back and forth with people and it, and it really grows before you know it and unpredictably. 

Deborah: I found that the tweet chats have really helped me make meaningful connections with people. I set up one myself, which is #FriSalon for Friday Salon. We meet every Friday using the hashtag #FriSalon. I found that by talking to the same people, or not just same people, because other people would join us, but a whole network of people every week, we got to know each other well. Not only do we meet now once a week, we’ve been beta- readers for each other’s books. We’ve met up on Zoom. They’ve become friends. They always welcome other people in, and now I’m joining in other people’s tweet chats because I think it’s the meaningful connections you make, rather than just surfing – looking at things and commenting. I think when you get involved in tweet chats, you have perhaps more meaningful exchange that can lead to other supportive, fun opportunities amongst writers.

C. D’Angelo: For sure. A long time ago on there, someone that I just would comment back and forth with a lot put me and a few other people into a Twitter group, like in the messages – I don’t know what you call that – it’s like a group chat kind of thing, you know? And we keep in touch every day, all the time. It’s been wonderful. And then some of those people from Twitter in general, not just in the group chat, are also on the other platforms and then you make connections on there.

I think we need, as authors, to support each other and share each other’s work. Be a cheerleader for each other. It really brightens my day when I, all of a sudden, see someone shared a post that I made, that I spent a lot of time on and someone appreciates it, you know? Oh my gosh!

Deborah: Networking is so important to bring new opportunities and open up more possibilities to make friends, and for mutual support. I can’t say strongly enough how important it is to network. 

C. D’Angelo: Oh yes, definitely. But, oh, sorry. I was just going to say, not only for just, you know, the kind of sharing, and everything, of posts, and things that are happening, but the 

non author stuff that goes deeper. The everyday things, the challenges, you know, like just, oh gosh, how do I continue? Or am I good enough for this, you know, kind of the imposter syndrome? Things like that too. I mean, those people really have gotten me through. I just want to add that in, because that is so important.

Deborah: Yes, absolutely. So, C. D’Angelo, if you were to write a letter to your younger self now, perhaps thinking about the time when you had written your first novel and it wasn’t going down the path you expected it to go, what words of wisdom would you impart?

C. D’Angelo:  Trust the process. Have faith that what is, is meant to be, will happen.

If you push sometimes too hard, I think your energy is spent in a place that’s not meant to be. And so sometimes you have to just kind of let go, and then what you want will happen, although maybe in a different way. So, trusting that process, it’s going to happen. Just keep putting in the hard work and you’ll get there.

Deborah:  Such good words of advice. Absolutely.  Trust the journey. Let go and trust the journey. 

C. D’Angelo: Yes. 

Deborah: Very often better things than you envisaged will happen. They’ll happen at the right time, in the right way. 

C. D’Angelo: Exactly. Yes. And that’s hard sometimes to keep in mind when you see some of the things that are happening to other people that you wish would happen to you, you know, and you have to just keep checking yourself and say, That’s okay. It’s not my time yet. It will happen. Or what is meant for me will happen.

Deborah:  Exactly. Don’t compare. We all compare, don’t we? 

C. D’Angelo: Yes. Yes. 

Deborah: It’s not healthy. We will have different journeys for different reasons, which is perfect for us. 

C. D’Angelo: Exactly. I wrote a blog post on this a while ago. I think it was last March. And it’s called Just say no to comparison. We need apples and oranges in the world and so both have their place. Both are beautiful and it’s okay. They’re going to serve different needs. So, we can’t compare. 

You must give me a link so I can put it in the show notes. 

C. D’Angelo: Okay. I will. 

Deborah: Thank you. So how do you look after your wellbeing?  Because you’re working full time and you’re still being a prolific writer, and doing all your marketing and networking. So, how do you find time to do all those things, and how do you self-care?

C. D’Angelo:  Well, as far as the time, I just have to make sure I prioritize what is needed, but also one of the priorities is my self-care.

Getting The Visitor out there, there have been times where I had to spend all of my time when I wasn’t working, including weekends, editing, doing everything needed to make the deadlines for the different editors and the different appointments and things like that. But most times I could at least have the break of a whole Saturday and maybe half a Sunday, and then just spend a little bit of time on Sunday, doing what I need to do.

I make sure that I keep a consistent schedule. I do book things on Sundays, so it may be writing my blog. It may be catching up with a tour guide/ host of the bookish road trip on Facebook and Instagram. And so, I have duties for that. I may do those things on Sundays. Otherwise, I really try to give myself a break all day, Saturday, and hopefully Friday night too.

During the week nights, it depends on what I have to do. Usually, if I’m not in the deep edits of a book, I don’t have to do much book stuff except maybe social media. But that, to me, isn’t a big deal. That’s just, I’m kind of laying on the couch, doing some things on my iPad. So, prioritizing what I need to do for the week, keeping a schedule on my weekend, but also including my self-care.

Deborah: And what is self- care to you? What do you do to self-care? Finding time to relax – but what do you do to relax? 

C. D’Angelo: Yes. Sorry about that. I got lost in my other thoughts. I love to talk with my husband just zone out and read or watch TV or a movie. I do a lot of other types of arts. So sometimes I’ll draw, sometimes I’ll crochet. I have a ukulele that I play. So, those are some other kinds of outlets for me. 

Deborah: Finding time, quality time, to spend with family is also something we have to fit into our schedule, otherwise we can be too insular getting on with our writing every free time we have. And then there’s the danger that when we are with them our brains are working on our books and not giving them our full attention.

C. D’Angelo: That is so true. Yes. Sometimes my husband says we need to talk about other stuff than books stuff, you know? 

Deborah: My husband’s just as bad because he composes music and I will know he’s thinking about the music and not what I’m saying, when I see his fingers playing the piano ne his leg, my thigh, or on the arm rest.

C. D’Angelo: Sure. That’s so funny. Well, that’s what happens when you’re so ingrained in something, you know, you think about it a lot of the time. 

Deborah: Absolutely. It’s been a pleasure talking to you C. D’Angelo and congratulations on The Visitor.  It’s publication this week and there’ll be links to your book and anything else you’ve mentioned in the show notes, because you did mention something else – your blog.

C. D’Angelo: That’s right. Excellent. Thank you.

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

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

How to overcome obstacles or a setback

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

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

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

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

dkauthor@btinternet.com

Now on to the interview ….

Kamina Fitzgerald

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kamina: Wow. 

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

Kamina: Oh, wow. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kamina: That is so true. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kamina: Exactly. I agree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kamina:  Other people suffer.

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

Deborah:  Absolutely. As well as ourselves. 

Kamina:So true. 

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

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

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

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

Deborah: Oh, thank you.

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

Deborah: Excellent. Thank you. 

Kamina: You’re welcome. Goodbye. 

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

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

How to manage Imposter Syndrome and Shifting Goal Posts as a Creative

With Jessica Redland

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 would love to hear from you.

dkauthor@btinternet.com

Now, let me introduce this week’s podcast.

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.

A transcript of the interview is below click here to listen.

Links from show:

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. 

Jessica Redland

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 two and 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

Mark Twain

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. 

Jessica: Definitely.

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
am a writer BECAUSE I WRITE;
Not for how many I’ve sold

You can find out more about Jessica’s books on her website: https://jessicaredlandauthor.com/my-books/

Introducing The Mindful Writer Podcast

Hello, this is Deborah Klee, author of The Borrowed Boy and Just Bea. You might have met me before on my podcast Castaway Books or here on my blog AbraKdeborah. If you have then you will know my fascination with the inner journey of the creative – what drives us, keeps us sane, and helps us to lead our best life.

To be a writer is one of the most rewarding occupations imaginable but the writer’s journey is tough – we need emotional resilience, courage, determination, patience, and self-belief. 

There is a lot of shared wisdom on the craft of writing and how to market our books but not so much on the inner journey. 

NakNakNak – Pixabay

I imagine us all climbing a mountainous hill, a winding path with stopping places to rest. There are some creatives that have journeyed ahead of us and some who follow in our tracks. We support one another: a helping hand, words of encouragement, reflections on how far we have come. 

This podcast is to help writers on that journey – the inner journey, as we experience the highs and lows of a writer’s life together.

Each week I chat with a guest exploring the psychological, emotional, and spiritual journey they have experienced as a writer, the lessons they have learnt – and are continuing to learn. 

We are part of creation, works in progress, striving to become our best self and fulfil our potential. As I talk to other writer’s and reflect on my own experience, I hope to discover how we might find abundance in our creative pursuits, achieving our goals the mindful way.

The themes we might explore include:

  • Starting afresh 
  • Finding time
  • Fear of failure
  • Self-care 
  • Focusing on what is within our control
  • Trusting the journey
  • Being open to possibility and not attaching to one outcome
  • Cyclical living – being in tune with seasonal change
  • Writer’s block
  • Rejection
  • Imposter syndrome 
  • Comparing to others

I have already interviewed several guests for the show and can’t wait to share their words of wisdom with you. They have left me feeling lighter, inspired, and energised. A transcript of each episode will be shared here on my blog when the episode goes live. It will include links for further information, and a summary of the key points. There are so many brilliant tips, I know that this is a resource I will personally return to time and again. 

I hope that you receive the same joy as me when you listen in. Don’t forget to subscribe to The Mindful Writer Podcast. There is no fee but you will be informed when a new episode goes live. The first one is scheduled for the 4th May – fitting for Star Wars Day – May the fourth go with you.

We would love you to join in the conversations by dropping your comments here on this blog or the podcast.

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

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is cover-1.png

How to keep positive when the going gets tough

This morning’s run was not the one I had hoped for. I had it all planned. If I was on the beach by 7.30 am the tide would still be far enough out to run on the sand. I woke naturally at 8.30 am having enjoyed over ten hours of sleep so by the time I hit the beach it was a little after nine and the tide was coming in.

Instead of running across a swathe of uninterrupted sand, the rising tide pushed me further up the beach where wooden groynes divided the beach. I pushed myself to sprint each section and even managed a few hurdles. When it was almost full tide, I challenged myself further by running up and then down the steep slopes linking the upper greensward with the promenade below.

Life is not always what we hope for or expect. I would not have chosen the workout that I experienced this morning. It was hard enough getting out of bed and venturing into the cold but it made me stronger and for that I am grateful.

It is frustrating and disappointing when life does not unfold according to our plans. We rail against a God who doesn’t seem to be listening to our prayers. It is easy to look back with hindsight and understand why things happened as they did but that doesn’t help at the time. Last week I heard two stories both with the same message. The first was a documentary about the life of Julie Andrews.

Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews had great success early in her acting career as Eliza Doolittle in the Broadway production of My Fair Lady. The show continued its success in London. When Jack Warner planned a film production of the musical, Julie Andrews was devastated not to be cast in the leading role. You can imagine how she must have felt – the disappointment, maybe feelings of self-doubt, anger at the injustice of being passed over. I don’t know how long she had to wait before Walt Disney approached her offering the role of Mary Poppins. My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins were both released in 1964. It was the perfect role for Julie Andrews and made her a beloved household name. It is hard to believe when we don’t get what we want and think we deserve that something better awaits us but very often this is the case. We just need patience and faith.

The second story was more recent and closer to home. A bookshop owner and friend experienced a couple of tortuous years fighting to keep her independent bookshop – a treasured community resource alive. A new and ruthless landlord made unreasonable demands. As soon as one demand was met another followed. Although my friend showed determination, courage, and stamina she realised that staying put was not an option. When she was forced to sell the business, my friend took time out to ponder what she would do instead. Now, a year after selling the business, she is a hypnotist practitioner. Yesterday, my friend told me that she couldn’t be happier and wished that she had embarked on this rewarding career sooner.

Peter H – Pixabay

Sometimes, by clinging too hard to what we think should happen we block out the new opportunities waiting to come into our lives.

As we start a new year I have ambitions, and hopes for my writing career. I would love a traditional publishing contract and have held back from independently (indie) publishing my latest works. If I am successful in securing a contract it feels like the easier route. I would be supported by an agent, and a publisher would initially meet the costs of production. Alternatively, I could commit one hundred percent to being an indie author. It is hard work but brings rewards in creative autonomy. At this crossroads, I am keeping all options open. 

I will share my journey with you – the ups and downs. Like this morning’s run, my journey may not be the one I hope for but the challenges will bring their own rewards. And I will try to remember the next time I experience disappointment that something much better could be just around the corner.

How you changed the world last year

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

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

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

Its a Wonderful Life

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

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

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

John Bain – Pixabay

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

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

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

How to accept the things that we cannot change

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

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

S. Hermann & F.Richter – Pixabay

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

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

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

AllNikArt – Pixabay

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

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

Why waiting on God or the Universe is a gift

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

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

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

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

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 1994 film adaptation

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

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

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

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

David and Goliath

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

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

Why you are special

Do you sometimes despair believing that you have no chance of being seen when there is so much competition? Maybe you are a musician, a writer, an actor, or just applying for your dream job and facing one rejection after another. To keep on, keeping on, when it feels the odds are against us is tough. We may start out optimistic and full of energy but to survive one knockback after another requires resilience and determination. There will be times when we question whether our efforts are in vain, after all, there are a million others like us with the same dream. What makes us so special?

We are special because each one of us has been created to fulfil a purpose. We are unique; a precious part of the whole. Imagine the universe. A cosmic system of a billion stars and galaxies, containing all of the energy and matter that there is. Every tiny detail created to work in perfect harmony. It is magnificent – awe-inspiring, and we are part of that universe. 

When I was younger and had several knockbacks in my career, I remember walking on a stony beach. I picked up a pebble and questioned – why that pebble when it might have been any one of the million on that beach? It was chance, so what chance did I have of being picked for my dream job? 

As it happened, the job I thought was right for me was not. When I let go and trusted the universe, I was rewarded with a future that was more than I could have imagined. I truly believe that the great creator of all things has a perfect plan and we just have to let go and trust. So, shine bright and know that you are special. 

The pause between breaths

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

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

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

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

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

Gerd Altmann – Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

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