Are you a planner or a pantser?

51143380_2589351337746758_5364355990256877568_oWriters swear by their own method. Some writers are planners and some writers are pantsers (flying by the seat of their pants). There are no rules, no right way. Everyone does it differently, and don’t listen to anyone that tries to push their rules on you.

Personally, I have to plan. Firstly, I spend a long time not writing, listening to the characters in my head while I’m washing up or driving. But once I’m ready to put words on the page, I plan.⠀

I start with my total word count (e.g. 75,000) divide that by chapters (usually 20 = 3,750 words per chapter) then list what happens in each. Then whatever feels strongest, I write first. It also depends on my mood.

I save my chapters as separate documents so I can jump around, and I write whatever piece of the puzzle is begging to be written at the time.⠀

I don’t necessarily know every detail before I start and I often have massive gaps in my plan but I just fill those in later. I feel like a detective putting all the clues together to see the bigger picture. Its pretty satisfying when I get to the end.

 

How to fight the blank page

51169446_2587433004605258_5697128209515020288_oEveryone knows the term ‘writer’s block’, but there are endless debates over whether it’s a real thing or a myth, if there are cures for it, and if its avoidable.⠀

Personally writer’s block doesn’t affect me, procrastination does, but when I really want to write but can’t, the easiest way is to just begin. ⠀

That blank page stares back at us like we’re face to face with the enemy. But the threat of that blank empty whiteness can be defeated with a single word. By literally writing anything, a stream of consciousness, a sentence of absolute gibberish, anything at all, that blank canvas isn’t blank anymore. And I can trick myself into writing again.⠀

Just begin.

Don’t worry about copyrights

51116794_2586511708030721_1883225880919015424_o (1)People worry about their stories being stolen. People worry about sending their work to other writers, proofreaders, friends, editors, even agents and publishers. The writers I work with often ask me about copyrights and whether they apply when sending work out. This is what I tell them…⠀

Copyrights have never been essential. Readers aren’t likely to steal a writer’s work. But back in the day you could cover your back by sending yourself your manuscript through the post and keep the proof of postage as evidence that you had the manuscript first. If the occasion should arise that you needed to prove that.⠀

This method still applies. As soon as you send your work out to anyone via email, you have digital proof of digital postage. That timestamp proves you were the first to have the work to send, and it therefore belongs to you. ⠀

It’s highly unlikely that you would ever need to prove that, because everyone tells a story in a different style from a different point of view. It’s probably pretty obvious who something belongs to compared to their other work.

Happy New Year Highlights from 2018

So here it is, the year 2019, which looks strangely like we just woke up in a dystopian fiction novel. Some might say 2019 is the future we predicted, you might think we’re living in Orwell’s 1984, but that’s a whole other conversation. I’m still excited for the good things this year is bound to bring.

2019 Happy New Year glowing gold background. Vector illustration

I hope you celebrated the new year as joyfully as I did, in whatever way you like to celebrate. Some party hard, and some quietly contemplate the turning point from one year into another. I think I’m somewhere in between. Gallavanting across London, ringing in the new year while watching fireworks light up the entire cityscape from a rooftop party was magical but, now that I’m back at work and back in my routine, I am glad to have the balance of some downtime – to meditate on my gratitude and intentions for the new year.

I am grateful for so many things that happened in 2018, both good and bad, and mostly learnt that, whatever happens, you can change your life in a moment just by changing your perspective. It’s the meaning we attach to something that matters, not the event itself, and that applies to the law of attraction too. You just have to stay positive.

After sadly losing my little bestie, Jazzy, in February, I had to start looking at things from a different approach, and realised I was grateful for moving back to my hometown when I did to spend a few very happy months with her. It absolutely floored me at the time, and I still can’t quite believe she’s gone, but I’m thankful for the memories, of laughing and singing together, and the happiness we shared.

It’s mind-blowing to look back with hindsight and see how life works in a domino effect, one thing leading to the next. Thanks to a string of challenges at the beginning of the year, of losing friends, of making sacrifices to help others, and doing things I wouldn’t usually do, each little obstacle back then led me to the better half of the year, of reaping the rewards of a positive attitude and living, what I now think of as, my best life!!

There was a turning point in May, when I stumbled across the perfect little house for me. I wasn’t sure I could afford to live on my own, so before signing the contract I asked for a sign from the universe. Within the hour I had a new job offer completely out of the blue working as a Creative Enabler for The Shouting Mute, which not only meant I could afford the little house and have my own space again, but also returned me to the meaningful work that I’m passionate about. This led to an incredible combination of working with young people with disabilities, creative enabling, marketing and writing, continuing to blog for businesses, as well as taking on new clients who were looking for creative coaching. I went from one extreme to the other. It’s been a dream come true!

My work has immersed me in the creative world again, through arts events, through marketing, through social media platforms and SEO blogging, and all this creative thinking has given me the drive and motivation to focus on my own writing and looking at my own online presence and platform. As the year ends I am preparing to send out a crossover novel into the world of literary agents, and assessing ways to interact with my target market and potential readers.

After years of experimenting with the law of attraction, practicing authentic gratitude and trying to understand how to make manifestation work, it seems like I’ve finally begun to put the theories into practice and now live in a fairly consistent state of abundance! Of course there are always dips and troughs, but its been running pretty smoothly so far.

I decided to attract good things into my life by changing my environment, to surround myself with colours and textures at home that made me feel good, and it worked almost instantly. When my poor little car Suki gave up, I was heartbroken, but I did briefly wonder if the universe was making space in my life for my dream car. Within two weeks I was driving the car I always wanted, and believing in manifestation more than ever.

I’ve also attracted the believing mirrors I needed, surrounding me with the positive influences of old and new friends, and I was lucky enough to meet my boyfriend in September, who not only lives and breathes the creative world too, but encourages my writing and reads more than I do!

I have spent years second-guessing the good and bad in my life, and pushing things away, but I guess good karma does eventually find good people. I feel so lucky to be me lately and to feel in control of where I am headed. My new year intentions are pretty much the same every year but you have to make a wish to give it the chance to come true, so…

  1. Remember to be my own best friend
  2. Try to put myself first and schedule me time
  3. Express more gratitude and less complaints
  4. Treat my body more like a temple
  5. Have a novel published / be the next J.K. Rowling 😉

Like a time capsule, it will be weird to look back and reread this blog post this time next year, to see how things have changed and how things have worked in a domino effect towards 2020, which really does sound like the year for a dystopian novel and makes me wonder how much life will change in 365 days.

Happy new year to you all! I hope 2019 brings all of the happiness, success, and abundance you want and deserve!

Chasing Tomorrow

There are so many people, like me, who feel frustrated by the state of things, who wonder what they can do to make a difference, who want to do their bit. There are so many people who want to feel like an effective part of the revolution by doing something, however small, to make positive changes to their world. So surely there’s something one person can do, to make a difference, within the local community or further afield. Surely, we can all do something.

Last night I attended a film showing of Chasing Tomorrow by independent filmmakers Max and Jeremy, who travelled across the UK in search of change-makers. It was an incredible sample of entire communities who are coming together and changing the way they live. There was a community of guerrilla gardeners planting foods all over their town to share, to eat, and rarely seeking permission to do what they do; there was a bug farm and grub kitchen experimenting with edible insects as an alternative source of apparently very tasty protein, to reduce the two thirds of the earth’s surface currently used for livestock and its feed; there was a town called Ashton Hales, a completely carbon neutral town because everyone there is on board to set the example for other towns to copy; there are new monetary systems in Bristol and Brixton keeping local wealth circling within local businesses; there are entire intentional communities shaping their lives differently by living off the land and living off-grid like the one they visited called Landmatters; and we got a glimpse of what the transition town of Totnes is doing to achieve ethical and sustainable living, and learnt about their focus on ‘permaculture’.

I actually became a little tearful to see real people making real substantial change like this. I didn’t know there was so much going on.

The film showing was hosted by a local group called Transition Bournemouth, who get together regularly to discuss what we can do locally, but they are just one of dozens of groups in my area who are tackling issues and coming together to realise solutions. There was talk of planting our own foods all across Bournemouth, which led us to find out it has already begun. There are community gardens and allotments, like the one at Slades Farm, where people are invited to learn how to grow their own food, and there’s a new one planned for the top of the Sovereign Centre, as well as Community Fridges launching throughout Boscombe. There are soup kitchens, homeless support teams, a recycle and repair cafe, and so much more on our door steps.

It makes me think of the people I know from older generations who are baking at home, growing food in their gardens, collecting eggs from their own chickens, and mending their belongings. Skills as simple as these aren’t taught anymore. What does my generation, or the generations after me, know about any of these basic life skills? What do we know of the effort people go to, to put food in our supermarkets for us to just pluck from the shelves, what do we really know of what goes on behind-the-scenes? We’ve become too dependent upon our modern lifestyle and its having some devastating consequences.

Surely we can all do something, to live more simply, and make a difference.

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Summit

Set in a back room of the Shoreditch Town Hall, in a sparsely lit space consistently used for new theatre, I became part of a small audience viewing Summit, a new play presented by Fuel, written by Andy Smith.

Using a blend of languages, including fully integrated British Sign Language, three performers told a thought-provoking and evocative story from three perspectives. It was the story of an international meeting, a call to action, a response to a global crisis, and at that meeting, that global Summit, something happened and everything changed.

The subject matter itself got me thinking about the change we need to create, and with synchronistic timing, this short but powerful play triggered my brain to further explore the ideas I have been ruminating on, about how to achieve and inspire that change through what I can do as one person.

“We need to use our imagination. We need to imagine that change might be possible. That change is possible, however hard or impossible it might seem” – Andy Smith, renowned theatre-maker and writer of Summit

As one person, any of us have the capability of effecting change. Much like Andy Smith, who has used his creative approach to inspire hope and invite action, we can all do something. His writing was poetic, had rhythm, repetition and made full use of the three languages we were presented with. It was a beautiful juxtaposition to witness, as we were given the freedom to just absorb the poetic nature of BSL sandwiched between two equally beautiful verbal languages. I took it as an invitation to examine the different use of language, and how we can communicate the same message in different ways. We can so easily have the same intention yet little control over how that comes across.

Isn’t that just it? This unanimous repetitive message that we need to do something, that we need to make a difference, that something has to change is so often spoken in so many ways from so many perspectives that it gets lost in translation. Yet that’s what we all want.

There is no us and them. There is no hero, no villain. We all want a better world, and that’s what should unite us, despite our different languages, cultures and backgrounds. Those of us who have the drive to effect change, to do something, to improve the state of things do recognise our similarities more than our differences. Our differences are irrelevant, they should be obsolete.

In this time of such extremes, it is the global need to change that should, and hopefully will, bring us together.

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Are You Misreading Me?

As a writer, it makes sense that I would express myself better through writing than live conversation. If I could prepare all speeches on cue cards, even for trivial daily interactions, my life would be a much more comfortable and poetic experience. If only letter-writing was still a thing.

I’m aware that my cheeks might blush bright pink when I speak , even if I’m well-versed in the topic, so I avoid public speaking, even to small groups of people. There have been times when I’ve had to get over that and get on with it, which is when I have pleasantly surprised myself, but I can’t tell how my words are coming across, and I don’t know if anyone truly understands what I am saying, until I’m met with a definitive reaction. I doubt I’m alone in that experience.

But that misunderstanding has now crossed the line into my written words too. I know I have to be careful about getting sarcasm across in text messages, which is almost impossible (thank you emojis, thank you caps lock) and I have been accused of hostility when my intention was hilarity, but I don’t expect a simple message with very clear intention to be taken so badly and blown so out of proportion, as this…

I recently had an influx of friend requests on Facebook, and at some point I hit accept on a whole list of them without thinking. The strange messages that followed made me realise my mistake so I went back through deleting people I don’t actually know in real life. However, in order not to offend anyone who may have added me unintentionally, when they meant to subscribe to my writer page, I explained and added a link to the page. It was a short concise message that I thought was clear. I didn’t expect it to be misunderstood.

One of these people responded, confused, as I had actually added her and she had accepted me because we have a mutual friend. I went on to apologise and explained the mistake I had made and why. Again I thought that my intention and message was clear.

She decided to write a scathing public post about people attempting immoral business tactics and, along with about 20 other people slated my mishap in a very public conversation as if I had intended to mislead people to drum up followers. In one of her comments she told someone that she had previously been considering going into business with me but now I had f*cked up my reputation… I’m not sure what kind of business we would have gone into, as I am a writer and she works in a very different arena but, even as an objective reader of her post, I would not have thought that was a particularly professional way to talk about anyone. I felt humiliated, and very much misrepresented, but thankful that she hadn’t mentioned me by name. I assume she thinks I don’t know what she wrote because, privately she thanked me for explaining and for my apology, but she hasn’t corrected what she shared with the public. The frankly bitchy and aggressive post still stands.

She doesn’t know me, clearly, and she obviously hasn’t thought about how hurtful that conversation was going to be if I happened to come across it and read it myself. She also claims to not usually write posts like this but scrolling down, I found another one about someone who had made the fateful error of spelling her name wrong.

Its just another lesson learnt about the importance of how we communicate, how we treat others, and how we react to their treatment of us. None of us know the background to a conversation, why someone holds their perspective on the world, or how our words might affect them. Some people struggle with communication, some people don’t have a voice with intonation, some interactions have to be taken on with an open mind and a pinch of salt. Factors like education, upbringing, culture, and learning difficulties, can make communication a battlefield. I don’t know this person’s story either, or why she is so quick to make a stand on something so inconsequential, but that’s not for me to judge, that’s for me to let go.

I was trying to find the positive in this experience, which for me personally is minimal, but I gave her some interactive content for her to use to connect with her followers and she triggered me to write this post. So hopefully one or both of us will get a message across to someone else as well as learning lessons of our own.

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