Archive for October, 2013
Friday, October 25th, 2013
I really enjoy spending time going to talks to listen to my favourite authors talk about their new books and inevitably their writing process.
On Wednesday evening of this week I was not disappointed when I attended the event at the Hatchards Bloomsbury Book Club event with author Elizabeth Gilbert.
To many people Gilbert is the now very famous author of the book Eat, Pray, Love featured on the Oprah Book Club and made into a best selling film starring Julia Roberts.
Listening to Gilbert’s talk I was reminded on so many levels that no best selling author is ever an overnight success.
Gilbert cut her teeth working and writing for magazines like GQ and writing fiction and non-fiction books, which did not all, do well before the phenomenal success of Eat, Pray, Love.
Listening to authors sharing their writing journey is always a humble reminder to keep going and that sometimes success is a long way down the road. Not all of your books will sell, some may go out of print, be remained but your job is to keep on writing and to keep on creating. We must be prepared to create a body of work. Nothing we write is ever wasted.
I keep reminding myself that the repetitive action of writing one word after the other whether in my journal or notebook is taking me somewhere. Of course we cannot always see the destination or where we will arrive. But then again wouldn’t that make life simply so predictable.
Gilbert’s new book, The Signature of All Things is a chunky, whopper of a book. I’m drawn to the subject matter of botany. There were some great questions from the audience, which included the question of whether she had purposely chosen the name of Alma her main character because of the meaning associated with the name? Turns out she had. In many traditions the name Alma means ‘Soul’ or ‘Spirit’. I test this out by looking up the name Alma in the reference section of my local library and this is what I found, “
Gilbert shared how she writes and plots meticulously on index cards, which she stores in five shoeboxes. She loves the fact these are portable and she can move them around.
I’m fanatical about index cards. If I run out I am scheming how to get to the nearest W.H.Smith stationers to restock. Over the years I’ve collected literally hundreds of writing and creativity quotes all recorded on index cards.
For my writing and blog posts I source quotes from a range of places feeling no sense of allegiance as to where quotes come from. So a quote acquired whilst reading a British Airways in house travel magazine on a flight can be as illuminating as a quote acquired from a newly acclaimed book. My motto never assume where a great quote can be sourced.
I learnt the hard way when writing my last book 49 Ways To Write Yourself Well to make sure I record the full reference of where quotes originated from as many a great quote did not make it into my last book because in my excitement and haste I neglected over the years to cite some of the sources of where the quote originated from.
I too have taken to writing first and second drafts on index cards. Because of its size an index card feels less intimidating than a blank sheet of paper and the computer screen.
Gilbert shared some other gems about her writing process including:
- A wise reminder to women writers who made up the majority of the audience that men are not put off sharing half finished products or ill-informed ideas, which brought about a chuckle from the audience. 90 per cent good is good enough is to put our work out there.
- She has 6 years of rejection letters. This is a fact that can be easily overlooked and forgotten about in the haze of publicity surrounding the press and publicity and ultimate success of Eat, Pray, Love.
- She always writes to one reader. She believes this helps her writing voice stay intellectually sound.
- In the beginning of her early writing career she did not help herself enough as an up and coming writer. She made the audience chuckle as she described how in those early days she would just stare at a blank page hoping the words would miraculously appear. This she reminded us is a futile act. Gilbert suggests that the more prepared you can be the more you’ll help yourself along the way. This means have writing prompts to use as a springboard onto the page. Read other writers on writing and try out some of the suggested writing exercises and activities. Don’t just hope, instead act.
- Once you start writing, creativity is like a scavenger hunt, you uncover all kinds of things.
- Gilbert wrote The Signature Of All Things in four months. She did extensive plotting on her index cards and then once she got going she described the writing process like riding a bicycle down hill. I had the world at my fingertips without walking. She felt she had to write fast so she did not lose her nerve.
- On the topic of inspiration Gilbert shared that this is something that she cannot rely on. She described inspiration as the difference between infatuation and a forty-year-old marriage. Our job as writers is to show up no matter how we feel or what our emotional weather map.
- As in the words of Gilbert, “Many oysters before you get to the pearls. But getting to the pearls is really worth it.”
It was a lovely evening and I actually got to say hello to Gilbert and introduced her to the lovely woman sitting next to me, Sarah who had travelled all the way from Doncaster just to hear Elizabeth talk. Sarah even has the words Eat, Pray, Love tattooed on her arm in Sanskrit.
I walked out into the warm October evening air feeling uplifted and encouraged to continue with the writing journey and to support others with their books, writing and creativity.
Monday, October 21st, 2013
Here are three of the Tree Kits in my collection. I’ll sometimes introduce them on writing workshops as a way of connecting with nature and trees and also as a way of learning about the different energies associated with trees along with some of the more ancient customs and traditions of certain trees.
I always find whether I am working in the corporate world or working in the arts or public sector that there’s always a genuine and often curious interest amongst the audience whatever rank and profession when we start to talk about trees and what trees mean to us. This is often a good link to health and well-being.
I’ll often find myself using the metaphor describing the nature trees in my coaching work or even in creative writing workshops as prompts for example:
- Where could you go out on a limb?
- What would help you become rooted around this issue?
- If you were a tree what shape would you be in right now?
- What might you need to shed right now?
In fact I think I’ll respond to some of those questions later on today when I have some time to write in my journal
The tree kits featured in this photo include?
The Wisdom Of Tree Oracles Jane Struthers, Tree Affirmation Cards Victoria Sofia Lewis & The Celtic Tree Oracle Colin Murray
Monday, October 21st, 2013
Over the years I’ve really enjoyed working with different writing kits and card decks that I’ve used on a variety of workshops, courses and retreats. This has grown into a collection of card decks and kits that are focused on writing, coaching and self-development. I also have some card decks in my collection, which introduces the different energy’s of the trees we live with, which I’ve posted on my tree blog.
Card deck and kits are a great way of stimulating and engaging learning on workshops and retreats. I’ve never had a participant whose been disappointed when I’ve introduced card decks and kits onto our programmes, in fact the opposite, these resources have always been welcomed.
I also use them as part of my coaching tool kit when working in one to one coaching sessions. They can be a really helpful tool for getting unblocked or for finding a new way in or a different perspective around an issue that is being explored. Some of the decks can be used as a prompt at the start of the session as a form of free association to see what connections there might be to the card, word or image that has been selected.
In the early days when I used kits and card decks a lot more many people would express their resistance to using the cards thinking that they were tarot cards mainly because tarot cards are presented in similar packaging and design it was easy to see why this assumption was made. I always take care and time in explaining that these are different from tarot cards although those with the names Oracle in the title might be more closely aligned to the tarot card decks. I always offer using or working with any card deck or kit as an option.
For those of us who are either visual or more kinasethic learners a card deck or kit can be more stimulating and motivation for learning and reflecting.
Card decks can quickly go out of print and circulation so it’s good to catch them when you can. I’ve grown my collection over 10 years with a vast majority of my card decks coming from Hay House. However I have stumbled over a couple in second handbook bookshops and charity shops including a Tree Oracle Kit and Phases Of The Moon Kit.
I’ve listed below the title of the writing kits and card decks featured above starting from top left to right:
The Observation Deck Naomi Epel, The Writer’s ToolBox Jamie Cat Callan, Tree Affirmation Cards Victoria Sofia Lewis (I snuck that one in), The Complete Writer’s Kit Scott Edelstein, A Creative Writer’s Kit Judy Reeves, The Writer’s Workshop In A Box edited by Sandra Bark, The Writer’s Retreat Kit Judy Reeves, Inner Outings Charlene Geiss & Claudia Jessup & The Autobiography Box Brian Bouldrey.
Here’s a list of the self-development & coaching card decks and kits starting from top left to right:
Labyrinth Wisdom Cards Tony Christie, Archetype Cards Caroline Myss, The Letting Go Cards Melodie Beattie, Best Year Of Your Life Debbie Ford, Tips For Daily Living Iyanla Vanzant, Wisdom For Healing Cards Caroline Myss, The iFactor Cards Ken Barnes, Goddess Guidance Oracle cards Doreen Virtue The Healing Cards Caroline Myss, Karma Coaching Cards, Coaching Cards For Relationships, Coaching Cards For Business Owners, Coaching cards for Everyday Use, Coaching Cards For & Coaching Cards For Managers (coaching cards all available from http://www.barefootcoaching.co.uk/category/catalog/Coaching%20Products), Soul Coaching Oracle Cards Denise Linn, Self Care Cards Cheryl Richardson, The Spa Deck Barbara Close & Susie Kushner, The Healing Deck Monte Farber & Amy Zerner, The Daily Affirmation Cards Cheryl Richardson & The Grace Cards Cheryl Richardson.
Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
I’ve just read the poem below in Janette Blakemore’s Sacred Moments newsletter www.sacredlife.co.uk and wanted to share it with you this afternoon on the blog.
See what you think. It made me want to leave the desk
I am working at and go out and take photo’s of leaves.
The poem is untitled.
Leaf by leaf they tumble and fall
All my haggard hurts.
Like a cottonwood tree ever so slowly letting go,
So the heartache of my heart.
There goes a bit of sadness, now a leaf of anger flies,
Then it’s the dropping of self-pity.
The leaf of forgiveness takes forever to fall,
Almost as long as non-trusting.
Leaf by leaf they fall from my heart,
Like a tree in its own time.
Old wounds don’t heal quickly, they drop in despairing slowness
Never looking at the clock.
It seems a forever process this healing of the hurt
And I am none too patient.
But a quiet day finally comes when the old tree with no leaves
Is decidedly ready for the new.
And in my waiting heart, the branches with no leaves
Have just a hint of green.
Joyce Rupp (prolific writer, retreat and conference speaker and spiritual midwife)
Sunday, October 13th, 2013
Our final guest post is from psychotherapist and coach Chrystelle Heldire
I wrote this piece when during the Writing Retreat review day. We had group work and individual time to write in a beautiful environment. During one exercise I was not sure what to write about so I looked around and got in touch with how I felt about the garden I was in. I decided to write about it.
The garden caught my eyes. It is a 3-part stepped garden. Three parts like the Freudian theory of personality, or Berne’s Transactional Analysis. It is not what I want to write about really, I am only mentioning this because I am a psychotherapist and I identify strongly with my profession. In fact I identify with some many parts of me like my Guadeloupian heritage, being born a Parisian, being a Londoner and Essexisonian, being a woman, being Black, being in my 40s although that is a little wobbly, being a writer…
Anyhow, I just transgressed… Let’s go back to the garden.
It is a beautiful garden. Kind of a dream garden. A garden where dreams can happen, and a garden that was obviously a dream. The garden has a motherly feel. Not maternal as maternal is like a function. Motherly is like an attitude and a promise.
I imagine this garden has much wisdom, much knowledge and many secrets. I like the wooden deck I am sitting on. It has two chairs and a metal table that screams intimacy. The wood is inviting and although I can imagine how may great parties have been or could be hosted here, it seems to have a more humble raison d’être. Maybe it has even waited for me all this time and in its homage, here I am writing about the garden.
There is a middle part, introduced by a path made of concrete slabs leading to brick stairs. This part hides itself behind the wooden sister bench and uses it shoulders to lean against a beautiful climbing passionflower plant. And passionate if you wanted to be you could, as it has managed to keep an air of privacy although belonging to the capital. I can only imagine the beautiful summer days being the expression of one’s freedom in topless bikini and the winter days being shelter for the strong and resilient. It is fascinating what a space can do.
The third and subjacent part is more modest and dressed in black as if for a funeral. That could be because the apple tree suddenly died and all around is mourning. Or it could be that this part has not yet evolved in what it is supposed to be.
The third part is not necessarily my favourite, unfortunately I am a product of my environment and I too am a victim of the fickleness of beauty. However it is the most interesting for my soul because it tells me of its potential.
The third part is nothing at all and everything that it could be at the same time. It is infinite possibilities and it is also what it is right now, evolving or mourning. Is it an interesting and full of surprises evolving space or is it a covered area with a dead apple tree pregnant with dying apples. In fact it is both.
How interesting that the third part should be the part the demands more of my attention. It’s the most modest, the least functional on this autumn day where the rain has not made up her mind whether to fall or stay in the clouds. Like the third part she is tentative, tells us she is there but does not commit fully. And so, what to say about the garden?
It is a generous garden with its treasure hidden in the bushes. A beautiful garden with its aura of wisdom. A humble garden with its acceptance of where it is. Like the kind of garden which is what it is and does not try too hard. This the way I see it anyway and this is the way it will inspire me for a while.
It could be that I am totally wrong. Maybe the third part has undressed itself to wear its Chanel of garden or maybe… Well actually do I need any maybes? It is what inspires me. I am inspired to embrace all parts of me the modest and the arrogant, the discrete and the loud, the generous and the stingy, the beautiful and the ugly. To the garden I give thanks as it masters the gift of my creative energy.
Sunday, October 13th, 2013
One of the groups’s writing prompts for the day was – The reason why I write? Here is Gilly Workman’s response. Gilly writes a blog @ http://www.angelicmessenger.org.uk/the-journey—my-blog.html
I write in order to connect with the deeper parts of me that otherwise might remain hidden from view; even from myself. It is a powerful yet gentle way in which I give myself the precious gift of time to truly listen to me. The voice that reveals itself in the special space of silence and solitude that I award myself on a regular basis. My heart and soul rejoices when I do this, weeps when I do not. Sometimes it is for release and healing, other times, for dissection and exploration.
I connect with memories, thoughts, feelings and emotions, allowing myself to unite with each and every one as they arise from the depths of the well, which is me.
When I write in my journals, I can immerse myself in the fathomless depths of the pages that open up before me. A landscape that is waiting to be painted, but pens and words are my brushes and pictures. I began with a blank book, now
I am actively filling that time with my voice. It liberates me as no one else will see my journals; I write for my own eyes only so I have the freedom and gift to be completely honest.
Then I also write because I want to be published. And in doing so, I will leave a part of my heart and soul here on the earth plain, for the rest of the world to engage with. I will achieve immortality through my words and musings, my many writing voices that have evolved, spiralling sentences that weave in and out of the many pages. Writing liberates and validates me.
It has allowed me to safely analyse and work with my shadow side and give her expression. I sometimes release my ‘inner bitch’ and she enunciates that which dare not speak its name in real life. My pen transmutes into a rapier sword, cutting into the heart of the villain, releasing the protagonist from her shackles.
But not all of my writing is like this. Some of my short stories are ‘medicine stories’, sacred offerings to others on the altar of life’s tumultuous journey through the landscape of the soul. They become a balm for the soul; both my soul and I hope for other souls too.
They offer hope; the hope that others too can survive life events that threaten to overwhelm the individual and leave them with a detailed map of how to negotiate their way through the labyrinth, avoiding the Minotaur that lurks at the dark and murky centre. A signpost that can and will direct the wandering seeker towards the promised land of inner strength and deep knowing that they too, can survive. And will survive. The sun will shine again and the sky will be blue and cloudless, if we just give ourselves the gift of time to stop and be who we truly are.
Some stories are a celebration of rites of passage, especially the latter rites of passage that takes us women into the crone phase of our lives. It is not something to be feared, even in a western society that values youth, appearance and materialism above experience and wisdom.
My writing says ‘Be who you are and glorify that. For you are unique and show yourself to the world, unashamedly.’ Celebrate your power and uniqueness, be the Mad Woman who dances on the moors, and join me in my flowing skirts and dance.
Sunday, October 13th, 2013
Over the next few days I will be sharing a series of guest blog posts. The first will be a selection of writing extracts from the group of writers who attended the Glastonbury Writers Retreat I ran in July of this year.
We gathered two weekend ago at my home in South London for a Writing review day. All the post I will be sharing emerged from one of our many writing prompts we worked with throughout the day.
Enjoy the first of our guest posts from Coach, Facilitator, Management trainer and Three Peaks Walker Lynne Philp.
Since I first learnt about Morning Pages at the Writing for our Lives Retreat In Glastonbury with Jackee Holder, I have enjoyed writing the occasional morning piece. But, in truth, it has been very occasional. This morning, immediately after yesterday’s “Writing for your Lives” Retreat Review day with Jackee, a bright light was switched on for me – it was one of those moments when something strikes you so hard, that it stays with you forever.
I started to write, slowly……. reflecting on our day at Jackee’s lovely home in London. I was thinking about her beautifully carved table, the stunning photo of Lewis Hamilton and the pretty, coloured lights in the fireplace – all creating a truly, beautiful room. Coincidentally, I was sat in my new lounge, first the first time in months, with my new log fire and gorgeous, wooden floor. Suddenly, my writing started to take on a breath of its own and here’s what emerged:
My fire, my beautiful fire
I’ve been waiting for you for so long
Waiting to see your face
Waiting to feel your warmth,
Wrap around me, keeping me snug,
Keeping me safe.
I’ve been missing you
All of my life
Looking for your glow
Searching for my light
To show me the way
To live my life.
You are coming now
Winter is approaching
Our log store is full
Ready to feed you
Ready to nourish you
You’re ready now
You have your place
In our beautiful room
By my side
Finally, in my life,
My fire, my light.
So, this is the power of morning pages? I have found it now. its about getting you to start to write, to gently wake up your sleeping imagination and creativity. You write and then suddenly, you’re catapulted to a new place, somewhere you’ve never been before. It stretches your mind, first thing in the morning, taking you on a mystery tour before you start your day. Wow!
Lynne’s Fire and adorable dog Todd.
Thursday, October 10th, 2013
Follow the link below to listen to my interview on Creative Writing and Mindfulness with writer, online host, interviewer and spiritual explorer Eileen Parr.
Jackee Holder Interview with Eileen Parr October 2013