Creativity

For when you are resisting writing

I’ve been really resisting my writing lately.

When that happens, it’s usually a sign I’ve made the process too hard – harder than it needs to be – probably by creating too many rules or expectations for myself, instead of just letting it happen.

I’ve been using motherhood as an excuse. I’ve been saying I’m too tired, too overwhelmed, too busy. ‘Excuse’ is definitely the right word. I’ve been using other excuses too: I don’t know what to write about, the writing isn’t any good, I’m just not in the mood, it’s not like it’s going to go anywhere anyway.

I’ve journaled about the writing, thought about the writing, talked about the writing – even painted about the writing. I’ve reorganised and tidied the house, shopped for books online, researched new recipes, watched reality baking shows on TV and had many naps.

In short: I’ve done everything to avoid writing.

But in doing so, I’ve just become more resistant, more afraid to write. Now, I know there’s only one thing for it: to write.

You see, I’d forgotten one of the basic steps to writing: start where you are, with what you have. So, okay. Here I am: in the space of resistance, and I’m over it. And what do I have? My own experience, right now, of resisting, of wanting to write anyway, of finding a way through the fog.

And so, I write.

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Creativity, Self Empowerment

Use your voice, share your story

I love that line from the Tori Amos song:

Sometimes I hear my voice and it’s been here, silent all these years.

That’s how I feel about my own voice. It’s been here, but for most of my life it was silent. Or rather, it was screaming at me for attention inside, but I never listened, so I never shared it, and mostly remained ‘silent’ in my life.

How do I know? Because for the longest time I felt a deep aching down in my soul – one I tried to fix with shopping, or food, or men, or booze, or work. None of that worked, though. It only ever took me further away from my voice.

No, I only really started listening to my voice when I began my daily journaling habit. Because when I did that, showing up every day, I couldn’t ignore it or hide from it anymore. I finally heard what it was saying. And what it was saying was that it wanted me to speak: to share myself, to share my story, my life.

Now, though I don’t always journal, I try to write every day. Writing is what frees my voice, it’s the way I speak my truth to the world.

Sometimes I doubt my voice. I think that no one will want to hear it. Maybe they’ll think it’s too whiny, or self-indulgent or just irrelevant. Maybe it will remind them how they are ignoring their own voice and that will be too painful for them, so they won’t want to hear it.

But I hope that they will hear it and feel less alone in the world. That is the greatest gift I’ve found when other people share their stories with me.

We each have a voice, a story to tell. Using our voice and sharing our story is one of the most empowering things we can do for ourselves. It’s our way of taking up space in the world, our way of of claiming and declaring our own importance. Because if we don’t, no one else will do it for us.

Every single one of us matters and has something to say that is worthwhile. How we say it is up to us: in a memoir, a blog post, through fictional characters in a novel, a poem, a song, a greeting card, a letter, in conversation with friends, in a wedding toast, through the imagery of art like painting, drawing, or photography, or through some other form of self-expression such as dance.

To use your voice and share your story doesn’t have to mean in words – although it can.

It’s about expressing your unique soul, your vision and your perspective. In doing so you share universal truths that help others to heal, to grow, to expand and to ultimately listen to their own truths. This is what using our voice and sharing our story gives back to the world. Natalie Goldberg said:

In knowing who you are and writing from it, you will help the world by giving it understanding.

I used to wonder if I had truly ‘found’ my voice. This is something many writers worry about.

But I know I have – because here I am, using it to express my truth. As long as I keep expressing who I am in ways that fill me with joy and purpose, then I am using my voice.

How do you use your voice? How do you share your story with the world?

If you’d like some help learning to free your voice and share who you are in writing, then come check out our writing group.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Write about whatever you want – it’s all valid

On Sunday night I took myself out on a much-needed ‘me date’. I went to see I Feel Pretty at the movies, then went to a cafe and wrote in my journal for over an hour.

It was lovely.

I realised something profound as I wrote: I’ve never really given myself permission to write about the things that interest me, because they don’t seem good enough.

I think it was the movie that allowed this realisation to surface. It’s about a woman living in New York who doesn’t think she’s very pretty, then she has a head injury and her perception of herself changes, and ultimately her life changes as she lives with more confidence. On the surface a reasonably trivial topic, but of course something many women can deeply relate to and possibly learn from.

I thought, my ideas are no more trivial than this film – love stories set in in New York (of course) about women finding themselves and their paths in life, coming to terms with who they are, etc. I’ve had some of these ideas for 15 years and I haven’t really taken them seriously.

Why is it that I don’t believe my ideas are very good, but Hollywood movies churn out loads of things like this – ‘chick flicks’, basically. And the same goes for ‘chick lit’. Something about these genres doesn’t feel… like ‘proper’ art.

I’ve also noticed some reservations within myself when it comes to writing about motherhood – as if that, too, isn’t a ‘real topic’. I didn’t expect to become a ‘mommy blogger’ after giving birth – I guess I always kind of looked down on that style of writing. What?! Now I have so much to say about motherhood I just can’t stop myself.

Is it simply that I always question my own talent and ideas, or is it something else? Is it a deeper societal message that stories about women, stories by women, stories that explore the experience of being female, are considered more trivial? In all honesty I didn’t make the connection until I sat down to write this.

The truth is, though, there is a lot of value in these stories. I recently devoured a memoir on motherhood in three days, simply because the story spoke to me at a deep level. And films like I Feel Pretty don’t go on to be successful simply because they’re funny – but also because they strike a deeper nerve in women worldwide.

So I give myself permission. I can write about anything I want – and so can you. None of it is trivial if it’s burning inside us to be written. We might think that no one will want to read it, that it’s stupid or boring, but I can assure you that if you feel called to write it, then it needs to be written.

What are you holding back on writing about? What ideas of yours do you think aren’t valid?

Creativity

How to develop a writing practice

Writing is hard work. It might seem easy: a few words on a page, pen to paper or fingers on keyboard. But while the tools are simple enough, getting them to do what you want is not always straightforward.

On developing a writing practice

The foundation of ‘being a writer’ is writing practice. It’s like a musician doing scales, like a runner warming up for a run.

In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg says that writing practice is ‘the bottom line, the most primitive, essential beginning of writing… It’s our wild forest where we gather energy before going to prune our garden, write our fine books and novels. It’s a continual practice.’

If you are serious about improving your writing, you will continue to practice – not refuse to do so because you ‘already know how to write’ (something I did for years). Goldberg says, ‘don’t stop doing writing practice. It is what keeps you in tune, like a dancer who does warmups before dancing or a runner who does stretches before running. Runners don’t say ‘Oh, I ran yesterday. I’m limber.’ Each day they warm up and stretch.’

In A Writer’s Book of Days, Judy Reeves describes the practice like this (which I love): ‘When you show up at the page and put in the time day after day, you learn to trust your pen and the voice that emerges as your own. You name yourself Writer. By taking the time for writing practice, you are honouring yourself as writer…You learn what you want to write about and what matters to you as a writer. You explore your creative nooks and crannies, and make forays into some scary places that make your hand tremble and your heart beat faster. This is good. This is when you are writing your truth, and that’s the best writing anybody ever does.’

So writing practice will be our baseline – our daily ritual to practise being a writer – to be a writer.

Writing practice will be done daily, for a set amount of time. It is entirely up to you what time you write for. I do ten minutes as my standard time, but on a really rushed day I might do 3 minutes. If I had a whole free day to work on my writing (ha!) then I might take 30 minutes. Experiment with different times and change them if necessary. Better you show up for 2 minutes and write your heart out every day than only twice a week because you think you should write for 30 minutes each time but can’t really fit that in.

Reeves says, ‘be flexible – create a schedule that works for you, so that when practice time comes, you accept it as an ongoing, necessary part of your life as a writer and look forward to it as a gift to yourself.’

Here are Reeves’ rules for timed writing practice (from A Writer’s Book of Days):

  1. Keep writing. Don’t stop to edit, to rephrase, to think. Don’t go back and read what you’ve written until you’ve finished.
  2. Trust your pen. Go with the first image that appears.
  3. Don’t judge your writing. Don’t compare, analyse, criticise.
  4. Let your writing find its own form. Allow it to organically take shape into a story, essay, poem, dialogue, an incomplete meander.
  5. Don’t worry about the rules. Don’t worry about grammar, syntax, punctuation, or sentence structure.
  6. Let go of expectations. Let your writing surprise you.
  7. Kiss your frogs. Remember, this is just practice. Not every session will be magic. The point is to just suit up and show up at the page, no matter what.
  8. Tell the truth. Be willing to go to the scary places that makes your hand tremble and your handwriting get a little out of control. Be willing to tell your secrets.
  9. Write specific details. Your writing doesn’t have to be factual, but the specificity of the details brings it alive. The truth isn’t in the facts; it’s in the detail.
  10. Write what matters. If you don’t care about what you’re writing, neither will your readers. Be a passionate writer.
  11. Read your writing aloud after you’ve completed your practice session. You’ll find out what you’ve written, what you care about, when you’re writing the truth, and when the writing is ‘working’.
  12. Date your page and write the topic at the top. This will keep you grounded in the present and help you reference pieces you might want to use in something else.

What you write about is up to you, but in order to make things easier I’ll provide a list of daily topics each week. Rather than spending 10 minutes thinking of what to write, I recommend you use the day’s topic: write it at the top of the page, set the timer and write about the first thing that comes to mind – trust it.

Reeves recommends taking the topic as a starter and changing it to work for you, if necessary: change the tense, the narrative point of view (from I to he, from she to you, or use names), turn the prompt into dialogue, write about it in a literal or metaphorical sense, work in whatever genre calls you in the moment – take it and make it work for you.

To get started, I think it might be worth exploring why you want to write. In your writer’s notebook (yes, you have permission to get a new notebook, don’t use your journal because it’s different – something we will cover next week) answer this:

  • Why do you want to write, why do you want to commit to a writing practice?
  • What do you hope to get out of your writing?
Creativity

Make the start of 2018 beautiful

Let’s make the beginning of 2018 beautiful.

I’m going to use these simple prompts to get into my journal every day for the month of January, even if all I manage is one line.

Perhaps you’d like to join me?

Beautiful Beginnings Graphic 2018 1

Simply write the day’s starter and see where it takes you. See what comes up, where it leads. If you end up totally ‘off-topic’, then that’s fine! Trust that whatever comes up needs to be expressed.

If you feel like it, share your journaling on social media using the hashtag #beautifulbeginnings2018 – or come join us in the Journaling Dangerously Facebook group and share there.

Here’s to a beautiful start to 2018!

What Inspires Me

Free printable workbook: Make 2018 your most purposeful year yet!

Promo image 2018

I love the feeling of a fresh start that comes with the beginning of each new year. I see it as a chance to release the past and renew my focus on the things that matter.

As a creative life coach and an avid journaler, I frequently focus inward on my values, thoughts and feelings, but the start of a new year offers a a clean slate to remind myself of where I want to direct my energy.

So I’ve created a free printable workbook with gorgeous lettering, prompts and imagery to help you make 2018 a purposeful, inspired and magical year.

I see it as a sort of guidebook for the year ahead – a map to guide you through the year. Much like a manual for the year – with the values and goals you want to focus on, guiding you through the next 365 days.

It’s called the Magical Yearbook – a book can you can return to over and over again throughout the year to keep you inspired.

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The Yearbook contains loads of prompts to guide you, on such topics as:

  • Goal setting
  • Ideal year
  • Guiding values
  • Spiritual practice
  • Self care
  • Limiting beliefs
  • Staying inspired
  • Creative toolbox
  • Visioning
  • And more!

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You also get access to some tips for filling the Yearbook out with ease and joy for each of the sections, as well as prompts to help you close out 2017.

You can download the free Yearbook here:

2018 Yearbook Printable

Use the prompts and mini lessons below to help guide you through each section of the Yearbook. Enjoy!

Prompts to wrap up 2017

The Yearbook is focused entirely on all the goodness we want to create in our lives in 2018, so for that reason, I’ve left out any prompts about 2017.

I want the yearbook to be a guide for you through 2018 and I thought having notes about 2017 in there wasn’t necessary – and may even be counterproductive for some.

But I do think it’s important to make peace with the past, celebrate what you’ve achieved, and be honest about the things that didn’t work out. I don’t feel right going straight into the new year without some kind of ritual releasing the year that’s been.

Why? For me, it’s the feeling of awareness and a sense of closure. Awareness of what has happened this year, but more importantly, awareness about my feelings towards these things. For example, we still haven’t finished our tiny house build (but we are really close!) and that makes me a little disappointed. I don’t want to avoid this feeling, but rather make peace with it and use it to help me figure out how to make next year better.

So, with that in mind, I’ve created some journal prompts to get you thinking about the year that’s been. There are loads of great prompts online, I’ve just selected some of the ones I love and added a few of my own.

I hope these can guide you through a sort of closing ceremony for 2017, so you can welcome the new year with open arms.

  • What were the most significant events of the year past? List the top three.
  • Describe 2017 in one sentence:
  • This year I’m most grateful for…
  • My biggest achievement this year was…
  • This year I got really excited about…
  • This year I was most inspired by…
  • My greatest challenge this year was…
  • I need forgive myself for…
  • My biggest piece of unfinished business from this year is…
  • The greatest lesson I’ve learned this year is…
  • How have you grown as a person this past year? How are you different this year than last?
  • This year I wish I had done more…
  • I wish I had done less…
  • What was the best way you used your time this past year?
  • If you had more time to invest in this past year, what would you do with it?
  • If I could redo 2017, I would…
  • Write a letter to the you from the start of last year. What advice would you give yourself?
  • If 2017 was a book, what would the title be? Name some of the chapters.
  • Did you have a guiding word or guiding values for 2017? How did it serve you? How did it challenge you?
  • The biggest gifts of 2017 were…

Be gentle with yourself when going through this, it can be tough if the past year has been a difficult one. I always find a cup of tea, some nice music and a candle, incense or essential oils are comforting.

Notes to help you fill in the Yearbook

I recommend working through the Yearbook in order. It has been designed so that most of the sections build on the previous ones. Here are some tips for each of the sections:

Getting Started

Goal Setting

Guiding Values

Divine Connection

Looking After Me

Staying Inspired

Visioning

Enjoy your Yearbook, and if you know someone who would love it, please share it! Don’t forget to come join us in the Journaling Dangerously Facebook group to share your progress!

Self Empowerment

Join me for a simple, free, nourishing practice in December

There’s something about this time of year that makes me excited about the new year to come – new possibilities, new opportunities – a fresh start.

This time last year I noticed how much I wanted to rush forward into the new year, even with a whole month of 2016 remaining. In fact, I always feel this way at this time of year! And it’s not just me: I think a lot of us are tempted to rush through December and get to the new year.

So last year I asked: what if we slowed down and really savoured December? Rather than crashing into the new year and attempting to start fresh then, we can step gracefully into the new year with a nourishing daily routine already in place. We don’t have to wait until January to start feeling good – let’s do it now.

This led to a simple project called Deliberate December – where you are intentional with your time each day. Initially it was around starting (or ending) the day with intention, but this year I’ve expanded it a bit.

The idea for this round of Deliberate December is to take some time each day – any time of day – to slow down, be present and feel grateful for the things around you. It’s to really sink into the moment, to find the stillness and savour what is left of the year. You might like to actively do something for each day of the month (like journaling, or mediating, or walking), or you might just take a minute each day to be still. The choice is yours – but the emphasis is on being present and enjoying the month, rather than waiting for the new year to start.

How it works

You don’t have to sign up for anything or pay for anything. Simply, all you have to do is commit to doing something deliberately every day (or most days) in December – in whatever way feels good for you. I’ll provide some simple prompts for each day of December (below) to help guide you if you need.

If you feel like it, you can share an image each day with the hashtag #mydeliberatedecember.

Some things you might want to consider for your own Deliberate December practice:

– What time of day do you want to do it?

– What do you want to include? I recommend really thinking about what will make you feel good, not what you think you should include. Some things you might like to consider are:

  • Meditation
  • Morning pages
  • Journaling
  • Exercise – yoga, walking, swimming, etc
  • Reading
  • Prayer
  • Time outside
  • Painting, drawing or other arty things
  • Self care such as taking a bath, applying some lovely body lotion, deep breathing, a lovely cup of tea, etc.

Note: This practice is about the practice, not producing a product. The focus is on what you are doing and how it feels, not what you might be producing. It’s about being deliberate with your days, not producing a collection of paintings or reading a certain number of books. Being present in the process is what is most important.

Prompts to guide you

I created some prompts to help you in your Deliberate December practice. You don’t have to use these, but they might be helpful. These are very simple, and can be used in any way that feels good to you.

Deliberate December 2017

You could use the prompts each day as a guide to:

  • Write a journal entry
  • Paint or draw
  • Take a photograph
  • Write a blog post
  • Do some hand lettering/calligraphy
  • Share a thought/image on social media
  • Find a quote that inspires you
  • Pray
  • Meditate/visualise
  • Contemplate how you can bring more of each quality into your life
  • Remind you – use as a guiding word of the day and come back to it throughout the day
  • Any combination of the above!

My practice will include a combination of journaling (written and visual), photography and sharing on social media.

What to do when you miss a day

Right now, acknowledge that you will likely miss a day, you will ‘mess up’. This practice is exactly that – a practice. It is not meant to be perfect. It’s meant to be gentle and nourishing. This is not another chance to beat yourself up.

If you miss a day of your Deliberate December, then simply get back to it the next day. No blame, no criticism, no guilt.

Remember, it’s about the process, the practice. Even if you were only practicing every second day you would still feel better than not at all. Be open to not doing it perfectly.

The other thing is that you can change the practice if it’s not working for you. Don’t panic about being locked into doing something. If you get a few days in, or halfway, and it’s not working anymore, then change it! You have permission to do what works for you.

Before you begin: Prompts to get you thinking about your own Deliberate December practice

  • What is most missing from your life right now?
  • What do you need more of?
  • What do you want less of?
  • How could you nourish and care for yourself more?
  • What feels manageable for you to do each day?
  • Imagine it is the start of 2018 and you’ve spent December more deliberately. What things might have you been doing? How would you feel?
  • What tools could you use to help you stay on track?

Comment below and share your ideas for your own Deliberate December practice.