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.

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?
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.

Creativity

Write to the Centre – A book review and giveaway

Write to the Centre: Navigating life with gluestick and words
by Helen Lehndorf

Write to the Centre - Helen Lehndorf

Do you ever feel like you are a total weirdo? Like no one understands you, or if people knew what you really think, they might be horrified? Do you ever struggle to understand your own feelings and reactions to things and need a bit of help untangling them? I do, I do and I do. – Helen Lehndorf

This book. I don’t know where to start except to say that I love it. LOVE it.

Flipping through it simply to look at the gorgeous imagery is enough to inspire me – a few pages in and I’m itching to get out my journal, gluestick and paints, and get creating.

But the text itself is also inspiring. I’d describe it as part how-to, part memoir. The author shares excerpts from her own journal alongside guidance on journal-keeping. All her ideas and advice are illustrated by her own words from her own journals.

From Write to the Centre

There’s just something so intimate and comforting about reading the words of another’s journals – something that tells you that you’re not alone in your feelings, experiences, views of the world. By the end of the book I feel like I know Helen – like I’ve met a kindred spirit on a journey similar to mine: someone trying to find their way in the world, using creative practice to make sense of it all.

She covers topics like getting started and making journaling a habit, allowing the ugly, navigating life transitions in your journal, processing pain, solving problems, creating rituals, appreciating the good. And each chapter ends with a unique and detailed journaling prompt to get you working in your own journal.

From Write to the Centre

My favourite thing about this book is the imagery from Helen’s visual journals. It is an absolute feast for the eyes and soul; Helen’s distinctive and unique journaling style is colourful, messy and intuitive. She combines collage, painting and her handwriting to create honest and interesting journal pages (see more of her style here). It’s a great book to dip into for a creative boost.

You can grab your copy of the book here.

Giveaway

—- The giveaway is now closed —-

Helen has been generous enough to provide me with a copy to give away. I’m so thrilled to be able to do this because it is such a gorgeous book and it needs to be in the hands of every visual journaler. I’m also throwing in a set of watercolour paints to get you painting in your journal. Here’s how to enter:

  • Share this post, or the image below on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+) or on your own blog
  • Use the hashtag #writetothecentregiveaway
  • Comment below (so I know you’ve shared it and I have a way to contact you!) telling me where you shared it and what you love most about journaling
  • Closes August 31st midnight EST 2017

Win a copy of the gorgeous journaling book Write to the Centre and a set of watercolour paints!

Full disclosure – I was sent a free copy of the book and asked to review it – but I had already purchased my own copy so that’s why I’m giving this copy away. Everything I’ve said in this review comes from my heart – I just adore the book and recommend it to any journaling enthusiast like myself.

Self Empowerment

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

I always get excited at this time of year. As the new year comes closer, I sense the chance for fresh beginnings, new dreams, growth.

Of course, there’s still a whole month of 2016 left to go! And by rushing to prepare for the new year, I’m shortchanging myself for this year.

A little while ago I shared an image from my journal on Instagram where I talked about how I had this bad habit of getting onto social media first thing in the morning, and how it made me feel crappy for the day ahead.

So many people commented and said they felt the same way. It got me thinking.

What if we set about to be a bit more deliberate with how we spend our time – whether morning, evening, or in between?

And then I thought, one of the most stressful times of year is coming up. If you’re working you might be rushing to get stuff done before the end of the year. If you’re a mum, wife or homemaker you might be stressing to get Christmas things organised – gifts, meals, decorations, whatever. You might be preparing to travel or have family come and stay. Or maybe you find the holidays a lonely and sad time, for whatever reason.

I think a lot of us are tempted to rush through December and get to the new year. But 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 2017 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.

So the idea for Deliberate December was born.

Deliberate December - a simple, nourishing practice to end the year feeling calm and content.

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 journaling prompts below to get you thinking about what might feel good for you in December, and then you do it!

If you feel like it, you can share an image each day with the hashtag #mydeliberatedecember. Here’s how my Deliberate December is going to look:

Mornings: Each weekday, before 9am, I’m going to journal first thing and then do timed writing. I may or may not do these things on the weekend – I’m leaving that part open. The main thing is for me to not get straight onto social media, but to start my day deliberately.

Evenings: I also want to end my days with more intention, and I’ve been neglecting some essential pregnancy self-care rituals, so these will be done in the evenings. Before bed on weekdays, I’m going to do some gentle stretching and massage, meditation and reading before bed. Ideally this will take about 30 minutes, with the goal of getting to sleep by 11pm.

That’s it. Pretty straightforward.

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

– What time of day do you want to do it? I chose mornings because I’m off work now and am finding myself sort of drifting aimlessly into my days. This isn’t a good feeling. I added in evenings because I think if I go to bed with intention, I’m more likely to wake up with intention. Without the structure of work to guide me, I need to create my own structure.

– 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
  • Self care such as taking a bath, applying some lovely body lotion, deep breathing, a lovely cup of tea, etc.

img_0436

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.

Tools to help

I’m using a few tools to help me with my Deliberate December practice. These are things that can help keep me accountable and just make the whole process a bit easier. Here’s what I’m using:

  • The hashtag #mydeliberatedecember – sharing my progress with others will help to keep me accountable.
  • My journal itself is a way of keeping me accountable as I’m forced to confront myself each day – and why I may have chosen to not do my practice!
  • The Forest App – I have this as an app on my phone and a Chrome extension. It stops me from opening up other apps/tabs when I’m focused on doing something (like writing) and times my progress. Brilliant!
  • 750words.com – this is an online platform that tracks my daily timed writing to ensure I write a minimum of 750 words. This was originally based on the idea of Morning Pages, which are about 750 words long, so could be useful for that.
  • Guided meditation – I’m not sure which one I will do yet, but it will be short and easy (5-10 minutes). I’m thinking something from the Insight Timer App.

You could also use things like fitness trackers or timers if your practice includes fitness or exercise, updating Good Reads if your practice includes reading – or just simply share using the hashtag. Make it simple and fun!

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! Total freedom to do what works for you.

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?
  • Do you want to focus more on how you start or end your day – or both? Or perhaps the middle?
  • Imagine it is the start of 2017 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.