“Fate-Led”

The other day, I came across an amazing sculpture in the Walker Art Gallery. It depicted a young woman, her eyes distant and vague as though she was lost in a trance, with her hand hovering out in front of her. She was beautiful and mysterious and totally captivating. I honestly could’ve stared at her all day (and no, it wasn’t because she was naked!).

There were many statues in that room, but there was just something about this entranced woman that was so enchanting. The description beneath the piece said that it was originally exhibited in 1892 with the following lines:

Fate leading, she must needs go on and on
Blindly, yet fearing not, till the goal be won.

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To me, this spoke absolute volumes. Many of us are led by faith or by a purpose in life and tentatively follow the path set out before us, often wondering if it is the right one. But this woman has such unwavering faith in her destiny and is not afraid, succumbing completely to the higher powers that guide her.

Ideas of faith and “being guided” feature very prominently in my fantasy trilogy, so I was very pleased to see this sculpture. Perhaps there is something that we can all learn from it.

 

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Do You Hate Self-Promotion? Read This Amazing Book To Change That!

Before I read Show Your Work!, I used to think of self-promotion as something that was dirty and unwholesome. I was afraid of annoying people with too many updates and thought that I might come across as indulgent or arrogant if I posted too much about what I did.

But this guidebook was written for “people who hate the very idea of self-promotion”. Reading it has dramatically changed my perception and I now view self-promotion as simply sharing what you do – thinking of it in this way makes it seem less unsavoury somehow! In fact, sharing what you do – with regards to your work, thoughts and ideas – is really just being transparent about who you are as a person.

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While reading Show Your Work!, I made key notes that I will definitely refer back to in the future. If you are someone who struggles to self-promote or have trouble speaking about what you do, then I highly advise you to check out this book. It is packed full of practical advice and really does help to shift your perception. The main lessons I learned from it are as follows:

  1. Share something small every day, whether it be something that inspired you or an idea that you had. Anything from your creative process that might be insightful or interesting to others.
  2. Document everything that you do. Take photos, keep a work journal etc, so that you have a wellspring of material to draw upon when blogging or posting updates.
  3. Focus on your work and get good at what you do. Don’t waste your time and energy trying to gain followers or network. People will come to you if you are good at your craft.
  4. Don’t hoard your ideas. Post about what you’ve learned and help your fellow creatives, encouraging support and collaboration.
  5. How to deal with the dreaded question: “So what do you do?”
  6. Appreciate your guilty pleasures (i.e. that TV show that everyone else thinks is lame) because maybe it will lead to something that inspires/influences your work.
  7. The vampire test. If something drains your energy, cast it out of your life. Keep the things that boost your energy.

There are so many other things that I learned too. There was also a lot that I already knew deep down, but I just needed some reassurance and encouragement. It is precisely the book that I needed to read and I am enjoying incorporating its methods and techniques into my life. Thank you, Austin Kleon, for a fantastic guidebook!

If you wish to check it out further, then click here: http://austinkleon.com/show-your-work/

 

Writing as a linear process

For me, writing is a linear process. I cannot jump ahead and write future scenes if I’m stuck because the unfolding of a story is so organic that unexpected things happen along the way. New characters can come into the fold, the plot may take a different direction or some scenes may no longer feel necessary. None of this may happen if you begin to time-travel.

Of course, writers are the creators of their own worlds and ultimately can time-travel if they want to (indeed, it may be part of the plot). But from experience, I have found that I never fully stick to my plan as my story comes to life on the page.

I tend to stay true to the main essence of the plot, but often the best parts of my prose come from nowhere. So travelling from A to B, from beginning to end, is the way that I operate. No chopping or changing, no jumping ahead to future scenes, just staying there with my characters from the first page to the very last.

Don’t Lose Your Magic!

I recently watched Joy, the film about the inventor of the miracle mop, which was very inspiring indeed. All such success stories serve to demonstrate that you should always persevere and never give up, for the realisation of your goals cannot happen without constant drive.

What really grabbed me about Joy’s story is that her creativity was suppressed for seventeen years, crushed and stifled by all the commitments and other things going on in her life. I can relate to this creative hibernation because I did not write for many years, but my creativity kept finding other ways to express itself, until I eventually plucked up the courage to write my first proper book.

At the beginning of the film, you get to see how bright and creative Joy was as a child. Indeed, most children are born with such fearless wonder and playfulness, but a lot of us lose this magic as we enter adulthood. It is tragic when someone’s spirit is crushed by the real world, as this person cannot shine as brightly as they would like, nor be who they want to be.

But it is never too late to change things! Joy tapped back into her creative reserves after seventeen years and overcame great odds to achieve her dreams.

Watching this film made me think… if Joy could overcome such adversity, then so can I – and so can you!

For as long as you breathe, you have the opportunity to turn things around. Don’t let your spirit get crushed by life. Don’t lose the magic!

The Fragility of Life

The other day, a car drove past me and one of its tires unexpectedly blew out. The disgruntled driver slowly pulled over and sat there in astonishment.

This incident reminded me of the fragility of life. You can be cruising along quite happily until something unexpected comes along and knocks the wind out of your sails. Indeed, the opposite can happen where you’re just muddling along and a great gust of wind lifts your spirits and elevates you to new heights.

Nothing in life is certain and things are forever in a state of flux. Nothing remains static, so we must embrace change and dance with the flow of life, otherwise we will suffer.

Many people suffer because they resist change or cannot let go of the thing that punctured their tire. But every time that something knocks us off the road, we must make repairs and get back into motion, otherwise we will rust and decay and end up on the scrapheap.

Life is fragile and unpredictable, but this should not discourage us. Each of us are on a special journey, with pitfalls and delights that lie ahead, obscured by the landscape of time, but that is what’s truly exciting in my opinion.

Wherever your road leads, no matter what obstacles you face, keep on chugging along and don’t forget to appreciate the view.

The True Spirit of Christmas

Last year, when I was at a low point in my life, Christmas was a candle in the darkness.

It evoked warm and cosy feelings that helped to lift my spirits and played and important part in my recovery, so I will always be grateful for that. This year, I am in a much better place, but I find myself turning to Christmas once again and have allowed it to nourish my soul.

Unfortunately, Christmas can be a very stressful time for a lot of people, thanks to all the financial pressure and commercialism that has hijacked the holiday. And also, it can be a rather rubbish holiday for those who have nobody to share it with.

But I find that there is great joy and wisdom to be garnered from the festive period. In fact, it can be a very spiritual time of year if you can tap into the true spirit of Christmas (the notions of generosity, sharing, goodwill etc). Imagine how horrible these cold, dark winter nights would be without the flashing lights, mulled wine and heart-warming Christmas carols. Surely anything that brings merriment and joy is a good thing, right?

Sadly, as I’m getting older, I do feel that some of the magic is fading (after all, I’m not a kid anymore). I have to be more proactive now if I am to get into the festive mood and there has seemed to be a noticeable lack of Christmas spirit in the air. For example, my mum usually comes alive at this time of year, but she now claims that “Christmas isn’t the same any more”.

My response to that is this: a day is what you make it. If you want something to be special, you’ve got to make it so. The reason I like Christmas so much is because it promotes values that should be prevalent EVERY DAY.

Why is it that generosity, sharing, goodwill and merriment are reserved only for Christmas? Why are these values not instilled in our culture ALL YEAR AROUND? Why is it that our planet is plagued by fear and destruction?

In 2016, I urge you to take the spirit of Christmas forward. Don’t leave it behind on Boxing Day. Don’t let the magic die. The world can be a better place if we choose to make it so. But this can only be achieved if we all stand together and unite.

 

 

Watching TV to avoid silence

Someone said to me today: “Why are you sat there without the TV ON?”

I found this interesting because it seems to be the natural reaction of so many people to turn on the TV if the room is quiet.

TV is very often used as background noise, but why? I suspect that it provides comfort, a connection to the outside world, something to fill the deadly silence. Because many people seem to be uncomfortable with silence, as it leaves them alone with their chattering minds.

If only people knew how sacred silence could be. If only people were brave enough to delve deep into themselves and resolve the issues that they have suppressed. But as long as the TV stays on in the background, as long as people find ways to distract themselves, then this may not happen.

Perhaps it is people’s thinking in this modern age that you do not have a functioning home unless the television is on. Perhaps watching television is now just as natural as breathing, along with shopping in a great big warehouse and taking selfies on your mobile phone. But does this technology enhance our human experience or take away from it? I suppose it depends on how these devices are used, but everyone will have a different answer to that question.

How does technology affect your life? Do you turn on the television just for background noise? Do you find yourself avoiding silence at all costs?

 

Writing Fever

Once again, I have been bitten by the writing bug!

When you are in this state, you are constantly daydreaming about your story and itching to write the next part, and then the part after that, unable to rest until it is finished. It is a fever that can only be cured by spilling words onto the page. And even when I complete a book, it is never long before I yearn to write another!

Some people call it the writer’s curse, but I think that it’s a blessing. A lot of people struggle for their art (i.e. some writers need to be drunk or heartbroken or swinging upside-down), yet I can usually sit and write with minimal effort. Of course, insatiable writing fever makes it so much easier to get into the zone, but there are times when this fever dwindles, especially if you are writing for many months.

With my first book, which took eight months to write, the fever came in peaks and troughs. There were times when I was very productive and other times when I barely made any progress at all. But I was patient and I kept on going, one word at a time, putting one foot in front of the other until I reached the finish line. Whenever the fever came, I took full advantage and went along with it, allowing it to spur me onward like wind blowing into a ship’s sails.

Some days, I only have to sit down at my desk before I get lost in a trance and sucked into the story. But even when I’m not being productive, the story is always at the back of my mind, urging me to carry on. The main blocks for me come in the form of self-doubt and fears that my work isn’t good enough, but these concerns are usually bypassed by writing fever, which makes writing a matter of utmost urgency!

Blessed are the days where writing is as easy as breathing. Not so blessed are the days where writing is like chopping through a dense jungle with a bread knife! But we must make do with what we’ve got in any particular moment and we cannot always wait for the wind.

The Essence of Sunshine: A Lesbian Romance

This book exists because my girlfriend dared me to write a romance before I was twenty-five.

But when I accepted this challenge, I didn’t want to write any old rubbish! So I set about to create something with meaning and value. And this is the story that soon fell into my head!

The Essence of Sunshine

The Essence of Sunshine is about a girl with very low self-esteem. Breaking free from an abusive relationship, Georgia’s confidence hits rock bottom and she has no idea what to do with her life. But when she goes away on holiday, she meets a girl who helps to restore her spirit. Georgia is in complete awe of her new friend – the bright-eyed holiday rep, Robyn – but she is surprised when romance blossoms between them…

There doesn’t seem to be much material out there that normalises same-sex relationships, so I’m glad that I’m helping to buckle that trend. There’s an increasing amount of gay/lesbian material being released every year, but we’ve still got some way to go, especially in big institutions like Hollywood. More often than not, homosexual characters feature as funny sidekicks or are confined to ridiculous stereotypes – very rarely do you see a fully-rounded character who just happens to be gay. And let’s not even talk about the over-sexualisation of lesbians!

But anyway, I think that I have succeeded in creating a love story that focuses on the personalities and relationship of the two main characters, rather than the fact that they both happen to be girls.

One or two people have already said to me: “But you’re not a lesbian. How can you accurately write about this?”

My answer: “I’m not a serial killer either – but you didn’t question my accuracy when one of those cropped up in my last story!”

The Essence of Sunshine is quite a short book, but it’s still taken a while to edit and polish. I have taken my time with it to make sure that it is as perfect as it can be before releasing it into the world. I’m still a little scared about sharing it with people, but it’s time to let my child go. Books are meant to be read, after all!

So if The Essence of Sunshine interests you, then you can download the eBook from Amazon: http://amzn.to/1MQoeY9

I believe you can actually preview the opening of the book for free, so why not try before you buy? The print version will be following in due course, so stay tuned if you would prefer a good old physical copy!

Or if it’s not your cup of tea, then why not tell a friend about it? I would greatly appreciate it if you could help out an independent author =)

Finding a way to pay the bills (without destroying your soul)

Writing is my biggest passion, but I have more to give than just my writing.

Several months ago, I had a particularly rubbish day at work and decided to reassess things. Getting published was proving to be difficult and I didn’t want to be stuck in dead-end jobs for the rest of my life, so I decided that I needed a Plan B – something to fall back on in case my writing career never took off.

After doing a personality test online, it was brought to my attention that counselling would be a suitable profession for me. Funnily enough, it was something that had crossed my mind in the past, but I’d never really looked into it. So I’ve started training and it’s going to take a few years to become fully qualified, but hopefully I will have a day job that I enjoy at the end of it.

Only a handful of very lucky people get to make substantial money from their passions. I am now resigned to the likelihood that my work may never get picked up by a literary agent or publishing house, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop writing. I write because I enjoy doing so, but I also have bills to pay, so I’m pursuing a career that utilises some of my other talents (and doesn’t destroy my soul).

Whatever you want to do in life, then go for it. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, then people should support you in your endeavours (and to hell with them if they don’t). Sometimes though, it won’t always be possible to turn your dream into a reality, so you may have to find ways of compromising (i.e. working in a restaurant during the day and acting on stage at night). Do whatever it takes to carry on doing what you love.

Good luck, my friends!