Infinite Choices, One path

Have you ever shouted across the chasm of time
And begged yourself to take another path?
Wondering what might have been,
Tormented by hindsight’s clarity.
Whether you walk this way or that,
Some seeds will never come to be,
Flowers will wither
And doors will close.

Some choices are made in good faith,
Others clouded with fear and desperation,
Infinite choices,
Only one path.
No going back now.
You stand at a fork in the road,
Many paths lie ahead,
Choosing one will sacrifice the others,
But choose you must.

That’s beauty of it, you see.
Each of us has a blank canvas
And a multitude of different  colours.
Each person’s painting is unique,
Manifested from infinite potential,
Defined by the paints that are not used
Just as much as the ones that are.

How will you paint yours?

Advertisements

Salvaging An Old Project

It has been two years since I wrote my second book. When it was first finished, I sent it off to literary agents, but it’s kind of been forgotten about since then. Other projects have taken priority and I’ve also been rather preoccupied with life, so my second book has been left sitting on a dusty shelf in cyber space.

This week, however, I felt the urge to revisit this story. Before I knew it, I was re-drafting the first chapter and realised that it is a story worth salvaging. The prose is a little clumsy, as I was still learning my craft when I wrote it, but I am a better writer now and know how I can fix it. With a thorough polish, I know it can sparkle!

Revisiting the book, I no longer feel such a personal attachment to the story and feel as though I can edit it more objectively. My second book draws upon a lot of personal experiences, so I think I was concerned that people might think it was autobiographical; certainly, there were quite a few parallels between my personal circumstances and those of the characters, but a lot has changed over the last few years. I can now look upon this book with completely fresh eyes.

So far, I have really enjoyed polishing the prose and seeing how better it looks afterwards! Now that I have stopped drawing comparisons between what was real and what was fictional, I can see that the story pays homage to the trials and tribulations that many young people face when graduating from university. I know that many young people will be able to relate to this and so I wish to share this story with the world. I do not know how long it will take to edit , but I have committed myself to this restoration and plan to see it through!

Losing Your Creative Ability

Recently, I watched Kiki’s Delivery Service, an animated film about a witch-in-training. Aside from being a charming and highly original story (as most Studio Ghibli films tend to be), there was some very useful advice for creative people, imparted by Ursula, a really cool artist who lived in a log cabin in the woods. Here is what she says to Kiki, the young witch who has recently lost her ability to fly:

Ursula: Painting and magical powers seem very much the same. Sometimes I’m unable to paint a thing.

Kiki: You mean it? Then what? What happens?

Ursula: Kiki, please don’t move. It’s hard to draw a moving target.

Kiki: Without even thinking about it, I used to be able to fly. Now I’m trying to look inside myself to find out how I did it. But I just can’t figure it out.

Ursula: You know, could be you’re working at it too hard. Maybe you should just take a break.

Kiki: Yeah, but still if I can’t fly …

Ursula: Then stop trying. Take long walks. Look at the scenery. Doze off at noon. Don’t even think about flying. And then, pretty soon you’ll be flying again.

Kiki: You think my problems will …

Ursula: Go away? That’s right. It’s going to be fine. I promise.

[A few hours pass by]

Ursula: When I was your age, I’d already decided to become an artist. I loved to paint so much. I’d paint all day until I fell asleep right at my easel. And then one day, for some reason, I just couldn’t paint anymore. I tried and tried, but nothing I did seemed any good. They were copies of paintings I’d seen somewhere before … and not very good copies either. I just felt like I’d lost my ability.

Kiki: That sounds like me.

Ursula: It’s exactly the same, but then I found the answer. You see, I hadn’t figured out what or why I wanted to paint. I had to discover my own style. When you fly, you rely on what’s inside of you, don’t you?

Kiki: Uh-huh. We fly with our spirit.

Ursula: Trusting your spirit! Yes, yes! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. That same spirit is what makes me paint and makes your friend bake. But we each need to find our own inspiration, Kiki. Sometimes it’s not easy.

Kiki: I guess I never gave much thought to why I wanted to do this. I got so caught up in all the training and stuff. Maybe I have to find my own inspiration.

This scene in the film spoke absolute volumes to me. Until a few days ago, I too had lost my creative spark and it is so frustrating to lose that natural flow, but there are usually reasons as to why it has happened, such as pushing yourself too hard or losing belief in yourself. It feels as though your connection to the cosmic radio station has gone faulty and you can no longer tune in properly, having to put in so much effort to produce something that once came so naturally to you.

But the advice in Kiki’s Delivery Service reminded me that we all get creative blockages and the best way to combat them is to take a break, switch off and relax. Such creative droughts are not the end of the world and I have certainly bounced back from such situations before, though it can feel like you’ve lost your creative talent forever. Indeed, you could not be blamed for fearing this, but take it from me: once your spirit has been lifted and the blockage removed, you will soar once again.

Trust me, I’m a writer.

Slow Down And Enjoy Right Now

Many of us get caught up in the race of life, trying to get ahead, forever striving to reach our goals and feeling guilty when we’re not pushing forward. But there is nothing wrong with slowing down and enjoying life’s simple pleasures.

Why do we kill ourselves in the pursuit of success? Why do we insist on flogging our horse when it needs to rest? Why do we buy into the insane expectations that society thrusts upon us?

By all means, reach for the stars, but don’t lose yourself in the process. “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live,” Albus Dumbledore wisely said. And quite right he is, for there is much joy to be found in the everyday. Yes, you may wish to travel the world or set up a business or learn how to play the guitar, but you may find joy in the little things, such as eating a tasty sandwich or meeting up with an old friend.

This week, I have made the conscious effort to take some time out and recharge my batteries, as I am definitely guilty for pushing myself too hard. But I know I’m not alone with this and so I wanted to remind others to relax and laugh and play.

Don’t spread yourself too thin! Focus your energies on things that really sing to your heart. Do you really need that new iPhone or fast car or a perfect body? Do you really need to do everything on your bucket list? At the end of the day, we are only human and there’s only so much that we can do in one lifetime, so you can’t expect to do it all and see it all. I shall leave you all with a poem I wrote, called A Race Against The Clock, which I think sums up the madness of our go-getter society:

I need to go somewhere,
Do something,
Be someone.
Stay young,
Party hard,
Have fun.

I want to learn a language,
Climb a mountain,
Play the guitar.
See the world,
Get rich,
Drive a fast car.

I want to fit in,
Yet stand out.
Have a relationship,
Yet sleep around.
I want a career,
But I’d like to be free.
I try so hard to be
Cool and trendy.

I want to live abroad,
Start a business,
Keep fit.
Volunteer,
Skydive,
Watch the sun set.

There’s so many things I want to do,
Keeping up with what’s new.
I’d like to have a family one day,
But first I’d just like to play.
A race against the clock,
Tick tock – tick tock…

 

 

“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.

WP_20160116_13_26_54_Pro

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.

 

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.

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?

 

What would you do if you could turn back the clock?

Most people have regrets or things in their past that they would like to change.

Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about this, but it’s an interesting concept to think about. In fact, it’s actually the premise of my first book, Pearl’s Hereafter.

After a lifetime of misery, Pearl Greenwood actually gets the chance to re-live her life and remedy her mistakes! Originally, she married the wrong man, never stood up for herself and let her hobbies fall by the wayside, but she is bestowed with the opportunity to fix things.

What would you do if you were granted this marvelous opportunity? Is there anything that you would change or put right? Any bad choices or silly mistakes? Perhaps you mistreated a loved one or didn’t seize an opportunity? Perhaps you never appreciated someone until it was too late?

Whatever your regrets, I hope that you can make peace with them. We might not all get a second chance like Pearl, but we can always find a way to make peace and move forward.

Personally, I don’t regret much and I’m hoping that it stays that way. But I’m still young, so there’s still plenty of time for error on my part! It’s scary to think that things could go tits-up at any time, though you’ve just got to roll with it and do the best that you can. We can learn from our mistakes and turbulence, so perhaps your regrets can be transmuted into valuable life lessons.

Here is an article about the most common regrets that people have on their deathbed: http://bit.ly/KsjpWI. It’s actually quite eye-opening and says a lot about humanity. At our core, we all want to be happy and have fulfilling lives, but circumstances and fear often stop us from doing this – tragically, some people never do what they want to do. So if you have dreams or goals, then I highly recommend pursuing them. It is said that we regret what we DID NOT do far more than the stuff that we DID do.