Pulp Idol 2017: I’m Through To The Final!

This is my first post in many months, as life has been distracting me to no end, but I come bearing excellent news! I recently entered Pulp Idol – a local writing competition in Liverpool – and got through to the final! Can you believe it?

This was the third consecutive year that I’ve entered and I almost didn’t bother, but something compelled me to submit my novel hours before the deadline – I’m so glad now that I did!

In the competition, each of us had to read out three minutes from our opening chapter, followed by a series of questions from the panel of judges. I brought great passion and energy to my reading and enthusiastically answered the judges’ questions, sensing that my piece had been well-received, yet hardly daring to hope that I would get through to the final. As we waited for the results, I had such a strong gut feeling that I would be successful, but of course my inner critic simply dismissed this as wishful thinking.

When the judges called out my name, I cannot tell you how overjoyed I was! After all the rejection emails I’ve received from publishing houses, as well as my run-in with a vanity publisher, it was so special to hear such positive feedback about my writing. The judges said my opening chapter was well-structured, eloquently written and wasn’t drowning in too much description, with interesting characters that showed great potential – this was so affirming for me and it has restored confidence in my writing.

I’ve barely written anything these last four months, so this victory has given me a much needed confidence boost. Going forward to the final next month, there is a chance I could actually end up with a publishing contract, which is so unbelievably exciting! I dare to dream that it is possible and intend to carry forth my passionate energy to the final, letting my inner light shine as I present my work to the judges once more.

Wish me luck, my friends!


Utilise Every Spare Minute!

Do you have a long commute to work? An hour of peace once the kids have gone to bed? A lunch break perhaps? No matter how busy you are, you can always find time for what you love.

As J.K. Rowling said, you’ve got to fiercely defend your writing time and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing lately. Even if you just snatch a minute here and there, making notes on your phone or scribbling in a notepad, you will make progress before you know it! Every word adds up and if you stick at it, you will reach the finish line eventually! This way of thinking applies to any hobby or passion.

Many people despair about not having enough time to do what they love. Until recently, I have been skimping dramatically on my writing time. In fact, I wasn’t even showing up at the keyboard, so how on earth could I expect anything to happen? You’ve got to open up the space for your creativity to flourish.

Keep on creating, folks! Even if you’re going at a snail’s pace, each little bit of progress is better than none. This week, I’ve been taking my phone into work with me, typing away on my commute and whenever I have a spare moment, my imagination bubbling in the background, living and breathing once more.

Keep on pushing forward, enjoy the journey and have good fun with it. And don’t forget to have well-earned pit-stops along the way! If you whip your horse too hard, it will collapse with exhaustion, so go at a pace that is comfortable for you. “Without haste, but without rest,” Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe said.

Good luck, fellow creators!

Finding Your Creative Voice

In recent months, my thinking has been very scattered and I’ve been allowing myself to get wrapped up in all kinds of things that aren’t really that important. This has worn me down, spread me thin, left no space for my creativity to emerge. Indeed, my creative voice has been submerged beneath an ocean of miscellaneous crap, completely drowned out and distorted.

Nurturing your creative voice is so important for an artist. Without it, you feel as though your wings have been clipped. No matter how hard you try, you just cannot take flight for long. This can be very frustrating, especially when you have a story to tell or something to express, but the only thing you can do is work through this challenging period.

My biggest problem is that I don’t devote enough time to my writing. Instead, my energies are channeled into mundane things and not being spent on my one true passion. At the moment, though, I am going through a massive de-cluttering – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – and I am finding that as I peel away the layers of dead-weight, I am rediscovering what my priorities are.

As all the crap is being banished from my life, I have been able to devote more time and energy to the things that I love. Already, I have noticed that my mind is clearer and more focused, less concerned with silly trivial things (such as what my work colleagues think about me). I still have some way to go, but hopefully once I am fully unburdened, my creative energies will be able to spring forth unhindered.

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.

My dealings with a vanity publisher

Just before Christmas, I received the email that every writer dreams of receiving…

A publishing house was interested in one of my books!! After reading the sample chapters that I sent them, they wanted to see the full manuscript and said that they would get back to me within 4-5 weeks.

As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s been a very long wait since then. And no matter how hard I’ve tried, its been at the back of my mind, like I’ve been waiting for some sort of judgement day to arrive. Every time I’ve opened up my emails, my heart has fluttered with a mixture of both optimism and fear, simultaneously anticipating either outcome of the verdict.

Yesterday, I finally received a response. Ironically, it was one of the few times that I checked my emails and I wasn’t expecting a reply… they do say that a watched pot never boils, don’t they? But anyway, their response was something of a mixed bag.

On the one hand, they said that they loved my book and wanted to give me a chance. But on the other, they told me that I would need to make a contribution towards the initial publication costs. I still don’t know how much they’re going to ask for, as they said that this would be included in the proposed contract, but you can bet that it’ll be thousands of pounds.

I’ve since done a little research into this publisher and it seems that they are quite well-known for their attempts to extort money from aspiring authors. Thanks to the internet, I was able to find a newspaper article about them and read some comments about other authors who have had similar experiences with them. All of a sudden, their praise about my book meant nothing, as they probably say the same thing to many hopeful writers.

The practice is known as vanity publishing. For a fee, the publisher will publish your work, but it will never get big. What’s so horrible about this company is that it tries to hide the fact that it’s a vanity publisher and preys upon the hopes and dreams of writers, some of who probably cough up the money. Just in case you didn’t know, most publishers and agents DON’T ask for upfront fees because they take a commission from the book sales later on.

For the last few weeks, I have put a lot of energy into visualising what it would be like to get published. I have never wanted fame or fortune, but I did revel in the idea of my books being shared and read, imagining what it might be like to do book signings or see my books in the shops. But unfortunately, it looks like I’ll have to go it alone.

Out of curiosity, I asked the publisher for some specific feedback about my book, which they said was “confidential” and could not be discussed until we were in production. This just confirmed my worst fears about them – had they even read my book?

So now I’ve decided to revert back to my original plan: self-publishing. I have three books under my belt now and I would very much like to share them with people. Fortunately, we live in a time where it is technologically possible for writers to take matters into their own hands and that is what I intend to do. I am grateful for my recent letdown because it has made me more determined than ever to share my work. So watch this space, folks!

Finding a job that supports your passion

It is said that artists find it notoriously difficult to hold down a job.

I don’t know how true this stereotype is, but I have certainly had a few issues with employment. Not because I’m a writer and do too much daydreaming, but just because the corporate world is extremely messed up! On quite a few occasions, I have been blighted by the probation curse, fired on the grounds that “I’m not suitable” or not meeting ridiculous targets. A lot of the time, I believe that I am let go because I don’t fit into the workplace socially. And then there’s the suggestion that I don’t work fast enough… jeez, why is everyone in such a hurry these days?

Even though writing is my main passion, I do always try my best with whatever job I have to pay the bills. Unfortunately, society usually ensures that I don’t keep each job for too long. Recently, however, I have found a job that I think I might keep for quite a while. It is a casual job, which means that there’s no probation period and I also haven’t been pulled up for being too slow. In fact, we are encouraged to take our time so that we don’t make mistakes.

Just in case you’re wondering, the job is in a cafe! As a writer, it is good to get out of the house and interact with my fellow humans, as they are fascinating and provide fuel for my imagination. All of my stories feature people, so it is important for me to stay in touch with them. And I am not above working in a cafe, where there are many opportunities to be kind and considerate to customers.

Most importantly, I am still writing in my spare time. In fact, going to the cafe focuses my mind and fuels my writing. It is not a strenuous job and I still have plenty of energy when I get home, so writing still gets done. With other jobs, I have always been too drained or too beleaguered by workplace politics to give my writing the attention that it deserves.

So my advice to any fellow writers or artists would be to find a job that supports what you love. We all need to pay the bills somehow, but try to do something that helps with your passion, even if it’s completely unrelated. If you’re lucky enough to earn money from your art, then that’s great! But most of us have to do a balancing act and quite often we don’t have time for what we love.

Please don’t abandon your hobbies! Do what you love and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Life is meant to be enriched with the things that you love, so fight tooth and nail to incorporate them into your life. You know what you want deep down, so why deny yourself happiness?

Rising from the ashes

Wow – it’s certainly been a while since I last posted! Perhaps I should provide a few updates?

First off, I have been very busy this autumn with setting up a business called Mystery Cow, which provides people with everything they need to host their own murder mystery parties. You are, of course, very welcome to check this out at http://www.mysterycow.com and I would appreciate any feedback that you are willing to give!

To be perfectly honest, setting up the business nearly destroyed me. Even though I had fun with creating the resources and all of the different characters, I did face a fair few struggles and stresses with getting it launched. The major mistake I made was not giving myself a well-earned break, which of course resulted in me completely burning out.

In the wake of this crash, I have returned to my true love: storywriting. I was a bit nervous about starting my third book, as it has been several months since I last wrote a novel, but I took to it like a duck to water. Writing, it seems, is like riding a bike. Life seems much simpler now that I am writing again. Several months away from the craft has made me realise how much I cherish it and want it to have a firm place in my life. And so I have resolved that no matter what is going on in my life in the future, I never want to be parted from writing for that long ever again.

With regards to this blog, I have been very aware of time slipping by, as I have a weekly reminder on my phone that prompts me to write a blog post, but I just haven’t found it within me to do so. I have been so utterly spent that I haven’t found the motivation to do that much at all, nor have I been forcing myself to. For the good of my health, I’ve needed to take a complete blackout from everything, especially business-related, but I am slowly regaining my vigour. My return to blogging is certainly a very good sign that I am on the mend!

My advice to anyone who is reading this post is to do what you love. Follow your passion with all your heart and do not let anyone stop you from doing this. I have been on quite the detour for the last several months, getting quite caught up in something that has caused deep stress and anxiety, but I have now returned to what truly makes my heart sing. And as long as that is in my life, then I imagine that I shall have great joy.

Getting Started

Sometimes, getting started can be the most difficult part of the journey.

We come up with all sorts of reasons and excuses for not getting stuck in. Out of nowhere, a whole host of other things seem to require our attention, whether that be cleaning the house or watching cat videos on Youtube! But if we don’t take that first step into the unknown, then we would never get anything done!

Many of us turn to procrastination when we are afraid to proceed, but you must cast aside your fear and believe in yourself! If you do not have the discipline to face your tasks head-on, then it will take much longer for them to get done, or perhaps they might not get done at all. But once you get into the right frame of mind and start believing in yourself, you stand a better chance of achieving your goals!

Usually, I find that once I delve into a task, it’s never as daunting as I originally thought. For some reason, the human mind puts up barriers and makes something look much scarier than it actually is. But you’ve got to change your attitude towards these sorts of challenges and put aside your fear. Do not be afraid of failing and do not be afraid of something not being good enough… do something because it is what you love doing!

Getting started can be the most difficult step because you are committing to the road ahead. Indeed, commitment can be scary, but no journey can begin without that first step! And once you find your footing, you should be able to gather momentum and enjoy your journey. When you’re passionate about every step that you take, travelling towards your destination is much more enjoyable.

If you want to write, then bloody well do so!

There is nothing that should stop you from doing what you love.

Life is too short to live in regret, so stop making excuses and dive straight in there! You may be busy, you may be encumbered with responsibility, you may be limited by ill health, but no obstacle should stand in the way of your goals. Many writers suffer great hardship to create their work.

Other writers, however, have a relatively easy ride. I am among this group of writers, who have very little responsibility and can devote a lot of time to their craft. But regardless of how much spare time you have, you can always put some time aside for your hobbies, even if it’s just a few minutes per day. A long-term project like a novel requires patience and persistence to complete, so all writers need these qualities.

Another thing that shouldn’t hold you back is what other people think of you. Don’t worry about the opinions of others… you don’t need their praise or approval. You should write because you want to, not to impress your peers! So if you’re new to writing or you’re an existing writer who is doubting themselves, then please do not worry. Deep down, you know what you want to do with your life and you should not be embarrassed by this.

Yearning to write, but being bound to other things

Sometimes, life can get in the way of your passions.

The last time I did any story-writing was back in February when I finished my second book, which saddens me slightly. But I have resolved that there’s nothing stopping me from writing little tidbits or small stories to keep the passion alive. In fact, I think that a little bit of daily writing would help to get the cogs turning and sharpen my focus when getting on with other tasks.

At the moment, I’m setting up a business, which is highly time-consuming! But thankfully, it’s a creative business that still allows me to come up with characters and plot-lines, so it’s not all bad! And the whole reason that I’m doing it is to create an income to give myself more time to write stories!

Sometimes though, I just yearn to pick up the pen and return to my true love. But I realise that I must be patient and persist with the task at hand… only then can I achieve true freedom to write stories whenever I desire.