The Simplest Things

Despite the creative block, sometimes it is small hacks in life that make me get back to the page. If you have been struggling to sit down to work, what are the small things you do to get your creativity flowing again?

What made a difference this week?

Cold extremities. The office is cold, the house is cold; storm Ciara has left us mercifully unscathed, where I live, but still Winter’s last blast is here.

The Spring flowers I photographed just last week are a distant memory as the sharp wind beats my cheeks in the playground. But despite the chill that permeates the house, it has made me nostalgic for the times I hunkered down to write. If I don’t want to go anywhere else, I may as well absorb myself by creating something. Whether I like it or not, the time I spent as a student was both my least efficient and my most productive . It must be a sense-memory, but as my hand flies furiously across the page, I associate a desperate need to complete work with this peculiar sense that the air is cold around my nostrils. And like the muscle memory of athletes, my inner student is making me work harder, and suddenly I have more new words than I have had in a while.

Cosy socks. I find slobbing out in comfy clothes not just necessary in this weather, but an inspiration to enjoy the hygge sensations of blankets and pillows by dressing in the warmest fabrics. And in this cosiness, I imagine myself other places. Like my characters, inside looking out on bleak surroundings. Or imagine trying to take off the socks and insist on being barefoot in the woods. The sensory appeal of soft clothing, firing up these thoughts about how my characters are feeling.

A Good Book. I have started a thriller and was so absorbed on my way to work, I almost forget to get off at my stop. A page-turner can be inspiring whether or not it is in the genre you are writing. Whether it inspires you to try your own hand at writing, or it just sparks ideas for a work-in-progress, I have been glad of time to read on my commute this week.

Old Photos. I found an old photo of myself as a child. Looking a little extra, trying on my Grandmother’s pearls, I was inspired not just by the girl I once was – much more spirited than I am now. I was also inspired to delve deeper back into the past of my characters. Though the work I have written may not make the final cut, the depth to which I know my characters now is clear as it flows easily.

Also I think a lot about my childhood ambitions, as I have said before, I do believe in dreams. They have changed a little, but one of the exercises I have been using writing letters to my encouragers in my journal, I wrote to my Grandparents this week, inspired by the photo and by the joy my visits there always brought me.

A Blank Page. The final thing that has really helped me this week has been a blank page. Rather than fill in gaps in my work-in-progress, I have allowed myself time with a notebook or a blank Word Doc. This is an indulgence as I know that having been making progress by fleshing out the first part of my novel. But if it get me working again, it will be worth the type-up time.

I’d love to know what you have done to get back to writing this week?

How's that work/life balance?

Work has been on my mind and writing has taken a back seat

I have been too busy to do anything, including write on my blog. I have not been even keeping to my usual schedule and so still haven’t faced my fears of polishing my draft for a friend to read and help me. Even though I know her door is still open, it’s starting to feel too long since she offered. Life is getting in the way.

I always find January hard. I am effected by the short days and feel sluggish in the post-holiday slump.  The wind dug sharp against my cheek as I walked home from work yesterday and I realised how happy I was to be outside. I suppose I am getting my annual blues because I haven’t been out enough although I forced myself out to see a movie, go to the gym – the dark has left me weary from the early evening onwards.

But I also noticed something else: I was thinking about work. Instead of leaving it at the door, and letting my mind wander to the work-in-progress, I was worrying about changes that were happening. Equally work worries keep showing up in my Morning Pages too (you can read more about why I use this method here). Everyone has to deal with work changes, in fact I once worked in a “Transformation Team” which was really a euphemism for saving money. You don’t have to be at work for long before you realise two things: the only constant is change and it’s always about saving money.

I accept that the changes will happen and I have a choice to be happy with them or move on. I also accept that I can see my place in the team is not being devalued but re-evaluated. All of this does not help with the frustration. Because, although I want to work there, I also really want a day job.

Did you ever just want a day job?

For years, I worked as a temp in offices and often I would find it amusing to see the politics of the place. I thought for a while I might write about my experiences and I am sure that there will be parts that pop up in my writing. I felt like I was a little detached from it all. But, before I knew it I would start to care about the comings and goings and have opinions on staff who sat around doing nothing all day just like everyone else.

You see, I just can’t do it. When I was at my last job I wanted to get involved in the charitable activities, here there are projects that are sort of my role sort of not. I fear I may just be a busy body. When I was at school, I even got a prize for being a “doer”. I think that probably tops most academic prizes I failed to win because it speaks more of my personality. And apparently I haven’t changed much all these years later. I’ll interfere wherever there seems to be something vaguely to do with me.

I think sometimes I would like to switch my brain off a bit. But I do want a job that has challenge or keeps me busy, but that I can walk away from. That uses some brainpower, but not too much. Fussy I know. It’s a constant balance I am trying to find and I need to find a way to get my headspace back for my creative writing.

In the meantime, I am trying to find times of the day when I unplug from the stresses of my job or my son’s education. It’s a work-in-progress too but one I hope I can work more on in February.

Happy Bloggerversary to Me!

Has it really been a year?

My first post New Year, New Writing debuted a year ago today. I sound a bit despondent in the post about ever finding inspiration or finishing the book I am writing. Despite not being where I thought I would be I recently reviewed my year and did better than expected. And this blog has been such a part of that journey for me. My blog birthday is the perfect time to decide what’s next…

More Reviews

My most popular posts have been Reviews like this one of great historical drama: The Mermaid and The Bear. I aim to do more reviewing this year and to highlight my favourite genres like gothic novels and intriguing first person novels. I have also set myself the task of “reading up” all the books on my shelves (Kindle/or real) as my to be read pile is so huge.

More Inspiration

I love sharing real life updates and try to be inspiring to others like me. I have a new for inspiring quotes and things that take my fancy. I also plan to write more about my Artist Date experiences. I love this list of Cheap and Easy Artist’s Dates but really want to add some ideas to this and commit to the practice. Julia Cameron – whose book The Artist Way has been so instrumental in my creative recovery – recommends that Artists (and may be everyone) take out two hours a week to explore and enchant with something new so that we can reinvigorate our inner Artist.

More Writing

Finally the biggest commitment I want to make is not to this blog at all, but to my writing. I want to reassert my right to the time to write. I want to make writing much more than a hobby. And I want to plod on, day-by-day, towards the finish line of not one, but two different projects I am working on.

What are your blogging goals this year?

Were you good enough today?

…how about this week? This month?

January is a tough month. Your instagram is full of diet culture idiocy or people snarking about resolutions. You feel the need to reinvent, renew. And in the meantime you might be struggling with Winter blues. You make the obligatory trip to the gym, like I did this week, and find yourself sick from it (also me). But you have got to ask yourself, were you good enough?

I blame myself for feeling low (along with the illness and Winter and the wolf moon) I reviewed last year’s resolutions last week. I also talked about giving up drink last month. But the rebel child in me has been completely triggered by these posts about dry January and resolutions. She kicks off whenever she thinks she might be doing something everyone else is doing. Resisting the good habits I had shared here, I have had another week of TV binge and time online. And yes, feeling unwell and sorry for myself has helped this bad week along.

Neglecting my morning pages, my writing, eschewing socialising and Artist’s Dates it has left little for me to write about here. Except I wanted to share that I did also do enough. Fed myself, cleaned the toilet, read stories to my child. As Mums, I think we dismiss what we do and focus on what we don’t. Even on a rough week, we did probably look after our children pretty well.

Sometimes all you do is hold a little hand

In his CBT manual, The Feeling Good Handbook, David D Burns tells you “Dare to be Average”. I don’t particularly subscribe to CBT therapy though I see it is useful to analyse your thinking after the fact. I am not of course trained, (so please listen to any psychiatrist over me) but I feel the techniques can also lead you down an overthinking rabbit hole if you are a typically anxious Alice. However, his mantra has always stuck with me. If perfectionism stops you from doing anything, it might be worth doing something, rather than nothing, averagely.

Which is why I wanted to post so that you know I am trying. Hopefully I will be well next week, back to better habits, but for now I hope this is enough.

REVIEW: Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan

I cannot decide whose perspective I love more, Tilly aged seven or Tilda who comes back to Brighton to reflect on her life there and uncover it’s mysteries? Both have a naievity about what might being going on around them. Central to this seems to be the disappearance of Tilly’s father just before her seventh birthday. And for this reason, I would call Ruth Hogan’s novel a cosy mystery.

I can’t explain fully what is so cosy about her novels but there is a charm to her characters. During the scenes we see within The Paradise Hotel, I laughed outloud at some of the antics, not least the wonderful elderly Marlene who is also on other days Gina or Audrey. The joyous energy of the people Tilly lives with is just part of the novel’s appeal.

A cosy novel maybe because, although there are plenty of twists in the story, there are no great shocks. Deftly suspenseful for sure, so much so that I absolutely devoured it in a weekend. I think I actually enjoyed this offering from Hogan more than The Keeper of Lost Things. I have decided it might be because of the way Tilda crosses paths with the many elements of the story. Whereas in the first novel, I was always sad that Laura does not know if she has discovered the truth about the lost items when she writes their stories. Both novels are well-crafted and evocatively written.

I think you could tell the love of Brighton that imbued the pages. Also, I appreciated the glimpse of queer life and the values of acceptance that we see in the people Tilda meets there. I think that it is a novel very much concerned with acceptance and maternal instinct. These chareteristics are shown in many ways through Queenie, Marlene as well as the indomitable Mrs O’Flaherty and, eventhough she has looked for these things elsewhere, you get a sense that Tilda finds the love she needs in the end from her own mother.

This up-lifting novel was a great start to my New Year and I would recommend it to anyone who else who gets the Winter blues

If you like this …

More up-lifting mystery

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

I can’t wait to watch the BBC dramatisation of this beloved novel. Seeing life through the eyes of Maud a woman with dementia, we slowly unravel the mystery of Elizabeth together.

The Seven Imperfect Rules Of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard

I loved the portrayal of the neurodiverse Elvira Carr, my REVIEW explains more