Stephen King’s top tips for writers

StephenKing Image by the USO, via Flickr Commons_10968905154_140c71b403_m

Image by the USO, via Flickr Commons

I was surfing Facebook and found this great article on Open Culture. It was titled, Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers and I had to share it with you.

Of course I’ve read On Writing by Stephen King. It’s a must read for anyone with a passion for writing fiction (in my opinion). I loved reading it so much that I bought the audio book and enjoyed listening to him read his own work.

In the article by Open Culture, they list the top 20 rules Stephen King has for writers.

Below are four that resonate for me:

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”

Just those four rules or tips make my heart burst with creative joy.  It feels like I’ve been given permission to go forth and be as creative as I like. Then when it comes to rewrites I’ll cut out what isn’t the story.  That is so freeing.

I also love how honest Stephen King is. He is his own person. He writes honestly, even in fiction and that’s cool.

If you skip across to Open Culture for a look-see, I hope you enjoy and that you find these rules/tips as inspiring for you as they have been for me.

Happy creative writing.

Creative Writing Courses 2017 in Brisbane, Australia

400dpiLogoI love sharing creative writing tips and when quality courses come along, I want to share them with you.

If you’re based in Brisbane and have been looking for a group of creative writers that will help you to develop your skills, I recommend checking out Brisbane Writers Workshop courses.  They will help you to develop valuable writing skills and inspire your creative ideas and develop them into stories.

Brisbane Writers Workshop courses are kept small to meet your needs and their presenters are experts in their fields with current publishing and editing experience.

So, I thought I’d share their 2017 schedule of courses which I put up on Weekend Notes.

Check out this mini-trailer above to see what the classes are like. This was the Fiction Blitz class from 2016 but it’ll give you a great idea of how cosy and cool the Brisbane Writers Workshop classes are.

Here’s the brief list of the courses on offer from April through to September 2017:

Intro to Creative Writing: Light Your Fire [4 Seats Left]
Saturday, 8 April: 2.30-5pm; Sun, 9 April: 10am-2.30pm

Intro to Creative Writing: Light Your Fire will inspire you to begin work on your creative story ideas.  Sometimes you have a piece of the puzzle of your story whirling around inside your head and may need a little help getting it to bloom. You may want to work on developing your author’s voice or want to understand the basics of story structure.  If that’s where you’re at, then this intro course will be a great start.

This course will give you the foundation information and inspiration to get cracking on your story!

Here’s the blurb from BWW on this course:
Spike your skills with this small-group course presented by Lauren Daniels. Developed for those with a desire to push ideas into more workable drafts, this course provides the petrol and the launch pad. Practice literary techniques, play with writing exercises, and build upon your strengths. Explore common issues from strengthening focus and omitting purple prose, to the crafting solid scenes with a focused perspective and an authentic, active voice.

Speculative Fiction: Myths & Madness [Filling Up!]
Saturday, 27 May: 3-5.30pm; Sun, 28 May: 10am-2.30pm

Speculative Fiction: Myths & Madness is going to be an course filled with ghost, ghouls, vampires and characters inspired by the myths of the world.  I can’t wait to go to this course. I enrolled the minute I found out about it.

Here’s the blurb from BWW on this course:
Got ectoplasm on your laptop and fire-breathing carnies on the brain? Got Rowling, Gaiman, Rice, King, Bradbury and Tolkien on your shelf?

While the term ‘speculative fiction’ dawned in the 20th century, the angle of alternative and inventive angles that synthesise magic realism with the supernatural dates back to Euripides and Shakespeare.

Our challenge is to bypass the cliche and stay fresh. If you need some support from savvy editor/authors who love this genre as much as you do, join us…

Travel Writing: Articles to Books
Sat, 3 June: 3-5.30pm; Sun, 4 June: 10am-2.30pm

Travel Writing: Articles to Books is a course for those who love to travel and write stories about your experience.

Here’s the blurb from BWW on this course:
With a travel writer and editor as your guide, join this expedition into one most the most popular of genres. The itinerary includes resources, publishing tips and how to highlight your experiences in a marketable fashion as short pieces of writing for periodicals as well as full-length works.  Travel adventure and disaster tales welcome.  Beginners to advanced writers will create this supportive atmosphere. Trade trekking insights and tips with like-minded friends.

Polish & Publish: The Insider’s Guide
Sat, 15 July: 3-5.30pm; Sun, 16 July: 10am-2.30pm

Polish & Publish: The Insider’s Guide is a course filled with tips on how to bring your writing up to publication standard.  I had a very positive experience when I attended this course. It was brilliant and kicked off a second rewrite on my own novel.

Here’s the blurb from BWW on this course:
Bring up to 2000 words of your writing to collect gentle and constructive feedback, discover your strengths, define opportunities for improvement, and get the inside scoop on publishing.  This course will enhance your writing and you’ll be inspired by passionate industry pros to join the ranks of writers who take these workshops and get published. At the Polish & Publish workshop you’ll feel empowered to edit your own work with verve and learn how to run productive writing groups.

In Character: Archetypes to the Enneagram
Sat, 19 August: 3-5.30pm; Sun, 20 August: 10am-2.30pm

In Character: Archetypes to the Enneagram is a brilliant course!  When I went to this course I learned so much about how to  integrate archetypes into my characters. And I learned how to use the Enneagram to further develop my characters personalities. It was an awesome experience. If you’re receiving feedback that your characters are two dimensional, then I recommend getting along to this course.

Here’s the blurb from BWW on this course:
Examine character through an array of lenses including Carl G. Jung’s archetypes, Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey motif, and the personality model of the Enneagram as exemplary creative tools in character and plot development. Read excerpts and experiment with character styles. Explore the concept of identity as you track what makes good characters great. Join author/editors Lauren Daniels, Josh Brockbank and Geneve Flynn for lively discussions, writing exercises, morning and afternoon teas.

Writing for Children & Adolescents: Picture Books through YA
Sat, 16 September: 3-5.30pm; Sun, 17 September: 10am-2.30pm

Writing for Children & Adolescents: Picture Books through YA is yet another course I’ve attended with BWW.  It was another excellent quality course filled with relevant information for authors seeking to write for children and YA.

It is amazing how much work goes into creating a picture book. And children are a tough audience, so the insights I received from the editors were pure gold.

Here’s the blurb from BWW on this course:
Meet with a team of editors — Anna Bartlett and Lauren Daniels — and award-winning, guest author Janet Reid to glean tips on what children’s and young adult [YA] publishers seek and how to prepare professional submissions. Find out about good storytelling techniques for young readers and how to earn the regard of this tough audience.

To find out more about the Brisbane Writers Workshop courses, check out their website.

Thanks for reading my blog and thanks for liking my posts too.

Happy creative writing!

My Happy Jar, Yoga, Writing and the X-Files

My Happy Jar

One of my friends told me about this great site called Your Happy Jar and since my quest for 2017 is to connect with balance and count my blessings as well as write a great novel, I thought I’d join.

I’ve had a great time writing short notes that I can look back on and appreciate. Reading through my notes already makes me feel happy.

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Above are two of my happy moments. As the title of my website says – I am an animal lover. These are two of my beloved four legged furry friends.  The third one is a little more difficult to snap up a photo of but I’ll get him one day and he’ll be added to my happy moments too.

Here’s another happy writing moment:

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That day I’d been having so much fun writing my novel while on the train, I almost missed getting off at the right stop.  Reliving that memory is awesome, especially as writing a novel length story can be such a roller-coaster of emotions for me.

It is so nice to remind myself of all the happy moments I have in my life.

Yoga

As I’ve said before on my blog, I’ve been committed to my yoga practice as I explore the benefits to my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual self. Somedays I don’t want to get on the mat but the moment I do, it’s like I’ve come home to myself and I know I’ve made the right decision for my own self-care.

So far I have been #yogacommitted for 80 days.  I’ve missed a few days but this is the most consistent I have ever been with my practice. And I enjoy the idea of developing and growing my yoga practice.

Doing yoga with Adriene as a guide has been the catalyst for change for me in so many ways. The other day I did this yoga flow with Adriene. It was a strong practice and I found it challenging, but I breathed through each posture and my prana was rocking by the end of it.

As I result of daily (or almost daily) yoga practice with the youtube videos, I’ve started going to Yoga with Kristy near where I live.

Kristy is a lovely yoga teacher located on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. She makes everyone feel welcome and allows each participant to work at their own level with kindness and compassion.

This coming Thursday I’ll be off to attend her restorative yoga practice again.  I think I might float home.

Writing

As you can tell from the above, I’m still writing my first novel, Tuppence Weatherstorm.  I’ve finished rewriting the first nineteen chapters and have another ten to go.  I’ve been sending off chapters to my writing buddy in Melbourne and I’m looking forward to feedback on what works and what doesn’t.

When I wrote my first draft, it was just under 80,000 words. But now, on the third rewrite, the word count has grown to almost 95,000 words. So, I’ll be culling and tightening my prose as I go through my next rewrite.  I’d better add that to my editing list.

So my writing is right on track. I’m falling more in love with Tuppence Weatherstorm and the world I’m building which is good because writing a novel is a marathon activity.

The X-Files

IMG_1325I’m about 24 years behind the times, but I’ve just started watching The X-Files.  This is my  copy of season one. I’ve watched three episodes so far and I’m hooked.

I’m not quite sure what I was doing the whole time The X-Files were airing, but I’m glad the episodes are available for me to binge watch now.

I am loving the paranormal themes of this series. Just saying.

 

 

Phases of Writing my Novel – A Discovery

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I’ve learned there are many phases of writing my novel. Some phases are challenging as I struggle to birth the words and scenes that will make my story come to life. And some phases are filled with excitement and joy as my creativity soars and the words spill onto the page without effort.

In this post I’m going to tell you about some of the phases I’ve been through so far as I have been writing my novel, Tuppence Weatherstorm.

Back in early 2016 I was sitting on the train on the way out of the city and gazing out the window. It was a hot and humid day. The sky was mottled gun metal grey and overcast.  The train pulled out of Fortitude Valley and my eyes came upon thee old brick buildings with pointed roofs. The brick work reminded me of a church I’d once seen and then my creative mind was off and racing.

The first character, not the main character, appeared inside my imagination. I opened my iPad and started to type what I saw. I grinned as he formed on the page and the setting grew around him. I had no idea where the scene was going but I knew he had appeared for a reason. And I knew it was the start of a story, so I decided to go for it.

What did I have to lose? Nothing. By giving my ideas space to breathe, I had everything to gain, so I plunged in and wrote as much as I could when I could.

This marked the beginning of the first draft phase of writing my novel.

It took me five months of writing, developing my characters, developing the plot, thinking about internal and external conflicts and considering the treatment I’d use to tell my story. For those who are not familiar with the term ‘treatment’, it means whether I’d write it in first person or third person close perspective.

At the time I was also experiencing a high level of anxiety and creative writing gave me a way to express all the things I couldn’t in my real life on the page.

This was also the ‘no self-censorship’ phase of my writing.

I gave myself permission to write as freely as my imagination would allow. I chased ideas down rabbit holes, filled my manuscript with cliches and wrote it on Wattpad.  This was a great fun phase as I received encouragement from the people who read my first draft as I wrote it and shared it with them. Their kind words and support meant the world to me and it still does. I feel blessed to have their input into my novel.

Once I’d finished my first draft of my novel, I had about 80,000 words and no idea on how to proceed.  I’d never got this far with a story before. So I contacted an editor and asked her to take a look at the manuscript and paid her for her time.

This was the editing report phase of writing my novel. 

It was a time of vulnerability for me which was probably heightened by the extreme levels of anxiety I was experiencing in my personal life at the time. But I sat on my hands and waited for my feedback.

I received the feedback and it was great. I received lots of comments, all geared toward helping me to write a stronger story.  The editing review looked at holes in character, plot structure, conflicts, treatment and theme. It gave me added insight into cutting cliches. Cutting overwriting. Cutting tangents.

I also learned that I was trying to write two stories at the same time. This meant that I was consciously writing a paranormal story but my subconscious was dealing with the theme of anxiety.

I hadn’t seen that in the manuscript and was grateful for that insight as it helped me to consider if anxiety was really the theme I wanted to focus on in the story.

It took me about a two months, nearly three of digesting the comments in the editing report before I was ready to start rewriting. The editing report was one of the most valuable learning experiences I’ve had in the process of writing my novel. I used their feedback to help move forward with rewriting. I took one comment at a time and tried to focus on what they had said and see how I could create a stronger story by using that knowledge.

The editing report comments were gold. Pure gold.

I still return to my editor’s comments because they help me to stay on track and focus so I no longer write tangents into my story.

This marked another phase of writing my novel. The second rewrite. 

It was time to do a thorough rewrite. I had to learn to write stronger verbs. I had to start cutting adverbs by 90%. I had to replace cliches with my original prose and come to terms with cutting all the tangents that did not move the plot forward.

I had to focus and tighten and learn to cut out repetition while shaping the plot around the changes. It was a challenging phase and at times I wondered if I’d ever get through it. This phase was akin to going up a grade and learning at a higher level.

Challenging is good.

But I admit, there were times when my anxiety grew into a monstrous entity in its own right. I had to see my psychologist about it and discuss the way my ‘monkey mind’ attempted to sabotage my creative writing. And that was very helpful.

This phase of rewriting took me about three months of focus. When I finally finished the last chapter, I was so happy. I’d made it. I’d not only written and finished the first draft – the bones of my story, but I’d done it a second time and now it had some muscle.

At this point I entered into my current phase of writing my novel… another rewrite! 

Basically, as soon as I finished my second draft, I circled back to the beginning of my story and started reading and writing again. This time I looked at how I could bring out the secondary characters and write the scenes in such a way as to bring out the paranormal themes.

This is the phase I’m in right now.

So, during the week, I focus on rewriting a chapter at a time. Usually this is on the train on the way to work or going home.  (I travel for an hour and 15 minutes each way and use my time to progress my novel or to read and learn).

Once I’ve added missing detail, brought out the senses and developed character circuitry and peeled back another layer of conflict, I move onto the next chapter.  At the end of the week I go through all the recent rewrites on my home computer.

I open Scrivener and use the speech tool to listen to what I’ve written. I found using the audio function helps me to pick up sentences that don’t sound right. I instantly pick up incorrect words and missing words too. It also helps me to hear the cadence and to correct it as I go.

So far I am half way through the third rewrite.  Once this phase of writing my novel is complete, my writing buddy in Melbourne will read the story for the first time and provide me with valuable feedback. He’s my next beta reader and I’ll be integrating his insights when I receive them.  So that’ll commence rewriting phase four.

Going forward, I know there are many more phases of writing my novel yet to come. So, to help me prepare, I have spent time brainstorming a list of editing topics that I will concentrate on as I keep combing through my story and polishing it.

Here are just a few of the editing topics I will be focusing on as I move forward with Tuppence Weatherstorm:

  1. Have I captured all the senses in my story?  Do I favour one or two of the senses over the others? If so, I need to write in the missing senses to help bring out the ‘show’ aspect of the story.When I say senses, I’m talking about: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch.
  2. Have I caught all the repetition in every scene?  What else can I cut or rewrite to build tension and suspense in the story and make it flow better?
  3. Are all of my character’s voices individual?  If not, I will need to go back and do more character work, maybe interview my characters until their voices surface and then write that into the manuscript.
  4. Do I have any words that repeat that I need to vary?  I already know that I like to use the word ‘scream’ a lot. I think that’ll be one for the search and rewrite list.
  5. Do I have ‘tell’ words rather than ‘show’ words in my prose?  I’ll be searching for the word ‘felt’ and doing my best to rewrite the sentence so I show what is happening to my character in the situation.

There are so many more editing topics on my list but I won’t put them up here until I’ve been through them. Some I can’t put up here as I’ve learned them through private courses and the method belongs to the teacher.  But I’ll give you what I can once I know it works.

So far, I’ve been writing Tuppence Weatherstorm for a year and three months. I think that’s pretty fast for me, even though at times it feels like an eternity.

People ask me how long does it take to write and publish a book?  

And I have to say, “I don’t know.”

Right now I’m doing the work. I haven’t got to the stage of publishing my novel yet. And I think every writer is different. Every story is unique and even though there may be deadlines, a story unfolds in its own time. At least that’s how I look at it right now.

What I do know is that once I’ve exhausted all of my editing topics on my list it will be time to submit my manuscript to my editor again. That will be another phase in the birthing of my story as I discover what else needs attention and continue the process of crafting and polishing.

When my story is ready for publication I know it will be the best I could do with the knowledge, experience and guidance I had at the time.

And that’s all I can hope for.

Happy writing and reading!

On Stephen King and Writing Characters

Last year Stephen King received recognition for his work in literacy from the Librarian of Congress at the 2016 Library of Congress Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

They recorded his talk and loaded it up to YouTube which is awesome because I had an opportunity to watch it.

Stephen King did not disappoint. I love this guy! You know … in the ‘I’m a fan girl’ kind of way.  He talked about the Dead Zone and how he foresaw Donald Trump – scary that his work of fiction could have overtones to reality but there it is.

He told funny tales about being a famous author and discussed how to increase literacy in the community. This was very inspiring as he talked about reading for fun, about falling into other worlds and living through characters.

He said (and I’m paraphrasing) that people who do not read live one life and it may be a great life, but people who read, live thousands of lives.

I loved that message because whenever I read a story I get to experience what the character is going through but I don’t need to live their pain in my physical life.

And when I was younger (in my early twenties) I didn’t read much. It took me a lot of practice to learn to read well and then to enjoy the experience. I didn’t grow up loving stories mainly because I didn’t understand the joys of other worlds and characters. I found reading difficult but over time my literacy jumped and I found that I LOVED reading and I loved writing.  And that, in a nutshell, is how I came to be writing my own fiction.

Now, when I read books I have an opportunity to change my perspective on important topics and I learn that not every person who does ‘bad’ things is acting from a place of malevolence. Some characters have motivations that stem from a place of thinking they are acting for the highest good. And that makes the character complex and far more interesting to read about.

So a lot of what Stephen King talked about resonated with me, both as a person who once did not value reading and as a person who is so in love with reading I am never without a novel or a non-fiction book now.

Another interesting thing Stephen King talked about was how odd it was to see so many people in the crowd because writers are supposed to be secret agents. He said, “We’re supposed to observe you, you’re not supposed to observe us.”

I thought that was a great comment because as a writer I find myself observing people. Sometimes I’ve thought that I shouldn’t do that, but to write authentic characters and to gain inspiration for stories I realised that I needed to be engaged in the world around me (to a degree).

Mostly, I look at people’s emotions and how emotion impacts behaviour and the decisions and actions taken.  It’s endlessly fascinating to me.  I often contemplate behaviour and the principle of cause and effect as I write.

A number of my writing teachers have encouraged me to observe body language; to watch people and to do my best to notice the small giveaway signs of their thoughts and emotions too. I do this, but sometimes I think I do it more subconsciously than on a conscious level because I don’t sit across from people and just watch them. I listen to what they are saying, I do observe their body language from the perspective of being present with them and engaged in the topic at hand.

Yet I must admit that watching people teaches me so much about how to write believable characters with congruent and incongruent emotions and body language. Observing people (on TV and in real life) is fantastic way to develop my creative imagination as well as a vital skill for creative writing. So I reckon Stephen King, with all the years of experience and writing success, has a good point about writers being observers.

So, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Stephen King’s talk. He’s an inspiration both as a writer and as a mentor (even though he wouldn’t know me from a bar of soap).

And if you have time and you’re interested in Stephen King, literacy, creative writing or just interested in having a laugh because he is an entertaining speaker, that you’ll take time to watch his talk on YouTube too.

 

Merlin – My New Obsession

I’ve found a new love and it’s the Merlin tele series.  I’m a bit slow on the uptake of some of these shows but when I fall for a show, I fall hard.

 

I think I like Merlin so much because I like a hero who has to deal with living in the mundane world while also struggling to hide and come to terms with the magical world they truly belong to.  I enjoy characters who  live two lives in one. And I enjoy stories filled with magic and monsters.

For years I avoided watching this show because I couldn’t handle the haircuts. Yes, I’m that shallow. But in my mind Camelot would not have a king, prince or mage with short hair styles. It seemed … wrong.

It irked me, but after watching the first episode, with heaps of encouragement from my awesome partner “to give it a go”, I was sucked into the story.

Basically anything with magic in it will get my attention but what really sold me on the series was the dragon.  The dragon character (voiced by the late John Hurt) is a guide to Merlin and a support to him as he grows into his powers. But the dragon is also a contagonist in that he has his own agenda. He is not aligned with the antagonist and initially encouraged Merlin to take actions that would be in the dragon’s best interest and not that of the antagonist or the protagonist.

The contagonist characters are fascinating because we do not know where their loyalties lie and they can switch sides as it suits them but eventually there is a moment in their story arc when they commit one way or the other.

When I got to the episode when the dragon committed his loyalties chills of excitement rushed through my body and my heart opened. For me, it was a pivotal moment in the story and one that I loved.

The other fantastic thing about watching Merlin is that it inspires me with my creative imagination.

I learn so much about the art and craft of story telling from watching these shows.  And I feel inspired to jot down my own dragon stories that have been bouncing around inside my head for years.  I have written parts of stories with dragons in them but I have not spent the time delving deep and developing them.

I think this year, after I complete Tuppence Weatherstorm, I’ll put my mind to the dragon that lurks in the dark spaces of my mind and give her life on the page.

Thanks Merlin for your inspiration.

Failure is not Failure – Reframing Mindset

failure-is-not-failure
Quote from Chapter 28 of Uriel’s Gift by Edward Spellman ~ http://www.urielsgift.com.au

As I read the above quote from Uriel’s Gift, I took a moment to look back on some of my own failures and how they have helped me to course correct, to learn, to grow and to take bold steps toward fulfilling my creative dreams.

When I first allowed myself to dedicate time to being creative, I didn’t feel creative at all. I had many negative voices inside my head telling me that I wasn’t a good enough artist and I’d never would be. They all told me that I was a failure and I’d never amount to more than that.

At first I believed those voices.

I even had an art teacher tell me (early on in my creative development when I was particularly vulnerable) that what I did was craft and not art. She went on to tell me that I shouldn’t even try to become an artist because my work wasn’t good enough.

I was crushed because at that time the act of making art was akin to breathing air.  I’d failed at my attempt to get into a course to learn more. I was a failure. This woman had confirmed it.

And in effect she had snuffed out the light of creation inside me.

Or had she?

On reflection … maybe she had honed in on my vulnerability to teach me a lesson on how to stand in my personal power and how not to give away important emotional and mental real-estate space to those who have no right to take up that position in my life.  After all, this woman was someone I met once and have never ever seen again.

I remember sitting on my bed after that art interview and sobbing until my throat was raw and my eyeballs were swollen to the size of golf balls. No-one could console me. Her words echoed through my mind and were followed by such vicious follow up comments as: You’re a zero. A nothing. See, you’ll never be good enough-that woman said so! You are a failure!

What a drama-Diva I was!

But, you see, I’ve always had this … resilience lurking deep inside myself.  And that day it battered through my self-consumed pain and shone a light on the situation. It opened up another avenue in my brain but I didn’t really understand that at the time.

My resilience has always had a way of showing up in the darkest times of despair and shining a light so I can find my way to an alternate perspective.

I give thanks for my resilience and my inner guidance.

So, after my eyeballs began to itch from dried tears, I realised I had to pick myself up off the floor of despair and keep doing what brought me joy–what I loved–which was art. If no-one else was going to keep my dream alive, then I would have to be my own champion, damn it.

Presto! My silver lining had arrived.  I was my own knight in shining armour.

Even though my heart still ached and my ego was bruised black and blue I continued to draw, paint and study art. I was like a sponge, soaking up anything that would help me to achieve my goal of getting into art school and … dare I say it … becoming an artist.

Of course, the woman’s words continued to reverberate in my mind and I did still allow her valuable brain real-estate for a time. But then one day, I thought, why not give art school thing another go? What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll probably say no ’cause I’m really not good enough but what the hey, gotta get out there sometime don’t I?

And so I applied.

I approached the whole thing with a secret hope that this time I’d be accepted and a great deal of nonchalance just in case I was rejected.  It was all a ploy to keep my vulnerable creative heart safe.

And to my complete surprise, the art teachers valued the skills I’d worked so hard to develop (on my own) and offered me a place in the course immediately.

I remember saying, “Are you sure you want me to be in the course? Really?”  Obviously, I was feeling vulnerable and more than a little freaked out that they’d accidentally said the wrong thing to me.  And by God, I’d give them a way out of this.

But they said, “Yes, we’re sure. We only hope the other candidates have the calibre of work that you do.”

My jaw fell open and I stared at them, disbelief the tone of my mind and my body language, no doubt. I realised what I was projecting, pulled myself together, thanked them and floated out of the room.

Take that! I thought as I remembered the stinging words of the art teacher from my first attempt.

My heart swelled and I skipped to my car, art portfolio under my arm, bumping against my hip all the way.

When I got home I sat on the concrete step and watched my dog play in the grass. He delighted in my presence and loved me just the way I was. Art school or not.

I gave him a pat and wondered again if they’d got it all wrong? Did they really want me?  Of all people, me?  Did they really want the girl who did craft and not real art to be in their course? Could this be a mistake?

No matter how my mind turned their comments over, I had to admit I’d heard them right. And I accepted that I’d finally got what I wanted. I’d got into art school. And it felt bloody fantastic!

The reason I shared this glimpse into my art life is that the experience taught me how to reframe the way I saw myself as an artist, as a creative person and as a human being.

I’d faced my ego, my vulnerability. I faced my fear of failure and I’d found the courage to keep trying even in the face of certain rejection. I loved art and I had a dream, so I kept taking tiny steps toward making it a reality.

This situation also taught me that I am the one who controls how much of my mental and emotional space another person’s words get to take up in my inner world.

Just like an artist, I realised that I get to choose what goes inside the frame of my mind. Just like an artists hones in on the important details and leads the eye of the viewer around the image, I too had the power to choose what would go inside my mind and what I’d turf.

The ability to identify when something or someone is taking up valuable mental or emotional space inside your brain/life is an important transferrable skill. One that I think everyone needs to be aware of and practice as it can help you to take back your personal power.

As I go through life, I meet so many people who give their personal power away to someone or something that does not deserve it.

I think we do this for many reasons, some I understand and most I don’t. But if something or someone has caused you to become miserable then it’s time for a little self-assessment on how important their role inside your life?

I always ask myself these questions to help figure things out:

  • Why am I giving my power away to this person/thing/belief?  Do they deserve my power? Are they that important to me?
  • Am I seeing/hearing/experiencing the truth in this situation? Or is it a fear masquerading as reality?
  • Do I want to continue to feel this way? If not, how can I step out of this emotional tangle I’ve got myself knotted into?
  • Why do I think this other person’s opinion etc is so important that they get to take up valuable brain-space?
  • Don’t I deserve to be happy? Of course I do! So why am I continuing to give them another moment’s thought?

These questions have helped me to step out of the painful experience and the eternal feedback loops of confusion and get some perspective. It’s how my resilience kicks in and helps me take back my personal power.

In my experience, life is about learning lessons-many lessons. Lessons that are empowering if we only take the time to investigate what is really going on.

I’m not perfect and I still get stuck. I’ve even given my power away to writing teachers and taken their comments as the be-all and end-all of what I was capable of. Which has resulted in being emotionally and egotistically bruised.

But their comments are not a reflection of all that I am capable of.  And when I reflect, I realise that I have chosen to give them power. I’ve done that and I’m the only one who can take the power back and turf out the muck that had tried to root itself inside the neural super-highways of my brain.

Reflection, course correction and standing up for myself are all ways that I reclaim my personal power and continue to move forward to my desired goal as an artist, a creative writer and as an ever evolving and self-aware human being.

As the quote from Uriel’s Gift says, “Failure is not failure.”

Balance, Spirituality & Creativity – 2017

The transition from into 2017 has provided me with an opportunity to ponder where I am going and what I want in my life.  As a result of meditation, contemplation and my intuition, I have discovered my top three power words for 2017 are:

Balance, Spirituality and Creativity

2017 will be a year of seeking to find balance in my life.  On reflection, I have become overwhelmed with the commitments I have made to other people or to my projects and this has resulted in a great deal of personal anxiety.

This year, it is my focus to find ways to balance my daily routine so that I look after myself in a healthy way while also achieving the goals I set myself.

In an effort to find more balance, spirituality and creativity I have committed to Yoga Revolution: 31 Days of Yoga with Adriene.  I am up to day 19 and have consistently turned up to the mat and honoured myself for taking 30 minutes out of my day to do the practice.

In the past 18 days, I have grown physically stronger but more than that I have discovered an inner strength of my mind and spirit. Anger, irritation, anxiety have all shown up when I have been on the mat and I have allowed myself the space to experience these emotions without judging them.  In fact, this is the first time in my whole life that I have looked upon my physical body with love and appreciation for what it can do for me.  And for that I am profoundly grateful.

So far, this year, I have spent time rewriting my book, Tuppence Weatherstorm.  And as I have come to the page, I have found my story deepening. The characters have developed further and changed too. I have cut characters and scenes that no longer work for the story and added new scenes that are congruent with the flow of Tuppence’s life and her magickal and psychic experiences.

Tuppence Weatherstorm is a paranormal story exploring one woman’s experience of living in the physical world while also being haunted by ghosts and learning that she has is the bearer of heredity magick powers. In this story the mystical world of the feminine Divine, psychic energy and spirits culminate to reveal worlds within the world for Tuppence Weatherstorm.

I love that.

It feels like home to me.

I believe that everything is interconnected. And so it is in my story.

So this year, 2017, will continue to my personal journey toward deepening my experience of and understanding of balance, spirituality and creativity.

I expect it will be an interesting year, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.

Blessed be.

#FrightFest2016 – Wattpad

I am super excited to share that my work in progress, The Living Death of Toddy James, has been awarded the Bronze award for #FrightFest2016!

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During the month of October, two great authors, Finn H. Arlett and Gavin Hetherington are running #FrightFest2016.  It’s a Wattpad competition and they’re looking for scary horror stories, paranormal frights and mega ghoulish mysteries.

So, if you are on Wattpad and have a story that you would like to enter or you know of a frightful horror or ghoulish paranormal story that you loved reading, then get on board and submit or nominate.

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To check out how to enter the competition and read the host’s stories click the links below:

Finn H. Arlett’s story, The Sinister Fate of Joseph Redding is here.

Gavin Hetherington’s story,  Fen of Stagnant Waters: A Ghost Story is here.

And, if you’d like to read the first three chapters of The Living Death of Toddy James (my work in progress) please hit this link to go to Wattpad.

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Check out the other winners:

The Devil’s Tree by @SBMcCauley

Four Words, Four Kills by @Oliver8

What’s Done in the Dark by @LLSanders

Other Side by @April_Parr

Survive by @LizPer7

Congratulations everyone!