Happy new year 15 days in :)

The other day, I listed on a used furniture site a sofa bed that had become superfluous due to a change of room configurations and the change in location of my study area (bear with me, I do have a point…well, sort of) and by doing so met the beautiful soul who came to buy it. Unbeknownst to me, my listing on the site also included the link to my blog and, Donna, the buyer of aforementioned sofa bed, had read a few of the posts. To be honest, I hadn’t thought about the blog for awhile and it was kinda nice hearing someone talk about it enthusiastically. And it made me miss it.

I caught up with a friend recently who asked if I’d written any more on the book I’ve been trying to finish for the last gazillion years. And of course, my face gave her the answer. And now after talking to Donna as well, I realised I had allowed writing for work and writing for study to take away my creative writing time and that in light of a new year, I could pencil in some blog/book writing time. It might just be half an hour a week or even a month. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” after all. So, although I’m not a new years resolution type person, that’s one little goal that is just for me – no benefits to anyone or anything except for keeping my inner creative pixie quiet and happy.

Some of you may remember my Grateful Book of 2016. Well, I didn’t have a special project last year, so as 2017 turned into 2018, I had an idea for a new project. Essentially, it’s a cork board specifically for polaroids of anyone who comes and spends time with us – for coffee, a meal, a swim, a wine, a night or two.

IMG_3250

We can’t wait to watch it fill up over the year and have a board full of all the friends and family we have had the privilege of having in our home. Tomorrow night there will be another one up there – the trick is going to be remembering to take the polaroid each time!

It’s also a great visual cue for me to be intentional about asking people to our home – aka actioning my lesson and word for the year last year (rest) by replenishing and refreshing myself by the presence of those people I love.

So, this year, while still full and somewhat uncertain, is off to a good start. And I’m excited to be back here, writing again 🙂 And thanks Donna for your encouragement even though you probably didn’t even know that’s what you were doing! 🙂

 

Support

Photo courtesy of Charlotte Friis Photography

Photo courtesy of Charlotte Friis Photography

Just the other day, as my husband was preparing to cook tea, and, being the amazing wife that I am, I offered to help.

No thanks, was his response. I replied, Are you sure? I have nothing else to do.

He then said, Um, you never have ‘nothing to do’ – GO AND WRITE.

So, as I went and switched on my laptop, poured the obligatory ‘writing’ glass of wine, and settled myself at my little desk, I said a prayer of thankfulness for the amount of support that surrounds me.

I am fully aware of so many people who are chasing their dreams on their own, either physically or emotionally.  These people have my utmost respect. It’s hard enough following your dreams when you have a whole team behind you, let alone when you have no one in your corner.

I don’t always have the courage, the motivation or the confidence to keep working at my dreams but what I lack, my husband gives me. And if he is busy with his own life, one of my super great children will remind me to write, or say something that gives me what I need to keep putting fingers to keys.

We need people barracking for us from the sidelines. We need people who can see the finish line, even if our view of it is obstructed by other runners on the track. We need people who know when we need to talk through all our insecurities about our project, and when we just need a stern talking to and a firm push in the right direction.

Essentially, we need people around us who won’t give up and who won’t let us give up…oh and maybe one who cooks tea while you do it too 😉

Soul food

Just some of my purchases from the bookfest.

Today, we went to the annual Lifeline Bookfest. For those who don’t know, the bookfest is basically a massive secondhand book sale. Rows upon rows of books are available from $2.50 down to a bagful for $5. Yep, perfect afternoon in my opinion 🙂

I love rummaging around in the various sections. My heart does a little leap if I see a title from a favourite author that I haven’t bought yet. And I get a little whirl of anticipation in my stomach when I pop books by authors I haven’t read yet into my bag. Oh and the thrill of finding a long sought after title, just sitting there, quietly beckoning me over. Bliss.

The thing that struck me today was the eclectic mix of my fellow bookloving browsers. Such an unlikely mob we all are. Well dressed, sloppily dressed, young, old and in-between. We are all there, united by our love of the printed page, the scent coming from the ‘classic/rare/out of print’ section making us half crazed and feverish.

And that’s what I love about books and reading. It doesn’t matter who you are, opening up the pages of a book does the same for each of us. We travel to far away, or fantastical lands, we mix with people we are sorry to leave at the end, or extremely glad we don’t know in person. We live situations we never would normally. We cry, we laugh, we feel things we didn’t know we could. We escape. We fly on words weaved by others, to places created and nurtured by another’s imagination.

And we are all equal. Whether we read slowly or quickly. Whether we dog-ear the pages or have too many bookmarks to count. Whether we love romance or philosophy.

We are all doing the same thing – feeding our souls from a table lovingly laid by a stranger who has become a friend.

The Sunshine Award

I’m not usually into the round of blogging awards that do the circuits but this one piqued my interest because the nominator gets to ask their own questions (I like asking questions!) and also that the questions Ambition in the City asked were a little more thought provoking than the usual ‘what’s your favourite colour’ type that are typical of this blogging game.

So. These are the questions and my answers 🙂

1. What goals have you accomplished so far this year? One goal was to go overseas to see the work of Destiny Rescue – tick!

2. What do you think is your best quality? I left this one til last…and I still am having trouble answering! Okay, maybe my love of fun. I know how to liven up a party, and start a conversation. I love finding out unusual things about people so tend to ask questions that are a bit different, which spark some fantastic conversations. People fascinate me!

3. What was the last compliment you received and what was the last one you paid to someone? The last compliment I received was from my husband telling me I am beautiful before my eyes were even open this morning 🙂 And the last one I gave was to my husband telling him he looked hot before we went out today 🙂

4. What are you looking forward to during the rest of 2013? I’m looking forward to getting the word count up on my novel. And Christmas. I love Christmas!

5. Do you have a favorite, Kind of “lift-me-up-quote”? I love so many of Teddy Roosevelt’s quotes but this is one of the ones I think of most often.

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

6. What inspired you to start blogging? I started blogging because there were friends who wanted to read my monthly column but lived outside our publications distribution areas. That, and the fact that I wanted ‘writing’ practice!

7. What is creativity for you? Creativity is anything that expresses me. It could be baking a cake, painting, drawing or writing. I used to dance. Dance is a wonderful expression of creativity and who we are. My main creativity right now is writing.

8. What about yourself do you want to improve? Oh my stars. So many, many things! Probably top of the list is time management and discipline. I get distracted by other things far too often and need to learn to stay on track with my goals. There’s heaps of others but that’s the big one I’m working on right now.

9. What’s the one thing you can’t live without? Well, my fabulous family and friends of course 🙂 But materially, I would have to say music and books. I simply cannot do life without a good book by my side.

10. What’s your favorite way to relax? Relaxing for me is having friends or family at our house, putting on some good food and chatting over a lovely glass or two of wine. 

And now to nominate some wonderful bloggers and give them their questions:

Marta Pelrine Bacon

Vaughn Roycroft

Normandie Fischer

Blessed are the pure of heart

Inspired 2 Ignite

S Kim Henson

You’re supposed to nominate ten but, you know me, I’m not a stickler for rules 😉

And their questions are:

1. Best decision you ever made.

2. Worst decision you ever made.

3. Your greatest weakness.

4. Your greatest strength.

5. Most influential person you’ve had in your life.

6. Most influential person you’ve never met.

7. Your greatest passion (and you can’t say your spouse – that’s given!)

8. Best purchase you ever made.

9. Worst purchase you ever made.

10. What does success look like to you?

Trust and the fear that stands next to it

A few weeks ago, I sent my partial manuscript to a friend for a read through and some feedback before I headed back in. This friend (you may remember her from a couple of guest posts she wrote when I was sick last year) is part of a writing group I’m a part of. The other members of the group have read parts or most of it too.

It was a bit daunting, knowing it would be read, with all it’s flaws and inconsistencies. As a writer and artist, I feel so vulnerable and exposed when showing anyone my work. That’s me out there in those words, in that paint. And if my work is rejected or not liked, well then, I’m rejected and not liked too.

It’s hard to make ourselves vulnerable, isn’t it? In a world that constantly celebrates the strong and encourages us to be stoic and tough, it feels like weakness to be afraid. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of sharing something personal with someone, only to discover too late that our confidence is betrayed, used against us or twisted.

I must confess that I find it hard to make myself vulnerable. I take a long time to trust someone with my innermost self and will withdraw at the slightest sign that the trust has been compromised. I am extremely picky about who I share with, how much and when.

Trusting people with ourselves is hard for all of us, not just writers and artists.

Before sending my document to my friend, I knew some things about her that helped me not be too anxious about her seeing me in my novel. I knew she has experience in the industry; I knew she is an amazing writer herself; I knew her to be trustworthy by observing her dealing with others; and she has proven many times that she likes me and we are friends 🙂

We need to be careful where we put our trust. We need to know people and have some sense of who they are before we hand them ourselves. Rather than not sharing or being vulnerable with others, we need to be discerning. We need to make good choices about who we share with.

And what did I get for my vulnerable calculated risk taking exercise? What came back to me was encouraging, useful, thoughtful feedback on my novel. Feedback without which I wouldn’t be feeling the confidence to dive back into writing again.

Sometimes, we need to risk being vulnerable to reap the benefits. Sometimes, we need to put ourselves out there and trust ourselves that we’ve trusted the right person.

Do you need to be vulnerable to move ahead from where you are?

Journeying and the stops along the way

Ever have those times when you just take a step back and do a bit of an overview of your life? I did that a few times while we were on holiday, and I decided there needed to be some changes. So, the kids are off to boarding school! Only joking 🙂

But I did have the realisation that I really, really, really want to finish the novel I started writing over five years ago. I found myself thinking, as I wondered along the beach, that I just didn’t have time. I have my writing for Destiny Rescue, work, a new work blog, this blog, speaking engagements, friends, family etc etc.

And then I realised my mistake, it was the age old axiom that I wasn’t making time. I have enough time. I just wasn’t using it in a way that meant I achieved my goals.

So, now I have a realistic, workable schedule which has everything in it…right down to notes about making time for friends and extended family. And so far this week, it’s working.

And I’m excited to be getting back to my novel. It’s easy to feel like I’ve left it too long, that clearly I can’t manage the commitment that writing a book needs.

And then I came across this quote –

The trees that are slow to grow bear the most fruit ~ Moliere

And then I felt better.

This book is slow to grow but I hope that means it’s worth it, that the angst and frustration it has caused me won’t be for naught. And that one day, maybe, it might be published. Actually, at this point, I think just finishing it will be reward enough 🙂

And the bonus is that I feel more organised in my head and, this week anyway, I’ve gone to bed each night feeling pleased with what I’ve achieved during the day.

Is there something in your life that you should be making time for? If so, why aren’t you?

God’s pleasure

It’s no secret that I love beauty. And I love art, whether that’s the written word, a painting, a sculpture, a play, dance – I love all forms of creative expression.

After our Thailand trip, I admit to struggling with my own creative desires. I would love nothing better than to be creative all day, every day, to write and paint to my hearts content. I have created just one piece of visual art since we moved into this house nearly six years ago. I have written only a handful of words on my story in the last six months. And I miss it. My creative side longs for an outlet. I have been keen to get in the kitchen and cook lately, and I only just realised that it’s the need to ‘create’, that this burning desire in me must find some sort of expression.

While I love and appreciate the arts, I feel guilty when I spend time on it myself. There are girls living in such horrific circumstances – how can getting the paints out help them? How does my story benefit anyone?

I used to struggle immensely with creating for seemingly no purpose. If I was going to paint, I wanted it to be for more than just something I put in a bottom drawer. If I was going to write, I wanted it to be an international best seller and not just a story my family read.

Now, I am happy to paint or write for the pleasure of only one or two, even if that’s just me. No, the struggle now is that there are so many people who need helping, that spending time on my arts seems selfish and self-indulgent.

The other day, I heard someone on the radio talking about feeling God’s pleasure when you do something that might not immediately seem to be ‘worthy’ by our standards. I have always believed that the God who created the amazing world we live in is surely the ultimate Artist but it really struck me afresh.

God created us with talents and gifts. He intended us to use them.

So my paintings may never be anything other than something to hang on a wall in my house, my story may never do anything other than provide entertainment to a couple of people…so what? They have served their purpose already, anything else is a bonus.

So the test is – do I feel God’s pleasure when I create? I would have to say yes. Being creative satisfies me in a deep down soul fulfilling way that I can’t seem to get anywhere else.

I feel right and good and wholly alive.

I feel God’s pleasure.

If money weren’t an issue…

I get so tired of the advice to ‘do whatever you would do if money weren’t an issue’. Because, for most of us, it is.

Like it or not, money is an integral part of our lives and society.

If you are a faithful reader of this blog, you will know that I am all about following your dreams, finding fulfilment and endeavouring to suck the very marrow out of life. So I am not at all suggesting that we must ‘resign’ ourselves to less than we are capable of or ‘settle’ just because that’s the easy way. Not at all.

But we have to sustain our physical lives. We all have a mortgage or rent to pay, we all need to eat, be clothed and pay for electricity and other amenities. Some of us have school fees, dance lessons, music lessons, and sport that we choose to pay in order that our children have a broad range of opportunities.

I am not a very money focused person – my long suffering husband will attest to that – so it’s definitely not that I think we should chase money. It’s just that it’s so unrealistic!

Most people, if money were not an issue, would do things that would not bring in much money, or no money at all, or not bring in enough until years down the track. Like writing, painting, gardening, volunteer work, travelling. Because, one of the things we would enjoy about money not being an issue is money not being an issue. So, we would pursue paths that had little to no income for precisely that reason.

Let’s say we do choose a life path based on nothing but our desire to do what we wanted –  what do we live on in the meantime? The government? Charity from friends and family? And what if those friends and family decided they should only pursue their desires? They wouldn’t have the means to support us while we were writing poetry, learning macrame or cross breeding roses.

So how do we find a happy medium? How do we follow and pursue our dreams and still make a living that can support our responsibilities?

I know of one person who I think has found a pretty good balance. They have a day job they really don’t like, but that day job has allowed them to learn a musical instrument, learn other crafts, travel, drink very good wine and put children through private school, given them dance and sport lessons and helped them with their first cars. All in all, they have followed their desires, their passions, yet have done the hard yards doing something that is less than satisfying work-wise.

So maybe your day job only just pays your way, with no money left over to take piano lessons, or travel, or drink $50 bottles of wine but you can still pursue your passions. It doesn’t cost much to write, or paint, or get into the garden.

Living purely and solely for our passions is not only impractical, it is inherently selfish. It is selfish to sacrifice other’s best interests for the sake of our passions.

Just for a minute, imagine a world in which every single one of us did that. There would be no-one to put our groceries through the check out, or fix that blocked drain, or help us get the most from our tax return. We would all be off busily writing odes to the objects of our affection, sitting on a beach contemplating our navels in the Bahamas or strumming away on our badly tuned guitar in the garage.

No, there must be a balance. And I say a balance, for too much meaningless work without some effort put into our passions is no good at all.

For me, contentment in life is the pursuit of well-roundedness. We must do things in life that we don’t like or we will most certainly become spoilt, immature, soft spined creatures indeed. A mixture of both, pursuit of passion, and mundane work life is surely what will engender in us a true sense of appreciation for all aspects of life – not just the pursuit of our own happiness.

 

Serendipitous happenings

serendipity |ˌserənˈdipitē|
~ noun: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

I love life and all it’s funny little ways. And I especially love serendipity.

So, I think you will remember my friend Alison who kindly wrote a guest post while I was under the weather when my uninvited guest Ross River was staying with me.

I met Alison online through a friend, who I also met online. Ah yes, those things we tell our teenagers about meeting people online – not a terribly good example are we?

When our son needed a place to stay in Sydney back in June, guess who put their hand up? Alison. After only ‘knowing’ me online for a couple of months, she happily welcomed our boy into their home and family for three weeks, something for which we will be forever grateful (and that’s not just rhetoric).

So after hearing time and time again from our boy about how well we would all get on with each other, when Alison said they were coming to Brisbane, we promptly invited them for a meal.

And you know what? Our son was right. They were every bit as lovely as he said, maybe even more so. It was truly like old friends getting together rather than strangers who didn’t even know what each other looked like meeting for the first time. We ate, drank, talked over the top of each other, finished each other’s sentences, played games, made fun of each other, Took It Too Far, sweetheart and generally had a ball.

And then, I got a double shot of Alison when we went for coffee today. And boy, am I glad we did. We were able to talk ‘shop’ and discuss all manner of writerly things that only other crazy writers understand (writers online girls, you so should have been there too!).

As I was feeling stagnant and overwhelmed by my quest for a first novel completion, Alison gladly bounced around ideas with me about how to get back on track, if indeed, that was what I wanted. I went there ready to bin, or at the very least, delegate to the metaphorical bottom drawer, my whole manuscript but after talking it over I knew that wasn’t actually what I wanted to happen.

I actually want to write the damn story. Alison and I (I include myself as I physically was there but really, she was coming up with all the great ideas) then nutted out a suitable ‘plan’.

And now I’m excited about my book again.

But more importantly, meeting Alison (and the wonderful family) has cemented the friendship that we kinda already knew was there but weren’t sure. Well, now we’re sure.

I love how God gives us just what we need, at just the right time – serendipity!

And just to complete the ‘silliness’ of meeting online, like the ‘youngsters’ do, we even managed to take a ‘selfie’. (It only took us eight goes to get both of us in the shot and looking halfway decent – pretty impressive, I think.)

Please come back soon, Alison and Co…we miss you already!

 

I get by with a little help from my friends

After a big whinge to my online Writerly buddies about my lack of energy, the fact that the sight of my beloved laptop Mary made my stomach churn with the ‘guilt of the unwritten’, I was met with such a show of support and love, that I found myself all teary and blubbery.
I am so blessed to have such wonderful people in my life. And now, you get to meet one of them 🙂

 

Rest. Why is doing nothing so hard?

Part 1.

If you are a follower of Personally Speaking, you will know that Susannah has been laid low by a nasty dose of Ross River Fever.

In case you are a bit foggy on all the ways Ross River Fever truly sucks, here’s a rundown:

‘…feelings of flu-like illness, accompanied by a high fever, skin rash and joint pains. Swelling of the joints can also be present, and are usually worse in the mornings. Other more general symptoms include nausea, headache, backache and muscle aches and pains.The initial symptoms normally present between five and 14 days after infection, and usually last up to six weeks. However, some sufferers report ongoing joint pains, depression and fatigue for up to six months.’ http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/

I’m a member of Susannah’s online writing group, and we are e-watching from an e-distance as she tries to do the impossible- to rest. She’s a girl with a lot to do, a lot to say, a lot to write, and fighting the urge to do all of those things is a moment by moment struggle 1. because it’s just so darn boring (see post below), and 2. too because it offers so much time and just enough energy to work up a nice big dose of guilt about all the things you are not doing.

I’ve been there.

Most people I know have been there.

Luckily most of us don’t have to suffer through Ross River Virus, but we’ve all soldiered on during times of illness, exhaustion, stress, and heartbreak because the alternative – resting – often induces complicated feelings of frustration and guilt- ‘I’m just being a wus’, ‘I should just suck it up and get on with it’, ‘I’m taking way too long to get over this.’

Why is that?

I had a major crisis last week about something so very minor that this week, with my perspective fully restored, and a now refreshed knowledge of just how miserable Ross River Virus is, I’m almost embarrassed to repeat it. But I learned something from my wise sister about resting and guilt that I hope will stand me in good stead should I ever end up in Susannah’s position, or God forbid with something worse.
I thought I’d better write it down so I’ll remember it when the time comes, and I hope Susannah will remind me of it when I need to hear it again, as no doubt I will- probably over and over for the rest of my life.

I also thought it might be a good way to introduce myself, as I may contribute a few things here and there over the next few weeks for Personally Speaking so that Susannah can rest a bit longer.

I’m Alison. I’ve known Susannah for six months since I joined her writing group. I am a writer of children’s fiction, television producer, serial renovator with mid-term memory loss (I did say NEVER again a few years ago but here I am again…), blogger, wife, mum, daughter, sister, canteen hand, soccer mum, yoga comittment-phobe, home magazine addict with a life threatening sweet tooth.

In the time that I’ve known Susannah she has warmly and generously e-talked me through several scary blog posts, a pitch to a major publisher, encouraged me on several poems and been honest enough to tell me when something I wrote needed, well, something more. It’s precious and rare to have that sort of sounding board as a writer.

So, when the dust settles on this week’s renovating stuff-ups and redos, I will post part 2 of ‘Rest. Why is doing nothing so hard?’ entitled ‘Learning to rest without guilt.‘

It’s a work in progress, so feel free to post your suggestions, and then, watch this space.