Category Archives: Dreams

Are You Enjoying The Journey?

Are you enjoying the journey?

Are you enjoying the journey?

My niece has just got into drama school. After a long spell when she was not acting, she turned up at the audition feeling rusty and nervous. Afterwards she told me that doing the audition reminded her of just how much she enjoys acting.

She always laughs about how she will buy me a car ‘when she is rich and famous’, and its true, she does want to be famous, but only because it will allow her to get better roles. Her heroines are not the Hollywood starlets who are famous for being pretty (not that she isn’t pretty), but actresses who are famous for excellence – Emma Thompson, Harriet Walter, Fiona Shaw.

This made me think about the chapter in Ann Lammott’s seminal book about writing, ‘Bird by Bird’, in which she talks about those students in her writing classes who are only interested in learning how to get published. Getting published is only a minute fraction of a writer’s life. If you are only interested in that, why go through the long, hard slog of writing a novel in the first place?

You have to like writing. You have to like the process.

There is no point in setting out to be a great painter if you hate getting your hands mucky with paint.

There is no point in applying to drama school because you want to get famous, not because you want to act.

If you do either, you are surely going to spend a great deal of time being very miserable indeed.

When you decide to dedicate yourself to an art form, – or any activity, for that matter – be sure why you are doing it. There are a damn site easier and more reliable ways of getting rich and famous than writing a novel. You’d be much better off buying a lottery ticket or robbing a bank (not that I would condone the latter of course!).

Be creative through a medium that you love, because you love doing it.

Fame and riches may or may not follow, but one thing you can be sure of is that you won’t be miserable while you are waiting for it. You’ll be having a nice life. And lots of fun. Which is really the whole point, isn’t it?

Happy Creating,

EF

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Word of the Year 2014

So, we have thought about intentions, and we have begun to consider the words that identify how we want to feel.  Those (five) words are the place from whence our intentions arise.  Because every day we can choose to do things that make us feel that way.

Clever, eh?

But there’s more:

You may have bumped into the idea of having a Word of the Year.  You can find out more about this habit here.

A Word of the Year is a kind of overall intention.  It gives you a direction, a way of formulating how you want to be in the world. It also has an uncanny habit of bringing into your life exactly what it says.

My word for 2013 was

Revolutionary

And oh boy, was it?!

This year has fundamentally changed how I feel about myself.  I have undergone a revolution in my core beliefs and my way of approaching the world.  I have turned my attitudes about my place in the world and, most particularly, in the world of work, on their heads.  In some ways, I have also revolved (the other meaning of revolutionary), coming back full circle to revisit issues that I thought I had dealt with before.

I have revolutionised the way I write and the way I feel about my writing.  I have set up this website and begun to dream new dreams about the kind of things I want to create.  It is exhilarating.

Let me tell you, revolution doesn’t have to be a violent upheaval that ends with tyranny and blood.

I have to confess that when the word first came to me, in the form of just revolution, (while I was still in the malaise of a serious bout of influenza which brought me close to being hospitalised), I was a bit scared.  I knew it was the word I needed, but it sounded frightening, as if I could be inviting an earthquake into my life.  Was I really ready for that much change?  After all, with limited energy, poor health and a susceptibility to anxiety and stress, it didn’t really sound a good idea to invite those kinds of energies into my world.  So I fiddled with it until it felt more friendly, more manageable.  And more appropriate to what I could cope with.  It became:

I AM REVOLUTIONARY

And this year, I have been.

So the question then becomes, what do I want to be next?

I don’t have to stop being revolutionary, of course, but 2014 needs a new word, something that allows new energies into my life, allowing me to blossom and grow in new ways.

I have been sitting with my five words and my journal and calendar, contemplating what I want to be and do next year.  How I want to build on the intentions and lessons that revolutionary brought with it?  I thought about kind, lovingkindness, courage, and strength.  The first two felt too soft, and the last two, too tough.  I needed something flexible, something I can grow with, something I can work with whilst still treating myself with lovingkindess.  And this is what I came up with:

DARE

Dare feels good.  It popped into my head at 2am on the way back to bed after a loo break (TMI), and I knew it was the right word.

Dare is about having a go, putting yourself out there, but not in a way that is perfectionist.  Not in a Nigel way.  Dare means trying something out and seeing if it fits.  It means trying something, and knowing that it doesn’t matter if I fail or if I don’t get it exactly right the first time, or even if it turns out to be the wrong thing after all.  At least I will have tried.  At least I will be in the arena fighting, as Roosevelt would put it.

Journal Exercise:

So, I invite you to take time to sit with your feelings words, with your creative and life intentions, and to consider what word might truly describe and inspire how and who you want to be in 2014.  What feelings and new adventures do you want to manifest in your life?  What energies do you want to invoke?

When you consider this, do it in the spirit of lovingkindness towards yourself.  Look at your life with a gentle hope, not in the spirit of forcing yourself into new contortions.  This is not some New Agey wishing, some pseudo-psychobabble soppy thing.  This is a life affirming way of moving yourself to new levels, of becoming more yourself every day, and of being deeply, affirmatively and satisfyingly creative.

Everyday life is a continual act of creativity.

When I say ‘sit with it’, I mean: allow yourself time to consider.  Allow ideas to filter, percolate and bubble in your mind.  Don’t force it.  It will come to you.  Let it happen.  You know deep inside what you want for yourself as a creative being.  Allow it to emerge.  And then rejoice in it.  Allow it to inspire every corner of your life for the whole year.

I guarantee it will take you places you can’t even begin to imagine right now.

Happy Creating,

EF

Its Never Too Late…

Whenever I see an article in the paper about some young person who has won an important first novel award, or got a massive advance on their first book, I have a mini meltdown.  Its not that I would take their achievement away from them.  Its just that I am now 46, and still struggling to finish a book that I am happy enough with to publish.

But how old is too old?

I could probably quote a dozen examples of authors who didn’t publish their first book until they were in their 60s or 70s.  There are always the exceptions.  I keep telling myself that its never too late to fulfil the dream of that first novel I wrote at the age of 16.  But you have to really understand the fact in your heart, as well as in  head.

Let me tell you a little story about fulfilling your dreams at any age.

The other day I went to my first Masked Ball.  I’m not a dancer by any stretch of the imagination, but we had been invited to go by friends who are.  It was an event run by the dancing school our friends attend, and as part of the entertainment, several of the school’s students danced exhibition dances.  To uproarious applause, there were paso dobles and waltzes and tangos.  (And there were lots of sparkles too, and I just love sparkles!)

Marvellous.

And then a tiny little old lady in a lacy top and a bow in her hair got up, and danced the foxtrot with her lady teacher.  And it was lovely.  She got the biggest round of applause of the night.

Then the evening’s compere told us about her.  How she had fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition recently by dancing in the British Ballroom Championships at the legendary Tower Ballroom in Blackpool.

Turns out, this lady, who reminded me a great deal of Mrs Pepperpot (if you remember her), was 86.

Eighty-six years old and still ballroom dancing.  Competitively.  Eighty-six years old and still pursuing her creativity.  Eight-six years old and still fulfilling her dreams.

How old is too old?

Ask me when I get to 87.

Happy Creating,

EF

 

I am incubating a Cunning Plan!

Summer opens up a world of possibilities...

Summer opens up a world of possibilities…

Isn’t summer wonderful?  The Husband is off work at the moment, enjoying a couple of well-earned weeks’ rest.  My mother came to stay for the week last week (very exhausting), and the week ended with a family party, and a 6 hour long round trip to get there.  You will appreciate that I am feeling just a little jaded right now.  However, there is sunshine, and friends dropping by, and this morning we sat in the garden, drinking freshly pressed apple juice for breakfast, and basking, and it doesn’t get much better than that, let me tell you!

Sometimes, its good to take a breather.  I’ve had a week where my thoughts have not been my own, and its made me realise how much I need to write.  It is not so much a desire as a primal drive.  Now I have my time (and my brain) to myself again, all I can think about is what I want to write next.  My body may not be ready to get started yet – a lot of restorative time in bed will be necessary for that – but my Muse is getting her juices into gear.

And let me tell you, that feels so great!

I can feel a plan beginning to form behind my eyes about what I want to achieve in the next three months up to Christmas.  (Yes, I know, I’ve started thinking about presents already, I must be a sick, sick person!)  I can’t quite put my finger on the specifics of it yet, but I can’t wait to just plunge in and indulge my creative urges.

And I mean indulge!  I want to do something delicious and opulent.  I want to manifest an idea made of mental gold thread and velvet and jewels, something as luscious as sinking my teeth into a ripe peach.  Know what I’m saying?

I want to CELEBRATE!

I promise I’ll keep you posted about what I come up with.  In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the summer, and raise a glass of Pimms/mint julep/mojito/insert your favourite tipple here to the joys of August and Time Out!

With love,

EF

Inspiration Monday: Dreams

angrysea

Angry Sea by John Lewis Photography

Everybody dreams.  Maybe you don’t remember all your dreams, but they are there as a window into your own psyche, and to explore as a source of inspiration.  Dreams are a chance for your imagination to go completely wild, places where the impossible really can happen.

I’ve always been very fortunate to dream in vivid technicolour.  Many of my dreams are coherent stories in filmic form.  I am often aware that I am dreaming, and find myself enjoying the stories playing out inside my head.  Maybe you don’t have that capacity, but through the technique of lucid dreaming, you can develop more.  Maybe you only have occasional images, snapshots of your dreamworld.  Even these can be fodder for your art.

One Christmas Eve I had a dream.  I know it was a coherent one, I was aware of it at the time.  When I woke in the morning, I had only one image left in my memory, but it was a compelling one.  Imagine a man, looking very like Richard Armitage, tied to a chair.  A demon stands in front of him and sinks its hand into his chest, and pulls out his still-beating heart.

That was all there was.

No context.  No meaning.  Just this image.

That was where my five book series of Evenlode novels began.  Five novels, which began with one blurrily remembered image from a dream.

Here is the dream I had last night:

Two teenaged boys are living in a run-down, poverty-stricken, former industrial city in the North of England.  They roam a half-derelict, grey landscape pocked with disused steel works and the skeletons of mine engines.

One is tall, dark and skinny, the other short, stocky and blonde.  They are both outsiders, clinging together for support because they have no one else.  They are hunted by a gang of other boys who regularly attack them, and call them names.  They accuse the two friends of being gay.  That is the reason they give for their hatred.

One day, the blonde boy helps his friend through the front door of the dark boy’s parents house.  He has been badly beaten.  His father is at home.  When the father finds out the reason why his son has been beaten, he assumes the accusers are correct.  He starts to beat his son for being gay, for being weak.  His belt will make the boy a proper man, he claims.  The blonde boy stands between father and son.

‘Your son is a proper man.  A real man.  He protects me.  He takes the heat for me, because I am gay, not him.”

The blonde boy has already been rejected by his own family for his sexuality.

Later, broken and despairing, the boys walk, hand in hand, up the hill to where a huge World War Two concrete bunker stands, clinging to the top of a sea cliff above the town.  The sea is rough, the wind strong, the air full of swirling grey drizzle.  The cavernous interior of the bunker has been taken over by the council, and is being used as a reahearsal space for the city’s orchestra.  They are practising a piece as swirling as the tormented weather outside.

Together the boys walk through long dark corridors buried in the hillside, swelling music echoing around them,  until they reach the roof of the bunker, where the Ack-Ack guns were once mounted.  Together, they stand up on the narrow wall around the edge, and kiss.  And then, together to the last, they jump and fall, still holding hands, down the cliff and into the churning seas below.

Yes, it is messy and there are holes and cliches in it.  But that is what I dreamt, in its entirety, as I remember it.  It is atmospheric and tragic, and I don’t even want to think about doing a psychological reading of it.  But wouldn’t it make a great short story?  Or even a short film?

Dreams are a free resource just floating about inside your own head, begging to be used.  Don’t waste a minute.  After all, isn’t that a great excuse to sleep more?

Writing Exercises:

You can find our more about Lucid dreaming here and here.

Keep a notebook by your bed and write down your dreams as soon as you wake.  Don’t wait.  You will forget them.  Write down whatever you can remember, no matter how disjointed it may seem.  Describe what you saw in as much detail as you can.  I get enormous, almost baroque detail in my dreams.  Get as much down as possible, even if it seems too weird, complicated or just completely insane!  You never know what may be useful later.

(I find this technique especially helpful with troubling dreams or nightmares, which I have a lot.  These sorts of dreams can follow me around during the day, filling my waking heart with dread or sadness.  However, I find that once I write them out, their power over me wanes, and I don’t get the ‘after effects’.)

Now, dip into your dream notebook whenever you are looking for an idea or a writing exercise to play with.  Choose a dream, a scene, an image, or a whole story if you get them, and use it as a starting point.  Write stream of consciousness for fifteen or thirty minutes and see what comes out.  Can you use this as the start of a short story?  A screenplay?  Is there an interesting character here for you, as there was with my Christmas Eve dream?

If you are a visual artist, what colour palette comes out of this dream for you?  What striking images, silhouettes, shapes stick in your mind?  For example, in my ‘two boys’ dream, the colour palette was greys and blues, the shapes of derelict buildings were jagged silhouettes against the lowering sky.  Explore the colours you recall in your sketchbook.  What would a painting of your dream look like?

A musician might take from my dream the echoing strings of the orchestra, muffled by the concrete, and backed by the roaring of the waves as they crash against the cliff below, and turn that into some kind of soundtrack.

Where can you take your dreams?  How far can you drive your limitless imagination?

Happy dreaming,

EF