Category Archives: Outflow

The Frustration Monster

Rose Quartz for healing and a bear for intuition.  I keep this stone by my bed to remind me what energy I need in my life rigth now.

Rose Quartz for healing and a bear for intuition. I keep this stone by my bed to remind me what energy I need in my life right now.

Aaaaaaaargh!

Do you ever feel like that?

I’ve got a whole belly-full of OUGHTS right now, and the Frustration Monster is biting at my tail, dammit!

I’m still in the midst of bear energy, but I don’t feel calm at all.  I’ve been trying to think of a sensible post to write, but my brain is like porridge and I am not feeling very at peace with all this hibernation/intuition stuff now that its finally getting sunny and mild outside.

Yes, I’ve got a bad case of the OUGHTS.

I OUGHT to be writing something.

I OUGHT to be writing something serious.

I OUGHT to be keeping a writing notebook.

I OUGHT to be keeping a better, serious, consistent writing notebook.

I OUGHT to be making more of this website.

I OUGHT to be writing my journalling ebook.

I OUGHT to be earning money.

I OUGHT to be doing the garden/cleaning the house/washing up/ making new curtains/planting bulbs/scrubbing the bath/calling that friend I haven’t seen for ages/ doing yoga/ meditating/ making green smoothies/ feeling better by now etc. etc. etc.

Instead, I can just about manage writing in my diary some days.  I can make the supper.  I can stuff laundry in the machine and press the button.  I can do what is absolutely necessary, but not much more.

I have written this week, despite this.  I have had two days of absolute brain dump.  Verbal runs.  On Monday I wrote so hard, so fast, I actually ended up dizzy (NOTE TO SELF: remember to breath whilst typing).

Yes, I made a story of 2195 words in two hours, but I didn’t feel good about it, and not just because of the whole ‘not breathing’ thing.  It was a fanfic.  And not even a ‘Sherlock’ fanfic, but a ‘Lewis’ one. (How the hell did I develop a hierarchy of OUGHTS about fanfics, for Gods’ sakes?)  Somehow, right now, that doesn’t feel good enough.  I just couldn’t be glad that I had actually managed to write something, anything, for the first time in two months.

Hello Nigel, Hello Perfectionism.

Nothing is good enough.  Nothing is enough.  Everything is SHOULD and OUGHT.  And all those words lead to is: me beating myself up.  Which is not what bear energy is about.

Tomorrow, I intend to feel better.  Tomorrow I am going to have peace, and relax, and not care about the fact that I can’t think straight.  But today I’m going to have a pity party and throw things and be a general grump, because sometimes, you just have to get it out of your system.

I hope you aren’t being dogged by the Frustration Monster, or scrambling over mountains of SHOULDS  and OUGHTS, but if you are, please know that you aren’t alone.  And we’ll get through it.

Oh, and tell Nigel to piss off from me, will you?

Happy creating,

EF

Developing Superpowers

I was reading a post at Rightbrain Planner this morning, and these words jumped out at me:

“Planning habits are part of personal assessment for me.  Part of knowing what my skills are and being my own hero.”

BEING MY OWN HERO.

Those words blew me away.  How is this even possible?  Can I be my own hero?  Can anybody?  And if I were, how would it feel?  Would it feel as incredibly freeing as it sounds?

Blogger and artist Andrea Sher often asks: what is your superpower?

Or as the ancient nun Jiko puts it in Ruth Ozeki’s transcendent novel, A Tale for the Time Being:

“‘Nattchan, I think it would be best for you to have some true power.  I think it would be best for you to have a superpower.’

She was talking in Japanese, but she used the English word, superpower, only when she said it, it sounded like supah-pawah.  Really fast. Supapawa.  Or more like SUPAPAWA-!”

Page 176.

I’d like to have a SUPAPAWA.  I’d like to be my own hero.

Old Jiko teaches her great-granddaughter Nao how to find her SUPAPAWA through sitting Zazen, a Zen Buddhist meditation.  Obviously thats one way to go.  The other seems to be to follow the words painted above the entrance to the sanctuary of the legendary Oracle of Apollo at Delphi:

Know Thyself

I truly believe that the only way to do that is to ruthlessly explore ourselves through creativity.  Through writing and painting, journalling and making, through dance, music, theatre and the culinary arts, and whatever else we can create out of the raw materials of our souls.  That way, by fearlessly adventuring into our creativity, maybe we really can become our own heroes.

If i had to say what my SUPAPAWAs are, I would probably mention two:  the knack I have of making people smile, and writing.

Oh, and I make a really mean gluten-free chocolate brownie!

What are your SUPAPAWAs?  Could you be your own hero?

Happy Creating,

EF

A Letter to Darla’s Daughter about Fanfiction

Dear Darla’s daughter,

I’m really sorry, but when your mom left a comment on my website, she didn’t tell me what your name was, so I’ll have to hope you don’t mind my being a bit general.

Anyway, she said that you are 12 years old and that you like writing fanfiction, like me.  She also mentioned that she is trying to get you to start creating characters of your own, something you and I also have in common, because I am trying to do that too.  She believes this is important, and so do I, and I wanted to tell you why.

First, though, I want to say Yay for you!  You’re writing, and that is fantastic!

Writing, as I am sure you have found out for yourself, is great fun, some of the best fun, in fact, that it is possible to have.  And fanfiction?  Well, doing that just makes it even better.  You take other peoples characters and send them out into the world of your imagination.  You can make them do whatever you like, get them into all sorts of trouble, and get them out, have endless adventures with them – what’s not to like?  And then there’s the other thing about it.  You get to act out all your crushes on the gorgeous actors and pop stars that you like.  Yes, don’t blush, we all do it!

I was writing fanfiction at your age, although I was writing about actors and shows you have never heard of, and probably never will, and fanfiction didn’t even have a name back then!  It was something you did by the light of a torch under the blankets at night and didn’t tell your friends about.  A fantasy life all your own.  It was something embarrassing you did in private, like picking your nose!

Now it’s a recognised genre, although there is still a lot of snobbery about it, like there still is about all kinds of genre fiction, like crime and romance.  (Usually the people who criticize it are not writers themselves, though, so feel free to completely ignore their opinions because they invariably don’t know what they are talking about!)  Today, people recognise that most of the great writers have written fanfiction at some point, and popular and literary novelists are being paid to write fanfiction novels for the legitimate market.

Fanfiction is a great thing to do, too, because it allows you to practise, to test out your writing skills and grow them.  The more you write, the better you get, and if you are enthusiastic about the characters, you will write more.  You get to experiment in ways you just can’t with other types of writing.  And if you share your work online, there is a whole world of other writers willing to help, advise and support you as you learn.  So don’t ever let anyone tell you it is wrong to write fanfiction, or that its not ‘real’ writing, because it is.

But here is the thing:  using another writer’s characters can only take you so far.  And if you really like writing, if you really want to get good at it, you have to take the next step.  You have to make up your own original characters.

Why?

Well, here is the thing:  At the heart of every truly great story are great characters.  Look at Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, for example.  Both are full of fantastic, original characters, from Severus Snape to Frodo Baggins.  There are outstanding characters in every truly great novel.  Think of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy in ‘Pride and Prejudice’, Scarlett O’Hara in ‘Gone with the Wind’, Willy Wonka in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ or even my favourite, the wonderful Sherlock Holmes.  In films, you might choose the shark fisherman Quint in ‘Jaws’ (which you are too young to have seen, I suppose, but that’s a treat for the future!), James Bond or Spock in ‘Star Trek’; on the stage, there is the villainous Salieri in Schaffer’s ‘Amadeus’ or the Phantom in ‘Phantom of the Opera’.  If you haven’t come across any of these yet, I encourage you to seek them out because they are tremendous.

All original.  Each loved by millions.  And each one has ensured their creator’s immortality.

So, to become a great writer, or even a good one, you need to have at the core of your work truly great characters.

But here is the really wonderful part:

There are only seven plots. Okay, yes, you can chop them up and interchange bits of them endlessly, but basically, there are a limited number of things you can do, plot-wise.

But there are as many original characters in your head as there are people on the planet.  And here is why:

No one, anywhere, even if you are a twin, has ever had the same experience of the world as you.

You are unique.

The way your mind works, what has happened to you, the things you think about and imagine, that you think are important, that you love and hate, are all unique.  There may be a few people quite like you, but no one, anywhere, has ever experienced the world exactly the same way as you.

And because you are unique, your imagination is unique.  No one else can create quite the same kinds of characters as you.

And once you start creating your own characters, they start getting up doing things inside your head that are completely exciting and unexpected and utterly amazing.  Believe me – I was writing a novel a few years back, and one of my main characters just upped and died right there in front of me, without any warning, and I didn’t know what to do because half of the rest of the book depended on her being there!  Help!  Okay, I fixed it in the end, but it was a scary moment.  And also utterly wonderful.

Once you start creating your own characters, your writing moves on to the next level.  That element of chaos as they take on a life of their own is only the start.

That is the moment when the wonderful thrill of story-telling hits you, and you open your wings, and take off, and soar through the air.

Fanfiction is great, believe me, but it is like being a sparrow when you could be an eagle,  And wouldn’t you rather be an eagle?

So creating your own characters isn’t just thing your mom goes on about because its what she thinks is important, even though you are having so much more fun making the pin-ups on your bedroom walls have romantic adventures through fanfiction.  She wants you to taste the real freedom of the imagination, as do I.

That is why I am going to write a lot less fanfiction this year, and concentrate more on my original characters.  I’m already having so much fun with it.  So why don’t you join me?

With Best Wishes from your fellow writer,

Evenlode’s Friend.

Outflow: Aftermath

john and sherlockSo last night, the last episode of series 3 of ‘Sherlock’ was shown on British television, and we have all survived to write fanfics another day.

Frankly, I am glad it is over.  I am fed up of it.  I am fed up of all the over-analysis and navel-gazing and second-guessing.  Its worse than teenage girls talking about their boyfriends!  I didn’t wait two years for uncontrolled squeeing and unalloyed adoration.  The whole series had massive problems as well as sublime moments, and I have reservations.

Reservations about the series and the way its going, and reservations about fanfiction.

Don’t get me wrong, fanfiction has been good to me.  It has taught me to write in ways I could never have explored otherwise.  It has given me the inspiration to write thousands of words and dozens of new works.  I have written every day, and I have loved every minute of it, even the bits when I was sweating blood over plot bunnies and getting aggressive reviews.  It has allowed me to deal with deep emotional trauma and reclaim my sexuality, something I never expected.  So, hooray for fanfiction!

But right now it feels a bit like a straightjacket.

I’ve got so used to writing with other people’s characters that I have lost the confidence to write my own.  And that is more than ‘a bit not good’.

Somewhere along the line, I have lost myself.  My own voice.  The only voices I can hear in my head these days are those of Cumberbatch and Freeman.  My own original characters have fallen silence, and I need to give them back their voices.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that I will never write fanfiction again.  I’m convinced that pretty much everything I have ever written has been a fanfic underneath.  And I had a surge of inspiration yesterday that finally undid the plot block I’ve been struggling over in my ‘Cuddleverse’ story, so hooray for that because it means I will be able to finish the damn thing!  And I so need to finish it!

But now my brain is finally coming back online after our Christmas Emergency, I am realising that I need to branch out in new ways.  That feels scary.  New stuff can be scary.  But if we don’t test our boundaries, how can we ever grow as artists?

Happy boundary testing,

EF

Welcome to 2014!

Writer Friend asked me yesterday what my creative plans for the coming year were. (He means to finish the last draft of his novel to his agent’s satisfaction.  Good luck to him, I say.)

Me?  Well, I just stared at him with my lower jaw on my chest.

Plans?  Creativity?  Ideas?  Hell, even original thought?  I beg your pardon?

Let me explain:  Mother-in-law (henceforward referred to as Mother) lives with Aunt-in-law (henceforward referred to as Aunt).  Mother has dementia.  Aunt is profoundly disabled by arthritis.  Aunt is Mother’s carer.  Just before Christmas, Aunt fell on the stairs and was rushed to hospital with suspected broken neck. Cue care crisis.  Luckily, neck was not broken. Result, however, was several days in hospital for Aunt, meaning Mother had no carer.  Husband and I, and rest of family, rushed the three and a half hour drive to take over care.  Aunt comes out of hospital, still needing 24-hour care.

Its a mess.

The upshot of all this is that we spent Christmas nursing, so effectively Christmas didn’t happen.  For ten days, my brain was occupied thusly: 90% firefighting care/nursing issues, 10% ‘ohmygodhowarewegoingtogetthroughthis???????’

We made it home in time to spend an exhausted New Year’s Eve with dear friends, and to stare blankly at the telly for the Sherlock Series Three Episode One premier last night. (Don’t ask me for an opinion, I haven’t got one yet.  I’ll tell you when I get my brain back.)

I haven’t had an original thought to spare for myself for nearly a fortnight.

So the plans I had for writing a jolly, upbeat, ‘these are my creative plans for 2014’ post for you today are wrecked.  I don’t have any plans because I haven’t had time to think about them.  Of course, I will write one, eventually, when my brain is less bombed, and when I have recovered from the bone-deep exhaustion that only an ME sufferer faced with such an emergency can experience.

Why am I telling you all this?  (Apart from to apologise for not writing something you didn’t even know I was going to write?)

Because this is a real-life demonstration of the philosophy this blog was established to promote.

In a minute, I will put away my laptop and excavate my desk from under the heaps of clutter that accumulated there in the chaos before Christmas.  And then I will open my journal, and pick up my pen, and press the nib to the paper.

And then I will find my way back to myself.

Somewhere, buried under the rubble of the last two weeks, is my soul.  My mind.  My creativity.  And my pen will make a line, a track that will lead me back to my soul, my mind, my creativity.

This is why writing is important.  Whether we write a journal or a story, a play or a poem, that line of ink leads us home to ourselves, over and over again.  And if we follow that inky trail, we will never be lost, no matter how difficult and hopeless things seem.

Happy New Year,

With Best Wishes,

EF

Getting Christmas in Perspective

A woman on the radio was just saying that years ago she was broadcasting a Christmas phone-in show about Christmas wishes.  People were encouraged to ring in and say what they’d really like for Christmas.  Not the latest XBox, or a fur coat, but something real.    Something genuine.  Their true heart’s desire.

The first caller was a woman crippled with arthritis.

She said, ‘I wish I could go downstairs.  I wish my two young daughters could see me in the kitchen and not in bed.’

Merry Christmas,

EF

 

The Perils of Getting Lost

There is no SatNav system for the artistic life.

Most of the time, we creative people complain about the problems of not being able to get into the Zone.  Not being able to find the door into the imagination.  Not being able to make our art.

Or we complain about not being able to get out of our own way.  We get hung up on the avoidance tactics and displacement activities we use so we don’t have to think about the empty page, the blank canvas.

Be honest, how many loads of washing have you done to avoid that novel you’ve been meaning to write?  How many drawers and cupboards have you cleaned out as an excuse to get away from your easel or your desk?

Seriously, its amazing how interesting cleaning can become when you need to be doing something else.

However, one of the perils of the artistic life that we rarely talk about, let alone complain about, is that of getting lost.

Lost in your imagination.

Lost in that place where the stories never end.

Lost where the romance and the passion and the adventure and the danger go on and on, and there is never, never washing to be done, unless it is in a picturesque stream with the sun sparkling on its surface, and requires both hero and heroine to divest themselves of their clothes in as romantic/modest/passionate (delete as appropriate) way as possible.

Suddenly you will wake up one morning and realise that you have been trapped on the island of the Lotus Eaters, so lost in the pleasures of your mind that you have forgotten to live.

Marriages founder this way.  Bankruptcies are forged, friendships lost, loved-ones go unmourned.  It happens all the time.

We lose ourselves constantly.  Often it is complusive shopping, gambling, drinking, eating or other drugs that claim us.  Addictions can be apparently harmless.  Surfing the internet seems harmless enough, until you realise you have lost days and weeks of your life doing it.  We lose ourselves in meaningless busyness, in rushing round fulfilling empty tasks, in competing with friends and neighbours, in acquiring the latest TV, sofa, car, clothes.  Modern life encourages us to find an addiction to dull the ennui.

Being present is hard.  Its even harder if you have an over-active imagination.  It is so much nicer to be lost in a story than facing the reality of life.  Doing the work of living.  Being real.  It is so easy to slip away and not come back.

Lately I have been away.  In the last couple of days, I’ve realised that life is tugging at the hem of my skirts, wanting me back, needing my attention.  I’m fighting it.  I don’t want to come back.  I want to stay in my fantasy world.

But life needs living.  We only get one go.  The art needs making, yes.  But our lives are our art too.

Don’t forget to live as well.

Happy Creative Living,

EF

PS – You might like to know that I have a new story out, The Retirement Party, a ‘Lewis’ romance, which you can read here at AO3 and here at FF.net.

For Creativity, Press The ‘OFF’ Button Now

This morning, my part of the UK was hit by the worst Atlantic storm in some years.  Trees came down, houses flooded, power cables snapped, cars were crushed, trains and planes came to a standstill, and double decker buses were lifted off their wheels.  It was not nice.  Its over now, blazing across the county in under three hours, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

Which got me thinking, you will not be surprised to hear.

Husband and I spent most of yesterday glued to various forms of news media, trying to gauge the progress and destructive force of Storm St Jude, working out which hatches to batten down, what damage might ensue, and whether, in Husband’s case, it was sensible to cancel his 9am lecture this morning. (He did, and I think it was the right decision).  The upshot of all this digital frenzy was that I didn’t get anything much done.  Which was an annoying waste of a whole day.  And made me think about something I had read a few days earlier:

I came across the work of Linda Stone, and in particular, her term ‘Continuous Partial Attention’, which is when we multitask cognitive functions such as talking with a friend at coffee whilst checking our email on our android under the table, surfing the internet when we are on the phone, and all those other digital things we do these days that we never used to.  Linda Stone says:

“Continuous Partial Attention involves an artificial sense of constant crisis, of living in a 24/7, always-on world.  It contributes to feeling stressed, overwhelmed, overstimulated and unfulfilled; It compromises our ability to reflect, to make decisions and to think creatively.”

Lindastone.net/qa/continuous-partial-attention quoted in Sharon Salzberg, The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Programme for Real Happiness, Hay House 2011.

It compromises our ability … to think creatively.

Just think about that for a minute.  I did.

I thought about how long I spend on Facebook every day, how many hours I lose cruising Tumblr and reading fanfics, checking my phone, watching BBC News 24.  These are what Jennifer Louden calls Time Monsters, habits you fall into that eat up the spare time you have and leave you feeling rushed and stressed out because you aren’t left with enough time to do the things you really want or need to do.  I have been known to lose whole weeks to my Time Monsters.  Yesterday, thanks to Storm St Jude, I lost an entire day.

I’m 46!  I don’t want to waste any more time!

Increasingly, I am finding that it is a luxury to switch off my phone and not look at my laptop.  I don’t want it to feel like a luxury to disconnect.  I want it to be the constructive core of my working life as a writer.  I don’t want to have to employ some kind of app to shut me out of the internet in order to finish a story, just because I can’t resist looking at yet another iteration of the same picture of Benedict Cumberbatch.

I want the sense of calm that comes with not knowing what is happening in the outside world.  The same calm I felt lying in bed this morning, listening to the wind riffling the roof tiles, blissfully ignorant of what speed it was going or when the next pulse of the storm was going to hit, courtesy of the Met Office website.

The question is, can I do this?  I caught myself the other day thinking that I couldn’t write down a snatch of dialogue I had going around my head because I didn’t have my laptop open.  As if a pen and paper weren’t good enough.

To be creative, in whatever art form you choose, from cookery and sewing singing, tango, writing or painting, you need time and space.  You need to reflect.  Being connected doesn’t give you that space.

For our own creative self-care, we need to make time to switch off.

I don’t want the stress of Continuous Partial Attention to wreck my creativity through anxiety, perceived comparison or peer pressure, or just from lack of time to create.  I want to make space.  Space to think more, reflect more, make more.

You can too.

Creativity Exercises

1. How do you use your time?  What are your chief Time Monsters?  What are the digital munchers in your life?

2. Once you have identified your Time Monsters, you can decide whether you want to continue feeding them, or jettison them to make room to do the things that really make you happy, instead of just keeping boredom and despair at bay.  Its nice to keep a few on standby, for days when you really are frazzled and just need to stare at the telly and not think, but that shouldn’t have to be every night.  If it is, maybe you need a major rethink.

3.  Consciously switch off.  Turn off the telly, your phone, your lappy.  Sit in an armchair and read a book, bake a cake, go for a walk, paint or garden or see friends.  Do something that involves experiencing the world directly, not digitally.   Use your time to think and create.

4.  Do one thing at a time.  Don’t surf on your phone when you are out with your pals, that’s rude.  Don’t have the telly on when you are painting (a bit of inspiring music might help, but nothing you have to think about.)  When you have a conversation with your mum on the phone, concentrate on her, don’t keep one eye on the news.  If something is worth doing, its worth giving your whole attention to.

I’m not advocating digital purdah, believe me.  The digital world has its place, but it is down to us to keep it in it.  I’m just saying we need to use our time more mindfully.  Which is what, from now on, I am going to try and do.

Happy Creating,

EF

We NEED to Look After Ourselves

I was going to write some informative writery stuff this morning, but actually, after the week I have had, I feel like there is a pressing need to say something crucial:

We Need to Look After Ourselves

A dear friend of mine wrote in her blog yesterday about how she forgets to take preventative meds for her migraine when she doesn’t sleep well, and the result is, well, a migraine.  She rants in her post at herself because this miserable agony of a head storm is totally preventable.  And I really sympathise.

Because I am lying in bed right now, typing upside down on my laptop because my back is wrecked and my stomach is a painful disaster.  Both entirely preventable conditions.

1) I haven’t done any really consistent yoga since I had flu last Christmas.  I was so ill, and it took me so long to recover, that exercise didn’t seem possible.  Besides, writing has been my priority, so everything else took a back seat.  As a result, I have lost the muscle mass, flexibility and strength inside my torso that is really needed to hold me up and make my limbs work effectively.

2) My posture is just appalling, and it isn’t helped by hunching over in an inadequate office chair at my desk, or slouching on the sofa for hours on end, typing.

3)  I carry the majority of my stress in my spine, which means neck and shoulder pain unless I take time to release the tension by relaxing or stretching.

4) Its so easy to eat rubbish.  I have a delicate gut that is sensitive to all kinds of crud they put in food these days, and I have to be so careful.  But being careful is pretty much a full-time job, and I would rather be writing.  And I can’t be bothered much, either.  I mean, that chocolate ring donut?  Why not? Just one wouldn’t hurt, would it?  So I’m not careful, and then I develop terrible stomach pains, and then I can’t write. (Are you starting to see the pattern here?)

5)  Stress and anxiety play a big part in my ill health, and I know I am better when I meditate.  But I don’t.  Because it takes time, time when my brain isn’t in its dream world, playing with gorgeous men and exciting stories, and generally having more fun than in real life.  I don’t want to expend the energy on being away from my fantasies.  But when i don’t tackle my tension, I end up with debilitating headaches, back pain, anxiety attacks, insomnia and stomach flair-ups.

None of this is rocket science, as they say.  I know what does me good, but I compulsively and consistently fail to do it.  And judging by my friend’s blog post, and comments from others, I am not the only one.

Lying on my back on the bed this week, working my way through various ‘back care’ books gleaned from the library for research, it became clear to me that this back care thing is a lifelong commitment.  It requires me to be present at every moment in my body, to think about the way I stand, move, sit, lift, twist and bend.  It means getting up from my desk every 20 minutes to move around and release muscles.  It requires learning how to sit and stand correctly.

And my guts?  Well, me and my innards have been fighting a war of attrition for four decades, but I think I can say without doubt that these days, my innards are winning.  They need to get what they ask for, because if they don’t, they stop me doing what I want to do.  So I need to commit to making and eating clean, healthy, nondairy, gluten-free food AT ALL TIMES, not just when its convenient.

I know this.

What I didn’t realise is that these commitments are actually part of my commitment to being a writer.  It is as much my job to look after my body and keep it healthy and functioning as it is to back up my computer or buy ink cartridges for my fountain pen.  All that stuff about writers drinking themselves into cirrhosis and death to write great novels is frankly, and not to put too fine a point on it, bollocks.  I’ve been in pain for the last fortnight, and believe me, it isn’t fun and its not a life plan I want to pursue!

The body is not just transport, as dear Sherlock likes to point out.  It is the foundation stone of our beings, and foundations have to be strong and sure to support the growth,power and creativity of which we are all capable.

So here is my commitment:  I am writer.  That means writing.  And it means creating an environment in which writing can happen, both within my home and within my body.  It means my writing MUST be embodied.

I am making self-care part of my job.

(Because if I don’t, the rest of the job can’t happen.)

Happy Healthy Creating,

EF

Outflow: Stand Still and Listen

Shadow Selfie

Shadow Selfie

You didn’t get a post this morning.  You got an empty space where your post should have been.

Sometimes, life gets in the way.

Best Laid Plans, and all that.

I am in The Red Tent.  My Moon Palace.  The Painters have arrived.  Auntie Flo is in town.  And all the other euphemisms you can think of. A weekend spent caring for my elderly and very frail in-laws followed a busy week, alongside a developing cold, has caught up with me, and now my period has arrived.  And there is no juice left.  Nothing spare.  All I can do is lie here and contemplate.  Try to withstand the OUGHTs and the SHOULDs that are crowding my brain right now, pointing their fingers in accusation because of all that is left undone.

Learning to stop is the hardest thing about my illness.

At primary school, our teachers utilised a very simple form of crowd control.  On the first day, we were instructed about the first rule of school.  If the teacher says ‘Stand Still and Listen,’ thats what you do.  You stand where you are, don’t move.  You open your ears and your mind, and wait for the next instuction.  This was ostensibly about the need for safety, but it also meant that we learnt to pay attention.

Over the years, I have forgotten the importance of ‘Stand Still and Listen’.

Today I’ve been wondering whether ‘Stand Still and Listen’ is what my ME is here to teach me.

To listen to my body.

To listen for the pain.

To listen to my life.

To listen to the world and the people around me.

To be still, and know that I Am.

I will be gone soon enough.  We all are, eventually.  Better make the most of it while we are here.  But that doesn’t mean a frenzied whirl of activity, filling every moment with busyness because we are afraid of death.  It means savouring the moment, being mindful of NOW.

I am sure I have spoken on this theme many times on this blog, and I will do so, no doubt, over and over again in future.  I struggle to learn this lesson every day.  And yet, as a writer, I need to Stand Still and Listen even more than most other people.  Because if I do not observe the world around me with quiet reverence, if I do not record it with compassion and objectivity in my mind and in my notebook, then how can I record it in my stories?  How can I make my story worlds into believable places?

Whether you are a writer, an artist, or any other sort of creative, or whether you are someone who does not see themselves as such, take the time over the next week to practise Stand Still and Listen.  Whether you actually physically stand still or not is up to you.  But take a moment to be still and aware, a moment or a day or a week, or however long you need.  Take stock.  Be in the moment.  I promise the world will grow and deepen for you when you do.

With love from the Red Tent,

EF