Tag Archives: planning

Resuming Normal Life

Taking time to rest

Taking time to rest

Hello my Lovelies,

I am sorry I have been absent for a whole month.  What started as a bit of a staycation became a full-blown nightmare, when Husband’s mother became seriously ill and nearly died.  We have spent the best part of the last month travelling between home and Oxford, juggling doctors and carers, fighting needless battles, emotionally stretched to the limit.  I have to tell you that this is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, trying to help not one but two old ladies who refuse to admit they need help, and who have lost the capacity for reasoned argument.  Anyone who has had to deal with Alzheimers disease will understand what I mean.  On the other hand, I was able to find reserves of compassion and care that I never thought I had.

Last week, we finally managed to have some time alone together, something of a holiday, although we stayed at home.  Husband is desperately exhausted, a situation not helped by the stress, and his diabetes.  He has gone back to work today, but I think we had a little respite that did him good.

And so today I resume my own life, my writing life.

This afternoon I am going to sit down with my diary and journal and work out what I want to achieve this Autumn, where I want my writing to go after all this upheaval.  I am grounding myself once more in my life, in my creativity, because I know that the only way to cope with this ongoing situation (and lets face it, it could go on for years more) and stay sane, is to have a life of my own, work of my own, something to distract myself from the worry, something to sink into and forget.

This is why we need creativity.

(Or at least, this is why I need creativity.)

Because Creativity rescues us when nothing else can, gives us a distraction, a reason to keep exploring, keep hoping, keep going.  And there are times in our lives when our art, our creativity, is the only thing that can save us.

I hope that where ever you are in your life, whatever challenges you face, that your creativity will provide you with a lifeboat to carry you to safety.

And I also want to thank you for being here with me.  Its really great to be back!

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

Journal Friday: Wardrobe Planning

More dashBecause I’m ill, I am not able to work, and that means everything I do has to be on a budget – energy-wise and money-wise.  As a result, planning is my friend.  If I have thought about something beforehand, it makes everything so much quicker, easier, and less worrying.  That includes clothes.

I was looking at this fantastic dressing room today, and was shocked that anyone could have that many clothes.  If I did, I’d never get dressed at all because I wouldn’t have the energy to decide what to wear.  I have a small wardrobe, partly on purpose, because cutting down options means less to worry about, but also because of money.  I just can’t afford to spend lots.

Mostly I buy my clothes from my catalogue, on a monthly payment basis, and annually, with my birthday money.  Relatives are kind enough to donate to my clothing fund every year, and I plan very carefully what I am going to spend it on.  I make sure all my big purchases colour co-ordinate, and concentrate on one core colour and two accent colours.

Currently navy is my core, and bright red and bright (lime) green are my accents.  At the moment, though, I am feeling a pull towards charcoal grey, and since I bought a dark grey sweater in the sales a few years ago, I’ve been thinking I might go in that direction a little.  Plus it seems to bring out the colour of my eyes.  (It’s really hard to work out what colours I can wear these days, as I am growing out my coloured hair and letting the grey come through.  I didn’t think this measure, taken because I just can’t be fussed with home dyeing anymore, would make such a big difference to my complexion, but it does.)

grey croppedAnyway, the way my brain is, I can’t keep all this information in my head anymore, so I have started using my journal to plan my outfits.

I have an ulterior motive here too.  I haven’t been able to get past the creative block I have with my art, and I find that if I just do a scribble in my journal, it doesn’t have to perfect.  It is just a gesture drawing with a few colours to note down information in a graphic form, and it cons Nigel into thinking what I am doing is actually not painting at all!  Clever, eh?

black hat litUsing my journal in this way is a helpful planning tool.  It helps me to work out what extras I need in addition to what I already have, and to budget for them.  It also allows me to think through how I really want to look for a particular occasion, such as a wedding.  I am also finding it is changing the way I feel about my clothes.  I’m finally at the age when I can get away with wearing very classic styles, and you can see from my sketches that there is a distinctly ‘50s vibe going on.  I’ve always been in love with Dior’s 1947 New Look, and it looks like that is where I am going.  I’m intend to grow old elegantly as well as disgracefully!

How could you use your journal to plan your life or your look?

Happy journaling,

EF

Do you have a Creative Vision?

This man has a vision (click on the link below and watch the film clip):

Portraits of St Davids residents

He knows what his project is.  He knows what he is after.  He is going for it.  The breadth of his vision, as well as the beauty of it, and of his work, is dazzling.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Vision over recent days.  Wondering what I am really after, what I am trying to achieve.  I can’t just be driven by fear anymore.

My fear is that I will die without getting all these pictures out of my head and into the world so that other people can enjoy them as much as I do.  I find the inside of my imagination highly entertaining, and I want to share it.  Does that sound vain?  I don’t know.  All I know is that I feel compelled to transmit the pictures in my head.

I watched the film, ‘The Reader’ the other night, based on the magnificent book by Bernhard Schlink.  It was wonderful.  It stirred up so many complicated and conflicting feelings inside me.  It is a true tragedy in the Greek style, a man forced to face the truth about the love of his life, and her part in unspeakable acts.  So much love.  So much horror.  This story is designed to spur debate about the morality of our actions, about good and evil, about the excuses people give, about love and literature and illiteracy and shame.  You could call it a romance, but thats only a tiny part of the story.  Schlink’s genius is to use romance as the vehicle to consider more difficult moral problems.

After the film had ended, I was getting ready for bed, cleaning my teeth and staring into the mirror, as I mulled over the storm of feelings going on under my ribs.  And I realised something.

This is exactly what I want my readers to feel when they finish reading one of my stories.

Complicated emotions.  The vast, unquenchable yearning of love.  The conflict of being caught in morally complex situations.  The struggle for answers.  And that iresistable siren call of need that drives us towards one another, even when we understand that pain can be the only result.

Is this too big a vision for someone of my talents?  I’m not saying I want to be Dickens, after all.  I guess I am aiming higher than that, in a way.  These issues seem to me to be at the core of our existence as emotional beings.  We struggle with them, just as we struggle with the philosopical questions of why we are here, and whether there is a God.  This is what I want to examine with my writing.

So its more than just getting the pictures out of my head and onto the page.  It is observing the emotions that make us love, too.  Call me a hopeless romantic, but that is what I am interested in, and I think I always have been.  I just never really thought consciously about it before.

I know what I’m trying to achieve now.  The thought has given me purpose.  All I have to do is go out and do it.

Do you have a vision for your creative work?  Maybe its worth thinking about.

Happy Creating,

EF

The Wild Donkeys: A Strategy for Choosing a Creative Project

donkey

‘So, how’s the writing going?’

This from a man who is one of the Blessed Few.  A writer whose work was picked up by an agent straight from the much garlanded MA in Creative Writing at the Unversity of East Anglia.  Alumni include Ian McEwan, Rose Tremain, Hanif Kureshi, Tracey Chevalier and, well, you get the picture.  He is in glittering company.

He is also a really lovely man and a dear friend who takes a genuine interest in my work, so I rein in the envy monster and give him the polite and honest answer.

‘Fine.  Well, actually, I’m a bit stuck.’

‘Creative block?’

‘No, too many ideas.  I don’t know where to start.’

‘You should be writing a novel, you know.  I read some of your Sherlock stuff the other day.  It’s really good.’

‘Thank you.  I’ve written seven novels so far.  Writing a novel isn’t the hard part.  Its choosing which one to write that’s difficult.’

‘Well, just pick one and start.’

I love men.  Everything seems so easy to them.  And they are so good at handing out really practical advice.  (You’ll also notice that I don’t ask him how his novel is going.  That’s because I know.  I recognise that pained look.  I’ve seen it in the mirror too many times.)

OK, I know its good advice.  The right advice.

As Leonie Dawson puts it, I need to choose a wild donkey and ride the shit out of it till its done.

Every writer has a place where they habitually get stuck.  A psychological Marianas Trench on the road to getting their work into the readers’ hands, one that they tumble into every time.  For some it is grinding the words out, which for them is like sweating blood.  For others, it is coming up with the idea in the first place.  Some worry when they get to the middle because that’s always where they get bogged down, and some will spend ten years writing the first page.  We all have our Achilles’ heel.

For me, its choosing which idea to stick with.

So I have decided to take September off.  Not from writing; quite the opposite, in fact.  No, I’m taking the month off from worrying which novel to concentrate on.  I’m in a physically stuck place right now, and I need to concentrate on my health, on getting my body moving again after a summer of boom and bust energy.  I’m looking to create a smooth, even flow in my life, in my health, and my art.  I have faith that if I can manage to attain a relative level of consistency in my body, the answer will come to me.  Yes, maybe that sounds mad, but its just how my creative process works.

And in the meantime, I’m refreshing my theory knowledge, reading, working on my notebooking, and bashing out some major fanfiction.  I’m easily distracted, and having short stories and novellas on the go is a great way to handle that.  But sooner or later, I want to create something major.  Something big.  Something that shows both me and you, dear Reader, what I can really do.

Happy creating,

EF

On Cabbages and Trombones – Making Language Strange

The expression ‘cabbages and trombones’ was one used by the poet Ian Macmillan at a recording of a poetry radio show which I went to see with a friend a while back, and the phrase stuck with me.  He was talking about how poets seek to make language strange and startling, how they seek to use it to weave a rich tapestry of image and idea.  That, after all, is the purpose of poetry, to enrich our experience of life with pattern and syllable.

The concept chimed with me again when my husband was wrestling with a writing problem of his own.  Besides being an academic, he runs an online whisky company, and occasionally works as a whisky writer.  He had been asked to contribute reviews of a variety of whiskies for this book.  Little bottles duly began to arrive in the post every morning, and off he went at a rate of three or so per evening.  Everything was fine for the first thirty tests or so.  But then he began to run out of descriptors.  Just how many new adjectives can you come up with when you’ve got 60 whiskies to review?  They can’t all taste of TCP or green jelly babies.  Can each review really be different from the last?

And today, as I busy myself with planning my new writing schedule, and working on new stories, it has come back again.

Experts say those with a college education generally have about 12,000-17,000 words in their vocabulary, but as writers we need to have far more and we need to use them in unusual and riveting ways.  I realise that I have dropped into the habit of reading very little but fanfiction, and if you are a fanfiction reader yourself, you will know that there are a lot of linguistic ruts involved.  Favourite words include laving, ravishing, carding (of luxuriant hair), trembling and so on.  No fanfic is complete without somebody emitting ‘ragged breath’.  If you have read enough of these, you begin to spot the clichés.  If you read too many, they scream out of the screen at you.  (I hold my hands up and say I am as guilty as any of falling into this trap!)

The trouble is that if you don’t read more widely than just what other people write on the internet, your vocabulary stays static.  This is what mine has been doing.  Now I am writing again on a daily basis, I have realised how stagnant my linguistic skills have become.  Of course, its not just words, but metaphors and similes.  I need to polish up my style, make it strange and new.  I need to expand my consumption, and open my mind.

 WARNING:  Incoming Master Plan for Expanding Lingustic Skills:

I’m taking a two-pronged attack:

  1. Widen my reading
  2. Use my notebook at all times

I’ve been reading just fanfics and nonfiction all summer, and its been a long time since I actually finished a proper novel.  You can’t be a writer if you don’t read.  Mostly I just read at bed time, a few paragraphs to help me drift off.  But I need to take Stephen King’s sage advice:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

Stephen King, “On Writing”,

Hodder and Stoughton (2000) p164

 Of course, I’ve got a whole pile of books lying around, waiting to be ploughed through.  Top of the pile are ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern, and ‘Atonement’ by Ian McEwan.  I don’t especially like McEwan, but I am determined not to let this bloody book defeat me.  It’s the third time I’ve tried to read it, after all, and I refuse to be beaten!

I have also decided to follow Ian Macmillan’s advice.  Poetry is the way to go.  I’m not a reader of poetry – I’ve barely read any since my degree – but if you want to know about making language strange, go to the experts.  I went to the library yesterday and got out two collections, one of Ted Hughes, and one of Simon Armitage, because I had heard of them.  I’ll let you know if it works.

The second prong (I love that word, don’t you?) is more nebulous.  Out comes my little red Moleskine.  I need to think about how I am going to get the ball rolling on this particular aspect, but just jotting down a few ideas on what the weather feels like, smells like, tastes like, or overheard conversations, or the colours of shadows, might be a good start.  Again, I’ll let you know how I get on.

In the meantime, here’s to cabbages and trombones.  And whisky that tastes of TCP and green jelly babies.  Both of which have taught me a lot about writing.

(Incidentally, you may like to know that I am currently publishing a new fanfic called ‘A Shadow of His Former Self’.  You can find it here at A03, and here at Fanfiction.net.  I hope it takes your fancy.)

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