Tag Archives: Self reflection

The Friday Review No.2

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Well, it’s the end of another week, and I feel like it has been a positive week in terms of writing.  I got my writing practice done on the specified days, wrote two long blog posts, and tinkered with a fanfic I’ve had on my laptop for a while – an idea that has been lurking around for about two years, and I keep coming back to it and fiddling with it late at night, when my imagination is most active.  Maybe one day I’ll finish it, but if I don’t, I don’t mind,  It’s a useful way to try out ideas without making a public mug of myself!

The writing practice is starting to generate little vignettes around a particular character I’m working with, something I’ve never done before.  I’m exploring her thoughts, her feelings, her environment.  I’m taking my time to get to know her.  I don’t know if she is going to turn into something bigger, or if she is just a testing ground for what comes next.  It doesn’t really matter.  There’s no pressure in my writing practice.  The point is to just write.  For 20 minutes or three A4 pages.  Twice a week.  And that’s all.

Surprisingly, what is coming out feels like a new voice, one I tried out by reading a couple of passages to my writers group on Wednesday.  These are my writing pals who I go on retreat with every year, and they know my work from way back, as I know theirs.  The reaction was positive.  So I feel hopeful, motivated to continue with this meditative exploration.

At the same time, I’m continuing to thrash my way through Umberto Eco’s magnificent novel of semiotics, ‘The Name of the Rose.’  It’s a whopper!  I’m finding it is definitely feeding through into my writing, as I am thinking about expressing ideas through objects, through the meaning those objects communicate, a kind of oblique way of approaching plot or character, but it is intriguing to try out.  No doubt more on this in the future.

Next week I am off to Oxford to help with clearing out my late mother-in-law’s home.  It’s a slow process, and an emotionally tough one, but we are getting there, and some intensive time at the coal face will help.  I am interested to see how well my creative recovery tools translate into that environment, working with my sister-in-law in close quarters, and out of my normal routine.  I may end up not managing my writing practice, or even my journaling, or perhaps just jotting down a few ideas as lists as I go through the week.  I’m not putting too much pressure on myself about it, though.  If I get the work done, fine.  If not, its also fine.

Being away does mean, however, that I won’t be able to post next week as usual, as I won’t have access to wifi.  Never mind. I’ll be thinking of you, I promise, and I’ll post the second part of my reading reboot series before I go, so that you can get to grips with my reading habit promoters while I’m away.   I hope you find them as useful as I have.

In the meantime,

Happy Creating,

EF

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Journal Friday: Returning to the Journal

VW desktop

This time of year (autumn) is always a time of new starts for me. Husband is a University lecturer, which establishes a certain kind of seasonality in our house – we live according to the academic year, just as we have since we were kids. And on top of the usual stationery-buying frenzy I get at this time of year, I find myself stopping to reassess where I am too.

In truth, its always good to stop off on the seasonal journey to think about where you are in your life, and where you want to go. Life coaches encourage us to do this on a quarterly basis, and to be quite frank, I think it’s a good wheeze. It is hard enough to find time in a busy life to stop and think, but like the prayer bell in the monastery that reminds the inmates to focus on God at regular intervals, the seasons are an automatic prompt to stop and take stock.

This year has been a time of huge shifts for me, changes in my role as wife, care-taker, aunt, friend and woman. I have felt new currents in my creative life starting up, the drive to take my photography more seriously, the sense of a new mission, a new message in my work. It is a time of change, of departures.

Pagan theology tells us that autumn is the time to reap the harvest of what we have sown during the productive seasons of the year – not only of Spring and Summer, the active months, but also of the deep, dark percolation of the Winter that preceded them, before we go down into the dark once more, into that time of thinking, rest and meditation. We need to think about what we have achieved, assess the fruits of our labours, celebrate them, and prepare to settle into a time of productive hibernation during which we can incubate our hopes and dreams for the future.

Well, hooray for the journal, then!

I have been taking time to settle back into my journal-keeping, and to use it in a more constructed way. I have never really used the technique of guided journaling before, by which I mean writing from prompts designed to explore the psyche.   I’ve always been more of a ‘stream of consciousness problem solver’ kind of diarist. In the midst of upheaval, especially during the summer months, I find it hard, therefore, to keep up such a regular journal commitment, because it often takes time to write and write until you’ve found the answer.

Recently, though, I have decided to be more conscious about what I am doing with my diary. I have set out to explore myself and different aspects of my life in a structured way, in the hope that it will guide me to new paths, and help anchor me through the current storms. I’m using visual means too. Nothing fancy. (I’m still pretty blocked about my drawing.) I’ve been collaging instead. Gala Darling’s ‘Radical Self-Love Bible’ Programme has been invaluable with this, a plethora of prompts and eye-candy to help you explore yourself on paper, through collage and writing. I’m not much good at discipline, of course, and though I am half way through the programme now, my ‘bible’ is pretty lightweight. I tend to fall back on my familiar old notebook on a day to day basis, but Gala’s approach is challenging me just enough to make me think about where I am going with my diary, and that’s enough right now.

Journal Exercise:

This weekend, I am planning to retreat to my journaling practise and do some conscious assessment. I’m going to take time to recognise the enormous changes I have gone through, and the achievements I have made so far this year. I am going to consider my intentions for the coming dark months, and work on an emotional strategy for handling Christmas, which is always a difficult time for me. I mean to use my journal to ground myself in who I am, and who I want to be. And to think about where I am going.

If it proves a productive, positive exercise, I ‘m going to repeat it on a seasonal basis.

Would you like to join me?

Why not take this weekend, or some time during it, to sit down in a quiet place with your journal, and think about where you are in your life, and where you want to go.

  • What have you achieved in the last nine months?
  • What ‘babies’ have you birthed, literal, creative, emotional or otherwise?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • How are you feeling right now, physically and emotionally?
  • How would you like to feel?
  • What small, achievable steps can you take to move towards these intentions?
  • What flashpoints can you identify in the coming three or four months? Can you explore why they affect you? What could you do to ease your path through them?
  • How can you celebrate yourself at this point in your life?
  • What creative voices are calling you right now?

If you find the idea of a more conscious journaling practise interesting, you might like to explore Tristine Rainer’s seminal book, The New Diary.

If you want more guidance about deciding where you want to go in life, take a look at Danielle LaPorte’s The Firestarter Sessions, and The Desire Map.

Kate Courageous’s wonderful website is full of rich wisdom and worth exploring.

Happy Journaling,

EF

 

On Process: Your Creative Clock

Ickworth Garden Temple - take a moment to reflect

Ickworth Garden Temple – take a moment to reflect

I don’t think I have ever read a book about how to write (and I’ve read a lot of books about how to write) that didn’t stipulate that writing first thing in the morning, as soon as you get up, is the best thing to do.

Excuse my “French”, but bollocks to that.

I am not a morning person.  Not in any way, shape or form.  I never have been, and I never will be.  In addition to this apparently genetic disadvantage (my mother is terrible in the mornings too), I suffer from a chronic illness which means I need about four hours to get going for the day.  My brain doesn’t normally come online in any meaningful way until about 11am.  And if I try to get going any earlier, I am totalled for days afterwards.

Writing first thing in the morning is never going to happen for me.  Its a biological impossibility.

Ask me about 9.30pm, though.  Yep, by then I am motoring!  I have suffered from insomnia since childhood, when I lay in bed making up stories in the dark to amuse myself while everyone else slept.  I think this is when I became a writer.  I am at my most creative in the hours of darkness, when my mind flies along, pumping out ideas and exciting images like Spielberg on speed.  I even dream in glorious technicolour.

And yes, I write during the day too, but mostly not before about 4pm.  I often have a big pulse of creativity between 4pm and 6pm that is great for finishing stories, and for writing blog posts, which is exactly what I am doing now – its 5.45pm and my brain is firing on all cylinders.

Ask me to invent something at 10am, though, and you are wasting both our times.  Ask me after 10pm and you probably couldn’t stop me with a sledge hammer!

We all have an internal body clock.  Some of us are naturally larks, and some owls.  If you are honest with yourself, you know which you are, when you function best.  You might be brilliant at doing advanced maths in the morning, or you might be better checking your email or dusting the objet d’art.

This doesn’t just apply to the hours of the day, but to your annual clock too.  I find I have a bit of a manic period in March, when the sap starts to rise and I can’t sleep at all because my brain is whirring so frantically with new ideas.  I actually get breathless!  By the time April comes in, I am mentally drained, and can barely come up with an idea for something for tea until July.  July is often my time for last bursts of activity on a project that needs finishing, the final sprint.  But during the summer months, I can safely say there are better things to do than sit inside with a laptop.

Once September comes in, I start to go into my creative cave, a kind of incubation period where I sit with ideas, mull them over, do my planning.  Then during the depths of winter I engage in my deepest writing, my most productive spells, when I can turn out 2-3000 words a day at times.  I find I draw best in the first half of the year, which to me is an exterior time, a period of surging energy.  The second half of the year is for going inside, for living with the images and tales in my head.

I’ve discovered this pattern over the years, observing myself and my creativity and making notes about how I am working in my writing notebooks.  Self reflection is something that helps your creative process and there should always be space in your writing notebooks, sketchbooks and journals for considering how you work best, and what you do when.  These things are important to know, because that way you can optimise your output.   I know, for instance, that there is no need for me to beat myself up in June when I realise I’m not writing.  That’s ok.  Its not the time to do it.  June is when I am out in the world, filling my well.  I know the time will come, and that the downtime in the summer is an important resting and refuelling stop.  Knowing when not to beat yourself up for not being creative is incredibly important for your self confidence and longevity as an artist, and for your mental health.

Writing Exercise:

Take out your notebook, journal or sketchbook – whatever is your creative workbench – and spend some time reflecting on when you have produced your best work, both in terms of the time of day, and of the year.  Do particular seasons have creative resonances for you?  Are the liminal times of dawn or twilight the moments when you come up with your best ideas?  Do you write or paint great stuff in the summer months, or when you are on holiday?  Are you stupified by the cold grey winter skies, or do they encourage you to look within for brighter pictures?

Make sure you take time periodically to reflect on this subject, as it will help you build up a clearer picture of your creative clock.  I like to do it at the beginning of each month, like a review, or quarterly, at the changing of the seasons.  The more you know yourself as a creative person in this way, the more easily you will be able to use your energy for your best work, and to avoid frustration and blocks.

Happy creating!

EF