Nourishment and Self Care for Writers

It’s hard being a writer. It’s hard working on your own full stop, be you a writer, artist, blogger or whatever.

It’s a lonely business and it takes a lot of fortitude when you face criticism, rejection or lack of interest, even if that can sometimes be a learning process in itself.

So many of us, especially creative women, give so much of ourselves, rushing about writing, looking after the kids, taking care of our friends and sometimes we forget to nurture ourselves.

I got so bad at this recently that self care had completely fallen off the list of things to do. When I stopped to ask myself what I could do to make myself feel happy and nurtured I actually drew a complete blank I was that out of practise.

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That’s why I found it really nice to attend my friend Estelle Keribin-Connolly’s ‘The Genuine You’ presentation on the Psychology of eating the other day. I don’t feed myself properly when I’m writing. Sometimes I don’t eat at all or survive only on chocolate biscuits and tea. I’ve lost count of the number of cups of tea that have gone cold,  so I was looking forward to this!

First of all, she did a really nice meditation that got us all relaxed and then gave a brief talk about self nurture, binge eating and the psychology of eating. It certainly gave me some food for thought! She does coaching and mentoring and I’d recommend her highly!

When she spoke about nourishing yourself, it was a light bulb moment. I realised that you can’t be creative consistently unless you have nourishment, not just for your body, but also your mind. She talked about nourishing your mind with relaxation and inspiring activities. How can you keep the good creative juices flowing if you haven’t nourished your mind with these?

This reminded me of Julia Cameron’s idea of filling the well. I wrote about Julia Cameron’s great book ‘The Artist’s Way’ before on this blog. She talks about creativity as a well of inspiration, your subconscious, that needs refilling from time to time so that you can continue to be creative without burning out.

There’s another great article here about avoiding burn out as a writer courtesy of Anne Leigh Parrish on the Women Writers, Women’s Books Site.

Estelle practises a whole self approach – her psychology of eating is about improving your relationship with food as well as yourself, in order to become your best self.

Her Facebook page is below.

The Genuine You

 

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How to get Started as a Writer

I was having a conversation the other day with a friend that went something like this;

Me “I’ve been really busy working on the novel..”

Friend “Yeah, I should write something. I’ve got a few ideas but I just haven’t got round to it..”

Will he ever get around to it? I don’t know. Maybe it depends on what is motivating him. I wrote and enjoyed writing as a child. I got a lot of praise from my teachers and that’s what motivated me but when you’re a writer working on a second novel and the first one didn’t find an agent, praise as a motivating factor isn’t an option.

I’m currently working on ‘White Water’ a historical novel and writing is a pretty lonely business. My motivation therefore has to come from somewhere else: enjoyment of writing itself.

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It took a while for the penny to drop after finishing my first novel. I really pushed myself with that one, allocated a number of words per day that I HAD to complete, planned it like a  military campaign, chapter by chapter and scene by scene but something terrible happened in the process. I started to hate writing. The enjoyment dissolved – poof! – it was gone and after finishing the book, sending it off to agents and sitting back, I never wanted to write again..

How I got Started as a Writer, the second time around was that I told myself one day, after the penny had dropped, that I would write a little bit. I could stop when I felt like it, I wouldn’t worry about what I wrote and I wouldn’t allow myself to critique it at any point. I would do it only because I enjoyed it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Many writers will tell you – don’t do it for the money! – and they are one hundred per cent correct. If you want to write, you need to do it because you love it. You might have days when you want to throttle it, slam the door in it’s face and go down the pub but in the end you always come back because you love it, through thick and thin, for better or for worse.

Here are my top tips for starting writing creatively:

  1. Just write. Get yourself a notebook and pen and write ANYTHING. In the brilliant book ‘The Artists Way’ Julia Cameron suggests you should aim for three sides of A4 a day. Just let the pen move. Shut off your editor. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. Just write. Don’t read it back. Move on. Over time, like sculpting, shapes will emerge from the words. These will be the bones of your stories.
  2. Get out and observe. Go for a walk. Describe the sky, the road, the trees, the people – to yourself. Take a notebook. Sometimes when I’m out I write things down on my phone and copy them up later.
  3. Read. You can’t be a writer if you don’t love books. Hoard them. Give them a good home. Read widely. Read non-fiction too. Great for story juice.
  4. Keep going. About 90 per cent of writing is fortitude and not giving up.

Recommended reading:

The Artists Way – Julia cameron

Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg

On Writing – Stephen King

 

And if you try writing, let me know how you get on. If you already write let me know how you got started. What would you tell people to do or not to do? Stop by, leave a comment!

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Fire – A New Short Story

Here is a new short story. It’s called ‘Fire’ and it’s the third in a quartet about Earth, Fire, Air and Water (the so called four elements of magic). It’s not been without its problems. I wrote it a couple of weeks back and was really happy with it but when I came to edit it I realised I’d lost over 1000 words of the damned thing – one reason I wish I still had my Mac – that never happened with it.

Fire

However, I dragged myself together, telling myself I wouldn’t rewrite it as it was because that wouldn’t work – no story is ever the same on two different occasions, the sands of subconsciousness shift so to speak – so I would write it as it came out the second time and let the first draft rest in peace.

Anyhow, couldn’t move on to what I wanted to write next without laying this one to rest so here it is. I’m still pretty happy with it. It’s set, somewhat predictably, in 1666 during the Great Fire of London but it was a good exercise in writing historically and using a healthy mix of fact and fiction.

I found out some pretty interesting things about the Great Fire whilst researching it. Did you know, for instance, that a simple-minded French watchmaker (the French were blamed a lot for the Fire – no one realised that the winds carried embers from one building to other seemingly unrelated ones and we were at war with them at the time) named Robert Hubert was hung at Tyburn on 28th September 1666 for starting the fire  even though he was later found to have been at sea at the time of the fire?

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The Witch Bottle

Here is the beginning of a book I’m writing for children called ‘The Witch Bottle’. It started off as a scary story I told to my children as we were walking in Lathkill dale in Derbyshire.
There’s a place along the route we took which is called Parson’s Tor – known as Fox Tor until 1776. It’s name was changed to commemorate the tragic death of the Rev Robert Lomas, Rector of Monyash who fell to his death from the Tor when returning home from Bakewell one stormy night. He’s buried in Monyash churchyard.
The story I told my kids (we like to tell scary stories sometimes when we’re walking – it helps keep them going on long walks!) was very loosely based on this and is more fiction than fact.It ended up containing witches, reincarnation and all sorts of weird and wonderful things. The story took on a life of it’s own as stories do and I ended up writing the beginning up on Storybird as my daughter, who’s eleven also writes using the Storybird website (and she’s got more followers than me!). I’ll hopefully have time to complete it when I’ve finished writing ‘Wreckers’ which I’m currently about a tenth of the way through. Here’s the link to the PDF version The Witch Bottle and here’s the link to the Storybird version.

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New Short Story – Part One of a Quartet

 The Spa House

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The spa house, or bath house, as it is more commonly known, lies hidden like a jewel sunk into the navel of the surrounding council estate.

The estate is gargantuan and red brick, having the look of permanent hangover about it; listless and grimy, yet scratch the surface and you’ll find a soul. Strangers often find themselves lost, retracing their steps over and over. This is just the way of the place. It warms slowly to outsiders, as if taking them in and considering their worthiness but once you’re accepted it becomes a place of safety, a place to withdraw to when the world seems too much. It becomes as good a home as any other.

Untamed weeds curl upwards, thin but defiant between the cracks in the pavement that the council never seems to fix. In between well loved houses with neat herbaceous borders and freshly starched net curtains lies the odd house that has fallen by the wayside through neglect, usually reflecting the chaos of the lives of the inhabitants.

The houses tumble inwards and downwards towards the site of the spa house, surrounded as it is by a small coppice, dark and sinewy. its as if someone has half closed a pop up book as the houses cling precariously to the edge of the valley as it folds in upon itself. The place is quiet, punctuated only by the sounds of the nearby motorway and yap of the odd stray dog.

When you arrive in the grounds of the spa you will notice that there is a change in the air. Tiny, almost imperceptible, there is a change in atmosphere that some folks can’t cope with. Some people find themselves glancing behind them nervously while others feel the hairs on the backs of their necks stand to attention. The spring itself has fallen into disrepair. The water flows the way it always has done, clear and cold from beneath the hill but the pool is now dark and stagnant. It is like looking into the eyes of a dead thing, decomposing, lifeless. The bath house itself is a fairly modest red brick Victorian building with lead lined windows that are now shuttered through repeated attacks of vandalism. The house crouches as if waiting for the next phase in its life to begin, craving action and attention.

Find the rest of the story here

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Literary Tattooing

I’ve been thinking about a new tattoo for some time, and yes, this probably amounts to time wasting and avoiding writing! However, I’ve always meant to get more as I feel a bit ‘unfinished’, and today picked up Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 to look for a quote as he really inspired me to write as a teen – and came across the epigraph by the poet Juan Ramon Jiminez; ‘If they give you ruled paper, write the other way’. I remember having this scribbled on my history file during my A Levels and it’s great to think I still have the same attitude! While I was searching I came across a couple of fantastic blogs of note. Pen and Ink on Tumblr is beautifully drawn and written and The Word Made Flesh is a great one on literary tattoos.

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Wolf-Girls

My werewolf short story ‘Exiled’ is available now in an anthology entitled ‘Wolf-Girls: Tales of Teeth, Claws and Lycogyny’ published by Hic Dragones.

Apart from this, I’m currently working on a quartet of short stories based around the elements of air, water, earth and fire which I’ll publish shortly here on my blog.

I’ve also just finished a novel – ‘Bloodlines’ –  for young adults based on Arthurian legend. It’s a tale which questions the idea of Arthur as hero, exploring the true origins of the grail and the consequences of one man’s lust for power over two millennium ago.

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