Monday, 30 January 2017

January Reflections

2017 has well and truly begun! I hope you had a fantastic start to the year and you’re still on a New Year high. Here’s a few bits and pieces from January… 


A good quote to carry around with you always…

“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. Continue to allow humour to lighten the burden of your tender heart.” - Maya Angelou


Most of my month has been spent ploughing through Daniel Deronda by George Eliot. It tells the story of two people – the selfless, soul searching Deronda and the childish, spoilt Gwendolyn Harleth – as they both undergo huge changes in their personal circumstances. Tackling Jewish identity, women’s rights and class, Eliot extends an invitation to the reader to ponder the intricacies of life and the importance of knowing oneself fully. I can’t wait to get stuck into the TV adaptation!


This month I’ve been rewriting, rethinking and reshaping my first novel whilst working on a second. It’s a liberating feeling to know that nothing is set in stone and that you can make little and big tweaks if you feel called to. Having said that, it’s also strange to rearrange and change something you know so well. It’s a bit like unpicking the threads in a garment you’ve been wearing for years. This is all part of the creative process so I’m going to embrace the change!

Focus on…Remembering our New Year Intentions

The end of January is a good time to remind yourself of your new year goals and intentions. Have you made any little steps towards your aspirations? For February, make a list of some concrete but fun ways you can move closer to your goal. If you’re putting off a goal, maybe question whether it’s the right one for you. Marie Forleo advises, that if you’re having trouble deciding if you’re going in the right direction, to ask yourself ‘does this make me feel expanded or contracted?’ Let your feelings guide you to pursue the dreams you really want!

Three things to look forward to in February:

1. Making a homemade pizza for Pizza day on 9th February. I always use this Chiappa sisters' recipe – the sauce is perfect.
2 Buying fresh flowers for Valentine’s day.
3. Make easy Valentine crafts with my little tiddlers, like this gorgeous heart wreath.

Enjoy a cup of tea with these posts from January:

How was your January? Leave a comment below! 

Thursday, 26 January 2017

In Pursuit of Self-Belief

Often when I’m reading, I’ll think about the actual moment the words I’m looking at were born into this world. The moment that the quill scratched at the parchment, the pen touched the paper and the fingers pressed the keys. I wonder about the ease and tension behind those words. Did Shakespeare spend hours coming up with ‘to be or not to be’? Did Hilary Mantel think about chucking it all in half way through Wolf Hall? It’s immensely comforting to know that every writer has had to deal with self-doubt in some form. It’s a given that self-doubt must accompany us on our creative journey, that’s why we need to make sure self belief comes along for the ride too.

Self-belief is the one thing every writer has in common. Without even a tiny morsel of it, novels, poems and plays have no chance of getting written. Along with passion and excitement, it’s the thing that drives every project along. If we are what we believe we are, then, to believe we can do it is the key!

Engaging in anything outside of our comfort zone immediately puts our ego into a frenzy. Our ego, bless it, wants to protect us any way it can. When you sit down to write, our ego thinks ‘this isn’t going to end well.’ It fears rejection, not being good enough, being laughed at, self-indulgence and everything negative in between. Like a risk assessor it will tell us all the things that could go wrong and we have to listen to it for every word we write. Being a writer is like mothering twins – self-belief and self-doubt – it’s important not to play favourites. If you feel you’re spending too much time with doubt, up your bonding time with self-belief. Here are three ways to reignite your self-belief right now:

1. Remind yourself that you’re not a beginner. Remember that we all have something under our belt, a precedent we can be proud of. When I sit down to write and feel the fear, I remind myself that I wrote yesterday and the day before that and that I can write again today. I remember that there have been days where I wrote nothing but still managed to write again. This even applies for achievements that are unrelated. Being a parent might give you some authority to ‘birth’ a novel.

2. Recognise its part of the process. Every writer has had to deal with self-doubt. My best writing days are the ones when I hear the self-doubt but write anyway. You could try saying ‘thank you for your opinion but I’m going to do this’ to your self -doubt like you would a meddling, opinionated person.

3. Change the story. Write out the story you’ve told yourself. I never finish anything. I’m not good enough. I’ll let everyone down. Cross out the story and re-write a new one that encompasses the things you’re great at.

How do you deal with self-doubt? What are your top tips for self-belief? Leave a comment below! 

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Five Gratitude Practices

‘Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.’ - Marcus Tullius Cicero

In my unapologetically vast collection of self-help books, each author always agrees on one thing. Be it a book about meditation, faith or journaling, there is always an importance placed upon gratitude. Being grateful for what we already have changes everything. It causes a shift in our perspective that can help us feel that we’re having a really good day. The mysterious thing about gratitude is that the more you have, the more reason you get to feel thankful. Tuning your focus onto the wonderful, means you pick up more greatness – more good luck, more gifts and more good experiences! Here are five ways you can practice gratitude…

1. Gratitude Record/Jar

This is such a simple gratitude practice that has amazingly rewarding results. A few times a week, or daily if you want to, write down something you feel grateful for (big or small) into a gratitude notebook or onto a piece of paper that you can place in a big jar. I like this idea because not only do you feel grateful in the moment, but you’ll also reap the benefits when you re-read your notes later on. Last year, I used the jar method for a whole year and opened it up on my birthday. It felt so good to remember all the little moments of happiness that might have been easily forgotten. 

2. A Letter of Thanks

This is a gratitude tool that you can take longer over. Write a heartfelt letter of gratitude to someone who has helped you, supported you, taught you or made you a better person in some way. It can be hard to get your feelings on paper knowing someone will see it, so if it makes you feel better you don’t even have to send it. First and foremost, you want to trigger that feeling of appreciation in yourself. But, of course, sending it will give you that feel-good feeling of making someone’s day. This is a good one to do on special occasions like Mother’s Day or anniversaries. You could even try writing one to yourself.

3. Look on the past with gratitude

Many people confine their gratitude to the present moment - which is good because being mindful of the ‘now’ is key. But, in reality, our minds often wander back to the past and we find ourselves judging our actions. Pick out a few occasions from the past where things went annoyingly for you. For example, instead of cringing about times you’ve made mistakes, think about what that mistake taught you and be grateful you are now wiser.

4. Morning Gratitude

This can be done before you’ve even left your bed in the morning and is particularly good for very busy people. Simply, state to yourself or out loud ten things your grateful for. Include the core things like your health, loved ones and home, but also add in a few different ones each morning like the parking space you found with ease or the great podcast you listened to yesterday.

5. Incorporate little moments of gratitude

Build in little moments of thanksgiving each day: say thank you to shop assistants when you’re paying, smile at people who do nice things for you and buy flowers for people your grateful for. Like Joey Tribbiani says, there is no selfless good deeds because all these things will make you feel wonderful about yourself.

Pick one or two from the list and keep a note of any positive impact on your wellbeing. Thank you for reading!

Which of these ideas do you like best? Leave a comment below! 

Monday, 16 January 2017

Journal Prompt: Impossible Dreams

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible'!”
-           Audrey Hepburn

How often do you find yourself thinking of things you want to achieve when a voice in your head shouts, “it’s impossible!” These journal prompts are there to explore and expose the boundaries that we and others have imposed upon our lives. Grab a pen, journal and prepare to decode your impossible dreams.

  • What in your life seems impossible? What dreams do you have that feel too pie in the sky?
  •  What three impossible powers would you like and why?
  •  Ponder what these powers mean to you. How can you incorporate some aspects of this into your life? Time Travel might not be possible but you can soak up the past in other ways, like visiting museums and travelling to heritage sites. If you crave invisibility maybe what you need is regular time to yourself away from an audience.
  •  Discuss an occasion when someone crushed your ambition.
  •  Discuss an occasion when someone made you feel you were capable of achieving your ambition. 
  • What one, miniscule step could you take towards your impossible dream?
Join the discussion! Leave a comment below… 

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Walking in Winter

‘And O it is delicious, when the day
In winter's loaded garment keenly blows
And turns her back on sudden falling snows,
To go where gravel pathways creep between
Arches of evergreen that scarce let through
A single feather of the driving storm’

Extract from ‘Winter Walk’ by John Clare

Have you noticed that there are different ways of walking? There are walks in solitude, when we seem to see and hear the world clearer. There are chatty walks – those slovenly gossipy ones with friends. There are walks with little ones, pushing babies along and seeing the world through their tiny, wide eyes again.

Despite the variation, ironically, what makes walking so therapeutic is its steadiness. The repeated steps, are like our own heartbeat, bonding us with the land we walk on. This beat counteracts the chatter in our minds that we might have set out with. Countless artists have packed up their troubles and taken them out with them. Julia Cameron wisely asserts that ‘when we walk out, the sorting process begins’. Our problems and dilemmas ‘keep us company as we walk’ and we can meditate upon them. Sometimes, a solution can be found by the time we reach our destination. Other times, we can gain some distance, clarity or perspective on them.

With a clearer mind, we can get closer to where we are or maybe it’s the other way round – our surroundings give us that much sought after clearer mind. We can notice the poetry in the little things. Whether we’re in the middle of a bustling city or deep in the forest we can find that joy. No wonder, then, that walking is so associated with spiritual enlightenment. Each and every walk can become a pilgrimage, a devotion and exploration to the simple beauty in life. Each and every walk can be an exercise in mindful gratitude.

This is why I love walking in winter. I notice the tiny beauties that this much-maligned season offers. Winter has a delicious flavour to it – frosted lawns, the icy surfaces of ponds cracking and splintering under the bright, winter sun, and plump, jewel like berries adorning the wet, glistening bushes and hedges. In winter, life can be found even amongst the bare and barren. Don’t wait for winter to fade, go out and embrace it with every footfall.

Join the conversation! Leave a comment below… 

Monday, 9 January 2017

A Literary Alphabet: H is for Hardbacks

Buying a hardcover is a momentous moment in the life of a literary lady. A hardback is something solid and permanent, stately and formal, unlike a flimsy paperback that can be bent and battered. Purchasing a hard cover is a symbol of trust in a new author or faith in an old one – otherwise you’re stuck with a cumbersome tome. It is, of course, more expensive to buy a hardback than wait for the paperback to be released… but sometimes it’s hard to resist the special quality of a hardback. There’s definitely a tactile element – the feel of good quality paper between your fingertips, the solidity of the covers, the hefty weight of it. And, then there’s the covers. Cloth bound hard covers are particularly enticing (you can feed your cover obsession on my Pinterest page). We all know its what’s inside that counts, but hardbacks definitely give good stories a wonderful wrap.
Do you love hardback books? Leave a comment below! 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Your Creative Goals 2017

Have you made your New Year Resolutions yet? I love a good goal. If I achieve one, that’s brilliant and I celebrate. If I fail miserably, I find myself endeared to my 12 month younger, over ambitious self. Bless her. My favourite type of goal to set is my creative ones. Unlike weight loss or healthy habit resolutions, I know for sure that I’ll have a good time revelling in my creativity. The following are a few questions to ask yourself to get your creative juices flowing in 2017…

Are you planning to start something, or complete something, this year? What is that project you have your eye on? 

At this stage it might be vague. You may just have the desire to write a children’s book. Or, you might be half way through an epic fantasy novel. Whatever it is, identify it and review where you are with the project.

What will you need?

This is a great question to ask yourself. A lot of the time, prospective artists are put off the idea of starting because they feel they don’t have the right resources. But, really, that might just be fear talking. A writer can get started with a pen and a notebook. Think deeper about what you really need. Time? Support? Self-belief? Once you have identified your ‘toolkit’ you can focus on the creativity part. 

Can you branch out into other creative mediums, in any way, this year? 

Whilst you might have a big dream on the cards for 2017, have you thought about the little acts of creativity you can do just for fun? At primary school, we were always making little things out of pine cones, glitter, yoghurt pot lids and a truckload of PVA glue. Playing with our creativity like that is good for us and can actually help with our big, grown up projects. Think of ways you can introduce little projects into your life. 

Who will you appoint as your creative mentor?

Choose someone who you can look up to during your creative year. This could be someone you know or a famous artist. Let this figure inspire you through the year – look at how they create, read interviews with them, stalk their entire artistic output. Being inspired by and learning from other creators makes the whole thing more exciting. 

How will you keep going?

Undoubtedly, you will come across hurdles during your creative year. These could range from being too busy to get that day’s writing done, to pure indifference and low confidence in what you are working on. When these hiccups occur, how can you tackle them? Finding this out, is an important part of the creative process. If you procrastinate, is there anyone nice, but a little bit scary, you could report to so you’re accountable? If you feel isolated is there somewhere you can go to work on your project? Have a standby support system in place. 
What are your creative goals for 2017? I would love to know, so please do leave a comment below…

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