Feeding the lake

lake windermere

I am so hesitant to call myself a writer. Or to even admit to having aspirations to write in some professional, serious, ‘this is my career’, type of manner.
I know this limitation is my own self-inflicted standard, that unless I am published than I am not a writer. It is also a thinly veiled acknowledgment of my insecurities and fear of failure.

I have had a couple of conversations recently that have encouraged me to embrace my desire to write, and to call myself a writer, with more confidence. I have spent sometime over the last few months with a dear friend who is an established artist; she regularly receives significant commissions and is well known for her amazing pieces. We have been spending time discussing her new website that she has asked me to edit the text for.  She often calls me a poet, it slips of her tongue easily and with conviction. It shocks me every time. She is quick to acknowledge that words are my ‘thing’ and encourages me to purse words and writing.  I am so grateful for the ease in which she speaks life into me.

The other conversation I had was with a new friend who recently retrained and is now working in the film industry. She had a complete career change and is now pursuing a creative career that she loves. I was chatting with her about writing and how much I love poetry and would love to pursue more poetry. I said to her, ‘I know it sounds a bit silly’. And she immediately replied, ‘No, it doesn’t sound silly at all. I get that’.  I was shocked by her response. I usually get blank stares or ‘that’s a nice hobby’ comments. She understood that it was more than a ‘hobby’, she understood that I had just revealed something from the depth of me. And she ‘got it’.

Both these ladies have given space in their lives to pursing their creative gifts. The inspire me and give me hope. They also embody an understanding that the pursuit of the creative is worthwhile in itself and a valid possibility.

It reminded me of something I read in Madeline L’Engle’s book, ‘Walking on Water: Reflections on faith and art’:

“If the work comes to the artist and says, ‘Here I am, serve me,’ then the job of the artist, great or small, is to serve. The amount of the artist’s talent is not what it is about. Jean Rhys said to an interviewer in the Paris Review, ‘Listen to me. All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don’t matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake.”

I am encouraged to just keep feeding the lake. To embrace the act of writing, stop worrying about the labels and expectations, and get on with putting words on paper.  These ladies are beacons of light, leading the way and beckoning me on. I am glad to be lakeside with them.

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Lesson Learnt

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I have made a rookie mistake (again). I have read too many blogs. I have compared myself too much.  And the simplest and most destructive thing has happened. I have stopped writing. I have stopped making time for words. Comparison is not only the thief of joy (who said that?) but it extinguishes confidence and becomes the loud voice of doubt and discouragement.  Ugh.

And so I have stripped my blog reading list. I have culled it right back to the blogs that regularly delight and inspire me and have deleted those that make me feel like I am a great big failure for not having a book written and published (or about to be).  

And I have learnt that great lesson that all the writers I love and appreciate proclaim – write and write and write. Every. Single. Day.

 

At my table

 

table

The table is long. Made from worn, dented wood, its scars whispering tales of the countless meals it has served and conversations it has witnessed.

The table is heaving with plates of cheese and meat. A pyramid of bread sits precariously in the centre, threatening to tumble down upon the candles and flowers. Terracotta dishes swim with milky black olives shimmering in olive oil.  Bottles of wine litter the table, in easy reach.  This table sings of generosity and decadence.

Candles flicker and dance on the breeze that sneaks in as the doors are opened.

The guests are arriving.

Invitations have gone far and wide, welcoming many to this meal.

 

I sit at the centre and smile as my guests walk in. Some confidant and sure, others shy and surprised to find themselves at this table.  Some are noticeably and dismayingly absent.

Conversations bubble and wine is poured. Laughter flutters and flits up and down the table.

Down one end of the table there comes a consensus. I put my wine glass down and consider their suggestion. ‘No thank you.’ I whisper. ‘I like my words just the way they are, tumbling, heartfelt and mine. I choose my words, not yours’.  Their stares carry disappointment and disbelief to my heart. I bow my head and thank them for coming.

To my left someone clears their throat and moves to the edge of their seat.

‘This is what you should do’. Confidant, certain, sure. ‘Let me give you a list…’  He pulls out a pen.

‘No thank you’.

‘But I’m a professional. I could really help you.’

‘No thank you’.

The chair scrapes the floor as it is pushed back in incredulity.

I hear my phone trill from under the table. I surreptitiously look down.

A text.

From one of my dearest.

‘There is a little hope. More test to be done. Please pray.’

Conversations swim around me, the air is thick with words and laughter. I search for a reassuring smile or word among those at the table.

My phone trills again.

Another text.

From another of my nearest.

‘We have driven all day. To say goodbye. Grief is our companion’.

Deep sadness descends, like mist into a valley. I am lost in a cloud of sadness and disappointment.  It dulls the voices and faces of my guests and leaves me breathless.  I reach out for a hand that is not there.

For a long time I sit and let the noise of my guests swirl around me.

I can’t see my hands in my lap, spread out, offering my wordless prayers to the mist.

There is sudden movement in the air, slight but perceptible.  Like someone has opened the door and slid into the room unannounced and undetected.

There is the lightest pressure on my shoulder and breath on my cheek.

‘You invited the wrong people to your table’.

The hand I have waited for reaches down and takes mine, pulling me out of my seat.

‘Next time you will send fewer invitations. Next time there will be dancing. Next time I will sit next to you and hold your hand’.

 

 

Simplicity Reigns

lake district winter

I shall live badly if I do not write, and I shall write badly if I do not live. Francoise Sagan

 

It is grey and dull today.

I am huddled inside with our youngest baking muffins and painting. It has drizzled most of the morning. A hazy mist of barely there raindrops.

These are my kind of days. Slow and peaceful. Restorative in their quietness and ordinariness.

I ventured outside to gather basil and parsley for our lunch and caught a hint of someone’s wood fire. We never had an open fire in our house, growing up or since. But somehow that smell reminds me of home. I hurried inside and rang AJ, declaring our ‘need’ for a fire pit in our back yard, for adventures and toasted marshmallows and damper on sticks. He agreed – it was indeed necessary!

I made our little girl a ‘coffee’. Heated milk frothed to fluffy perfection, topped with milo. She wiggled with happiness. I made myself a coffee and added almond milk, because that is what I do now. The milk and coffee separated and there were clouds floating in my mug. I tipped it down the sink.

The TV seems to be broken, or at the very least it is having some trouble agreeing with the remote control. Tinkerbell will have to wait. Try explaining that to a two year old. Peace was restored with a pair of gumboots and a wand.

Today I am thinking of my friends who are travelling through the UK for the next 5 weeks. My excitement for all that they will see is tainted oh-so-slightly with jealousy. I long for quiet adventures and wild, sweeping landscapes. For the beauty of the North of England that I know and love. Misty mountains and cosy pubs. My friends will return with great stories, told with rapidity and joy, and I will delight in their wonder, of this I am sure.

Simplicity reigns in this house today.

You are a Writer

I have been reading Jeff Goins blog for a little while now and what strikes me about him, more than anything else, is how generous he is.  He is constantly encouraging and urging writers to write. I recently read his book, ‘You are a Writer (so start acting like one)‘, and I really appreciated, once again, Goin’s generosity, his insights and his words. I did receive the book in exchange for my unbiased review – it was a good deal for me!

The Amazon Review is here. And the text is below. I highly recommend this book, for inspiration and for insights from someone who is making it happen. Check it out!

I was somewhat dubious when I read the introduction to the book. There were some big promise’s made!I wondered how Goins was going to justify his big claims!

But as I read on I realised that while being incredibly practical, this book was also greatly ideological and philosophical. And for me, that is where the strength of the book lay. It was refreshing to read a book that encouraged you to pursue your heart and dreams without the layers of cynicism and pessimism that often encroaches on this topic. Goins dares you to believe – I am so glad that he does. This is a book that I will come back to again and again. For inspiration, for encouragement, for a kick start and when the time comes, for those practical next steps.

I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review.

 

finding your voice

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The other day after I was feeling overwhelmed by ‘this whole writing thing‘ I realised that at the core of this issue were these questions:

Does the world need my voice?

Does the world need another blog?

Do we really need to have another ‘wanna be writer’?

Does anyone really need or want to read my words?

And here’s the thing – the answer might be no to the last 3, and that’s fine. But, does the world need my voice?

Yes it does.

In whatever small way it comes out, everyone’s voice and story is important.  I need to write my words and my stories, my way, in my voice.  And what ever form your voice takes, the world needs your voice too.

Whether you paint, draw, sing, write, knit, dance or garden, your voice is necessary and valuable.

And so the only responsible thing to do is to work towards discovering what ‘my voice’ sounds like.  Stripping back the layers of expectations, mimicry, and fear and listening to the words that are chasing each other to get on the page.

 

Jeff Goins has a great list of tips for wherever you are on the writing journey. There is lots of practical advice and encouragement to be found here.

Goins has a 10 steps to finding your voice‘ exercise that I am going to attempt, some of which I might share here (Q4. Jot down at least five books, articles, or blogs you like to read. Spend some time examining them. How are they alike? How are they different? What about how they’re written intrigues you?), some of which I probably won’t (Q1. Describe yourself in three adjectives.)!!

 

this whole writing thing…

In an attempt to glean wisdom and inspiration from those who have ‘gone before’, I think I may have done myself a disservice. I thought that if I spent some time researching a few ‘successful’ bloggers and writers I would feel energised and encouraged.

Nope.

Feeling overwhelmed and slightly terrified.

There are SO many good writers and bloggers out there.

So, so many.

None of which would want to discourage a newbie. In fact, many of the blogs I’ve been reading lately offer great information and practical advice about writing and blogging, particularly if you are a new kid on the block.

But goodness…can I really do this?

Brene Brown would be happy (joyful? grateful? Still getting my head around her definitions). Admitting to wanting to be writer is the epitome of vulnerability for me. It is not easy to tell the world (aka. the 6 people who read this blog) that you want to be a writer and:

  • Not know if you have the skill to do so
  • Not believe you have skill to do so (whether you do or not)
  • Not know if anyone thinks you can actually write
  • Believe that you are meant to write

 

I have, for a long time, wanted to use words like my husband uses a spoke wrench (that’d be some bike tool thingy) – skilfully, aptly, easily and daily.

 

So I am going to take a little moment to feel overwhelmed, then I will make a cup of tea, pick up my notebook and my copy of ‘Bird by bird’ by Anne Lamott (the quintessential guide on ‘how to write’) and choose to listen to that tiny voice saying, ‘do it’.

I will read more, write more, make more time, dwell in more words and more silence, and I will keep reading generous writers (like Jeff Goins, Amanda Williams and Annie Downs), gathering wisdom and strength as I do.