Category Archives: Wisdom

International Women’s Day

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IWD – Happy International Women’s Day. This post comes from the generosity of women. Find yourself a new poet, a new read, a bit of wisdom – lots to celebrate!

Poet Laureate

pexels-photo-261453.jpegTo celebrate International Women’s Day I asked you for your thoughts and inspirations. ENJOY! 

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POETS/POEMS – Recommended Reads

Rachel Curzon – Scan poem – highly recommended (Faber and Faber) – Michelle Diaz

Julia Copus any of her spectacular poems, just so very cleverly constructed but the form is always appropriate to the meaning. – Nikki Fine

Colette Bryce who I was lucky enough to do a workshop with last year as part of a local literary festival. – Penny Blackburn

Gillian Allnutt – Ode. I read poetry on my Sociology/Social Policy under graduate course. – Rachel Burns

Mary Oliver I’m reading more of her work and folding over the corners of so many favourite poems in each book…when I run out of post-it notes! I grew up in inner city Birmingham & moved to London at 18, and it’s only in my 40’s that I discovered nature and now understand what all…

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Hit a Writing Dip? Stay Motivated

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We all find ourselves in the dreaded dip from time to time, unsurprisingly the pressure of a new year and new goals is enough to send the most sturdy writer over the edge… so I have put together this motivational post just for you.

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Remember pursuing a writing career is a guarantee you will face rejection, find projects stall and possibly feel no confidence in your ability. But remember this is what you want to do, this is what you live for, this is enjoying work on those good days in a way you never could before. For those times when your world is rocking, it is all worth it and all part of this path you have chosen.

The best way to deal with it is to learn the tricks, keep the dream alive and know even the greatest feel this way from time to time.

 

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Rejection is not personal

Sometimes maybe the writing wasn’t up to scratch but more often than not it doesn’t fit alongside accepted work, may not be the taste of a particular editor, may be too similar to work which has already been published/accepted.

The main thing is – rejection – means you are submitting your work, which is an achievement in itself. If the writing is good it will find a place eventually and sometimes that place is a better match than the place you initially sought acceptance from.

It won’t make it hurt any less, but it is normal. Normal to be rejected and normal to feel a bit dejected by it.

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TLC

I do not reward myself when I get writing accepted, unless you count mentally doing the happy dance, but I do commiserate myself when I read a rejection.

Do something that refocuses or lifts you for a while. Go for a walk, read a chapter of a book (if you can still bear to hold one in your hands), try a few relaxation exercises, watch a comedy show, or even eat cake. Do something that makes you feel better. Just something between 10-30 minutes just to get your mindset shifted.

The best thing is to send something else out there (as long as your writing is ready) a flight of new hope, then move on.

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Create Deadlines

Of course you know the actual submission deadline. We all miss them from time to time (learn to forgive yourself and let go). In Life Coaching* we always break goals down into smaller steps. Each chunk needs a deadline. These skills can be transferred to how you work as a writer.

*I qualified as a Life Coach in 2007.

 

Commitment

Allocate enough writing time to achieve your goals. Yes! I am well aware there is never enough writing time and few of us are lucky enough to fulfil a full-time writing career, but every dream needs commitment otherwise it is just a wish/ wishy washy.

So take yourself seriously and allow it.

Give priority to your writing time.

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Speaking of time…

Time 

Discover when the best time for your writing is. I tend to be best early in the morning both at the beginning of the day before lunchtime and now at 1 AM in the morning.

I organise my writing day so I am actually producing at my optimum times and fit the admin tasks and chores and everything else into the time that my writing brain isn’t in prime working mode.

We are all different. It takes a while to find out what is the best time for you, but it is worth bearing it in mind.

Note: A few hours before deadline is really not the best time for quality writing/editing.

Once you know when to write you can learn how to write. Allowing yourself 1 hour can be more productive than allocating an entire afternoon. Some people work in blocks of 25 minutes ‘The Pomodoro technique’, I tend to find that I need longer to write but I do take my breaks to do other things in blocks of 20 minutes.

 

Lists

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Mr G. used to laugh at my TO DO LISTS as they would always have wash hair, breakfast etc. on them. He knew these were not things I would forget to do. I explained they enabled me to tick something off before 10 AM.

My lists have come a long way since then, I rarely put shower/hair on them anymore. They will include a little box of chores that need attention to make sure I do not get too lost in the admin and the writing and there is an important point. It no longer amazes me, but for years it did – the amount of admin a writer has. You could easily fill whole days without actually getting any writing done and so when you are scheduling your time allow yourself the discipline of actually writing. I used to work on a laptop that didn’t recognise we have Internet.

Nowadays I am better on focusing on one job at a time and avoiding social media/internet distractions (don’t judge me, but I never needed the LOLCats).

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What alchemy is this? The magic of lists. I simply write 2 or 3 things at a time that need to be completed and keep adding. If you write a long list of everything your brain will freak out at the sight of it and this is not good for creativity and free flowing thoughts.

 

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Plan your time and reward yourself. 

 

RELATED LINKS: 

From INKSPILL (Our online Annual Writing Retreat) 2014

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INKSPILL SHARE BUTTON

From INKSPILL (Our online Annual Writing Retreat) 2017

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From INKSPILL (Our online Annual Writing Retreat) 2016

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the-ups-and-downs-of-creatives/

the-emotional-spectrum-of-writing/

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What’s the Point? Keeping Motivation ALIVE

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© Sarah Wilkinson 2014

© Sarah Wilkinson 2014

This morning I decided to watch a TEDx talk whilst eating breakfast. I have spent a couple of weeks in a dip and am lacking motivation and belief. In under three years I am already uttering those vile, monstrous, self-destructive words, ‘what’s the point?’ Not only has the question entered my mind, it has been playing on a slow loop and worse still I have started to take it as fact that the answer is – ‘there isn’t any.’ writing block

All of this is completely ridiculous, however, in the short time I have been back in my writing life I have discovered not only do all writers feel this way from time to time but even really famous authors and successful writers fall prey to these self-sabotaging words.

The point is;

your unique voice, out there for people to read.

this is your chosen career.

you have to stay highly motivated as you have no boss to answer to and some days probably don’t even get dressed before lunchtime (if at all).

you write, but no-one writes 24/7.

this was a choice, still is, but don’t let one bad week/month/year dissuade you.

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So here I am in the doldrums (despite several ongoing exciting projects), this lingering feeling has been unsettling me for over two weeks. Today, I thought this is ridiculous, I need to spur myself on.

Hence the breakfast with a side order of TEDx. breakfast-waffles

It was the 2012 Olympics which reignited my ambition to become a writer. I am basically taking 4 years at a time as an over-arching period as a writer and allowing myself four Olympics to get to GOLD. I am hoping in the light of my writing life after 3 years that it won’t take the whole 16 years to achieve my ambition.

The Universe Steps In

You know how the universe conspires in putting exactly what you need at that given moment in front of you – well the talk suggested something about the Olympians which I vaguely remembered hearing before, indeed a quick search gave me the data and a BBC report on the medal response.

The concept is that Bronze medal winners feel better than Silver medal holders.

Gold is great – you won – on top of the world.

Bronze is – yippee I was placed, I have a medal, so close. 

Silver is – shucks I haven’t won.

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Research has shown that silver medallists feel worse, on average, than bronze medallists. (Gold medallists, obviously, feel best of all.) The effect is written all over their faces, as psychologists led by Thomas Gilovich of Cornell University found out when they collected footage of the medallists at the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona. Gilovich’s team looked at images of medal winners either at the end of events – that is, when they had just discovered their medal position – or as they collected their medals on the podium. They then asked volunteers who were ignorant of the athlete’s medal position to rate their facial expressions. Sure enough, the volunteers rated bronze medallists as consistently and significantly happier than silver medallists, both immediately after competing, and on the podium.

By Tom Stafford

Copyright © 2015 BBC

Read the full article here http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120810-olympic-lessons-in-regret

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Just with this in mind (because I was obviously aiming for Gold and actually feeling bad that I hadn’t even made Silver and the people on the podium weren’t even in the race when I started), my mind shifted. I realised I need to appreciate what I do have – and I have pages of it in The Write Year to look back on.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/the-write-year/

I am learning and I think that’s what it’s all about. The writing process takes an incredibly long and frustrating time is a new lesson. It is an important one. I have learnt how the polishing is important, how not to jump the gun (sending work out too early with ragged edges). I will train harder and seek support. Being a part of a team is much more comfortable than the solitude of your garret where you are out on a limb.

Of course, ‘I am Bronze’ – is in itself a winning mindset – my Olympic year falls next year and I will see how much ground I have covered and how 2016 pans out, I am hoping it ends with a medal around my neck. (Just maybe not silver!)

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So my best advice for an attack of the writing doldrums – is claw yourself back out, make a list of all your highest achievements, stick it somewhere you will see it everyday and keep up the good fight. Today may not have been yours – but who’s to say what tomorrow holds? You get a new chance daily, send your darlings out and keep smiling!

One day victory will be yours! Cue manical laughter.

RELATED LINKS:

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/the-ups-and-downs-of-creatives/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/make-your-tuesday-count-motivation/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2014/07/14/the-emotional-spectrum-of-writing/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/where-i-am-at-21-months-in/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/writer-fatigue/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/when-the-going-gets-tough/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/an-article-in-the-stylist-rejection-letters-of-the-famous/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/freelancers-dreamers-the-importance-of-glancing-back/

Approaching the New Year: Reviewing Resolutions, Truth and Rainbows

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Approaching The New Year

I have had a play around in Blogland and managed to actually visit and read other blogs and as one would expect at this time of year they are all filled to the brim with shiny new hope and goal setting.

As a trained Life Coach I know about this field and how to succeed. I don’t make resolutions, I make plans. Then I chase my way through all the obstacles to victory or a soothing acceptance somewhere close by.

I had a trawl through our own archives here and found some GEMS that I will link you up to, recommended reading for sure. As a blogger, I have been carrying the thought of my New Year message since Christmas, when as you remember I was offline and absorbing the full 3D reality of life in the big, wide world.

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Reviewing Resolutions

ARCHIVED NEW YEAR / GOAL SETTING LINKS

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/new-year-new-you-writing-resolutions/

It seems last year I did make resolutions, the best thing about this post  ^ is knowing the results 12 months later;

Here are my resolutions – feel free to commit some of your own down in response to this post.

I am working towards a collection of poems for a pamphlet. I sent 2 manuscripts, both were rejected but one showed promise and I continue to make this my personal project of 2015. The process has opened up a whole new world. I had the wardrobe, now I have to find my way around Narnia!

I am starting work as an Assistant Writer with hope of having a position as a Lead Writer in 2015. I am coming up to 12 months as an Assistant Writer for WWM and have also been 1 of 3 writers picked as mentors for a term.

I am going to have a big presence on the Performance Circuit in the hope of being booked for guest spots by the end of the year. I managed 107 events, some were open mics, other were gallery openings, art projects, festivals, commissions, collaborations, everyone of them was a delight! I performed alongside many amazing people and have just had my 2nd Headline/ Main guest booking!

I will submit poetry for publication. I did! Some was published, others rejected, all were new writing fresh from my pen.

I will write some short stories for competitions. I did, I have shelved this as I was not particularly successful in this field although I corresponded with some incredible people and had a few close misses. However, posts I wrote back in 2013 about writing short stories are still top of the stats several years later.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/writing-short-stories-tips-on-planning-and-structure/

 

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/putting-the-stones-in-first/

 

Truth

I spent the holidays reading a rather large book which was an emotional mountain for me, reaching the peak took several attempts and I needed to find more strength to finish the final chapters. It was far from an easy read (and yet still enjoyable) it is the kind of book I have always imagined writing, the sort of book that I didn’t believe existed, the sort of book I have needed to read for years, but wouldn’t have been strong enough or open enough before now (and it was still being written) there in the final pages I found shining out at me ,a New Year message.

The book is Black Rainbow by Rachel Kelly http://www.blackrainbow.org.uk/

I recommend it for any families with depression sufferers, as someone suffering it might be a monumental challenge but a worthwhile one.

I accepted help in 2012 and have been on medication (and other treatment) ever since, I spent the first 3-4 years trying to self help, medicate naturally and hid it from myself and others. I was diagnosed as high functioning but had slam-dunked the Beck Test, severe depression. It is something that affects lots of creative minds.

Part of my healing came from reading and later writing (journaling emotions initially) and eventually writing again after a 15 year break and finally entering back into the world of Poetry, all of which supports me in my day to day living.

I acknowledge that I attacked 2014 on the LIVE circuit with a vigour that was only possible to maintain through mania and that I myself need to calmly tread into 2015, stay behind the desk a little more, get things done, write my own rainbows. I’ve started, I am 90k into a manuscript that is still growing and assembling some shape,  finding that there are books out there written by people who have lived it, that work to lift your head to a different space is exhilarating and I will definitely pursue my own version of such a record, more books like this are needed.

Having said that, the diary for January is already filling up and brimming with a few exciting new ventures. More on that later.

Rainbows

Look out for my post on Rainbows COMING SOON!

Until then, spend some time considering what you want to discover in this new year. Look around you, be a part of that.

me MM

Dream big & keep writing

 

ADDITIONAL LINKS

About one in 10 people, possibly more, in the UK will experience depression during their lifetime. However, the exact number is hard to estimate because many people do not get help, or are not formally diagnosed with the condition. When sadness and other symptoms of depression are intense and last for long periods of time, they can signal clinical depression or major depression, a serious medical illness that needs professional care.

SOURCE: http://www.webmd.boots.com/depression/default.htm boots_webmd_logo

Low Mood and Depression Audio NHS

INKSPILL: Guest Writer – Charlie Jordan – Thoughts on Writing and Editing (Part 2)

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Guest Writer ticket 2014

Charlie Jordan – charlie jordan

Thoughts on Writing and Editing (Part 2)

 

Balance? No idea – just squish bits of writing in whenever you can, and accept that life sometimes gets so busy with work and family responsibilities, that you may not always have space…….that’s ok too – sometimes the only hour you get free needs to be spent walking in the park and clearing your head.

Don’t get too Ivory Tower about your writing, we all have images of sitting in a particular location, with elegant stationery or a Macbook and endless hours to focus on our craft – but the reality may be scribbling on a train in rush hour, or when waiting to collect the kids on the school run – hoping they’re running a few minutes late today, so you can finish a piece. 😉 Sometimes it’s just a few brief notes or thoughts for working on another time, and that’s ok.

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I love the books by Natalie Goldberg on writing, and she writes about Zen practise too – so as someone who’s dabbled with Buddhism for 30 yrs, I can re-read her books and still savour new nuances.

Others rave about Stephen King’s book on writing, or Julia Cameron – read widely and see what works for you, but don’t allow too much reading about writing equate to never actually doing any writing! It’s a fine balance…. I read Buddhist books, Pema Chodron & Thich Nhat Hanh are among my favourites, food books, authors like Elizabeth Gilbert – who have such a clear voice I can hear them speaking from the page, and of course – poetry……from early favourites like Maya Angelou – who wrote and spoke as a 6 foot woman, like me – and I didn’t know any other tall women then, so I felt like she understood!

Benjamin Zephaniah, as a Brummy and hugely charismatic poet and writer who is equally at home writing for children or engaging in more serious political poetry, sometimes combining both in his young adult novels, Sharon Olds – whose work Jo Bell introduced me to – which reminds me – you should look up Jo Bell.

© Sarah Bryson 2014

© Sarah Bryson 2014

Now! She’s a powerhouse of poetic life force, fiercely talented and a warm, friendly mischievous woman whose love of poetry and boating meets perfectly in her currently being our canal Laureate. She instigated 52 – a brilliant initiative online for weekly poetry prompts and sharing of new work – hopefully in a book for next year so we can all catch up on it. Lemn Sissay too – outstanding energy on the page and off the page and sometimes inscribed into walls – Google him now & look….. So many other names, too many to mention – but poets like Jaqui Rowe, Angela France, Helen Ivory are worth your time and generally dip into collections of poetry like a ‘pick & mix’ to stumble on new favourites. Performance poets to recommend include Hollie McNish, Bohdan Piasecki, Kate Tempest, Matt Windle, Spoz, Maggie Doyle – several of whom are friends, but of course I’m not biased – they’re outstanding poets too.

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Connect with other writers when you can, it’s such an isolating process – so writing groups, open mics, writing courses and literary festivals – go and find your tribe as it were! I’ve found the West Midlands to be full of some hugely talented writers, who are also encouraging and supportive people who welcome new poets and want to build up their confidence.

One thing that makes me sad is when a writer spends time and energy criticising another writer’s work. This may be amusing with the big name million selling, prize winning stars parry in the broad sheets to get the headlines for their new bestseller…..but for the rest of us in the real world – be kinder! Don’t waste your finite words, and energy in negativity and try to divide the already small community of writers and artists and claim some work is superior to others. Of course we’re not all going to love every word or genre written, but why denigrate someone’s hard work and sneer – instead why not tell us whose work you love?

Share what sets you alight with inspiration and we too may indulge in the excitement of discovering new favourite writers.

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Update things. This is as much for me as you……I’ve been presenting the Drivetime show at Smooth radio in the West Midlands since March, but haven’t updated my website this year….ooooops! My friend Dave does all the technical stuff for it, but I’ve not sent him any new copy for months – so, note to self – update it……… Nina’s much better at this

 

On Editing

Editing – try actually chopping a piece up. Literally with scissors and physically swap words or lines around in a poem…..sometimes it frees things up in a way you’d never discover on a computer screen. And you get to play with blue tack or sellotape – always fun!

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This is just a few rambling thoughts scribbled extremely quickly, so to wrap up I should say something really profound and meaningful and well thought out – like I was planning this destination all along…..erm…..oooopssssss…..oh wait, yes – that’s it….. Feel free to ignore/discard/forget every word of this or anything else……… different things will work for us all at different times. There is no one definitive answer, but by reading widely and dipping into and out of things, you’ll be likely to discover something you do like, that fits right now.

So Good luck, go write and enjoy.

Oh and one more thing, try writing with your friends – I did it with Divas, and we’ve had the best fun and once our diaries are all link up, we’ll be doing it again and having the best writing and performing fun ever, and tea, cake & mischievous giggles!

 

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INKSPILL: Guest Writer Charlie Jordan – Thoughts on Writing & Editing Part1

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ticket 2014Charlie Jordan –

Guest Writer charlie jordan

Thoughts on Writing & Editing (Part1)

Rambling thoughts of a 6 ft poet……

 

Eat cake, drink tea and then look back on something you’ve written – it definitely helps the editing process! And if you can, leave it untouched for as long as possible – an hour, a day, a week…..the longer the better, as distance will give you a clearer perspective. Sometimes you stumble on something scribbled long ago and forgotten, and can spot the potential lines crying out for a new poem, or the fact that the whole piece of paper belongs in the recycling bin.

Be prepared to write badly. We all do, sometimes. It’s ok, and with hindsight you’ll love some of your work more than others. Some will seem as awkward as teenage diaries, or embarrassing old school photos. 😉 Just keep going, start something new and keep the faith….. my boyfriend is a scientist and uses statistics to say that the chances are the next piece will be better….or something like that, but with several graphs and copious numbers and scientific theories…..

Morning pages are a good idea if you’re stuck in a writing rut – see Julia Cameron and just sit down with bed-head hair, pen & paper and a cup of tea and scribble whatever is in your head to clear it out onto the page.  Then you can mine it for the odd random good thought to work with, or start something afresh later that day with a clear head and a few pages of notes already scribbled – proof you are a writer! Although these pages are never to be read by another, no matter how much they love you. If i’m doing them, I make my handwriting so illegible that even I struggle to re-read them. Or maybe that’s just because it’s too early and my hand was still asleep at the pen…..

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Don’t write the same poem. Again. Don’t write the same poem! Of course we’ll all have certain subjects we return to, or familiar themes, but try new things too….which is where a writing exercise or a workshop can highlight a new area for you and will be refreshing. Write about cheese, or your grandmother’s hands, about the first day at school, the urges you have when you order coffee from the cute barista, write in the voice of an excited 5 yr old at school playtime etc. You will still come through quite clearly in any of these subjects by the way, even if you can’t spot it! I did a residency at WBA (West Bromwich Albion) football club and wrote a piece as a small boy and performed it, to be told – ‘Oh that was just like you!’  so we’ll still leave a trace of our own DNA behind. Sometimes writing surprises you. I was introduced at a gig, by the uber talented and lovely Polarbear poet, as being a romantic poet who wrote about love. I was horrified. I thought, hang on – just because I’m the only woman on the bill, doesn’t mean I’m a soppy loved up girl. Then I realised I was, despite my tom boy image. Damn – poetry can do this – it outs you!

Liz Lefroy

  • Say yes to things. Obviously not if it’s unsafe – so don’t agree with you wildest friend to step into a lion’s cage while wearing platform wedges and drinking tequila…..but in the writing sense, say yes. Offer to help at an event, or read at one, or mentor someone, or go on a writing course, or co-write something with someone. Be honest if you’ve not much experience, but go for it and you’ll learn all sorts of things in the process and meet new people and something positive will usually come from it.
  • This is how I began writing, applying for a short writing course – even though the last thing I’d written down was 20 yrs earlier. I discovered I was the only newcomer on a course squished full of extraordinarily talented & experienced people, mostly published and who all seemed to know each other already and were all very knowledgeable about things I’d never heard of. Yikes. But it was fine, they were a lovely bunch, some of whom are now friends. And I was a novelty, so perhaps that was refreshing for them too. Never feel you have to pretend to be anything you’re not – just be yourself – in life and in writing.

 

  • P.S sometimes you’ll say yes to so many things that there are barely enough hours in the day…… I’ve had one of those months lately and my computer breaking and deciding not to work again, just out of guarantee…..grrrrrrrr….hasn’t helped, so this is being scribbled extraordinarily hastily while doing a radio show….and preparing for the Poets Laureate Takeover day in the LOB (Library of Birmingham)  tomorrow – Sat 25th October.*

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Thanks for your input Charlie, especially in light of your busy schedule and technical failing of all technology! Great advice!

 

* I advertised this on social media and didn’t get a chance with Inkspill and 94th Birthday celebrations to get to the library or advertise it on the blog! Missed a treat I’m sure. It was part of the Voices season.

Birmingham Poets Laureate Take Over

A morning of pop up poetry readings, performances and workshops led by former Poets Laureate

Saturday 25 October 2014, 10.30am – 1pm throughout the Library of Birmingham

Satellite

 

Drop into the Library of Birmingham for poetry performances, poetry surgeries, workshops and plenty of interactions from some of the city’s former Poets Laureate and Young Laureates. Join the band of wandering poets to celebrate and showcase the best of Birmingham over the years.

A morning of pop up poetry readings, performances and workshops led by former Poets Laureate including Jan Watts, Charlie Jordan, Roy McFarlane, Giovanni Esposito (aka Spoz), Adrian Johnson, Simon Pitt, Chris Morgan, and Julie Boden.

Former Young Poets Laureate Matt Windle, Damani Dennisur and Lauren Williams will also be on hand to inspire youngsters to take up poetry.

Pictured Charlie Jordan and Jan Watts poets

More from Charlie Jordan soon – look out for Part 2

 

Dropping Down A Gear

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As with all things in life, relentless attack is not a level human beings can function on 24/7, 12 months a year. I have found myself passing to the inside lane and slowing down, letting writing opportunities (which were scheduled to pass) and deadlines to fizz out without my name attached to anything.

Last year I took August off – this year I worked hard throughout the Summer – maybe it is natural to need a break, a point to look out and evaluate. I know what I am trying to achieve, the direction I am being pulled in, my 2014 plan and what I need to do to realise all of the above. I also need time. Switch off, pull away, me time.

I have been doing a lot of reading (which is never a bad thing) and I just celebrated ‘One Year A Poet’ with poetry friends. I have been busy writing poetry and planning INKSPILL – our online writing retreat (Oct 25/26th).

Allow yourself permission to slow down… take your foot off the pedal, it is the only way forward sometimes. You are no good to anyone, especially yourself if you are worked to the bone.

morningTake time, it is a gift, be wise with it. Treat it like GOLD and it will bear fruit of your labour, spend some of the time not watching the clock too!

I have plenty of bookings in the diary until November and even some of these I will give deep thought to, after October I may take November as a stride not a sprint and fortunately for me, the world of performance poetry takes a break over December.

I need energy back for the things I want to write, do, achieve. People on the circuit know only too well the delicate balance between writing and taking your work out on the road. It may be time to spread my wings a little further in 2015 and I have also met people this year who have proved how much can be done online, as far as seeking opportunities and coverage.

I have no regrets but I want to keep it that way. I didn’t give up a paid 80hr a week job to be in the same position minus the money. So for my own health and sanity, I need to drop down a gear.

I will attempt to keep up to date with the blog though because I think the posts hold more passion if they are HOT, HOT off the press!

TTP ideas Keep writing & listen to your heart… let it lead you to the place of dreams! x

A Night With Maya Angelou – Shakti Women Event

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Despite mentioning this event on a post ‘Adverts for Events I Cannot Make’ – I did make it and I am so GLAD I did, it was beyond the inspirational, warm evening I had imagined it would be.

Last Friday I celebrated the beginning of my favourite month of the year with a performance at ‘A Night with Maya Angelou’. The event was awesome (in the true sense of the word), left me feeling inspired and full of love and courage. A room full of strong women (and some men) will usually do that to you, but this was more emotive, a celebration of the lady herself, how she had inspired us, many of us in that room met her through books and poems and have felt like we have known her all our lives because of it. I don’t think there was anybody there who had actually met Maya.

I am grateful to Jordan and Shakti Women for giving me the opportunity to perform my Maya Poetry. Apart from a few close poetry friends and the wonderful Lauren Williams (Birmingham’s Young Poet Laureate), I knew no one in the restaurant. Yet when I looked up from reading lines in my freshly penned poems I was greeted  by smiles and warm faces. There were some great, loud responses to some of the poems, they were all based on Maya Angelou’s wisdom, some of the whooping was for her.

I am currently on the road to producing a pamphlet and am definitely going to place at least one or two Maya poems in there. People are regularly asking me now where they can find my work and I would love to be able to produce a copy and just say ‘Here’.

The whole evening was a phenomenal success, not just because of great organisation, clear communication, strength, faith and belief, nor because of the great collective of performers and talent exposed to a room full of people, nor because the restaurant was filled with support, loving, creative, Maya Angelou fans or members of Shakti women, but I think from the entire mixture of all these factors. I was on such a high when I got home that I had to stay up for 5 hours (until 4 a.m) just to calm down enough for sleep! I am writing about the event 5 days later and feel the same strong positivity rising up in me as I type!

The Evening 

What a perfect way to start, before introductions, explanations and direct contact with the waiting audience, we heard the voice of Maya herself. Just an excerpt – but I have treated you to the whole 6+minutes here;

Glamour is profound

The event was organised by Jordan Ashley Ann Garvey and hosted Cheryl Garvey. We had plenty of time to chat and introduce ourselves to others in a relaxed friendly atmosphere.

Cheryl started the evening after we had listen to some of the ‘Rainbow in the Clouds’ speech- which you will have heard now ^^^ from the links above. She introduced the evening, talked to us about Shakti Women and what the evening was for. It truly was a celebration too.

A mixture of performance mediums, including theatre and music, work that had been directly influenced by Maya or was about her, sometimes her own words and extracts from her (many)books. What it made it more special (although nerve wracking) was being interviewed by Cheryl about Maya Angelou and her role in our lives. As audience this insight was beautiful and to hear the repeated themes of things she had brought to our lives was a true testament to Maya’s messenger role, not that anybody needs convincing of that. The interviews were just a few questions, Cheryl really listened to the answers though. It was very empowering, as was the entire event.

The night was opened by Lauren Williams, I was there when she became Birmingham Young Poet Laureate, announced in the Birmingham Literature Festival October 2013, seeing her perform again was a real treat. Her confidence has come on in leaps and her grandma thoroughly enjoyed her performances with all the joy and pride, happy grandparents can exude. We also have her to thank for the video footage of the evening, I believe.

Lauren performed fantastically, her poem was inspired by Maya’s poem ‘Still I Rise’ – a great opening for the event.

maya Livinlikelayadotcom

© livinlikemaya.com

Tessa Lowe performed an extract from one of Maya’s books, Tessa is one of my phenomenal women and it was great to hear her reading the extract adding the humour of Maya in her voice.

We had an interval with scrumptious canapés. JoJoLapa ‘the ultimate authentic Nepalese dining experience’.

jojolapa

jojo

 

 

 

After which we heard a moving and contemplative acoustic set by Alisha Kadir, she has a gorgeous voice and I have been lucky enough to catch her on the open mic circuit before. She really spoke deeply to us through her music and her interview was one I enjoyed most.

After her set came a few more canapés and people had a chance to order more food. Then I was next on.

I was nervous of my poetry as it was all inspired by Maya Angelou but not really about the lady herself. Although the interview was.

I hate writing about my own performance (and found it even harder to watch the videos) so here is some of what Jordan and Siobhan Harper-Nunes (Founder/ Director of Shakti Women Ltd) had to say about it;

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‘… a poet who had just returned to the poetry scene, but you never would have thought that she had left! Her anthology of poems inspired by Maya Angelou captivated the guests. It was a pure joy to watch a creative in her element, reading her work, executed so delicately you couldn’t help but be moved.’ J.G

 

Siobhan used part of my poem* as a social network status -*Maya Angelou in bold;

ON SUCCESS: “Success is liking yourselfliking what you do and liking the way you do it – once you can answer “YES” then you have become successful” Nina Lewis

Love it – just reviewed the videos from Friday – you were/are awesome. S.HN

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I based my poetry on the following words, well known quotations from Maya Angelou.

maya amazonmaya forget

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 things breath morning Rhythm

 

I was followed by a very clever lady, Dramatist Marlene McKenzie. She performed a monologue open to questions, where her character sought advice from the audience. Insightful, challenging and superb to watch. Marlene runs her own women’s theatre group.

Then Jan Watts, a former Birmingham Poet Laureate, who still does more for the city and the people/ poetry promotion than many. Another one of my phenomenal women, (I have met so many amazing people since I embarked on the poetry scene journey last Autumn). Jan is greatly entertaining to watch – although this evening’s poems were so deeply touching and not from humorous muse, – I still felt the same magic as I usually do when watching her perform. Listening to Jan talking about her own Maya Angelou connections was one of my highlights of the evening.

Lauren Williams closed the evening with another wonderful poem. Lauren and Jordan are so rich with wisdom, their journeys only recently starting – I know I haven’t seen the full wingspan of either yet – watch out for them – they are BOTH Phenomenal women!

maya pininterest

 

The charity project organised by Shakti Women, is ‘Book Club’, there aim – to get books into schools and this nothing to do with supermarket ‘books for schools’ tokens. They spend the money on books by influential women to inspire young girls/women in schools. Books which we hope will stay in the school library for a good few decades to come. Tickets and donations raised £200.00, which they hope will provide enough books for the school they are currently working with in the city.

Maya-Angelou1 theatricalintelligencedotcom

©theatricalintelligence.com

We celebrated Maya Angelou’s life and all that she had brought to ours. In writing this post I have discovered a talented artist and her memorial post for Maya. I don’t feel this would be complete without it.

© Ikumi Kayama Used with Permission

© Ikumi Kayama
Used with Permission

 

 

 

RELATED LINKS:

A Night With Maya Angelou

  • Here is a link to Jordan’s blog review.
  • The Shakti Women Page
  • The website of the talented artist Ikumi Kayama

MONDAY! Monday! On Writing and Time Management.

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Monday rolls around all too quickly, HALLOWEEN 2011 081 you know I made the assumption that connecting back into a much missed creative life would take away the Sunday Slump of the rat race and the Manic out of Monday… how wrong I was. A lot of the internal struggle is created by the fact that the writing isn’t paying (yet) and so to keep my house, car, life (like many writers) I still have an evolving career/ day job.

If the tax man is reading this – YOU OWE ME MONEY – lots £100’s on a tax rebate….. would be helpful to receive that soon – believe me I doubt they read the blog (big brother paranoia) but when I tried to contact them through the website and calling I just got an automated message telling me if I was owed money they would know and would be dealing with it — then it automatically HUNG UP! Now this may be true but I tend to be a little unlucky with bureaucratic red tape and things that may take a few months usually roll on for years if my names and codes are attached to it! imagesCAEEZNXM

Anyway back to the post. I have had a productive morning, waking early on my writing day, doing some laundry (despite the rain which is supposedly clearing by dinner time!), starting my diet and exercise regime ready to not be uncomfortable in my skin at my brother’s wedding this Autumn and in the hope I fit back into some of my dresses this summer. By the time I logged on it was 10:30, I felt guilty and then I THREW AWAY that negative feeling, I could have slept in until 10! alarm-clock

So I made a start (as I always do) at the beginning of a writing day, by making a list. A set of goals, jobs to do, things to research, write, read.

paper-notesI am well disciplined and stay off social media until there is a break point or after the list has been completed is better. Breaks tend to elongate without you realising once you are trapped in the social media bubble. The way I see it is I wouldn’t have access if I was at work. I am at work (writing) – I have no access. My brain is so easy to kid!

Sometimes (depending what is on the list) time gets rolling fast and it will be time to pack up before I have ticked off the 1st two items. I do NOT worry. The post-it list is stuck in my writing diary, ready with the starting point if my next writing session.

Today’s list consists of research and writing. Plus I had a few business emails to read/ respond to. That’s the biggest surprise I think in writing, the fact that ADMIN takes up so much time. It took ages to flag up the emails, despite using designated email addresses for different areas.

to do I have currently applied for a pop-up performance arranged by Naked Lungs for this year’s Birmingham Literature Festival, have 2 – 4 short stories to complete (2 this week if I can) and several poems to write, some to follow up the workshop at Acton Scott Farm with Jean Atkin, some for a performance tomorrow night (1st one in 13 days, took a bit of a break!), some for this weekend and others to catch up on other projects I have only had time to dip in and out of. I also have my first official book review to write (for which I was paid, a complimentary copy of the poetry pamphlet)!

I have 14 websites to looks at/research, a character to create from a world I know very little about (eek!), I have a scratch night I probably won’t make pencilled in* and a book launch. This weekend is the Writing West Midlands Creative Writing Group and a deadline for some written submissions.

* Conserving energy (and petrol) WLF – Worcester LitFest in a fortnight and lots going on before then too. Plus I now have to fit EXERCISE into the schedule – and don’t suggest parking and striding to the gigs – I get red faced after about 3 minutes and would need a shower when I arrived and most venues have no dressing rooms or facilities!

So I had best get on with my list! imagesCAISM7Z5

 

Time Management:

  • Split chunks of time, I find not being to prescriptive works well (in my day job, things have to fit in allocated slots of time) and it feels good to break free! I started at 10:30 and said I could have a break in an hour, that kind of thing.

 

  • Know what you need to do, get your head down and try to do it.

 

  • I say try because creativity cannot be forced or pushed, some days it comes easier than others. So the true TIME management falls in making sure there is time to complete your projects when you have those duff days. This is usually a 4 day buffer at least, depending on length of editing/ proofing time.

 

  • I always try to get things written in time to give it some rest and a look over/ edit before submission – this is usually a period of a week if you have enough time to do this it can be beneficial.

 

  • Keep your unfinished list to know where your starting point is next time.

 

  • If you can that starting point should be part way through something -or the start of a task based on researching or something you can get into straight away. The problem with starting with your next writing job is the possibility you will be staring at a blank screen for some of the time.

 

  • Try not to lose focus. I often set alarms on my phone, that way I don’t even have to glance at the onscreen clock anyway.

 

  • Try to ease the pressure off. You are your Boss, it is always beneficial to get on with the Boss right?

 

  • And just like real work (unless you work in Health or Education/ Public Sector) take some breaks and give yourself treats and incentives for reaching target! Not food though – you don’t want a writer’s (saggy) bottom!

 

Good Luck! Green-Clovers-Vector-Illustration

PS I used part of my break to write this – I am now walking away from the screen!

When the Going Gets Tough!

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This post is for everyone who has a DAYJOB and is also trying to forge a writing career.

This is probably how your mind feels most of the time.

Culinary disaster

©EmmaC 2014

 

I promise you this is not my culinary disaster (and although my friend posted it on social media, she probably didn’t expect it to be used on my blog!) – this is what happens if you don’t prick potatoes before cooking them.

Today the stress in my head (at the day job, from the day job, from thinking about the writing life I would rather lead, in trying to imagine the evening before it was even lunchtime!) built up to this explosive point… I felt like these potatoes…

If you have ever felt the same read on.

roses

©N Lewis2014

Even these beautiful roses have sharp bits.

No-one can have a perfect life, there are always sharp bits! I know a good few people lucky enough to be full time writers, they no longer have to balance that life with a dayjob, and even they still have sharp bits.

Remember living the life you dream of doesn’t mean you will lead a stress free, smooth edged life.

Dream, of course, but keep your head somewhere in reality.

 

1 denver library

Learn your triggers and have a mental list of how to get over the stress once you have made it home. Any way you can relax and let go of it is good. Here is a list of things that work for me;

 

  • Reading a book
  • Having a lie down/power nap
  • Taking a bath

 

      • Working out (I rarely do this in the face of confronting my stress – but it always works when I do)
        • Rage it out in a free write
          • Phone a friend and have a bit of a moan

 

  • Chill out with a magazine and a cuppa
  • Watch a film
  • Go for a walk

 

And remember why you are in this dual/ split life place to begin with.

motivation closer

 

 

 

 

Another idea is to visualise (and manifest) sometime in 2013 I created this board of dreams, actually a board of what I wanted my life to be – not dreams but reality! Some of these aspects are already coming true, it serves as a visual reminder….

 

visual

©N Lewis 2014

 

Almost central are the words THE SMARTEST DECISION I EVER MADE…

giving up my full time career after 14 years and with it the salary and the pension is okay, it is just that, the SMARTEST and BRAVEST decision I have ever made. And no matter how bad my day has been by 5pm or 6pm at the latest, IT  — IS — OVER! Whereas before there  was barely time to grab dinner before working away for another 5 or 6 hours. That 60-80 hour relentless working week is not sustainable – it is why so many teachers took strike action yesterday.

Finding time to write can be a challenge, if you do find time keeping energy up can be hard, but how worth it – think about how writing makes you feel. Better than most things in the world? Then keep going!

Try to hold onto the good days and let go of the bad – in the same way we let go of rejections and celebrate our publishing successes!

Just keep going!

motivation auth