Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Yoga pants and lentil soup

My younger daughter was chatting to me the other day about her ‘current’ plan to come a book acquisitions editor, and how she could even see herself wearing lovely business suits. I laughed and described my business attire from the late 1980s. Yes, you guessed it: high-heel shoes, padded shoulders, pencil skirts, permed hair (cringing as I write this).

These days, I go to work in my yoga pants (well, actually, I’m typing this in my pyjamas as I’ve not yet made it to the shower). Yesterday, I was thinking about how lovely it is to work from home, and that I set my own hours (I’m disciplined, so there’s no chance of me slacking) and can take breaks when I like: go to the movies, pop into the bookshop, go to the gym, walk through the woods with a friend, sit in the sunshine, hang out the washing

The aroma of the root-vegetable and lentil soup I had on the stove made its way right through the house and up into my writing room. It sure smelt good. Unlike being in an office, I can eat lunch at 11am, noon or 3pm, depending on when I feel like eating, rather than when I am 'allowed' to eat. Ah, yes, how I love working from home. It also means that if the creative urge strikes at 4am I can either toss and turn or I can scamper upstairs and get to work. My autonomous working life suits me to the ground, and I can’t imagine ever having to go out to work for someone else again. 

If you dream of being self-employed, follow your heart.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Loss and creativity

As a culture, we’re not taught or modelled on how to cope with loss. Loss, of course, comes in many forms. There is life after gut-wrenching grief, and the way it shapes us can bring a depth to creativity which needs channelling in some way.

My father’s sudden death in a car accident 22 months ago, has influenced me in ways I could never have imagined. The engineering of my heart and soul is internal, of course, but the manifestation of those changes inevitably appears externally at some point. Our creative gifts beg to be shared with the world. In a way, this is the archetype of Chiron, the wounded healer.

It is an essential part of the human experience to experience loss, to endure the descent, and then to rise again. We discover that there is something more to us. Our authentic self must learn to show its face without apology.

One of the defining moments of my life was standing by my dead father’s body as he lay in his casket. I held his hand and thanked him for all the hard work he’d done in his lifetime. I said my words out loud, and the tears fell freely. Even to this day, there is a part of my mind which can’t quite reconcile how hard he worked (pioneering mining expeditions and leading 2000 men in the wild jungles of Papua and New Guinea) and that he’s now gone. He’s nothing but ashes. What was the point of all those years of working away from the family home? What was the point of working so hard like that when at the end of his life there is nothing to show for it?

His death has triggered two things in me which are, ironically, diametrically opposed. One is that there is no point stressing over anything: deadlines, faulty relationships, other people’s opinions, bank account balance and all the other mundane things about living on this earth. Part of me has felt like it is pointless having any ambition. After all, what am I actually striving for?

And then, right in opposition is a part of me that has more life in me than evera part of me which wants to continue to make the most of every precious day on this Earth. In appreciation of all this, it means living in the present moment, of coursebut from within that particular gift comes the rising energy to explore the world, literally and metaphorically. I am thrilled to be alive! And yet, I am not scared of dying. When my times comes - whether it is slowly and with consciousness, or sudden - I will embrace that particular adventure.

Loss has brought meaning to my life, and it has released a creative spark which I guess was always there but for one reason or another has lain dormant all these years. Creatively, I’m not here to please my parents, my friends, my immediate familyjust myself. I have, after all these years, come to realise that my creative juices don’t need anyone’s approval. The release of psychic energy that brings is huge. And I owe it to what has so far been the greatest loss of my life: a parent.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Clearing the Decks

Wow, what a busy start to 2014. I have several things on my list of goals for the year, and by January 3rd, three of them had happened. Amazing! And trust me, they weren’t ‘little’ goals, either. The angels were genuinely paying attention when I wrote that heart-felt list on New Year’s Eve. No doubt the new Moon in Capricorn (my Sun sign) spurred things along on New Year's day.

I have sold The Mother magazine, and am preparing to focus on writing fiction full-time and building up my publishing business, Starflower Press, by specialising in illustrated children’s books. I still have several non-fiction books inside me (and partially written) that I intend to finish at some point, too. For now, I feel I have all the time in the world...and that feels pretty darn wonderful.

In the meantime, have promised myself time off after twelve years of working virtually seven days a week.but old habits die hard, and I can feel myself simply itching to ‘get to work’. Rest, I tell myself. You need it! A well-rested field gives a beautiful crop. I need to nourish, nurture, and ‘feed’ my soul if I expect anything useful to grow from my creative depths. If motherhood has taught me anything, it is this: fill your own well first.

My goals for the next month include: nurturing myself through walking in the woods (is this rain ever going to stop?) with my friend Sarah, meeting my friend Julia for a coffee, going to the movies with my husband, seeing a kinesiologist, and reading some novels.

I will have no doubt written about this before, either on a blog or in The Mother, but for years and years I didn’t read novels. It always felt like too much pleasure, and if I was going to sit on my butt (or laze in bed) reading for hours on end, then it damn well had to be educational. Non-fiction only!

I read voraciously as a teenager, devouring romance novels ~ such a wonderful antidote to boring secondary school. I would read them in my bedroom when I was supposed to be studying and doing homework. Then I’d hear my mum walking up the hallway and I’d shove the knight in shining armour into the drawer and bury my head into a biology textbook and studiously examine how to dissect a frog. Talk about going from princes to frogs! Over time, the guilt built up and upand so for the majority of my adult life I denied myself the pleasure of reading fiction.

It was a few years back, when my adrenals crashed (too much stress from a personal issue) that I was bed bound and too exhausted to do anything. My daughters, bless them, bought me a whole stack of second-hand romance novels from a charity shop. I felt like I’d come back home. A dear friend laughs that I can read such ‘cheap’ fiction and yet have bookshelves filled with weighty esoteric tomes that absorb me for hours and stretch the grey matter. Ah, what can I say? I’m a woman of many parts. The truth is: the romance-novel genre is the most popular of all fiction, and for damn good reason: it’s a wonderful source of pleasure, and, unlike chocolate, it’s fat free!

I have to thank my first novel, Mosaic, for opening me up to the possibility that I could actually make a career out of writing fiction. I can’t begin to express how exciting my future feels. I feel all giddy like a little girl at Christmas, and oh how I love Christmas.

I will never again deny myself the pleasure of reading or writing fiction.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

The full-time writer

Winter's morning from my writing desk

Popping my head above the keyboard (and this neglected blog) to say that I have now sold The Mother magazine, a job I have loved for the past twelve years, and once the transition is over in a few weeks, I will be working full-time as a novelist. I intend to be more active in my blogging once my time has freed up, and I look forward to sharing my journey with you.