Words are my why… What’s yours?

“It’s perfect! Thanks Rachael. You are really good at writing!”

The words beamed at me from the screen, warming my chest, creeping into the upturned corners of my mouth and adding extra sparkle to my eyes, where the glow spread and gently nudged my creativity into further action.

Feedback is a gift

I know I’m a good writer. It’s taken me a long time to get to this place but years of writing for a living and repeated feedback, not to mention real cold, hard statistics showing increased audience engagement as a result of my words, have helped me to lose the ‘fraud’ mentality and believe it to be true. Still, it doesn’t hurt to hear a compliment sometimes, does it? And feedback like this reminds me of why I do what I do in the first place. The writing, the coaching, the bespoke poetry.. All of it.

She_was_fascinated_with_wordsWords are my why

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by language and the magic words can weave. Even seemingly simple expressions can have such a profound effect on the person receiving those words:

“I’m sorry”

“I love you”

We have all heard these words (I hope!) and they always affect us differently depending on the context and delivery. Add more complex layers and the effect can deepen, or not… “I love you when you…” Depending on what you add, this can make the compliment even more personal as it shows the specifics of that love, or negate it completely by making it conditional.

I couldn’t tell you how old I was when I started writing. But I do remember bits of one of the first poems I wrote; ‘Monday Morning Blues’, about not wanting to go to school. It was not an easy time for me but I didn’t go into that detail, it was a simple rhyming poem (a style I still love) that had been assigned as homework the previous week. I hardly remember the poem but I do remember the reaction when I had to read it out loud to the class… There was recognition. The other kids – for that brief moment – ‘got’ me – we had something in common. I had been in love with rhyming poetry for a while by this stage but this was the first time I had been the one weaving the magic with my words.

Over time, as I studied several languages, learned a little about linguistics and a lot about psychology, my love affair with words deepened. We fought now and then, sometimes losing touch for years, words and I, but now we’re pretty tight. Together, we create poetry with purpose, write copy that resonates with the audiences of businesses and causes we believe in and change the life stories of women who’ve lost their passion for life under layers of all the crappy stories we tell ourselves.

This. This is why words are my ‘Why’.

So, now you know a little more about me, why not share your passions in the comments below? I really want to know.. What’s your why?

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How do you fly?

Since my last post, I’ve been reviewing a few things in my work and life – an ongoing exercise, which helps me to keep moving onwards and upwards. Perhaps you do the same around the start of the year?

I tend to feel a slight shift with every season and the last shift was in the spring, when I ran my first Proudly Imperfect Parents workshop and finally wrote my first blog post here, on letting go of perfection.

Be open to what wants to move through you

Source: ShoShān Yogii

Can you let go enough to trust your gut?

Do you ever feel a bit that something is ‘wrong’, seeing signs everywhere to move on as an indication that what you’re doing right now isn’t working? That’s what these shifts can feel like at times. But that’s just another story we tell ourselves.

Just because it’s time for a change doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with what you were doing before. It’s all just a part of the journey.



Pigeons and the problem with overthinking

A little while ago, I was out in the park with my son, who was running around, playing football and trying to climb trees when he suddenly stopped. “Mummy!” He shouted. “How do pigeons fly? And why don’t they do it all the time like other birds?” My initial response was the standard “That’s a good question, what do you think?” His response struck me. “Well I know they use their wings. But how do they do it…? Is it harder for them than… I know!” He ran off, towards the pigeons, “How do you fly pigeons?”, he shouted at them. How? How!” Startled by the sudden interruption, they took off.

He returned to me with a smile. “They fly when I chase them”, he said, forgetting the other questions but it got me thinking. The pigeons sit on the grass in this particular park, waiting to be fed, and they usually are. They’re pretty hardened city pigeons, who spend a lot of time on the ground and don’t startle easily but when confronted with a curious, energetic four-year-old and they feel the need to, they fly.

I’m a bit of a pigeon sometimes (not this sort of pigeon!). Staying on the ground waiting to be fed is easy, comfortable. Sort of. But when something shifts inside me and I listen to my gut, stuff happens. A new perspective, forward movement, maybe even a big leap. And if I ignore it for too long, pretty soon after something will startle me into taking flight.

I have no idea how I fly, I just do. And when I do, I wonder why I stayed on the ground for so long.

New story starter_How do you fly_WritingPeoplePoetry

So my question to you today is: How do you fly? Even if you’ve no idea or think that you can’t, pretend you can, and see where it takes you… And do share in the comments below!

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What’s your creative fire starter?

I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity this week. I had loads of ideas lined up for this blog post but today, none of them felt quite right. I needed something to spark my creativity to get me going but it has just been one of those weeks where everything feels a bit ‘meh’ (ever have those?).

Creative fire starterThe ideas are probably fine but they don’t feel right just now, so, instead of trying to make them work, I pulled out a notebook and started to write a page of… Well, nonsense really. Whatever was in my head at the time. If you’re a writer, you might write morning pages. It’s the same thing. There are some gems in there that might end up being poems or short stories but for now, it just cleared my head and ignited some new ideas.

There’s nothing like a notebook

There’s just something about paper for me, when it comes to sparking my creativity. I was over at Movabo last week, talking about the tools I use for my business and it’s only now that I realise I missed out one important tool: My notebooks. When I am drafting copy or trying to come up with new ideas, I find a notebook is the best tool for the job. I have many great apps I can use but sometimes I find myself getting stressed when staring at a blank screen. I tell myself ‘I have writer’s block’ (I don’t) or ‘I can’t do this’ (I can, and that’s a whole other blog post…). A blank screen says to me ‘get on with it!’ – which is handy if I have a looming deadline but a notebook, I find much more inviting. It says, ‘Well hello you. What shall we create today?’ I like pretty notebooks but a practical moleskine or even an old style school exercise book holds the same appeal for me. It’s the tactility of it. I know fingers tapping on a keyboard is tactile too but that’s hard – writing in a notebook is a softer, flowing sensation that helps me to get into that state of… well, flow.

A small selection of my notebooks

                                A small selection of my notebooks

I recently asked other writers what their preferences were when it came to writing – whether they preferred paper or apps – and the response was varied, with most preferring a combination:

Natalie Smithson of Bobbin About uses both, saying it depends on how much time she has. She says, “[I use a] notebook if I’ve time to explore the thought and app if not.”

Nicola Young at Nikki Young Writes says, “I have a notebook and I use iWriter on my iPad.”

Maddy Bennett at Writing Bubble says, “I try and store things in my head or look for scraps of paper in my car/bag to scribble on.” Maddy says she ‘should’ try and get more organised but having read much of her writing, working this way doesn’t seem to do her creativity any harm!

Like most of those I spoke to, I do use apps if ideas appear when I’m on the move as it’s often easiest but if I’m struggling to get the fire started, then paper does it every time.

How about you? Are you an artist/writer/creator? What’s your creative fire starter? Do share in the comments below and join the conversation! Like this? Sign up for more!

Is your story the stuff of fairy tales..?

No? Are you sure about that..?

Earlier this year, I took part in a creative exercise over at Story Of Mum, where members of this creative community were invited to share their stories in the style of a fairy tale. Given the prescriptive prompts, I wrote my fairy story on my relationship with people and words and how I ended up doing what I now do, sharing and changing others’ stories as well as my own.

once-upon-a-time_WritingPeoplePoetryAs a creative exercise, this was fun and it was also (as I’m sure Pippa intended) so much more. In thinking of my life as a fairy tale, it helped me to focus on the highlights of my journey so far, pay tribute to those who have helped me along the way (or given me a much needed shove!) and reflect on how far I’ve come.

If you’re a writer yourself, you might like to try the exercise of writing your life as a fairy tale and see what comes up for you… You could even add it to the Story of Mum gallery (all parents and guardians welcome, not just mums!). Whether you write it down or not, it’s a great way to think about your life from a different perspective and work out what your ‘happily ever after’ is (or what it might feel, look and sound like when you get to it).

Is your story the stuff of fairy tales_WritingPeoplePoetryWhether you sign off ‘The End’, ready to start a brand new story or stop (for now) with ‘To Be Continued…’ perhaps you’ll find your life is more like a fairy tale than you might have previously believed. After all, fairy tales are not all sweetness and light. There are dark woods to wander through and many of us will encounter wicked witches and wolves along the way but there are also good witches and fairy godmothers.

And remember, at the end of every ‘Happily Ever After’, there’s always another ‘Once Upon A Time.’



So, now do you think your story is the stuff of fairy tales? If you did the exercise, do share what came up for you (and/or link to your story if you wrote it) in the comments below!

If you’re ready to start a new story but feeling a little stuck right now, you might like my free ebook of story shifting poems – from my journey, for yours. Get your copy now!

There is no failure. There are only new stories

Some days I feel like giving up. Everything feels like too much work. It feels as though now that I’ve come this far, I’m not sure I actually want it enough to keep going. But I do…

I hesitated to post this blog. I even hesitated to write it… Why? Because when it first came to mind over a week ago, I thought, ‘I shouldn’t post that. It will undermine my professional image’. But then I realised there was a ‘should’ in that thought and, if you’ve been here before, you know how I feel about the ‘s’ word! So I explored the thought a bit more and got to thinking, ‘what is my professional image anyway?’ The whole reason for starting this business was to allow me to do what I love, and to be more authentically me, all of the time. So, does sharing my truth make me unprofessional? Or more relatable..? I’ll let you decide…

Let’s get real

We all have crappy days (or weeks…) sometimes. Just because I’m doing what I love doesn’t mean I don’t have days when I doubt myself. Days when I wonder whether I’ve done (or am doing!) the right thing. How I respond to these doubts varies depending on several external factors but there is a mantra I have been living by for some time now:

This too shall pass

Good or bad, everything passes. I know that these feelings of doubt will pass. They only ever happen when I allow myself to get caught up in the stories in my head. On these days, I need to get out of my head and connect with people because once I’m back to connecting again, my passion returns. Really connecting with someone’s story gets me fired up about sharing it. This fire is also ignited when I see coaching clients take steps towards the lives they really want and as long as that fire’s burning, I stay connected to my ‘why’. So, when the little demons of self-doubt come out to play, keeping my eyes on the bigger picture banishes them to the periphery until I can barely see them anymore. Besides, what’s the worst that can happen? I’ll fail?

There is no failure. There are only new stories

New story starter_There is no failure.Only new stories_WritingPeoplePoetryI started writing a series of children’s books in my 20s. I submitted the first book and a synopsis of the next two and received many rejection slips. I decided I’d failed so I stopped submitting it, put it away in a folder and tried to forget about it. A few years ago, I started writing a novel. The plot was very complicated and I managed to confuse even myself! When I stopped writing it, I quietly stopped talking about it and put it to one side. This time though, I knew I hadn’t failed. I may come back to both of these projects at some point and if I do, it will be with fresh eyes and, mostly likely, a new (or at least updated!) story.

Even though I sometimes feel like giving up, I never will. If you think about it, it’s not really possible to ‘give up’. What I’m doing now might have been the happily ever after at the end of my last story but it’s only the beginning of a new one and I’m sure there will be many more stories to come!

Are you at the beginning of a new story or the end of an old one? Or somewhere in between..? Have you ever felt like giving up? How do you find the motivation to keep moving?

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On life changes and new shoes

You know when you buy new shoes and they’re a little tight but they’re so gorgeous you know they’re worth it? Yes? Let’s talk about that.

If you’re thinking about the sort of shoes that will always be uncomfortable, stop right there. For me, those are occasional shoes. I’m not talking about those. No, I’m talking about everyday shoes. These should be the sort that you know will loosen up the more you wear them. Know what I mean? Well, this week I’ve been thinking about how life can sometimes be a bit like those shiny new shoes.

Shiny new shoes

When you change something, whether it’s starting a new job, learning a new skill for fun or even just changing your approach to something, to start with it can be a bit uncomfortable. Like those new shoes, it may pinch a little. But, if it’s the right choice for us, then in time that discomfort will lessen until those ‘new shoes’ start to feel almost as comfy as your favourite trainers (or boots, or slippers, or whatever your preference for comfortable footwear might be) – so much so that eventually you look forward to slipping your feet into them.*

Right now I’m wearing some new shoes and they do pinch a little. But I know that if I keep walking in them, they’ll loosen up. They’re already more comfy than they were last week and I have a sense of just how much I’ll love them when I’ve really broken them in. For now, I just have to remember that in order to break them in, I need to keep walking.

Get past discomfort - keep walking_WritingPeoplePoetry

Are you ‘wearing new shoes’ in any area of your life right now? Whether you’re still feeling the pinch or they’re starting to break in, I’d love to hear how you’re walking through the discomfort so do share in the comments below!

*If you’ve been walking in uncomfortable shoes for some time and they still pinch, it might be worth thinking about getting new shoes… Or starting a new story (now that’s something I can help with)!

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You (really) shouldn’t read this

What are you doing? I said you shouldn’t read this! You should go and read something else. Get back to work, or whatever else you were doing before. I don’t even think I should write this. It’s just my opinion and who am I to share my opinion? You shouldn’t listen to me.

Still with me? Good.

‘Should’ is a loaded word. What did you think when I told you that you ‘shouldn’t’ read this? Did you get curious, think ‘why shouldn’t I?’ and want to find out more? Did it annoy you? If you thought ‘No, I probably shouldn’t read it’, then you wouldn’t be here. So, why do you ignore my ‘should’ and yet let other people should all over you? Don’t think you do..? Well, I do. Let me share some of the ‘shoulds’ from my story so far:

I should always defer to those ‘above’ me (because they’re more important).

I should keep quiet (as I have nothing of value to say).

I shouldn’t call myself a writer (because I don’t write every day).

New story starter_I really shouldn't_WritingPeoplePoetry…There are more but that will do for now! These ‘shoulds’ are from my past but some still return from time to time and I have to remind myself that they are not mine. They are the lies that wove themselves into my story somewhere along the line. They seeped into the language I used and eventually, the way I carried myself. The deference became ‘it’s not my place to…’, ‘I’ll have to check with…’ and a curved back, making me seem smaller when speaking to those who held more senior positions. The keeping quiet became an angry internal voice, telling me ‘who are you to…?’ and ‘your opinion doesn’t matter’ (or it matters less than X, so keep quiet) and not calling myself a writer was simply a lie.

Whose shoulds are they anyway?

Children challenge ‘shoulds’ all the time with questions like ‘Why shouldn’t I lick the knife?’ or ‘why should I go to school?’ Ok, so the first is obviously to protect them from harm (but just a quick hands up – have any of you ever licked the knife? Uh huh). The second question elicits various responses, depending on your stance. As for me… Well, why should I keep quiet? Because I have nothing of value to say? Really, says who? Who actually said that? Do those people have anything of value to say? What if what I say could be of value to even just one person? What if finding my voice meant finding myself? What if that helped someone else to find their voice too..? Have you ever thought about adding to an argument but kept quiet until someone else said what you’re thinking, then you backed them up? That.

What ‘shoulds’ are you carrying that don’t belong in your story? What would it be like to let them go..?

But don’t listen to me, what do I know? You shouldn’t be reading this. And I really shouldn’t have written it.

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Stop what you’re doing and breathe

A couple of weeks ago I was walking home from the park with my son when a van drove past us, stopped, reversed into a parking space for a bit and then drove off again – in the same direction it had been going before. My son turned to me and said “Mummy, why did that van stop and go backwards and then just carry on? Why didn’t it just keep going?” I told him that I didn’t know why that van had stopped but explained that sometimes people just need to stop – maybe to check a map and make sure they’re going in the right direction. Maybe because there’s something wrong (with the person driving, or the vehicle). And that sometimes, people just need to stop to take a break – if they’ve been driving for a long time they might just need to have a rest.

Sometimes we all need to park up for a bit

New story starter: Stop. Life is a long journey. Back up a bit. And breathe.More recently, I recounted this story during a chat with Christine Livingston, as we were reflecting on the need to just stop, sometimes, in order for things to work themselves out. I had been in a bit of a funk and wasn’t sure what it meant and was wondering whether to just stop doing stuff for a bit. As we chatted, Christine told me about how she had gained clarity on something when she just ‘parked it’ for a bit. Alarm bells rang – there’s a theme here… A big fat sign from the universe for me to stop. To park up, maybe even back up a bit, in order to find my way forward.

But did I stop? No.

I told myself stories about what people might think if I took a few days off (hello, ego?). I told myself, “I’ll stop in a bit, I just need to do X, Y…” As though anyone but I would notice if I didn’t do these things. I had ideas I needed to work on, to develop… So I did all the things. Well, most of them. Then I started to feel tired. More and more tired. Then I woke up with a migraine. I took my son to nursery and took myself off to bed for an hour. Then I got up and wrote this post – to share my story with you in case it helps you on your journey. Once I finish this, I’m going to save it and go for a walk. Eat some healthy food. Meditate. Basically, I’m going to stop. Back up a bit. And breathe.

And breathe…

When you’re ‘stuck’ in a certain way of thinking (I need to do all the things!), or passionate about the journey you’re on, it’s easy to get caught up in that, to keep on… and on… and on… But life is a long journey and long journeys require us to stop sometimes, maybe even back up a bit, to check we’re going in the right direction, refuel, and (or even just) to breathe.

Van_Journey_WritingPeoplePoetryWhen did you last stop to catch your breath? If it’s been a while, when and how will you next take some time out? Do share in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

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On parenting imperfectly

If you’ve arrived here via my parenting blog, Mothering Mushroom, you’ll know that imperfect parenting is a bit of a theme for me. I’m not a perfect parent. And, despite being a recovering perfectionist, when it comes to parenting I always knew there was no such thing as perfection. At the start, I wasn’t always ok with that. I’d listen too much to other people and worry I was coming up short as a mum. Over time though, as my son really started to grow into the little person he now is, I realised that the way I parent, while far from perfect, is just right… for us as a family. I do still have my moments and a negative comment on a bad day can occasionally hit me hard but on the whole I now rarely question the principles and values that lie behind any parenting decisions I make.

Good Enough is good enoughIn my coaching practice, I find I often talk to mums who worry about their parenting style, concerned that what they’re doing isn’t ‘right’. I still have to check in with myself when I start saying “I should/shouldn’t have…” Ok, sometimes I could have made a better choice but is the occasional ‘mistake’ the end of the world? No, it’s not. This year, I decided that I really wanted to address this and help even more parents to let go of the notion that there is a ‘right’ way to parent and find the value in their individual, imperfectly perfect parenting styles by developing the Proudly Imperfect Parents series of workshops, which kicked off last month with a Working Mums workshop.

On the day, a small group of working mums came together to share challenges and frustrations – including the desire to be the best we can be both at work and at home, how to manage everything on little sleep and ways we can switch from ‘work’ mode to ‘mum’ mode at the end of the day. We also talked about the idea of the Good Enough Mother and how that could be good enough, maybe even better than aiming for perfection, as we give our children permission to also make mistakes and know that it’s ok, before moving on to talk about how we can reclaim our identity beyond motherhood. As a more creative exercise, we let go of the ‘perfect’ ideals we’ve placed on ourselves (literally – watching as our perfection balloons whizzed across the room as they lost air, and their power) and made cards to take home, as reminder of how we’re Good Enough.

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How are you good enough.. and what can you let go of today..?

I’ll be tweaking the content of the Working Mums workshop in the coming months before running another one in London later this year but I also want to serve parents across the UK and beyond, whether you’re working, a full-time parent, a single parent or anything in between! So, if the idea of letting go of parenting imperfectly appeals to you, would you mind sparing five minutes to answer a few questions to help me develop future workshops and an online programme? Pretty please?

It might even take less than five minutes, depending on your answers!

If you’re interested to know more about the Proudly Imperfect Parents series, do sign up to the mailing list below. Everyone who signs up will be first to know when new dates are released, will receive special offers and occasional freebies first and will be given full access to the closed Facebook group, where you can find like-minded parents sharing resources and supporting each other.

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It’s got to be perfect

MountainIt’s taken me about seven months to write this blog post. Seven months! Why? Because, for some reason, even though I have two personal blogs already, this one felt BIG. The business blog – it’s a big one, right? I need to connect with you, to show what I can do, how well I can do it and why you should come back for more… The website? I just got on with it, got it up and made some tweaks (and am still making tweaks) along the way.

The blog just felt like a bit of a mountain. One that I didn’t want to climb unless I could do so perfectly.

I’m a recovering perfectionist

That’s my story. Well, part of it anyway. I used to be quite proud of my perfectionism and when I first started looking for work (we’re going back quite a bit here!), I even mentioned it as a strength, not realising that an astute employer would absolutely see this as a weakness. Why? Because perfectionism often translates into procrastination, which means either that nothing gets done or that what does get done creates so much stress that it requires a bit of a lie down afterwards.

Take this post, for example

I wrote my first blog post ages ago. In my head. I don’t remember what I had intended to write about but it wasn’t this! What I do remember, is thinking, ‘That’s not quite right’. What I actually meant was, ‘it’s not perfect’ (and it had to be perfect!). So I brainstormed (on paper), drafted and re-drafted different posts (again, only in my head), fiddled about with my website, asked people for advice and generally did everything except write the thing!

Perfectionism = Procrastination

Not always but often. Wait until something is ‘just right’ and it might never get done. I still like things to be done well (and that attention to detail is handy as a writer!) but the key word here is done. Faffing about with minor details never gets anything done.

It has to be perfect... Hasn't it? Has it not..? Has it..?I can still slip back into perfectionist/procrastinator mode when I’m doing something new and scary – stepping outside of my comfort zone can bring some of my old stories back from time to time – but the difference now is that I know these stories and I can remind myself that I have changed them. ‘I’m a perfectionist’ is no longer my story. This blog post? I had a word with myself and one afternoon when my son fell asleep I opened the laptop, wrote it in 20 minutes, came back to it a day later and posted it. It might not be perfect, but it’s done.

Are you a perfectionist? What do you want to do that you still haven’t got round to because you’re waiting for everything to be perfect? What would it be like if you just went ahead and started anyway? Do share your stories in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

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