Making time to write

pocket-watches-436567_1280A lot is made of morning routines and the importance of setting yourself up for the day. A quick google search for ‘writing routines’ brings up more than 40 million results, many of which talk about the importance of writing when the world is still. For some that may be early morning, for others writing into the night might work better. Personally I think that when it comes to daily routines (for anything, not just writing) whatever works, works and that may change over time as our lives and responsibilities change.

Life changes the way we write

Before I had my son, I’d write whenever the muse struck. Sometimes that would be at 3am, when I’d wake up from a dream with a thought I couldn’t shake off. It could be at the bus stop when an overheard conversation sparked an idea or it could be straight after a swim (I often have my most creative thoughts when water is involved). Then, my son was born and it became harder to whip out my phone or a notebook whenever I wanted. When he was little I wrote when he napped (whenever that might be). Now, when I’m not coaching, I’m writing all day while he’s at school. So I take what time I can. When I’m writing for clients I do my research during the day but actual writing usually takes place either right at the start of my working day before I even open my emails (I try to avoid opening my emails before lunch if I can. I can lose half the day otherwise!), or into the night once my son is asleep. But what about the writing that’s just for me, the almost therapeutic purging that leads to my more creative pieces, and often forms the bones of most of my poetry..?

Well, I became a morning person (most days. I still have my off days, when I don’t force it). On a usual weekday, I rise before my son, before birdsong even, to make time and space for me, to meditate, to write and to be.

It’s 5.30am and I’m at my desk. If you had told me five years ago I’d willingly get up before 6am I would have struggled to believe you but here I am.

The birds are not yet singing but if I listen very carefully I can hear the distant hum of other early risers. Mostly cars already on their way to work. Not on our street though. Before 6am when my husband wakes up, it’s just me and the silence, until I fire up my laptop and add the tap of the keyboard to my morning music.”

You can read more of the above essay, Before Birdsong, about my morning writing-as- self-care routine over on literary magazine Raising Mothers.

How about you? Are you a morning person? Whatever your day involves, whether you’re a writer yourself, running your own small business or a busy parent (or all three!), do you have any routines that you try to stick to, that make a positive difference to your day? How do you make time and space for what’s important to you..? Do share your thoughts in the comments below!

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The Power of Poetry

Earlier this month I shared a piece of poetry in my second ever vlog, in which I set my intentions for the year ahead. One of these intentions was to share more poetry.

As I sat down today to write my blog, I looked at my notes. I had planned to write something on writing to create real connection. I had scribbled down some notes on understanding your audience, actually caring about them and how they want to feel before even beginning to craft your message (this is why I prefer to work with smaller, heart-centred businesses)… But then my mind wandered. I probably will write that post someday but today is not that day.

Having set my intention to write and share more poetry, this has been on my mind more and more. I have written some new poetry but nothing share-worthy so far this year. I was looking through other poems and books for inspiration and was reminded of how many different ways I use poetry – in my coaching work as well as commissioned pieces for business and personal use – and why it is such a powerful medium.

There is something about poetry that bypasses the conscious mind. So often, things we know but perhaps are not ready to admit or confront, we shut down using intellectual arguments. But as Lewis, Amini and Lannon, authors of A General Theory of Love (a fascinating book on the science of human emotions) say,

“Where intellect and emotion clash, the heart often has the greater wisdom.”

So, for those who are open to it, poetry can be the quickest way to speak directly to that inner wisdom. It tricks the conscious mind with its pretty metaphors and slips in discreetly, so that emotions are stirred before you even begin to really process the what the words mean.

Improbable poetry_WritingPeoplePoetry

Words, say Lewis, Amini and Lannon, can only be understood by the neocortical brain, the most recent brain in terms of evolution and the only one that can process the abstract… But it is the earlier limbic brain – the brain responsible for communication and emotional connection – to which poetry speaks.

This is well illustrated by a comment on the poem I shared in my last blog, in which Alice from The Filling Glass said “You said so many interesting things here I couldn’t take it all in”. I’ve also had people say, “I have no idea what you said but I feel good”! And there are so many lines I’ve heard and read – too many to list here, and many of which I cannot fully recall, that have moved me in ways that reason cannot explain. What I remember is the feeling. It’s a knowing, an understanding, a realisation, an acceptance. It starts in my chest and rises, often spilling over as my eyes fill with emotion.

This is why I my love affair with words will always begin and end with poetry. It’s why I started writing and no matter what else I am writing, it is still Why I Write.

What are your thoughts on poetry? Do you like it? Does it move you in the ways I’ve described or does it leave you cold? I’d love to know your thoughts so please do leave a comment below!

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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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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!

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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