Posts Tagged hope

Writing Process

A few people have asked about my ‘Process’ – that dreaded method by which authors are supposed to sit down and write each day. Not just authors actually, but all creative people. Because we are but machines, cranking out Art no matter what’s going on in our lives…

I am joking there, but only a bit. It is important to have some sort of routine, like a workday in a regular office, which encourages the inspiration to flow.

Sometimes for me, it happens randomly. Quite often, ideas will happen when I’m walking the dogs, and I have to rush home to jot things down while ‘in the zone’. Or I have a dictaphone app to record the ideas for when I’m back. Then I can get on with enjoying the walk, and see what other ideas may come up (and they usually do).

This year, however, I have A Plan. This January, I want to get into the writing habit of Daily Words. Ideally 1000 words per day, hopefully more, sometimes less. Or none. But that’s all ok.

I read a lovely quote last week, which said even if you write 300 words a day, you’ll soon have a full book’s worth. This is true. Happily, I find it very difficult to write so little once I’ve started! But 1000 words is around a single blog post, so that seems a reasonable target.

Yesterday, there were no words. My brain would not let me. So I tried to distract it in other ways. I finished the second sleeve of a jumper I’ve been knitting (since Summer, as I had an attack of Fear and put it aside because it seemed too daunting). Now I just have to sew in the ends, and it’s done!

Something creative, every day. Ideally, words. Sometimes those words will be nonsense. But they are there, and I got myself in a place to allow them to come.

I carry a notebook and pen, or the aforementioned dictaphone app. Who knows what will appear in them? Again, setting the space.

I’m reading, as research usually lends itself to ideas. At other times, when engaged with mindless knitting or a fun movie, another Good Thought will pop into being. Catch it, make a note – slot it into the rest of the writing wherever it seems best.

The file currently on my laptop called ‘Book 3’ is a mess at the moment. A good mess, mind, with lists of ideas, key words, an introduction and several random chapters. Once it gets to a certain size, I’ll start editing, moving things around, realizing bits that I’ve forgotten and generally whipping it into shape.

In the meantime, I know that those words are there. My subconscious will be busy with them, allowing those new thoughts to appear, listening for ideas from other people (and very random sources!)… being open. Because every day, there’s the potential to let that creativity flow. I sit at my desk and…

In case you were wondering, today’s words have already been done. So far, at least. This is just a bonus.

What are you doing with your creativity today?

Addendum: Here’s my ‘muse’ Fen, who ensures that I’m always having regular breaks away from my desk:

fen jan 19 (2)

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Making Inspiration

It’s the first Monday of 2019. Most people are going  back to work today, or school, or otherwise returning to ‘normality’ after the holiday.

This is not usually the most happy of occasions. The early start, the ‘presentable’ clothes, having to focus on things which are maybe not your first priority… perhaps the habits of late mornings in bed, comfortable ‘lounge-wear’ and doing what you want with your time are more attractive!

On many 9-5 (or equivalent) days, we feel the pressure of the season as it truly is now. Yuletide has passed. We’re into the dark, grey days of winter, with Spring months away. This is what the Yule celebrations were designed to help us through… but it’s not always so easy from this side of the calendar.

What is enticing is to let ourselves fall into that sense of drudgery. Of running behind, chasing an endless ‘To-Do’ list, wondering how to cope with weeks until payday. We can feel ourselves slipping, letting the grey clouds overwhelm us. But we don’t have to.

Times like this are precisely when we need our own magic the most. You may be rolling your eyes now, wondering how on earth we can do that when we feel so unmotivated, uninspired and generally unwilling. But that’s precisely it!

The brightness of Yule was to remind us of the good things we have, of the love of family and friends, good food and laughter. Even the quiet of peace, of the time to do your own thing, with the New Year full of plans and potential. That hasn’t gone away – that was setting the foundation from which we’re now working.

Even if the holidays were themselves difficult and returning to ‘normality’ is now a welcome relief – then let that fuel you. The season has turned, and with it the reminder that we’re still here, still moving forward. We have the power to make this year what we want (or need) it to be.

The trick of these dark days is not to succumb to the sleep of hibernation again. It’s natural to want this, as the morning are still dark and the sunlight in short supply. But we have to keep ourselves moving in both darkness and light. Hold on to the good feelings of recent weeks to keep yourself reminded of what’s possible, or what you’re dreaming of.

My December was not the best, and I won’t be remembering it fondly. Illness, severe mental health battles and general battling meant that I was generally surviving day-to-day. However, the bright spots stand out even more because of that.

Time snuggled up with my husband and animal family, warm and fed, together. Visiting family, laughter and silliness; pictures of distant folks enjoying themselves. Sharing stories of adventures during that Christmas week, which seemed both too long and yet over so quickly at the same time.

Now here we are, needing to get Back to Work – and we can use those happy moments to keep us going. We’re still working in the midst of winter, yes, but that means setting foundations for the year ahead. This is just as exciting, if not more so, as making those plans, dreams and wishes, because now we’re actually able to do something about them.

Our daily work may be hard to face, but it allows us to have the resources to use as we need. Even if (like me) work is scarce at this time of year, we try to use what we have and plan for the busier seasons on the horizon.

Inspiration may not be immediately apparent right now. It’s hard to see the magic in the January dampness, here in the UK. The news is full of difficulty and sadness. So even more, we need to dig deep and find that inner inspiration to keep ourselves moving.

I’m back at my desk today, and pondering what to write. I’ll do a blog post – that’ll get the creative juices flowing! Perhaps it will, perhaps not. That’s the dilemma of a writer: what to write that I will find interesting, while second-guessing how it will appear to my readers! That’s an endless wheel of worry, which can itself be a trap. As many other writers have said, put one word after another and keep going. That’s all you can do. So here I am.

I was also glad to be able to sit here and think straight, to write at all, after a week of being Very Ill. Yesterday saw me pondering my own ‘To Do’ list – and looking forward to the tasks on it, rather than feeling overwhelmed. I had to figure what method of planning worked best for me, without setting off my inner fears. Again, I can’t anticipate what every person will want this year. I can only do what I feel called to do. Hopefully, people will be interested and want to join in.

This is itself a small ritual. I set the space, in terms of ideas and plans. Then I gather the tools I need… and today, I’m starting to get things moving. Nothing tangible will be apparent yet, as we’re months from seeing some of these events happen. But… actually, no, even that’s not true. These words are tangible, right now, here on this screen. I’m reaching out to others to share my thoughts and ideas, and hopefully inspire you in turn. What can you do to make this year good? What are you doing right now to that end?

It might just be about putting one foot in front of the other, or one breath after the next. That counts too. Every creation, event or rite starts with the spark of an idea, then the energy put into it, the pondering, the scribbling of notes, the calling for help from friends… Momentum can be sudden, like a lightning-strike, or quiet, a single snowflake that leads to an avalanche. Both have very real results!

I’m still feeling rather furry-brained today, but now I have some writing to share, to show that I Am Doing Things. I look to my list, to see what I can do next. I remember that there’s unlisted jobs too, such as household chores. I consider what music I can play to make those more fun.

I’ve planned a couple of rewards for myself, breaktimes with tea and some knitting, then some research later (reading rarely counts as work for me!), perhaps a movie tonight. Walking the dogs over the fields – still exhausting, as I’m not back to full strength yet physically, but the first snowdrops are starting to appear, the birds are singing and the land isn’t quite as asleep as it might seem.

The challenge of the dark months is to keep going. But we can do it, both alone and by connecting with supportive friends and the world around. Look at what motivates you, not what makes you sigh with frustration. Consider the potential of the year ahead. Imbolc isn’t far away – do you have any plans? What about small daily rituals to keep you smiling, holding on to who you are beneath the business suit or boring uniform?

I sit, the typical author alone at her desk… and thinking of how I reach out to others through my work. The words I write today may not be seen until (or if!) they’re published months from now, but these ones, right now, are certainly enough.

I raise my cup of tea to you, lovely reader. Go find something warm to share alongside me. We’ll keep working together, sharing virtual space through the magic of this electronic tale. My candle is lit here too, keeping me reminded.

We am still here. What are we doing?

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A Single Light

Sometimes, everything seems difficult. Life is overwhelming. Physical or mental pain may seem to take over our world, events just keep crashing down on us, there seems no way out…

What we need at those times is a single light. Be it an actual flame – the pause as we light a candle and take a breath – or something external that ‘sparks’ us back to ourselves from admist the chaos… we need the reminder that we must hold on. We battle through, for the sake of ourselves and those who love us.

As Pagan folk, there should be any number of Inspiring Things which help during crazy times. But that’s easier said than experienced. When you can’t see the path for the sheer noise around you, you might simply not be able to see what you need to, what’s right there waiting to help.

We need that candle-moment, that pause, that breath. It’s a skill, certainly: cutting through with a mental laser, to reach who we are at source. The I, Me, Self, who may well be sitting, trembling, curled in a ball and unable to move. Or who’s banging on a thick glass wall, trying desperately to be heard.

It’s impossible to act truly if you aren’t truly in your Self. If the true, inner Core of you has been squashed down, nullified and silenced by sheer busy-ness. Once that Self has been rescued, the breaths will come more easily. You throw your Self a lifeline, remembering who You are and what’s important. What do you need to do, right now? The rest can wait.

One thing at a time. What can you do? Even one breath, then another. One Thing. One spark, to light the flame.

Once you’ve accomplished that, the rest begins to flow more easily. The flame within you remembers that it’s needed to keep you alive and warm.

I always have an actual candle lit by me when I work. It keeps me reminded. Sometimes the hardest thing is to get to the point of lighting it… but once it’s there, I believe that I can do what is needed.

Know that this light is burning for you as well, my friends.

Candle

(Originally published on my Patreon, 7 September 2018. To see an exclusive post such as this every week, please do consider supporting me – it really does help keep me going.)

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Freedom

I remember when I was first introduced to the concept of ‘Paganism.’ It was in my early twenties via my (now ex-) husband, who showed me some of his Crowley books, told me about the Farrers and how this really was a Thing that People Did. Off I went to Borders, because this is how I operate – point me at a topic and I’ll be off to find books about it! And so things began to move.

I remember reading ‘The Witches’ Bible’ and being a little confused. There were notes here that rang true, but the form seemed wrong to me, somehow. A bit too Dennis Wheatley (given my limited frame of reference at the time).

American witchcraft books were just starting to hit the shelves back then. Of course, I found Starhawk and Margot Adler, then Silver Ravenwolf and that sort of thing. Which convinced me that while it had its good side, Wicca (especially early American Style Wicca, full of lists of Stuff and correspondences) was not for me. Likewise Ceremonial Magick.

Amusingly, some years later, I got to meet and become friends with some first and second generation Gardnerians. Their perspective was much more in tune with mine than the more ‘modern’ Famous Witches. But the difference between the reality and the books made us all smile.

Then came the different ‘flavours’ of Paganism. Pretty quickly, Druidry rose to the top of the pile of Interesting Texts, and upon joining some online forums, I soon found like-minded people, a local Grove and my practice began to pick up speed.

I mention this because recently, I’ve been speaking to friends encountering new situations in their personal practice, and we’ve joked about ‘Levelling Up’. Separate friends, on separate occasions, on very distant continents. But the same feeling.

I find myself thinking about this tonight, as I consider the ebb and flow of my own development – both private and public – and how it continues to evolve. The times are indeed changing, inside and out.

As far as I can see, no truly-felt spiritual path is ever ‘finished.’ We don’t reach some distant finish line and get a medal. Your first Initiatory experience (again, whether private or public/shared) is a huge deal, but it won’t be the only time it happens. We are constantly exploring, moving forward, occasionally nipping back to go over something again, then proceeding in a slightly different way… but we’re never ‘done.’

Every year, I’ve felt different ‘pausing’ points, where I have to stop and take stock before continuing what I’m doing. Usually this is enforced – something will happen to make me stop and think, review and consider. What am I doing?

Lately, the question has changed slightly. What can I do?

Because many years have passed since that first step onto this path. I’ve grown older, more experienced, but my health has also gone down interesting and unexpected routes. In many ways, life is better; in others, it’s more difficult.

But that’s life, isn’t it? Constantly changing. So I sit here again, pausing to think.

When I’m in the low places, without much energy to think or do, the ‘brain weasels’ of depression tell me that I’ve done as much as I can do. I’m published! That was a goal I’ve reached. What more can I do? There’s so many Pagan books out there, how can I possibly say anything new? Those voices are encouraging me not to pause, but to stop altogether.

Yes, that means what you think it means. When I say dark places, I mean it.

So the challenge has been to grab my brain by its bootstraps (which is an actual visual I’ve had, almost like a cartoon – anything to raise a smile, which is a prime weapon against those weasels!) and do anything. Write, knit, engage with a book or movie, run, clean, make some nice food… whatever it takes. Moment to moment, day to day. Keep living.

Then I notice that despite feeling like survival, these days actually link together. The writing becomes a story. The knitting becomes a blanket. I am actually still doing. Even when lying in bed, unable to do much besides think, those thoughts can be turned to good ideas.

My practice is having to evolve to accommodate my bad days – not giving in to them, but working around them. While I am older and less energetic than I used to be, life is by no means done. Of course I’m not still 20, I can’t do what I could then. But I’m in a very different place, and have new skills and options to try instead.

I spoke of pausing for thought. At various times, those ‘STOP’ signs have felt almost like a trap – I can’t escape my situation, no matter how I try. A bad job, a failing marriage, lack of money… familiar problems to most people. How can anyone do Magic(k) with all the Real World issues weighing them down?

These are the times when we need to reach for that energy, the spirit within us. It’s relatively simple to access on the good days, when the sun is shining and the birds are singing; but can you grab it and use it during the difficult times too? That’s always been a factor in my work, because it’s been important and necessary to me.

I’m having to consider what I can do, not what I’m prevented from doing. Because this trap is a lie, created by the mental illness to keep me from doing anything. ‘You can’t, you can’t’ is a common undercurrent in my thoughts. ‘Why not?’ is the retort.

OK – some days, I can’t, for valid reasons. But other days, I find ways to work things so that I can.

I’m looking at new methods for giving talks online as well as in person, to overcome the challenge of travel. I’m playing with fiction writing, to free me for a while from the More Important books (I don’t know how that perspective came about, but that’s what my brain tells me my work is! Fiction is important too). I’m going out, overcoming my fears to do things that I’ve never done before, and finding them glorious.

I am freer than I give myself credit for. I have a home, loved ones, friends, food. I may feel constrained by constant NHS waiting lists for medical help, but I’ve always found my own way in the meantime, because I’ve had to. I have a supportive publisher. I’m able to help and inspire others, as they inspire me.

I’m still connected to my practice enough to see the guideposts to the next stage of exploration. It’s exciting. Yes, scary too, but I have to trust that if I fall, I can pick myself up, learn and carry on.

Because sometimes, we are as free as we allow ourselves to be. Even when confined by circumstances, we have our Selves – it just can be tough to dig deep and find who we truly are (and who we are not).

I’m remembering the enthusiasm of those early days of magical study, of trying my first ritual (that’s a story in itself), of discovering what worked beyond the books for me specifically. And each time, the affirmation from the Powers that Be – yes, you’re doing it. See how the path opens up once you let go of the hang-ups that hold you back? Come on, we know you can.

Once we get out of our own way, we can accomplish so much. That’s a constant note to remember.

We pause. We nourish ourselves as appropriate. And we move forward.

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I Have Confidence…?

When I was little, one of the main background soundtracks to my life was ‘The Sound of Music’.

Don’t laugh. Bear with me, there is a point to this.

My Mum loves that film. Every holiday it was on (in the times before any form of recording device), and the songs played in the car as I learned the words and sang along. The ending was difficult to watch, but I loved the first half, of Maria the Nun bringing happiness to a rather repressed family unit.

As I grew up, this story fell by the wayside. Whereas once ’16, going on 17′ had seemed a world away, now it seems a world ago. But one of the songs has been looping in my head lately.

When Maria leaves her convent to go out into the world – after we, the audience, have been informed what a klutz she is – she sings of her hope for what’s ahead:

‘I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain, I have confidence that Spring will come again – besides which you see I have confidence in me!’

But towards the end of the song, she falters. ‘I have confidence in confidence alone… oh help.’

She stops. Those last two words aren’t sung, but spoken, whispered. The mask of joy falls. She prays for help, for strength – for that same confidence to step up to the task she has been set. She knows how hapless she is, and how large a job she has ahead. Singing a happy song might not be enough.

This is the truth and pleasure I find in well-done musicals, by the way. That they are so absurdly happy one minute, but reflecting the deeper worries of life the next. If they’re done right, musicals don’t do half measures – they’re all or nothing, but still with the nuances of reality that we all know. Cunningly masked behind a veneer of merry song.

A lot of my time recently has been in that moment that Maria shows, that pause, that ‘oh help’. I’m stepping up to the next level in my work, it seems, both personally and professionally. I’ve always had confidence that my gods will present challenges that might seem insurmountable, but are always within my grasp – if I push myself. That’s the point.

I’m reading a lot of books that I never thought I would, discussing new topics, exploring deeply. Ministry, theology, even religious texts of other faiths (to the shock of one kind Imam!). I’m investigating new – and old – worlds, and it’s amazing. I know that it’s a gift that I even can. As a woman and a Pagan, those previously repressed ‘minorities’, I am now free to act publicly as Priest. That’s no small thing, and one that I hope I never take for granted.

This morning, I’m reading a book on Chaplaincy – specific Priesting within certain spheres of society, rather than to a geographical community (as I am now doing in prison). I’m almost in tears as I read of those Chaplains caring for the soldiers in Afghanistan. I recently finished a tale of nuns who work for women’s shelters in New York. This is faith on the ‘shop floor’ – and yet, apparently a lot of the ‘proper’ Churches view Chaplains as not ‘proper’ Priests.

Paganism has the opposite approach, I’m finding. Because our current methods of public Ministry are still very much finding their way, it’s still seen as miraculous that we can be included in the multifaith community, as professional Chaplains at all. We’re still a ‘fringe’ spirituality, but which is being recognised more and more, and respected accordingly.

Our Western society, by and large, is pretty secular, but I hardly ever receive sneers or derisive comments about my role. Most people are amazed and curious, bombarding me with questions and enthusiasm. Individually, people still feel a spiritual ‘pull’, the need for someone to chat to about what’s on their mind as a companion, but also to support them in tough times. The Priest in the community might have a wider remit than the Chaplain in their ‘bubble’ (army base, hospital, prison) but both are absolutely invaluable. We are appreciated, and that is glorious.

But I am so very aware that we are still finding our way. I love that I can speak to my fellow Chaplains about this – their churches have been doing it for longer, after all, so their experiences are inspiring to hear. Ultimately, though, I can easily feel like Maria sitting there, with the support of her church behind her, but very much alone in that moment. 

How on earth can I do this? God, what are you asking of me?

I’m finding that stories about prayer are also pulling me lately. Another area which Pagans are only now starting to intellectually explore, what do we do when we are alone and needing help? Is this not a huge aspect of the Paganism that I convey to those I Minister to? How do you express the inexpressible in your heart, to and of beings that are beyond words…

Once, it helped hugely to know that I was part of a wider community, through the groups I volunteered for. This week, I resigned as Trustee of The Druid Network, and am stepping down as District Coordinator for The Pagan Federation. I’ll still be volunteering for both, but on a much smaller level.

I need to take the time to sit alone, in that ‘oh help’ moment. To speak with my Gods, to discern what’s next, as well as what I’m doing now. What am I doing? That old question, ever relevant.

I step on alone in one sense, therefore, but in actuality just with less titles. I know that I have a wonderful community behind and beside me, and that counts for so much. I’m listening for the tug that pulls me in the right direction, and know that I’ll be treading new paths. It’s bloody scary.

I’m not sure I have confidence; in fact, often I know I don’t. But I step forward, as promised. I do my best.

Onward, as always.

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