Time for a Comeback

It is time to drag myself back to my true passions: writing and running.

I am inspired by this excellent article from Wild Words by Bridget Holding.

My personal approaches are:

Writing: Write something every day even if it is nonsense. My aim is to write at least 500 words. I confess that I have lapsed recently.

Running: On at least five days each week, get yourself outside your front door in your running kit. Ensure that you are adequately stretched. Run!

Now read the article.


You Will Come Back- on procrastination

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On a frosty February morning in the mountains of the Pyrenees, I wanted to share with you my response to a question about procrastination that a student asked this week.

‘How can I make myself sit down and write? I try and try, but each time I end up tidying my desk, or making another cup of tea, or surfing Facebook. It’s really soul-destroying.’

Procrastination, I know that one. Between deciding to respond to you Sarah, and sitting down to do it, I’ve had a second round of breakfast, sowed a button on a blouse, checked the news headlines (again), and been very attentive to the cat.

But seriously, if the resistance is very strong, sitting down at the desk, and writing is not something that we always just decide to do, as you discovered. If it was, each time we re-made the decision, we’d succeed, but we don’t, do we? Speaking personally, I’ve had times when I felt nauseous and dizzy at the thought of writing, and had to lie down instead. Really physical. Not something we can just talk ourselves out of.

In fact, and this may surprise you, I don’t think there’s a problem at all with your procrastination, with the fact that you’re not sitting down and doing it. I think it’s rather beautiful, and exactly what needs to be happening in that moment. That may not be what you want to hear, given the little voice inside that tells you ‘should’ be writing, but bear with me…

I’m assuming that you’ve made a clear intention, with the whole of your being- body, mind, emotions, to write? (How we make that intention in the most helpful way is for another conversation.) If so, then trust that your whole organism is orienting you towards that outcome, even if, in that frustrated moment of making the sixth cup of coffee, it doesn’t look how you hoped it would.

Human animals function like this: we make contact with a task, and focus/concentrate on it until we’re tired, or for some reason our system is overwhelmed, then we naturally move our attention to something else. The something else will usually be sensory (colour, smell, taste etc.) Contact with the senses steadies us, grounds us, and brings our nervous system back to equilibrium. It will probably also involve physical movement, in order to release pent up energy in our nervous system.

Take note of the things you go to instead of what you ‘should’ be doing. The smell and taste of hot drinks. The feel of your desk top as you tidy it. Walking around. Physical and sensory. Now isn’t that just perfect!

You’ve much more chance of coming back to the writing, if you allow that natural oscillation between contact and non-contact with the task.

And you will come back. You will be taken there despite yourself. Because we need to tell stories, and keep telling them, to survive and to thrive.

Unfortunately, we are trained from the beginning of creative writing learning to try and ignore an unfolding, organic route to realising the natural storyteller, in favour of controlling the process with thoughts. Then, when (quelle surprise) something doesn’t work on the page, we cross out the offending words and replacing them with ‘better’ ones. That’s akin to covering signs of disease with a band aid, and hoping it goes away.

If you resist the path that your whole organism has chosen for you, in favour of trying to control the process with your thinking mind, you’re less likely to get there, and if you do you’ll be exhausted by the time you arrive.

Time to choose a different approach, and take a leap of faith, don’t you think?

This is what I suggest. That you hold your intention to write lightly, and place most, if not all of your focus on enjoying the present moment process.

Watch the beauty of the pendulation, feel how your body experiences activation and then discharges energy to relaxation. Know the ebb and flow. Surf the waves of it. Allow and enjoy your indirect path. Remember you are going exactly where you need and want to go, in the way that is best for you.

If you feel yourself tighten and become anxious, with accompanying voices saying things like ‘this isn’t what I should be doing’, remind yourself that your natural storyteller can be trusted, that they are always orientating you towards telling the story that you need to tell.

You will gradually circle inwards, like a magpie turning ever decreasing rounds above a shiny object, until it descends upon it. You’ll land at your destination, with the ease of one carried on the currents. You’ll sit down to write.

What are your experiences of procrastination? Would this/ does this approach work for you? I’d be delighted to hear about your experiences, either in the comments, Facebook group, or privately via bridgetholding@wildwords.org

If you’d like to receive the writing prompt that accompanies this article, sign up for the Monthly Newsletter. 

And thank you Sarah, for permission to share our discussion.

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Marriage Unarranged #booktour #ritubhathal

Ritu and Geoff are lovely friends of mine, whom I met through the Annual Bloggers’ Bash Awards. This looks like a great book from Ritu and I love the qurstions and answers in Geoff’s probing interview at the end of the article.

Take a few minutes to read the article. Maybe you’ll follow their blogs and purchase a copy of Ritu’s ‘Marriage Unarranged.”

TanGental

I have known Ritu Bhathal, yes this lovely lady

pretty much since we started blogging. In that time she had blogged her heart out. Her prolific output, her range of subjects, her dedication to improving the craft all stand out. But she is almost always the first one to read and comment on any new post I launch into the ether and her approach has been universally supportive, as you would expect of someone who values her Bloggily.

A while back she took what she considered to be a brave step with a book of poetry but she need not have fretted. It was an excellent read, a proper dipper-inner. At the time she talked about the book, that project that had been on the slowest of slow burns. Would it ever come to be?

Yes, it would! It’s here in

Marriage Unarranged

I was privileged to be a beta…

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Book Review: The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom

The Five People You Meet in HeavenThe Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a superb book with which to start my reading decade!

I was lucky enough to end the twenty-tens with a brilliant read, The Way: A Girl Who Dared to Rise by Kristen Wolf. Picking another great book with which to start the ‘twenties has made me very happy.

Eddie is a fairground maintenance man with tonnes of experience of both life and his work. He is an Army veteran. On his eighty-third birthday, he meets with a tragic death while trying to save the life of a little girl who is a split second away from being crushed by one of the rides.

Death is not the end. It is the beginning.

Eddie arrives in Heaven and meets five people who have either had a significant effect on his life or whose lives he has significantly affected. He discovers much more than he ever knew about the back stories of his interactions with these people.

The book is beautifully crafted and very thought-provoking.

One of the people whom he meets in Heaven was never known to him during his life, yet she had a significant effect upon that life.

Another, predictably, so not really a spoiler, is his wife. Their love for each other made my heart boom and brought tears to my eyes. All five of the meetings stirred deep emotions in me.
There were several passages which resonated deeply with me.

As an adult runner, I have often spread my wings as I run through the countryside and imagined that I am an aeroplane, so I loved this:

It might have seemed ridiculous to anyone watching, this white-haired maintenance worker, all alone, making like an airplane. But the running boy is inside every man, no matter how old he gets.

Having lost my own father in March 2019, this short extract sprang off the page at me:

Through it all, despite it all, Eddie privately adored his old man, because sons will adore their fathers through even the worst behaviour. It is how they learn devotion. Before he can devote himself to God or a woman, a boy will devote himself to his father, even foolishly, even beyond explanation.

Although there a many more quotes which I could cite in this review, I’ll leave you with this one on forgiveness. It ties in well with another book that I read in the past year, Forgiveness Made Easy: The Revolutionary Guide to Moving Beyond Your Past and Truly Letting Go by Barbara J. Hunt:

“Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves. “Forgive, Edward. Forgive. Do you remember the lightness you felt when you first arrived in heaven?”

This really is a wonderful book. You should read it.

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Back to Work!

Seven hundred and fifty-four days after I was made redundant “as a cost reduction measure” by ASG Technologies, I finally returned to full-time employment on the 6th January 2020.

It is a massive relief! I have been through some very dark times and periods of self-doubt. I confess that I came very close to suicide on two occasions. The thought of that terrifies me and I am very happy that I came to my senses in time. It would have caused huge problems for lots of people. Death would have been no solution.

Don’t worry. I am over it now that I am working for a great company who are a good, caring employer. I have plenty of new friends already.

The first narrow miss was because the train that I hoped would reduce me to pate was twenty minutes late. That gave me time to get my mind out of an awful place. The second time that I was marching towards my doom, I met an old friend who spoke to me for half an hour. By that time, I had come around. He still doesn’t know that he saved my life.

The lesson that I learned is that it is just not worth it and solves nothing. If you ever find yourself in that mindset, find somebody to talk to.

On a brighter note, let me tell you about my new job. I have started as a Customer Service Team Member, Delivery Driver, at Ocado in Andover.

Red Cabbage Van

In front of my red cabbage van on my first solo day, Wednesday

After two days of training, I was out on the road with another rookie to do a small number of local deliveries. We helped each other. On Thursday and Friday, I was driving solo around Andover, Winchester and Salisbury. I enjoy delivering to the rural customers much more than the urban ones, where manoeuvring and parking is often quite difficult. I love meeting people: both customers and colleagues. Providing a great service is what we pride ourselves on at Ocado. I love it!

I am looking forward to my next five days, starting at 6 am and finishing by 2 pm. Who knows where my van will take me?

Ocado’s vans are very distinctive and a part of our brand of which we are justifiably proud. The sides are adorned with colourful fruits and vegetables, unlike rival fleets which are a bit monotonous in their livery. It also helps our customers to identify their driver. They receive advance messages to tell them, for example, “Your driver today is Lance in the yellow lemon van.” We have a different van every day. It’s fun!

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Book Review – The Way: A Girl Who Dared to Rise by Kristen Wolf

The Way: A Girl Who Dared to RiseThe Way: A Girl Who Dared to Rise by Kristen Wolf

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a superb book with which to end my reading decade!

My father, and eminent statistician, was once asked, following a talk in which he revealed some very surprising and shocking facts on a topic of the day, if what he had said “was gospel.”
His response was, “No. It was the truth.”

The Way is an alternative version of the gospel stories as they appear in the first four books of the New Testament of The Bible. I believe that there are many other versions.

All religious scriptures, The Bible, The Qoran and many others, were scribed by men. Many of those books were written in order to gain political power. Some were written from the heart, head and spirit of the authors. Who is to say which parts of any of those great books are the truth?

Quote:
“After all, if you are forever referencing the same text, because someone tells you to, you shrink your spiritual experience of the world. Your senses are deadened to the bounty around them. Imposed or mindless reiteration, by its very nature, numbs the spirit and closes your heart to the world around you. And, unfortunately, when people are told what it is that they see, they can be easily misled.”

Until I read The Way, my favourite alternative gospel was Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. These two, although very different in many ways, are now my joint favourites.

Lamb is very clever comedy and I loved it.

The Way is powerful and provocative. Like much historical fiction, perhaps it is closer to the true version of events of two thousand years ago than the accounts that millions prefer to believe. I dare not say.

I recommend this to everyone, although I would warn those who are entrenched in their own religious beliefs that it may offend them. It should be read with an open mind and marvelled at for its skilful writing. I can’t wait to read more from Kristen Wolf.

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Book Review: The Penmaker’s Wife by Steve Robinson

The Penmaker's WifeThe Penmaker’s Wife by Steve Robinson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like many mothers, nothing matters more to Angelica Chastain than her only child, William. She will go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that he has the best life possible.

The opening chapter sees Angelica in London, faking her own death and that of her son by drowning in the River Thames so that they can escape a sinister pursuer. They head, by train, to Birmingham, but their past soon catches up with them.

Although it soon becomes clear that Angelica is a very deceitful woman who thinks nothing of committing murder to protect her interests, one can’t help empathising with her and feeing that she is somehow justified in her actions. However, as the story develops, we become less sympathetic and begin to hope that the killer gets her just desserts.

Some of the characters in the book are marvellous and I felt for them, especially as they are drawn into Angelica’s web of deceit and with more danger than a flies trapped in the stickiness of a spider’s web.

If I say any more, I’ll spoil it for you. All I can say is, “Read it!”

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Book Review: The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue

The Temple House VanishingThe Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story is written from two points of view: that of a journalist and that of a girl, Louisa, who went missing from a private school many years ago. It also skips back and forth in time between the present and the period leading up to Louisa’s disappearance. This approach sometimes works well but is often confusing. I found myself re-reading several passages to understand where I was in the story.

Louisa is a misfit. She wins a scholarship to Temple House School, so she is from a very different background to the majority of the pupils who come from rich families. That resonates with me as it mirrors experiences in my own school life. She soon befriends Victoria, another girl who doesn’t fit the establishment. Both girls, enjoy their art classes and have crushes on their art teacher, the only male member of staff amongst a coven of nuns, Mr Lavelle.

My favourite character in the whole book is Helen, the red-headed, sinister head girl. She was well developed in this story and I feel that the author could write a whole new book with Helen as the leading character.

The pace was very slow and there was just a bit too much description and filler, so much so that I often found myself skipping a couple of pages, feeling that I had missed nothing.

This is a fairly good debut novel. I am sure that Rachel Donohue has much more to offer and I look forward to her next book.

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