Make a distinction

The only resolution I made for 2018 was to distinguish between the work I do for love – my own writing, and the work I do for money  – word-smithing for businesses.

Distinctions bring clarity. And clarity enables us to be creative, productive and to attract opportunities effortlessly.

One of my most favourite books is A Room with A View by E M Forster in which he champions love and truth over social niceties. Without the honest appraisal of what we truly love we will forever be “in a muddle” – and therefore less effective in our efforts.

Giving more focus to the things we love rather than the things we do out of obligation imbues us with clarity and power.

So it’s worth being honest with ourselves and making the distinction.

As a result my writing spark is back with a vengeance. I’m having fun writing my blog and new business enquiries are arriving at my door. Before I was muddled in my thinking about writing – so my focus and energy were confused and dissipated. I was perhaps falling for the assumption that having more things to focus on would rob me of time.

Rather having sharper focus on more distinct things feels like I have generated more time, and infinitely more ideas. Inspiration and words are flowing; and my skills are in demand.

The Journal Writer’s Handbook contains an exercise called Lists of Distinction, encouraging you to distinguish between your talents, gifts, skills and interests. Sharpening your focus on each throws up more clarity, more possibility and more choice about the things that lead you to a greater sense of creativity, fulfillment and joy.

Don’t be muddled. Be distinctive. Make your own distinctions.

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Filed under Creative process, Journal Writing, The Journal Writer's Handbook, Uncategorized

Time for self-authoring

My son has been helping me format The Journal Writer’s Handbook for publication on Amazon. Flicking through some of the exercises included in the book he remarked particularly on the ones called “Playing with Metaphor”; “Taking Responsibility”; “Hidden Voices”, and “Absolute Truths”.

These are themes and explorations he has been enjoying through the work of Dr Jordan Peterson, the guy who is taking the young male adult world by storm with his relentless intellectual honesty and dedication to individual self-improvement, through self-authoring, the study of mythological archetypes, and his tirade against the identity politics of post-modern neo-Marxism (Guardian readers look away now).

His recent interview by Cathy Newman on Channel 4 news may be the only thing you’ve seen by him. If so you’re missing a treasure trove of mind-boggling polymathic research and psychological commentary by Dr Peterson on youtube and his own website.

Personally I celebrate Jordan Peterson’s ability to engage such an impenetrable audience as 20 year old men. Even more I applaud his recommendations to use reflective writing as a great tool for self-improvement, and for setting oneself up with integrity and discipline.

When I first wrote The Journal Writer’s Handbook five years ago I had no idea who Professor Peterson was. Now I’m delighted to listen to him. More so because it’s my son that introduced me.

 

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Filed under Current Affairs, Philosophy, Psychology, Uncategorized

Too much, not enough or just right?

I had a sleepless night. Felt like I had both nothing and everything on my mind. Weird.

There’s a song by REM (appropriately named band given last night’s wakefulness) featuring the line “Oh no I’ve said too much – I haven’t said enough”. I find it’s a lyric that describes a frequent feeling of mine.

The REM song is called ‘Losing my Religion’. Its lyricist Michael Stipe claims it’s about romantic expression. To me it reflects a particular type of existential angst. A struggle between love and fear. Am I too much? Or am I not enough? Or who the hell am I anyway?

As I drove home from the school run this morning Petroc Trelawney on Radio 3 declared that today is 10 613 days since the Berlin Wall was broken; a barrier that stood for 10 613 days; built from fear, torn down from love.

It’s a statistic that made me reflect suddenly on what has happened in my life since then. A degree, a marriage, children, the dot com boom, three different addresses, bereavement, career change, a book published, lots of new friends made, as well as lots of love, quite a few fears and many, many, many hot dinners – some of which have been quite frightening in themselves. I’ve probably torn down a few walls of my own too.

I don’t really think I can judge whether this has been enough or too much. Probably best to say it’s been just right. That love has triumphed often over fear. And there’s always more to look forward to.

If you are minded take ten minutes to run the mental movie of your life over the past 10613 days. What has occurred in your life? What has been just right about it? And what more is to come?

 

 

 

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What outcomes are you attracting?

Today was the day my Mum was scheduled to have complex spinal surgery. My plan was to drive the 159 miles to be with her. So at 9am I began packing the car and getting ready to leave. I then received a phone call from my brother asking me where I was.
“I’m still at home” I replied.
“Good,” he said. “Stay there. They’ve just cancelled the op.”
Over the course of the ensuing ten minutes I came to understand that the surgeon called a halt to the proceedings because the operating theatre had the wrong table in it.
I began to feel angry and sad, and confused. I heard the tears in Mum’s voice. She’d been terrified of this procedure, and to have it denied her in the eleventh hour was piling on the agony. She was even gowned up and had a line drawn on the skin of her back to mark the incision point.
Yet the surgeon refused to proceed with the wrong table in theatre. He explained that he was not prepared to risk it as he has to work within a tenth of a millimetere from a nerve that if damaged would result in paralysis.
In a quiet moment of reflection after I put down the phone I realised that everything is working out perfectly.
Through this aborted process Mum got to see how much care and attention was being paid to her.
For example, there were 6 people on the team for her op – plus the lead surgeon – and including one guy who’d driven 189 miles to be there. Mum was the only one on today’s roster. All these people had gathered just for her.
 And the fact that the surgeon was prepared to send everyone home and cancel the op rather than run the risk ought to offer Mum a good deal of reassurance about his conscientiousness and duty of care.
I then realised something quite bizarre:  that between us Mum and I managed to attract the cancellation. Through her fear and my resistance to her fear together we have conspired to co-create the eventuality of this operation not going ahead.
In other words, while she was harbouring mortal fears about the procedure, I was pressing for optimism, healing and mobility. We were pulling in opposite directions, and in the process managed to cancel out the op.
I am blown away. I am so grateful for this lesson. And I am also appreciating that Mum and I have another chance to prepare for this operation with less fear and resistance, and more trust and confidence.
Everything is working out perfectly.
In the light of this my reflections are that journaling can be a very powerful magnet for our lived experience. However we express ourselves in writing can play a part in how we shape our lives.
So if we frequently use our journals to rant words of anger and bitterness, then we reinforce angry and bitter experiences in our reality.
If we use our journals to write our appreciations and love letters, then we enhance our reality with loving and appreciative experiences.
In fact, whether we write it or not, our lived experience will be affected by how we feel.
And it’s important to know that there isn’t always a counterweight (my resistance to Mum’s fear) to neutralise our fear, anger or bitterness. Sometimes we create our own momentum, and whether it’s good or bad, positive or negative, the more we feel it, the more we attract it.
Pay attention to the outcomes you are attracting. And use your journal as a tool to reinforce the feelings that will create the outcomes you desire, rather than perpetuate those you don’t.

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Filed under Journal Writing, Law of Attraction

Be your own Valentine

It’s 1st February. The month of love. When spring is thinking about being sprung and kids everywhere anticipate padded red envelopes being left in their lockers and desks; while restaurants charge an arm and a leg for everything served with ‘a raspberry coulis’.

It can also be a time of anti-climax. The Valentine isn’t quite as heart-felt as you’d like; the service in the restaurant is a bit slow and the red rose a bit wilted.

Heart.jp

So this month try something radical. Instead of waiting for Mr or Ms Right to declare their undying love, do it for yourself. In your journal.

What if you wrote yourself a love letter, the way you want it to be? What if, every day in February, you sent yourself a billet doux, written by your own fair hand, in your journal.

Don’t be shy. Be loving and  kind. To yourself.

And while you’re at it, treat yourself to your very own signed copy of The Journal Writer’s Handbook, available here, while stocks last.

 

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Deepening conversations

Yesterday I had the privilege to attend a lecture given by poet-philosopher David Whyte at the Ashmolean Museum. I’ve been dimly aware of Whyte’s work for a number of years, but my interest intensified last April during a poetry retreat on Iona in the Scottish Hebrides.

Sure enough, and true to the Law of Attraction, having ignited my awareness, I then began ‘seeing’ David everywhere. When the ad popped up on my Facebook feed about the talk he was giving in Oxford I made my reservation immediately.

For three whole hours yesterday afternoon I was caught in a spell of contemplation and appreciation. Conversations are fundamentally the way we engage in the world, and with ourselves, so learning how to deepen them, and how to interrupt the same old narratives of our lives which don’t always serve us, was the most wonderful gift for a chilly Friday in January.

David’s new book is titled “A Timeless Way: The Art and Practice of Deepening Conversations”. Although not yet ready for publication he explained that it sets out six steps to effect change in our existing conversations – and hence in our experience.

Three hours was not enough to go through every step. But we were able to explore the power of just a couple of them – interspersed with and enhanced by David’s resonant, insistent poetry recitals and profound, amusing stories. It was a wonderful and nourishing experience.

The practice of conversing with ourselves is of course one which we undertake in our journals. However, the quality of the conversation we maintain may not always be of service to us. We all fall into the trap of repeating thoughts and beliefs which persuade us that we, and the world, are a certain way, denying ourselves the creative certainty of living a different kind of life.

David’s work gives us a template to shift and deepen our perceptions and our understanding, gently challenging us to consider what are the conversations we need to stop having, and what is our relationship to the unknown.

As I learned yesterday, turning our sincere attention to these questions for even a short time initiates a collective easing open of hearts and minds. The effect was both palpable and magical.

David Whyte’s Timeless Way

Sincere thanks to Paul and Marie of The Beyond Partnership for facilitating the event.

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Filed under Philosophy, Poetry, Reflection, review, Uncategorized

Half way point

2018 is half a month old – which means so is my resolution to be more mindful of what I eat and to look after myself better.

A couple of years ago I discovered the Whole30 approach to food and I gave it a whirl – 30 days of eliminating sugar, grains, gluten, alcohol, legumes and dairy from my diet. I ended up learning how to prepare fresh meat, seafood, vegetables and fruit in delicious ways. I pretty much gave up my dependence on bread, developed the taste for black coffee, got a huge energy boost and lost twenty pounds.

Then I got lazy again and undid all my good work.

SO since 2018 started on a Monday, which means that I can track the date and the plan simultaneously on the calendar without having to do any adding up, AND since I am eager again to experience the energy benefits, not to mention to fit into my clothes better, I was inspired to give whole30 another go this month.

And it’s going very very well.

whole30

I’ve just moved into Tiger Blood phase. Energy is high, I feel positive, optimistic, and hugely inspired.

And inspiration is key. I want to feel full of energy. I want to feel comfortable in my clothes. I love the feeling of mindfully planning my meals and shopping for fresh ingredients that will transform into delicious dinners. I’m excited about my tastes changing, becoming more satisfied by fresh flavours rather than anaesthetised by the Sugar Dragon.

Plus I love crossing the dates of the calendar. Once a journaling nerd, always a journaling nerd.

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