A life well lived

I have many ‘favourite’ moments of the day, but somewhere near the top is the feeling I have when I climb into bed each night. There’s a weariness to my bones, but also a deep sense of appreciation for a life well-lived and enjoyed. I am so grateful, as I sink down beneath the covers, for the day I’ve had.

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It’s so easy in our give-me, give-me, give-me culture to take things for granted: the roof over our head, the relative luxury we live in, clean running water, electricity, community, an abundance of foods, reliable infrastructure, medical care, and so on. We have it all, and yet, how many people moan about this and that?

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A simple practice which can change the way you see your life is to write down five things each day for which you are grateful. Even on a bad-hair day, there are always things for which to give thanks. When it’s a daily habit, you find yourself writing down 20 or more things.

Try it!

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The Barefoot Writer

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front lately. The funny thing about writing is that I love doing it. It’s not a hardship. Some writers find it a painful process, and equate it to traumatic, medicated childbirth. I don’t struggle to put the word on the page. I never have. It’s interesting, too, that I believe birth was designed to be gentle, ecstatic and joyous ~ much like writing.

Seconds after giving birth at home, by candlelight and Mozart, to my daughter Bethany.

Seconds after giving birth at home, by candlelight and Mozart, to my daughter Bethany.

 

My blog tends to get neglected because I’m too busy writing elsewhere. I’m going to put up post-it notes in my writing room: “tend to your blog, Veronika, like you do your house plants!” I’m feeling so inspired as we take our first steps into this Cumbrian Spring. My garden is filled with blossoms: pear, peach, plum, cherry, and soon there’ll be apple blossoms, too. I’m never happier than when my hands are in the dark, fertile soil, and the sunshine falls across my skin.

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Although the vast majority of my writing is done directly on the laptop, and often before sunrise, I do love to take a pen and notebook into the garden and write there. With my bare feet nestled amongst the lawn daisies, against the soundtrack of beautiful birdsong, my muse comes alive and my heart sings. The beauty of writing, for me, is that it can be done anywhere, just about any time. I have often written while waiting for my daughters outside their music lessons, or in the gym café after a workout. Sometimes I’ve woken in the night and scribbled a few lines down in the dark.

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I always have pen and paper in my handbag. For me, not having a pen and paper is right up there with my fear of snakes! *laughing*

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I remember once asking a friend to write something for me (when I was editing The Mother magazine). Her hands were busy with little children, but I knew there was an article inside her just waiting to be written: write it on toilet paper when you go to the loo, I told her. Just write! She did end up writing articles for me, not on loo paper, but on old bits of paper and the backs of shopping lists. She kept them all tied together with a bull clip.

And that’s the key. Too often we make excuses about writing. How many people have said they’ve got a novel inside them? Don’t just talk about it, write the thing! The truth is if we want to write we will make it happen. In my case, I wrote six novels in the course of one year. Five of those were while I was editing a magazine, and for half that time I had home-educated teenagers. When did I write? Between about 4am and 8am. I wrote like a mad woman, not because I was ‘mad’, and certainly not because I’m a ‘morning person’; I wrote because the fire burned brightly in my belly. I wanted to write, and so I did.

If you want to write, you’ll find a way. You might choose to go barefoot, or perhaps you’ll wear 6-inch red heels and sip a cappuccino in a fancy café while you’re jotting down sentences. If scribbling important thoughts on loo paper isn’t your thing, try parchment and a fountain pen.

The only person who ever stops us from being a writer is ourselves.

Did you ever watch the movie Field of Dreams? If there’s anything to remember from that film, it’s this: build it, and they will come. And I say: write it, and they will read it.

The Writer’s Campfire

I have fond memories of sitting around campfires. Sipping tea beneath the starry sky and chatting with friends, a full Moon rising beyond the pine trees, and the smell of wood smoke clinging to my clothes while the fire crackles and pops before me ~ ah, there’s nothing quite like it.

 

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A campfire draws us in, holds us close, mesmerises us. The primordial knowing of the ancient fire touches our soul. We relax into our true selves.

Writers have campfires, too. The people they share that sacred space with are almost certainly friends and family, and sometimes colleagues in the profession. A campfire invites intimacy as we share our deepest longings, but for a writer it can be a nervy place: how much to share, how much to hold back… That is, until we understand that our fellow campers around the circle of the campfire are vital witnesses to our creative journey. Only invite people to your campfire who honour the creative journey.

Do we share plot lines of unpublished stories? With whom do we celebrate when that five-book publishing deal comes along? Or, indeed, when we self-publish (the ultimate statement of self-belief), to whom do we give free copies?

For those of you who have read The Artist’s Way, you’ll understand the concept of the ‘blocked creative’. These are people in our lives who aren’t expressing their own creativity (for whatever reason) and because of this unowned potential they tend to criticise our creative projects and triumphs. Maybe they don’t outwardly criticise. Perhaps they simply hold back on offering congratulations or try and dim your light in other ways. Maybe they express outright jealousy. Whatever the case may be, it is important that blocked creatives are not sitting around your campfire. These people don’t nourish the soul, they tar it with their own brand of self-hate and sabotage.

As a writer, it is important that the people you surround yourself with are great supporters of your creativity. They may not relate to your genre, but that’s not the issue. What is vital is that they honour the light you shine, and reflect it to you so that you can shine and bask. We were all born to be creative, in some form or another.

I have a small circle of creative women around my campfire; some are writers, some are singer/songwriters, others are illustrators, some of them knit, garden, bake, dance. What they all have in common is that they let their creative light shine. We support each other with authentic celebration.

You’ll keep the campfire of your creativity burning so much brighter when you make conscious choices about who gets to share the damper with you!

 

Illustrated by Sara Simon, from The Mystic Cookfire

Illustrated by Sara Simon, from The Mystic Cookfire