Shilly-Shallying, Stalking and Serendipity @RNATweets #amwriting #motivation #selfbelief

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Yesterday morning I cleared out my kitchen cupboards.

What a riveting topic for a blog post, Julie, I hear you all say. Why are you telling us? Well, bear with me, all will become clear.

Back in the summer I took a big decision and decided to close down my travel consultancy business to focus on training for a new career more related to publishing, and completing my first novel. People who have been following my blog this year will know that I made a commitment to myself to take my writing seriously this year by joining the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme (NWS), doing a writing retreat and getting the book finished and ready for submission. (If you are interested, you can read all about my resolution here.) I have made quite a lot of progress towards this goal, getting the first draft of the book done, attending a lot of RNA events, which have been hugely inspirational, having a ball on my writing retreat, and getting my manuscript critique back from my NWS reader, which should help me improve my manuscript during the editing.

Then I hit a roadblock. A mental one. I’ve started to doubt myself, my story, my abilities, in fact everything about my book and, as a result I am avoiding working on the edits. This is where the cupboard tidying comes in. I told myself I needed to do it before Christmas and today was the perfect time as they are quite empty before the big shop, but I’m lying to myself. It is a displacement activity to avoid having to look at my book. I’ve finished my Christmas shopping. Booked next year’s family holiday. Blogged like a maniac. Anything but write. Procrastination. Shilly-shallying of the highest order.

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The truth is, I have become afraid of my book. Or, more accurately, I am afraid of my lack of ability to do justice to my book. I don’t believe I am a good enough writer to get anything published. The story matters too much to me. The whole thing has become too big for me to face, so I’m running away from it. I’m afraid of failing. I am literally frozen with fear. So I’m doing nothing. ‘Tomorrow,’ I keep telling myself, ‘I’ll work on it tomorrow.” But you know what they say about tomorrow.

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Things have got worse this week because of the conference. What conference, I hear you ask? The conference currently being held at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida where all my old colleagues and friends from my travel consortium are currently gathered to celebrate and talk about the travel business. They are all together in one of my favourite places in the world, celebrating their successes….together. This is the first year I am not with them. Instead, I’m sitting alone at my desk, not working on the book I gave it up for.

So I’ve been torturing myself, following the conference hashtag on Twitter; stalking my old travel mates on Facebook; watching as they have a private, after-hours dinner in Diagon Alley with exclusive access to the Gringotts ride. Meeting Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. Singing karaoke on CityWalk. Sending me messages telling me they miss me and it’s not the same without me. And, for the first time, I’m starting question whether I’ve done the right thing after all.

But this is the fear talking.

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I have to keep reminding myself why I made the decision I did (and there were many good reasons and a lot of thought went in to it) and that I have the support of my family behind me. But I’m not very good at talking myself up. I am the Queen of Self -Doubt (that would make a good book title, wouldn’t it); the ultimate possessor of Imposter Syndrome; chronically lacking in confidence.

Then, yesterday, three things happened all together that made me stop and think and pull myself together. If you believe in serendipity, they all happened to guide me back on to my path and re-focus my determination on reaching my goal. Reminding me why I started this in the first place and that what I am experiencing is not unusual and I can’t let it stop me.

Firstly, one of my friends posted this video on Facebook:

There are a couple of messages in this piece of slam poetry that really spoke to me, mainly that I need to speak more kindly to myself, as I would to someone I love. Would I be so hard on another person, or would I be encouraging them to believe in themselves and follow their dreams? I need to be my own cheerleader.

Secondly, I found this website, just when I needed it and realised that I am not alone. Every writer feels how I feel and I just have to push through it. There is no reason why I can’t finish my novel. My feedback so far has been good. People have told me they like what I write. And one thing is for sure, I’ll never know unless I try.

Finally, a close writing friend of mine (I won’t out them, they can comment if they want to share) messaged me and told me they thought their writing was s***e and they weren’t sure they could finish their book and I inwardly smiled, before telling them all the things I truly believe about their abilities, but which I don’t seem to be able to tell myself. They were giving voice to all my fears about my own work and reminded me, I am not alone. There is a whole tribe out there in the same boat as I, who I can turn to for support and all the positive reinforcement I can’t give myself.

Why is it so easy to believe the bad things we tell ourselves and not the good? Why is it so easy to be kind to others but not ourselves?

So, I am now determined. I’m going to get this book finished and send it out into the big wide world to take its chances. Maybe I will never get published, but at least I’ll know. Because one thing is for sure, by failing to try, I am already failing, and that is not good enough. I don’t want to spend my days wondering, what if? Living with failure will be easier than living with regret.

If you need me, you can find me at my desk because I #amwriting.

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An Afternoon of Tea & Cake for the Soul with A Little Book Problem #bloggers #blogger #bloggerlove

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One of my favourite blogs to follow is Hazel Jackson’s wonderful, eclectic site Tea & Cake for the Soul. Hazel has a weekly feature where she chats to different people about the subjects that interest her and I was delighted to be invited to be one of those she is featuring.

Today is the day that I’m appearing as the guest on Hazel’s blog and you can check out our chat via this link: An Afternoon with Tea & Cake for the Soul with A Little Book Problem.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Hazel, it was great fun chatting to you and I hope there will be a return visit for Friday Night Drinks in the near future.

 

Wave of Light @BLA_Campaign @GBSSupport @Tommys_baby @SandsUK #WaveOfLight #BLAW2018 #breakingthesilence #babyloss

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Grief is a funny thing, it sneaks up on you when you least expect it. You might think it is the big days – the anniversaries, Christmas, birthdays – that are the worst. That is not the case for me. I am expecting those, I can prepare myself, brace myself, the sadness comes, but I’m prepared and its manageable.

It’s the other days that are worse. The ones where it takes me by surprise and, because I’m unprepared, my defences are down and it takes me over completely. It can be an innocuous thing that starts it; something on the TV, a throwaway comment, a magazine article. A song on the radio. Sometimes there is no discernible reason. On those days, the grief can engulf me and render me completely immobile.

Today is one of those days. I feel completely bereft today. Worse than last Wednesday, when it was his birthday. Today I am just in a corner, feeling lost. This is not the blog post I had planned today, but it is the one I am sharing because, it is on days like these that we need someone to reach out to, we need to know we are not alone.

I’m sharing again here my post from last week. Please read it and, on this last day of Baby Loss Awareness Week, please get involved. People like me need your help to live with our grief. Please visit the Baby Loss Awareness Week website to see how you can get involved. And tonight, during the Wave of Light at 7 pm, perhaps you can light a candle, along with people across the world, and remember those of us who have lost a child.

A Little Book Problem: Breaking The Silence

Breaking The Silence #BLAW2018 #babyloss #breakingthesilence #WaveOfLight #groupBStrep #GBSaware #Blogtober18

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Saturday is my youngest daughter’s eleventh birthday. She’s getting very excited, as eleven is the age at which her elder sister got a mobile phone, so she has certain expectations of her present. She is having six friends for a sleepover party on Friday night. There will be cake.

Today is my eldest child’s birthday. It is fifteen years today since he was born. He will not be having presents, or a party, or a cake, because his birthday also marks the day that he died.

Every year my son’s birthday falls within Baby Loss Awareness Week, which this year began yesterday. Normally, I just mark this on Facebook, but this year I can do something different. This year I have a platform. This year, I am giving my son the gift of raising awareness. It is time to talk about baby loss.

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People don’t like to talk about it, it is one of the last remaining taboo subjects. Those who have experienced it find it hard to talk about because it makes other people uncomfortable. They don’t know what to say, and any mention of the fact you have lost a child tends to bring a conversation to an awkward, stumbling halt. So we learn not to talk about it. We hug it to ourselves like a dirty little secret we can’t mention in polite company. A form of social leprosy, as if baby loss is something contagious. I doubt people realise what pain this causes. When people ask me how many children I have, I say two. Two – because if I say three, I have to explain why one of them is missing, and this makes people uncomfortable. So I deny the existence of my son. And I do it to protect other people from embarrassment.

People who haven’t experienced the loss of a child find it hard to talk about because they are afraid. They are afraid that they will remind us of our loss. They are afraid that they are going to be the one that causes us to relive the pain of that loss. They avoid the subject with the best of intentions, I know. It is a hard subject for everyone.

But I’ll let you in to a secret. If you mention my loss to me, you aren’t going to suddenly remind me of it. I haven’t forgotten. I haven’t forgotten about my son and the fact he died on the same day he was born. What you will do is remind me that you remember he existed. That you remember my pain and that you want to acknowledge it and share it with me. That you are there if I need you. I can’t tell you what a gift that is. It means everything.

And you aren’t going to be the one to cause me to relive that pain, because I carry it around with me always. I’m reminded of it every day in a hundred different ways. When I drive past the cemetery that holds my son’s grave. When I see how much my other children have grown and imagine how he would look now. When I watched last Tuesday’s series finale of Upstart Crow. And here is another secret I can reveal – I don’t want to forget that pain, because the pain goes hand in hand with the only memories I have of him, and they are all that is left. When you share that pain with me, you share my memories of my son, and they are precious.

My son’s grave bears a line from a poem by Margaret Postgate Cole called Praematuri:

“And so our memories are only hopes that came to nothing.”

This poem was written in memory of young men lost in the First World War, but its sentiments ring so profoundly with me. It talks about the loss of loved ones when you are young and all the years you have to live without them. I live every day with the loss of my baby. If you keep silent, trying to protect me, all that means is that I am left alone in my grief.

Well, I want to say now to anyone who has lost a child, you are not alone. There are people out there you can talk to. Let them know you need support, that you want to talk. Talk to your family and friends, talk to professionals. Talk to me. It’s been fifteen years and it still hurts, it always will. I understand. Don’t feel that you are alone in your grief.

For those of you who want to reach out, but don’t know how, you don’t need to say much, or make a big fuss. A ‘how are you doing?’, a hug, a text, a heart on Facebook, some flowers, a card, an invitation to coffee – a squeeze of the hand. Anything that means ‘I remember, I am here,’ is enough. A genuine sentiment of empathy, however inadequate it feels or awkwardly it is expressed, is much easier to accept, much less hurtful, than a back turned in embarrassment or discomfort.

When I lost my son, two people I had been close to for a long time cut off contact for a while after I told them. Later they both explained that they hadn’t known what to say, so they decided abandoning me was the right approach. Another friend phoned me as soon as she heard and when I couldn’t speak, simply sat and listened to me cry on the phone for twenty minutes. I’ll let you guess which of these friends I stayed close to.

So I’m appealing to all of you now, let’s break the silence about baby loss. This affects thousands of people every year across the UK and we need to raise awareness of the effects that such loss has on families and make sure that facilities and help are in place nationwide to support them through those worst of times. More needs to be done. We need to let them know they are not alone. There are lots of ways you can get involved. For more information on what you can do, please visit babyloss-awareness.org. Wear a pin, write a letter, join in the conversation on social media, join in the Wave of Light on Monday 15 October at 7 pm. But most importantly, reach out to someone. Break the silence. Do it in remembrance of all the babies we lost too soon. Do it in remembrance of my son.

And if you are someone who has been affected by what I have discussed here and you need help, please reach out. Don’t suffer in silence. Contact https://www.sands.org.uk for help and support.

“The Time Has Come,” the Walrus said … @gilbster1000 @RNAtweets @NaNoWriMo #Blogtober18

of-dodos-karma-free-software-in-the-library-3-728Hello and welcome to the first day of October! Anyone who has read my blog religiously (probably no one, but one never knows) will recall that this is my favourite time of year. I just love autumn and everything that goes with it. It is also a time of year that feels like a new beginning for me. Odd, I know, when this is traditionally the time of year when things begin to die off but it you read my post Hello, Autumn from last year, it will make a lot more sense.

In the spirit of new starts and new adventures beginning in the autumn, I have a few new projects on the go. I have recently taken the big decision to change careers and I am embarking on some training to take my career in a different direction which will lead to more involvement in the publishing world, I hope. I am, with some sadness, leaving behind the world of travel, but only in a career sense, and have more trips planned, both actually and in my dreams, but more of that to come. I am also pushing on with my own writing plans, eagerly awaiting feedback on my manuscript from the Romantic Novelists’ Associations’ New Writers’ Scheme so I can improve it, whilst also prepping for starting work on my second novel for NaNoWriMo.

I also have some new plans for the blog. Some of you may have noticed that the format of the blog has changed slightly over the past week – that’s right, pay attention at the back there! – and I have some new categories set up. Truth be told, I have found myself a little jaded over the past few weeks. I made the rookie book blogger mistake back in the spring of getting over-excited and taking on way too many blog tours. This all came to a head in September, when I was just so over-extended that I found myself really not enjoying my book reviewing, or reading constantly to a deadline. I got to the point where I felt like I had nothing original or interesting to say about the books I was reading and I was boring myself, so heaven knows what I was doing to you lot! My blog stopped being fun, which is the really the whole the point of the thing. I was suffering from the dreaded blogger burnout. So, I have made a couple of big decisions regarding the blog which I hope will shake it up and make it fun for me again, which in turn I hope will make it more fun for you to read.

Books will still be at the heart of the blog, because that is why I set up the blog in the first place and they are fairly central to my life. Also, I just love talking about them with other book lovers and helping to support and promote all the great authors out there. However, I have decided to cut back on the number of blog tours I am doing, limit them to one, or at most two per week and be really choosy about which ones I join. (I can hear Rachel Gilbey laughing like a drain as she reads this, given how rubbish I am about turning down her tempting tours. Rachel. I’m serious. I really mean it this time, cross my heart and hope to die!). This will hopefully give me time to read some of the other books I have on my TBR which I have been dying to read but have had no time on my schedule to get round to.

Along with the books, I am going to write about some other topics that interest me. Travel is a big one, both in the UK and overseas, as that is something I just love to do. I’d like to share more about my own writing journey and how that is progressing, and I am sure bits of stuff about my family life might creep in. I’ve also decided that, as i approach my fiftieth birthday, I’d like to draw up a bucket list of things I’d like to do and, what better place to explore this and keep a record than here?

I’ve decided to kick the new look blog off by taking part in Blogtober, with a new post every day on a mix of the new topics, starting with this as number one. So, I hope you will come along with me on my new journey and pop back each day this month to see what is happening, and maybe link me in to your blogs if you are doing Blogtober too. Hopefully we can learn a bit more about each other, outside of a mutual love of books. Maybe you lovely folks might have some comments or suggestions on the things I plan to do that will help me along the way. Feel free to chip in any time, I love to hear from you all.

Happy Blogtober then, to all my lovely followers and thank you for supporting my little blog. I really do appreciate you taking time to visit my tiny corner of the internet and interacting with my inane ramblings and I hope you will like where it is going.

 

 

 

What is Blogtober? What to Expect and How to Take Part

Excited to be featuring on Hazel’s excellent blog on 21 October as part of her Blogtober programme. If you haven’t checked out the lovely Tea and Cake for the Soul before, go and have a look, it is one of my favourite blogs to follow.

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Blogtober? I had never heard of it before but then this is the first year that I’ve really delved deeper into what blogging entails. Read on to find out what Blogtober is,  what you can expect to read here on Tea and Cake for the Soul over the coming month, and how to take part if you are a blog reader or a blogger.

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Would you like a quiet walk around the farm with us? Let’s see what wildlife we can spot…

As a child of the countryside, I love this post by Viola Bleu

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How cute are these baby pine cones? (I’m assuming that’s what they are – maybe you’re a flora and fauna expert and can confirm!)

New growth is simply everywhere; spring time is so full of promise, growth, a future. It’s difficult not to be affected by that positivity 🌸

Of course, crops follow a growing season too and here is your Sainsbury’s loaf of bread in its most basic form; a field of winter milling wheat…..

… being watched over by Man of the Woods’ dog, ‘Rock’. This border terrier cross Lakeland can be simultaneously cute and a real sod. He has to stay on a lead because if he smells a rabbit, rat or hare, he’s off at very high speed with no return-radar until his need to chase has been fulfilled. That’s terriers for you 🙈

I was serious about the Sainsbury’s thing. The next time you…

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