Life · milestones

Twenty-Six

Tomorrow is my 26th Birthday.

For the last six years I have been posting on this blog, the day before my birthday, reflecting on the year that has passed. In the 365 days that have flown by since my last post, a lot in my life has changed.

In my post ’25’, I was nearly at the end of my teacher training and I was celebrating that I had secured a permanent teaching job in a primary school. I claimed in that post, that training to become a primary school teacher was the best decision I have ever made. A year later, I think leaving the profession was the best decision I have ever made.

In the year that has passed, there have been highs and lows. Life lessons and life-changing moments. In the eight months of my short teaching career, I learned an important life lesson about what I value most in my life. I spent a long time focusing on the wrong things, I allowed stress to consume my life, it reached a point where I didn’t recognise myself any more. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was neglecting my health, physically and mentally and as a result, I experienced a mental breakdown. It’s only when I hit rock bottom that I gained the perspective I really needed.

Losing family members this year has also made me come to terms with the fact that nothing in life is permanent. I was under the illusion that many young people are, that we have nothing but time. But the inevitable reality is, we don’t know how much time we actually have to live this life. This realisation woke me up. It dawned on me that for the last few years of my life I have been asleep. Going through the motions of my life, a victim of ‘destination happiness’, I was lost and uncertain about where I was going and what I was searching to find. Something had to change.

I gave myself the time to make this change. When I left my job, I knew that I needed to give myself some time to heal, some time to get back to my old self again. I needed to do things that I enjoyed doing, time to be still, to be in the present moment. During this time for myself, I have found a healthy life balance again. I started taking care of myself by eating healthier, practising yoga and meditation, being creative and expressing gratitude for the wonderful things in my life.

Now, as I enter the twenty-sixth year of my life, I feel fulfilled. I have realised that everything I need is already within me. I am learning to let go of my need to control the future by embracing the present moment with gratitude. I am learning to be still and listen to what I need rather than chase what I think I want. I am learning to take each day as it comes and enjoy every new chapter I am blessed with in my life.

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Experience

Cross-Stitch To Calm

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Two months ago, I decided to start doing a craft. I’ve always wanted to cross-stitching, so I bought myself a sewing box, a selection of threads and material, I was ready to get started. For someone who hasn’t done cross-stitching before, I found it a little overwhelming. The patterns I found were too complicated and I didn’t know the difference between a cross stitch and a back stitch.

That was when I found a brilliant book for beginners. Cross-stitch to Calm by Leah Lintz. The simple designs and easy instructions allowed me to start stitching straight away. It took me a few weeks, and I completed my first cross-stitch picture of a sun. Something I had discovered from the experience of cross-stitching was not only the sense of achievement I had when I completed a picture, but the calm that rushed over me when I was doing it.

There were two reasons that I wanted to start cross-stitching, one because my Nanna was a seamstress and made clothes. It inspired me to learn how to sew and cross-stitching was a good first step towards this. The second reason I took up cross-stitching was due to an article I read about the positive benefits of doing a craft. The article explored the link between spending some time doing an activity such as cross-stitching improved mental health. The repetitive action of stitching decreases stress levels and can have a positive effect on those suffering with anxiety and depression.

After starting the craft myself, I found myself agreeing with everything I read. Not only did I find myself sitting for hours, concentrating on each stitch and losing myself in creating a picture, personally, I felt a similar transcendence doing cross-stitching that I do whilst meditating, it’s that powerful. We live in a fast-paced world and sometimes, we think that we are resting when we’re watching TV with our feet up after a long, hard day, the honest truth is… we are not switching off. Doing any type of craft, a few times a week can have some amazing advantages on our overall health and wellbeing. Give it a try!

Writer's Life · Writerly Musings

NANOWRIMO 2018

TBWD NANOWRIMO

I think you have to be a special kind of crazy to attempt NaNoWriMo during your first year of teaching. Well, I think I might just be the right amount of crazy to attempt it.

I completed NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2014. I wrote 50,000 words in one month. I wrote my first adult novel and it was a great achievement. I wanted to prove to myself that I could complete a longer piece of writing, as I was used to writing poetry and short stories. Over the last few years, I stopped writing. Life happened and I stopped putting pen to paper. The ideas were always there but my motivation to actually write them disappeared.

This year, I have started to slowly put pen to paper and write again. I have had an idea for a children’s book for a little while now and I’ve decided to use National Novel Writing Month to begin writing it. I am not going to give myself a target of  50,000 words. With my crazy teaching schedule, it wouldn’t be achievable. Instead, I’m going to give myself a more manageable goal of 5,000 words. Although, I would be amazingly happy if I even reached 1,000! The whole idea is for me to START writing this children’s novel. No pressure. Just a chance to fall in love with writing again.

Writer's Life

For The Love Of Writing.

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Today I wrote a short story, for fun! This may sound like a simple task for a writer, as writer’s write, right? Well, I did write A LOT once upon a time. I had notebooks full of ideas, I had motivation to put pen to paper and I really enjoyed the craft of writing fiction and poetry. I did a three year degree in creative writing because I loved it so much. I completed an adult novel a few years ago (it now sits in the bottom of my desk drawer). I was moving onto writing a children’s novel when, well, life happened.

I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with my writing muse over the past couple of years. It wasn’t a writer’s block that stopped my flow of ideas and writing, but a life block. A lot of circumstances in my life should have pushed me towards writing but instead, it pushed me further away from it. Writing was at the bottom of my priority list and I didn’t realise the negative effect of doing so. Writing is a big part of who I am and by not doing it to freely express my thoughts and ideas, I was losing a piece of myself. Over time, I could feel the idea of me being a writer and writing becoming a memory, a version of myself that I could never get back.

Last week, I was in Cardiff with my partner, when I came across The Writer’s Toolbox in Waterstones. I had seen it previously and never bought it, but something was pulling me towards it. With the help of The Writer’s Toolkit, Best Writing Prompts Daily Facebook page and reading some of my old writing (to remind myself that I’m not terrible). I was inspired enough to write something today. The ideas are there. They never disappeared. It was my inner critic, the confidence in myself that I was a great writer and I had something to say that stopped. For some reason, one day, I just started to question if my writing was any good. This nagging self-doubt stopped me from actually writing. It caused me to stop doing what I loved. I don’t want it to happen again.

I shouldn’t care if my writing is any good or even if it has an audience. I just need to get back to the reason why I started writing to begin with. I need to find the joy in writing again and today I accomplished that. I’m starting my NQT year in a few weeks. Which is the first year of primary teaching. I’ll have my own class, a lot of responsibility, a lot of challenges ahead.

But I need to make time for my writing. Writing fiction or poetry for me is an escape. Such as reading a book, playing a video game or even doing a jigsaw puzzle is for others. I love to lose myself in a fictional world that I create. I love to take my feelings and emotions and turn it into a beautiful poem. This will not be a fluke. I will make sure that for the love of writing, I continue to make time for it.  I must, I am a writer after all and that’s what writer’s do…. WRITE!

 

Writer's Life

Writer’s Block Or Life Block?

typewriterrrr.jpgI was reading Writing Magazine a few days ago and came across an article about writer’s block. It’s something I have always struggled with. I go through phases of no writing at all and I always blame it on writer’s block, I either have too many ideas and can’t seem to pick one or unfortunately, sometimes, I have no ideas at all.

I’m sure all writer’s can relate to this, the ongoing struggle to get the beautiful poetic voice in your head to somehow find its way to the page, to find the right words and put them in the right order and to finally turn an idea into an actual story. However, I’m starting to realize, after reading this article mainly, that it may not be writer’s block.

Every writer has their ‘perfect mood’ to write. Some wait until the world is falling apart around them to finally get a poem on the page and some have to be in a happy state of mind to even consider putting pen to paper. I am the latter. I’ve been through a lot of personal struggles and during this time, I haven’t been writing. Now I feel I am moving away from the shadows and finally feel myself again, I want to write.

Strange isn’t it? Maybe I was intentionally choosing to let life block my writing muse? The events of my life were forcing me to ignore the writer in me. I was so focused on just getting through each day and understand the range of emotions I was feeling. I was failing to do the one thing that helps me get through almost anything and that is to write about it.

I feel like my ongoing battle with depression and anxiety has not only killed my happiness, but my confidence too. I had no belief in myself that I could write anything good, so I didn’t write at all. Silly really. I shouldn’t care if my writing is good or not, I should do it because it’s what I love to do. Only now that I am on the other side of a long, dark tunnel, do I actually see what I have been doing all of this time.

Now, I don’t know if this feeling of being myself will last. So I’m going to make the most of it. My typewriter is sitting on my desk, waiting for me to carve words from my mind and piece together something beautiful. I’m going to do what I do best, I’m going to write and no amount of self-doubt is going to stop me, not this time!

Writer's Life

Breathing New Life Into An Old Story…

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In 2014, when I was studying Creative Writing at university, I decided to take part in something called NaNoWriMo. A writing task to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Despite my lack of belief in myself, I managed to do it. I spent a few weeks beforehand writing a plan, I had detailed questionnaires on all of my characters, I was ready to go. I celebrated when I reached the word count. I actually completed a novel! Yay me!

Then, I left the story alone. It sat on my USB for two years, yes you heard right, TWO YEARS! I guess I didn’t have much faith in my story, I thought it was rubbish and didn’t want to read it ever again. Until one day. I don’t know what pushed me to do it but I decided to read my story to myself. As I scrolled through the pages, I realised it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. Although my inner editor had already started to rewrite the story in my head, I saw a few moments in the story that had true potential.

I printed off my manuscript and took out a red pen. I highlighted sentences that worked, crossed out sections that didn’t and scanned the manuscript for inconsistencies and spelling mistakes. I’m still in the process of editing the novel but once I’m done, I’m going to start my second draft of 1:58. I’m breathing new life into an old story and I couldn’t be happier about it 🙂

 

 

 

Writer's Life

The Muse & Me

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Credit: Oprah.com

I’ve always had a turbulent relationship with my writing muse. I’ve been struggling with writer’s block for two years. After graduating with my degree in Creative Writing, I decided to give my writing brain a rest. I had spent the past three years juggling poetry, stories, scripts and essays in my mind, so I simply stopped. The problem was, I didn’t know how to get started again.

I’ve made so many attempts over the past two years to get into the habit of writing regularly. After a while, I realised that forcing myself to write was only decreasing my enjoyment for it and I should just let go and wait for my muse to return when I was ready.

Well, now I’m ready. I woke up one morning with an idea burning at the front of my mind. I couldn’t get to my notebook quick enough! I thought it was a fluke, but a few days later, I started writing in my pink journal, which is a mixture of poetry, story ideas and random thoughts that inspire me.

The ideas started to pour out of me effortlessly. When I didn’t think too much about when I would start writing again, my mind was clear enough to allow ideas to develop. I have a large stack of Writing magazines to read and without even thinking about it, I have started to make my way through them. I’ve also decided to print off the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2014 and edit it. I am reading and writing again and I couldn’t be happier.

There’s a small part of me that has been missing for the last two years. I am a writer and although I have been occupying my mind with other things, getting a job, relationships, family, friends, starting my own magazine and discovering my love for teaching, I feel whole again now that I’m writing stories and coming up with new ideas.

When my writing brain is active, I feel like a child again. I cast my mind back to the excited little girl, sticking out her tongue as she scribbled stories in Woolworths notebooks and I smile. Not a lot has changed. I’m all grown up now but the burning desire to create stories is still very much a big part of who I am. I allowed ‘real life’ to grab my attention for a while, but now that I am in a place of contentment, I am ready to make room for writing again.

Writer's Life

A Story To Tell

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It’s been a long time since I had a story to tell. Writing stories and poems has always been a big part of my life but over the past two years, I’ve been doing it less. I would only feel inspired in small doses and I felt like I didn’t have the confidence to write well any more.

Today I woke up and decided to finally get an idea on paper that has been brewing in my mind for the past couple of months and it felt good. It’s a novel, in the planning stages but at least it’s something. I’ve decided to stop putting pressure on myself with my writing. Instead of giving myself deadlines and expecting too much, I’m just going to write, for fun, like I used to.

I’ve never lost my passion for writing, just my motivation to do it. If I only write my novel when I want to instead of when I feel I have to, I will probably start to enjoy the process again. In time I will get my confidence back and writing will become a daily part of my life again. No matter how much I write, I will always call myself a writer because I believe that writing is not a profession, it’s a lifestyle.

The amazing thing about writing is there is the freedom it brings me. There is no right or wrong, no rules on how something should be. I feel something strongly and I write about it. I create a character in my mind and write their story. I love to explore the beauty and tragedy of life, the questions I want to answer, the places I want to go through my writing.

I’m excited by my latest idea, I have a good feeling that this could be the story I want to tell but if it isn’t then that’s okay, there is plenty of time for me to try different stories and to grow and learn as a writer.