Lazy days + annual leave = …v little!

Another quiet week from me. Sorry, I really must get into a regular blogging habit – it’s just hard when there’s so many other things to think about on this writing journey. I intend to do better…we will see how long this lasts. I quite like the idea of using Sundays as an update day, if I have failed to contribute anything during the week…what do you think?

It’s been my husband’s first week of summer annual leave, which I expect has contributed to my rather lazy approach to work! I did manage to almost complete Behind the Cave Wall – the companion ebook to my novel – and have only the final few bits and pieces to do on it, so if you’re a member of readers’ club, look out for it in your inbox next week (hopefully…). See there’s an element of hope in so much of my work atm – I blame the summer.

Speaking of the warm weather, the heatwave from last week thankfully cleared up and we had several quite miserable days (for which the garden rejoiced) followed by more clement and sunny ones. We are making the most of being able to go for walks and enjoying the glorious countryside in Norfolk.

I have so far done very little writing, but I do have my next MC’s name and I am making an about-turn and setting “From the Hammer’s Fall: An Iron Age Story”, at a known Iron Age hillfort in N Norfolk. It will be fun being able to visit and map out the story in situ.

Last night we sat outside until late. The chiminea was blazing away and I found myself staring into the depths of the fire, marvelling at how the discovery of how to control this force of nature, had such an impact on human growth and development right from the beginning. It’s interesting that through charting the societal story I will also be looking at how we have used and adapted technology – taking that fire and learning about its properties of energy to go from simple tool creation right the way through to industrialisation and modern scientific discoveries.

Yes this is the sort of thing that goes through my mind…!

This post has little actual substance but there we go!

How has your week been?

What WIPs are on your mind?

Am I the only one who has these philosophical/historical/societal reflections at odd moments? Maybe I should write them down more often!?

What I have learned this year…

Last night, I went to my writing group which is made up of teachers from across the region. It is run by a former lecturer/tutor on the course, who is undeniably passionate about writing and in particular, writing for pleasure.

One of the exercises that we did was to reflect on this past academic year (with being a group of teachers, this was our last session). She asked us to consider what we had learned in regards to writing and what we had learned in regards to teaching writing. With my status as ‘former teacher’ I was unsure how to proceed with this latter question and so focused on the ways I have grown as a writer in general, not just within the sessions. After all, my profession may no longer be within the day-to-day education of children, but I feel that the best writers are those whom we can model ourselves after.

And so to my list. It isn’t long or particularly innovative. It is purely a self-reflection on how far I have come since I first sat down at my computer screen and introduced myself to Osha et al.

This year I have learned…

To write without inhibition.

The joy of interesting language.

To respond to what’s around me and be inspired by the mundane.

To view things differently.

To enjoy the writing process not just the results.

The power of good writing.

That less is often more.

To make mistakes, change, write again, change, try a different way, change, before maybe being satisfied???

Punctuation can come last.

To be a writer/author who taught as opposed to a former teacher who writes.

The last one feels particularly of note.

That day, 18 months ago, that I chose to begin my story, and saw in my mind’s eye the little girl staring in awe at a cave painting, I thought of myself as a teacher who had left the profession and was going to write. The difference is subtle but it’s an important one. I am an author and I was a teacher. Both feed off one another and I can draw on skills and ideas which I used in the classroom, but they are two separate spheres. When I go into schools it is as an author not as a teacher; my passion is books, reading, writing, language, plot, character, dialogue and all the rest, as opposed to education and teaching.

Thinking about this year, I can see this big difference in the “pruning” that I gladly did of my book. Ironically, it was the removal of those aspects of writing that we teach children (…thanks Mr Gove!…) that helped the flow and brought the book to life. I let go of the feeling of rigidity of ‘writing to teach’ and instead allowed myself to write a plot which children would respond to. That was the key.

I really hope that a child (or several) will read my book(s) and enjoy them. Yes they can learn historical ‘facts’ and draw lessons from them, but that is not the focus as it once was. Writing Osha, I fell in love with her as a character not as a literary device. She is real to me, as I hope she will be for others and these are lessons that I can take forward as I embark on the next one.

…I just hope it doesn’t take 18 months this time!…

What have you learned this year?

Is there a difference in your writing now than previously?

Comment, like, share. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Facing Fears

I’ve used it before…but it’s a cat on a diving board…

When I first conceived of the idea of writing a curriculum-supporting children’s novel, I has recently left the education world behind me. Making that decision to walk away from my single greatest focus and passion was gut-wrenching at the time, but I do not regret it for one second. Many people still ask me whether I will ever go back to teaching and I categorically reply, “No. Nope. No way.” The education system in Britain chewed me up again and again, that when I was eventually spat out, I was a nervous gibbering wreck who did not know where she was or what day it was – nightmarish! Surviving in the current environment takes a strength of will and character that I just can’t/couldn’t match up to. My admiration for former colleagues and anyone who teaches (many of whom struggle on with mental health issues in tow) is immeasurable. Anyone who has not had to endure teaching in the last ten or so years has no concept of understanding what they face.

Anyway, this post isn’t meant to be a soapbox rant.

Walking away from something which you have wanted for half your life and fought to achieve for ten years or more, is the most daunting thing in the world. Which was why my having a new focus and passion was (and still is) so important to me. I thrive on challenge and set exceedingly high expectations for myself (the major reason that everything spiraled away from me). A big part of my mental health journey over this last year has been to work on reducing those expectations to more manageable and realistic levels. On the whole, I feel I have achieved this and the strategies I have developed have helped me to manage many of my anxieties associated with “failure” and certainly my association of those failures with my self-worth.

This morning I was reflecting on my mood and I recognised that I am feeling many of the same emotions that I did before. Taking the decision to self-publish and everything that goes with that, means facing the concept of failure on a large, public scale once again. In wanting you, my dear readers, to love Osha and her family as much as I do and enjoy the world that I have created from the historical sources, I am very much placing myself in a position of potential disappointment and failure. Looking at it, there are two worst-case failing scenarios:

  1. No one buys the book.
  2. People buy it and hate it.

Now there are pros and cons to both. With the first scenario – I lose nothing but my time and energy. I will be immensely disappointed but also recognise the realities of these things – self publishing is easy, it’s getting sales that is hard. With the second – I face the criticism and negativity of people which I have also found difficult, but at least people bought it! The reality is that some will like it, some will not like it and some will not buy it…that’s the way things are.

The biggest thing about this whole process is that no one will get to read it if I never publish it. So there we go it all comes down to that old adage: You don’t know unless you try. The most important thing is that I face those fears, those anxieties, those negative thoughts and put them to the test.

…I now have the Pokemon cartoon theme tune in my head…!

…My brain works in strange ways…

The deep end

Having made this decision to self-publish, I am now having to confront my near-crippling fears that I’m not good enough. We all have anxiety (particularly when facing the unknown) but somehow I have managed to convince myself it’s a good idea to throw myself into the deep end and…I have just never been ANY good at diving!

Consequently, I am standing at the edge with the dark abyss in front of me and I wish I could see the bottom. That is always the worst thing for me. Looking down and being unable to see where the journey will end. The greatest fear is not that I will hit the water, but that somehow, like a still from a Warner Bros cartoon, I will land smack on the concrete at the edge and…well I guess you know how that would end…

At this point in time, I am just about climbing the ladder to the diving board. I can’t see the pool, (which is a good thing) but I know it is there…waiting for me.

So that is where I am this week…