Categories
creativity kindness

Feeling Uncreative

Taken in my own garden in North Wales of my little old cat Damson. Taken by myself Diane Woodrow
My cat in my backyard – June 2022

What do you do when you’re feeling uncreative?

I’ve got loads of books on my shelves on the subject. I’ve got loads of emails filed away. I’ve even got my own prompts I could work with. But when I’m feeling uncreative I “can’t be bothered”.

I’m wondering now if this post should be called “Can’t be bothered” because I was pondering writing this when I bumped into a dog walking acquaintance who started the conversation off saying about wanting to be motivated but ended it with “I know but I can’t be bothered.”

It seems to be a thing with lots of us at the moment – “can’t be bothered”. Is it covid, lockdowns, change, anxieties of this shifting world, getting older, or something else?

Sometimes it doesn’t matter what it is it is just an “is”. I don’t know why I’m feeling uncreative but I just am. It could be that I am feed up for not having any freelancing work to do, but lots in the pipeline – which really isn’t much help. It could be that the novel I’ve been plodding on with 1000 words a day has suddenly become a chore. And actually when I read back through it this isn’t just me being negative but I have lost all the depth of intrigue that I had in those beginning 10-20,000 words. It has gone stale and is starting to look like I’m just rushing to the end.

But actually I do do something when I am feeling uncreative and “can’t be bothered.”

I am kind to myself. I let myself be – not in that negative way but in a way that says “this is how I feel at the moment. It won’t last forever.” So the other morning I sat in the backyard with my book and enjoyed the cat looking at the flowers. Today I took myself for a long walk and coffee not for the benefit of finding something creative to write about but just to let the wind blow through my hair. I accepted that this is where I am at this moment in time. And as a friend used to say “These things will pass”.

By being kind to myself hopefully these feelings will pass, hopefully in a couple of days I’ll be able to look at my story again, in a bit I’ll be able to do more than read and play solitaire.

So my advise to anyone whether it is just a feeling of “mmuuuggghhh” or something deeper than this – be kind to yourself, accept this is how you are at this moment in time and know that “these things will pass”. Also don’t be afraid to tell others whether it is by talking or writing. As the old saying goes “a problem shared is a problem halved” and I think that doesn’t mean the person you tell has to help you sort it out but it is just about being open and honest about how you are at this moment in time.

Be bold, be brave and be honest.

Categories
Book Review Remembering

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

I read a lot but don’t often do book reviews. My local library tries to encourage me but I don’t. Some of the reason for that is that I got into a “doing mentality” with reading. I did the “Read 100 books in a year” and was posting them on Instagram. But it became a task. It also meant I did not want to review them as I didn’t have time as I needed to be reading the next book to get to my 100. Or with me to read more than my 100. Always have to pass the goal!!!

But now I’m just reading to enjoy. Some books too I don’t even try to finish. If they aren’t holding me then they can go. It is releasing.

This book The Sentence by Louise Erdrich though really affected me so I wrote a review for my local library which is here

But it is the last page I am holding with me where Tookie says

Together we straggled through a year that sometimes seemed like the beginning of the end. A slow tornado. I want to forget this year, but I’m also afraid I won’t remember this year. I want this now to be the now where we save our place, your place, on earth. Ghost bring elegies and epitaphs but also signs and wonders. What comes next? ….

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich page 374

To me in the reading of this book this is what I felt – that I have tried to forget 2020 and fears and anxieties. I had forgotten the #blacklivesmatters. Things move on. I have forgotten. Do I want to remember? Yes because if I forget the bad, sad and mad then I also forget the good, the miracles, the wonders. And to remember one I do have to remember the other.

And I would love all that has happened and is happening – the pandemic, the wild fires, increasing climate changes, the Ukrainian war, the impending economic crisis, the backward steps in Western governments, the continuing racism, etc – for this to be the “the now where we save our place on the earth.”

Categories
holidays Remembering

Remember All Things Can Change

Photographed by Diane Woodrow on her 61st birthday
Isle of Kerrera 2nd May 2022 taken by myself

We’ve just been away on a week’s holiday up in Scotland which is why I haven’t posted for a bit. It was lovely to hang out together, walk, talk, eat, drink and just be. One day my husband went off up a mountain and the dog and I stayed back at the cottage, did a couple of little walks and I wrote. The reason for going away this last week was that it was my birthday.

Birthdays are great times of remembering, of noticing the changes, of connecting. Last year on my birthday we were sat on a more touristy beach in mid-Wales watching jet skiers buzzing about and listening to children asking for ice creams. This year we were sat on top of a hill looking out to sea. It was peaceful but I’m sure when the castle was built there it saw its fair share of noise and mayhem. And then two years ago we were trapped in our house on lockdown enjoying the back garden and quiet of our town as next to nothing was driving about. How things have changed in these last couple of years. Now our town is back to its normal noisy self.

It got me to reflecting on seasons. So for now this castle of the Isle of Kerrera is a peaceful walkers destination, but once it was the site of a major battle towards the end of the Jacobite wars. But even before then it would have been a home not just of a nuclear family but to the entourage that goes with castles.

We also visited Hadrian’s Wall which is now a peaceful deserted haven for walkers, but I do wonder what it was like 2000 years ago when it was filled with Roman soldiers defending the borders of the empire.

Photographed by Diane Woodrow
Part of Hadrian’s Wall at Millcastle photographed by myself 7th May 2022

So from looking back on 3 years of birthdays to 600 years of Scottish history to nearly 2000 years to the Roman Empire it got me to thinking how we hold so tightly to the now as being the full reality.

And I know in mindfulness we are encouraged to be in the present and not to worry about the past or the future, but sometimes I think it helps to know that this present we stand in is not how it always has been or how it will always be.

There was much talk about yesterday – 9th May – Europe Day – which marked not only the end of the Second World War but also Schumman’s speech which led to the founding of the European Union. The world has not stood still over the last 75+ years. And as we see war in Europe again with the Russian invasion I think it would help to see that, awful though this is, it is just a phase that history is going through and hold it lightly. Who knows what things will look like in a year, in two, in ten, in twenty, in a hundred?

I’m sure those standing guard on Hadrian’s Wall or in the castle on the Isle of Kerrera when it was being besieged would ever have imagined their land being a place of tranquility but it is. I’m sure at the time they prayed for peace and now it has come.

So let us pray for peace in our world and know that one day it will come.

Categories
Prompts writing

Everyday Words – 1st and 2nd April

photo of Renly and Damon together taken by Diane Woodrow
My dog after his walk this morning

These prompts from Sarah of Everyday Words are so wonderfully thought out and well worth the £1 per day I am spending on them. She has really thought this through. I’ve tried other prompts before but they have seemed dull in comparison.

For one who would have thought of suggesting that one gather all those poems one likes into one special place – making one’s own anthology!!! I always love it when someone suggests something that is so obvious but does it in a way you don’t feel daft for not having thought of it first.

So here is my work from 1st April. It was looking at poem but one of the prompts was to think about the author of this poem which led me to writing about “Anon of Canadian Good Housekeeping” and of what could happen when our false pride gets in the way. “Anon of Canadian Good Housekeeping

Then Saturday 2nd April’s prompt came from a poem by Clare Best called Drive time  for Freddie, about how far the school run with her son was if they just kept going. It caused me to have a couple of days pondering my twice daily dog walks and how far they were in total. I think in lockdown my daughter and I worked out the dog and I dig 1200-1500 miles a year. So that gets us to roughly Australia. Here’s the piece about it – Walk Eat Repeat – not poem, not prose but could almost be described as prose poetry, maybe.

Now to get on and do yesterday’s and today’s. Though as I’ve learned with the 2nd’s prompt, it took time to percolate and see where it was going.

Categories
different remember

Nostalgia

Photo of Porth Padrig graveyard taken by Diane Woodrow of Barefoot At The Kitchen Table
churchyard at Porth Padrig, Anglesey taken by myself Jan 2022

Living in a county crammed with history it is easy to get nostalgic for a past era. In fact my daughter and I were messaging last night and were saying that we missed lockdowns, though at the time when I look at my diary entries no one enjoyed them at all. But we can look back and miss those quiet times with nothing to do – even though we were chomping at the bit to get and do things.

In 2018 I did some work with a local high school based around WWI and was amazed how we sanitised it and looked at it as a time when people banded together to help each, of heroism, of being united. We are distanced from the death and horror by 100 years.

I wonder with all that is going on, and has been going on over the last few years – Brexit, pandemic and now the Russia/Ukrainian war – how history will view it. One cannot even guess because we are living through it.

But even things that we lived through, like lockdowns, we look back on in a different light.

So I think this means we need to be careful as we apply comparisons from history to what is happening across the world – whether Ukraine, pandemics, Yemen, etc. It is said that people don’t learn from history but I think that is because each time something happens the world is different and so history can show something but not enough or too much to help stop wars, stop abuse, stop things from happening, or make things happen.

As Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher born in 544 B.C., is alleged to have said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” which means that the conflicts, issues, problems, projects, that are going on at the moment are not the “same river” so we must not expect it to be. And also we are looking at things with through a nostalgic lens – whether rose-tinted or not.

So let us be careful as we make comparisons from history – yes history can lead to a conflict but there is much more going on in this present day. Perhaps we need to just focus on the here and now.

Just focus on the moment.

Categories
International Women's Day

International Women’s Day

Found on https://www.wheniscalendars.com/when-is-international-womens-day/

I remember my daughter asking why we had to have “Black History Month” when the history of all nations is interwoven. Well the same, I think, holds true for International Women’s day. Why should we have a special day to celebrate women? Well this article on the BBC helps one to know why – Why misogyny is at the heart of South Korea’s presidential elections

The article goes on to say –

South Korea has one of the worst women’s rights records in the developed world. And yet it is disgruntled young men who have been the focus of this country’s presidential election.

“Nearly 90% of men in their twenties are anti-feminist or do not support feminism,” he tells me.

I am only citing this article today because it was on my newsfeed. Too often in too many countries, even ones that cannot be cited as having bad women’s rights records, women still stand behind men in too many things, even if it is just how they are viewed.

How often do we expect it to be the man who follows a career and the women who stays at home to support him? How often do women change their schedules because a man cannot change his? I heard too often over lockdown and home working that it was the man who got the best room in the house to work and the woman had to juggle her demanding job around childcare. For a women to put herself first it is harder than a man in too many cases.

Though I also know my husband would say that as a man it is hard not to be expected to be the breadwinner and would be frowned on by many in society for not being the top earner.

But with all this going on I want to just honour a few women

  • the young women I have worked with in Youthshedz who can talk about hope when they have walked through some really tough things in their young lives.
  • the friend who has been living with cancer for years and yet is still setting up her own craft business and not giving in
  • the women who stay home to look after their children
  • the women who choose a career
  • the women who support each other’s life choices.

Two women who always come to mind when I have to talk about women are Pam and Betty.

Pam tipped my Christian worldview upside down and opened me up to thinking about my faith rather than just accepting what I was told. This has led to a much deeper and sometimes more controversial walk with God than it could have. Her and her husband welcomed me and my kids into their lives at just the right time, and have made space for my husband now too.

Betty, as well as teaching me how to make gravy with fat from the meat, flour and vegetable juices, which I still think of as “Betty’s gravy” even 35 years on, also opened my eyes to political issues, to relationships, to looking at sex, in a whole different way. Her and her husband also welcomed me into their home, but that was at a time when I was a wee bit crazy.

So I should also add to my list – women who have room in their lives and their families to welcome in others.

So to all of whatever gender help to use today to celebrate the women in your life

Categories
change Flexible

Flexibility

Photo taken by Diane Woodrow walking by the sea at Rhyl, of birds flying into the air together over the incoming tide
Rhyl Blue Bridge Feb 2022

Flexibility or the ability to go with the flow is so important in this journey towards being aligned.

Things to change. Nothing stays the same. As someone said “the only thing we can be certain of in this world is change”. But if we are flowing in alignment then we do not need to fear change because we are not being pulled by others, by media, by fears, by circumstances.

Take these birds. When I got my phone out to take a photo of them they were all calmly sitting on the sandbank, but at this point the incoming tide had sent a wave over the sandbank so they took off in flight. That is because they are flexible. Yes they have moved with the circumstances of the incoming tide. They have not got boundaries so fixed that they will remain on that sandbank no matter what, but are willing to go with the tides.

Interesting keeping on the subject of birds being flexible and staying aligned with what is going on. Very early into lockdown, when people were not getting takeaways or going to the office and eating the park, the seagulls here took to fishing back out at sea again. But now that people are out, that there is more food litter, they are back in the parks, on the sea front – and one even swiped the top off my husband’s ice cream on Sunday afternoon. They are not working on fixed boundaries but are aligned with what is going on in the wider world.

But to do this one does need to slow down a bit, to listen to one’s heart, to wait and see. When one is reacting rather than flowing with each change and event, and not listening to the bigger picture, there is a lot of tension, a lot of boundaries being put up but very little flow. And very little peace.

Also, I believe, that each of us needs to listen to what God/The Universe is telling us which could be different to what someone else is saying. Whether it is to do with personal situations or world situations we need to slow down, wait on the bigger picture, and then move.

Interestingly waiting doesn’t need to take long. Like with the lockdown seagulls they soon understood the change and knew how to stay alive.

We need to listen to what God/The Universe is saying to us rather than keep being drawn into what the media tells us.

Categories
End of the year Liminal space

Last Post of 2021

A bare tree with a waterfall behind it 
photographed by Diane Woodrow
Aber Falls Dec 27th 2021 taken by myself

I love this time of year, that liminal space between family Christmas and the start of the new year. A time when meals are inventive because food needs to be eaten before it goes off but it is a challenge to work out what goes with what. The buzz of a house full of family is over, but it is too soon yet to take down decoration. My head wants to start tidying and organising for the new year but with the decorations still up there is only so much I can do, and also my head is enjoying this liminal time.

Though as I write this my lovely husband may is still off work, but he is working for me during this “down time”. I was offered a project which to do with making a historic walking map of a local village. He is much more skilled in route planning on a map than me so is doing an amazing job getting my project to a place where I can then add in the historic content.

With this project and another project from last year sitting and waiting to be completed, and then other writing projects in the air, I am trying to sort out some kind of schedule for the new year but trying to to hold it lightly because who knows what 2022 will bring.

But also because this, for me, is a liminal in-between time, where I know the days are getting longer but it is raining hard and so this extra daylight is hard to notice, but also like I say I can’t quite get organised because of the decorations still being up and the fridge still needing to be emptied, I can only think, ponder and wait until Monday when things roll properly into 2022.

I remember when I used to work in bars before I had children this time between Christmas celebrations and New Year’s Eve was always a fraught time, where tensions were high and anticlimax loomed. I do think to hold this time wisely one needs to accept that, even if one is working, this is still an in-between place where routines are still out of sorts. And for most of us this is what the last nearly 2 years have been – a time when we are stilling in a liminal space waiting to get back to some sort of routine.

Will 2022 allow us to get back into some sort of routine? Who knows. But I know that I will do my best to carve out my own rough routine day by day, week by week, month by month, holding each and every part of that schedule lightly and trusting that someone/something greater than me knows best

Categories
anxiety] Covid-19

Covid Anxiety

Painting of Mona Lisa adapted to have her wearing a mask and holding hand sanitizer and toilet rolls
Photo by Yaroslav Danylchenko on Pexels.com

On Monday I had my first ever PCR covid test. I’d had a hacking cough all weekend and because I run writing workshops where many of my participants are over 70 felt it was my duty of care to get checked. out. By Tuesday afternoon I had a text and email to say that I was negative, which I had expected as the hacking cough/sore throat is a yearly event for me as winter approaches. What I did not expect was the level of anxiety I experienced. This is not that any of the procedure is anxiety driven but there is something in that whole thing of “testing for covid” that caused issues in me.

From the moment I went on to the NHS site to book my test I felt myself start to shake and my chest get tighter. Driving to the test site I felt more anxious than I should have. And then from 1.30pm Monday to 2pm Tuesday I was gentle nervous and felt like my life was on hold. Of course some of that was that I had to cancel a workshop because of waiting for the result and keep the other group poised to wait for my results. I couldn’t go to the shops, though I did walk my dog. My husband started to worry that he would not be able to go away for the weekend. There was a lot of tension in our house that only dissipated when I got my negative result in.

Where did this fear come from when deep inside I knew this was just my yearly bug? I think it came from the high levels of anxiety that have been pumped at us from the media about Covid-19. Yes some of the things are wise advice, like washing hands properly which really we should have been doing anyway, but there has been this fear of “what ifs”. And we do hear of the number of deaths from Covid-19, though interestingly in my piece on The Day of The Dead not one of the people I mentioned had died of covid. Suicide seemed to be one of the big ones but I’m not sure how one tests for that.

So yes I am accepting covid is serious or why would the whole world be in lockdown? I am accepting that we need to do the social distancing and the hygiene things. But where does this level of high anxiety come from? I believe it is because we have been told for the last 20+ months to be in fear, not just of covid but of climate change, of terrorists, of Brexit, of economic crash, of poor government choices and more that when we have to face a PCR test it sets of all sorts of fight/flight triggers. I know it did with me.

So what can we do to change this without living in denial? Because denial is just another fight/flight/freeze/fawn response to trauma. And also how do we deal with this without turning to scapegoating some people group? Watch Ridley Road on BBC i-player, listening carefully to the right-wingers and their complaints. All are valid. All could be said today. We cannot let our anxieties come to this.

I do not have the answer at the moment apart from being aware of the feelings that the PCR test brought up in me and working to stay calm. But it has left me with more questions than answers. But maybe one of them is to Choose Joy?

Categories
True freedom writing

What do you write like when no one is looking?

barefeet with shoes placed next to the feet underneath a table. This photo is used on Barefoot At The Kitchen Table writing groups https://aspirationaladventure.com/writing-workshops/

“Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth.” -Mark Twain


https://www.scrapbook.com/quotes/doc/27505.html

As a writer, not a dancer or a singer. I am going to steal this quote and give it a tweak – “Write like no one will read it, Write like you’ve never been badly criticised/lost your confidence/felt like it’s a waste of time, Write like it’s heaven on earth”

I am a writer who runs writing groups and writing projects. I spend a lot of my time writing. Some of which you can read on the pages of “My Writing”, other bits you can find here on my blog page. I also do all the exercises I set my writing groups. But I got to thinking – how do I write when I know no one will read it? Not as in journaling but just writing a story for myself.

I know we all talk of the first draft not being perfect, or of those exercises we do in writing group being rough. And I don’t want to aim for perfection and be criticising my work as I go because that would make it static and lose the flow. It was more a question of how do I write when I’m just writing for fun.

I am part of a group of writers who used to meet regularly in Frome but then who met online over lockdown and now are a hybrid of in person and online, which is great for me because I’m now living in North Wales. I find meeting with this group very beneficial, so much so that I pay a bit extra to be able to be virtually in their writing room during the week as well as the monthly Sunday gatherings.

Well this Sunday I had booked into write for the morning and felt I “ought to” be ploughing through my collection of short stories of the backstories of some of the women in some of the Mabinogion tales. But I wasn’t wanting to go down the angsty route that I had allowed these women to do down. So I had a choice – either make their lives less angst or write something else. I didn’t want to change their lives as most days I like where they are, so in the end I used one the wild writing prompts we’d started the session with and wrote about how this guy had become a male stripper and exploring his relationships. I will not do anything with this tale but realised that I was “writing as if no one will read it”. I found it fun and very releasing. I can also see how it could help with me how I construct short stories. But that wasn’t the point. I was just writing.

When I allowed myself to move into that place of “writing as if no one will read it” and letting go of all the guilt, negativity, criticism, inner voice telling me I was wasting my morning, and allowed myself to feel like it was “heaven on earth” I took my character on a great journey. Him and I had fun together and enjoyed our Sunday morning. He is now filed away with other unfinished pieces in my “Cloud”.

I still write well, keeping an bit of an eye on spelling – thank you Mr Redline Spellchecker. And I try my best with punctuation – though I have to say that is not my strong point. I blame the fact that I went to school at that time when punctuation was not taught. I’m still never 100% sure what an adjective is!!! 🙂

Also I realised that heaven won’t be heaven for me if I can’t write. If/when I get to heaven I want to hang out by the river of life, under those healing trees, with my A5 hardback notebook and the best pen ever, and write what I can see, what I feel, make up stories about the people I can see around me. But then if I feel like that then why do I not write all the time now? Have heaven on earth now? Because of feelings of “having to” produce something, use my time “wisely”, be “productive”, etc etc. But actually writing is my love, my big passion. I think via my written words.

For instance yesterday I had a Youthshedz meeting and the person I was meeting was late so I got out my notebook and pen and the plan for the next couple of months of the project flowed out of my pen.

So I am going to write more, for no other reason than to write. I’m going to enjoy hanging out with my characters whether others get to meet them or not. Yes I will still take pieces to competition or publication level but all the time I will hold on to the joy that I am going to “write like no one is watching … write like it’s heaven on earth.”

Challenge – how do you write when no one is looking? When maybe no one will ever read it? Or do you struggle with thoughts that there must be a reason why you are writing?