Tag Archives: writer

The Naked Eye

I enter my friend’s bedroom in search of a particular book. I know what the book looks like and it isn’t here. My friend comes in and finds it instantly.

It has been lying, face down, on her bedside locker. I had been looking for the green front cover that was so familiar to me so I hadn’t recognised its white back cover.

We muse over this. When I’m searching for something, I presume to know how it should look. So I’m not open to seeing it when it appears in a different form.

A while later, I want to read up on something else. My friend informs me that the book I need should be in the bookcase in the hall. I methodically scan the books on the shelves. My internal dialogue revs up.

The book is probably right here but you can’t even see it. You’re so unobservant. In your line of work, you should be more astute. And you’re a writer. Come on, Sharon. Find the book!

I give up. My friend suggests that the book could be on her bedside locker. I open the door, turn to the left and bend towards the locker. I am so focused on my task that I don’t notice what’s right in front of me. An entire human being!

My friend’s 18-year-old son stands facing me, with a small towel wrapped around his waist. I straighten immediately, tell him how sorry I am, and flee the room. My friend and I collapse with laughter when I describe what’s just happened.

I have been berating myself for not seeing what’s right in front of me. So it takes something big (a scantily clad human being) to show me the humour in it all. I can enjoy the moment and laugh at myself.

Last week, I started a course. On the first night, I was surprised at how quickly everybody opened up to one another. My fellow classmates were great speakers and excellent storytellers. I remained silent and listened with interest.

We broke for tea. Everyone continued chatting. I still hadn’t spoken. I noticed people looking at me curiously.

And I was okay with that. I didn’t care what anyone else thought of me. I understood that sometimes it takes me a little longer to feel comfortable around strangers.

Towards the end of the evening, I spoke up. I hadn’t rushed myself. This was the right time for me.

It may have taken me thirty-four years but I now accept myself for all of my strengths, struggles and idiosyncrasies. I accept my introverted tendencies. I accept the ditzy part of myself. I accept my inner critic.

And I accept that sometimes I’m so lost in thought that I don’t notice what’s right in front of me. Even if it is a half-naked man.

laughingmom.com

laughingmom.com

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Being Negative For A Change

All day, I’ve had an anxious feeling in my chest. I haven’t been able to take deep, satisfying breaths. I had a busy day so I just pushed on through, hoping it would pass.

Tonight, I was about to watch television and simply ignore how I was feeling. I realised that I didn’t want to do that. I’m an advocate of sitting with your emotions and listening to what they have to tell you. So I sat. I slumped into the armchair, feeling down, frustrated, angry and fearful all at once.

Then, like the good writer and avid list-maker that I am, I reached for a notepad and pen. I decided, rather than run from the things that were annoying me, I’d write them all down. I don’t usually give so much energy to the negatives but, this time, I felt it would be therapeutic to have a look at what had been festering.

As synchronicity would have it, I came across this quote by Jill Bolte Taylor today: “Just like children, emotions heal when they are heard and validated.”

And so I moaned and doubted, raged and self-victimised all over two sides of an A4 sheet. I tore out the page and turned to a new one. Here, I wrote how all of my grievances were making me feel. Let’s just say that I don’t know if many other negative emotions even exist because I was feeling all of them.

Although I don’t believe in focussing on the negatives in life (and who’s to say what’s “negative” anyway?), it became clear to me that this was a really beneficial exercise.

I had been feeling this way for no apparent reason. However, when I asked myself what had been upsetting me, I was able to fill two entire pages with reasons.

I also realised that some of the things that were irritating me were things that don’t usually annoy me when I’m feeling good and energised. All of the small stuff was mounting up and creating a massive lump in my chest. It was robbing me of my peace. Or rather, I was allowing it to. But how was I to know what I was allowing when I hadn’t even given any of it my attention?

As I worked my way down the list of feelings that had arisen from all of my perceived problems, I recognised that there was one thing that would set me free. Acceptance.

I could accept the situation. I could accept other people as they are. I could accept what they had done and hadn’t done. I could accept that the past is the past (even if it only happened yesterday, it’s still old news). I could accept how I’m feeling right now. And most importantly, I could accept myself exactly as I am.

Acceptance melts resistance. Acceptance and struggle cannot coexist. Neither can acceptance and anger. Or acceptance and judgement.

When you accept something, you let go of the desire for things to be different. And with that, you become truly present. With that, you can breathe again…

freedom

Slow Down

I am currently on a weeklong holiday in the west of Ireland. Each morning after breakfast, I do some work. Then, I take myself out for a walk. I rush the walk to get it out of the way so I can pop into a pub or café to use the WiFi.

Not too long ago, I felt peace. I appreciated nature. I could lie in a bubble bath and listen to music or read a novel over a frothy cappuccino.

How easily I’ve forgotten. How quickly I’ve transformed into a busy, perfection-driven woman who finds it hard to sit still.

Lately, I’ve been trying to fit as much as possible into every single day. No wonder I wasn’t glad when morning arrived.

Even the things I’d once enjoyed had become just another chore to tick off the self-renewing to-do list. Cycle – check. Meditate –check. Prepare Positive Living class – check.

Even nature, my most favourite thing in the entire world, had become an afterthought to work and exercise. When I did get out in it, I sped through it, favouring body tone over nourishment of the soul.

Today, the sun comes out and I decide to go for a walk. Alone. I leave the phone in the car. I don’t listen to music or take photographs. Today, I walk slowly. I roll up my sleeves and feel the heat on the back of my neck. I breathe. I inhale delightful fragrances that bring me back to simple childhood holidays.

I pause to take in the aqua milkiness of the ocean. I watch a man swimming. A fluffy green caterpillar inches its way along the path. Seagulls congregate on a large, flat rock. Cows graze in a field below.

A woman sits on the cliff edge, eyes closed, face tilted towards the sky. I wonder if she’s being truly present, mindfully aware of all of her senses. Or is she simply completing her daily chore of meditation?

Even though it pains me, I challenge myself to sit for a few moments. To just sit. I exhale a sigh of frustration.

Then, I gaze out at the waves as they crash upon the rocks. The waters roar mightily like the exciting take-off of an aeroplane.

The ocean speaks to me of opportunity and adventure, beauty and impermanence, creation and destruction. Tears spring to my eyes.

But even now, in this blessed moment, I am eager to get back. Because I have been mentally making note of everything I’ve experienced. This is the curse and wonder of being a writer.

I take a deep breath. I breathe in and out. I accept myself as I am in this moment. A writer who is forever composing. A human being who is doing her best. A person who is learning and growing and steeping herself in the awareness that will ultimately set her free.

IMG_1484

This evening, I go for a second slow-paced walk along beach, cliff and country road. I peer out at boats bobbing in the bay. I stroll past jellyfish, seaweed and salt-polished pebbles.

I sit several times along the way. I marvel at the sheer magnificence of a cliff face. Gulls soar overhead. I walk beneath a cacophony of starlings perched upon wire.

The sight of fuchsias makes me well up. The scent of cow dung and the perfume of a passing stranger make me smile.

I saunter past stone walls, a tractor and a good-looking horse. I feel my body as it moves. My hips roll and my arms sway. This evening, I do not rush or yearn for the finish line.

I stop to taste roadside blackberries. I pick a handful to take home. For the remainder of the journey, I walk palm up, my hand ink-red with an offering of sweetness.

I realise that when I’m an old lady, reflecting on the beauty of my life, I won’t be thinking about the times I power-walked up hills. I’ll remember the magical moments when I sat and witnessed the silent majesty of a gliding gull and the mesmerising movements of the ocean.

Images: Author's Own

Images: Author’s Own

The Liebster Award!

A big thank you to Lisa from Random Encounters of an Inquisitive Mind for the Liebster Award! I remember seeing this award a year or two ago and thinking how deadly it’d be to have someone praise your blog with a super cool award like this. I must have attracted it my way with all my positive thinking 😛

So, here’s what I have to do…

The rules:

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award Presenter on your blog and link back to their blog.

2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator, list 11 random facts about yourself and create 11 questions for your nominees.

3. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they’ve been chosen.

4. Copy and Paste the blog award on your blog.

 11 Random Facts about me

  1. I prefer to sleep with the curtains open.
  2. I usually have a few books on the go at the same time.
  3. I don’t have television channels in my home.
  4. I start my mornings by giving gratitude and spending about five minutes in silence.
  5. I love the ocean, sunshine, cupcakes and belly laughs.
  6. I teach a Positive Living group once a week.
  7. I started this blog because I was feeling depressed over a man and I got the idea after watching Julie & Julia.
  8. I still have my blankie (which was once my grandma’s house coat).
  9. I’m half-Greek, half-Irish, and three-quarters mad.
  10. I was reading before I started school and I wanted to write so badly that I used to fill copy books with squiggles.
  11. For years, I had my little brother believe that his dolls and teddy bears could talk. They each had their own personalities. His favourites were two Glo Worms called Scrumptious and Snuggles. They were really bold.

My questions to answer:

  • Why did you start blogging?  Oops, I already answered this in Random Fact number seven.
  • Would you consider yourself a writer?  Yes. It’s been a part of me since before I could actually write. Check out my blog on this: Being a writer (and being the only one who knows it)
  • If you could have any job in the world, what would it be? A lot of what I’m doing now (writing, teaching, alternative health) but getting loadsa cash for it 😉
  • What type of music do you like?  Anything that makes me feel the musician’s passion.
  • Do you believe in love at first sight?  It’s probably more often lust-at-first-sight but yeah, it can happen.
  • Who do you love, and why?  Ooh Lisa, I’ll have no secrets left! I love my family and friends and the people in The Lifeflow Centre.
  • What is your most favourite thing to do?  I’m not kidding when I say writing but also being in nature and having a bit of craic with friends (just to clarify, I’m Irish not a drug addict).
  • What morals do you live your life by?   Be present, enjoy life, do your best, share with others your joy and/or whatever will help them.
  • Whats your favourite movie?  The most recent one I fell in love with was Untouchable.
  • What is your favourite quote?  “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” ~ Wayne Dyer

Questions for my nominees:

  1. What makes you laugh?
  2. What are you passionate about?
  3. Why did you start this blog?
  4. Who inspires you?
  5. Where’s your favourite place in the world?
  6. What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
  7. What good TV series would you recommend? (Okay, I’m being selfish now.)
  8. What’s one of your favourite words?
  9. Tell me something about one of your firsts (first kiss, first time you fell in love, first holiday…)
  10. Tell me a joke.
  11. What are you going to do with your award?

And now *drum roll please*, the Liebster Award goes to…

Okay, two things: some of the above may well have more than 200 followers but because I am a follower, I can’t seem to find how many others there are… And I really need to start checking out more new blogs. I’ll put that down as a goal for March.

Thanks for reading, thanks for following, and thanks again to Lisa! You’ve just rocked my Friday night!

liebster-award21

Am I Only Dreaming?

Why is dreaming big so frowned upon? When a child announces that he’s going to be a dancer, his parents and teachers hope he’ll grow out of it. Why is it more acceptable to say you want to be a doctor or a teacher, rather than a playwright or a photographer?

Simple. It’s because the people who care about you want to protect you from disappointment and hardship. Because your talent, no matter how much you and your loved ones appreciate it, might not be to everyone’s taste. Because so few people blessed / cursed with creativity “make it”. Because “struggling” is the most common adjective to describe “artist” or “actor” or “writer”. Because they want you to be safe and get a “real” job – one that comes with a company car and a pension. So, you’re advised to just be realistic.

But what’s realistic is acknowledging your gifts and doing something with them. What’s realistic is at least giving it a shot. What’s realistic is wanting to live a happy life doing something you’re passionate about.

Of course, it’s easier to live a normal life. Sharing your creativity means baring your soul. It means lifting the comfortable veil that most of us wear. There can be no secrets when you allow others to glimpse the depths of your emotion, the shades of your pain, the hidden creases of your heart, and the crevices of your imagination.

Sadly, many people don’t even try to pursue their passion. They know they’ve got something special but they’ve given up on it before they’ve even started. Or they’ve never had the time or space to explore their creativity. There are too many bored secretaries, frustrated sales reps and depressed accountants. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning these occupations. Creativity manifests in many forms. I’d just hope that if you work at one of these professions, it’s because order or commerce or numbers are your passion. And if not, that you’d at least humour your creative side on the weekends.

Without dreamers, the world would be a very dull place. We would never have even heard of music, poetry, theatre or literature. If nobody took a chance on their dreams, there would be no Harry Potter or Bilbo Baggins, Dracula or Holly Golightly. We wouldn’t be able to talk on the phone or fly to another continent. Andrea Bocelli would be just another blind Italian. And we wouldn’t have the likes of this. 

Or this.

Starry Night - Vincent van Gogh

Or this. 

Featured Image: Painting by Georgia O’Keeffe – http://www.artchive.com/artchive/O/okeefe.html

Other Images: http://www.flickr.com/photos/amandamabel/5597604359/;

http://www.arthistoryguide.com/Vincent_van_Gogh.aspx

From the Depths of December

I wander downtown to buy Christmas cards, in the hope that it will assuage my guilt at not yet having begun shopping for presents. There is no escaping the swift approach of Yuletide on this brisk December day.

Fairy lights wind their way up tree trunks, like magic ivy. A middle-aged couple carries plastic bags and an air of exasperation. A Norway Spruce leans up against a wall, naked but on the brink of fulfilling its life purpose.

I pop in my iPod buds and drown out the world with the sounds of Video Games and VillagersA teenager rushes out of a pound shop, her face full of freckles and anticipation. I enter. A mother slaps her children’s hands away from sweets and toys. A man in dirty work clothes holds a basket brimming with tinsel.

I buy two packets of sparkly Santa cards and continue down the main street. A young boy bolts into the library. I follow. As I enquire after a Heather O’Neill novel, which is currently MIA, an elderly woman breezes up to the desk.

“It’s getting cold out there, Mrs O’Brien,” the male librarian tries.

“We’re all ageing,” the woman retorts.

He changes the subject.

“What do you think of the Budget?”

The woman doesn’t respond.

“WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE BUDGET?” the librarian bellows. Children look up in disbelief.

“I heard you the first time,” the old lady announces. “I just don’t bother with all that shite!”

I leave without a book, but not without a story.

I take a detour home along the Liffey. The river is full and fast. The moon clings to the cobwebs of the morning sky. Drizzle settles on nettles. A reluctant dog is pulled toward the nonchalant swans. Ducks fly close to the water, their necks straining forwards.

Reeds clump together and float to the surface, like dead bodies. A leafless tree bends over the water, like a nude diver frozen in time. A woman jogs by, barely lifting her legs. A man in a track suit practises Tai Chi in the wet grass. I wonder if he’s crazy and try not to stare.

As I huddle on a park bench, ignoring the cold and blowing on a Biro, I decide that I am a writer and that there is nothing I’d rather be.

“It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?” Vita Sackville-West

And for all you budding writers out there, click here.

Images: http://gallery.hd.org/_c/art/_more2004/_more12/baubles-glass-and-wire-shiny-tinsel-blue-and-silver-star-for-top-of-tree-decorations-ornaments-JR.jpg.html; http://weheartit.com/entry/18871955;

http://laetificus.tumblr.com/page/8; http://weheartit.com/entry/9454974

Being a writer (and being the only one who knows it)

Before I was even able to write, I was writing. I wrote page upon page of squiggles that resembled the jagged patterns on a heart monitor. Not long after that, I was reading the likes of Pinocchio and The Little Red Hen. And I hadn’t even started school yet.

I am eternally grateful for my literacy. It’s one of the greatest skills I’ve ever been taught. That and swimming.

In primary school, I proudly gave an illustrated short story about princesses and witches to my first class teacher. She returned it, without comment but with red marks highlighting all my spelling mistakes. That didn’t stop me. I found the poems I’d given my third class teacher stuffed into the back of a cupboard. I was surprised and hurt but I wrote on. I made booklets and cassettes of my poetry for my kind, enthusiastic grandparents. And finally, in fourth class, my teacher Mrs Molloy praised my writing and urged me to continue.

I went on to win numerous writing competitions in secondary school. I was published several times in the Leinster Leader. I enjoyed writing essays for English class. Even in exam settings, I was able to lose myself in my writing. I thrived on learning palatable new words and using them in my prose. An examiner once docked me marks for describing the ocean as “cerulean”. She said it wasn’t a real word. Check the dictionary, woman!

Poetry and free flow writing helped me in my darkest moments. Even though life was scary and hopeless, I had the ability to create something beautiful and inspiring.

However, there came a time when the confidence in every area of my life was completely obliterated and I stopped writing. When people asked why, I told them that I simply wasn’t inspired any more, or that I was too busy.

Thankfully, I’ve worked hard on myself and rebuilt my confidence. But I worried that I wouldn’t have the necessary angst to be able to write, now that I was happier and my life was more stable. My best work had always come in my most desolate moments.

But I hadn’t reckoned on the power of living in the present moment to boost my creativity. My motivation and positivity increased. My sense of humour was heightened. Because I resided less in my head, I became more aware, observant, and alive. This translates wonderfully in a person’s writing.

I went on to study Journalism, where I had my own column in the college magazine. I wrote articles for our class newspaper. I had travel features published in magazines like U and Backpacker. I enjoy writing snappy reviews on Yelp, which has helped rekindle my creative spark. And now, I’m thoroughly enjoying creating this blog.

I get a kick out of depicting objects, situations and emotions using language. I adore playing with words and inventing never-before-used descriptions. I love the smell of books and the ambience of a bookshop. And getting sucked in by the first page of a novel is like what I imagine taking crack cocaine must feel like. For me, great literature isn’t just the classics and the novels that win the Man Booker Prize. It can be a witty newspaper column, a vibrant travel feature, a heart-rending or hilarious blog post, a compelling thriller.

Today, I treated myself to a Jodi Picoult novel. I admire the extremely detailed research Jodi does for each of her books, the controversial subjects she deals with, and how she delves right into every nook and cranny of her characters’ minds. As I nibbled on a blueberry muffin, I began to read. I actually had to have a moment of silence for the way she described the sound of a newspaper being perused, “It made a nice noise, like the rustle of leaves…”

I am a writer. I don’t have a multi-million euro book deal just yet. I haven’t even written a novel, let alone had one published. And I don’t get paid for the online writing I’m doing. Sometimes, I get asked why I don’t turn my writing into a real job. The truth is, there’s nothing I’d love more than to write for a living. But I don’t want to be a reporter. Being awoken at four am to report on a devastating crime or accident, travelling to war-torn countries, and doorstepping the loved ones of the recently deceased does not appeal to me. I’m just not cut out for such a stressful lifestyle. Living on constant adrenaline is something I’m finally putting behind me and I’d rather not welcome it back into my life. There’s no doubting that these brave, determined reporters are writers too. But, as snobby as it sounds, I want to be a writer writer.

Here’s how to be a writer:

1) Do it with love

Write from the heart and readers will fall in love with what you’ve written. Don’t write what you think others want to read. Write what you know. This will make it authentic and utterly readable. And don’t just do it to become rich or famous. Write because you love it. Then, if you’re one of the lucky ones to make a career out of it, it will never be a chore. I don’t know who’s reading this blog and I’m certainly not getting paid to write it but I love doing it nonetheless. Having said that, if anyone wants to turn it into a book, I’m all ears!

2) Write, write, write

Writer’s block is a common phenomenon but don’t let it get the better of you. Don’t know what to write? Write anything! Anything at all. Jot down (or type) the first thing that comes into your head and get into a flow. The beauty of the computer is that you can return to your writing and, with the simple click of a mouse, you can edit as you see fit.

3) You don’t have to do it alone

Become part of a creative writing group. Before I went back to college, I  joined a wonderful group in Newbridge called Scribblers. I quickly got into a routine of writing weekly pieces, and the encouragement and support from the other members helped me start believing in my talent. Alternatively, you could enrol in a scriptwriting or copywriting class. There are also college courses you can do, which are excellent for pushing authors to complete a piece of work and to get published.

4) Create a blog

It’s free and extremely easy to set up. And it’s less daunting than writing a book as you can start off with short instalments. The instant feedback in the form of comments is encouraging and allows you to interact with your readers. You can also keep tabs on how many views your blog is getting and which of your posts are most popular.

5) Share

Show your writing to trustworthy family members and friends. They can offer you support, encouragement and constructive criticism. Share your blog posts on Facebook and Twitter to expand your readership.

6) Freelance

Anyone can submit articles to newspapers and magazines. Not everyone gets published, of course, but at least you’ll be putting yourself out there and making a name for yourself in the media world. Some publications will even pay you for your contributions.

7) Enter competitions

Keep an eye out for any competitions you can enter. Radio shows regularly host writing competitions. I once entered a competition and had my piece read out on the Marian Finucane show, published in a book, and a couple of hundred euro were thrown my way as a result! Winning (or even getting shortlisted) will give you some recognition and a hell of an ego boost.

8. Silence the inner critic

If your internal (and extremely negative) voice has anything to do with it, you’ll never do anything constructive. Tell the part of you that’s doubting how good you are to shut the hell up and just do it!

9) Read aloud

Before publishing your blog, submitting an article, or entering a competition, read your work aloud. This allows you to see how it would look to a potential reader. If it has you laughing, crying and giving yourself a moment of silence, you’ve probably done a good job. You can then correct your mistakes and edit a bit more before you allow others to enjoy your masterpiece.

10) Live

The more life experiences you have under your belt, the more you’ll have to write about. So, for the sake of good literature, get out there and get a life. No asking me twice!

11) Believe

Believe in your talent and never give up. You may have noticed that a lot of famous authors recount harsh tales of years and years of rejection before finally being discovered. I once heard a rumour that someone removed Charles Dickens’ name from one of his manuscripts, sent it into a publishing company, and it was turned down! So, as the old saying (or was it an Aaliyah song?) goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Writing is art too. Inspiration can come from the simplest of sources. Van Gogh created a masterpiece by painting a kitchen chair!

Images: http://weheartit.com/entry/12410178; http://favim.com/image/194059/; http://likeariot.tumblr.com/; http://holunder.deviantart.com/art/listen-feel-and-imagine-182338777?q=gallery:Holunder/6445147