Standing Stones and Sea Spray

If I’d waited to know who I was or what I was about before I started “being creative,” well, I’d still be sitting around trying to figure myself out instead of making things. In my experience, it’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are. ~ Austin Kleon

The lovely Sara, who inspires and supports over at A Sharing Connection, once mentioned in a comment that she hoped I’d keep painting, after reading something I’d written about painting, either this post or the extract below; she never said which.

I surprised myself by doing a wee bit of  painting last week. I’d offered to give my daughter some tips for capturing her features quickly in the self portrait part of her art exam, but I ended up inspired, transfixed, longing to do some ‘proper’ painting of my own again. Here’s the first eye I’ve ever painted; my daughter’s so beautiful, I could paint her all day long! The universe has a canny knack of nudging us with synchronicity, of healing us by reuniting us with our deepest desires to create and share something with love, whether it’s a meal or a beautifully decorated table, a painting, a patch of garden or a piece of poetry or music.

Today I found myself wanting to share the sea-twinkle in my daughter’s eyes. When I master the technology, I’ll post a clip of her singing. Her voice is as warm, clear and sparkling as her eyes.

When I was clearing out, I found two of my old paintings and remembered telling Sara that I’d maybe post photos of them someday. Both were painted at a tiny table in my first studio flat in Greece; they’re just copies of ripped out calendar photos, postcards or photos from magazines – I can’t even remember now – but I do remember vividly how I was feeling as I painted them. It gave me a sense of home – of Scottish skies, dreich days and damp green winds….

…and the fresh excitement of a soul homecoming, of an inspiring new life lived by the sea.

I’m at a real crossroads right now, lurching between my deeply held belief that it’s OK to simply journal fragments of my life, to keep a weblog, a journal of days, and the realisation that with several hundred million blogs out there, I’m just adding to cyberclutter. But I’m comforting myself with the thought that quiet creativity and the sharing of those fragments keeps me real, keeps me authentic while I’m piecing myself together.

Success, Failure and the Desire to Keep Creating

I’m writing in the dark here, in the silence between your comments. I no longer know if you’re an old friend, a new visitor, a homemaker, a life coach, a writer, a blogger, a former blogger or someone who knows me ‘in real life’ and has found me on Google.  One thing I do know: if you subscribed here years ago and you’re reading this in your feed reader, you’re someone who enjoys the magic of connecting through words, of capturing and sharing the fragments of feeling that make a patchwork life. You’re a creator, a carer, someone who wants to touch hearts and make a difference in the world.

I’m guessing there have been dark moments when you’ve asked yourself why you carry on creating, when you’ve wrapped yourself up in a blanket of self doubt, rejection, comparison, frustration and fear and been tempted to stop reaching out, to stop creating, because creation and connection crack open your heart and keep you vulnerable and open to the world. That’s why I thought you might like Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest TED talk.

“For me, going home meant returning to the work of writing because writing was my home, because I loved writing more than I hated failing at writing, which is to say that I loved writing more than I loved my own ego….” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert


What guides you home to yourself?  ~ Janice

Deciduous Blogging, Soul Gardening and Cherishing our Children

baby rainbow fingersIt is…the parent willing to nurture a child that will decide our fate. ~ Barack Obama, in his inauguration speech.

A few months ago, I coined the phrase ‘deciduous blogger’.  It seems I have a natural tendency to take frequent breaks from blogging; my blog often lies dormant while I gather strength, ready to reach for the sun, put out fresh new growth and blossom again.

I used to have a love-hate relationship with blogging; I’d periodically succumb to blogweariness, not only from writing and commenting at length, but from visiting dozens of blogs every day and spreading myself too thin in an attempt to participate in supportive, reciprocal blogging.

In that depleted state, I’d become more aware of the tribal drums of blogging and the underlying currents of hypocrisy, egotism and exploitation that so often leave me feeling queasy. Now, if blogweariness or cynicism sets in, I simply have  a break.

These past few months, however, I haven’t been going through a spell of deciduous blogging. I’ve actually been battling a wind that’s felled dreams, washed away blossom overnight and threatened to uproot me. My roots ache from having to hold on so tight, even though I know that every storm they weather strengthens them. Sometimes, letting go is simply not an option.

Despite a notebook full of drafts and a camera full of photos to share, I’ve been resting after a confluence of losses, bad news, family health problems, teenage exams, financial blows and a minor but confidence wrecking car crash. Even when I wanted to log on to explain, and to bask in the warmth of my online friendships, I spent a part of my time away virtually immobilised with back pain; sitting at a computer was impossible.

I’m a very honest writer and cherish authenticity and integrity; I believe in looking for the learning in challenging situations, but in two months that have included a short spell in hospital, doctors’ visits, physiotherapy, friends’  battles with cancer, and a medical diagnosis that threatens to blight my son’s adolescence, every bird, bee, cloud and sign from the universe has told me to lay low, rest, fill up the jug and focus on my own health and that of my family. That’s the only way I can replenish my soul and my writing so that some day, I can turn it all into something that might touch, help or resonate with others.

So often we advise extreme self care but are the last to practise it. I love my family, my friends and online buddies, but if I don’t take care of myself, I have nothing of quality to give – and this beautiful world of ours deserves the best we can give, not half hearted love on automatic pilot.

I hope to be writing again soon, here and at my Kitchen Table Space; a comment  response I left there the last time I logged on formed the core of this post. I adore my wee blog; I built it with love, hard work, time, energy, laughter, tears and a genuine desire to connect at the heart, to contribute something of value to the world, even if it’s just a splash of floral colour on a dreary day. I don’t get writer’s block; when I have an overwhelming need to stop writing and start living more, to clean house and do some soul gardening, I’ve learned to listen.

I hope you’ll bear with me while I tentatively dip my toes back into blogging waters.

In the meantime, here’s a video I’d urge you to watch if you’re an educator or have kids, nieces, nephews, young neighbours or grandchildren. As you know, I’ve had an organic, patchwork career which has included teaching, so I really resonated with Sir Ken Robinson’s latest TED talk. (I posted his 2006 TED video here when I started out blogging.)

In this latest talk, he discusses  principles and beliefs that my husband and I actually live by when it comes to our kids. (To read more about how we try to nurture their talents, please check out my piece called Sharing the Journey.)

The poem in Sir Ken’s video is also deeply personal and special to me; used in this context – and because of the pain both my kids have been through these last few months – it had me in tears. I logged off weeks ago to cherish my loved ones and my health and I’m glad I did. I posted today because I wanted, more than anything else, to connect with you again.



A Patchwork Post: Writing Tips, Christmas Tips and Susan Boyle…

M's xmas cushion

Are you working on a novel for NaNoWriMo at the moment? Having a creativity crisis? Or simply in need of  a blogging boost? Are you hoping to collate your best blog posts into a published book some day?  Here’s a book I’d recommend by Hugh Macleod of Gaping Void, a blogger who did just that.

ignore everybodyI’m not going to wax lyrical; you don’t have time for that. Let me just share a few quotes from it with you and tell you that I’ve re-read the book  twice. Yes, twice. It’s an incredibly easy read because each chapter is blog post length. I warn you; you’ll be twitching to jot things down in your quotebook.

If you’re looking at a blank piece of paper and nothing comes to you, then go do something else. Writer’s block is just a symptom of feeling like you have nothing to say, combined with the rather weird idea that you should feel the need to say something.  ~ Hugh MacLeod

A Picasso always looks like a Picasso painted it. Hemingway always sounds like Hemingway. A Beethoven symphony always sounds like a Beethoven symphony. Part of being a master is learning how to sing in nobody else’s voice but your own. ~ Hugh MacLeod

You can’t love a crowd the same way you can love a person.

And a crowd can’t love you the way a single person can love you.

Intimacy doesn’t scale. Not really. Intimacy is a one-on-one phenomenon.

It’s not a big deal. Whether you’re writing to an audience of one, five, a thousand, ten million, there’s really only one way to truly connect. One way that actually works:

Write from the heart. ~ Hugh MacLeod.

Never compare your inside with someone else’s outside.  ~ Hugh MacLeod

Hugh’s book Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity would make a great gift for any creative adults in your life.

Embrace your real life and be aware of what makes you happy…

Are you wondering what that photo of a hand-crocheted Christmas cushion has to do with inspiration, creativity or writing? Well, those of you who’ve read a lot of my pieces will know that I do my best writing when I’m away from the computer, out in the real world, in cafés or at my kitchen table. I need to live well to be able to write well; I need be aware, present and open to experience and inspiration for the jug to fill to overflowing.

Over at The Kitchen Table Space, my monthly column at The Calm Space, I’ve written a piece about one of my favourite Christmas rituals – keeping a Christmas book. It combines my triplet  passions – family life,  homelife coaching and writing. Truth is, I’d write about the Festive Season every day if I could. It’s the season that restores my faith, my soul and my energy more than any other time of the year.

Please drop in for a cyber coffee and a chat about Christmas; I love having friends at my kitchen table.

Take a break from writing and listen to some music that makes you cry…

As I seem to have blogging OCD and have followed a dearth of posts with one that thinks it’s a magazine – go figure –  I leave you with a song I heard this morning from fellow Scot Susan Boyle. I’ve heard it before but this time it caught me unawares as I was looking out of the kitchen window; I was  stunned by its beauty. These were the only words I could make out as my throat ached and my eyes welled up with unshed tears… “Wild horses..”

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

This one might interest you if you are creative, work in education, have kids in school or are planning to live for decades to come.

Sir Ken Robinson makes me laugh out loud while exploring a topic close to my heart: how the future of our planet depends on the imagination and creativity of children, and on the way they’re nurtured.

I particularly love his story about “people who have to move to think”.

If you’d like to read about the struggle I had deciding how best to nurture my daughter’s creativity within the school curriculum, please check out my article, Sharing the Journey.

Elizabeth Gilbert – Talking About Creativity and Genius

I loved this talk! This is Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best seller Eat, Pray, Love. If you love writing, if you’re creative or work with creative people, if you simply enjoy hearing people discussing the creative process, you’ll love this! She’s smart, funny and wise. It’s 20 minutes long so put the kettle on and have a wee break! (I found this on Andy Bailey’s site; he’s the genius responsible for Comment Luv.)