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..”


  1. Janice,
    The Hugh MacLeod book sounds so good just looking at the few small parts you included here. I know that my best writing are the pieces that feel like they are directly from my heart. Pretty powerful to read these words above and let the really sink in.

    And I love the Susan Boyle song – she has an amazing voice. So good to listen to.

    Happy Friday!!
    .-= Lance´s last blog ..RAOKA: Kindness =-.

    1. Happy weekend to you too Lance! I almost didn’t post this, thinking it was too long, too messy and too self-indulgent. But then I thought, what the heck, life’s a buffet – lay the table, invite friends and let them nibble!

  2. Hi Janice .. she’s certainly got a lovely voice and I’m pleased she’s regained her strength for life and is here to entertain us with that lilting voice and lovely words.

    The book sounds interesting too … I’m sure we’d all love to put our babies into a book at some stage, especially those of us who aren’t published – other than in Lance’s wonderful Blog4Cause ebook ..

    Thanks for the tips and ideas and the accompaniment! I’ll journey over for a pre Christmas nibble ..

    Hi janice – a PS: the book is downloadable via Audible, on a CD etc etc .. can’t see a podcast ..
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..Fireworks and Bonfire Night – November 5th =-.

    1. You’re welcome, Hilary!
      My daughter’s still off school ill, so I was able to do a longer post (instead of DIY and housework) while she was napping.

      I love the way you refer to the YouTube post as an accompaniment; I’d never thought about folk listening to music while reading my ramblier posts. Makes me want to share more music to give folk that option. Music has a tendency to leap out at me in much the same way as quotes do when I’m reading; being able to share those experiences is one of the things I enjoy most about blogging.

      1. Hi Janice .. I think I must go down to the bottom of peoples’ blogs and see if there’s some music and do it more often – as I’m sure the selection will be of their mood and match their writing perfectly – Susan Boyle’s song has certainly caught everyone’s imagination .. and I’m so pleased she didn’t crash and burn.

        Hope all’s well up north and the gales didn’t sweep you away .. not too terrible here .. lots of rain & wind .. with luck it’s nearly gone now!

        Have a good week – Hilary Melton-Butcher
        Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
        .-= Hilary´s last blog ..A is for Apple – an Apple a day keeps the doctor away … =-.

  3. Hi Janice…what an extraordinary coincidence. I was just in the middle of an email telling someone about Hugh McLeod..when I just saw your posting about…Hugh McLeod. Yes, I really enjoyed the first chapter..now I want to head off and read the whole thing..and yes, what a truly extraordinary voice Susan Boyle has..and the extraordinary longing in that voice..Thanks for this..as always love your blog
    .-= Anne´s last blog ..Supervalue, washing up and why honesty really pays =-.

    1. Thanks, Anne!

      No coincidences – only synchronicity! I’d love to hear which bits of the book leap out and grab you round the throat while you’re reading; there’s definitely something in it you’re absolutely meant to be hearing this week…

      1. Hi Janice
        Not sure if I have said this or not..but I just wanted to say how much your relish for the small things really inspires me, that combined with your delicious writing and clean honesty. I haven’t bought or read the book but what has struck me about it is that whatever we create has to be because it makes OUR heart sing…something that makes us giggle and be gleeful…not trying to twist it..as Hugh Mcleod says…”selling out isn’t easy!”.
        .-= Anne´s last blog ..Supervalue, washing up and why honesty really pays =-.

  4. Hi Janice,
    I think Susan Boyle could sing “Don’t Worry; Be Happy” and make us yearn for something lost. Powerful voice.

    “I have my freedom, but I don’t have much time
    Fate has been served and tears must be cried.”

    Kind of poignant right now, with a family member dying of cancer.

    I read Hugh’s book, but he’s a bit caustic for my tastes when taken in such a huge dose!
    .-= Lori Hoeck´s last blog ..Self defense is seeing danger patterns early =-.

    1. You have such a poet’s sensibility, Lori. Even in your shortest posts, there’s the power that comes from being close to the bones of life but staying centred in your quiet, still place that gives you strength. I wish there was more I could do to be a friend during these challenging times you’ve been going through.

      I love the way you and Anne captured the quality in Susan Boyle’s singing that had me choked up today when I wasn’t even able to make out the words. Longing and yearning for something lost…and often we don’t even know what it is.

      I agree that Hugh can be a bit caustic, but I kept hearing bits in a Scottish accent and maybe that subdued it a bit. I also just skipped quickly to the next good bits if he bugged me. 😉 To be honest, I don’t really like his wee cards or that side of his humour, but I did get an energy surge from his take on creativity.

  5. Ah, Susan Boyle. This song proves she is no one-hit wonder, and is here to stay! Lots of good things come out of Scotland—-Susan Boyle, Craig Ferguson, and Janice!

    I loved the quotes from Hugh, especially about not comparing our insides to everyone else’s outsides! So very true. How often we see what people want us to see, and then compare ourselves to that vision, never really knowing what the person is like on the inside.

    I must disagree though with Hugh when he says you can’t love a crowd the way you love a person—-Janice, you have taken the inherent impersonable nature of a blog ( i.e. crowd) and made it feel very intimate (personal.) People come here because they don’t feel like they’re lost in a crowd; they feel as if there is an omnipresent individual conversation between them and you.

    Off to the Kitchen Table!
    .-= Randi´s last blog ..The Answer! =-.

    1. You’re a sweetheart! I always write (rather than blog) for one person. That’s why I struggle so much if I start to think too much about blogging stats. I prefer to feel like I’m writing a letter or just sitting on a phone chatting with someone, maybe a trusted group of folk on a conference call. I was convinced for ages that I’d be lucky as a new blogger to have one reader so I guess there’s still a part of me that still blogs for one.

      When I’m blogging, if I want to reach more people, I think of all the folk that I know who might be reading. It also helps that I feel I’ve come to know so many of the folk who visit; by reading blogs, comments, and responses to comments, I sometimes have a sense for who’s in the café. It helps me choose the music and decide on the specials. Part of me would love to run a real café and get the chance to make someone feel appreciated and welcome every day.

      The first time I heard that Susan Boyle song (I don’t watch America’s Got Talent so I only heard it when it came out as a single) had me wondering who was singing it. It wasn’t an instantly recognisable voice; in parts it evoked memories of some Streisand songs. If her managers and folk taking care of her choose her songs wisely, she’ll be around for a while.

  6. Janice,
    I love the pillows and want to make that crocheted one! Also checked out the book on Amazon because it sounds great. I just commented to you on my blog that we could take lines of our writing, expand on them and have a book in no time.

    I love your writing…it makes me think of my home when my children were growing up. The smells, sounds and sights come right through to my senses. Thanks so much for being you!
    .-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..Nothing Changes Until Something Changes =-.

  7. Oh thank you, Tess! Your tribute description of your mum and your wonderful huge family made me close my eyes and pray that my kids would love me as much in thirty years’ time and have as many happy memories as you do.

    A special friend and colleague had print copies made of my first ebook for them to have when they’re older, and some day, when I set aside time to do it, I’d love to compile some blog posts – and comments – into another bound book for them to get a feel for how I was in a wider world.

  8. Hi Janice,

    Thank you for sharing the quotes from Hugh and the one that stuck out the most for me was the one about writing from the heart. It is always obvious to tell if someone is writing from their heart or their mind. Writing from the heart has a certain kind of tone and energy which is so much more powerful than when someone writes something because they think what they are writing is correct.

    I have spent so much time over the years thinking about creativity and have reached the realization that the best way to deal with being creative is to embody being creative. Meaning creativity has to be a way of life. It is a matter of perception and how we see our lives. From that perspective there is no need to fear writer’s block or lack of ideas or whatever.

    By the way, great post at the Calm Space which I read before coming here. It is always nice to read one of your posts. You truly do write from the heart!
    .-= Nadia – Happy Lotus´s last blog ..Woundology 101 =-.

    1. Thank you! It was lovely having a kitchen table chat over at The Calm Space , then an email, and now finding you here before I log off. I might have missed your comment, though, as I’m still having my WordPress problem. I really miss getting email alerts to tell me when a new comment has appeared on my blog or other people’s. I know I’ve done something accidentally to mess up email alerts, but I have absolutely no idea what!

      I feel more like my old self again today, less grouchy and more loving and creative. I so agree with what you said about creativity being a way of life. We’re all born creative, and are creative every day of our lives, but when we become more aware of it and surrender to a love of being creative, it means we live our lives differently, seeing everything as a gift to be filtered through our experience and awareness. Everything’s fuel for creative people.

      My ego is at its quietest when I’m writing, like a vicious guard dog sleeping peacefully in a basket. My best pieces just flow straight in and out from somewhere I have absolutely no control over. Inspiration for my favourite pieces comes when I’m most aware of how much I love life’s lessons and miracles, humanity and nature, when I’m so moved by some emotion or experience that I have an overwhelming urge to share it so that someone else might experience a part of it.

      Have a great weekend!

  9. Janice,

    I understand how this song made you cry because I wept uncontrollably. Like you I did not get most of the words of the song.

    “Wild Horses could not drive me away” and that music, that soul-stirring music, the crescendo, were enough to shake my heart, causing a flood of tears. After the song, I got back to my writing, thoroughly inspired.
    .-= Cheryl Wright´s last blog ..Saturday Soirée – Its all good =-.

    1. I couldn’t hope to hear anything more uplifting on a foggy, bitterly cold morning than to know the post led you to being inspired in some way. Thanks, Cheryl!

  10. Just checking in to see how my friend across the pond is doing. I love your energy and enthusiasm for the holidays. I’m kinda dreading them. Trying to please my vegan son and my meat & potatoes son-in-law at the same time is difficult. My goal is to try, but not to try too hard.

    Susan Boyle is singing live tonight on “Dancing with the Stars.” I’m looking forward to that, and to your next post as well. What are you working on? I know it will be from your heart. I go back to work tomorrow and may not be around much for a while.
    .-= Brenda´s last blog ..The Many Wines =-.

    1. I’ve just visited my blog for the first time in weeks – I’ll explain why in my next post – but I just wanted to say thank you for your patience and support. I was amazed to find folk still visiting and commenting. I hope you’ll still be around in December when hopefully, I’ll have my strength and Christmas Spirit back and be able to share some adaptable vegetarian recipes with you to add to your repertoire. We have a vegetarian main dish as well as a meat one because we were veggy for years and came to love our veggy Christmas meal!

    1. Just found this in the pending section; sorry for not replying sooner.

      The radio station I listen to has been featuring Susan Boyle’s album this week and there are a few other very moving songs on it. I wouldn’t buy it, though, simply because hers is the kind of voice I like to be surprised by on the radio.

    1. The pressure seems to work well for you, though, because none of your pieces ever seems forced. You have a real professional ability to keep producing quality. I think maybe that’s because you’re so passionate and have such strong opinions about so many things, as well as a desire to stimulate dialogue and community discussions. Sorry I haven’t been able to visit recently, but I’ll be back!

  11. Hello Janice,
    I wanted to let you know that I really enjoy reading your blog. You are always so inspiring! I can’t tell you how many times I have had that writer’s block moment, and yet felt the pressure to keep on posting. That’s the time we should walk away and do something else, like listen to music, or whatever. When things start flowing again, you can’t stop writing!

    As always, thanks for sharing your positive outlook and thoughts…
    .-= E. Thai´s last blog ..Remnants of Hurricane Ida drench the Mid-Atlantic =-.

    1. You’re very welcome! Thank you for taking the time to let me know that my words and messy little patchwork posts are appreciated. Meeting new folk and reading comments like yours helps to fill the well and make sense of so many things on days when real life and internet life combine to overwhelm me.

  12. Janice, this song of Susan’s gives me goosebumps. What an incredible voice! Moves me to tears this does… Thank you–I think I needed that 🙂

    That one cushion reminds of the day when my mother taught me how to crochet. I was never really good at crafts, but I did enjoy making pillow covers with a crochet hook.
    .-= Davina´s last blog ..There’s An Artist In Our Midst =-.

  13. Hi, Davina. I know what you mean about sometimes needing music like that. This Susan Boyd song brings a lump to my throat every time. So does Beth Nielsen Chapman singing All Alone, and my daughter singing Fix You and one or two others. Hell, there are hundreds that make me cry!

    I knew we had lots in common, but my mum taught me to crochet, too, and all I ever made were crocheted cushions!!

  14. Love, love, love the tips from Hugh!

    Alas…my NaNo stalled at 16,000+ words. It simply coincinded with a writing class I’m in and the re-writes for the class don’t count for NaNo. Bummer. I’ll know better next year not to be in a class at the same time 😉

    .-= Peggy´s last blog ..Happy Thanksgiving! =-.

    1. I really admire your determination and focus, doing a class as well as doing NaNoWriMo. Seeing people I ‘know’ doing that really inspires me. Maybe next year!

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