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inspiration & influence writing

Sharing spirit of place to connect

December 10, 2016

spirit of place

I spent a lot of time away from home last year. Being home this year has focused my attention on the spirit of this place where I live. It’s a source of inspiration, grounding and strength. I love to walk to soak up this energy.

These walks develop a narrative of their own if I am listening. Every walk has its own realisations through the rhythm of my thoughts as I step on the sand, into the edge of the sea and commune with the elements of the day. The clouds, conditions, tides and the configuration of the beach combine to craft a unique train of thought.

And the shells and stones I notice and want to pick up on any particular day are also signposts. I am not always sure which way they are pointing or why I am drawn to them, but there’s a synergy I recognise. As M-L Von Franz says in Carl Jung’s Man and his Symbols:

Perhaps crystals and stones are especially apt symbols of the Self because of the “just-so-ness” of their nature. Many people cannot refrain from picking up stones of a slightly unusual colour or shape and keeping them, without knowing why they do this. It is as if the stones held a living mystery that fascinates them.

I am one of these people, gathering the distinctive shells and stones of the moment, as if holding onto them can help me to understand the language of that specific day.

beauty of place shell

The narrative of this particular walk is that I want to share this place and the stories that come from its energy. Surrounded by beaches on one side and bush on the other, it’s an oasis and a sanctuary. It’s the lungs of the city, the breathing space for many. On this particular day, it’s a time of easing away from the world of work and shifting into a different life. The weather is sublime. I feel like I’m in heaven as I begin cutting the tie from work, catching up with myself and breathing in and out with awareness. I look for those shells I recognise at the water’s edge, talismans of salty wisdom to hold onto.

I think about the quiet radiance of this place, how its water caresses me, how walking on its sand grounds me and how its rocks solidify my intentions. It’s a place where time is told by ferry crossings, where tides shape your passage and where dreams come true in an incremental way you hardly realise.

beauty-of-this-place-4

I know that part of my work is sharing the treasure that is the spirit of this place, the solitude and sanctuary it represents and how this might be a positive influence for others. It’s through words and images and the narratives of these walks that reflections are generated. These ideas are then reworked and massaged with new associations that I sometimes share and through that, connect with others.

It’s so important in our work to co-create with each other, including sharing spirit of place, the sources of our wisdom and the connection it provides. As Colette Baron-Reid says in Uncharted: The Journey Through Uncertainty to Infinite Possibility:

None of us is meant to be an island, isolating and hoarding resources. When we share our wisdom and support and resources with others, we immediately dispel the illusion of scarcity. We remember that the matrix of connection sustains us regardless of what we want to create or what form our creativity takes.

So I’d like to share this landscape with you. If I could just take a taste of this day and put it on your tongue, it’s an elixir that would sparkle your being with the essence of calm. I offer it in words and images here to connect with your heart. And there’s so much I want to offer and co-create with you.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh says in Gift from the Sea:

The waves echo behind me. Patience – Faith – Openness, is what the sea has to teach. Simplicity – Solitude – Intermittency…..But there are other beaches to explore. There are more shells to find. This is only a beginning.

It’s true, there are new narratives each day and this is only a beginning. I head home, settling this unique day’s story into my being and shifting into a quieter, wiser place. And I share these thoughts and feelings with you. I’d love to hear about your spirit of place and what narratives it inspires in you.

beauty of this place 1

creativity writing

Weaving spirit into words

November 22, 2016

There’s spirit to be woven into words and creativity to be channelled naturally. It’s time to listen, feel and write.

natural creativity

I’ve realised recently that my writing and creativity practice is a natural one, weaving spirit into words. It came to my attention via the gorgeous ‘natural creativity’ card (above) from the Plant Ally Cards deck created by Lisa McLoughlin. I’d long been wanting this deck. When Lisa put out a call recently to say there were only a few precious ones left, I made the leap. And so did this card, jumping out and calling out for my attention with my first touch of the deck.

With its plant connection being Hogweed (or heracleum), the message of this card is:

Living in the moment allows the gift for personal expression and exploration.

Take the time to manifest your own natural creative path.

These words and thoughts are so welcome and calming at this time. I especially love the encouragement to live in the moment and to take time.

The concept of ‘natural creativity’  has made me realise afresh just how organic this work really is.

It’s about weaving spirit into words. It’s intuitive and poetic, a textual knitting of thoughts and influences into something I can wear into the world. It’s listening to lines that arrive in the night and nudge me. It’s hearing gentle voices narrating an auditory headline as I walk by the ocean. It’s sitting and staring out under a tree, my feet in the sand, writing down what comes like I’m channelling something as natural as the breeze. It’s knowing that my practice of drawing an oracle or tarot card and reflecting on it is a way of tapping into something higher to guide me. Even though it still feels like a strange thing to do sometimes.

Working intuitively with the symbolism of cards has become core and is surprisingly natural to me. I’m finding that my daily cards link to become a narrative that supports me in my associative way of looking at the world. And it’s also helping to anchor me as I process my changing identity and roles when they were so completely different only a few months ago. One of the few consistent variables in all this is my natural creativity and it’s a touchstone in a swirling time of uncertainty.

Uniqueness of voice and vision are critical for me and something of a personal battleground at present. With so many influences, it’s sometimes hard to see your own vision and hear your own voice.

I need to find my footing, my grounded sense of creativity, my own song and weaving of influences. I need to not pine for the past, for what I haven’t done creatively. I need to do what I can, here and now in the flow of the moment and ink on the page.

The sense is also not to rush, just to take the time to listen, to be instinctive and intuitive, manifesting my voice and path in the way that only I can.

The other words that also landed the same day and in the same way as ‘natural creativity’ from the Sacred Rebels Oracle deck were:

What you want, wants you.

There’s an aligning of symbols I need to notice more. There’s energy to be conducted like a lightning rod connected between earth and sky. There’s spirit to be woven into words and creativity to be channelled naturally. It’s time to listen, feel and write.

what-you-want-wants-you

Thought pieces

Plant Ally Cards – At the time of writing, there are still a few of these fabulous decks left at Lisa McLoughlin’s Etsy shop Whimsy of Nature. My thanks to Lisa for creating such an inspiring resource for connecting with nature and creativity.

Daily Divine e-course – I recommend Victoria Smith’s The Daily Divine e-course  if you are interested in developing knowledge of oracle cards and your intuitive practice. This course on oracle cards was a great complement to my burgeoning knowledge of tarot cards. It set me off on an adventure of connecting with intuition more deeply via oracle and tarot. It has especially encouraged what has become a daily practice of reflection and journalling based on card wisdom.

Natural creativity quote – from current read, The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of Soul in Corporate America by David Whyte:

The sudden and intuitive capacity to feel deep emotion, what the romantic poets called sensibility, is the power of appreciation for things as they are.

 

weaving spirit into words

 

creativity writing

Creativity and connection via Instagram

November 9, 2016

stretch-marks-soul

Instagram is an excellent source of creativity, inspiration and connection with kindred community. One of the key ways people link up is via daily prompts. The beauty and benefits of such prompt journeys are myriad but the main ones are creativity and connection.

Stretching your creativity

Firstly, creativity: you are given a word or phrase to make with what you will. It can be just noticing details in your everyday routine or remembering something from a past time. It can encourage you to dig out material that you wish to refocus on. You can recognise new patterns as the word triggers associations that relate to current experiences. And you can also bounce off others for your own creative boost enjoying their related journeys.

As Instagram is primarily a visual medium, you have the challenge of representing the word associations visually. Or you can start with an image and connect the word, visual and thoughts together. Each day is different.

Practically, I keep an eye on next day’s prompt or at least check on it early in the day. I sometimes respond quickly if there’s something immediate that comes to mind. Other times, it’s a slow touchpoint I come back to, thinking of it as I go about my day.

On some occasions, there’s a bit more brain racking and research. The prompt ‘unicorn’ from Susannah Conway’s August Break this year had me going through cupboards and pulling books off the shelves looking for unicorns. The prompts that resulted were fantastic and sometimes hilarious as people found or rediscovered unicorns in their environment.(I eventually uncovered them in ‘The Book of Symbols’ – I knew they were around somewhere!) People also improvised, including the memorable ‘be your own unicorn’ from the fabulous Kylie McDonnell.

And some prompts lead to a deep reflection and engagement. Experience October 2016 led by Rae Ritchie inspired my last post, connecting the word for the day, ‘sapphire’, with a poem I wrote many years ago and finally put out there into the light. Navigating through November led by India Ross aka @ofearthandstars has inspired new thoughts via the prompt, ‘stretch’ and I share the writing from this below: ‘Stretch marks on the soul.’

Fostering connection and community

Many in my Instagram sphere have connected over time via Susannah Conway’s brilliant community prompt initiatives The August Break and April Love. Clearly there is a need for continuing connection in this way. It takes people to step up, lead and put in the work to create online communities whether it be for the long or the short term. And it takes a creative community to keep the momentum going.

The current round of prompts mentioned above builds on links from these initiatives. Another key one has been #taleswithfriends, led by the wonderful Tori, ‘curatrix of the everyday’ aka @unfoldtheday.  I have been a keen and appreciative participant of these various initiatives and help to spread the word and build connection.

The kindred creative connection established via Instagram, and these prompt quests especially, runs very deep. As an INTJ, with an emphasis on the introvert and writing and reading as my ways to engage with the world, the camaraderie and connection of my IG friends has become core to my day and world. Last year, I was away from home working for eight months and on my own most of the time. My IG buddies kept me connected, inspired and supported each day, alongside my family, friends and local networks. And this continues. There’s support there when you are feeling low or on your own and also when there’s good news to share. There’s cheering, encouragement and practical suggestions like what to read and how to ignite joy and celebrate life in the every day.

And you can enjoy the balance of day and night and the seasons as they inversely change across the hemispheres. It’s been lovely watching the first snow elsewhere in the world as our days warm up and we have our first swims of the season here.

The thread of creativity helps me to get up and walk and take photographs, to really notice the flowers in the gardens around me and to share what I am reading and thinking about. Likewise the celebration of quiet and the beautiful place where I live has been a mainstay of my IG experiences. Seeing it through others’ eyes has made me remember just how special it is. You can forget this at times, being so close.

A word, a rock, a thought

So in the end ~ a word, a rock, a thought ~ are what it took to create the piece below. That and walking and sitting down to connect it together whilst at the beach feeling it all. I share that creative connection with you here. And I thank those who support this journey via IG and other valued creative communities. We are all in this together: noticing, witnessing, sharing and quietly writing.

Stretch marks on the soul

Look back on your life and you find times when the universe expanded you. Maybe there was violence, maybe love, maybe conflict, disagreement, passion, disappointment, blood, elation, surprise.

Sometimes these are large public events, traumas witnessed, flowers sent, cards received, phone calls made, heads bowed. 

Other times, these are silent events, perhaps recorded in journals as cries for help, little cuts of disappointment, pieces of our hopes and souls shredded. Sometimes no one else even knows.

If you stopped and thought, you could perhaps count the stretch marks on your soul, the events that changed you forever – the birth, the rejection, the letter, the phone call, the knock on the door, the ring, the travel to be with someone, the news on the television, the sudden something that lurched you out of the everyday or changed your dreams. Or made ordinary life extraordinary or a twilight zone for a while.

You can feel as you remember: the stares at a wall seeking answers; the hair falling from your head into your fingers; the look on a loved one’s face as they arrive to tell you the terrible news you don’t as yet know; the peace of sleep after the journey of giving birth through the night.

The beautiful or agonising stretch marks on your soul. 

You can just witness them, know they are there but mostly ignore them. Or you can tend them, rub oil in, to promote healing so those stretch marks blend a little more into your being, your body and mind absorbing them.

These marks are signs of birth, and sadly also sometimes scars from the death of things longed for: love, connection, family, people to stay alive longer or forever, something to not stop or wanting that so desired and cherished thing to just finally happen.

These stigmata, these talismans, these shields, these signs: I bear them with grace, bending to their lessons, looking skyward through the leaves of spring for answers. I wrap their wisdom round me as I head for home.

fig-leaves

You can connect with me on Instagram as @writingquietly

reading notes writing

Being ‘Fierce on the Page’ – a book review

October 9, 2016

Fierce on the Page: Become the writer you were meant to be and succeed on your own terms’ by Sage Cohen, Writer’s Digest Books

Fierce on the Page - book cover

I first came across Sage Cohen through her book Writing the Life Poetic which focuses on building poetic voice and putting poetry back into our everyday lives. I also had the opportunity of working on my poetry through Sage’s online classes a few years back. From these experiences, I come to Sage’s works on writing with high expectations of both a pleasurable reading experience and wise, practical advice.

And I am never disappointed. ‘Fierce on the Page’ is a rare and rich read, structured as a series of 75 reflective essays that offer strategies, perspectives and practices to encourage ferocity in writing and in life.

Sage defines ferocity and the fierce writer in her introduction:

The fierce writer ensures that the time and energy she invests in her craft pays dividends of insight and evolution. The fierce writer discovers how to come into his alignment with his authority, leverage his interests, and honour his rhythms, to become the truest instrument of his craft.

From page one of the first essay, ‘You Are Your Best Expert’, I was lulled by Sage’s reassuring voice telling me stories and building on these to make connections. The essays provide a path to navigate the way into writing and into progressing through many aspects of its craft and life.

Each contemplative essay is so thought-provoking. My copy is now full of underlining, connections and possible creations sparked by the reading experience. Sage’s practical business writing background is also woven through the pages. There is a blend of wisdom honed from writing experience of all kinds, along with a grounded sense of what works to bring forward new possibilities and how productivity can be enhanced.

Some of the key strengths of ‘Fierce on the Page’ for me are:

  1. Its associative approach: There is an energy of association underlying each essay. An anecdote or story is told or an experience recounted. These reflections then form the basis of the essay. It’s an evocative reading experience as you are folded into each idea and its applications evolve. This associative approach lends a wise felt experience that makes it easy to engage on a very deep level.
  2. The structure of each essay: Each essay builds from its opening to a realisation or discovery and then a practical application. From there, we are given suggested strategies to apply and questions to dive into to enable us to ‘be fierce’ in our writing endeavours. Woven into this are quotes and references from other creatives that provide prompts and shifts to our perspective.
  3. The poetic language of discovery: As each essay reaches moments where the connections and realisations are crystallised, the language likewise reaches a quiet crescendo of feeling. The learning is expressed sensitively and enacted directly, as with the language of poetry. The images and associations created from this narrative approach make the reading experience lived and heartfelt.

For example, in ‘Write Your Manifesto’, essay #55:

I have come to accept that the writing life is expansive enough to hold my many refractions, and that these add up to the whole of what I have to give.”

In ‘A Bug’s Life, A Writer’s Life’, essay #58:

When you are at an impasse of transition, and your next steps are unclear, follow the words. Trust the words. Trust the cliffs, the canyons, the face flowers. Trust your disorientation and your sense of direction. Trust what you find and don’t find. The shadow gives shape to light. These are your stories. The dance of interdependence is a hum of words.

In ‘Get to the Place of Grace’, essay #63:

Whatever it means to you in your life and your writing, be on the lookout for that lift-off in your words and that landing in your being. Hone your attention to the place of grace where you can feel, know and trust that you and your piece of writing have completed your journey.

Sage’s reminds us that: ‘You have everything you need—and you are everything you need—to do the writing you want to do’. These words provide the gentle encouragement many of us need to begin, to continue or to start up where we left off.

I encourage you to seek out the wisdom and practicality of ‘Fierce on the Page’ as a support in engaging in quiet, resilient writing and in succeeding in where you want to be in your writing. Sage’s books are always on my desk as talismans of encouragement and practice. This special book will stay close at hand, gaining more comments and underlining over the years, as I seek to apply its messages and be fierce with my own writing and life.

Master the Margins

Thought pieces:

You can visit Sage Cohen’s Fierce on the Page website for more information including a community page to share thoughts from the practical exercises in the book.

The interview Mantu Joshi on Writing and Living Fierce is an inspiring example and shows the power and outcomes that can come from living out fierce and committed writing strategies. In this case, it resulted in a book on resilient parenting, written two hours a week over two years.

Other books on writing by Sage Cohen that I recommend are:

Writing the Life Poetic – an invitation to read and write poetry; fabulous for re-engaging with the spirit of poetry in your life.

The Productive Writer – practical strategies and thought processes to increase your productivity and move from ideas to action and outcomes in your writing life. I’ve written a book review of The Productive Writer which you can find here.

creativity writing

The subtle art of not writing

September 27, 2016

pexels-photo_writing

It’s a subtle art, the art of not writing. I have not written now through many years, filling and part-filling many journals and notebooks, drafting hundreds of poems and compiling numerous blog posts over more than six years. I’ve not written in the workplace for over 30 years – including writing for and editing publications, writing a handbook of research and influencing many business outcomes with my writing skills. I’ve not written my way to publication in a few cases, so much so that the Australian National Library, a number of literary journals and the AustLit database of Australian literature know about me. And there’s so much not writing paraphernalia around me here as I sit, that I can hardly move.

It seems I am a master of not writing, spinning a myth about myself over the years that to this day can see me looking achingly at writing texts and courses as the cure to this ailment. It’s true, their balms and solutions may help me to move through this impasse. But to allow them to make me feel that I am a complete novice in this art and space, with no track record or prior experience, is all my own work.

It seems that just as I have tricked myself into the subtle art of not writing, I could just as easily trick myself into the art of writing. They seem to be transferable, almost the same skills, that could be shifted in focus. Perhaps I need to chunk it more, break it down into parts I can think of as projects, to make it easier to manage. Calling one focus something like ‘The Poetry Project’ would help make the work all the more tangible and achievable. Now I come to think of it, this blog is a little like that.

With a wry smile and a sense of humour, and by some gentle stealth, I could set a time-limited practice and tease a set number of pages or words from each day to get started and call it part of the subtle art of not writing.

I could get the best poems I have written over the years and put them into a small volume that is not really a publication, but just a collection of pieces of my heart in language I have shaped, uniquely my voice. I could craft these small multi-faceted jewels over time and work out how they can best be worn and integrated into a personal style I can step out in.

And I could turn this desire to write into something real that heartens each day, a deft trick of time that makes the minutes count. I could further inscribe the journey already started through miles of lines of ink into artefacts that might light the way ahead, little by little, much as novelist E L Doctorow reminds us:

Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

That delicious journey, and then actually sitting down to (not) write.

Thought pieces:

Writing this piece made me think a whole raft of things: resistance, getting out of our own way, making things manageable, shifting our contexts, small tweaks, tricking ourselves, recognising our body of work over time and self-belief.

In related thoughts and connections:

Courteney E Martin’s article, Writing the Stepping Stone: why you haven’t written your book yet, has some excellent practical suggestions for getting your book written including: recognising that it might not actually be a book but something else; dealing with distractions such as the internet; and realising that the work you are doing actually might be a stepping stone. I love these final words about, yes, getting out of our own way:

If you have a book inside of you dying to come out, close this browser. Close this computer, or turn off this phone. Sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and write a letter to someone you know personally about the topic. The directness of the form will get you out of your own way and on your way to doing what you are meant to do.

How to Write a Novel in Thirty Minutes per day has many strategies for: getting into the habit of writing; controlling or removing interferences and distractions like the internet (including ‘put your mobile on aeroplane mode’ – there’s a thought!); building accountability; and promoting good practice planning, productivity and resilience. It’s a great roadmap for ‘driving at night in the fog’.

Sage Cohen in the wonderful Fierce on the Page (book review coming up here soon!) has a few tips on little shifts in attitude for overcoming resistance. In the chapter, ‘Change your context to regain your appetite’. Sage prompts us:

What if you found a new way to approach an old struggle or stuck place? How could you come at it sideways to find a new perspective? What if you were to make a small shift in attitude or practice – and then another – until you felt a bit more space or ease or fun?

And so many of Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast interviews touch on this theme of getting out of our own way with our creative ventures, realising we are actually already doing the work, not being so hard on ourselves and just getting on with it. Dive into any of these podcast pleasures but I have a special soft spot for the one with poets Cecilia and Mark Nepo, Who Gets to Decide Whether You’re a Legitimate Artist? It’s about who gets to decide who is a good poet and the value and legacy of poetry. Listening to this one was life changing for me!

Share your thought pieces:

I’d love to hear how you are breaking through any resistance with tricks or shifts in attitude. How are you getting out of your own way or valuing your creative work?

creativity writing

Step by step: a narrative

September 24, 2016

I’m at the beach at my favourite spot looking out from the shade to the bluest and clearest of spring September days. It’s Monday, a day I’m normally at work but I recently started a job share arrangement. This means I work three days a week to free me up to work creatively, get some balance, be me and have ‘an actual life’ as my friend Will described it so accurately.

From the fig tree

On this day that I’m writing, it’s the first day of this new sense of freedom and the waves are lapping quite loudly and incessantly, a restlessness and churning that I feel matched with. As I’ve shifted to this transition time, I’ve had a chest infection and asthma and I’ve been on steroids to open up my airways. The excitement of this time of transition and its opportunities, along with the medication, has made for some idea-filled attempts at sleep.

The ideas are so deep and complex and I keep a notebook beside the bed at night. I want to capture these thoughts; they are defining, connective and empowering. I know that if I let them float into sleep and try to remember their unique associations in the morning, it won’t happen. I need to capture them like precious butterflies and hold them gently with all their beauty before they fly away. They are the gateway to so much, gifts from another place, and to contemplate them, weave them and enact them is the richest of experiences. I work to coalesce them into a body of work I can take forward and lead to support and enrich my life and the lives of others. The dots are connecting and the planets are aligning and calling.

And to write. Writing here – the coolness of the sand against my feet, the cold brick wall behind my back – is like meditation. It’s my life’s breath over the years that I need to breathe deeper into and exhale through, finding and expressing the voice that is uniquely mine. I’m breathing so deeply now as my airwaves clear. My senses are coming alive: I’m seeing so sharply, noticing;  I catch the scent of salt and jasmine; and the waves are crashing like loud applause.

My beach walks always seem to have some form of narrative, thoughts shaping into a structure as I wander. Today’s is ‘step by step’.

As I walk on the hard sand, I feel the calm of each step, one grounded thing at a time, and the mindfulness of the moment. I’m wary and watchful of the pitfalls and traps as I step: the moss on the tidal rocks that can slip me up; the larger waves that can catch me unawares and wash me down.

I feel a stillness in each step. I’m walking tall, feeling the ground beneath, scanning the terrain and savouring being at home here on the beach and in myself, looking out.

It’s hard to believe it’s here – this opened out opportunity like this clear blue sky and all this water reaching out to the horizon. Everything is so sharp and clear though that it must be real and I’m breathing in its quiet strength, one breath at a time, one grounded step at a time.

 

gunyah-5sept

Thought pieces:

My mind is an associative one so I as I post, I plan to add some thought pieces, some creative connections, influences and resources.

For this post, ‘Step by Step: a narrative’, I offer the following thought pieces:

Beach walks as narratives:

I’ve written before about beach walks as narratives; here is a poem about that in a previous post, Poetry into the Light. There is nothing like walking on the beach to restore your mind and soul, ground you and help make connections. For me, there is something like a narrative that builds as I walk and I intend to capture my narratives more consciously as I move through this time.

Tarot card for the day and the times: Nine of Cups

The card that I drew on the first day of being at home at the start of these new work arrangements was the Nine of Cups. It’s a card I’ve also drawn again since so clearly a card for the times.

9-of-cups

The above Nine of Cups image is from the Sakki Sakki Tarot Deck.

And the message?

From Rachel Pollack’s Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom:

At times, especially after troubles or a period of long, hard work, nothing can serve us better than a simple good time.

And Brigit Esselmont (of Biddy Tarot) in The Ultimate Guide to Tarot Card Meanings has chosen this quote by Theodore I Rubin (Psychiatrist and Author) to illustrate the key meaning:

Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes from the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.

It has certainly been a time of both troubles and hard work for a long while so the pleasure of  ‘a simple good time’ and ‘the afterglow of satisfaction’ are especially savoured and sweet.

The book of the moment: ‘The Heart Aroused’ by David Whyte

One of the simple pleasures of being at home during the week is being able to do everyday things like go to the post office. On my first day home, this gorgeous book arrived in the post and I had the pleasure of sitting to open it over a coffee in the local cafe.

the-heart-aroused3

I’ve had a number of David Whyte’s books sitting in my ‘thinking about it’ wish list for a while. After connecting with a lovely new friend Katherine recently, she wisely reminded me of David Whyte and how his work is potentially an important piece of this transition time. I ordered his books and these words in the frontispiece of ‘The Heart Aroused’ just sang to me as I opened it, :

Only a few achieve the colossal task of holding together, without being split asunder, the clarity of their vision alongside an ability to take their place in a materialistic world. They are the modern heroes…Artists at least have a form within which they can hold their own conflicting opposites together. But there are some who have no recognised art form to serve this purpose, they are the artists of the living. To my mind these last are the supreme heroes in our soulless society.

Irene Claremont de Castillejo

Here’s to ‘the artists of the living’ and the clarity of their vision.

blogging introversion writing

Welcome to Quiet Writing

September 13, 2016

Quiet Writing

Hello and welcome to Quiet Writing

I’m so excited to be launching my new look blog. I’ve been preparing, quietly writing and crafting in the background for the longest time and it’s time to dust off this blog, formerly called Transcending, and transition it to reflect my focus for writing and new ventures going forward. It’s the heart of a new life and business and and I hope that you will join me here as I move through this time.

I’ve kept Transcending intact within Quiet Writing with its history over more than six years, as that journey has led to this one, coming out of pain and grief as its core. The spirit of Celebrating the extraordinary power of the ordinary self: strategies for rising above, cutting through and connecting will continue in Quiet Writing as its secret power. So if you have signed up to Transcending previously, I believe you will have transitioned over here to Quiet Writing and I hope you will stay for the next part of the journey.

So what is Quiet Writing about?

It is the summary of my passions and Core Desired Feelings of:

creative, intuitive, flowing, poetic and connected

To explain, I love the words of Monicka Clio Sakki, creator of the Sakki Sakki tarot deck:

The Artist is still an Artist even behind the closed curtains. Being an Artist is a process, not a state.”

Quiet Writing is about the strength that comes from working steadily and without fanfare in writing and other spheres to create, coalesce, influence and connect. It’s an opportunity to muse and reflect on my core values and the interplay between them.  In this, I draw on and connect my various experiences and interests as well as connecting with others who share them.

Many of us have been on what Elizabeth Gilbert calls, in one of her wonderful Magic Lessons, ‘the long runway’ and it’s valuable preparation we need to acknowledge. I want to honour the process as much as the product here; the being, becoming and journey as much as the arrival; the artistry behind the closed curtains and doors.

The Artist card in the Sakki Sakki Tarot deck beautifully symbolises this potential and opportunity:

the-artist

This is not to say that publication, product and stage are not important and a desirable outcome; but we can focus too much on that external validation and not value our work and its process as it evolves in the present. The act of quiet writing and the solitude to capture ideas and craft them, especially for introverts who so need this, is the space from which so much can flow, connect and be created. The conditions, environment, relationships and influences which enable our creative endeavours to flourish are also crucial shaping factors.

I’m interested especially in the gift of writing and finding our unique voice to articulate our place in the world and express the artistry of everyday life.

This is something I’ve been interested in and committed to in my working and creative life for a long time. One of my earliest blog posts from 2010, ‘The value of howling into the wind” captures this:

So ‘howling into the wind’ is about running with the wolves and the ‘longing for the wild’ as (Clarissa Pinkola) Estes calls it. It’s about stoking the creative fire with winds that might feel a bit uncomfortable and cold at first. It’s about the strength that might come from tuning into such intuitive sources, making connections and finding that to which we belong.

And through whatever means – writing, photography, a business idea, a new perspective, the shape of a poem – forming something unique that is your voice that others may also tune into, relate to and take something away from. So let’s keep howling.

It’s funny how we resonate more deeply with our own themes over time; though sometimes we need to learn to listen to ourselves a little more and honour our enduring passions as they play out.

You can learn more about me here but in short, I gain great heart from reading about the journeys of those who seek and enjoy things like creativity, the gifts of introversion, authenticity and celebrating a reading and writing life, and especially hope to celebrate the lyricism of this in my own journey and in connecting with others on similar journeys.

So what can you expect here at Quiet Writing?

  • Reflections on my experiences of quiet writing as I negotiate it as a central value
  • Ideas on the writing process and how to grow, express and value your unique voice
  • A focus on the strengths of quietness and introversion to cultivate depth and connection
  • A lot about the art and value of living quietly – creative spaces, our environment, relationships
  • Conversations about books, reading, influences and podcasts that celebrate this kind of life
  • Thought pieces on creative connections: tarot, astrology, symbols, Jungian psychology
  • An exploration of contexts such as leadership, innovation, productivity, planning, strategy and managing introversion in public roles.

And into the future, I am planning much more, with Quiet Writing being the core of a heart centred gathering of like minded people with sharing of influences and connections to bring us all alive.

Key influences:

In starting anew here, I’d like to express gratitude and acknowledge the key influences, connections and reading, writing and personal development projects that have brought me here. They include:

  • Susannah Conway’s e-courses such as Blogging from the HeartJournal your Life and The Inside Story and her inspiring journeys on building a heart filled creative life and business that have supported and nurtured my own;
  • Danielle LaPorte’s everything and especially The Desire Map Core Desired Feelings and Style Statement work, her energy, passion and constant encouragement in creativity;
  • Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn and her generous and informative blog, resources and podcasts and for the powerful and inspiring role model of her business and writing life;
  • Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking and The Quiet Revolution which have helped me make sense of so much and which I hope to build on in my own unique way here as a voice empowered by this strength;
  • Sage Cohen, writing mentor and author, whose books including ‘Writing the Life Poetic‘ and ‘Fierce on the Page‘ are always close at hand and who has helped me get back to writing and to navigate some very difficult times with courage and grace;
  • And finally, my creative buddy, Victoria Smith, who inspires me always with her mojo, wise words and practical magic and who has been such a valuable support in recent times as my life coach as I navigate new horizons.

I’ve written about my influences previously in this post and you can see that Susannah, Danielle, Joanna and Sage have been strong influences since 2010 so I owe them enduring gratitude for their inspiration and support.

Acknowledgements:

I also want to acknowledge my family and friends at this time of making a new start, for without them and their sacred place in my life, I would not be writing quietly here now:

  • To my partner Keith, for supporting, enabling me and loving me for who I am. Strong, independent women can make it on their own but it can be lonely; having the support of a strong and independent man who lets me shine is a rare and valued thing. I am lucky enough to have had two such men in my life: my Dad and Keith: Thank you, Keith, for your support and for our ability to negotiate tough times with humour and grace. Our love is deepening as we enter this new time.
  • To my daughter Caitlin, who embodies the spirit of quiet writing in her beautiful being with her love of language, reading and solitude: It’s the greatest of treasures being your mother and watching you grow into the independent and strong woman that you are. You teach and inspire me constantly in so many quiet ways as you always have and I love you so much.
  • To my father and mother: My father taught me so much about the strength of quietness without me even realising. No longer with us, I realise now that he was probably an INTJ just like me and my quiet strength, love of books and reading and so much more comes from him. And my beautiful mother who is the bravest person I know, who has loved me and my brother so fiercely and managed the most challenging times with such quiet resilience I can only wonder at. To both: the fiercest of love and gratitude back to you.
  • To my little brother Martin, who left us so tragically and suddenly by his own hand in 2007. The impetus of much of this blog and its creative work stems from the time of his death. I wish it had come to me another way than through the grief and learning from such terrible loss: The hole in my heart is so large and I try each day to fill it with light. I know you visit in the butterfly spirits that come by so gently and we need to learn to speak of you more. I will keep your spirit alive here, transcending into quiet writing and as I said at your funeral, in the words of ‘Crowded House’:

And if you choose to take that path
I will play you like a shark
And I’ll clutch at your heart
I’ll come flying like a spark to inflame you.

  • To my family, friends and especially my creative friends in real life and on Instagram and in other special places like the Mojo Lab Inner Circlelinking with you gives me such great heart for the journey and I love our connections each and every day.
  • And to my ancestry, my lineage, especially the women in my family who scribbled poems that I have found, tucked into recipe books and who signed their names as an X: I am sure you wrote quietly in your heads, hearing your own voice, and who knows what might have been in different circumstances. I thank all those who have gone before me to enable this room of my own to be able to have the voice that I have and the ability to use it. May I use it wisely and with passion and influence to likewise blaze a trail for others.

Thank you for staying to read to this point. I know it’s long but for reasons I don’t fully understand yet, these things need to be said here as a threshold piece in moving forward. The card I drew today, the Six of Swords (shown here from the Sakki Sakki deck) is a clue I think – there is a passage, a crossing over, a heading into and a leaving behind at this time.

Six of Swords

So let us begin here.

I look forward to connecting with and learning from you and I encourage you to connect with me.

You can sign up at the top so you receive ‘Quiet Writing‘ posts and information via email. I promise I won’t bombard you and I’ll respect your space. I’ll be aiming for about 1-2 posts a week that I hope will inspire you and this way, you can also keep in touch with new developments here as they unfold.

In the spirit of connecting and commencing here, I’ve opened up about ‘Quiet Writing‘, its background and how it expresses my unique voice. I’d love for you to say hello and tell me in your special two words (or more, given I’ve taken so many!) how you express your creativity and uniqueness in the world.

Let me know your thoughts as I start out anew. I’d love to hear from you so I’m not just howling into the wind, as valuable as it is.

Terri x

Terri Connellan

inspiration & influence writing

Novels: lost, found and unwritten

March 22, 2015


The recent announcement of the lost novel from Harper Lee, the unpublished unknown predecessor of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, written before, that tells us the next step in the story, raised many questions.

Firstly it seems incredulous that this could be so. That such an archetypal novel had an earlier sister and that it took the events further was a surprise. How could we have not known all this time? Where was this novel? Why was it not published before?

Then later that some day, the announcement of a new novel by Milan Kundera, author of ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’, again such an archetypal novel and one that had a profound effect on me in the late 80s, accompanied by an amazing film. Now another novel by this great author is to come after a significant silence of more than a decade.

It set me thinking about the ‘inevitability’ of novels, about the novels that get lost (see this article on delayed and lost novels – especially one that got lost in the post!), the novels that are found, the ones that get delayed for a long time. And the ones that risk not being written at all.

It brought to mind ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society‘, “a first novel from a 70 year old former librarian, Mary Ann Shaffer”. According to the book’s bio, Mary Ann first became interested in Guernsey in 1976; then many years later was goaded into writing a book and revisited her thoughts about Guernsey. Mary Ann died in 2008 without seeing her book in print and knowing the fame it enjoyed and the pleasure it kindled in others.

It made me go back to some loved works on resistance and silence and to reflect on some words in this space:

From ‘The War of Art‘ – Stephen Pressfield

“Creative work is not a selfish act or bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got”.

From ‘Silences‘ – Tillie Olsen

“Literary history and the present are dark with silences: some the silences for years by our acknowledged greats; some silences hidden; some the ceasing to publish after one work appears; some the never coming to book form at all.”

And wise words from Maya Angelou:

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Milan Kundera states in a 1983 Paris Review interview:

“A novel is a meditation on existence, seen through imaginary characters. The form is unlimited freedom. Throughout its history, the novel has never known how to take advantage of its endless possibilities. It missed its chance.”

So many endless possibilities, so many chances.

What untold stories ask to be written and how can we make sure they come to light and don’t get lost or forgotten?

Let’s not miss the chance.

Novel pics (2)

 

reading notes writing

Celebrating Australian Women’s Writing

February 24, 2013

awwbadge_2013

The ‘Australian Women Writers Challenge’ is one of my projects for 2013. I undertook this challenge in 2012 and had a wonderful reading and connecting experience and looking forward to extending and enriching that this year.

So what is the challenge? You can read more about it here but basically it’s a reading and reviewing challenge to lift the profile of Australian women’s writing. It was started in 2012 by Elizabeth Lhuede in response to an under-representation of women’s writing in Australian literary prizes being awarded. It has since developed into a strong, diverse group of readers and reviewers celebrating and sharing writing by Australian women.

You can choose your level of engagement in the challenge and there’s no pressure to complete as such, just a target to aim for. Last year, I aimed high (read 10, review 6) and in a busy year managed most of the reading and none of the reviews. This year, I am aiming a little lower (read 6, review at least 4) and hope to over-achieve!

So why am I signing up again and why is it important?

I have a great love of Australian women’s writing. My Australian literature bookshelf is about 80% women writers. This love developed naturally during my university literature studies and has endured. It’s my history, lineage and backyard; they are not the only writers I enjoy but they are the writers closest to my experience with all the local references, influences and language especially as it relates to the experience of women.

I am engaging with the challenge in 2013 again to broaden this experience further; in 2012, I learned about so many new Australian women writers and so many diverse reads. I have been enjoying deliberately seeking out writers that are new to me and genres that I don’t normally read.

It’s important because the profile of Australian women writers has been under-represented in terms of awards and book reviews, as surprising as this is. Read this post on the background to the challenge to get a feel for some of the issues. The AWW Challenge has done much to celebrate and raise awareness about Australian women’s writing and I for one am very grateful for the community and experience, as well as the profile being generated. The challenge has resulted in a powerful ground shift that has attracted national and international attention.

Reflecting on 2012

In 2012, I read 7 books towards my target of 10. Because I didn’t get to the review in 2012 and in case anyone is looking for potential reads for this year, I’ll list my reads and add a few brief comments.

Searching for the Secret River: A Writing Memoir – Kate Grenville‘s account of the research and writing experience of ‘The Secret River’ was always going to be an engaging book for me, being about a number of key interests: writing, family history, genealogical research, fact and fiction and the intersection between them. One branch of my family also settled in the area Kate was researching and writing about so it was all close to home personally and a fascinating read on how fact and family story came to be a work of fiction.

Sarah Thornhill – Kate Grenville followed on from ‘The Secret River’ so a natural next read and it didn’t disappoint as a close study of what is what like for strong willed women in colonial times with all its many challenges, especially in terms of culture and gender.

When We Have Wings – Claire Corbett was thrilling and a read that took me right out of the present to another world where people can grow wings and society is separated into those who can fly and those who can’t. Technically brilliant, especially in its descriptions of the experience of flying, and a well constructed story in a whole new space and time, I enjoyed ‘When We Have Wings’ thoroughly. This review by fellow AWW Challenge participant, Mark Webb provides more detail. Well worth reading – a fantastic debut novel from Blue Mountains based writer, Claire Corbett.

The Light Between Oceans – M L Stedman was one of the books I picked up and bought from reading the back blurb when looking for a new Australian Women Writers read in 2012. It soon emerged that this book was gaining interest all over the world and with good reason. Set against a wild West Australian coastline, featuring a remote lighthouse and with a twist and turn plot and gut-wrenching life decisions, it was a highlight for me in 2012.

Poet’s Cottage – Josephine Pennicott was another book purchased without any prior knowledge as part of AWW2012. Set in Tasmania, with a family history to uncover, a murder mystery, some wonderfully eccentric characters and an inherited cottage with secrets, it’s another atmospheric read.

The Engagement – Chloe Hooper – spooked me completely one night. It’s a suspenseful, intense and mysterious ride, with the engagement as much with the reader as between the two main characters who form a dubious connection that takes on a life of its own on a remote western Victorian property. Read for its sheer intensity.

Disquiet – Julia Leigh is a tight and very disturbing novella about an Australian family returning to family and chateau in France, escaping turmoil but arriving to just as much dislocation. Everything is like a film still, the language sharp and fresh; it’s aptly titled.

What have I learnt from 2012?

  • AWW is a great journey; read outside your usual genres, discover some of the Australian Women Writers – recent or past – that you haven’t encountered up till now
  • You don’t have to review in the order that you read and you don’t have to review everything.
  • Don’t over-complicate the reviewing; I started by researching the background of novels for my reviews and I made it all too complicated for myself. Revisiting all the furore that surrounded fact and fiction in ‘The Secret River’ got me all confused. In the end, I had to remind myself, it’s not an academic treatise for university.
  • The AWW reading and writing community is fantastic. You can connect on the blog, through twitter @AusWomenWriters or hashtag #AWW2013, through Goodreads; there are readers, writers and reviewers from all walks of life reading so diversely and widely, it’s a treat. Even though I didn’t review, I tweeted and blogged and contributed in that way – it was fun, I made some valued connections with like-minded readers, I found a whole host of book bloggers I didn’t know about and I learned a heap.
  • The consolidated reviews are excellent and highlight the work of AWW readers and writers across all genres. Check out the review listings here – with reviews all neatly sorted by genre, there’s plenty of inspiration and information.

What am I planning to read (and review) in 2013?

I’m currently reading ‘The Scrivener’s Tale‘ by Fiona McIntosh, classified by AWW as ‘speculative fiction’, a genre I haven’t engaged with extensively. Other books on the list are:

  • Sea Hearts, by Margo Lanagan – there have been some fabulous reviews on this book, especially Elizabeth Lhuede’s review and want to experience this book for myself
  • Fishing for Tigers by Emily Maguire – loved blogging buddy Liv White’s review and interested in the Vietnam setting
  • Sydney by Delia Falconer – this book is physically exquisite and about my home town; I loved Delia Falconer’s ‘Service of Clouds’ and her celebration of the Blue Mountains in that novel so I am sure ‘Sydney’ will also celebrate its heart
  • Joe Cinque’s Consolation – Helen Garner – because I love Helen Garner’s hard-hitting analysis in her non-fiction works and I haven’t read this one
  • The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton – loved her previous books and Kate is enjoying high praise including as top voted Australian writer in a recent booktopia poll.

Well, that’s my six books, for now anyway – I am sure many more will vie for my attention this year. It’s such a rich field of pleasure, the work of our Australian women writers, so let’s celebrate and document it.

A special thanks to Elizabeth Lhuede for initiating the challenge in 2012 and maintaining the hard work of holding it all together for the benefit of us all.

I hope you’ll join the challenge!

My #AWW2013 reads lined up and ready to go!

My #AWW2013 reads lined up and ready to go!

creativity introversion writing

Making space to speak

July 29, 2012

The balance between partnerships and creativity, between being together and being alone, between doing/being and reflecting on the doing and being, is often a fine line. Like many people, I have sought to manage and maintain the balance. It is often easier to create when you have space and solitude; but relationships, family, work and friends are all so important.

Tillie Olsen’s, ‘Silences‘ published in 1978, is about the conditions for creating art, and the circumstances that inhibit and foster the development of writing and other art forms. She examines what works for creativity; the circumstances that she analyses include gender, race and economic situation. A product of its time, ‘Silences’ identifies the high number of women, for example, who have not married or had children and created works of art. Certainly the personal and social situations we create, choose and find ourselves in are an influence in what we create and the conditions in which it is created.

I wrote about this some time ago in a poem that still holds true for me about the balance between relationships and creativity:

Half a Man

If I had even half a man now
could I write the night,
out into its waiting wings
to penetrate delight.

If I had a part of one
who tried to gather all,
I’d run because his promise
is not wiser than the call.

If I had a whole man
who could teach me to receive,
I’d write between the space he gave
and love with sudden ease.

Sometimes , the space itself, when we do find it, can be almost too much, overwhelming in its vacancy to fill. The feeling of all that open space in which to create, once we have organised it or when it is just there due to circumstance, can in itself be intimidating as May Sarton writes in ‘Journal of a Solitude‘:

The ambience here is order and beauty. That is what frightens me when I am first alone again. I feel inadequate. I have made an open place, a place for meditation. What if I cannot find myself inside it? (p12)

I love the approach of Australian writer, Kate Grenville, to capturing every inspiration and opportunity to create. As she documents in ‘Searching for the Secret River‘, Kate uses a series of mantras to keep herself writing: ‘never have a blank page,’ ‘don’t wait for the mood’, ‘fix it up later’ and ‘don’t wait for time to write’. She further writes:

I learned to work in whatever slivers of time the day might give me – one of my favourite scenes in ‘Joan Makes History‘ was written in the car waiting to pick up Tom from a birthday party, on the only paper I could find, the inside of a flattened Panadol packet. I had slivers of time, so I wrote in slivers of words: a page here, a paragraph there. Eventually the slivers would add to something. (p145)

So it seems there is no perfect formula for making space to speak. Whilst some conditions might make writing and other creativity more likely, if we are serious about it, we need to write and create in whatever situation we find ourselves. It’s possibly also that waiting for the perfect conditions is just another form of resistance to getting down to work.

That’s why this blog is so important to me; it’s a stay against silence, a way of creating space to speak, a way of practising making space, so that my writing here now (nearly) each week is an achievement, a making of space in an otherwise very busy life.

So with all this in mind, what habitat suits you to create? What conditions help you write or create art? What have you learnt from your experiences in creativity over time ?