You Are Still a Writer

Sometimes it can feel like the hardest thing in the world to actually sit down and write.

Sometimes it feels as if the whole world is conspiring to stop you putting pen to paper.

And to put it frankly, this can be a real pain in the butt.

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Last week, I was coaching a writer. One of her main frustrations was having to juggle so many things she felt as if her writing was being forced on to the back-burner.

I could relate straight away – and I bet so many of you can too. If you need to earn a living, go to school or college or bring up a family it can be exhausting trying to write as well.

And so sometimes you give up even trying.

But if writing is your passion, not being able to write can feel like a part of you – a vital part – is withering away.

And this makes you feel crotchety,

Unhappy,

On edge.

But all is not lost. For those times in your life when you are genuinely too busy or too tired to write, remember this:

You are still a writer.

You still have thinking time.

You can still be plotting and planning in your head.

You can still be growing characters in your imagination.

You can still be jotting ideas down in a notebook.

You can still be allowing a story or poem to percolate,

You can still be using your life experiences as inspiration.

You can still call yourself a writer.

Because writing is in your blood.

You are still a writer.

D2D-eBookjacket-aw2This post was taken from my new book, Dare to Dream: Inspirational Musings on Life, Love & Creativity, available here.

All proceeds from the book will be donated to the charity Leuka, helping find a cure for leukaemia.

You may also enjoy:

15 Things I’ve Learnt from 15 Years of Writing

Dear Dare to Dream: Should I Self-Publish My Novel?

To find out about my writing workshops and other opportunities to work with me, please hop on to my mailing list here.


In Memory of Michelle Richards: Dare to Dream, The Book

One year ago today my friend Michelle died.

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She was just thirty-four.

She was just thirty-four and yet she lived her life so fiercely and so fully she achieved way more than many people twice her age.

When Michelle was first diagnosed with leukaemia she became determined not to let it hold her back. ‘I tried to do everything in my power to make sure this ‘thing’ inside me, that I had to take medication for, never stopped me achieving anything,’ Michelle said in an interview for this blog back in 2013. ‘I worked harder. I trained harder. I raised money for leukaemia and lymphoma research by taking part in a triathalon, I was head-hunted for a new job position. I was sticking two fingers up at the disease.’

After a couple of years on medication Michelle’s leukaemia progressed into a much more aggressive form, meaning that she had to go through two rounds of chemo, full body radiation and a bone marrow transplant.

After her first round of chemo, Michelle’s doctors told her that it hadn’t worked and she should go home and spend what time she had left with her family. Her response was wonderful and typical Michelle. ‘I told the doctor in no uncertain terms that I’d had worse hangovers than his chemotherapy and that he should go back and double the dose. The doctor told me that the chances of a second round of chemo working were very slim, but I was willing to take the chance. I wasn’t going to give up! In the end I tried a different type of chemo which thankfully did work and allowed me to move forward to my stem cell transplant.’

You might think that having to endure all of this would cause a person to spend the next year or so chilling on a sun-lounger or massage table, but not Michelle.

She immediately began training for a 24 hour, non-stop, 100km walk from London to Brighton, raising thousands for the research facility Leuka at the hospital that saved her life.

Michelle was really keen to help motivate and inspire other people who had been diagnosed with leukaemia and we talked about running motivational workshops together.

But then, tragically, her leukaemia came back.

For months after her death last year I felt determined to do something to raise money in her memory but I couldn’t decide what.

Then the idea came to me to write a book and donate the profits to Michelle’s favourite charity.

That way I could also get Michelle’s inspirational message out into the world by republishing her interview.

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Dare to Dream: Inspirational Musings on Life, Love & Creativity is crammed full of advice and tips on just about everything.

Topics include:

  • overcoming fear
  • how to write a book
  • mindfulness for beginners
  • dating with confidence
  • dancing your way to happiness
  • the power of forgiveness
  • falling in love with your career
  • pursuing your passions

PLUS there’s the full inspirational interview with Michelle about the lessons she learnt from her diagnosis.

When I interviewed Michelle I asked her if she had any advice for people based on what she had been through. Here’s what she had to say:

‘You have to remember that you can’t fulfil all your dreams at once. You need to look at the little things you can do to change the direction of your life. These little changes, one by one, make one big change and when you look back. you’re in a much better place than when you started.’

Wise words to live by.

Dare to Dream is available on Kindle right here and you can get the paperback edition here (and on other Amazon sites worldwide).

All profits from the book (at least £1 per copy) will be donated to the charity Leuka, helping find a cure for leukaemia.


How the First Hour of Your Day Can Make You Happy, Calm and Strong

Without wishing to get too personal, how do you spend the first hour of your day?

I’ve come to the conclusion (after lengthy research on a target audience of one, namely me) that the way you spend the first hour of your day is really, really important.

Like the first course of a meal, it sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Cold, flavourless soup = ‘check please’

Warm, tasty soup = ‘bring on the main

Here’s how the first hour of my average day used to go…

Alarm clock went off at a time that had been carefully calculated (to the very last second) to provide me with the maximum amount of sleep and the minimum amount of time to get ready for work.

A muffled curse would be heard from beneath my duvet.

I’d eventually peer out, bleary-eyed.

My dog would gaze at me from his spot on the floor next to my bed.

‘Walk me,’ his gaze said. ‘Walk me now before I start barking and howling and wake up the entire street.’

I’d stagger out of bed, pull on some clothes and stumble to the door.

We’d begin our walk.

My dog would trot along happily, sniffing at all the new and exciting smells from the bushes and the pavement and the freshly peed on lamp-posts.

I on the other hand, would trudge along behind him beginning to stress.

I’m going to miss my train.

I’m going to be late for work.

Why does he have to sniff every single lamp-post?

Why is it raining again?

Why does it always rain in this country?

If it’s still raining by the time I leave for work my hair’s going to go all frizzy and I’ll look like crap.

Why do I always look like crap in the rain? Why can’t I look all sultry and sexy and like Bo Derrick emerging from the ocean?

And, after five minutes of this, my thoughts would start spiralling down into a darker place.

Any problems I might have been having, anyone who had even slightly upset me recently, and any fears I might have been having would all start looming large in my mind like comic book baddies.

It’s as if, while I’d been sleeping, Fear had been bench-pressing and popping steroids next to my bed and was stronger and badder than ever.

And, because I was still all soft and blurry from sleep, I didn’t have the strength or clarity to fight it off.

By the time my dog and I had done a few laps of the park I’d often be in a state of complete and utter panic and stress.

And this negative mindset would spill out into the rest of the day.

As I raced for the train.

As I fought my way through the crowded London streets.

As I slumped over my desk.

But for the past few months I’ve changed the way I spend the first hour of my day and the results have been so positive I had to share them with you here.

Firstly, I set my alarm clock way earlier so I don’t begin the day already feeling late for something.

I still curse and feel like death when it goes off but I make myself get up.

Then I take myself off for a power-walk or jog around some nearby hills.

If I’m honest, for the first five minutes I feel one coffee away from a coma but I make myself keep going because I know that if I force myself through the pain barrier something so magical it’s almost mystical happens.

I actually start feeling good!

As the blood starts pumping and the sweat starts flowing I feel energised and alive.

And even more importantly, I feel strong.

And when you feel strong in your body your mind follows suit.

Instead of being plagued by worries, I feel alive with ideas.

Instead of trudging around looking down, I power around looking up – at the sky, the trees, the birds, the breath-taking view.

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And my perspective on things expands accordingly.

When I get home, because I still have plenty of time, I speed-journal for five or ten minutes.

This basically involves writing really fast about anything that’s on my mind so that I can get it off my mind.

I was going to call it a ‘diary dump’ but it didn’t sound quite so sophisticated or Bo-Derrick-on-a-beach-esque.

Anyway, I finish my journal entry on a positive note, jotting down five things I’m grateful for and then I sit in stillness for five or ten minutes, focusing on my breathing and getting calm and centred.

As a consequence I start the day happy and focused and full of energy and far better equipped to deal with whatever life may throw at me.

So to recap…

To get the very most from the first hour of your day:

  • Set your alarm so you’ll have an hour to spare
  • Get out into nature
  • Do a form of exercise that raises your heart-rate and makes you feel sweaty and strong
  • Get rid of anything that might be on your mind in a ‘diary dump’
  • Write a list of five things you’re grateful for
  • Sit in stillness for at least five minutes and feel your whole body relax

And see how much better you feel in all the hours that follow.

For inspirational updates straight to your inbox click the green FOLLOW button on the right.

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If you liked this post I think you’ll really enjoy Dare to Dream, the book: 320 pages packed full of inspirational advice on life, love and creativity.

£1 from every copy sold will go to the charity Leuka, helping find a cure for leukaemia.

The book is out next Wednesday and you can find out more and pre-order a copy here.


Writers: Create Believable, Interesting Characters with this Questionnaire

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.” Ernest Hemingway

There’s nothing worse (in my humble opinion) than reading a book or watching a movie that features wooden, unrealistic characters.

You can have the best, most page-turning plot in the world but if the characters are cliched or one-dimensional it can ruin the whole experience.

Recently I published a post about the 15 things I’d learnt from 15 years as a writer.

One of the things I shared was the joy of the Character Questionnaire and how useful it can be in helping writers develop well-rounded, interesting characters.

Another bonus of the Character Questionnaire is that you always end up getting ideas for your plot too.

Win – win.

So today I thought I’d share the Character Questionnaire I use in my writing workshops.

Feel free to copy and paste and add questions of your own.

Then take some time, preferably before you start writing your story, really getting to know your characters.

It’s a lot of fun and saves a load of time in the long run.

When you know your characters inside out the story is much more likely to flow.

CHARACTER QUESTIONNAIRE

  • How old are they?
  • What are their best and worst points physically?
  • How important is their appearance to them?
  • Are they attractive?
  • Do they believe themselves to be attractive?
  • Overall, was their childhood happy or unhappy?
  • What was their favourite toy as a child?
  • How do or did they get on with their parents?
  • Think of one key event from their past and how it has shaped them – positive and negative.
  • How do they speak? Accent? Catch-phrases etc?
  • What is their favourite meal?
  • What are their politics?
  • What newspaper do they read?
  • Do they believe in a God?
  • What is their bedroom like?
  • Do they have any secrets?
  • What makes them jealous?
  • What sports do they like?
  • Are they superstitious?
  • Have they ever been on a protest rally?
  • What is their greatest hope?
  • Who do they most admire?
  • How do they behave at a party? Are they shy or outgoing?
  • What is their favourite music?
  • Do they have any pets?
  • Have they ever lost anyone dear to them?
  • What is their perfect Saturday night?
  • What last made them cry?
  • Is their glass half full or half empty?
  • Are they popular?
  • Who is their best friend?
  • What is their favourite season and why?
  • What do they think of vegetarianism?
  • Have they ever taken drugs?
  • Would rejection make them angry or sad?
  • What car do they drive?
  • Do they love themselves?
  • What is their motto in life?
  • How do they behave when outside – day and night?
  • What are they most afraid of? And why? What is the root cause?

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My new book, Dare to Dream: Inspirational Musings on Life, Love & Creativity, is available to pre-order here.

It’s packed full of advice and tips for writers and £1 from every copy sold will be donated to the charity Leuka, helping find a cure for leukaemia.

For inspirational posts straight to your inbox click the green FOLLOW button on the right


How to Have the Summer of Your Dreams

Last week I had a ‘stay-liday’.

As in, the UK version of the ‘stay-cation’.

As in, I stayed at home and did sweet nothing all week.

Actually, I did loads, but I didn’t do a single jot of work.

And it was wonderful.

I drank coke floats in beer gardens…

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I listened to live music…

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I danced in bare feet…

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I hung out in my favourite part of London and I hung out with some of my favourite people…

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Aaaaaand, I took advantage of the break from my work life to do some serious, hardcore dreaming.

Summer breaks give us the perfect opportunity to pause and take stock of our lives.

The heat and the sun and the clear blue skies create the perfect conditions for us to unleash our imaginations and conjure up visions for our future.

But when we’ve had months of work, work, work, it can be hard to unwind.

And with our permanent access to the internet, it can be oh so hard to unhook.

With this in mind, I created the template below, to help you make your summer a summer of dreams.

To help you pause and take stock and get clear on what you want – and what you don’t.

Simply copy and paste the text below and then fill in the blanks.*

The best thing to have happened to me so far this year is . . .

My biggest disappointment has been . . .

To create more light and laughter in my life I need to let go of . . .  And stop . . .

I’m going to use this summer as an opportunity to . . .

I can feel refreshed and recharged this summer by . . .

Three fun things I can do for myself this summer are . . .

The perfect place to go and dream this summer is . . .

I will go there and dream about . . .

To help me get the most from it I will take . . .

By the end of 2015 I would love to have . . .

Enjoy!

* Perfect places to complete this exercise include: on a secluded beach / at the top of a hill / in a country pub beer garden / in the woods / in your favourite coffee shop

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