Follow Your Body’s Example and Renew Your Life

Did you know that your body is in a constant process of renewal.

It might not feel like it when you look in the mirror first thing in the morning (especially after one too many merlots *ahem*), but every second of every day, the cells in your body are dying and being reborn.

Your skin cells refresh themselves every two to four weeks.

The cells in your liver renew themselves every 300 – 500 days.

The cells in your stomach lining only last around five days.

And your entire skeleton will have renewed itself every ten years.

Think about that for a moment – your skeleton is only ten years old.

And yet, despite being walking, talking, living, breathing tributes to renewal, we can find it oh so easy to get stuck.

Stuck in behaviours, beliefs, jobs and relationships that just don’t serve us.

So today, in the fresh, back-to-school spirit of September, take a moment to think of all the things in your life that you would like to renew.

If it helps, grab a notebook and pen and free-write some answers to these questions:

What behaviours and beliefs are keeping me stuck?

What relationships are making me feel stale?

What and who do I need to let go of?

And how can I let go, with love?

Then take a moment to think of all the fresh new behaviours, beliefs, work and relationships that you would like to welcome into your life in their place.

Free-write about how your renewed life would look.

Free-write about how much lighter and happier it would make you feel.

When I did this exercise I realised that the amount of time I was spending endlessly scrolling through my social media feeds was making me feel sluggish and stale. (Whole new blog post on that subject coming soon!)

I decided that life was too short for so-called friendships that left me feeling hurt or frustrated.

And I made a vow to stop taking jobs that made me feel flat and uninspired – just because I was scared I wouldn’t get anything better.

When I realised what needed to be shed from my life, I took some time just enjoying the space that remained.

Instead of rushing to fill the gaps with the nearest past-times, people and work I could find, I waited … and asked:

How do I truly want my fresh new life to look and feel?

Ask yourself the same question.

And wait for the answers that make you feel excited and alive – as opposed to sensible and safe.

The answers might surprise you.

They surprised me.

I realised that instead of spending so much time on social media I wanted to get back to the good ol’ days of offline contact; of lengthy phone calls instead of hasty messages, and of seeing people, you know, face to face (rather than Facebook to Facebook).

I realised that I really missed working with other people and helping them achieve their dreams. So, in the spirit of freshness, I spent a couple of months creating a brand new range of coaching services with a difference – which will be (mostly) launching in the new year…

…Because I also realised that now is the time to write the book I’ve been wanting to write for THREE YEARS but had been putting off out of fear that I should be doing something that was a safer bet financially and that I didn’t have what it takes. I shouldn’t and I do.

I realised that I no longer enjoyed running and that I should focus my keep fit on the things that feel like fun, which for me, means hiking through woods and dancing.

Our lives are so fleeting, surely we owe it to ourselves – and those around us – to have regular periods of renewal.

To slough off what’s no longer bringing us joy and to welcome in the fresh and new.


Digging Your Way Out of Writer’s Block

“There’s no such thing as writers’ block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.” Terry Pratchett

Ouch, Terry Pratchett. Ouch, ouch!

But, as with many things that are uncomfortable to hear – such as, ‘there’s no such thing as Father Christmas‘ and ‘the tooth fairy is actually your dad‘ – it’s sadly true.

Writer’s block isn’t some mysterious malady, known only to scribes; the literary equivalent of athlete’s foot or tennis elbow.

Being blocked isn’t an inevitable part of the creative process that strikes on a whim.

We have to dig deeper than that to discover the real reason for those times when inspiration just won’t strike and the page remains a terrifying shade of blank.

So, let’s do a little digging today to find out why we sometimes experience the block and more importantly, how to get the words flowing again.

The first thing to ask yourself when you find your writerly well has run dry is:

Do I care enough?

We’ve all had ideas that, in the heady glow of conception / half a bottle of merlot seem like the book that just has to be written.

But in the cold light of the computer glare, that same idea seems flat and uninspired.

Sometimes it can be hard admitting that we got it wrong – that the idea we thought would have us writing till ‘The End’ do us part just isn’t the right match.

Imagine for a second not writing the thing that you’re blocked on.

How does it make you feel?

Do you feel a sweet burst of freedom at the thought, or a jolt of horror.

If you feel the clarion call of freedom, recognise that your block is actually your intuition and act accordingly.

If you feel horror, you need to write this thing, so something else is blocking you.

Let’s try a few more questions to see if we can find out what.

Try asking yourself:

How will writing this make me feel guilty?

Who will it hurt?

What will I be risking?

What obstacles will I need to overcome?

And then boil it all down into this one key question:

What am I afraid of?

I’m willing to bet that in 99.9% of cases, Writer’s Block is actually Writer’s Fear.

Fear of not being good enough.

Fear of being wrong.

Fear of rejection.

If you believe this is true for you, my best advice would be to focus on the journey, rather than the destination.

Stop stressing about what might happen and focus instead upon the pleasure of the writing itself.

The joy of bringing the characters to life.

The sweet satisfaction of knocking the plot into shape.

The incomparable bliss of finally finding just the right words, in just the right order.

What happens next can wait – until it actually happens.

When your inner voice tells you that whatever you write is bound to be crap, agree and write anyway.

There’s so much freedom in allowing yourself to write badly and it’s a great way of beating the block.

When your inner voice tells you that it would be the height of selfishness to spend time on your writing, reassure yourself that pursuing your passion is one of the best examples you can set your kids. And know that you will be a far happier family member, partner and friend when you give yourself the time and space to create.

Unwritten stories can hover around us as clouds of resentment – definitely not something you want to inflict on your loved ones.

And as you start writing, something magical happens – your fears start melting away.

As the super-positive human being W. Clement Stone once said: “Thinking will not overcome fear, but action will.”

So, today, take action.

Write that first paragraph.

Write it badly.

But write it anyway.

And then write another…

Dare to Dream: Inspirational Musings on Life, Love & Creativity
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For more inspirational posts on creativity check out Dare to Dream, the book, right here

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

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From Dropout and Drugs to Writing Success: How Pride Helps PREVENT a Fall

If there’s one saying I hate even more than ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’, it’s ‘pride goes before a fall.’

I hate the sing-song smugness of it. And I totally disagree.

I think that pride – as in being proud of yourself – can prevent a fall, and here’s why…

When I was a little kid I grew up in a house of full of books and records and political activism.

My parents met at an anti-apartheid meeting, my dad wrote letters of support to political prisoners and we knew the lyrics of protest songs far better than any nursery rhyme.

I was brought up to question and learn and explore.

If I ever went to my dad asking him the meaning of a word, his reply would always be the same (said in deep, gruff, Irish voice): ‘Look it up in the dictionary.’ I’d give a dramatic sigh and go through to the wall of books in the living room and haul down the huge Oxford Dictionary and trawl through the words until I found the one I was after. I used to think that my dad was being lazy when he told me to do this but now I know his evil genius plan. Hunting through a sea of words until I finally found the one I was looking for, seeing the mysterious pronunciation (pruh-nuhn-see-ey-shuh n) in italics and discovering the sought after meaning, all added to my growing love of words.

Another big contributor to my growing word nerdery was the fact that we didn’t have a TV – which at the time I thought was a crime worthy of a call to Childline – but I’m now eternally grateful for. By the time I was twelve I’d devoured all of the kids books in our house and the local library and had moved on to Tolkein and Orwell and Heaney. My imagination was a big as the universe. My reports shone with A stars.

Despite the fact that we lived on a council estate, I took it for granted that I’d one day go to university because my parents took it for granted that I would (even though neither of them had).

As a young child I was introverted and shy but I was quietly and fiercely proud of my intelligence. I saw at as the superpower that would help me achieve my dreams.

In my mid teens my parents’ divorce knocked me off kilter for a while and my reports slumped into Ds and Es but then in sixth form I realised that further education was my ticket out of unhappiness so I started working again. I worked my way back to A grades and set off to uni with a heart full of hope and a head full of writing dreams.

But ironically, it was at uni that my dreams died.

This was back in the time when only about 10% of the population went into further education; a fact my dad had raised his glass to, with pride, the day I got my A level results. But the trouble was, most of that 10% came from a very different background to me.

On the surface, when I got to uni, everything was grand. I made a great group of new friends. I enjoyed my course. But I couldn’t shake the nagging sense that I didn’t belong.

I wasn’t privately educated. I didn’t have money in the bank. My parents didn’t even own their own home.

In contrast, most of my fellow students seemed so confident and well-connected.

I felt myself fading in the brilliance of their middle class sheen.

I stopped seeing myself as intelligent and started seeing myself as inferior in just about every way.

Instead of feeling proud I felt inadequate and ashamed.

And my lack of pride led to an almighty fall when, at the end of my second year, I dropped out of uni, and ended up working in the complaints department for a high street store.

Aha, I lied to myself, this is where I belong, ploughing all of my passion for words into writing grovelling apology letters to customers who are clearly one valium away from a violent psychosis.

Now, there is nothing wrong with working in a complaints department – especially if you like being sworn at and abused on a regular basis – but there’s everything wrong with giving up on the things that make you come alive to your very core.

You end up trudging through life, dreary and depressed – or chasing false highs in toxic drama-ships and drugs.

Instead of writing books, I wrote letters that said things like:

Dear Madam,

I’m so sorry that our delivery driver defecated in your toilet and failed to flush…

And to stop myself from dying of boredom and despair, I took E and whizz at the weekends and let out my frustrations on the dancefloor.

Everybody’s freeeee to feel good!’ I’d sing, pupils dilated, hands in the air.

But the truth was, I didn’t feel free or good at all. And when the Monday morning come-down hit, I felt 57 kinds of horrible.

My lack of pride and self-worth led to me almost losing myself completely in a hugely destructive relationship. Rock bottom saw my neighbours wanting to call the police in order to save me.

But somehow, it was my passion for words that saved me.

Instead of dreaming big, I dreamed small. Small felt just about manageable. Small didn’t require pride.

So, instead of writing a novel, I wrote a short story.

And when the short story got published, I felt the first glimmer of pride in a very long time.

And that glimmer of pride gave me the confidence to write an article.

And when the article got published, and the magazine sent me a load of letters from grateful readers, my glimmer of pride turned into a beam.

And that beam lit the way for my first attempt at a book – a non-fiction guide to Antenatal & Postnatal Depression.

And when that book was published, I cried hot tears of pride when I saw my name on the cover.

I wasn’t a uni drop-out any more, I was an author.

Finally, I had enough pride in the tank to fuel my first novel.

I’ve just finished writing my eleventh.

It was pride that helped me clamber out of the depths to which I’d fallen.

I still have moments of insecurity – when I’m in a meeting with publishers and they start talking about the private schools they went to, or when I go to a literary event and a fellow writer talks about being funded by their wealthy husband or parents. But then I remember where I come from and instead of feeling shame, I feel pride. Wonderful, warming, glowing pride, and it fires me up to climb even higher.

Feeling proud of your achievements isn’t arrogant or boastful (unless you make it so by boring on for hours about them), feeling proud is healthy. It makes you happy and confident and fills you with hope.

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So today, take a moment to write a list of all the things you are proud of achieving.

And take way more than a moment to bask in that pride.

Let the glow that you feel light up your dreams and spur you into action.

Whatever it is that you want to achieve – to write a book, launch a business, change the world, meet your true love – use pride as the fuel to get you there and pride to pick you up if you should fall.

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Dare to Dream, the book is out now – and here!

All proceeds go to the charity, Leuka. Helping find a cure for leukaemia.

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