A few weeks ago I was asked to write a couple of articles to help promote my new novel. I was daunted by the prospect but keen to give it a go nevertheless. I sat down to write and came up with five articles in total. I was amazed. And then I realised I had my blog to thank.
For eighteen months now I have been blogging at least once a week. It was only when I needed to write those articles I realised how many transferrable skills blogging had given me. I could write to deadlines. I could write focussing on a chosen topic. I could write to a set length. I could structure an article with a beginning, middle and end. I could write headlines. All skills I learnt from blogging.
Don’t hold yourself back by thinking you cannot do something. Jump in and have a go.
As writers in the digital age we have a lot of transferrable skills – some we may not even recognise. Experimenting with different types of writing can lead to wonderful new opportunities but it also makes us better writers.
We all lie to ourselves occasionally. ‘I’m happy as I am.’ ‘He loves me.’ ‘I love him.’ ‘I’ll work less hard.’ ‘I’ll make more time for me.’ Sound familiar? We are all guilty of it but the biggest lies we tell are often the ones we tell ourselves and that’s the brutal truth.
Catching ourselves in the act is, of course, never easy, particularly if the lies are long standing ones. Ironically it is often easier to spot when others are doing it. You meet a friend for coffee and listen to her latest dramas – work related or romantic and think: ‘Her life would be so much better if she would just go for that promotion and/or dump him’. You might even offer some gentle advice to which your friend will smile serenely and say, ‘I’m happy as I am.’
Being that honest with yourself however is tough. Sometimes we have lived with our own lies for months, if not years. They have become a part of us. They are a comfort blanket to shield us from a cold, harsh world. They are our friends or so we think.
In reality, the lies are holding us back, trapping us in the safe yet restricting surroundings we feel most comfortable in. Beyond those boundaries another world exists. One where you can be yourself without compromise or deceit. Doesn’t that sound appealing? Getting there, however, is the tricky bit. Fessing up is never easy however good it may be for your soul.
In my novel White Lies it is only when the three main characters face up to the reality of their situations that they are ready to start over and become the people they have always wanted to be.
Frequently the lies we tell ourselves are a protection mechanism to shield us from an unpleasant reality or to stop ourselves facing up to a problem we need to tackle.
People shy away from change because we like to cling to the familiar even if ultimately it is making us unhappy but it’s through change that we learn and grow.
Picture a pool of stagnating water – dark and murky, choked with weeds. Not a great image, is it? Now picture a babbling brook, flowing freely over pebbles, gushing and gurgling, giving life, enhancing life. Which would you rather be? Stuck convincing yourself that nothing needs to change or taking your courage in your hands and becoming a better version of you.
Owning up to a lie is the first step in the right direction. Only when you have done that can you begin to see there are other choices available, new directions you can take.
Honesty is the best policy
Don’t sell yourself short. Be your own best friend. Have that conversation with yourself. Honesty really is the best policy as your gran used to say.
Change is scary but it can be exhilarating and life-affirming too so be brave.
And the next time you hear yourself say, ‘I am happy as I am’ you may actually mean it.
I was either going to crash and burn and that was not going to be pretty or I was going to pull back and find a better way to live my life. As you will be aware if you have read my earlier blogs on meditation this was something I wanted to do but had yet to perfect how to do it.
Taking lessons from my less than stellar beginning, I decided the sofa in the sitting room would be a better location. I also decided twenty minutes of guided meditation first thing in the morning while the tea was brewing would be a good starting point for the day.
I also found a better guided meditation. There are hundreds to choose from. It is all a question of what suits you best. I found some talked too much – it is hard to concentrate on your breathing and still your mind when you have someone yabbering away incessantly in your ear. It is also crucial to find a voice that does not get on your nerves – hard to relax if the way they speak is grating on you. All this takes a little experimentation. Eventually I found the perfect meditation for me. A soothing voice, helpful instructions and crucially long periods of quiet when nothing is said at all. Perfect.
For two weeks I began my day with the same guided meditation session. Did I notice a difference? I had been prepared for a slow burn, signs of improvement but gradually probably over weeks if not months. The change, however, was much more immediate than that. I began sleeping right through the night, every night – not waking up at 2.00 a.m. and struggling to get back to sleep, my mind teeming. Because I was sleeping better, I was also waking up better, refreshed and ready to get up instead of clinging to the duvet. I also noticed that I was so chilled after my morning session that I went about my routine without any stress or rushing about. I lost the habit of checking the clock and yet when I was ready to leave the house and I did glance at the clock I was early. Life seemed so much easier than it had before.
Like any new habit you need to stick with it long enough that it becomes second nature. That is my next challenge but when the benefits have been so positive, it’s a challenge worth taking on.
If you are any doubt whether meditation is for you give it a go but make sure you give it a go over a long enough period that you have chance to experience the benefits. Twenty minutes a day for two weeks was ideal for me and even the busiest of us can squeeze in an extra twenty minutes can’t we?
I bet you’re like me, there are jobs to be done, there is even time to do them in and yet somehow they always slip down the list of priorities and languish at the bottom while new, more exciting tasks sail in ahead of them.
I am a procrastinator. I don’t want to be. I’d like to train myself not to be but it is a difficult path to tread as the habit is a long held one and tough to break.
The really annoying thing about being a procrastinator is the fact that the whole time I am steadfastly ignoring the tasks I can never really succeed in forgetting about them. They are always there, catching my attention and reminding me of my inability to get jobs done. A constant, low level, niggle at the back of my mind. So, procrastinating does not make me feel better. It actually makes me feel worse. And yet, I still do it!
Of equal annoyance is the fact that when, finally, I do get around to dealing with the things I have been putting off, most of the time I find they are not that time consuming, nor difficult nor troublesome which leaves me wondering why it was such a struggle for me to get on with them in the first place. And oh the blessed relief I feel when I can tick that irksome job off my stuff to do list. Now that is a good feeling.
We all live such busy lives. We are all overburdened with duties and chores. It’s all too easy to eschew the boring and routine and concentrate instead on the more interesting aspects of our lives but unless we’re wealthy enough to employ others to do our bidding, we are all going to have to tackle those dull tasks some time.
I am going to try to make a concerted effort not to put things off for any longer than absolutely necessary. I am going to start small and work up to the big stuff. I am determined this is the year I am going to GET STUFF DONE. Wish me luck. I will try to let you know how I get on – assuming I get around to writing that particular blog, of course 😉
It’s been a funny old year so far what with Brexit and the election in the US of Donald J. Trump. Brexit and Trump both tapped into an electorate that was feeling unappreciated by the status quo and rode similar waves of populism to success but what now?
Now they have to live up to the expectations they have set. Only time will tell if the Brexiteers and Trump can actually deliver to the satisfaction of their supporters.
So far as the rest of us are concerned, there are lessons we can all take from this. The crucial one being you should never over promise in life whether that be to your family, your friends, your boss or your work colleagues. It is all too easy to get caught up in the moment and promise the earth but people who consistently fail to deliver on their promises get an unenviable reputation.
We all fail occasionally and that’s fine – no one is perfect but for some people over promising and under delivering is a way of life. Often these are people who just want to please others. The irony is when they cannot follow a promise through it is much worse than if they had never promised in the first place.
Far better to scale back and not over commit. If the things you have promised to do are more modest you will have a far better chance to follow those promises through and actually deliver.
So here’s the thing, I’m an introvert. You may be one as well. Chances are if you’re not you are probably sitting near one right now. There are a lot of us about. More than you think, probably because a lot of the time we hide our introverted natures behind a carefully constructed extroverted mask.
Why do we feel the need to do that? Probably because we fear judgment. We fear being singled out as being a bit odd. You want to leave the party early and be home in your jim jams on the sofa? Why, are you sick? No, I’m an introvert and I need a break from all these people. Okay?
Being introverted is a bit like being a geek (and there are a lot of those out there too!). We’re a source of wry amusement to those who think and feel differently.
I happen to believe being a geek is cool and so it being an introvert. I have accepted that if I am going to be going to a social event, even one I am looking forward to, I am going to find it draining and I am going to need some serious down time afterwards to refill the well. I have learnt the hard way that scheduling too many social commitments in too short a time period is going to lead to last minute cancellations on my part (which is something I hate doing) or exhaustion.
I can be as bright and bubbly in company as the next person if my energy levels are up. If not, forget it. So, over the years I have learned to pace myself. Whenever I take on a social engagement I always weigh up how long I’m going to be there for and schedule down time immediately afterwards and perhaps even the next day too if the social event is lengthy and particularly taxing.
Extroverts will struggle to understand this. Extroverts thrive off the social interaction. To them attending party after party is like plugging themselves into the grid and firing up. With introverts it is the polar opposite. Situations that fire up the extroverts will nine times out of ten drain the introverts.
If you are, like me, an introvert then embrace it. Don’ try to be something you are not. Trying to keep up with the extroverts in your life will not end well. Trust me, I know!
Listen to your body and if you need to refill the well then do so – without apology. We all love time in our PJs on the sofa watching bad TV or in solitude reading a good book. As introverts we just need more of it, that’s all.
The cover of The Flower Seller is taking part in Author Shout’s Cover Wars during the week of 24th July 2016 – 30th July 2016. If you like the cover I would be thrilled if you would show your support by voting for it. To vote you need to click on the link below, click to like the Author Shout facebook page, tweet, or link through Google+ You can vote once every 24 hours. Thank you!
Bravery takes a lot of forms. To step up and put yourself forward to do something for your local community is brave, to defend someone who is being bullied when they are too beaten down to defend themselves is brave, to return to the hospital for your next bout of chemo even though you know you are going to spend the next twenty-four hours being sick is brave.
Some bravery is obvious to anyone looking on. Most bravery, however, is a subtle, very personal thing. The person silently coping with depression, the person moving slowly through the grieving process for someone dear to them, the single person battling loneliness. Getting up to face another day is an act of bravery for people like this, a supreme effort where the only satisfaction comes from challenging themselves and not giving in.
We all have different boundaries. What may seem easy to one person could be a mountain to climb for another. A while ago I was listening to a drive time show on my home. They had been running a call in for people to ring in with stories of a ‘first’ that they wished to achieve. The idea being the show would run a follow up in a couple of weeks’ time to see how they had all got on. There was one story that captured my attention.
A quietly spoken man rang in (an act of bravery in itself). I cannot recall now if he had been suffering from agoraphobia (a fear of open spaces) or something similar but the first he wished to achieve was catching the bus from the end of his road, riding the bus to his nearby town, getting off the bus and going to a café for a cup of tea and then making the journey home again.
There was something about his softly spoken but determined manner that made you listen. He told us how he had been practicing by walking up to the bus stop and then going home again, how he had studied the bus route so he would know which stop to get off at, how he had been rehearsing ordering his tea at the café. He then admitted the trip was something he had been trying to do for a while now and had always failed often getting to the bus stop but simply being unable to bring himself to board the bus.
But he had decided he couldn’t continue like this and needed to challenge his fears and by publicly declaring his intention it was almost a dare to himself. His story moved me and I thought about him often in the intervening two weeks, wondering how he was getting on. I pictured him clutching his timetable nervously, counting out his change to the driver, alighting at the café (or so I hoped).
I eagerly awaited an update. The radio show ran the follow up piece and covered many of the other ‘firsts’ but there was no mention of the man undertaking the bus journey. ‘Oh no!’ I thought ‘He’s failed to do it. How devastating for him.’ But I was wrong. Such had been the overwhelming interest in the man’s story, so many hearts had he touched with his modest tale, that they were giving him his own follow up slot the next day.
I tuned in and the man slowly began to recount what, for him, had been a momentous journey. He described his nervousness on the walk to the bus stop, his anxiety that the bus wouldn’t turn up or if it did he would not be able to summon up the courage to board it (as had happened so many times before). As a listener I lived and breathed every part of that journey with him. When he made it to the café and ordered his tea I was punching the air in triumph for him and when he laughed and said it was the best cup of tea he had ever drunk I had tears in my eyes.
It was a simple tale of one man’s struggle, one man’s sheer determination to overcome a barrier to him living the kind of life he wanted to lead but it touched a nerve with a lot of other people. He joked that his next goal was to go away on holiday. I hope he achieved that aim. I like to think he did.
There are enough boundaries put on our lives by circumstance, social convention or lifestyle. It’s so important that wherever possible we don’t let fear hold us back or fence us in. We mustn’t settle. We must be like that man on the bus and take our courage in our hands and be brave. He was glad he did it and we will be too.