Adventures in Meditation – Part Two

Meditation2
Meditation by Luckey_Sun courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/bxK3mR https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

As I recounted in Adventures in Meditation – Who Has The Time?! (see below) I knew the tangible benefits of meditation and that they could specifically help me. Mind buzzing all the time? Finding it hard to let go? Want to concentrate on something more important than a Facebook post? Yes please!

https://ellieholmesauthor.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/adventures-in-meditation-who-has-the-time/

So now that I had made the decision to give it a go, how did I actually begin? Before I got into the heavy stuff of scheduling where and when on a daily or even weekly basis I thought it would be a good idea to have a trial run.

For my first session, I chose a sunny Sunday morning when I was fairly sure I would not be interrupted by the outside world. I had already got a load of washing underway in the machine and I had taken my dog Willow for a long walk.

First dilemma – where should the meditation take place? Chair? Bed? Floor? I have tried practicing meditation on the bed in the past – I would usually fall asleep and then wake up cold so I discounted that idea. I decided to compromise and lay down on the sofa in the conservatory which was toasty warm from the early summer sun. This I thought also had the added benefit of the birdsong coming in through the open back door and the gentle fluttering of the blinds in the breeze. All an aid to relaxation, surely?

Relax
Relax by Dave Doe courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/o18eto https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The next question was how was I actually going to do it. I decided twenty minutes was long enough to give it a good go but not so long that I would start panicking about my to do list. That length of time also seemed doable on a daily basis which was my ultimate goal.

Should I set the timer on my phone and go it alone or should I choose one of the many guided meditations that are available on the internet which, helpfully, have their timings included and a little about what the guided meditation will entail.

I thought as a novice I should accept a little help – a bit like a kid with stabilisers on their bicycle.   I choose a guided meditation that did not look too worthy or daunting. I plugged my headphones into my iPad and settled down.

Except I could not hear a thing. I fiddled with the iPad but could not figure out how to increase the volume on the app. I abandoned the iPad and reached for the iPhone. Searched for the same guided meditation, plugged in my headphones and settled down. Again. This time I had sound. Hurrah!

It all started well enough. With a little squirming around and the re-arranging of cushions I managed to get comfortable, retrieved the earbud that fell out in the process and settled down. Again. I started to concentrate on my breathing. I let the voice soothe me. I began to relax. And then…the dog started barking. I remembered I had left the back door open thinking the birdsong would help. I got up, brought the dog in, closed the door.

I settled down, put the earbuds back in and picked up where I had left off. I got a little further with the relaxation exercise. I could feel it starting to work when my washing machine when into its spin cycle and sounded as though it was readying itself for liftoff. I made the effort to block it out.

Now my whole body was relaxed and it was time to start counting backwards from 10 and go to my ‘special place’. I hadn’t been warned I needed a ‘special place’. I quickly cobbled something together in my mind and began to descend. I had just arrived when Willow, my dog, decided to jump on my chest and settle down for a spot of meditation of her own. I was back in the present with a bang, one earbud forlornly dangling and my special place ripped away without any count back. I was just debating whether to start over when the washing machine beeped to indicate it had finished. I took it as a sign and went to hang out the washing.

Meditation speaks
Except maybe not in my house! Meditation Speaks by Tejvan Pettinger courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/9tARE8 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

My first attempt at meditation had not been a complete disaster. I had learnt a lot. Mostly what not to do but at least I would be better prepared for next time and I was determined there would be a next time….

Procrastination – to do it or not to do it?

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.

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Procrastination by Rachel Fisher courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/9bwvsv https://goo.gl/OOAQfn

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!

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Procrastinators Unite by Andreas Gohr courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/5Zjyu7 https://goo.gl/OOAQfn

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 😉

finish-line
Finish Line by Sean MacEntee courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/82V5JK https://goo.gl/sZ7V7x

 

Love isn’t…

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Love by Franck Mahon courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

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  1. Love isn’t buying petrol station flowers at the last minute
  2. Love isn’t buying chocolates from the supermarket
  3. Love isn’t buying schmaltzy cards
  4. Love isn’t booking a table in an overcrowded and overpriced restaurant
  5. Love isn’t a sentiment to be packaged and wrapped
  6. Love isn’t saying ‘I love you’ because you think it’s what the other person wants to hear
  7. Love isn’t about making a grand gesture whose sole purpose is to get you what you want
  8. Love isn’t something you should ever take for granted
  9. Love isn’t guaranteed for life
  10. Love isn’t easy
love
Love by Carolina Melo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

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Love is…

  1. Love is taking time and making the effort
  2. Love is putting someone else first
  3. Love is action not words
  4. Love is wanting something for someone else more than you want anything for yourself
  5. Love is de-icing a car someone else is going to drive
  6. Love is a lifetime in a heartbeat and a day in the blink of someone’s eye
  7. Love is going to the shops for the person you love because they can’t
  8. Love is stroking someone’s back when they are ill
  9. Love is seeing that film or visiting those relatives when you’d rather be doing something else
  10. Love is twenty-four-seven
love3
Love locked? By Chris Shervey courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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Happy Valentine’s Day

 

Never Over Promise

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.

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Promises by Christian Ditaputretama courtesy of Flick Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

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However well meaning your intentions were, however genuine your plans to deliver, you don’t want to be that person who lets everyone down on a regular basis.

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Promise? by Carmella Fernando courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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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.

present
Present Original by Wendy Cope courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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No one wants to be known as a person who lets others down. Better to be known as a person who keeps their word and get things done, don’t you think?

 

The easy option?

So here’s the thing, my next full length novel White Lies is due for publication next summer. It is a story that I wrote some years ago. It needs a general update, a good edit and a polish which is what I expected.

I was aware that there were also some areas of weakness with it which would need to be addressed and I formulated a plan to tackle those.

Plan in place I began the rewrite. So far so good.

good-idea
Good idea by Mindy Johnson courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

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Then on my way to my day job I had a thought. You know how it goes, you are turning the plot over in your mind, aware of the areas that need more attention and then you suddenly think ‘Hold on! What if…’

The brainwave addressed the weaknesses and concerns I had with the original version but the simple fixer-uper approach would have done that too with a lot less time and hassle. The new idea would take a lot more work but the book would be so much better for it.

more-difficult
More difficult by Sasquatch 1 courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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I’ll admit part of me gave serious consideration to taking the easy option. If it will be good enough then do it. But is good enough, good enough? Especially when the new version could outshine it. So what if it’s more time and effort. I am a writer. If I wasn’t writing this, I would be writing something else. Besides which I want every book I put out to be the best version of that book it can possibly be. If I had settled for the easy option I would have known that I had sold myself, the book and my readers short. Other people may not have noticed but I would have known and that in itself was reason enough not to do it.

There are two things to take from this. One is listen to your gut instinct because it is so often right. The second is be prepared to do the hard work because good enough is never good enough when it comes to writing books.

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http://Author.to/EllieHolmes
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http://Author.to/EllieHolmes

Time to Write – Part Two

The thing about writing is you have to sit down and get it done. There are no shortcuts. Just you and the keyboard in harmony or despair – sometimes both in the same half an hour.

I have discovered the key to finding time to write is not to go looking for it in the first place. Your life will already be filled or else your natural instinct to want to relax will kick in. There is no free time to write. That is why you have to carve it out of your everyday routine. It is the only sustainable way to achieve your long term goals and call yourself a writer unless you have invented the ability to stretch time in which case call me.

woodpecker
Woodpecker by Andy courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

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I happen to be a morning person. I love mornings! I am an early riser, the earlier the better. I love the solitude the new day brings when it is just me, my dog and a cup of tea as the world wakes up around me. I find writing early in the morning easy. Mentally, I get out of the way and just let the words flow. I do keep one eye on the clock because I have a forty-five minute window to make the magic happen. The reason I have a wonderful forty-five minute window? I get up early just to write.

It’s no good asking an evening person to do what I do. It would be like asking me to write good stuff at ten o’clock at night. It’s not going to happen.

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Tired by Nick Harris courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

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Once you know what suits your natural rhythms you will know the best time of day (or night) to write. Then you will need something to aim for – a set period of time or a word count target. I have both. I try for 1,000 words in my forty-five minute window.

If I have had a break from my morning routine I know that the first few mornings back in the saddle will take some adjusting to. I did this a couple of weeks ago – the first day I managed no more than 300 words, the second day it was 750. By the third day I had hit my stride. I didn’t beat myself up about not reaching the target on the first two days. I was simply pleased with the quality of what I wrote and the fact that I had SHOWED UP.

one-step-at-a-time
One Step at a Time by Kitt O’Malley courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons CC BY 2.0

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Sometimes writing is all about demonstrating your commitment to the project and in yourself as a writer. Showing up for a writing session, day after day, is what gets a book written. We can all hit a rich seam of creativity for a few hours at a time but it is the sheer slog that pushes a writer over the finish line.

So my tips for getting the writing done are simple:-

  1. Find the time of day or night that suits the rhythms of your body best and carve out writing time from it.
  2. Set yourself a realistic limit on time and/or word count for your writing sessions.
  3. Show up, day after day, week after week.
  4. Don’t beat yourself up if you fall short of your word count target, just be pleased you still showed up.
  5. If you break the routine of showing up, get back to it as soon as you can.
  6. When you reach a milestone in your work in progress choose a little treat for yourself.
  7. Keep showing up until the book is finished.

Before you know where you are, you will be ticking milestones off your list and your writing sessions will be incorporated into your days as if they have always been there.

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http://Author.to/EllieHolmes
the-tregelian-hoard-cover
http://Author.to/EllieHolmes

 

What puppies can teach writers

As some of you will know I recently welcomed a puppy into my life. A puppy + writing = zero productivity (in my experience so far!) so why would I suggest writers can learn anything from puppies?

My puppy is intrepid. She is stubborn. She is strong and she is determined.

These are all qualities we writers need by the bucket load.

Willow is also a problem solver. I screened off various parts of my garden to prevent her from getting into areas where she might get into difficulty. These naturally became the only parts of the garden she was interested in playing in. It was fascinating to watch as she quickly worked out various ways to scale walls, belly flop through trellises and jump through wicker hurdles. Personally I think she has been watching too much of the Olympics on TV! She thinks she’s a gymnast not a dachshund.

It is her absolute determination to overcome the obstacles put in front of her that has been so captivating. She would try the direct approach and when that didn’t work she would come at the problem from a new angle until she figured it out.

Barriersjpg
Barriers by Devin Stein courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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As writers we face a lot of obstacles. Some are common to all writers. Some are specific to trad published or indie published. One thing is for sure we have to be expert problem solvers. Leaving aside the complexities of managing characters and plot, finding your genre, finding your home, takes time.

We have to be prepared to travel down a lot of roads. We start out full of expectation but quickly discover we have either wandered into an impenetrable forest or wound up at a dead end. Time to retrace our steps and start over.

Close your eyes and surrender to your darkest dreams
Close your Eyes and Surrender to your Darkest Dreams by MartinaK15 courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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It’s the writers who keep trying to solve the puzzle, who are determined to figure out a way round or through the obstacles, that succeed.

It’s only natural to be frustrated when something you thought would be a slam dunk turns out not to be. It’s all grist to a writer’s mill. Just keep going.

Solutions
3D Bright Idea by Chris Potter courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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So far as Willow is concerned all the barriers in the garden have now been removed. There was no point in keeping them. She was just too smart but above all her persistence paid off. I guess it’s why they call it dogged determination!

The Flower Seller Cover and Blurb
Have love and loyalty gone out of fashion? The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes available from Amazon now https://goo.gl/KFi7kw