There is something about being faced by a large expanse of uninterrupted water that puts everything else into perspective, something calming about the way the muscle of the sea ripples back and forth.
A couple of weekends ago the sun was shining and sheltered from the wind Willow and I found a piece of leftover summer on a deserted beach. The sea was gentle that day, whispering back and forth across virgin sand and my puppy had her first paddle in the water. The sea wall was a sun trap on which to sit and while away time day dreaming, the sun casting a million jewels upon the water to dazzle our eyes.
The next weekend was very different. Stormy and cold with a raging wind, autumn had arrived with a vengeance. Willow and I loved it just the same. Confined to the promenade because the tide was so far in, it was exhilarating to be buffeted by the gusty wind. The onrushing waves were high and angry, battering the beach and sending foaming spray up on to the promenade to land at our feet. It was easy to lose myself in thought as I watched the peaks and troughs of the restless sea, the swells concealing hidden depths and dangers. It was a world away from the summer of the previous weekend.
Walking by the sea is good for our souls. Our problems seem to diminish in relation to the vastness of the water. It puts us back in touch with nature, the cycles of the seasons and the heartbeat of the world. It reminds us how small and inconsequential we are. And that is a good thing.
Earlier this week I blogged about the need to refill the well without apology if you are an introvert i.e. factoring in down time after every social engagement to allow yourself a chance to recover. From a writing perspective this is crucial too. A lot of writers are introverts. We spend the majority of our days in solitude typing away on our keyboards living in fantasy worlds of our own construction. It is important to have some interaction with the outside world, of course, but we don’t feel as though we are missing out if we are not at every party or social gathering.
That’s all well and good but what happens when your book is written and it’s time to get the word out? Suddenly the introvert has to become, to a greater or lesser degree, an extrovert whether they like it or not.
I have found myself in that situation a lot this summer as I have been hand selling my book at various craft fairs or summer fetes. It is not something I would choose to do for fun. But this year for me (my first of publication) is all about trying different things and seeing what works.
The idea of being ‘up’ for a social engagement of several hours, interacting with the public throughout and basically being ‘on duty’ does not exactly gladden my heart. Leaving aside the practicalities of whether the event is a success from a selling point of view (a mixed bag on that front) or whether spending the time in my study writing would have been more productive (quite possibly), the simple act of being ‘on duty’ for any length of time in a social situation is exhausting for an introvert like me.
As writers who wish to sell books we have to be prepared to push ourselves out there. No one else is going to do it for us. Even the superstars have to do their fair share of marketing, the only difference is they have a team to organise it, the writer still has to do it. For the rest of us, we are our own teams.
The internet and social media have allowed introverts to project themselves into the wider world from the comfort of home but not everything can be done through a computer screen. Sometimes, showing up in person is the only way. Writers who are introverts need to work out how much face to face contact they can take on. Be realistic. Just because you should be doing all these things because someone else who is successful told you you should does not mean that you will be able to handle it. We are all different. Know your limitations and work within them. If you attempt to suppress your nature by trying to be all things to all people you will crash and burn, it’s a question of when not if.
The world won’t stop turning if you attend three events instead of four but taking your introverted nature into account when planning your marketing strategy may make all the difference between success and failure. Better to succeed on your own terms and enjoy the experience than spread yourself too thinly. If you go for the full on option and pretend like you are an extrovert you may still achieve success but at what cost? My guess is you’ll be miserable and exhausted and that, for me, is too high a price to pay.
As you will be aware if you read my post from earlier this week the cover of my book The Flower Seller is taking part in Author Shout’s Cover Wars this week 24th July – 30th July. As I type this I am currently in the lead but only by 7 votes! If you like the cover and would like to vote you can do so by visiting the Author Shout site http://authorshout.com/cover-wars/ You will need to like their Facebook page, tweet or G+ them and then you are able to vote for your favourite cover BUT you must only vote once in every 24 hour period of your vote will not count.
If you are already voting for the cover of The Flower Seller – and I know a lot of you are – thank you so much! #goteamellie!
Life is simple. We’re the ones that complicate the hell out of it, mostly because of our unrealistic expectations or our misguided sense of entitlement. I am as fond of material comforts as the next person but I recognise them for what they are – a way to make my life more comfortable. They are an enhancement. A choice. Would I be able to survive without most of them? Probably.
The acquisition of material things should not be what drives us and if it is then maybe it is time to step back and recalibrate.
Most of us come back from a holiday refreshed and relaxed because we are able to step away from the white noise of our everyday lives and just be. It gives us a chance to think, to feel, to breathe away from the pressure cooker of a nine to five existence. How nice it would be if we could carry that sense of freedom back to our everyday lives. The first step to doing so comes from within. Life will always throw us curveballs, stresses and strains are part of being alive. We learn from them and grow but if you can spend a little time each day counting your blessings and reminding yourself of what is important and crucially what is not, the simple life may not be as far away as you imagined.
Are you guilty of offering good advice to friends who are in need but failing to follow that advice yourself? I know I am. How many times have you replayed a conversation in your head and thought that was great advice, I should try it some time! We give ourselves such a hard time trying to be all things to all people, never wanting to let anyone down. It is an admirable sentiment but in order to never let anyone down someone always has to come at the end of the list and that someone is usually you.
Me time is a concept that all of us are familiar with but how many of us actually indulge in it? Instead of viewing it as a beneficial part of our lives, we see it instead as something shameful to be whispered from the side of our mouths. We say ‘I had a little me time’ as though it is unacceptable and to be frowned upon. That’s if we even allow ourselves to take time out for ourselves in the first place. It seems somehow selfish and so we feel guilty about doing so. But we shouldn’t.
A little me time in each day should be achievable without the world of families, work and chores collapsing in on itself. You may think all will crumble around you if you don’t step up to the plate every minute of every day but it just isn’t true.
A little me time could be that first cup of tea or coffee when the day is fresh and new and the rest of the house are asleep. A precious little window of time, just a few minutes long, to daydream and clear your minds of all the twenty-first century clutter. It could be a walk in the park at lunch time, play time with your kids or your dog. It could be a soothing bath or ten minutes with your favourite book. It doesn’t have to be hours out of your day.
So next time when you are feeling overburdened and stressed try to be your own best friend. Step outside of yourself and imagine what advice you would give if you saw one of your friends in a similar situation. And then – this is the tricky bit – act on it. We already have a lot of the answers within us but most of the time we just don’t listen.
A little me time is a blessing to be treasured not a guilty pleasure. So try it! You’ll feel better for it – and the world won’t end, I promise!
Something happened last week that pulled me up out of my ordinary, every day world and made me take stock and afterwards it got me wondering are we all too caught up in the race of life that we forget to savour the journey in our rush to the finish line?
With our heads full of dates and people and places to be, our bags crammed with stuff to do lists, our email boxes full and our voicemails overflowing, is it any wonder that we cannot hear through all the noise or see past the overwhelming tasks that confront us.
Our minds are teeming, filled with the minutiae of our lives, shuffling our priorities about constantly to address the need that seems most urgent at any given time. We owe it to ourselves to seek out a little quiet time to recharge those batteries and simply be, not do or think but see and feel.
Sometimes we need to step back, breathe deep and give ourselves the head space to think, something which, when confronted with all the extraneous white noise, is fiendishly hard to do.
We are all familiar with the expression “breathing space” – an opportunity to pause, relax, or decide what to do next. The term originates from the 1600s and was used to describe packed public gatherings where there literally was little breathing space so tightly packed were the people. In modern times it is used far more frequently to describe our need for space in a more internalised rather than externalised way. Where once our physical safety may have given rise for the need of breathing space now it is our mental and emotional wellbeing that is at stake. It is a concept our ancestors would struggle to comprehend given that most of us are not grappling with overwhelming religious or moral dilemmas.
Life today is complicated and fast. We are reaping the whirlwind of modern technology. In so many ways modern life is safer and better than humans have ever known but it comes with its own inherent dangers. Only we can take the decision to step back and relax. Modern life will never encourage us to do so, the fear of missing out or of failure to achieve the goals set for us by others or ourselves, will always drive us on if we let it.
It is up to us to find our own breathing space. So take some time for yourself. Step out of the race for a moment and enjoy just being instead of doing.
No one has ever wished they had worked more when they are on their death beds.
Leisure by William Henry Davies (1871-1940)
What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight, Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance, And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.