Tag Archives: Blogging

Christmas and the blessed baby

I’m not a member of any organised religion but because of where and when I was born, the Christian symbols and stories are the ones I’m most familiar with.

Of all the Christian symbols, the blessed baby speaks to me most strongly. I very frequently dream about babies, and these dreams always carry a wave of positive emotion, along with a sense of magic and mystery.

A baby is a bright bridge to the future, something fresh and new. During politically and socially turbulent times such as these, we might look to the future with fear and apprehension, but the baby is innocence of the open, trusting heart.

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Every Christmas, even though I’m not a Christian, I feel inspired by the archetypal energy of the blessed baby. I take time to contemplate and focus on celebrating every thing and every person that I love.

Family and friends, of course; people I’ve met and people I’ve yet to meet. Writing and teaching. Books, art exhibitions, theatre. The moors and coasts of Cornwall, where I live; the amazing cities I still have to visit.

This robin I can see right now, in the hedge outside my window. This coffee.

Every big and tiny thing we love reflects love back to us, warming and lighting our hearts.

My blog is both a big and tiny thing; it’s big for me, but tiny in the blogosphere. I love that some people come back again and again, until I feel I’ve got to know them, and some drop in from Africa or Hong Kong or Norway, giving me a sense of connection across the globe.

I haven’t had time to blog these last few weeks because I’ve been busy promoting my new book, Free-Range Writing, but I didn’t want to let Christmas go by without saying a warm seasonal thank-you.

Happy Christmas, and may you be touched by the archetypal power of the blessed baby, whether you follow any particular faith or none.

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The loneliest day in the life of a published writer

In between books, when I’m pondering my next project, I like to read about writing, and I particularly enjoy books by other authors in which they share their own experiences of the highs and lows of the writing life – thoughtful books, personal books, such as the one I’ve just finished reading by Dani Shapiro, Still Writing.

This one's definitely going on my recommended reading list
This one’s definitely going on my recommended reading list

I read this book a few days after publishing my own book on writing, When a Writer isn’t Writing, and a few days before the publication of my YA novel, Driftso this idea caught my attention:

The loneliest day in the life of a published writer may be publication day. Nothing happens. Perhaps your editor sends you flowers. Maybe not. Maybe your family takes you out for dinner. But the world won’t stop to take notice. The universe is indifferent. You have put the shape of your soul between the covers of a book and no-one declares a national holiday.

Shapiro goes on to explore why writers keep on doing it, even though so few are heading towards any major recognition or celebration of their work.

I pondered before reading on, because of the moment I was in. I remembered when publication days really did feel like the loneliest time to me, in the days before social media, when maybe your publisher would send you a card, but that was all.

Back then, I learnt to make my own celebrations. I followed the Weatherly rule (Lee Weatherly‘s genius idea, passed on to me by Liz Kessler) and opened a bottle of bubbly with friends as soon as I finished a manuscript, rather than waiting a year or more for publication day before feeling I could celebrate.

I learnt to get started on something new as soon as possible, so that my creative energies were happily engaged in writing the next book rather than focusing on the build-up to publication day for the one I’d finished.

When publication day did eventually come, I learnt the importance of throwing a party, not as a publicity or sales event, but as a personal celebration, because writing a book is hard and, as the writer of your particular book, you know what an incredible achievement it has been to go the distance.

This year, the launch is in a lovely gallery on the edge of Dartmoor. All welcome!
This year, the launch is in a lovely gallery on the edge of Dartmoor. All welcome!

I still do all these things, but I must say publication day doesn’t feel so lonely any more to me now that we’ve got facebook, twitter and blogging. When I put the word out about a new book, I straight away hear back from people I know and people I’ve never met, so that instead of a solitary card on my doormat I receive a steady flow of congratulations.

Soon after that, rather than waiting several months to receive a few letters from readers via my publisher, I start getting direct messages in twitter and fb, and emails through my website, from people who have bought my book, and started reading it.

A lovely selfie via fb from a friend who has just bought my book
A lovely selfie via fb from a friend who has just bought my book

And rather than just a press review or two, readers begin to post their thoughts on my new book in amazon and elsewhere.

So publication day is no longer the loneliest day for this writer, and that’s down to all of you. Thank-you for calling by!

Impatience is a form of resistance

Sometimes, I look fondly back on my early days as an author, when the whole job was simply writing books, and the wheels moved very slowly indeed.

The act of writing was slower because, in the days of typewriters, even a minor change such as choosing a different name for a character could be a long-winded redrafting task, searching through reams of paper armed with a tippex brush.

When the manuscript was finally finished and neatly packaged up, it made its leisurely way to the agent or publisher via the Royal Mail, and some weeks later, their response would eventually come back.

 

In those days, I was blissfully unaware of sales figures and marketing, publicity and self-promotion, and I certainly didn’t have anything at all to do with the publishing process.

In many ways, being an author twenty years ago was far less stressful, but there are lots of things I love about being an author now:

  • Word processing has made every stage of writing much easier and quicker. It means I can make manuscripts that look brilliant and are a pleasure to work on from the earliest outline to the final draft.
  • The internet means I can have frequent contact with readers who follow my blogs or read my books. Their feedback and ideas are both encouraging and inspiring to me.
  • Self-publishing means I don’t have to have unsold manuscripts languishing on my shelves, out of print books consigned to obscurity or projects I want to work on having to be abandoned because they’re unlikely to find a mainstream publisher.

The only problem is that, while I positively enjoy all the opportunities this new way of being an author presents, there’s an awful lot on my to-do list, and if I have to take unexpected time out because of illness, as has happened recently, things can quickly get out of hand.

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On my to-do list right now, I’ve got:

  • redraft my YA novel Drift from editor’s suggestions
  • ditto my next adult non-fiction When a Writer Isn’t Writing
  • write design and cover brief for Drift and When a Writer for designer
  • redraft my iPhone and iPad app Get Writing! following testers’ suggestions
  • plan my workshop for the home educated group
  • write my commissioned article for The Author
  • pitch further mag articles in time for the September launches of Drift and When a Writer
  • write blog articles for writinginthehouseofdreams and girlsheartbooks
  • write my guest blog article for Val Andrews’ Art For Happiness blog
  • write the new children’s fantasy novel that I’ve had in outline since New Year

All those years ago when I started out, and everything seemed so slow, I had a postit on my study wall to remind me, ‘Impatience is a form of resistance.’

When  writing my new book can’t seem to get off the bottom of the list, I still have to remind myself of that today.

The dark place, sad dreams, antidepressants and creativity…

Looking back over my blog stats for 2014, I discovered the three posts that got by far the most views were:

  1. Do antidepressants help or hinder creativity?
  2. The dark place where talent leads
  3. How can a really sad dream be a really good thing?

This surprised me at first, but when I thought about it, it seemed less surprising. The people who call by the House of Dreams are almost all dreamers and writers, and dreamers and writers are acquainted with their own inner darkness, and know how powerful it can be.

When you first engage with the darkness, it can be terrifying, and you may look for reassurance that you will not come to harm.

As you explore further, you find the darkness is full of meaning, and then you may look for other explorers who will understand your experience.

Carl Jung said that he stopped trying to cure people of depression when he realised that the way to make your darkness less dark was to accept it and inhabit it.

When creative people and depressives, and dreamers like me, are called to the darkness, that is a gift of opportunity, even though it is a gift nobody wants.

The sick man has not to learn how to get rid of his neurosis, but how to bear it. For the illness is not a superfluous and senseless burden, it is himself.

CG Jung

The darkness holds the keys to the self, and more. On the other side of meaning, where both the dark and the light are dissolved, all is energy and possibility, and we can experience pure creative freedom.

I believe in this journey. It can be long, and bewildering; it can feel unbearable. But if we can learn to bear the darkness, there is treasure to be found.

I hesitate to write about depression because it may sound as if I don’t understand how terrible it can be. I do. I suffered from  depression for many years before I stopped fighting it and, paradoxically, began to win.

These three posts about the darkness brought a wealth of wisdom and experience in the comments, which I hope you will take the time to read.

Has depression or the creative journey ever brought healing and insights for you? 

 

This is one super sweet blog – it’s official!

Big thanks today to Wyndy Dee for nominating Writing in the House of Dreams for the Super Sweet Blogging Award. How gorgeous! More about Wyndy here http://wyndydee.wordpress.com/about/

The rules: Thank (and link) the person who Awarded it to you (see above!) Nominate 12 people and ask them these simple questions…here they are, with my answers.

  1. Cookies or Cake? Whichever is the most chocolatey (obviously!)
  2. Chocolate or Vanilla? A marriage made in heaven – both at once is best
  3. Favorite Sweet Treat? Rhubarb crumble and Cornish clotted cream
  4. When do you crave sweet things the most? At emotional extremes – when I feel either on top of the world or down in the dumps
  5. Sweet Nick Name? I wish I had one. Today in the Rocky Valley tearooms near Tintagel, the waitress kept calling me honey, and I thought that was nice

Now then, my own nominees for the Super Sweet Award…

This time, I’m going for family and children’s-writer friends – I wish they could all come for cake in the House of Dreams!

Rosie Alexander ‘Adviser on the Edge’ – my daughter, blogging about life and work from her home in Orkney

Friends and fellow children’s authors :

Katherine Roberts ‘Reclusive Muse’

Katherine Langrish ‘Seven Miles of Steel Thistles’

Susan Price ‘A Nennius Blog’ (you can find me ‘in conversation’ over there, and we’re about to take up again where we left off soon)

Abi Burlingham ‘Musings and Mutterings’

Amy Butler Greenfield ‘Alchemy Pie’

Lucy Coats ‘Scribble City Central’

Mary Hoffman ‘The Book Maven’ (very informative blog about the book world)

Saviour Pirotta ‘Pirottablog’

Joe Friedman ‘The Talking Therapist’ (new blog by Joe wearing his other hat, as a psychotherapist)

And finally, the most fabilicious group blog, Girls Heart Books where I’m on the team, blogging on the 18th of every month. Here’s my latest post, ‘School – do you love it or hate it?’

Now then, milk and sugar?

Six Very Inspiring Bloggers for you!

Great news today – Writing in the House of Dreams has received the Very Inspiring Blogger Award from the lovely Katherine Langrish, writer and story-teller extraordinaire. You may have heard her on Radio 4’s Open Book programme recently, discussing dystopian fiction.

The very beautiful very inspiring blog award
The very beautiful very inspiring blog award

Katherine’s interesting and inspiring blog is called Seven Miles of Steel Thistles

Under the conditions of the  award, I have to tell you seven things about myself, and as it’s spring, I’m giving you seven pictures from my garden, which is always a source of happy ponderings for me:

1. My garden is loooong, so even on a day when it’s too cold to sit out, I like to walk up and down on breaks from my computer

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2. When it’s warm, you can’t beat a swing seat for sunning

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3. Coffee at the table under the trees is good when there are notes or MSS to read

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4. For contemplation, a nice peaceful pond

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5. Flowers, obviously…

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6. Pending DIY projects to help me stay focused on my writing

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7. And even on rainy days, watching the birds through my study window

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But enough about me! Now I have the privilege of nominating five Very Inspiring Bloggers myself. This time I’m going for blogs on writing, and here they are:

  1. The astonishingly prolific rarasaur – I know she’s already got this award, but I like spreading the word about the good stuff!
  2. Therapeutic Journal Writing – a lovely writing therapy blog from Lapidus member, Kate Thompson
  3. Poet and teacher, Geraldine Green, whose blog is Salt Road 
  4. Cristian Mihai – a young Romanian blogger sharing his thoughts and views on writing and art
  5. Stroppy author – info about all things writing, with plenty of attitude

With Katherine’s that makes six Very Inspiring Bloggers for you. Happy reading!

Do you know any VIBs? Please share!

A facebook page or blogging – which is best?

A year ago I set up a facebook page for Writing in the House of Dreams, but then I didn’t do anything about it. I didn’t start posting updates, or drawing people’s attention to it, because I wasn’t sure what the value-added would be when I already had – and loved – this blog.

It’s gradually occurred to me, through following some excellent fb pages such as Dreamwork with Toko-pa, The spirit that moves me, Moon Woman Rising, Creativity matters, New heaven new earth and Action for happiness that a facebook page does certain things a blog can’t do.

With a facebook page

  • readers can initiate topics and conversations rather than just responding to the content
  • readers can post pictures as well as comments
  • I can flag up news such as this blog getting a mention in Victoria Field’s excellent poetrytherapynews last week
  • you can flag up your own relevant news – Victoria could have posted her link on my fb page herself
  • it’s a great place for me to share quotes, brief insights and even dreams
  • it’s somewhere you can share your own quotes, brief insights and even dreams
  • it’s more immediate, especially for a once-a-week blogger like me

A limitation with facebook pages is that ‘likers’ no longer see all the updates in their timeline unless the admin pays a fee, whereas every email follower of a blog will receive notification whenever a new post goes up.

So my conclusion is that neither is best – facebook pages and blogging can simply do different things. That’s the theory, and now I’m ready to try it out in practice, so I’ve added the link to my Writing in the House of Dreams facebook page to the widgets at the right hand side of this blog.

I do hope you’ll ‘like’ the new page and go on to become part of its active community. If you really do like it, please tell your friends!

My first rule of writing

I work and teach in the practice school of writing. This means that rather than studying technique and trying to apply it, as we mostly learn to do in mainstream education, we start from just doing it and allowing our own unique style to develop through practice.

Obviously, this approach depends upon doing lots of writing and, as no-one keeps going for long with things they don’t enjoy, the first rule of writing is enjoyment.

If you can’t enjoy it, it’s better to take a step back and wait until the mood or the ideas or the psychological space for writing comes back.

Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy ~ Khalil Gibran, ‘The Prophet’

The paradoxical effect of this approach is that being prepared to wait means you never have to. When the impulse is pleasure, work is alligned with instinct, and you are flowing with life.

This is not to say you don’t have to work at your writing, but only that as long as you’re writing things which fully engage you, it’s work you want to do and therefore, however hard it may sometimes be, it never feels like a chore.

And what is it to work with love? It is to weave a cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth ~ Khalil Gibran, ‘The Prophet’

You may have noticed that although I normally blog every Wednesday, I’ve skipped a few weeks since Christmas. This is because I’ve been immersed in my work-in-progress and would have resented spending time on other writing.

I didn’t want to short-change myself, or you, or the spirit of writing by publishing something which felt like homework. So I took a break last week and the usual thing happened – lots of new ideas came into my head which are engaging enough for me to want to set aside other writing for an hour or so and explore them in the House of Dreams.

Here’s an interesting post from the Stroppy Author (great blog) about not publishing any old thing http://stroppyauthor.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/dont-publish-crap.html?showComment=1362832266092

And here’s another one from Abi Burlingham, on her decision to let go of having a regular blogging day http://abiburlingham.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/26th-october-2012/

And here is a beautiful contemplation on the important things, in life and in writing, from my very good friend, Liz Kessler http://awfullybigblogadventure.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/remembering-what-counts-liz-kessler.html

Blogging is writing-work I thoroughly enjoy because, unlike most of what I do, it finds its readers straight away, and they can give instant feedback.

So, dear reader, thank you for visiting, following and commenting 🙂

We are the House of Dreams

One of the great things about teaching workshops is that you get to meet some very talented, interesting and likeable people. With the kind of workshops I do, such as ‘Writing the Tarot’ and ‘Writing in the House of Dreams’, most of the people who come also have a real sense of adventure.

Cue Paul Farrington, a keen traveller and talented young writer and photographer, who has done a number of courses with me now. At the last workshop before Christmas, Paul brought me a present, and here it is – a large print of a photo he took in America.

Dream house photo by Paul Farrington
Dream house photo by Paul Farrington

I’ve been contemplating this picture over the holidays – how we can see the outside in wonderful detail, but we can only imagine what lies inside that spacious interior. The dark windows reveal nothing; they only reflect back the world outside.

We are the House of Dreams – the outer life so clear and familiar, the inner world often caught only in glimpses, or sometimes completely ignored. Dream-recalling and creative work of every kind are keys to getting right inside, having a proper look around and making yourself at home.

That’s the great joy of writing for me. It enables you to inhabit more of your Self. Dreamworking does the same thing.

Thank-you for following, commenting, tweeting and sharing on facebook throughout 2012, and may your 2013 be rich with wonderful dreams and writing.

A third award for the House of Dreams!

I’m absolutely delighted that ‘Writing in the House of Dreams’ has been nominated for ‘The Sunshine Award’

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The Sunshine Award is ‘given and passed on to bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.’

‘Positively’ and ‘creatively’ are two of my favourite words!

Acceptance of the award comes with the following instructions:

  1. Acknowledge the person who gave this award in a blog post.
  2. Do the Q&A below.
  3. Pass on the award to 10 deserving and inspiring bloggers, inform them and link to their blogs.

So first of all, my thanks to the lovely Carolyn Hughes – do check out her phenomenally popular blog The Hurt Healer which is always thoughtful and beautifully written

Second of all, here’s my Q&A:

1.Who is your favourite philosopher? Hmm…  I don’t really have one. I do like Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’ and Susan Jeffers’ philosophy of ‘Whatever happens, I’ll handle it’ though

2. What is your favourite number? 4

3. What is your favourite animal? The owl – it knows the secrets of the night

4. What is your favourite time of day? I find they’re all enjoyable in different ways – it’s one of the benefits of insomnia that you get to know the full 24 hours really well

5. What are your Facebook and Twitter accounts? Facebook Jenny Alexander Author Twitter @jennyalexander4

6. What is your favourite holiday? Camping in the far North of Scotland and the Northern Isles – breath-taking scenery, wonderful wildlife, absolute tranquillity

7. What is your favourite physical activity? Walking in wild places

8. What is your favourite non-alcoholic drink? Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon.

9. What is your passion? Writing and dreamworking (no surprises there then!) I love teaching workshops too

10. What is your favourite flower? Nasturtiums, geraniums and roses in the summer, Michaelmas daisies in the autumn, snowdrops in the winter, primroses and daffodils in the spring. Impossible to narrow it down any further!

Gorgeous geraniums in Barbara Hepworth's garden in St Ives
Gorgeous geraniums in Barbara Hepworth’s garden in St Ives

So now my nominations, in no particular order:

1. Toko-pa Artist, musician and dreamworker – a gentle, thoughtful blog and a beautiful voice

2. Writing Sisters Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers – creative inspiration from a Christian perspective, quotes and beautiful illustrations 

3. Abi Burlingham Engaging and varied articles about a writer’s life

4 The Artist’s Road One of my favourite blogs about the craft of writing, by Patrick Ross

5 recovery network: Toronto Fresh perspectives on ‘mental illness’

6 Poetry Therapy News New blog by poetry therapist Victoria Field – poetic inspiration and thoughtful commentary

7 Wright Story Visually delightful blog about all kinds of creative activities

8 Brain Pickings Weekly Brilliant selection of articles and quotes about fascinating topics every week

9 Help! I need a publisher! No-nonsense, practical and inspirational blog about writing and being published by the Crabbit Bat

10 A Nennius Blog Award-winning author Susan Price talking about life and writing, with help from the legendary Blott

Once again, thank-you Carolyn for nominating Writing in the House of Dreams – it will wear the Sunshine Award with pride 🙂

Which blog would you nominate for being positive and inspiring?