Tag Archives: synchronicity

The new year, synchronicity and my next book

I like to start every new year with a brand new piece of writing so every autumn I put together a short-list of ideas for my next book and then watch for synchronicities to help me decide which one to go with. This year, as usual, life has given me some prompts.

2013 got off to a cracking start for me when I tutored my first ever Arvon course on ‘Writing for Children.’ I had never previously taught children’s writing because it seemed to me that writing for children was pretty much the same as writing for adults – all the elements of fiction such as plot, settings and characters work in the same way, and whoever you’re writing for you have to target your particular reader.

But being asked to teach writing for children meant I had to really think about not only what is the same but also what is different, and teaching the course turned out to be pure pleasure. I enjoyed it so much that I wrote a new series of evening workshops on writing for children which I taught at the end of 2013.

At the first session, I dug out various books I thought people might like to read, including the very latest book on writing for children, by Linda Newbery and Yvonne Coppard.

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Writing Children’s Fiction, by Yvonne Coppard and Linda Newbery

Flicking through the back matter for more ideas, I discovered that Writing in the House of Dreams is included in the recommended writing blogs, the only one by an individual among half a dozen group blogs. That felt most affirming!

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Then, at the last workshop session, one of the participants mentioned that she’d seen my children’s book, ‘How to be a Brilliant Writer’ in Maeve Binchy’s recommended reading list at the back of her book on writing.

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The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club
The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club

One of the ideas I’d been mulling over for my next project was a book for adults about writing – just writing, not in relation to dreams. But although I’d wanted to do that for ages, it didn’t seem sensible because there were already so many books out there by writers about writing .

I always follow life’s promptings, however, so with a gleeful click of the heels I’ll be up, up and away writing an adult book about writing to go with my children’s one in the New Year. The various other projects I’ve been mulling over will have to wait until their time is ripe.

What new projects are you looking forward to in 2014? Have you felt prompted by life?

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How to write an introduction

a) What’s it about? b) Who’s it for? c) Why should they trust me? Writing an introduction should be as easy as abc, but if you get stuck with yours like I did, I think I’ve found the key.

key

For a while now, I’ve been working on the final draft of ‘Writing in the House of Dreams.’ It took me three weeks to go through the whole text, making tweaks and adjustments, so when I decided to re-write the introduction I thought it would take me a few days at most.

Ten days later, I had a huge and growing heap of notes and a brain like knotted spaghetti.

A growing heap of notes
A growing heap of notes

When I thought about who my book was for, the answer was obvious – dreamers and writers. But what do dreamers and writers want to read about? It seemed to me that the answer to that was interpretations and publishing deals.

When I thought about what my book was about, it certainly wasn’t mainly interpreting and writing techniques, although those did come into it.

What I’m most interested in, what makes my book so ‘niche’, is how dream-awareness and writing can transform your reality, because they both mean learning to come and go easily between the inner and outer world, making ordinary life feel bigger, more exciting, more resonant.

I’m interested in how that ability to come and go across the border can take you ever deeper and wider, because imagination has no limits. I like that the more you understand, the more your sense of mystery grows.

I love the feeling that you can take your explorations as far as you want to go, into layers of myth and beyond, pushing back the limits of your courage, curiosity and skills.

So what is my book about? Adventures in the inner world. Discoveries. Secrets and treasures we can bring back to enrich and inspire our everyday life.

Who is it for? Dreamers and writers, at every level of experience, who are interested in the adventure for its own sake, and not only in writing as a career or dreaming as a source of insights into waking life.

That sounds pretty clear, doesn’t it? That sounds succinct and honest. But I had to come here to my blog, in order to unravel all the strands and identify what the main ones were. On a blog, you haven’t got 75,000 words to explore your themes; you’ve got a few paragraphs to make a point.

When you blog, you’re very conscious of your readers because they’re real people, individuals who might comment on what you’ve written as soon as it goes up.

Yesterday I got the essence of the book by drafting this blog post, and then a happy synchronicity this morning affirmed the focus for the rest of the opening chapter, which is about the leaving the magical world of childhood and learning later to engage with it again.

Someone had posted a comment on my article ‘The dream and the writer’s trance’ which said, ‘I used to slip into the writer’s trance rather easily when I was a child but now I find it harder to get to that state’ (thank-you, Sehena)

So if you know the abc of writing an introduction but you just can’t seem to boil it down, write a blog. That was the key for me.

Thank you for reading and joining in 🙂

What children’s authors get up to on retreat

I didn’t post last week because I was on retreat at Charney Manor in deepest Oxfordshire with the Scattered Authors Society.

Pimms o'clock in the Charney garden
Pimms o’clock in the Charney garden

As retreats go, this annual adventure is a very lively one – among this year’s sessions we had comedy improv, yoga, e-publishing, drawing, developing the work-in-progress, searching for the iron-age fort and the traditional Charney Quiz.

It's got to be around here somewhere!
It’s got to be around here somewhere!
Quiz night - my team was The Naughty Corner (we lost by less than usual)
Quiz night – my team was The Naughty Corner (we lost by less than usual)

One of my offerings was an afternoon workshop on writing the tarot. Tarot is useful, like dreams, because the cards you draw will be synchronistically connected with your current emotions and preoccupations, so the themes and characters they suggest will feel relevant and immediate to explore in your writing.

However, in an introductory workshop it can be easier if everyone’s working on the same image, so I like to start at the beginning with number 0, The Fool. Katherine Roberts has described the session on her lovely blog, Riding the Unicorn, if you’d like to find out more.

I’ll be offering a one-day workshop in Cornwall on writing the tarot in the autumn. In the meantime, check out the workshops page on this blog if you think you might fancy some dreaming-and-writing in Surrey this October, and please spread the word if you know anyone else who might be interested.

Cheers!

My session, with Celia Rees, on steering a happy course in a difficult market
My session, with Celia Rees, on steering a happy course in a difficult market

How a broken toilet seat solved a conundrum

In the four or five weeks since I delivered ‘Writing in the House of Dreams’ to my agent, my life has not been writing-friendly.

Between the nightmare chaos of having builders in to fix the roof and fit a new bathroom, and the fun chaos of lots of visitors, there simply hasn’t been time for work.

What I had been planning to do after everything quietened down last weekend was decorate the rooms where the leaky roof had done most damage, but I couldn’t face it – I just wanted to get back to my writing.

The problem was, I couldn’t decide what to write. I had two projects in development – a children’s series to follow my Peony Pinker books, and an adults’ book similar to ‘Writing in the House of Dreams.’ Both of these ideas felt interesting and exciting, in completely different ways.

My heart said do the latter, even though I didn’t have much more than a bunch of vague ideas and a few scribbled notes.  My head said do the former, because I had already written a full synopsis and half of the first story, and my agent had given it the thumbs-up. So I was faced with a conundrum.

I still hadn’t made up my mind the next morning, when my brand new toilet seat broke, dragging me away from my just-getting-back-to-normal life and dumping me back in the local B and Q, where I seemed to have spent most of the previous month.

I felt tetchy. I’d paid nearly thirty quid for that toilet seat, and you could have fashioned better fixings out of tin foil. I felt even more tetchy when the local store insisted that, as I’d bought it at a different branch an hour’s drive away, that’s where I would have to take it back to.

I bought a second toilet seat, tossed the faulty one in the boot, and set off for home. But it felt such an irritating waste of a morning that I took a diversion and drove out to the holy well at Saint Clether.

The holy well is a magical place, full of history and mystery, nestled in a beautiful valley. In my experience, it isn’t possible to stay confused, angry or upset for long, within its ancient walls.

St Clether holy well

As I tramped along the path, I suddenly remembered how I had come to the well before, when I was faced with exactly the same writing dilemma. My head had been telling me try and get a contract for another children’s series, but my heart wanted to throw common sense to the winds and focus on my dream book for a while.

The version of my dream book I was working on at that time was called ‘Pomegranate’, after the myth of Persephone. When I got to the well, I found lots of people celebrating the celtic festival of harvest, and among the coins and crystals left as offerings in the wall, someone had managed to perch a pomegranate.

I could not have been more astonished if the skies had opened and the voice of God boomed out, ‘Write “Pomegranate!”‘

I did, and I had never regretted that decision. So now I was alert for any signs or portents that might give me a heads-up this time. I went into the little chapel, picked up a candle to light, and just stood there. The working title of my current adults’ book idea is ‘Sixty Candles.’

When it comes to writing, I find that the heart usually does get its own way in the end, but often not before a fair few steps in the opposite direction, unless Life gives me a shove (I’ll be blogging about signs and portents next week)

If the toilet seat hadn’t broken, I wouldn’t have had to go to B and Q. If the local store had been willing to exchange it, I wouldn’t have felt so cross that I needed a calming diversion.

If I hadn’t gone to the well, I wouldn’t have remembered the last time I was faced with this exact conundrum. I probably would have gone on dithering between my two projects for weeks, instead of being able to throw myself whole-heartedly into one of them.

So my broken toilet seat solved a conundrum. What had seemed a completely irritating, bad thing, triggered a very positive train of events.

Have you ever had a bad experience that turned out to have been a good thing?

Nothing is ever good or bad, but thinking makes it so ~ Shakespeare

‘Treat your dreams like lovers’ – talking to Toko-pa

Toko-pa Turner is an authority on dreams and dreamwork. I asked her to do an interview after watching her video tips on recalling dreams, in which she suggests, ‘Treat your dreams like lovers…’ I really liked that idea!

While I was pondering what I might ask her, I dreamt that she and I were in my living-room, with lots of people milling around at some kind of get-together; we were looking after someone’s baby, passing it between us in a delightful way, just like this process of question-and-answer.

Could you tell us a bit about your own personal journey in dreams, Toko-pa?

I grew up in a unique way, raised as a Sufi in a downtown Montreal commune. We lived in a giant but humble tenement with 18 rooms and 9 cats.  We ate vegetarian meals, practised yoga, meditation, did Sufi dancing and chanted zikr. As you can imagine, our bookshelves were crowded with poetry by Rumi and Tagore, herbal dictionaries, tomes on Tantra, crystals, Dreaming and endless manuals for spiritual enlightenment.

By the time I was 9 or 10, I was reading Carlos Casteneda and having out-of-body experiences. I remember being fixated with dreams – not just their significance, but that they emanated from a world beyond this world, from which beauty, monstrosity and intelligence were endlessly flowing.

When I was about 10, I was reading Journeys out of the Body by Robert Monroe and, while meditating with a quartz crystal, had my first astral projection. In the vision, I was shown an infinite hallway of doors, each marked with a different discipline or area of knowledge. I chose one at random and entered into a classroom where a teacher was waiting for me. He handed me a giant, ancient-looking book, not to read but to… download.

Metabolising the entirity of that teaching in a matter of seconds changed my life. While I have many times strayed off the Dreaming path, I have never forgotten that within each of us is a vast Innernet which contains the entire appendix of our experience as a species – maybe even our memories of the future.

What is the value of dream-recalling as part of everyday life?

In the Talmud, it is said that an uninterpreted dream is like a letter left unread. Dreams show us with staggering clarity and genius what we most need to bring to consciousness. They guide us to not only make excellent decisions in daily life but, like an acorn to the oak tree, they prompt us in the overall direction of our soul’s purpose.

When we are in alignment with our purpose, we are also making the greatest possible contribution to our tribe. Marion Woodman, a marvellous Jungian writer, teaches that the greatest tragedy we face as a culture is the loss of the symbolic life. So you see, each of us is grieving our own piece of that loss, whether we are aware of it or not.

As you forge a relationship with your dreams, that profound loneliness begins to dissipate, and you find your place in the ‘family of things.’ As a side-benefit, you’ll find synchronicity, love and other miracles start to line up to meet you.

I like your gentle approach to dreamwork – could you tell us a bit about your work with clients?

Well, it’s just about my favourite thing in the world. There’s nothing more intimate, fulfilling and magical that ‘touching souls’ with another being. Most people walk around for years without ever receiving a proper ‘Hello.’ What I mean by that, is that most of us have been taught from the earliest age to suppress and discount the tenderest, most creative part of ourselves. And while it is certainly possible to survive in this way, underneath the daily armour is an unabating hunger to be seen.

To connect, being-to-being, with that thing which is tired of fitting in, which wants to feel alive, which has something authentic to offer. Giving a proper Hello is to hold a subtle, unwavering presence for that thing to feel safe enough to emerge. Dreamwork is all about nurturing trust, not just between the Dreamer and Dreamworker, but between the Dreamer and his/her own soul.

Is all dream material related to the dreamer’s day-life, or are there different kinds of dreams?

While most dreams are responding to the events of our daily lives, occasionally one lucks out and gets a Big Dream. It has a tonal difference to it and feels more like an experience than a narrative. It is more vivid and sensual, and the characters & environments seem to exist independently of our being there. It’s as if these dreams are having us, instead of the other way around. Often in dreams like these, we receive transmissions or guidance which stays with us for a long time.

There are more kinds of dreams than I could ever cover in this interview, and likely more than I could even learn about. There are precognitive & premonitory dreams, creative dreams, visionary dreams, past-life dreams, healing & initiation dreams, recurring dreams, lucid dreams, telepathic dreams and many more.

But perhaps its most important to mention nightmares, because they are the reason most people choose not to remember their dreams. One of the most powerful things I get to witness in my work, is the moment when people realise that their nightmares are there to help them. Some spend a lifetime hiding shame and fear of their own dreams, believing they are broken or abnormal. But the truth is, nightmares are just dreams that have turned up their volume, trying devotedly to get our attention about something that is ready to be healed.

This blog is about using dreams as a creative resource. As an artist, writer and musician, how does your dreamlife feed your creativity?

Infinitely! As a songwriter and writer, I constantly use the symbols from my dreams to set the mood of a piece, or to convey a poetic paradox. For instance, I have a song called Medicine Music, whose chorus, “the poison is the medicine” came from a dream in which spiders were covering my arms and biting me. I was paralysed with fear but when the poison sunk into my bloodstream, I became filled with light and strength. This dream taught me that if I lean into those painful and scary places, they will no longer paralyse me, but become the source of my power.

What is your favourite book about dreams?

I love The Way of the Dream by Marie Louise von Franz, which is just a short transcript of an extraordinary ten hour film interview that von Franz did with fellow Jungian Fraser Boa. She has such a great mind and it is never at the expense of her feeling, so she simultaneously satisfies my inner mystic and nerd.

I always enjoy the quotations you post on your facebook page. Would you like to finish this interview with a quotation here?

From Marc Ian Barasch’s Healing Dreams: “Dreams uphold the soul’s values. They tell us that we — our ego selves — are not who we think we are. They encourage us to live truthfully, right now and always. Of course these messages might not be what we want to hear. Sometimes dreams may advocate for life changes that are challenging, to say the least. Dreams really have no time for niceties or for the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. In dreams our narrow selfhood is expanded — the dreams will not allow us to be so small.”

Toko-pa has a beautiful blog http://www.toko-pa.com and facebook page https://www.facebook.com/DreamworkWithTokopa

You can read another beautiful interview with Toko-pa here.

How to make a block-busting collage

As I was writing the introduction to Katherine Roberts’ guest post last week, I suddenly remembered that a workshop exercise I did with the Scattered Authors Society on another occasion had in fact previously appeared in a book*

I called that workshop ‘Busting through blocks,’ and it explored a basic collage technique I use a lot in my own writing practice. You can use it to create characters, examine relationships between your characters, develop settings, find titles, spark stories… pretty much anything.

Creating a character using collage

Whatever the issue is, hold it in the back of your mind as you flick through some magazines. Don’t think about which images, colours, patterns, words you need, or how they will relate to your project; just tear out the ones that draw you, and trust they will be the right ones, the ones you need.

This works through synchronicity, like tarot or other divinatory practices; the outer world reflects what is going on in your inner world.

You can use collage to spark a story

Limit the time you spend on tearing out pictures to 10 minutes max, because you don’t want to overthink it. The whole process should feel instinctual.

Now get a pritt stick and a piece of plain paper or card. Again, follow your instincts and don’t overthink it, as you put your collage together. Take 10 minutes max for this stage, too.

Sometimes, your collage will give you the inspiration you’re looking for straight away, but there will always be more, so put it somewhere you will see it, on your study wall, for example. Look at it often. It will gradually reveal more of itself, and its relationship with your writing project.

There are always work-in-progress collages up on the wall in my study!

What are your top block-busting tips?

*The book is ‘How to write a blockbuster,’ by Lee Weatherly and Helen Corner. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Write-Blockbuster-Yourself-Creative-Writing/dp/0340916915/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329746460&sr=1-2

Lee’s a bestselling children’s author, who attended the workshop, and Helen runs the Cornerstones Literary Consultancy http://www.cornerstones.co.uk/