Something wonderful…

Always believe

A close friend of mine gave this to me recently so I thought I’d share it as it was just the best gift. Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down with with all the stuff we have to get done in our jobs, with the housework and chores, with our relationships (or lack of!), with our kids’ lives whether that’s nursery runs, dance lessons or, in the case of older children, supporting them through university.

And then there are our artistic deadlines. I’ve let mine slip too much in the past. Now, we’re already more than halfway through January – that’s 1/12th of the year almost gone. If you haven’t already, there’s still time to identify how the year will pan out for your soul’s work. Just yesterday I put the dates in my diary necessary to achieve the small steps I need to finish my novel.  And I’ve now picked back up where I left it and am working towards these goals – little by little.

I was looking through some old pictures the other day and found this one. I was walking home one day after a long and stressful day at work. I was in a job that I really didn’t enjoy. The creative parts of my role, the bits that had brought me to the company – the working with words and writers – had been replaced with pounds and pence and bottom lines. I’d already expressed my wish to leave but had allowed my boss to convince me to stay. Now I was facing the very difficult decision of leaving without having another job to go to. Needless to say, I was feeling low. Then I turned a corner and saw this:

rainbow

I hadn’t seen a rainbow in years, let alone one so clear and bright. It was that ‘something wonderful’ that had just happened and it made me smile and remember the joy that can be found in even the simplest thing. It was nature’s way of showing me the very thing we  so easily forget. Even when things are really bad if we believe that something wonderful is about to happen it really can.

I decided to hand in my notice a few weeks later. I went freelance so I could get back to what I loved. That was over three years ago now. And I’m loving what I’m doing.

So think about what you want to achieve and how you’ll get there. Whether you call them ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ or ‘Goals for 2014’ sometimes with all the planning we forget to acknowledge that all of this work will lead  somewhere, to something. And that something will be wonderful…

Do you have a picture that shows that ‘something wonderful’? Or an inspirational quote that uplifts you? If so I’d love to hear it and why it works for you.

Advertisements

Moveable deadlines suck…

So much time has passed since my last post that this blog had all but found it’s way to that virtual blogging graveyard –  forgotten, alone, floating in cyberspace, lacking fresh content and a recent click. You see, it’s because of a problem I have. If you’re a writer or an artist you may recognise it too. And it’s all to do with moveable deadlines.

The reason is economic… It IS! The paying work, well, pays… So, it’s fair to say that those deadlines stick. But there’s also another familiar favourite here. It’s an excuse. You see, when someone (who’s paying me) sets me a deadline I  think, ‘Ok, I have this much time, this much to get done. So, if I do this much each day, I’ll get this much pay. My problem: I just can’t do the same for myself.

So, when we’re talking about the real creative stuff – the stuff for you, from you. The stuff the world has no idea you have for it, but which can’t help but be wowed when you finish it stuff. The stuff you wake up in the middle of the night reaching for a notebook stuff, the stuff you just have to get out or you’ll scream stuff – the deadlines slip and slip and slip They’re moveable because we let them move. I let them move. There’s no payment guaranteed at the end. No carrot on the end of a stick. 

But how about this? How about giving ourselves a payment. It probably won’t be cash – in my case it’s a Saturday brunch with friends, but only if I keep my deadline. Only if I write that 1000 words. It’s the payoff. A treat. And something you’ll enjoy even more knowing you’ve kept the deadline you set yourself. 

Yes, moveable deadlines suck… So, don’t move them.

What tips do you have to keep to your deadlines?

Writer’s block-buster

Writer’s block. It’s one of those things you just never want to experience. But over the last few days I have. I sit down with the screen blinking back at me and I think about the clothes that need washing, the drain that needs unblocking (it’s right outside the window that’s next to my desk and gurgles periodically), what to cook for dinner later. It’s worse, I think, because I’m in the middle part of my book. The character’s are all there, but they’re still a little prone to moments of withdrawal. Where they decide to act the way THEY want and not the way YOU have planned. It’s that no man’s land where it’s easy to lose your way. Easy to lose focus. Easy to pontificate over the purpose of all this.

So, what do I do? Surrender to the urge to go window shopping – not real shopping, God forbid, as that takes real money, the paper variety if you’re lucky. Or, gorge myself on Fruit Shortcake’s washed down with Redbush tea? No. I take the pressure off. I break my writing time up into smaller chunks. I write something else for a bit – like this blog entry. I move location – my local library’s Reference section is great and you can even drink and eat so long as the food’s not hot (or smelly! That’s the fried fish out then…). I put my deadlines to one side for a bit and remind myself that I actually enjoy this writing lark when I remember to.

Far from revolutionary, perhaps, but worth a try don’t you think? These block-busters seem to work for me…

Wasafiri New Writing Prize 2011

Wasafiri New Writing Prize 2011

There’s still time to enter the 2011 Wasafiri New Writing Prize. Renowned worldwide for featuring some of the best and brightest new talent, Wasafiri launched an annual New Writing Prize as part of its 25th anniversary celebrations in 2009. Now in its third year, the competition is open to anyone worldwide who has not published a complete book.

The panel is looking for creative submissions in one of three categories: Poetry, Fiction or Life Writing.
The closing date is 5pm GMT on 29 July 2011. Visit http://www.wasafiri.org/prizes.asp for more info.

Hair and now…

Ok, so I rolled up a little late to the Hair Power, Skin Revolution book event at the fabulous Arc Gallery last Thursday. But that certainly didn’t take away from the quality of the evening when I eventually arrived after an hour-long trek from work…

It was my first visit to the gallery – a longboat that’s moored on the canal at Tottenham Hale and if you haven’t been I’d definitely go as it’s pretty impressive http://www.artarc-collective.com. Inside are real wood floors and beautiful works of African-inspired art on the walls. It’s an intimate space without feeling claustrophobic and holds a surprisingly large  number of people.

 

A view of the Arc Gallery

 

 

I arrived in the middle of a lively audience discussion about natural hair and was shown to a seat at the front by the curator and event organiser John Egbo. I’d missed Nicole Moore’s (the anthology editor) introduction and the first reading by contributor Collette Machado, but enjoyed Brenda White’s Hair to Stay and an impromptu performance by poet Leeto Thale. I also read my own contribution. But what really made the event for me was the input from a creative, interesting and talented audience. There were writers, artists, mothers, fathers, poets, actors and students, all with something interesting to say about our individual and collective journeys with our hair.

For me, the icing on the evening’s cake was having Judith Jacob share a wicked new way to style my locks. Priceless…

 

From left: Brenda, Nicole, Me

 

 

Stepping out of the fold

It’s been quite a while since my last post. You know how it is. Life always seems to get in the way. The commute to work, eight hours sat behind a computer or in a classroom or lugging breeze blocks on a building site, the commute home, cook dinner, spend time with the kids, collapse on the sofa in front of the tv, drag yourself to bed. And then to start all over again the very next day. No wonder we’re always tired. But we got to keep the roof over our heads, right! Damn right.

So it was with some anxiety that I recently left my job to become an ‘entrepreneur’. Basically I’m responsible for my own shit now. If I work hard and do well I reap all the benefits. If I don’t then say goodbye to that roof. I’ve stepped out of the fold. Out of the secure feeling of knowing exactly how much money will be on the table at the end of the month. I say table, but I mean bank account – you get my drift! I’ve also applied for an arts council grant to create a bit of time to actually work on my novel. My writing has always been the thing that suffers the most and the grant will give me the ‘OK’ to put it first. Centre stage! Hoorah!

And I’m happy to report that my application has been successful! So, not only have I launched a new business (check it out at http://www.writeontrack.co.uk) but I’ve been given some time to focus on my work. Woohoo, bring out the bunting! Now the hard work really begins…

Hair power, skin revolution

Moore's new anthology

I was excited to receive a copy of the third volume in Nicole Moore’s series of anthologies by women of black and  mixed race heritage in the post recently. Part of that was seeing the piece I’d written for Moore’s hair blog in October 2009 actually in print. But beyond this was the chance to browse the poems and essays, which on the whole speak of each writer’s  journey to self-acceptance.

Much is made of the movement from chemically treated to natural. Straight tresses to kinky waves. It’s a familiar journey for many women and thus many of the contributions touch on similar ground – mine included. So those that approach the subject matter with a slightly different take stand apart.

I loved Elayne Ogbeta’s culturally amended take on a fairy tale  in Rapunzel, Rapunzel. Ellen Aaku’s To Bleach or Not to Bleach is a brutally honest (and saddening) confession to an addiction to skin lightening  she has yet to cold turkey from. Dorothea Smart’s Hairdresser triptych is lyrically powerful.

We will always have something to say about those aspects of ourselves that define us as women. Hair Power, Skin Revolution gives ample voice to these opinions.