Thursday, 31 May 2012

Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths.

 Charles Spurgeon, who said this, was a 19th century British Particular Baptist preacher (and I had to look up what a Particular Baptist is, so to save you the trouble, it refers to a very strict Baptist) 


He's not very exciting looking, I'm afraid, so here instead is an image of anxiety.


(Maybe I should have stuck to Charles Spurgeon?)

Anyway, I'm wondering if the famous and wonderful Seth Godin has started reading my blog. By the way, that's not a serious suggestion. It would be akin to J.K. Rowling contacting me for story ideas.

It's just that yesterday, after my posting about the stress caused by striving for perfection, after a few minutes I received THIS - almost as if to me personally, not to all the other 76 million zillion, or whatever number it is, who follow him.

"Perhaps your anxiety is specific to magicians" 

"I found that quote in a strangely-translated instruction manual for an obscure but beautiful trick. 

But it has wide applicability.

Perhaps your anxiety is specific to artists or musicians or to anyone who has to stand up and stand out and stand for something.

It turns out that your anxiety isn't specific at all. Perhaps it is due to the fact that you're trying to control things that you can't possibly control.

Your anxiety might merely be a sign that you care deeply about your work.

Anxiety is almost never a useful emotion to carry around. Even for magicians.

Now that you've been reminded that you care, it pays to let the anxiety go.

Good riddance."

Magic, eh?

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect

...and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

This is a Good Point. I have now heard of Anna Quindlen, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and best selling author. (It must be pretty galling that someone hadn't heard of you when you've achieved so much)

Looking at the state of my office, many, especially Peter, would doubt my assertion that I'm a perfectionist.

N.B. This is not my office. I can tell because there are no ciabatta crumbs on the desk.

I'm a perfectionist about my writing, though. That's good and bad.

Good because I'm always striving and get good results that my clients appreciate so I get more and more commissions. Bad because I'm always striving and my good results are rarely good enough for me which makes me strive some more and exist in a permanent state of frustration or anxiety or self-doubt, driven by fear of failure.

I don't ever want to stop striving.

I do want to stop giving myself such a hard time.

The thing is...HOW?

Well, I could JUST STOP IT.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Great minds have purposes; others have wishes.

Useful fact of the day: Washington Irving said this. Second useful fact of the day. He also wrote Rip Van Winkle, in 1819That's enough useful facts. Useful? For a game of Trivial Pursuits maybe.

The mention of Rip Van Winkle at least gives me the excuse to feature a beautiful illustration by Arthur Rackham (1905) 

Hanging the moon and stars
Back to wishes and purposes.

I have lots of wishes. Too many to list, but here are a few. (It's quite embarrassing what comes first to my mind when it could be 'world peace' or 'an end to poverty'...)

1. I wish one of my feature length screenplays would be made into a film.
2. I wish one of my novels would be published
3. I wish everyone in my family could be happy, healthy and fulfilled (that's a bit more worthy!)
4. I wish we could live in France one day, by magic, without the hassle of selling up and moving
5. I wish I didn't need sleep so I could get more done.
6. I wish I wasn't so much of a worrier.

'If wishes were wings, this dream would fly' by King Barbarossa
What a small, small mind I have (mostly). I wish I had more inspiring wishes!  Bigger dreams.An over-arching purpose.

Wishes, purpose? Purpose, wishes? Chicken, egg. Egg, chicken.

And breathe...

And create...

Monday, 28 May 2012

I dwell in possibility…

Funny thing...I thought this phrase (which I like, but at the same time it makes me feel slightly nauseous) came from some American motivational speaker. Apologies to American motivational speakers everywhere but sometimes they can be a bit too much for my very British understated way of being.

(especially for my son Tim)
But no...I dwell in possibility was written by by Emily Dickinson.

Yes, she was American but not a motivational speaker, as far as I know.

She doesn't exactly LOOK like one, at any rate, but, in a different age, she could have been. She says things that motivational speakers say. In a sullen sort of way.

Anyway, here's how I dwell in possibility even when I start off the day thinking I'm not. I create a possibility for someone else. It's a win-win situation. Fail-safe.

And it hardly ever makes me feel nauseous.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

I am writing in the garden

To write as one should of a garden one must write not outside it or merely somewhere near it, but in the garden.

But I'm not writing ABOUT the garden, I'm just writing IN the garden. To see if it's possible. I have my writing habits and those mainly consist of being in my study where I feel comfortable and I have all my things about me, not least my computer.

It's a sin, on a day like this, to be stuck inside.

I find it hard to write (creatively) on my iPad - and yes, I KNOW you can get a blue-tooth keyboard (if that's the right term.) I've tried one, and it's still too small for me. Stunted finger actions = stunted brain.

Here's a controversial idea. I could use a notebook and pen.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

I appreciate the misunderstanding I have had with Nature over my perennial border.

I think it is a flower garden; she thinks it is a meadow lacking grass, and tries to correct the error.

Thank you Sara Stein. In my case, Nature thinks my flower bed lacks Ground Elder (Hissssssssssssss!)

Ground Elder is a clever plant. First of all, rabbits don't like to eat it. (Rabbits DO like to eat lettuces and herbs and, frankly, USEFUL things, but they don't like to eat Ground Elder. Perhaps I could train them?)

Second, Ground Elder has a root system like underground spaghetti. If you break it, each little section regenerates into ANOTHER Ground Elder, so it's almost the case that trying to eliminate it actually produces MORE.

At the moment, I'm feeling all skippy-happy, at one with the world, celebrating the abundance of Nature...


Friday, 25 May 2012

Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.

That's quite a job description...

A whole lot more inspiring than 'Your work is to write corporate copy,' or 'Your work is to empty the dishwasher and dust the mantelpiece.'

Those things are in my world though, as much as galloping Alfie across Ashdown Forest in the early morning mist, or enjoying an evening meal outside with Pete and Tim, or watching the rabbits nibbling the lawn, or writing a screenplay that is a true expression of my creativity...

I've discovered my world

...and I love it.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world

Maybe, Jean-Luc Godard.

Beautiful, often - just look at this image from the Iranian film, White Meadows, directed by Mohammad Rasoulof. old man's journey travelling around the small islands of a salt water lake. His job is to collect tears from people and listen to their sorrows. Sublime. It makes my heart sing.

Fraud? No, not at all. Here's a definition: Wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.

Cinema isn't FRAUD. THIS is fraud...

A so-called production company - RKO Pictures llc - (note the similarity to the perfectly genuine company RKO Pictures) - offering work for film extras. A remake of the 1993 film Cronos, to be directed by Guillermo Del Toro himself, in Wales. No way!

Yes - no way. It all seems to be going along very credibly until the excited extras, thrilled to have been 'chosen' are suddenly asked for £50 deposit against possible damage to their accommodation...

There is no film, no work, no accommodation - only a group of unscrupulous, greedy, disgusting specimens of the human race (an insult to the human race to even dignify them with the association) who prey on people's hopes and dreams - and usually those people have no spare money to lose.

Here is a link to the history of this fraud. FILM EXTRA SCAM

Just call me Miss Marple.

 only younger...

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you.

Well, thank you Walt Whitman, but I bet you had a smart pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses. (Other sunglasses available and not nearly as expensive)

There they are, the very ones - minus the lenses - but it WAS the nineteenth century.

The trouble with me is that if I keep my face toward the sunshine, I can't bear the brightness and screw up my eyes and squint most horribly.

It's not the most attractive look.

Still, I know what he means. Good old metaphor.

Today, shadows are definitely behind me and they'd better jolly well stay there.

Or else.
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Tuesday, 22 May 2012

You will be judged (or you will be ignored)

Those are pretty much the only two choices.
Being judged is uncomfortable. Snap judgments, prejudices, misinformation... all of these, combined with not enough time (how could there be) to truly know you, means that you will inevitably be misjudged, underestimated (or overestimated) and unfairly rejected.
The alternative, of course, is much safer.

To be ignored.

Up to you.

This was Seth Godin's post, yesterday

What's that spooky music? Okay, it'll have to be Psycho, but that's not the one I meant.

Anyway - that post came exactly at the right moment yesterday to spur me on, to swallow the fear of being 'misjudged, underestimated (or overestimated) and unfairly rejected,' and send the first ten pages of my YA novel, Of Night And Light, to a literary agent, and send the screenplay of The Melting to a film producer.

Now, all I have to do is wait...for something...

I'm mean, seriously...what IS the point of me writing all this stuff, pouring my heart and soul into it, and then NOT DOING ANYTHING WITH IT?

Sometimes, I could get quite cross with myself.

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Monday, 21 May 2012

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances.

The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them.

Ouch, George Bernard Shaw. That's a bit heavy for first thing on a Monday morning, but annoyingly true.

I don't know if it's particularly true for an aspiring writer. (I should stop saying that. I AM a writer) I feel as though it is, because we're always having to pitch, put ourselves out there, lay bare our souls in order to find an agent, get work published, get work READ even, get screenplays made...

Circumstances are all too easy to hide behind. I don't feel 100%...I must concentrate on PAID work rather than indulging my creativity...I'll do it later/tomorrow/next week when I'm on top of things...I haven't got the time...

Actually, all that is just faltering self-belief.

It's simple. Simple is not the same as easy.

 George Bernard Shaw's speaking to me again...(sometimes I wish he'd just go away.)

"You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say "Why not?"

Okay, I'll do it.

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Sunday, 20 May 2012

Busy doing nothing...

Not exactly nothing; in fact I have quite a long list, but I'm not going to drive myself into an early grave...

By bethany bARTon

 I have no intention of becoming extinct.

Someone has to write these blogs, after all!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

If only God would give me a sign!

Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank...

That would be good, certainly, Woody Allen - but there are other smaller signs too. Maybe from God (or a goddess)  Maybe coincidence. Maybe of no significance at all. But they do lift the spirit!

Today, they were silly things.

Coming back from the forest with the horses, we have to cross a busy main road and ride along it for about twenty yards to reach the entrance to the lane on the other side. Sometimes we can wait for 10 minutes before there's a gap in the traffic, and even then when we're on the road, cars often speed past us. It's not funny. Really, it's not. The horses can get quite agitated and then it can become quite scary.

TODAY - a car at the front of a huge line of vehicles actually stopped to let us cross and then a van coming in the opposite direction stopped too. We felt like Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea!

Then, weeks ago, Serena had lost her favourite riding crop somewhere on one of our hacks and had spent ages looking for it. I suddenly saw it in the grass alongside the road. Magic!

Today promises to be one of those days when everything is going to go well!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.

Newt Gingrich said this.

(This is obviously his cousin, Toad Gingrich. Someone is not bad at Photoshop but abysmal at identifying amphibians)

Today is going to call for perseverance. For most of yesterday and a bit of the day before I was occupied with The Most Mind-Numbing Job In The World which is to reduce by half a fifty-five page (tedious) corporate document - but 'keep the important points.'
 It's going to take a lot of today too.

I have come up with a number of ways to speed up the process:
  1. Tear the document in half
  2. Reduce the size of the font to Point 8
  3. Omit every other word
  4. Make the margins much smaller
Sadly, my client didn't think that any of these were very good ideas.


I'm just going to have to get busy...

Thursday, 17 May 2012

You'll never walk alone...

I do believe Alfie might be a Liverpool fan.

I am, for sure, although I hardly dare to mention that at the moment after the woeful season we've just had and the sacking of King Kenny. Sob.

I've been a Liverpool fan ever since, as an impressionable young thing, I fell in love with Steve Heighway. (He had such a lovely Sundance Kid moustache and seemed so much more accessible than Robert Redford)

For that reason, I went to Liverpool University. And here's you thinking it was because the English and Philosophy Joint Honours course was academically outstanding. It might have been - in fact, it WAS - but that's not why I went there.

Anyway - back to Alfie. Lately, he's been very nervous out on the road. Jumpy. Spooky. Sometimes scary. I've been keeping very calm about it all because the very worst thing for him would be to feel that I was nervous.

Tessa suggested I sing a song as I was going along and that the calming vibes would transmit themselves through to Alfie. I think she might have meant sing a song in my head.


You'll Never Walk Alone about fifty times over seemed to do the trick.

I'm not quite sure what the good residents of High Hurstwood thought as we went by.

They didn't say. They just looked.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The power of small

Or - how little things can make a huge difference.

By Carly Allen-Fletcher at
So yesterday, there was the Goliath in my life that I was battling, my feelings of resignation about my creative writing, my thoughts that I'll NEVER be J.K.Rowling - for that is Peter's idea of the successful author he would like me to be (which is not actually my ambition!)

Funnily enough I do believe Peter's aspiration for my future has little to do with the quality of the work or my creative fulfilment...more the size of the bank balance. Hard to imagine, eh? Quite often when I'm struggling away to perfect a recalcitrant phrase, he'll say 'Why can't you just write something like J.K. Rowling does and then you can keep me in the manner to which I'd like to become accustomed?'

I could almost hate J.K.Rowling...

Anyway - I was girding up my loins (as I am in biblical metaphor mode) to write a query letter to an agent when...David arrived in my In-Box, fully armed with anti-Goliath sling and handy pebble... the form of a film producer from Connecticut requesting one of my scripts and also wondering about me being involved in a rewrite of a feature.

I'm not stupid. I KNOW that a) he's probably sent the same e-mail to a zillion other people and b) in all likelihood, nothing will come of it....

but, boy, did Goliath collapse at once into a crumpled heap.

So far, he hasn't got up again.
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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Edison failed 10,000 times before he made the electric light.

Do not be discouraged if you fail a few times...said Napoleon Hill

I was about to say, with weary resignation, that I was sure Napoleon Hill hadn't been trying to find a literary agent (in this case, for children's books) or he wouldn't have said that with such spirit - but he was an author so maybe he had.

It's hard not to be discouraged, sometimes. However kind the 'No,' however much you're told,  "Try to keep "No" in perspective. This is a highly subjective business and another agent may adore your work. All it takes is one "Yes." We wish you success in finding that "Yes" - Sometimes you just get ground down and worn out with it all and begin to doubt the quality of your work.

When I say 'you' I mean 'I'...I'm sure that no other writer in the entire world has experienced this struggle. I am The Only One. (I'm also sure that I've retained my sense of humour!)


By the way, I haven't just been rejected by a literary agent again. It's simply that, for a while, I haven't had the heart even to TRY.

But today, I'M GOING TO.

Onwards and Upwards by Philip Dunne

Monday, 14 May 2012

Tingle moments...

Hairs on the back of the neck rising moments...time standing still moments...sublime moments...

The first: I was listening to Desert Island Discs. The castaway was Baroness Sheila Hollins, professor of psychiatry. Interesting. I was half paying attention until she spoke about her daughter Abigail who, while out walking with her toddler in a pushchair, was (randomly) stabbed in the neck and as a result she was paralysed.

Abigail lost her ability to speak but was communicating by blinking letters of the alphabet. She had always been fond of poetry. She blinked this haiku, that she had composed, to her father.

 ‘Still, silent body
but within my spirit sings
dancing in love light.’ 

I'm lost for words.

Blue Spirit by Stephen Linhart

This morning, driving along listening to Classic FM - and this came on:


The slow movement of Chopin's Piano Concerto No 2 - and here, Rubinstein is 89 years old. 

I was transported, calmed - to me this is completely sublime.

It  always fills me with wonder that my tingle moments may leave someone else completely cold...

Sunday, 13 May 2012

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to...

Except I didn't cry at all, I had a wonderful time.

What was so: Lots of people I had hoped would come, COULDN'T. Lots of people I hadn't expected to come,DID.

The sun was shining. We ate in the garden. Tim brought along his lovely friend, Becky.

Result: Happy, happy times.



Saturday, 12 May 2012

When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk. He trots the air, the earth sings when he touches it.

Well, almost, Alfie...

That's when we're heading home from our rides across Ashdown Forest...

When we're setting off, this is the sort of conversation we have (with apologies to A.A.Milne):

"Good morning, Caroline," said Alfie gloomily. "If it is a good morning," he said. "Which I doubt," said he.
"Why, what's the matter?"
"Nothing, Caroline, nothing. We can't all, and some of us don't. That's all there is to it."
"Can't all what?" said Caroline, rubbing her nose.
"Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush."

Today, Serena, my riding companion and I decided to let Alfie choose which way to go. We got to the first T-junction and I didn't direct Alfie to go either left or right.

Which way did he choose?

Not left and not right. He turned on his tail and started heading back home at great speed!

That's my boy!