Tag Archives: self-belief

Learning to meditate

I have been an advocate of meditation for years. I used to love dropping into the London Buddhist Centre whenever I got the chance, just to soak up the atmosphere if nothing else. I held the thought of finding that inner peace, that inner silence, on something of a pedestal.


When I started teaching I quickly became interested in holistic approaches to helping teenagers cope with the stresses of school, and enthusiastically read reports of daily meditation transforming students’ experiences. I tried to find ways to feed it into the school day – created resources featuring links to guided visualisations for my colleagues to use in tutor time. It seemed to make such perfect sense: take the time to breathe, to reconnect with yourself, and suddenly everything would be so much easier to cope with.

I have a confession to make, though: I had absolutely no idea how to actually do it.

I still don’t.

There was a leadership course I went on that sticks in my mind. It was about Project Management I think, and there was a whole section of it focusing on Work Life Balance. I’ve always struggled with that. Once I get stuck into something I find it almost impossible to let it go, only to collapse in a heap when it’s finally done. Harder to take that approach with a kid to look after mind… The thing I remember about this section of the course, other than being told by the facilitator that I really needed to work on my Work Life Balance (thanks) was being led through a guided meditation at the end of it.

Being a Teaching Leadership course, this was as with everything couched in its potential in the classroom. That I could totally get behind. But to do it? To actually stop moving and quiet my brain enough to attempt the meditation myself? That kind of scared me a little bit.

I’d never really stopped to think about how odd this all was. How I can be completely won over by something both in theory and through the positive impact I’ve seen it have on other people, how I know that this thing is probably exactly what I need to help me deescalate my tendencies towards stress and anxiety, and yet how I have never, in the twenty years or so that it has been on my radar, made the effort to include it in my life, for me.

I guess ultimately reaching for a glass of wine at the end of the day is a whole lot easier to get my head around…

But part of my ‘kick 2017’s ass‘ plan of action is to change that. January is proving a little bit extreme in my efforts to jumpstart this year of productivity – I’m going for a full-on no booze, no caffeine, no dairy, no gluten, no sugar (etc) detox, upping my activity levels with more walking, swimming and yoga, doing all sorts of life-organising, goal-setting, motivation-boosting work related stuff AND trying to find the time to meditate, every day.

And mainly it’s working.

Almost every single day I’m managing to fit in ten minutes of guided meditation. I don’t think I’m very good at it – stilling my mind is perhaps the hardest thing I’ve ever really tried to do – but I’m giving it a go, and I’m learning.

I’m learning what kinds of meditations work for me, and which ones don’t.

Visualisations, for example, are really tough. I think it’s the writer in me – I find myself either judging the narrative for its plethora of cliches, or else getting drawn in just enough to begin to flesh out the story around the scenario. Why am I in this secluded cabin in the woods? Am I really alone? Is that safe..? This beach… Where is it exactly? Can I swim? I’d like to swim… And so on. It’s a real effort, trying to stop my mind from riffing on the words. And as for being able to turn them into images that’s really not working for me so far.

Stuff focused on my breathing is better. I like breathing – consciously. It’s a bit of a hangover from my acting days I reckon. And as long as I don’t get too competitive about it it seems to work to chill me out.

There was a new meditation I tried tonight, on cultivating kindness and compassion. I was a little sceptical I admit, but actually there was something incredibly healing about all of those positive vibes. (Especially when directed towards the people who have been monumentally stressing me out over the past 48 hours, but I’m not going to dwell on that…)

Basically this is a journey that is worth continuing. And possibly one I should have started a lot earlier… But hey – we have to let go of the past, right? Focus on the present, and build our resilience for the future.

That’s what I’m going with anyway.



The perfect fit

So I have finally this week managed to begin the process of getting my head around this whole getting published malarky.

It hasn’t been easy: my to-do list seems to be expanding almost as enthusiastically as my veg patch, and I am still finding the political car crash so horrifically compelling that it is taking almost all my energy to secure the headspace to think about anything else.

But part of my post-Brexit survival plan was to be just a little bit selfish, and with that in mind I sat down in the garden one sunny afternoon with the two books that have sat forlorn and unopened since they arrived in those innocent pre-referendum days and took a look at what they had to offer.


A lot, is the answer.

I started with the Mslexia guide to Indie Presses (thank you Teika for the recommendation). The world of independent publishers is fairly new to me, so I was keen to see what was out there. I scoured each description, marking any that seemed a good fit for either of my completed novels to come back to later.

Once I was sat at my computer, I started a spreadsheet. I wouldn’t normally be quite so rigidly organised about something like this, but the careful structure of the columns and rows helped to still my chaotic mind, and made me believe that I might just possibly be able to do this.

For each publisher, I noted down their web address, the relevant genres they were interested in, submission guidelines, and whether they were in fact currently accepting unsolicited submissions. That last column narrowed things down a bit, but of the ones that were left I explored their websites a little further, deciding which of my novels I would approach them with before adding that to the table. The final columns, yet to be filled, are for the date I submit, the date I intend to follow up, and what feedback, if any, I receive.

Its funny, but even just going over that process here has calmed and focused me again. If feels like a big thing, to be preparing to submit my work to people who might be able to help me get it out into the world. There is still lots to be done before I actually get to the point of submitting – honing and re-honing those crucial first chapters, reworking my synopses, crafting an elegant and engaging covering letter. The more I think about it, though, and the more I discover about independent publishers and why they are there, the more I believe it is the right route for me.

My writing is not mainstream. It is not easy to fit into a box. I can completely see why the ‘Big Five’ publishers might not think that my novels are worth the punt.

But I do.

And I’m sure, with time and effort and plenty of willpower, I will eventually find a publisher who is the perfect fit.


Writing Bubble

Writing, and belief


By the time I hit publish on this post, I will have begun the process of reworking the second draft of my manuscript.

I’ve been laying the foundations for the redraft over the past couple of weeks: getting my head into gear, taking on board the feedback I’ve been given, reading some awesome novels for inspiration and filling my little grey notebook with strategies for moving forward.

The crux of the problem with the novel as it stands is that there’s still too much there which makes it not quite believable. The main characters don’t quite ring true. The plot is not quite watertight. My prose does not always fully command the reader’s attention, giving them small but vital opportunities to notice the edifice of my craft.

I’ve written a lot about confidence in recent months, but I think again it is my belief in myself that I must examine here.

There are a couple of key ways in which I think the lack of this might be holding my novel back. Firstly, I think I’ve become a bit too tied to my own experience – like a safety raft if you will. There is a lot of me in this novel, the mistakes and insecurities of my younger self. That gave me the confidence I needed to write the early drafts – I knew there was a truth underpinning my words that made getting them onto the page seem worthwhile, important even. There is plenty in the plot that is entirely fictional, but I think I got a bit trapped in my depiction of the emotional worlds of my characters. And now I think it’s time to branch out – to have the confidence to paint with broader brushstrokes, to allow my imagination a bit more freedom, to trust that I can create new emotional truths not just replicate the ones I know.

Secondly, I want to be a bit more daring with the details of the plot. To take more risks as I bring the story to life, to take conceits and events to their logical conclusions without worrying if the results of that appear at first to be far-fetched.

Thirdly, I want to loosen up when it comes to my actual prose. To let myself open up the inner workings of my main character rather than worrying about stating the obvious and hoping people will guess what’s going on in her head from the clues I’ve left them. To immerse myself more fully in scenes rather than telling them from the outside. To trust that what’s happening is interesting and worthy of deeper exposition, rather than just trying to brush past things to get to the main events.

There’s a lot of ‘more’ here I realise, and I’ll need to be ruthless in my cutting to create the space for it. But again this is an issue of trust – to believe that I can communicate the mood I want to in fewer words, that spelling out every descriptive detail doesn’t necessarily make a world more believable.

I think, if I pull all this off, then I will have a manuscript which is much tighter, much more engaging, much harder for my readers to put down. And if I don’t – well, it’s just another redraft isn’t it? I will get there in the end.


Muddled Manuscript