Run Towards the Scary

It often helps to charge at scary and difficult things head on.

(Okay, this is bad advice if you’re scared of bulls, tigers, traffic etc., but in many cases the approach works well.)

What we fear is unlikely to do us any harm. It’s just the thought of it that’s scary, and fear can have a tight grip.

There was a time when I decided enough was enough: I would gravitate towards those things. The scarier the better. I viewed it as a training exercise – literally, in the case of my half marathon preparation.

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Taking Time Off

The UK has had some much-needed sunshine and we’ve had a lovely Bank Holiday Weekend, which makes me feel more optimistic, especially as the Covid restrictions are lifting. I’m praying that we keep moving in the right direction.

If things had gone to plan, I would have been on holiday in Cornwall. (Things didn’t go to plan – see ‘Dealing with Disappointment’!) Instead, I’m on holiday at home.

I’m not great at relaxing. I have too many thoughts and plans whizzing around my head, which makes it difficult to switch off. My jobs are basically the same as my hobbies! I don’t take that for granted; it’s a wonderful thing and I’m grateful, but makes it hard to separate ‘work’ from ‘leisure’.

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Short Story: On the Way Down

My people brought me down the mountain. I was shod with dirty, cap-split walking boots, no longer fit for purpose; my backpack was weighty, sharp corners jabbed my spine through bulging material, and my ancient head was numb, paralysed.

The Snowdon Railway ran alongside our path. A train chugged past. Its passengers gazed through smudgy windows. I couldn’t afford such luxury, and my people didn’t need it. We’d trekked for hours with few rests.

Thick clouds were nauseating, but as we descended, the air became fresher and the sky clearer. My woman, my adventurous love, would have exclaimed how beautifully green and perfect the view was. I’d conquered another peak from her list, but it meant nothing without her.

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Your Best Work is Yet to Come

Sometimes I get bogged down with the thought that my best writing is in the past.

As well as being extremely happy, I have an underlying anxiety whenever I get amazing feedback on a story. What if I can’t live up to it? This happened with ‘Those Charming Birds’, which was published on Potato Soup Journal recently.

It’s not just readers’ reactions though. I panic when I edit something and it just doesn’t work whatever I do. I worry that I won’t ever have that lovely feeling when I know it has clicked. (Don’t worry, I do realise the world won’t end if I write something terrible.)

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Go Outside and Walk Slowly

I’ve made resolutions to spend more time outside and to walk slowly sometimes.

I’m a natural home body. I can stay in my room indefinitely. Once, when I was in Cornwall, I realised I hadn’t left the house for six days! It’s not good for me. Some of the most precious memories I have are when I’ve braved the great outdoors. I now take a daily walk, come rain or shine or migraine.

I stride along, absorbed in my thoughts. That’s fine if I’m in a rush or want some exercise, but sometimes people I know see me and comment afterwards that I looked ‘grim’ or ‘focused’. I’m not always focused on what’s around me though. I need to get out of my head, slow down, and appreciate nature.

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The Sharpest Words

For this week’s blog post, I decided to sit down, write whatever came to mind, and edit it, all within half an hour! So, here we go…

I’m sitting cross-legged on my bed, with my friend Debz working beside me on video chat (muted) and Heart Radio blasting ‘This is Me’ from The Greatest Showman. This is brave, this is bruised, this is who I’m meant to be: this is me.

I have written first drafts of a few blogs posts but am feeling a bit ‘meh’ about all of them. They’re stilted and incomplete and flawed in at least one way. Self-consciousness has crept in. The whole ‘dance like no one’s watching’ thing has a lot going for it!

It reminds me of when I was a child. I didn’t used to be aware of my reflection when passing mirrors or reflective surfaces, which was probably obvious to anyone who saw the scruffy young girl in her brother’s hand-me-downs, with rattail hair and often a vacant expression! And then teenage-hood hit and I felt hyper-conscious…and inadequate. Adulthood has been easier, but I would love to go back to the complete lack of awareness of how I might appear to others. It seems a happier, simpler place.

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Exam Dreams

I had a dream a few weeks ago that stuck with me.

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Dream Hannah discovered she could retake her A Levels now, at the age of twenty-seven. The exams were to take place in two days: she only had the weekend to revise. That would be enough. Being much older and wiser(!), surely she could achieve higher grades than her underwhelming CDD ten years ago?

She revised all day and all night. Finally, Mum came into her room and asked what she was doing.

After Dream Hannah explained it to her, Mum said, ‘Hannah, you have a First in your bachelor’s degree and a Distinction in your master’s. Why are you doing this?’

‘Oh.’ Dream Hannah thought for a moment. ‘Yeah, that’s true. Why am I doing this?’

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Oi, Writer, Stop Feeling

‘Put feeling into your writing…but have fewer feelings about your writing.’

I wander into the kitchen after a particularly uninspired, uninspiring writing session, and mull over this thought as I make another coffee.

With one story in particular, I sometimes think, ‘Yay, this is great!’ and other times, ‘Boo, this is rubbish!’, even though it’s the same piece and no better or worse than previously. I’m sure every writer has experienced something similar.

How we feel about our creative work might bear little resemblance to reality, and these value judgements can make it hard to get anything done. They drive you crazy, those relentless inner critics with weird squeaky voices (that’s how I imagine them, anyway), making endless contradictory judgements.  

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