I’m becoming more and more interested in the concept of the muse, that creative spark of inspiration that can visit anyone. The muse doesn’t discriminate, she or he doesn’t only pick “special” creative people. All that’s needed is to be open to that creative inspiration, to let the spark set of a train of associations and thoughts in one’s own mind.
That’s the sole difference between people who are creative and people who aren’t. Being receptive to new ideas. Taking the inspiration and building on it. Then making it real. Not just thinking the idea, but acting on it. Doing that painting or drawing. Starting (and finishing!) that story. Trying that new style of dress you thought of. Experimenting in the kitchen to see if that recipe idea tastes good.
It’s not about talent or uniqueness, that’s a myth. It’s about hearing that quiet voice that speaks to us from our inner self, and practicing or art or craft until we make those ideas take shape in the outer world.
I sometimes think of the muse as my Inner Child. The Muse does have that wonderful childlike way of looking at the world. It’s all new and exciting and interesting. But there’s more to the Muse than that. I believe the Muse is also our higher self, our connection to the divine, to universal creativity, to the life force.
We can block it off, or we can listen, see, feel. As a writer, I mostly hear. As a gardener and cook and sewist, I see and feel. I want to develop my artist’s eye as a photographer, to see more there too.
I think that’s what the morning pages are all about. Connecting with that part of ourselves, giving a conduit to that voice, getting in the habit of listening. Artist dates too. They let us open our eyes and ears and senses, to hear and see and feel again with that unjudging and adventurous mind.
I found a free online course in Finding Your Muse, with the delightful Alisa Burke. I’ve only started it, just played her introductory video, but it’s going to be good. I can’t help warm to her, watching her. She’s a natural on the camera, and a wonderfully creative artist. I love the way she plants the Muse firmly in our every day lives. She paints, draws, creates objects, very different from what I want to do, and her style is very different to mine, but the insight into her creative process is fascinating!
Our Muse can be found in any situation- positive or negative- in the light and in the dark- in beautiful places and also in the ordinary. Mining our emotions, our experiences and our daily lives for inspiration is what gives our creativity its flavor.
This is what makes our writing, our art, our other projects uniquely ours, not a pale imitation of someone else. This is what makes our creative work something only we can give to the world. It needs to be the product of our own lives, our own experiences. No matter what your life is, you’ve lived things and you know things and you feel things no-one else does.That’s what makes your work special.
Believe it. Let that shine through. And create.
Growing as much as I can of my own food has been something I’ve always wanted to do, with varying success. Eating a meal of mostly home grown food is an enormous satisfaction!
Maybe it’s an atavistic thing, like a love of a warm fire, maybe it’s something I’ve inherited from Poppy, the grandfather whose house we lived in until I was ten. He kept a huge market garden, a home orchard, and kept hens and bees. At both the houses I’ve owned in Australia, I planted fruit trees and veggie gardens.
In London, even though I lived in a flat, I had a allotment, a wonderful British idea where people can rent a small plot of land from the local council to grow food. These were wonderful, people could have gardens for pleasure as well as just grow vegetables. I had an orchard, an asparagus bed, a lovely summer house so we could picnic there. It was my favourite place and I spent hours there most days. I even could have kept hens there if I’d wanted, except I worried about foxes too much and I wasn’t going to rescue a battery farmed hen only to have a fox maul her.
It broke my heart leaving that allotment behind when my boyfriend ended our relationship. I missed the allotment more than him. After all, he cheated on me, the allotment never did!
Unfortunately, the council where I moved took a far more puritanical view. Allotments were for growing vegetables and nothing else. No perennials. No fruit trees. No flowers. And the space allocated to allotments was a windswept plain with the heaviest imaginable clay soil, just too far away from home to comfortably walk there.
I didn’t grow any food plants for about ten years.
I moved in with my husband, to his tiny house and sad garden. A small patch of over mown lawn, a path worn across it by kids taking a short cut to the public foot path on the other side, a shrub stationed at each corner. No privacy, open on three sides. No beauty either. No chance of growing anything edible there. I wanted to fence it, but the local by-laws don’t allow fences. Everyone has them now, but back then my husband had a mortal fear of breaking rules and wouldn’t let me have a fence. A hedge was my only option. I chose hedging roses, and ordered bare rooted plants which arrived in the middle of winter. I have a photo from when I first planted the hedge- a row of what looks like dead sticks poking out through six inches of snow.
Miraculously, the sticks sprouted in spring. Ten years later, the hedge has grown a bit.
It’s as tall as I am now. We have privacy in the garden, at least through three of the four seasons. All Spring and Summer it’s covered with gorgeous lightly scented flowers, in light pink, cerise, or white. Bees love them! Autumn, my favourite season, brings hips, up to an inch across. I’ve eaten a few straight off the bush, sweet enough with just an edge of tartness. I’ve never made rose hip syrup or jam, though I’d like to.
We dug a wildlife pond, and I convinced my husband to become enough of an outlaw to put in garden sheds. I planted herbs and flowers. But I never planted any food plants (also prohibited under the by-laws!), apart from my cherry tree. I’m not sure why. Not fear of breaking a ridiculous rule, that’s for sure. But the garden is so small. The north-west aspect is all wrong. My husband didn’t want me digging up any of his precious lawn for a veggie bed.
The mystery is, why I stayed so attached to the idea that the only way to grow food was in a rectangular bed in the ground! This year, I did it differently. I planted up pots. I started putting food plants in the hedge, a pear tree, two apple trees. I used odd corners of the garden I’d never thought of planting up before. I dug up some self-seeded hazelnut seedlings from the railway path, and planted them on the boundary line with our next-door neighbour. I did some guerilla gardening, and planted a couple of cheap bare rooted apple trees on a tree-less patch of waste land along the railway path. Once they establish, there will be plenty of fruit for anyone who wants to pick it. I even planted an apple in a pot, the last pathetic bare rooted tree in the supermarket, looking dead with all its branches broken. I touched it and knew it wasn’t yet dead, but the life was weak and it would die soon.
I love that feeling, touching the buds of a tree and having my fingers tingle with the sense of the life force contained in the bud, all ready to burst out. If you’ve never done it, try it next Spring. Just gently stroke a finger along a tree bud, and see what you feel!
That dead stick is now twelve feet tall and has an apple on it. I need to plant it into a much bigger pot.
Anyway, I got more food plants growing this year than since I left my allotment behind, but I’m not claiming massive success. I haven’t been able to eat much from the garden. I didn’t even get more than handful of cherries, when last year I got buckets of sweet dark fruit. The weather this year has been terrible for growing. We had a hot early Spring, followed by unseasonably cool rainy weather.The bees weren’t active at all when the fruit trees were blossoming, so the cherry set far less fruit than normal. Then just when the fruit that was on the tree was developing nicely, it began to rain. And rain. And rain. The cherries all split then got fungal infections. What few I rescued from the birds were flavourless.
Then the wet season brought out more slugs than I believed possible, huge voracious slugs that ate everything and climbed incredible heights to do it. None of the pots was safe. My strawberries. My rocket leaves. All my pepper seedlings. All my climbing beans, but not the sweet peas in the same pot. All my tomato plants apart from one, which seems to have slug resistant properties. I’m transplanting the strawberries into hanging baskets where surely even the most determined slug won’t reach them, and I’ll try copper tape next year to see if it really does repel them. Because we’re vegan, killing them isn’t an option, though I know commercial growers must.
So I’m thinking- what’s slug proof. Trees and shrubs.
The answer is the hedge. More food plants in there. Hazelnuts. Maybe I can squeeze in another tree, I’d love an almond. More soft fruits like blackberries and loganberries. I wonder if raspberries would grow in the hedge. I need to do some research on food plants that will tolerate semi-shade under the hedge.
I love the idea of a forest garden. Robert Hart, also a raw vegan, planted a wonderful example of a permaculture forest garden at Wenlock Edge. These gardeners converted their suburban backyard to a small scale forest garden. So that’s my plan. Use the hedge for more than just privacy and to protect the lawn from straying cyclists. I’ll let you know how it goes. For the time being, my broken foot limits me to planning, not doing.
Oh, and I may have converted my husband. He just came in talking about building a raised bed for veggies in the middle of his lawn!
Photo by gypsychica
As I sometimes find Wednesday is a bit of a hump, especially when I’m working full time, I’m making Wednesday my “inspiring quote day” from now on!
I think writers as a species tend to be outsiders. We’re more often observers than participants, sometimes recluses even. But deep down, I think what pretty much everyone craves and understands is the fundamental desire to live more. That’s basically it in a nutshell. If one assumes we only get one crack at this life, we all want to make the most of it; yet, many of us wonder if we’re somehow not taking full advantage of this precious opportunity and selling ourselves short.
Almost always everyone’s goal– and this goes for writers, their audiences, and (importantly) the characters they create — boils down to a desire to live more fully. To somehow free ourselves, in whatever ways necessary, to live the most authentic, productive, and rewarding life we possibly can. Give your lead characters some unique, specific form of that universal goal and substantial obstacles to overcome on the road to it, and people’s hearts and minds (and not incidentally, wallets) will follow.
Progress report on my writing and crafting shed- almost all the timber is up!
It’s now completely panelled in spruce tongue and groove, painted white, and all that’s left to do is add a couple more pieces of woodwork to finish the window surround and get that painted white too.
My husband loves the zen simplicity of the white space. He thinks I should just have one cushion and a single polished pebble in there. That idea does have a certain appeal, though it won’t be as much use for writing or crafting that way! He’s right about one thing. It’s a very small space for the amount I hope to fit in there. I’m trying to imagine how it will look with a wide full length desk at one end and full length shelves lining the long walls.
Smaller. A lot smaller, even though they’ll all be white too.
And smaller again when I add in all the stuff I want to put on the shelves and the windows and the doors and the walls. Lots of books. Big brightly coloured patterned bags holding my fabric stash and clothes for restyling. Boxes and bottles of buttons and threads and other sewing bits and pieces. My sewing machine. My overlocker. My big laptop. My Alphasmart. A heater for winter. A fabric covered pinboard over the desk and on the door. Patchwork cushions on the chair. A matching patchworked blackout blind on the window.
It will be quite cluttered and busy, but hopefully in a good creative way!
Anyway, unfortunately progress has now halted. I managed to break a tiny bone in my foot on Saturday night, a one of those stupid, clumsy, ridiculous accidents. I’d been standing on a chair putting up a new lampshade in the living room (just one of those lovely cheap big round bamboo and paper ones) and as I stepped down, my foot landed on the side of one of my shoes. I twisted my foot sideways as I fell.
Instant pain and swelling and bruising. The result is, I’m now in a fair bit of pain and have to wear an ugly clumpy walking boot for at least a couple of weeks. And I need to sit with my foot up as much as I can.
Stupidly, because we’re short-staffed, I went in to the Day Job yesterday. That was a mistake. I managed okay, taking plenty of pain relief, but by the time I got home from work the foot was hugely swollen and bruised. This morning the swelling has gone done a lot, but it’s more painful. I couldn’t have gone to work on it today without going through hell. Not so much the actual job, there are two separate nursing roles in the office and one is fairly sedentary, most phone and email work. It’s the two hour each way commute that’s the killer. Walk then train then walk then bus then walk, and the same in reverse going home. No other way to do it, short of taking a cab from the train to work, which pretty much wipes out the day’s pay! Luckily it’s not too busy right now, despite the short staffing, so I’ll stay home tomorrow as well.
But it’s so frustrating to sit inside all day itching to work on the shed and not be able to! I just need those few extra pieces of wood for the window surround, a door sill, and something for the centre of the ceiling. Then once those are painted, I can get the carpet down. A lucky find on Saturday morning in a car park- boxes and boxes of used but good condition carpet tiles in the rubbish at the back of the carpet shop. I so want to get them down, then I can get the desk up.
And I can’t get the last few bits and pieces of the building work done!
I can’t even start on the sewing for the cushions and blind because that involves standing, too, measuring up and cutting out, even though the sewing part will be sitting.
Well, I can get lots of reading done, which is a good thing. I could even read my rejected Christmas story and start making notes for the re-write. I’m strangely reluctant to do so, probably because I don’t want to have to see all the ways that my story is crap. And I don’rt want to get full of ideas then not be able to write because I’m back at work, or working on the shed. I’m obsessed with getting the shed finished. It’s like my subconscious has made a deal with itself- no more writing until the shed is done.
I wonder how I can convince it to unmake that deal?
Now those are two words that go together well don’t they? Just like tall and handsome, fair and fey, dark and swarthy. Me, I like my heroes in all sorts of combinations, but chocolate colored eyes, man they’ll get me every time.
Hi, I’m Michele de Winton and I believe that chocolate can solve almost everything. Okay, so maybe not world peace, but it would make a dent in world hunger, and it would certainly help if you were fainting from seeing Johnny Depp in person.
I know Autumn is vegan and happily I’m here to help with combining chocolate and veganism in a modern world. Oh yes, and handsome men. Life sure can be tough sometimes can’t it?
For any of you who aren’t vegan, try this anyway. My husband is about as far from vegan as it’s possible to get, and yet he’ll eat this cake and ask for more. And more.
1 and three quarter cups of flour
1 and half cups of sugar
2tsp baking powder
2 tsp arrowroot powder
Half a tsp baking soda
Half a cup of cocoa
Add three eighths(ish) of a cup of oil, 1 tbsp golden syrup and 1 cup of soy milk.
Cook for 40 minutes on 180/350.
In The Boss and Her Billionaire the heroine Michaela isn’t tempted by a certain tall dark employee. Not so her BFF Felicity who makes him her very own Mr. Chocolate:
“It helps having an Adonis to keep all the ladies happy,” Felicity drawled. “Poor guy.”
Michaela spotted Dylan. “He’s hardly suffering. Look at him playing the crowd. I don’t think we need to worry about him.” He was dancing with an elderly woman, her face flushed and her hair a frizz, but the smile on her face said she was having the time of her life. The two of them were surrounded, a circle of women looking on eagerly. “Jesus, they look like they want to eat him.”
“They probably do. It’s the same downstairs. Mr. Chocolate has his very own fan club crushing the purser desk. It’s causing a bottleneck, ’cause no one wants to be served by anyone else. We might have to throw some acid at his face or something.”
Michaela snorted. “Maybe you need to take him off the desk and put him on backroom duty.”
“Now you’re talking. He could be my paperwork slave.”
What about you? Do you like your men dark and swarthy or fair and fey? Hope you enjoy the cake.
Michele de Winton loves sunshine, chardonnay, (preferably together), beaches, trees, great vegetarian food, steamy writing and happy endings. She’s been known to be an all round arty type and it’s no wonder that her first romance has a little sparkle of the stage tucked into its pages. Being a writer was not was she was supposed to be when she ‘grew up’ but then neither was being a dancer. Sometimes her performing past jumps out of the dress up box and requires attention. But most of the time she’s content to stay in her PJs. All day. And she also thinks that chocolate can solve pretty much everything. You can get in touch with her at
Drop her a line or post a comment on her blog through www.micheledewinton.com
The Boss and Her Billionaire
Cruise director Michaela Western has everything she wants—everything except a sex life. But there are no secrets on cruise ships. She risked her job once for a dalliance with the Captain, and won’t do it again for a few minutes of toe-curling pleasure. Until a devilishly handsome new staffer with a body made for sin tempts her to walk on the wild side…
Investment billionaire Dylan Johns always gets what he wants. He is used to giving orders—not taking them—until he’s forced to go on hiatus from his investment company. To bide his time and carry out an old dream, he takes a job on a cruise ship—and ends up taking orders from his gorgeous, but uptight, new boss. He is determined to loosen her up with a fun onboard romance, but their no-strings fling turns serious and Dylan is forced to confess his lies.
When the affair threatens to shatter Michaela’s own career dreams, she finds herself caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.
I haven’t given a writing shed update for a while. I’ve been busy with crazy family stuff and work stuff, and the blog has been sidelined. Also, I felt lousy, and I do find I blog a lot more when I’m feeling upbeat. Not a deliberate put-on-a-happy face thing, just when I have the blahs I also don’t have the energy to blog.
I’ve kept working on the Little Yellow Writing Shed, though like any project there have been moments I felt like giving up. It’s now taken at least three times as long as I thought it would take and cost three times as much as I planned to spend!
Still, it’s progressing! The shed no longer leaks. It has guttering. It’s insulated from top to bottom. There’s a tented fabric ceiling. It has new windows. And today I finished the wood panelling and started trimming around the doors and windows. There’s still loads more to do, like trimming, painting, and weatherstripping, but it finally looks like a space someone might put a desk and bookshelves in. Not a crummy Dr Who set from the seventies (when they were made out of exactly what I lined the shed with- polystyrene and tin foil!), trying to look like the interior of a space ship, the way it did a week or two ago.
I’ve also bought a few little bits and pieces for the inside, once it’s done. A cushion for the seat. Fabric, some new some thrifted, for the curtains and more cushions and to cover the pinboard that will go above the desk and for the inside of the door (which will also be a giant pinboard. A pretty coat hook. I can see how it will look when it’s done. Small, but cosy and colourful.
The unexpected bonus has been that I’ve gained a lovely outdoor seating area, too, in what used to be a
junk outdoor storage area under the cherry tree. It still needs some work, but it’s coming together nicely too. I’ve put down gravel, put up some trellis to hide the wheely bins (the only unlovely thing about it), and transplanted some herbs and fruiting plants that will take the semi-shade. I love this old metal table and chairs I bought on eBay. Because it’s already rusty, I won’t feel bad about leaving it outside!
I’ll be glad when I can actually start writing in the shed. I’m doing my morning pages and jotting down ideas and snippets, but not actually working on a story. I miss it.
But I’ve enjoyed getting back into building again. Still want to build my tiny house one day.
I’ve been a slack blogger.
I can make all sorts of excuses about being busy, and they’d even be true, but the deeper truth is, I’ve been low. I blog more when I feel good, full of energy, when things are going right in my life. when I’m feeling bleah, just getting through what I have to feels like a hard enough slog, without adding pressure to blog too! Part post-rejection-downer. Part frustration with how expensive and slow the writing shed transformation has – it’s stopped being fun and become hard slog- especially now I’ve added a deadline for completion to the mix. Part dealing with sick cat/ MiL 45 minutes drive away with health issues/ Dad 10,000 miles away with health issues. Part resentment at having to lose (hopefully only temporarily) my lovely part-time Day Job situation so soon after I experienced how wonderful it is, because they haven’t been able to replace a colleague at work who leaves next week.
Anyway, all that’s another blog post. Today’s post is by my amazing critique partner and debut Entangled author, Robyn Thomas. We can learn so much about perseverance, never giving up, and dealing with rejection from her example. Robyn is not only a wonderful person, she writes wonderfully, and has a very different writing process to mine. She’s one of those perfectionist writers who works hard at getting it right first time. She won’t move on until she’s happy with what she has, so she produces beautifully polished first draft. I loved her first published story, His Unexpected Family, when I read it in its original version. I know just how much time and effort it. That story was worth publishing, I thought, as it was. I couldn’t see how it could be better. Yet to read the final published version, I’m blown away. It’s awesome. Somehow, she made an already beautiful story even better, by sticking with it through rejections and three and a half rounds of edits.
When I feel like giving up, I think of her. How hard she works. How she writes in fragments of time snatched from her busy family life. And how worth it the results are.
So it’s over to Robyn-
Thanks so much to my dear Sassy Sister, Autumn, for inviting me here today to talk about rejections and perseverance.
I’m a huge believer in getting back on the horse after you’ve been thrown off, but there are times when it’s beneficial to stop and think before you leap back into action. Very few people have a smooth journey to publication, and most writers will be faced with one rejection after another at some point. The thing to remember is that it’s normal, and no matter how overwhelming it seems, other writers WILL understand. They’ll offer advice and support, and do what they can to help you find your feet again, but the big decision – quit or continue – is yours alone.
The possibility of giving up altogether usually looks good in the initial phase of a rejection. It’s easy, doable, and will get you off the rollercoaster. But it will also cost you your dream. To paraphrase a line from Matt Damon’s character in The Adjustment Bureau: “It’s not whether or not you get knocked down; it’s what you do when you get back up.”
Deciding to stick with writing and try again is the difficult choice because it means you’ll be vulnerable to more rejections in the future. Don’t dwell on it, but do what you can to minimise the risks. Try to see not just where you went wrong, but also what you got right. In my opinion it’s just as important to build on your strengths as it is to remedy your weaknesses.
Looking back at my own journey to publication, I can see that I made some awful (purely emotional) decisions after rejections. At one time or another I tried almost everything you could think of to put rejections into perspective, to learn from them, ignore them or embrace them. I went from taking every word to heart, to taking the liberty of rejecting-the-rejection (in spirit only.) I stuffed things in the bottom drawer, mortified that I ever thought they had merit, and I sent others straight back out to another publisher without changing a word. I rewrote projects from scratch in the hope of bringing them back from the dead, and I moved on to shiny new projects instead. I built myself up, cut myself down, believed, doubted, and struggled to find a workable balance between carrying on immediately and pausing long enough to take stock and avoid repeating my mistakes.
Writing is tough sometimes and rewarding other times, but if you love what you do then you’ll find a way to reconcile the ups and downs. If you don’t give up, and if you’re willing to learn, you’ll prevail against rejections. I know this for sure because I’ve tested the theory. I’m happy to report that I now have three books contracted with Entangled.
Do you have any tricks to help you through rejections? I like to start with as many of the following at once as I can possibly manage: a bubble bath, fragrant candles, chocolate, sappy music, a cream cake, a favourite movie on DVD, and a glass of wine. That combo inevitably leads to an early night, and things generally appear brighter the next day.
Sometimes you have to take the leap…again.
Newly widowed with a new baby, Ren Jamieson is putting her life back together after her thrill-seeking husband’s death. But when she’s called to show a high-end property to a prospective client—a commission she desperately needs—she meets a man who makes her pulse pound like nothing she’s ever known…
Cole Matthews is more than he seems. Real estate is only part of the reason he’s in Australia – the other is to see Ren, and make amends somehow for the life lost. The last thing Cole expects is a woman whose humor, sweetness and sexiness give him a rush greater than any he’s ever experienced…
Torn between her growing feelings for Cole and the risks of loving yet another adventurer, Ren will have to choose between keeping her feet on the ground…and taking the most dangerous leap of her life.
Read the first chapter free: http://www.entangledpublishing.com/his-unexpected-family/
Robyn believes that romance and fairytales are the best ingredients to work with because they go with absolutely everything. Inspiration is everywhere she looks. She remembers making the decision to write her first book, but since then writing has become more of a compulsion than a choice. It’s less about having complete silence, a gorgeous work space, a free hour or two, and a steaming hot coffee, and more about getting her fingers to the keyboard any chance she gets. The coffee does help, though.
She lives in Melbourne with her wonderful husband and two sons. Writing romance helps to balance the effects of living in an all-male household. She loves to cook, hates to clean up, and keeps very odd hours. Her writing days used to be solitary, but they’re not anymore. Now she has Seven Sassy Sisters online, and their friendship and support is invaluable.