Blogging · Up Close & Personal

Liebster Award.

When it comes to blogging, there can be times when you wonder what it’s all for, but every now and then something happens that makes it all worthwhile. It came as a surprise to be given an award for my blog once again, so a big THANK YOU goes to Adam at Write Thoughts for giving me the Liebster Award. I really do appreciate the recognition and it’s a great motivator to continue blogging. It’s good to know that my blogging efforts are appreciated. 🙂

Adam has asked me a couple of questions and some had certainly given me pause for thought! So this week, in answer to these questions, it’s time to get to know a bit more about the person behind the keyboard.

1.We’ve all heard of comfort foods. Do you have any comfort stories? Stories you go back to when you’re feeling vulnerable and you just need to laugh, or be reassured?

I have a couple of comfort books, which I go back to every now and again because I really enjoy them and it feels like visiting old friends. One is Dragonwyck by Anya Seton, a gothic novel set in New York during the 1840s; another is Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay, an Australian mystery/gothic set in 1900 that has basically gone down in Australian folklore and the last is the Poldark series by Winston Graham, set in Cornwall during the end of the 18th century.

2.Do you have any stories you generally recommend?

When I think stories, I think of the short story, so there are a few authors I recommend. As I grew up on Stephen King, I really enjoyed his short stories. More recently I’ve read some good ones from Daphne du Maurier, Susan Hill and Ramsey Campbell. As these stories are of the horror/paranormal/suspense genres, they may not be for everyone, but they are good examples of how to master the craft.

3.Have you ever found yourself in a situation so absurd that you had to stop and take a moment to recognize the absurdity of it? Or just burst out laughing?

Too many to mention! It doesn’t help that I can sometimes be the cause of it all as I have a tendency to either say or do something stupid. This usually happens when I’m amongst other people I may meet for the first time or still trying to get to know. I can have a tendency to say things before thinking things through and then laugh at myself. So I guess, when people first meet me they may think I’m a bit of an air-head, but I’d like to think I’m getting better at it as I get older. This is why I’m much more comfortable with writing. 😉

4.When having fun with friends, would you rather get up early and get started, or linger late into the night?

That has certainly changed over the years! After I left High School, I was a bit of a night owl and I would come home late at night (once arrived home after partying at 6am), and sleep until midday. These days though, I’m the complete opposite and prefer to get up early.

5.What was the last song that you heard for the first time and went, “Wow, this is something special”?

This is a tough one, as I haven’t listened to the radio for years (yes, it’s true) and can be a bit behind the times when it comes to music these days. However, after having heard ‘Chandelier’ by Sia for the first time I couldn’t get it out of my head.

6.What villain, super or otherwise, do you most feel a kinship with?

I’ve always been a strong advocate for the underdog, so ever since I read Frankenstein, I’ve always been sympathetic towards the monster. All he ever wanted was love and friendship, but instead received rejection through fear and misunderstanding. This kinship has only been strengthened by his portrayal on the television series Penny Dreadful.

7.Would you rather have the power to stop time (and not age during those frozen moments, but be able to interact with things), or live forever (not growing older, and gradually healing from any injury/malady)?

Given those two choices, I would have to say live forever. By stopping time, you might not always be in a good place (emotionally), so it would be nice to keep moving forward. By living forever, you have more time to do things/visit places and hopefully have a far lesser chance of regrets.

8.What’s a hobby or interest that most people would be surprised to learn you have?

I would have to say true crime; of special interest is murder and serial killers. I’ve always been fascinated by people’s reasons behind committing such acts, how their minds work, their M.Os, etc. This is why I watch a lot of crime shows and listen to podcasts and why I chose to work within the NSW Police Service upon leaving high school. During my first year of study at University, I even did a subject in criminology. The legal side of it put me off, whereas I prefer the psychological aspect of crime.

9.After writing, what would you say is your second passion?

That would have to be the paranormal, which is as much a part of me as writing. I’ve always been interested in the unexplained. I’ve inherited a belief in the spirit world from my Scottish father and I’m a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), so I have a tendency to pick up on things a bit more than others. As a child, there was an incident that left me wondering if I had some special kind of ‘ability’ and in more recent years have had some ghostly encounters.

10.What first led you to consider/try blogging?

Back in the late 2000s, when blogs were really taking off, I read that in order to help build your platform, you ‘had’ to be on social media and that included having a blog. I began blogging in early 2009, but stopped shortly after, wondering if it was worth my time. However, a few short months later, I picked it up again and have continued to blog ever since.

* * * * *

So there you have it! I hope you enjoyed finding out a little bit more about me as it certainly put my little grey cells to good use coming up with some of these answers. My thanks once again to Adam for this award and giving me the opportunity to share.

Are there any questions from Adam’s list that you would like to discuss? Have you ever been given an award for your blog? What do you consider some of the best aspects of blogging?

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This Writer's Life · Up Close & Personal · Writing

The Fear of Failure.

Before I begin with this post, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Here’s hoping it will turn out to be a happy, healthy and prosperous one for all of us!

Recently I read a blog post by Kristen Lamb on the 5 Areas We Need Permission for Success. One of those was to allow ourselves the permission to fail. This is a big one as I believe that for me at least, this one area works like a domino affect as it creates all the others that she mentions.

Being the youngest of three daughters, I was labelled ‘different’ from an early age. I was imaginative, observant and a bit of a loner. The quiet one, or ‘shy’ as some would call it. My mother would call me ‘different’ as if it was a bad thing (yeah, still does). It’s as if there is something wrong with me. I always had the feeling that I didn’t quite fit in because I’d be compared to my sisters. When I started high school, teachers also started comparing me to my elder sisters, but it didn’t last long; I was ‘different’. There was always a level of high expectation. If I didn’t meet them, I was a ‘failure’, causing low self-esteem. I was afraid to try new things.

This fear of failure has resulted in being a perfectionist. I grew up with the belief that everything had to be perfect the first time around. It has become ingrained. During my University studies I would stall at starting any assignments which were all essays. The thought of writing something made me anxious, but I had a deadline to meet and once I began writing, I was fine. It’s the same these days when it comes to writing, only I don’t have any deadlines. Right now, I’m doing this for me. Perfectionism is the worst form of procrastination there is as I use different things to distract me; go on social media, play on the ipad, listen to podcasts, watch Netflix (yeah, I think you get the picture). I fail to try because I don’t want to fail.

The thing is though failure can be good for us. We learn what our strengths and weaknesses are. We learn through our mistakes and in order to make ourselves better, we work on them. We put in the hard yards until we are satisfied with the results. There can be times when mistakes can even take us down paths we never would have tried otherwise. Without making the effort to try, we’ll never know what we are capable of. We may live the rest of our lives with regrets.

I believe that I will be taking the path to self-publishing. That now is my biggest challenge. In all honesty just the very thought of it frightens the living daylights out of me. It is revealing myself to the world, revealing what has been private for so many years. Just writing this post is a frightening prospect, but this is why blogging has been such an enormous help. If I fail, then at least I know I’ve tried. And that’s all anyone can really ask for.

Are you afraid of failure? Has the thought of failure made you a perfectionist? Do you plan to step out of your comfort zone and do something different in 2018?

Side Note: Just a reminder that in 2018, I’ll be spending less time on social media and more time writing. I will continue to blog, although there may be times when my posts may become somewhat erratic, but it’s all in a good cause, so stick with me (pretty please). 😉

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Life Lessons · This Writer's Life · Up Close & Personal

Walk Away From Toxic People.

As writers, we need to develop a thick skin when it comes to rejection. The more we expose our writing to others, the more we learn to ‘toughen up’, realising that it is in fact, our writing and not ourselves that is being judged. However, there is also the rejection on a more personal level that we need to be aware of; being surrounded by people who are negative when it comes to our writing goals or just us in general.

Recently, I had such a wake-up call. Unfortunately, I’ve been down this road before once too often, even a long time ago (and is the spark of one of my works in progress) and once again, involves people closest to me. I’ve taken hit after hit for so long that I am reminded of this famous quote:-

It is because they are so close, that we endure their negativity, their bullying and even their desire to ignore us. No matter how hard we may try, sometimes people cannot change what they don’t acknowledge. However, there comes a time where we can only take so much and tell ourselves enough is enough. We need to do this in order to gain some level of self-respect. Sometimes we have to walk away from the negatives in our lives, and that can include certain people. It’s not always easy, but it is necessary for our own happiness and peace of mind.

So how do you overcome the pain of rejection? Focus on the positive; surround yourself with like-minded people and those who encourage you, do things that make you happy, listen to music, exercise. Use such negative experiences and turn them into positives by focusing on what you can do to improve your writing goals and/or yourself as a person. Enrol in courses, join the gym, find ways to further your employment prospects.

Perhaps it goes down to that old saying ‘nice guys finish last’ because it always seems to be the nice guys that get walked on – or perhaps it’s just that I’m not a narcissist. 😉 Unfortunately, rejection is a part of life. How we deal with it is one of the many ways we learn to grow and such blows can make us stronger when facing that next challenge.

Have you experienced rejection at a personal level? How do you overcome rejection? Have you had to pull away from friends and/or family for your own peace of mind?

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Life Lessons · Up Close & Personal · Writing Process

New Writers: Developing a Thick Skin.

As writers, we are told one of the things we need to have in this writing venture is a thick skin; especially when we are just starting out. The sooner we start giving our work to beta readers and submitting, the better our chances of developing this thick skin. There are, however, certain obstacles that prevent us from doing so. One in particular comes instantly to mind – fear.

For years, I spent the vast majority of my time happy in my little writing cave; my work never seeing the light of day. I had grown accustomed to the outward negativity towards my career choices, be they writing related or otherwise. My best defence was to keep quiet, but continue writing regardless. The only disadvantage to this was that I knew that one day, for me to become published; I would have to let others see my work eventually.

It became a gradual metamorphosis. I attended writing groups, where I always preferred to be the last one to read my work. My hands would shake and I could feel the heat rise in my chest and quite a few times people would ask me to speak up. Yet in the end, I found the others in the groups to be helpful and saw the potential in my writing. It was around this time that I began blogging, gradually putting myself out to an even bigger audience. By doing these two things, I began to grow that thick skin and submitted my work to publications and entering competitions. I had some poetry published in a small publication and won a writing competition. Things were looking up, but I still had a long way to go because the feeling of fear never left me.

The feeling of fear I felt (and still do) was not one of failure, but actually one of vulnerability. Putting myself out there for all the world to see would leave me exposed, open to abuse and ridicule. This was always the dilemma. It was a Catch-22 that I had to come to terms with and develop that thick skin sooner or later.

It has only been within the last twelve months that I might finally be getting better at this. I have some new beta readers who are helpful and encouraging and are only too keen to read more of my work (so thank you). 🙂 Recently, I submitted a short story to an anthology, but received word that I was unsuccessful. Usually I would be down in the dumps for a few days at least, but not this time. This time, I accepted it, shrugged and moved on. I was quite surprised at how calmly I had taken it. Years of study at University taught me that writing is subjective.

I’m still working on developing that thick skin as I have yet to have my stories published, but it has taken me years to reach this level. I usually find, more often than not, whenever I’m afraid of something, things usually turn out better than what I had expected. There is a lot of truth in the saying ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself’.

What steps have you taken to develop a thick skin? Does fear prevent you from sending your work out or getting critiqued? Have you allowed the negativity of others to control your life?

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Main Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Inspiration · Up Close & Personal · Writing

Writing and the Keeping of Secrets.

How good are you at keeping secrets? Some people can hold a secret for weeks or possibly months before feeling the need to tell someone, while others can keep a secret to themselves an entire lifetime.

People keep secrets for a multitude of reasons. Shame, guilt, fear are just some examples. Sometimes we have been hurt so much that we keep it locked away in the back of our minds, trying desperately to block the pain away. Some experts believe that our greatest fear is not death, but humiliation and judgement. We are afraid of being rejected, of being kicked out of the social group. We are afraid of being abandoned. We keep secrets in order to ‘keep the peace’.

Certainly there can be times when we feel that some things are personal and nobody else’s business (hello, social media), but there can also be times when keeping secrets can affect our physical and mental health. We may feel vulnerable if we expose ourselves to others. We don’t open ourselves up and try to seek the help we need. In some cases this may be caused by a lack of trust in others.

Recently, I began thinking about secrets and it suddenly occurred to me that I have been keeping a secret from those closest to me. In fact, when I come to think about it, I don’t think many people know about it all. An event took place in my life a long time ago that I have since buried quite deep, but the memory is still there. Sometimes I see or hear something that reminds me and the memory of it all comes flooding back and it can be incredibly strong.

I guess this is one of the reasons why I turn to writing; I can open myself up and ‘bleed’ upon the page. Writing allows me the freedom to put my thoughts down on paper and express any feelings I may otherwise find difficult. Writing can force you to be honest with yourself. It is believed that for some people, writing can help with the healing process. Even for non-writers, keeping a journal can be good for your mental health, such as depression.

I’m currently working my way through my first novel that I wrote some years ago. It’s one of those stories that keeps coming back to me; that needs to be told simply because the initial spark for this novel has been that ‘little secret’ (and keeping secrets can be a good plot device). It needs quite a bit of work and I know I have been avoiding it for some time. I guess like many of us, I have to face my daemons someday. I guess the time has finally arrived.

Have you got a secret you’ve never shared with anyone? Do you find writing helps you with the healing process? How good are you at keeping secrets? Do you think some things are better left unsaid?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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This Writer's Life · Up Close & Personal · Writing

5 Similarities Between Writing & Weight Loss.

Recently, I read an interesting article regarding the health risks of being a writer. Like any desk job, it is a helpful reminder of the need to get out of the chair and get active. Yes, this can be particularly difficult to do when working to a deadline, or being in the ‘zone’, whether it be writing or from studying, but getting away from your desk every 30 minutes is good for both your body and your mind.

The article was also timely, because only a few short weeks ago, I went on a diet. Winter is a difficult time in which to lose weight; your progress can be hampered by weather conditions. I also have a tendency to hibernate, be a couch potato and curl up with some good books. In the winter months, combining weight loss and writing can sometimes be difficult. It made me think of the similarities between the two and the different ways to get through it*.

1.It Takes Time: In a world where everyone wants instant results, it’s just not possible when it comes to both writing and losing weight. Years ago, I joined one of those famous weight loss programs and lost 10 kilos in 6 months. Great result, however, no sooner did I stop the program, but I gained all that weight again (and more). I learned the hard way that doesn’t work; instead slow progress is still progress. When it comes to both writing and weight loss, little things over time do add up.

2.You Need to Stick to a Routine: It may sound monotonous, but the only way to make any real progress is to have some kind of routine and stick to it. Writing and exercise every day should be as much of a habit as cleaning your teeth. It becomes so common place that when you don’t do it, you’ll notice. Once the habit is broken, it’s difficult to get back into the way of things again.

3.It’s Hard Work: Learn to push yourself. There will be days when you won’t feel up to it. Those days can be really hard because writing (and sometimes exercise) can be a solitary endeavour. Once, I was so tired from exercise the previous day, yet I forced myself to go out for another walk. After doing so, I came back refreshed and energised once more. Times like these, you have to learn to be your own motivator. In both writing and weight loss, you need to be in it for the long haul – it’s so easy to give up when you are not seeing instant results. That’s when you need to ask yourself how badly do you want it?

4.Sometimes You May Need Support: Have one or more people encourage you to reach your goals. Find someone who is prepared to undertake fitness with you, become a beta reader, accountability buddy, mentor, or perhaps join a group of like-minded people (a gym class, writers group). As keeping fit and writing requires determination, sometimes a little encouragement from others can go a long way.

5.You May Need to Try Something Different: Sometimes we can grow stale; things that used to work and give us results may not work anymore. We may grow tired of a particular genre or writing longer works. We may not see the same progress walking every day used to give us. We need to change – our mind/body demands it. Broaden your outlook and try something different; experiment. Step out of your comfort zone. It will give you renewed enthusiasm and a reason to keep you motivated.

Do you struggle with writing and/or exercise during the winter months? What routines do you have? Do you find it hard to keep fit/write on your own? Do you need to use a timer to get you out of the chair?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

*This is an updated version of a previous post I had written two years ago.

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Up Close & Personal

Infinity Dreams Blogging Award.

infinity-dreams-awardThis week will be a little bit different. One of my online friends, Tima Maria Lacoba, author of the Dantonville Legacy series Bloodgifted and Bloodpledge, has awarded me the Infinity Dreams Award. Isn’t it purrty?

It’s a bit of a Q&A session, so I’ve been placed in the hot seat. It’s been a while since I’ve participated in such blogging awards, but I thought I’d participate so others (that’s you reader) can find out a bit more about me. Of-course I wouldn’t be doing this without Tima, who was generous enough to nominate me, but also ask seven questions instead of the stated eleven. Thanks Tima!

1. If you could have another profession, what would it be?

I wanted to be a writer since I was about ten years old, but growing up, I soon realised that wasn’t seen by society (and my mother) as an acceptable career choice. I thought of many job possibilities – teacher, police officer, librarian, teacher’s aid, child care assistant, but found they weren’t ‘me’. By the time I left high school, writing was still in my blood. I went to secretarial college to learn how to type as I knew that would be a huge benefit to my writing. I ended up working in the NSW Police Service, then later within the educational sector,so some of my past career choices sort of came together. I also had a short stint as a child care assistant. So I guess, the long story short is that everything comes back to writing; there is no other profession for me. I’ve heard it said that you don’t choose to be a writer, it chooses you. These days I’m quite content to be in a profession that is still not considered a ‘real job’.

2. Are there any authors who have influenced your writing? If so, who?

I began reading Stephen King’s books in high school, so that was a good influence after growing up watching Alfred Hitchcock movies. From there I moved straight onto the classics such as Jane Austen, and the Brontes. Two books that have been the biggest influence to my writing have been Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock and Anya Seton’s Dragonwyck. Both romantic, yet mysterious and eerie with a hint of the paranormal.

3. Do you have a particular dream?

Getting published has always been my dream. I’ve had some short pieces published, but my main aim is for my longer works, such as short stories, novels, etc to see the light of day. I’d also like to do some more travel, but that might only happen if my husband fulfills his dream of winning lotto and I become an ‘instant bestselling author’. 😉

4. If you could travel back in time, which era would you choose?

The 1980s! I’d love to go back to that time, it was great fun. Failing that I’d want to visit the Victorian era. Despite the way women were treated, it would be nice to experience living it all first hand in order to improve my writing regarding the era.

5. What’s your favourite fashion era?

This is a tough one, but I’d have to say the 1950s. Simple, elegant, feminine. And because I’ve always loved jukeboxes and the 1950s diners (channeling Happy Days here).

6. If you could have any animal as a pet, which would you choose? Even if it’s mythical.

Geckos, they’re pretty cute. Luckily, we do get the odd one around our house during the warmer weather and we all call out to each other whenever we see one. Otherwise I’d love to have a family of meerkats. They’re also really cute and I could watch them all day.

7. List your dream foods.

Chocolate! That’s a dream come true, isn’t it? I think of that Cadbury commercial where everything is made of chocolate. Wouldn’t it be nice? Yep; although we’d become really fat, we’d all die happy I suppose. 😉

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