I can't believe it's been six years since I've blogged about my writing. I've been writing in the time. I wrote another novel called 'The Year of the O' a sci-fi or cli-fi novel, which also happened to be my PhD project. I ended up travelling to New York in 2016 (I think) as part of a 'Pitch Conference' and presented it a series of editors and literary agents.
I was very lucky that an editor from Penguin, Mike Braff, was interested and I sent him the first 50 pages. Another editor from MacMillan also asked to read the the manuscript. Both were no's to publish the novel. The main character lacked emotions, the writing was too dry and too many intellectual aerobics due to the PhD. I kept writing and refining this novel and then PhD until I lost the story I wanted to tell.
In May 2017, I ended up receiving a book contract to co-write a young adult mystery murder with a best selling author. I ended up dropping from full-time work to part-time (4 days a week) to give myself more time to write. I threw myself into this, convinced I'd found my pathway to publication. Two years later, a little poorer and super single, I had completed two full drafts (about 180,000 words) but no publishing deal or book.
There's been some highs and lows in the journey of writing, but writing has taught me courage in adversity, dedication to your dreams but mostly to detach to the outcome of writing. Not to get lost in the fantasy of what my life could look like or be if it was a full-time career but to enjoy the moments I put aside to write and that no sacrifice is needed. Writing doesn't ask for you to give up your love life, children, time with family or friends. Writing will find you at 5.30am or late at night or on a Sunday afternoon. I've learnt to write only because I love it and only to write when my heart is full and the muse is in the room.
Ten years of writing and no real external success to show doesn't mean anything. I'm no longer judging myself by external factors. I'm proud that I am still writing despite rejection and failure, that I haven't given up because it's harder than I ever dreamed. So anyone who is reading this who has a creative spirit and dream, keep at it not because you want to finally want to succeed but because the success is in the doing.
The Colours of Guilt is not my first attempt at writing a novel. It is my third. I’ve written a novel called Prelude and another titled Dark Dreams. Both novels, I tried for months to find a literary agent. I emailed over one hundred literary agents in my search for representation and received some polite, and some bordering on rude, rejections. I’ve personalised emails, found literary agents that are *looking* for books of that particular genre, even paid someone to help craft the perfect query letter. But nothing. No emails saying that they loved the premise, wanted to read the whole manuscript. No phone calls begging to re-present my work. Just the horrific chasm of no response.
There was two ways of thinking about it. One – that I was a terrible writer, doomed, would never get published, and should give up now. Or two – that my writing wasn’t currently *good enough* and I still needed to work on my craft, and that one day I would achieve my dreams. This is the hardest thing about being a wanna-be novelist; that you write in ignorance. You don’t know if you will finish writing the novel, or give up. You don’t know if it is any good. You don’t know if anyone will want to re-present it or publish it. You don’t know if anyone will want to read it. You have to work on faith. And faith is a precarious, mutable substance. One day of great writing and you dream of your noble prize winning speech, and then the next day you re-read your work, and the specter of failure breathes hot and stinky over the words, and you begin to doubt.
Doubt is a killer. It is one of the most destructive poison of the mind and is the biggest battle one most constantly defeat to achieve success.
When doubt strikes, I think of the Bene Gesserit Litany against fear from Dune:
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
So when I doubt that I will one day be a novelist, published and celebrated, I face that fear. And I remember that it doesn’t matter if it happens or not. My love is the act of writing, and I wish to create a life were I write, and write, and write. External success is not the why. It would be appreciated and make my life easier, but it is not what drives my writing. Writing is my communion with the creative and spiritual forces. I love getting lost in the horizons of the imagination, I always have. Writing is my act of love, self and worldly. It is my contribution to society and my joy. So when I doubt, I come back to why I write and the feelings it produces. And I am home, re-connected to my desire to write. And once again, I pick up the pen …
At the moment, I am turning my honours novella (10,000 words) into a young adults novel (40,000-60,000 words). Writing takes time. 1,000 words takes between two to three hours to write. But for me, I need to set aside time around it – four to five hour block. I marinate with ideas, steep myself in the characters, what I want to write, words, sentences until alchemy is achieved and I want to put my thoughts and inspiration down. Sometimes I will go for a walk or to the gym without music so that I can really tune into what needs to be written next. Writing is a journey that needs to be savoured, appreciated, and not rushed. However, I was struggling with motivation and I’ve found one of the best things to do, when procrastinating or hitting an uninspired patch, is to match motivational videos on you-tube or read ‘success’ or ‘achieve your dream’ self-help books. If you’re not motivated, you’re in charge of getting motivated. With achieveing goals, or your dreams, it ultimately comes down to you. The choices you make every day. If you’re not achieving your goals in life, then look at your actions, do they match your intention? If not, action is what produces results. It’s the most important ingredient in success.
To help with my motivation, last night, I had the honour of attending a Game of Thrones night, with George R.R. Martin who spoke about writing. In his thoughtful, considered way, he answered the question why every character in the series is put into crisis. He quoted Faulkner’s noble prize speech, saying that ‘a human heart in conflict with itself is the only “good” writing’.
The full quote from Faulkner is:
Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.
He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands. Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.
I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.
This speech helps us to decode the Game of Thrones, to understand better what is driving the author, the character and the series. For those who write, it helps us to understand that a human heart in conflict with itself is where the power of writing comes from. But, for you, whatever your dreams or goals are, motivation is vital in the days, months, and years it takes to achieve them. So don’t give up, or give in. You will achieve with effort, alignment, and time!
Are you ever terrified of making a choice: scared that it will be the wrong one?
Recently, I’ve been feeling a lot of fear regarding my future. Before I turned 30, I was able to make snap decisions, trusting in the higher power and that if I made a mistake it didn’t matter. Everything was taking me on a journey to my higher and better good.
Now, at 32, I fear making the wrong decision. Petrified of what it would mean if I choose badly. Scared to regret my own choices. As the Course of Miracle states: Fear is always a sign of strain, arising whenever what you want conflicts with what you do.
My Fearful and faulty thoughts:
1) That I can make mistakes, and that there are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ choices.
2) That there is only one path to the future I wish to create, and if I don’t make the ‘right’ choices, then I will fail.
3) That I might (and can) disappoint myself, spirit, family, friends etc.
4) That life isn’t safe and doesn’t support me in all that I do.
5) That unless I’m very careful, I will create suffering, woe, and misery in my life. And these things I wish to avoid.
The list goes on, but they all arise from fear.
The course of miracle also states that: Whenever there is fear, it is because you have not made up your mind. Your mind is split, and your behavior inevitably becomes erratic.
It comes back to choices, and the way to make spirit-guided and blessed choices.
The course of miracle states: Before you choose to do anything, ask me (spirit/god/universe) if your choice is in accord with mine. If you are sure that it is, there will be no fear.
I had a few things that I had been struggling to make decisions about, but the two most significant were whether to apply for a PhD and what writing project to pursue.
I took a moment to align with spirit, and asked whether my choice to apply for a PhD was in accord with Spirit, and I received a positive/yes response. I asked which writing project to purse, and was also given an answer.
The stress and fear I’ve been feeling around these two decisions has been lifted. Now, I know that I don’t have to worry about outcomes, or right/wrongs, or the future. I’m in accord with the universe, with love, and that fills me with strength, joy and faith.
These feelings remind me that when you let love lead and let the universe drive, that you allow room for the universe’s plan to unfold. You become an expansive being of light, aligned and unified with the source of all things. You allow magic and miracles to blossom in you and in your life.
Wishing you love xx
It began with a skype session with my best friend. We were talking about my love life, and continuing lack of a love life, when she admitted she didn’t know why I was single. Yes, she is the perfect bff.
I told her that I wanted to be a published author before I ‘met’ someone.
There was a moment of silence.
An inner self-shriek of ‘where’s your self-worth?’ Do you really believe that you can’t find someone without being a published author? And the answer was scary, it was a yes. I really didn’t believe that I had anything to offer anyone. That nobody would want a 32-year-old honours student, waitress, who dreamt of being a writer.
My best friend, said, ‘Pen, they aren’t going to fall in love with a book.’
Tears began. Nice tears. Tears that I had a crazy, delusion belief that I wasn’t good enough, worthy enough to be loved.
And after that conversation I realized I needed to change. I had some serious love work to do on myself, or perhaps, within myself.
Cuddled up in bed with Robert Holden, his book not the man himself, I began reading his book ‘lovability’. And he reminded me that I hadn’t done any ‘I love myself’ mirror work – also advocated by Louise Hay.
So at 10pm at night, I sat in front of a mirror and spent twenty minutes sending myself loving messages like ‘I love myself’. And then I spent some time sending love to areas that I don’t usually feeling positive or loving in like ‘I love my body’, ‘I love my writing’ and ‘I love my money’.
The next day, I decided to do the same. Start the day with love. I sat in front of the mirror for ten to fifteen minutes and repeated the same loving messages. The result: I had the best day. I felt strong and positive throughout the day. I enjoyed my work, my colleagues and was productive and efficient. I went to the gym and did a fierce and calorie burning workout. I ate a beautiful dinner and even made ginger and peanut butter (amazing) vegan muffins.
Saying ‘I love you’ and spending time filling myself with love – felt like I was positively fueling myself. Normally Monday’s I feel burnout, exhausted, and low energy. This Monday was love-charged, joyous and empowering.
I’ve decided to dedicate this blog to love: To create a dialogue around different activities to increase my self-love and expression of love.
I’m determined to be a more loving person and to live a love filled life.
Wishing you love xx
Abandon free falling
self worth doubt
lying heart woe
all self inflicted
how my hand harms
Poor broken ballerina
you never got to dance
or tango. All you wanted
ash on tongue and
splinters in eye.
Can you breathe? How
tight the diaghram
hurting to squeeze
life in. Have you been
slowly dying since
the failed suicide
attempt at fifteen?
The answer unrequited.
So I have not blogged since April, and a dear friend reminded me of this today. So I dedided to post some poetry, as it's National Poetry week here in Australia, and also instead of blogging I've been writing poetry madly and passionately.
Can you hear my soul
rip rip ripping,
tearing out the seams
as I squeeze it into
skinny jeans two
sizes too small?
The superwoman lie:
making everyone happy,
sucking it up,
holding it all in.
God, the pressure.
I breathe out.
And my world
Over the Easter Weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Sun Moon Dance, a Native American ceremony for world harmony. It’s not my first time attending, near the beginning I helped at two and then went on to actually dance for the last five. This year, I had three dreams that told me I was required to serve again, not dance, but attend in service.
One of my duties was fire keep between midnight and four am and keeping awake while watching the warm, drowsy fire was a discipline. I fought a silent battle to stay awake despite my body’s overwhelming tiredness and my monkey mind tossed and turned, spewing out foul thoughts and telling me to just close my eyes and sleep. But my mind finally quietened until looking into the fire gave me only peace.
The next night, another fire was prepared – kindle and dry leaves in the middle with heavier sticks creating a cone above it. Another
dog solider used a billy tea can to gently place some smouldering embers within the pyramid. Nothing happened.
I waited for the instant poof of fire, but the embers kept to themselves. The dog solider backed away from the fire. She didn’t prod
it or fan it, or try and make the fire catch. After she left the arbour, maybe two or three minutes later, suddenly the pyramid combusted. Boom - the fire spread inhaling the dry wood.
I thought to myself, maybe that’s a lesson for achieving your goals. First you need to clear the space, then lay a ring of stones for protection, then you need to prepare laying the dry wood and leaves, then finally you need to put embers – the fuel for the fire into the pit. But the last bit of magic, the embers sparking into a fire, is magic – something we mere humans are unable to control. The timing of combustion we wait for, but the universe controls. Our responsibility is in the preparation.
The question I leave you with, is if you have defined your goals what work needs to be done to allow the magic to set them alight?
What more needs to be done? It could be writing that CV or applying for the right job, or it could finally writing that short story for the competition your friend told you about, or going on that dating site to look for a relationship.
Whatever it is, may the universe combust your dreams into reality, your goals into success!
An Ode to the South West.
May the passage from dream to reality be easily navigated.
May you always remember the destination you are walking towards.
May you run, not walk, to your desired outcome.
May your belief in yourself only increase with time.
May the people you trust to be your friends, be your friends.
May you be humble enough to ask for help.
May help be given from expected and unexpected sources.
May you stay true to your dreams, and not be seduced by the easy option.
May more than you dream is possible, happen to you!
We all know people who chose to play it safe rather than to risk failing. Like the person who settles for “Mr/Ms Good Enough” instead of attempting for “Mr/Ms Perfect for Me.” Or the person who says they want to loose weight, but does nothing about
it – they don’t join a gym or change the eating habits. Or it could be the person who says they want to write a novel but doesn’t write a single sentence.
So I’m talking about myself in the last sentence. In my head, I know letting fear control me is ridiculous - but somehow it still has
it’s talons in my dream draining the life force out. I’ve already spent a year of my life writing a novel, Prelude, and failing. Been there, done that. And it sucks. So now I don’t want to go through the endless rejections from publishers, the criticism from the manuscript appraiser (that I paid for), and the overall destruction of my dream.
Thomas Edison said “I failed my way to success.” And maybe this will be something I will one day say, but what if it isn’t? What
about if I spend the next ten years writing only to be never published, to never achieve? This is my fear, that I waste my life, my energy, doing something that’s just not meant to be.
Shakespeare says, “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing the attempt.”
So really it comes down to choice, I can choose to focus on failing, on possible rejection, on a possible negative future, of regrets, of possibly wasting my time. Or I can realise my doubts are not truth but traitors, limiting myself and keeping myself from achieving.
Samuel Smiles says, “We learn wisdom from failure much more than success.”
We can only choose how we live our lives, so the question I ask myself is do I want to write regardless of the outcome, or not? Do I want to give myself the possibility to achieve my dreams, or do I not even want to try?
So after asking myself this question, I went and wrote my novel for nearly two hours. And I loved it. All the fear melted away as I wrote, focusing on action rather than worrying. And I realised when you do what you love, fear can't win. Fear can't reside where love is.
So is there any area that you’re letting fear win, and your own self-doubt is betraying you?
If so, realise firstly that you’re human and we all feel this way. Secondly, just ask yourself are you going to control your fear,
or is fear going to control you? And thirdly, if you let love into the situation it will dissolve all the fear for you.
Penelope Jane Jones.