Headspace.

Recently, I have had no headspace.

I do not say that lightly, I genuinely mean, in my mind there has been room for absolutely nothing.

The reason I want to write about it today is that often we allow stress to push us away from what we love, when sometimes it is better to let it drive us to those things in order to centre ourselves.

So I am getting married in November, and until about two weeks ago, this has not been a drama for me.

Planning? All good!

Guest Lists? I’m totally sweet!

Dress? I’ve had it since December!

But then, without warning about two and a bit weeks ago, I suddenly found myself getting hyper over-whelmed with everything.

There was suddenly so much to do, so much to focus on and do properly. All of my spare time was dedicated to tying ribbons around invitations, addressing them, and posting them off as soon as I could.

Worst part was that I had a crisis of sorts because none of my bridesmaids were around to help, so I loaded this mostly on my mother, and would sit for hours after work in my living room listening to my Boney M Album on my record player.

All of my disposable income, all of my disposable time, was spent on reviewing guest lists, figuring out if we had the right balance of people at our reception, where to save money, where to spend, where I could do something because ‘you only get married once,’ and when I should not do something because it was a little silly/unnecessary.

I had little space in my brain for anything else, but that wasn’t the worst of it.

Work was a nightmare!

I am generally a person who deals with difficult situations by taking a deep breath and getting on with it, generally with a level of success.

I became this person who could barely sleep, dreamt about wedding crap, had a dozen pimples all over my face, ulcers in my mouth and feeling physically ill every time I thought about anything wedding related.

Of course there was no time to write, because I had come to the end of myself with a storyline and I needed to develop the narrative a little more. BUT WHERE WAS THE TIME!?

So I was stuck, and I wasn’t writing and I wasn’t really doing anything for myself – aside from planning a wedding and going to work.

But sometimes we just need to reclaim one little thing and we feel better.

I realized instead of the stress pushing me away from writing, I could use it to nail my colours to the mast and reclaim a part of my life. So instead of focusing on wedding stuff endlessly, I planned my story. I developed characters, and what I wanted to write. I would be determined about actually sitting down and writing something every morning to feel like I’d done something for myself that didn’t involve white dresses and churches.

Weddings are great, work is great, but stress isn’t.

So I want to encourage you guys today, that if you are feeling what I was feeling: insanely overwhelmed, then take control, and reclaim something small for yourself.

You won’t believe the difference it makes.

PS: sorry I have sucked at writing blogs. This has been why!

Proper Communication Still Matters

They were talking the other day on the radio about how a new Elvis postage stamp had been released with the anniversary of his death. The reporter who was discussing it then mentioned that it was a shame because no one used stamps anymore.

In New Zealand they have gone to delivering the mail once every two days – because of a change in the amount of mail being posted. The irritating thing about this is that it doesn’t just come every second day, because by the time your letter is cleared from a mail box and processed and then dropped off it is like four or five days. The reason I can say this with such certainty is because I just posted my wedding invitations.

Why am I saying all of this?

Because communication still matters.

My job has everything to do with proper lines of communication.

A customer rings in a job, I process it, communicate it with a technician, they communicate the result of the investigation to me, then I communicate it with the customer and it is all a part of that great, big, circle… of life.

These days communication is meant to be better because it is easier, smarter, faster.

Here’s a genuine question though, is it? Is it better?

It is easier, sure, it is smarter sure, and absolutely communication these days is faster, but I wouldn’t say it is better.

We live in a world of ‘Oh, I got you (text/email/message/call) but I was (insert reason/doing something at the time/super busy) and forgot to (text/email/message/call) you back.’

Where despite the speed, smart and ease of communicating we still manage to suck at it. People don’t respond, reply, RSVP, whatever, and people result to leaving ‘HB’ on people’s Facebook walls which I guess is meant to make you feel good because they are wishing you ‘Happy Birthday’ but actually all it really says is ‘I couldn’t be bothered writing proper words.’

Challenge: have you get your communication deteriorate because of over accessibility to being communicated with? Are you so bombarded with means of communication – text, call, email, Facebook, twitter, whatever, that it has added to the mess and lowered the impact of proper communication?

I was absolutely determined not to have text, email or phone RSVPs for our wedding invitations, and do you know why?

Two reasons:

  1. I really like receiving mail. There is something about getting an envelope in your letter box, not knowing who it is from and opening it to see. I love that. And I get to have that experience the amount of people invited to our wedding!
  2. I wanted to assign significance to the fact that I was asking them, that they then had to purpose a response.

I guess what I want to do is challenge you to think about how you’re communicating, because we’re becoming so overwhelmed by means and methods that it is taking away the meaning

So maybe look for opportunities to impart meaning into your communication?

Rules of Self Discovery

I am a huge fan of a theologian called A.W. Tozer.

He was a brilliant, brilliant thinker, who has this way of saying something once in a way that dives to the very deepest part of you.

He was also a man who looked at ALL things and asked ‘what is in this that God wants to say?’

He’s awesome, and one of the most useful things I’ve ever found that he’s written were the ‘Rules for Self Discovery.’

Basically, the way to see what and who you really are.

I like this so much I keep it on my phone and look at it probably once a month or so. You don’t have to be a Christian to find this useful either, so have a read, have a think and maybe, like me, keep it to one side to reflect on for self assessment every so often:

Rules for Self Discovery:
1. What we want most;
2. What we think about most;
3. How we use our money;
4. What we do with our leisure time;
5. The company we enjoy;
6. Who and what we admire;
7. What we laugh at.

Every so often it is good to do a ‘self check’ and Tozer’s rules are a pretty useful tool

Enjoy!

Why We Are Pessimists

I was talking the other day with my brother about really, really nice people.

You know the kind?

The kind that you can’t actually say anything bad about, because they are friendly, polite, and level almost always.

Discussing this with my brother, I told him that there were two people in the world I considered the nicest.

They were my Aunty Kath – who lives in Australia, and my Neighbour (who is also my friend’s dad)

By nature, these people – as far as I know – have never said anything untoward ever, they are always positive, always enthusiastic, I have only ever heard them say good things and if it is something bad they must say they say it in a way that is tactful, and not ripping someone or something to shreds.

Here’s the thing, recently, I’ve sort of found that I’ve been a little too negative.

Maybe it is stress, because of crazy wedding planning and life changes and whatever, but maybe it is because I let myself get too negative?

I am an A type personality, efficient, focused, list making, a little bit of a perfectionist, so I can sometimes be a little… uptight. Being uptight, and loving to think and roll things over and stuff can also mean that I end up dissecting problems and focusing on them and wanting to hold discussions with friends and family on the subjects.

The problem is that I complain too readily, I freak out too quickly, I allow tiny things to snow ball and become monuments to things, I have to talk to process things and need to learn to quietly internalize and work it out without putting the laundry on the line for reflection.

But why do I do these things?

Because it is easy.

I’m a creative type, I think lots, try to understand things and feelings and thoughts, and it is easy to shrug and tell people that I am a creative, and can therefore be rather melancholic.

I could probably go through life just like this forever, but these days, I have realized that I don’t actually want to. I want to be a person like my neighbour and my aunt, who when people thing of me they think about how I only have positive things to say, that I am enthusiastic, polite, and kind.

I could just say how I am is how I am, part of my personality, and note the positive outcomes of my A type characteristics.

But I don’t want to. I don’t want to because I am pretty sure I can be both kinds of people.

I am pretty sure I can be thoughtful, and logical, and pragmatic, and think things through to understand them, and critique and all the other stuff that I do that helps me in life to be a good writer, or a good thinker or whatever.

But that I can also be someone who is positive, rather than inherently negative.

I am only negative because it is an easy way to deal with thoughts and emotions, it requires no shelf control, it puts you in a weird power position or can make you seem smart.

So that’s my challenge to myself, and I suppose my challenge to you. How do you want people to speak of you? Super nice person, or default pessimist?

It is easy to be negative, but I want to be a person who speaks and lives positive things, so while it is difficult and requires self control, that is who I am choosing to be

We live our own stories, and I suppose ultimately what I see myself doing is changing the narrative tone, the storyline, the vibe, because I have gotten lazy about my life story.

Book Review: My Secret War Diary

The other day I had to go to the book store down the road (which is otherwise known as the best bookstore in the whole world) to get some cellophane. While there I saw two books I liked, one was childish and stupid and made fart sounds when you pushed various buttons – people can admit that isn’t funny, but we all know it is hilarious.

The second was a book called ‘My Secret War Diary’ by Marcia Williams.

According to some rough googling, Marcia Williams is an author/illustrator who uses like comic strip stuff to communicate ideas.

This ‘picture book’ (because that’s the section it was under) is basically a diary by a little girl called ‘Flossie Albright’ during the years between 1939-1945.

I haven’t finished it by any means, but it is genuinely awesome.

Not just because it is cute and funny and has little fold out bits – which is a sure fire way to win me over.

It is awesome because even the writing style is genuinely consistent with a nine year old girl, who we see change and grow and alter her language over  the years of the war.

I am a fan. A huge fan, and the plan is to find more of Marcia William’s books, this is because it is genuinely one of those books you think, ‘yes. I want to hold onto this for any future children I have because they (whoever they are) will LOVE it.’

Check out the pictures I took of the book, it’s pretty thick too, not a read in one sitting.

I also think it is a cool thing to have because recently they’ve been playing all the Hiroshima stuff on the news with it being the anniversary of the bombings there and in Nagasaki. I was sitting in my living room tying ribbons on invitations for my wedding and I heard my nana talking about it.

My nana grew up in the Second World War, and would have been a similar age to Floosie and it is just super interesting to go their perspectives on things.

Anyway, I encourage you to take a look at this book!

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Know When It Is Notebook Time.

I have learnt a lesson recently, and it is going to seem like a super obvious one.

When to know it is in fact ‘Notebook Time.’

What is ‘Notebook Time?’ you ask.

I’ll tell you. Notebook Time is when you retreat into the pages of your planning and build at the base rather than adding to the tower of the actual story script.

Recently, I’ve been struggling with a HUGE book. Mostly because it is the last in a series, I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself for it to be good, and I am a perfectionist.

There is a LOT of development that needs to be not made, but clarified. It is there, in my head, but not on paper and not written out with links and pictures and details.

Problem is that in fear of ‘not writing’ and perhaps losing my touch, or place in the story. I have (until recently) always been of the belief that if you stop, you die – like a shark.

Thing is that Notebook Time, if done correctly, can be just as productive as writing the actual narrative, if not more.

Stories are often like trees. There’s all this stuff on the outside which looks enormous but there’s also a huge amount of stuff beneath the ground. Key thing is both parts need to grow.

I guess I want to encourage you today, that if you’re struggling with the story – like I am – retreating back to your notebook is okay

:)

The (Not-Ideal) Increasing Darkness of Young Adult Fiction

I’ll admit, I’m getting a little disheartened by fiction these days.

In particular, young adult.

I feel especially gutted about this, because I write young adult fiction.

A few months back I wrote a blog about how a lot of books deal with some pretty dark material and just sort of wondered whether talking about it actually made it better.

Anyway, I was sort of thinking about this same question recently, because I don’t think I’ve read a new book in the longest time.

I am in this strange holding pattern of just reading and re-reading books I already know.

This is mostly because I went out to the book store the other day to see what was out there and everything seemed… what’s the word?

Gross.

I stumbled across an article earlier today that suggested that perhaps young adult fiction is getting too dark. For anyone interested this is it: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303657404576357622592697038

(PS Totally worth a read)

Basically the article talks about how the increasing darkness of books for teenagers/young readers poses a danger at framing their comprehension of life in what is actually a really warped way.

It also points out something I consider super random which is that movies and video games carry ratings, but an unsuspecting parent could purchase a hugely graphic book for a competent ten or eleven year old without being aware.

I do believe that the content in books isn’t great for young people today, and I genuinely believe we will see the impact in the emotional development of young people. But what this article did was raise another question in my mind.

Why do we think ‘bad’ is more sophisticated?

Seriously, there is a kind of ‘sophistication’ associated with books that have more risqué content. It is as if the inclusion of really dark material, be it sexual, violent, or whatever makes a story more serious or better.

Does it?

I’ve sort of been thinking about this recently because as a writer you do have a tendency to stop and look around at what everyone else is writing and say ‘Do I Go Far Enough?’

Is my character edgy enough?

Is my character real enough?

Is my character appealing?

Is the story intense enough? (And then we wonder if we need to make things darker to add intensity rather than exploring other options.)

I just wonder, you know? I’ve been reading a book on Audrey Hepburn recently, and how she was the epitome of sophistication, more so than a number of ladies of her time – the Author says.

One of the main argued points was that along side other women – generally over sexualized – of her time, Audrey always remained true to her own look, and dressed, by those comparisons, fairly modestly. That was what made her sophisticated.

So here’s a good question, authors, writers, readers:

Why do we need swearing/sex/graphic violence/suicide/self harm or whatever to create a sophisticated book?

Do we really need to be that obvious? Could we not try to be a little more creative? Does the exclusion of these things make your work ‘unsophisticated?’ or ‘childish?’

Personally? I don’t think so.

Back when my dad was growing up he talked about how famous soldiers and pilots and whatever of the First and Second World Wars were the ‘heroes’ of the day.

They looked at these people and thought, ‘you are a hero. I want to be like you.’

They were people who laid aside their own lives for greater issues.

For freedom, for friends, others, whatever. Yes, War is bad, but these people undertook  difficulty, or risked themselves for something more important than themselves.

Now days, we are so convinced that to write something truly sophisticated it has to be dark.

Here’s the thing, I’m not convinced.

I believe this may be the proverbial Emperor’s New Clothes in fiction. This dark stuff?

It may be appealing to some deep part of you.

It may be exciting – in some warped way.

It may make you feel something – sad, happy, whatever.

But I don’t genuinely believe it has substance.

I read Go Set A Watchman recently, and while I am painting with broad strokes here, one thing I liked about it was that it was challenging, and it dealt with very intense issues but it didn’t give me too intense a detail and like Audrey Hepburn? It left some stuff to the imagination.

These days we have a naked king of fiction spelling everything out for us and I don’t entirely thing it will serve us well in the end. It won’t create well adjusted teens – I don’t think so – it will create young people who read the equivalent of ‘snuff’ while their parents are sitting across the other side of the room.

And this is a challenge to us as writers.

I think there is a better way to write. A way that is constructive and helpful to the emotional state of teenagers and young people today, that is clever rather than defaulting to ‘their life sucked so blah blah blah…’

So this is my own challenge. To write better books, without lowering myself to this fake sophistication of what we believe makes ‘profound’ literature

And that’s what I want to do now. When I stop and look around and wonder if I have gone far enough? I’ll decide that I am going to write good heroes, who may face horrible circumstances, but that the meta narrative – the big story – is constructive.

After all, I think those young people out there who we write for…? We owe it to them to be REALLY sophisticated.

The Biggest Lie We Tell Ourselves

A lot of the time when I see students a year or so later from a pervious class I’ll ask them an obvious question.

‘Have you done much more writing.’

The person then gives me this watery knowing look and wilts back before saying something roughly like: ‘Oh a little… but not heaps… I just don’t have time.’

It is weird, and the reason why it is weird is because this same person professes a desire to be an ‘author’ a ‘writer’ and write amazing things, and yet the whole process of putting pen to paper or hands to keyboard seems unusually hard.

‘I don’t have time.’

The other day I was watching ‘Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners.’ I have a love/hate relationship with this show because it is absolutely disgusting but you get so curious to see how gross people can be.

If you haven’t seen it, watch it. Anyway, the biggest excuse people give – when surrounded by towers of boxes, unwashed underpants, and animal excretions – for not cleaning is the SAME thing.

‘I don’t have time.’

Reality we do have time, the same amount actually, every one of us. Twenty four hours in a day, one hundred and sixty eight in a week, and eight thousand seven hundred and thirty six in a year.

We are all allocated the same hours, but depending on what we fill our lives with, depends on what we actually have time for.

I’ve had people tell me that they are going to be best selling authors and then tell me they don’t have time to write but spend every ounce of their spare time at the mall with friends.

Reality check: they do have time, they are just choosing to spend it elsewhere.

And it isn’t a bad thing, at the end of the day no one forces you to do anything, so if you go to the mall or write it matters little.

What it does show is that passion pushes productivity.

When I was in high school someone told me if something is the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning, you know it is your calling.

For me that has always been writing.

Prioritizing it has always been a difficult thing to do but I wouldn’t for a second dream of stopping.

In primary school I was absolutely desperate, I’d beg my teachers to let me write if I finished all my school word, and they did. That’s how I finished my very first book, penned in a school notebook, called Gaf and the Dinos (could not spell the full word Dinosaur)

Later, in high school it got a little more difficult, because I wanted to be a part of the debate team, and I played Hockey and was in the Archery team for a year or so – not to mention school work! As a result the moment I came in from school at the end of the day I’d hop on my computer and write. Usually I’d get 3-4 pages done, but it was worth it. Slowly, but surely I chipped through it, only thing was I didn’t have heaps of time for TV, so I didn’t watch heaps and heaps.

Now days, with work it’s even harder, especially because I get home quite late, I have other commitments, and getting married etc, so I have another plan again. I get into work at a quarter past six usually, and for forty five minutes until 7am when I need to start organizing work, I write. Now days I get even smaller amounts done, but I still chip away at stories eventually finishing them.

One thing I believe I have worked out is balance, and that’s what we have to do in life, figure out what matters and in light of that, how do we balance it.

If I have a storyline to plan, it is likely I’ll set my alarm on a Saturday to 6am to get up and write.

If I have characters to develop I may sit at my desk on a Sunday afternoon.

I carry my notebook everywhere, jotting down inside of it any time and place capitalizing on my spare time.

There are things in life that are non-negotiable. Work, travel, bathing, relationships, sleeping… the key is making your other stuff fit around that well.

So… bad news is that maybe means getting up a little earlier every so often?

Keira Cass – one my favorite authors – is a stay at home mum and frequently comments about balancing her work life (writing), travelling for book tours, her struggles with anxiety and being a mother. But she makes it happen.

So this is why when someone tells me ‘I don’t have time.’ I internally roll my eyes and think, ‘It isn’t that you don’t have time, it is just something else is more important.’

Just a little challenging word for a Wednesday morning.

Not Everything Is Canon

We’ve access to a lot of stuff.

You know?

Heaps of it.

Do you ever get overwhelmed by just how much stuff there is to process? How many point of views. How many opinions. How many ideas. How many methods, theories, the list goes on.

I don’t know about you but I find a lot of stuff overwhelming. When there are so many perspectives on things, and you can’t be entirely sure what’s right or true – as post modernism has led us to do…

Here’s the thing. I’m a Christian. I like to think I am a pretty normal one too.

I go to church on a Sunday, I try to read my bible, or the Word for Today on my phone most days, I pray, I believe in God, and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I know bad stuff happens and I know there are things I can’t explain, but I am mostly okay with that.

But then I met weird Christians.

By this I mean, the kind of Christian who makes you shudder/roll your eyes/groan internally because you can’t-believe-they-just-said-that.

And this freaks me out, because I know I’m weird (watch Ancient Aliens, and Finding Big Foot, not that I believe in either) but I am not SUPER weird.

I don’t believe in new age spiritualism

I am not a heads down bums up doomsday prepper

I manage to go about my day to day without accosting anyone with my faith and am pretty okay about talking about my beliefs with people IF they ask me.

But I am terrified that I’m weird and therefore… discredited.

This is because I hear probably well meaning Christians exploiting our faith in someway.

Where they seek God’s word in such a way that it looks more like divinity than discipleship.

Where people so compromise the bible’s value systems to make room for today’s culture of how relationships should manifest (casual sex, living together etc)

Where people pose Christianity and Science so far from one another that they demand you pick one or the other rather than seeing one as a manifestation of God’s creativity.

I see it everywhere. Not just friend’s stating grand philosophical reflections on Facebook but in articles, in websites, books, blogs, it’s everywhere.

And there’s SO much of it.

And it really freaks me out.

Because the world can be confusing when you can’t see the wood from the trees.

After reflecting on this the last little while, I’ve realized something.

Today, we have access to way more stuff that we ever would way faster than we’ve ever seen. You want to know something, a quick google will give you the facts – and a lot of opinion.

Heck I google Taylor Swift nearly every second day and her life sways from being married to being single!

I realized what we are doing wrong, not just as Christians, but people when we understand things.

We treat ALL information the same.

There’s so much so it has no weight. In other words we treat everything as Canon.

Back when they put the bible together there were all these random books. Some were claimed to have been written by random biblical figures, others the church father’s had no idea the authorship of.

So when it came to making the official bible they collected a bunch of church people together and made a list.

They went through ALL of the books and bound together books which were:

– Historically significant (and proven to be so)

– Written by eye witnesses or credible sources (and proven to be so)

– Consistent with the over all theological belief

There was other stuff too but I can’t be bothered going through church history. Basically they assigned a weighting system to the books and they selected only the genuinely historical, accurate and authored books rather than the Gospel of That Random Guy which was made to sell money in the early church or to achieve so-and-so’s social ideals.

Now we have a bible which we can rely on, that makes sense, that you know was written by actual significant people (apart from Hebrews, because who knows!?)

As a result there is a big difference between the bible and an article written by the Relevant Magazine.

Issue is these days because we are so OVERWHELMED by stuff we treat it all the same.

But it’s not the same. Not everything is canon.

This is what people are good at: telling you what to do, or what they think is right. I have realized that in being engaged.

But in all areas of life we need to look at the sources of information and ask ourselves ‘what is canon?’

Some random horrible person tells you that you’re super pale and shouldn’t wear skirts (it’s happened to me) is it canon?

Some person tells you your writing is dry, is it canon?

Someone tells you that you’ll never make it/do it/be it? is it canon?

Just because someone says, thinks, or writes something, doesn’t mean it’s true.

I wanted to remind you of this today, because in today’s world especially, with so much out there, we have to decide inside ourselves what we know, TEST IT (this part is important) and then and only then treat it as canon.

After all, as Taylor Swift says, haters are gonna hate, but it doesn’t mean their horrible words are gospel truth.

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