Accentuate the Positive

Hasn’t it been a horrible year? That’s certainly how I felt about it when I recently started to reflect on the last twelve months. I lost friends to the pandemic, I nearly lost my mum after a fall, I’ve been stuck at home for months, and I have nothing to look forward to. I feel like I’ve had a lot of failures in the last year but nothing much to write home about.

Wait a minute, surely there has to have been something positive to have come out of 2020???

Yup. I wrote a book. Last May I had a flash of inspiration to write Writing for Wellness: Surviving Lockdown one word at a Time. It is an anecdotal story of the Writing for Wellness group I have lead every week for the past year. How easily my mind blocks out the light and focuses on the dark. But writing and publishing a book is a massive achievement that countless people put on their bucket lists. It’s definitely been on mine. Tick!

That brings me to another positive. I led a Writing for Wellness group throughout lockdown. Writing for Wellness groups after a safe space in which you can explore your creativity, and get things out of your head and on to the page. The members have all shared with me that this group kept them sane during lockdown and that they wouldn’t have survived without it. A definite tick goes next to that achievement. Tick!

I produced a podcast throughout lockdown. Letters in Lockdown has evolved during the different lockdowns. It started as a Staycastion Podcast in the first lockdown in which I was determined to focus on the positive aspects of staying at home. As we moved on throughout the year I recorded the good days and the bad, the challenges and the successes, the thoughts and reflections I went through in the past year. A humble contribution to the voices of lockdown. That’s something I can be proud of.

I started to read more. I’d got out of the habit of doing this before lockdown. The digital age with its 24/7 temptations meant that I would often turn to the latest show to binge-watch rather than pick up a book. The slower pace of lockdown life has made me excited to pick up a book and lose myself in another world for hours. I’ve recently been reading The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Talk about gripping! So yes, a big fat tick again for reading more.

I became more in tune with nature. Every morning I go out to my little studio in my garden to work I am greeted by the dawn chorus. I’ve listened to the proud blackbird singing over his family’s nest, watched the robin take a bath in the sundial on our lawn, and rescued an exhausted bee with some sugar water. I’ve helped plant out a new flower bed, nurtured a window-full of orchids and gone for some amazing walks. This renewed connection to something so much bigger than myself is a definite positive. Yes!

I wrote more letters. I love writing letters but I rarely gave myself time before lockdown. Hand-letter-writing is one of the exercises we do in Writing for Wellness. What a joy it has been to receive a hand-written missive through the post during those dark days. An absolute positive and one I am determined to continue beyond the pandemic.

I learned to value the people right in front of me. Oh how easy it is to take people for granted! Yet when faced with a situation where the company of others was in short supply I learned how value human connection can be. I always remember an interview with Mother Theresa in which, when surrounded by thousands of people in the slums of Calcutta she was asked how she coped. She smiled and said, “the person in front of me is the most important person in the world to me in that moment.” What a gift! I feel like I’ve caught an inkling of that during lockdown and I am really grateful for it. A definite positive!

What about you? What positive things can you look back on in 2020?

This hasn’t been the easiest of blog posts to write. I would have been much more comfortable focusing on what I haven’t done or on what I did in the years prior to lockdown. But it’s only when we find the subtle nuances in the midst of the darkest of nights that we find our way to turn on the light. It’s only when we accentuate the positive that we can allow ourselves to say goodbye to the year that has gone and look forward to what the year ahead will bring us.

I’ll leave you with the song that has been playing in the background as I’ve written this post. Accentuate the Positive by the Puppini Sisters. Enjoy!

10 Ways to Fuel Your Creative Spirit

Feeling a little sluggish? Got the lockdown blues? Here are a few ways to fuel your writing during these difficult times:

  1. Drink more water

Sounds obvious, but how many of us actually drink about 3 litres of water a day? I know I often fall short. By making sure we drink the right amount of water every day we will help our sleep, our skin, our brain and ultimately our creativity. I’ve started to refill a litre water bottle three times a day to make sure I reach the mark. It’s helping immensely.

2. Get up and stretch!

It’s so easy to sit hunched over the computer or notebook for hours on end and forget to move. It’s little wonder that we start to feel clogged up when we do. My latest effort on this front is to set my timer for 20 minutes and literally stand up and stretch before sitting back down for another 20 minutes. It feels a bit arbitrary at first but over time it makes a massive difference to how my body feels by the end of the day and this, in turn, really helps my creativity.

3. Switch it up!

Another way I can start to feel sluggish is if I try and do the same thing over a really long period of time. One way in which I have combated this is to switch up what I do throughout the day. My morning routine, for example, is morning pages, followed by reading, followed by crafts, followed by meditation, followed by writing my WIP. I have definitely earned a lunch break by that point! What are some ways in which you can switch it up throughout the day to keep your brain ticking over?

4. Go for a walk!

This one has always been hard for me. I suspect, if I’m going to be completely honest, I’ve become a little lazy. There are all sorts of inducements you can use to get out for 20 minutes a day. Some people use a game or running adventure app. I’ve been known to break out the Pokemon Go on occasions. Some listen to an audiobook or podcast. You could even listen to one of mine if you’re really desperate! Others take photographs on their phone. One thing I will say of this walking malarky is I never regret going, but I sometimes regret not going. It definitely makes a difference to my writing when I do go.

5. Take a Shower

As much as the body needs water on the inside, it also loves water on the outside. A warm shower (or if you are brave enough, a cold one) can do wonders for firing up the little grey cells and getting the creative juices flowing. I used to take my showers at the end of the day, but I’ve recently started to have them first thing in the morning and they are really helping. Washing our hands throughout the day can also help ground us, one of the benefits of the pandemic I suppose.

6. Hug a tree / walk barefoot in the grass

The second part of this is a little difficult to do in the middle of autumn / winter but you get my drift. These are things that literally and physically help you to connect with nature. The same could be said for paddling in the surf on a beach, petting an animal or watching the sunset. They are all things that help us to feel more connected to the rest of creation, and, in turn, our creative selves.

7. Nurture the child within

My inner child is the part of me that still has a sense of awe and wonder, a joyful optimism, and the capacity to unleash an unfettered imagination inside of me. That inner child is the source of my inspiration and the catalyst for all of my creative writing. She needs nurturing. To do this, I get down and play. As sensible adults this might feel a little bit crazy, but it really helps with my writing. For example, I might do some colouring, make a daisy chain in the grass, build the Hogwarts Castle out of Lego (I wish), go splashing in puddles in my wellies, or curl up with a favourite book from my childhood. I might buy sparkly stationery, design a map for the location of my book, dance and sing to ABBA (when no one is looking), paint my nails and get dressed up. What would you do to nurture that inner creative spirit of a child in you?

8. Create some space

This may be physical space. It might be time to empty out that garden shed and turn it into your creative writing retreat. It might be time to paint a wall, hang a picture, introduce a reed diffuser or buy a new desk chair. The physical space in which we create needs to be inspirational, comfortable but not so much that it sends us to sleep, and above all, fun. I’ve even put up my Christmas tree early and treated myself to a new bauble. It brings me a lot of joy when it’s lit up next to me. It definitely helps my writing. What would you change about your environment to inspire you in your creativity?

9. Carve out time

Just as the physical space around us is important in making space for creativity, so too is our schedule. For those that work full time in a job that is not our first creative love this can be especially hard. The same is true if we are raising a family or caring for elderly or sick relatives. Whatever the constraints we may have in our lives, if we can, it is really helpful to give ourselves some quality time to just think, listen, pay attention and create. If you’re not currently finding the time to be creative, and would like to be, what can you cut down on, cut back on and cut out to make that space? Trust me, it will be worth it.

10. Get a decent amount of sleep

Regardless of whether you’re a night owl or up with lark, sleep is as fundamental as water when it comes to creativity. We will never do our best work when we are overwrought and overtired. I’ve taken to going to bed earlier in the evening so I can wake up refreshed. I also use a sleep meditation in order to go to sleep at night. It works every time. I recommend giving it a go. It’s better than any medication I’ve ever used.

What are some other ways in which you keep the creative flow throughout your day? Feel free to share your ideas and experiences below.