Motive, Means and Opportunity for a Mindful & Meaningful Year

Fireworks #1
Fireworks #1 (Photo credit: Camera Slayer)

So, it’s onwards and upwards in 2013. I have the motive, means and opportunity – as the cops say of criminal masterminds –to succeed. Only in my case, I don’t plan to commit a crime – but to commit myself to what really matters in life – and especially to my writing.

The blog pause is over and I promise I put my time away to good use.

I did get some writing done but, with the small matter of Christmas to organise, perhaps not as much as I’d hoped. However, I’m not going to be too hard on myself. Last year’s mantra was ‘now’ but this year’s is ‘mind/don’t mind.’ By that I mean I’m only going to be mindful of the important stuff – the stuff that is worth paying attention to. The other stuff – guilt, pointless worrying, and other unimportant wastes of time – I’m not going to pay any heed to them.

So, on that positive note, I’m not going to mind too much that a lot of time in 2012 had to be given over to family matters, health matters and moving house as well as to the ever-increasing demands of my fulltime teaching job. That was all as it should be.

And in spite of all that stuff I did get a reasonable amount of writing done last year. I made progress with both novels-in-progress – my second adult one and my first one for children. I submitted my bi-monthly articles to the writers’ magazine ‘Words with Jam’. I also blogged almost every week. I made a new personal best, record number of sales for my novel ‘Change of Life’ and made it into Amazon’s women’s fiction bestsellers list – albeit briefly.

Other good things from last year – I read some great books – many of them reviewed on here. I spent a lot of quality time with my wee granddaughter during her first year. In July I made my third visit to Israel and had an amazing time there – also recorded here on the blog. And the visit provided some valuable research for the grown-up novel.

Edinburgh, Scotland's capital and second-large...
Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital and second-largest city (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And 2013 has got off to a good start. I spent a few days at New Year in my home city of Edinburgh. It was a lovely break made up of family, fun and fireworks.

Edinburgh: New Year fireworks 2013
Edinburgh: New Year fireworks 2013 (Photo credit: kaysgeog)

The city’s Hogmanay fireworks, which I viewed from the street outside my son’s flat, were an awesome and a fitting start for ‘WriteEnough’s’ year of living mindfully. I stayed with my son and his lovely partner and was thoroughly spoiled by them. I met with my sisters for a good catch up and spent some time with  my elderly father and auntie.

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I spent a magical morning in Edinburgh’s Botanical Gardens, one of my favourite places in this city of many magical locations.  I said hallo to the grand old Figus Sylvatica – one of three specimens of this magnificent silver-barked tree situated at the top of the Gardens. It is under this tree, looking out over the town that I would like my ashes to be scattered – but not for many years yet! I spent some quiet time in the Chinese garden section, enjoying the sight and sound of the gentle waterfalls . And I sat on the bench where I used to go and sit when I was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer and needed to get my head round the fact that I was mortal after all.

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Another highlight of my visit to the capital was going to the John Bellany exhibition at the National Gallery of Scotland. Wow! What an amazing artist he is. Three of my favourite paintings were ‘Eyemouth Boatyard’ because it reminded me of childhood holidays spent near there, ‘My Father’ because it was so alive with the artist’s father’s character and ‘The Obsession’ which was subtitled ‘Whence do we come? Who are we? Whither do we go?’ in which Bellany’s desire to know the meaning of life is grippingly portrayed. And there were so many other incredible pictures, from gorgeous Tuscan landscapes to gruesome Holocaust evocations – and some truly amazing ones done while the artist was recovering from a liver transplant and contemplating his mortality. Fabulous!

English: The National Gallery of Scotland on t...
English: The National Gallery of Scotland on the Mound in Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo taken by Finlay McWalter on 7th August 2004 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And now, I’m back at school and enjoying seeing all the children and hearing about their Christmases. Some have had lovely stories to tell about their near misses almost meeting Santa Claus, hearing him on the landing outside their bedroom door or being certain they saw him cross the bedroom floor. Magic!

And as to my writing motives, means and opportunities – well – I have the means – I have my little writing den back as the granddaughter and her parents have their own home once more; I have the opportunities – as long as I choose to take them and make time for them and I have the motives – two novels almost complete and ready for editing AND –

AND – what could be more motivating for an insecure writer who sometimes wonders if she’s kidding herself about being a writer at all – than to hear (today) that I was shortlisted in the story competition jointly run by the National Library of Scotland, the Scotsman newspaper and Scottish Ballet. The brief was to rework the Hansel and Gretel story for an adult audience and to end it at the part where Hansel and Gretel go into the forest. It seems the judges liked my version. I am smugly but quietly proud.

So here’s to 2013, thank you for reading my blog and happy new year to you all.

Slainte Mhath!

Reading, Writing and the Rhythm of Life

 

The clocks have gone back and it’s early dark, but rather than going into hibernation I seem to be nicely busy.

There’s been reading, writing and several coffee and cake dates with friends. And I’m really looking forward to attending the latest of the Atlas Arts talks this coming Saturday. I’ve enjoyed all of the Atlas talks I’ve been to this year. It’s a great local organisation that promotes the work of artists from all over the UK. This week it will be Nicky Bird talking about her work with photography and new media. You can read more about Atlas at http://www.facebook.com/atlasartpeopleplace  or on twitter at @skyeatlas

And it’s a collage of a post this week – a book review, a round-up of how my writing’s going and a general witter on my life as a busy old bat.

First, the book review. It’s been a while since I read a proper page-turner of a novel – a book that keeps me from getting to sleep at a sensible hour. So it was lovely to discover Louise Douglas’s ‘The Secrets Between Us’. Having previously read and greatly enjoyed two other novels by this author – ‘The Love of my Life’ and ‘Missing You’, I was hoping for an equally enjoyable experience this time. I wasn’t disappointed.

With its shades of Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ this contemporary, romantic, thriller is gripping right from the start. Even although I worked out whodunnit quite a while before the end, I was still in suspense to see how it all played out. My only gripe – and it’s a small one was that the ending was a little rushed and underplayed. But I do recommend the book to fans of Du Maurier and Douglas.

As for my own writing, I seem to have got my mojo back. The creative flow has been a bit interrupted  – and even blocked –  of late, with both work and family stuff having to take priority. But I resolved during my half-term holiday from school to get back to the desk. Or, rather, to set up a new desk.

Family circumstances have meant that my little granddaughter currently has my study as a bedroom. So, I bought a laptop with a nice big screen, a set of good earphones in order to listen to music while I work and block out the noise of the TV, and I’ve set up my office on the dining-room table. And so far so good.

I’ve entered my children’s novel in the ‘Myslexia’ magazine children’s book competition. I’ve entered a reworking of the Hansel and Gretel tale in the competition being run jointly by the National Library of Scotland, Scottish Ballet and the Scotsman newspaper. I’ve written my contribution to the December issue of writing magazine, ‘Words with Jam’.

But the thing I’m most chuffed about is getting back to my partly written, second ‘grown-up’ novel. Yesterday evening, I began re-reading the 80,000 words I’ve written so far. I haven’t looked at it for a few months and I was pleasantly surprised (she says modestly). It was great to be back with the characters and get re-involved in their lives. Now I’m really looking forward to spending my evenings in the company of these people and completing the telling of their story.

I’ve also put three more competitions into my writing diary for early in the new year.

And it won’t be long before 2013 is here. I know everyone of my age finds that time whizzes past, but I suspect that living by the termly rhythm of the school year, makes the passage of time go even faster. At school we’ve just had the excitement of Halloween and bonfire night and this Friday will see staff and pupils all wearing red in honour of armistice day. Then it’s our mega fundraising day for ‘Children in Need’ with lots of Pudsey related activities –  before we career towards the Christmas concert, parties and Santa’s arrival.

Autumn is well and truly ensconced on Skye  – and winter has already run some preview trailers. The crunch and smell of fallen leaves, the woodsmoke and the early morning mists have been trumped by icy roads and pavements. Even the fireworks display had to compete with a heavy snowfall on Saturday evening to win the wow-factor contest.

I’m bracing myself for the short days and very long nights that you get this far north in December and January. But the long evenings mean plenty of time to write. There’s also the granddaughter’s first birthday to look forward to –  as well as the magic that is Christmas. And then the holidays should provide an opportunity to get engrossed in a good book – or two…

Bring it on!