Continuing Personal Development…

A while back I was feeling pretty unsuccessful.  I don’t sell a lot of books and for some reason I equate the number of books that I do sell with my personal sense of achievement. That hasn’t changed… I have.

Since we moved to this town, I’ve been feeling very low and trying to write when my brain refuses to focus and co-operate with my muse is almost impossible. I started doing various art & craft courses – mostly to get myself out of the house and talking to adults more. I was also trying to keep my hand in with the techniques so that I could teach them if I ever went back to work (I’m a Design & Technology / Art & Design Teacher remember?)

One thing that the courses have done is give me more confidence in my own abilities. Writing is a very solitary pursuit and I had thought that doing the courses would stop me writing, but  practising my other creative skills and socialising with people face to face, other than just with Writers and Artists online,  I found it revved up my writing muse and I found that I was managing to write something on my WIP’s every day.
Don’t get me wrong – I love my online friends; they stop me going crazy and make me feel better about myself, but the face to face interaction makes me feel less like a hermit.

So here I am nearly at the end of may, with over 50,000 words into Teacups & Time Travel. I’ve also written a flash story and a short story for two different anthologies (although I have no idea if they’ve got in or not) and I’m working on another one. I’ve also started looking at my blogsite here and my branding etc in the hope that I can improve my chances of selling my work, using the Panoptic Foundations Website Planner.

I’m not going to be going back into teaching for a long while – and when I do, it’s almost certainly going to be Adult Education rather than Secondary Education; it’s not that I don’t like teaching kids (I do) but I need the freedom to be able to teach what I want and how I want, rather than having to stick to the Curriculum that the Dept of Ed force on us and I find the other side of Secondary education (marking, reports, politics etc) far too stressful to enjoy the Teaching side.

So I’m going to continue writing and publishing. I’m going to continue taking courses, crafting and designing… and hopefully between the two, my sense of achievement will latch onto something other than my sales figures!

Satyulemas is coming…

Mid-Winter is a tricky time of year for me.
Firstly there’s all that nonsense about Christmas being warred upon. People get up in arms about the strangest of things – who really cares what sort of paper cups that Starbucks is using?
It’s annoying and amusing at the same time.

Then there’s all the hoo-har about what we should be saying:
“Merry Christmas!”
“Happy Holidays!”
“No, it’s Christmas…”
“It’s not just Christmas, there’s:
Saint Nicholas Day (Christian),
Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexican),
St. Lucia Day (Swedish), Hanukkah (Jewish),
Christmas Day (Christian),
Three Kings Day/Epiphany (Christian),
Boxing Day (Australian, Canadian, English, Irish),
Kwanzaa (African American),
Omisoka (Japanese),
Yule (Pagan),
Saturnalia (Pagan)…”
“We’re a Christian Country everyone should be saying Merry Christmas!”
That conversation is always more annoying than amusing, because it drags way too much religion into a season that should be more about Family and Love than which version of god you worship.

Then the Seasonal Affective Disorder hits – the dark mornings and short days, coupled with predominantly cold and damp weather make me feel depressed, ill, irritable and definitely not festive.

I grew up as an Anglican, which meant that I went to church carol services like Christingle and church christmas parties. I sang the carols and bought into the stories that were told… it wasn’t until I was a lot older that I realised it wasn’t the religion I wanted to be a part of.
But I still loved the music and the happiness that the carol services seemed to bring to the children at that time of year.

After I met TOH, we spent Christmas with his family and for several years we had holidays full of music, wine, family and fun… until his mum left us and although his sister tried hard to keep it going, the holiday fell apart.
For a while it was hard to keep the festive feeling going. We managed to do Christmas itself, mainly for our kids sake. Being in Guiding helped because we’d do carol concerts and christmas activities.

After we had so many problems with housing and finance, TOH and I decided that we’d celebrate what we called “Satyulemas” – this starts on the 17th December  (Saturnalia),  takes in Yule on the 21st  (Astronomical Midwinter) and covers Christmas on the 25th Dec, then finishes the day after my youngest Daughter’s birthday.

So this year, I’ve decided to start a new tradition –

 

Three of these books have homes to go to… but the fourth one (signed & dedicated)  is going to be going to the winner of my Satyulemas Competition!

There will also be E Book Copies for four runners up.

All you have to do is comment on this Blog post with your favourite, book related,  Mid-Winter Holiday Memory.

The competition will end by midnight (GMT) on Satyulemas – 17th December 2018 – the winner will be notified by email, so don’t forget to leave a contact email!

Feel free to share the news – I want to hear about everyone’s memories and hopefully make a new one for someone!

 

 

 

 

The Muse – Illusive but friendly…

Every Writer has one of these Creatures sat on your shoulder. As do Artists, Musicians, Dancers, Crafters, Cooks… any creative pursuit attracts the Muse. So what on earth are they?

Muse Species

There are the species that I (personally) have encountered:

The Pen Muse
This is the muse that is attracted to Writers. It can look like anything; it’s a sneaky Bugger at the best of times, always changing form and hiding when you least expect it.
It delights in whispering in your ear just as you drop off to sleep or inspiring the weirdest of dreams… and when you try to write them down somehow, it runs off again, leaving a trail of gibberish behind it that is a pain in the arse to decipher the next morning…

The Paintbrush Muse
This one loves to sit in warm sunny places and will often curl up on whatever it is that you’re drawing or trying to work on. Yes, it often takes the form of a cat or dog – mostly because it adores getting in on the action and leaving hairs in the paint (clay, plaster, glue etc).
It’s also the best Muse for Dreamtime because they love to sleep.

The Tool Muse
This one usually takes the form of a Magazine, brand new tool, pattern or material. It is primarily a Crafting Muse , but I have seen it appear in the kitchen as well, usually after a visit to IKEA  or receiving the Lakeland catalogue through the door. It usually inspires a new crafting pursuit, but will jump ship to the next new tool / crafting idea after you’ve used it a few times, thus forcing you to collect tools and materials!

Care of Your Muse

Feeding
This is completely different from person to person. The Muse tends to enjoy your own favourite foods and beverages, so make sure that you imbibe and eat those things that it likes on a regular basis or you risk losing it to a Creative that will feed it in the way it likes.

Bathing
Muses like to bathe regularly, they can get strangely obstinate when they feel they are dirty. Again, the method of bathing is different from Muse to Muse. Some like to soak in a bubble bath, others enjoy the bracing experience of a shower.  I’ve come across some species that like to swim in pools and still others that appear to prefer salt water.

Rest
Muses appear to have different sleeping schedules to Humans. They can be awake and bouncy, ready to play, at the oddest of hours or sleeping soundly for hours. However, (in my experience) they seem to function best when you’re warm and snuggled into something soft.

Personally, I’ve found that the Pen Muse is the worst for inappropriate sleep – when I’m sitting at the desk ready to write; he’s curled up somewhere warm asleep and when I’m just about dropping off to sleep on my keyboard, he’s awake and inspired, poking me with his inky paws and telling me what to write next.

Sickness
You will find that when your Muse is ill, you will find it VERY difficult to concentrate on any creative endeavour. There is no real cure to this other than time and proper care.

Sorry if you were looking for a quick fix…

Play / Exercise
All Muses like to play.  What they play with varies. Some Muses like to exert physical effort and enjoy Team Sports, Running, Swimming, Walking… the list is a long one! Others will be drawn to Music and you can take them out Dancing or to Zumba.
There are more sedentary Muses as well; these tend to like watching TV, going to the Movies or playing Console / Computer Games.
The third type is in the middle of these two. These Muses that will work best with a varied play routine.

Playtime is usually when you can get the very best ideas out of them, but be warned; not every idea will be a viable one or will be what you are looking for for the piece you are currently working on.  Just make a note of them (mentally or otherwise) and keep playing until the Muse indicates that it needs to rest.

Training Your Muse

It is possible to train your Muse to produce ideas on command. They are fickle creatures though and you will find that if you try too hard to train your muse it could get upset with you and disappear on you.
Sadly I cannot advise you on what the best training is – it’s entirely personal to the Muse in question and often takes considerable trial-and-error over many years to perfect.

I have not yet found the perfect training regime.
I know there are writers out there that have trained their Pen Muses; they seem able to produce books / stories / articles  time and again without seeming to break a sweat (Yes, I know that’s not exactly true – I’m having fun here, leave me alone) and they have different routines that don’t work for me.
This is fine – part of the work of becoming a good writer is discovering your Muse’s training regime.

Meet My Muses

I currently have two Muses, this is what they look like in Resting Form:

This is Puff, the Faerie Dragon and Pen Muse.

Puff

 His favourite foods are Chips, Chocolate and Starbursts. He enjoys drinking Dr Pepper and Gin & Tonic, but will function (with many complaints) on Coffee and Tea. Puff is a Sedentary Muse, so prefers to watch TV / Movies,  play Tetris / Candy Crush etc and go Walking or Swimming.

This is Stardust, the Faerie Unicorn and a  Paintbrush / Tool Muse hybrid

Stardust

Her favourite Foods are Tortilla Chips-and-cheese dip, Ice Cream and Cake. She likes to drink Tea (mostly Chai and Earl Grey) and Wine. Stardust likes to go Swimming, Cycling and Walking. She also likes reading and browsing the internet.

Over to you

I know that there are other species of Muse and I should imagine there are as many forms to each species as there are ways of being creative.  I also apologise for the lack of pictures,in the Species section of this post; Stardust (my Paintbrush/Tool Muse Hybrid) has gone on holiday and I can’t for the life of me get the images in my words onto paper in visual form.

Feel free to add to my list of species, tell me what your personal muse is like or contribute images of what you think that the different species look like in the comments below – let’s have some fun!