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Recasting

‘Recasting all one has learned’ is one of the development phases of a woman’s life described in Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Rider: 2008).

Recasting all I have learnt is the phase that I am about to enter as I move to the Lake District to manage a new holiday site in Braithwaite near Keswick.

The theory is that a woman’s life is divided into phases of seven years of learning and development, seven being a sacred number linked to the moon’s cycles.

Thankfully these phases are not tied to chronological age. If they were, then I would be some seven years older than I actually am.

Having studied the phases, I have identified that a gynaecological illness leading to a hysterectomy and the end of my physical moon cycles, at the age of 40, had the impact of condensing two phases into one for me.

It was one of the ‘rebirthing’ moments of my life leading to changes in attitude, tasks and values similar to the period of nine months that I am emerging from since my previous holiday site was prematurely closed last year.

Studying the stories in Women Who Run With The Wolves has helped me better understand the trajectory of my life, which has altered professionally roughly every seven to eight years, the seventh year being one of transition.

Although I have lived and worked in different parts of the world and changed professions several times, the one underlying thread in my life is education; be it teaching, learning, training, coaching or self development.

I have been a student, lecturer, therapist, librarian, coach, steward and holiday site manager. I am excited at the prospect of bringing all these skills together and recasting them to breathe life into something new.

I recommend Women Who Run With The Wolves to those of you wishing to deepen your understanding of the female character and gain new insights into the psychology and learning behind the stories we pass down the generations.

Responding to External Life Events

Last week I introduced you to ‘The Octagon’, an alternative life wheel adapted from coaching and the Feng Shui compass. I suggested that it might be used as a tool to develop both your self and your fictional characters.

This week I have taken ideas and concepts from life story writing and book categories to add a further layer to the sketch. This layer consists of external life events that impact not only fictional characters but also your own life story.

I have grouped these events into: local, regional, national, global, galactical, natural, imaginal and ancestral. In this post, I would like to focus on the global event of coronavirus, the consequences of which have been felt by us all.

Every day we see and hear of the negative side of this pandemic, much in our lives has altered and many of us have been displaced. This is the first time in my life time that an external event has caused major changes in our daily life.

Some of these changes will be captured in the 2021 Census for future generations and family historians to piece together, but I would like to remind you that, no matter what happens, you are the author of your own story.

You may feel that lots of your freedoms have been taken away as we fight to contain the situation, but you still have the freedom to choose how to respond to changes that have occurred in your life over the past 12 months.

A story may be made up of many twists and turns but there would be no story if the characters within it did not act. So, I invite you take a closer look at the octagon sketch and consider what you might change in your own life story.

What would you like to have more of, less of or get rid of? What would you like to move, keep or change? What can you do to make a positive change in your life ?

Last week I mentioned Jackanory and looking through windows to listen to stories. Another programme I used to enjoy watching was This Is Your Life. If you were to write your life story, which bookshelf would you like to find it on?

Coaching your Character

One of my favourite programmes as a child was Jackanory. Presenters would invite the audience to look through different shaped windows into the world of story. Today I would like to invite you to look through the octagon window with me for insights into how we can apply thinking from the world of coaching and Feng Shui to develop more holistic characters and a sense of the whole self.

First of all we will concentrate on the centre, the core self and what lies at the heart of the story. From there we can move out to the nearest eight petals which make up the different parts of the self i.e., personal, material, social, emotional, creative, spiritual, professional and mental, as illustrated in the sketch below.

I designed this tool as a way of combining the traditional life wheel used in coaching with the Feng Shui compass or Luopan. For me this gives a more holistic view of oneself, a way of seeing how the different aspects of one’s life fit together and of finding out what is missing from the story.

Think what each of these means for you or for your character and then consider key words that appeal to you from the lists below, which are drawn from both Eastern and Western ways of looking at each subject.

Core: home, values, health and well-being

Personal: family, children, parents, relatives, extended family, new beginnings

Material: self-worth, finances, savings, investments, wealth, prosperity

Social: friends, neighbours, sport, activities, social media, fame, reputation

Emotional: marriage, relationships, significant others, romance, current or future life partner

Creative: self-space, play, leisure, hobbies, recreation, legacy and future

Spiritual: beliefs, world view, travel, helpful people, ethics

Professional: business, work, career path, volunteering, job satisfaction, life journey

Mental: self-cultivation, personal development, personal growth, learning, knowledge

One of the reasons I settled on the shape of the octagon was that you can connect different ones together for each character in your story. You can then see how they fit together, as well as identifying what is missing and which part to focus on to complete the whole.

If you have found this tool useful and would be interested in finding out more about how I can help you develop both as a person and as a creative writer, email me at julema@tiscali.co.uk.

 

Sending Heartfelt Thanks

Balloons of Thanks

The first “thank you” is to Laurie Jonas of http://www.livingmarvelously.com, whose recent email and link to liveyourdream.org inspired me to write this post. Her email was about celebrating being a woman and the link was to an article on 15 Ways to Celebrate Women’s History Month 2021. I would like to respond to three of those ways.

Way 8 is: Write a thank you note to a woman that inspires you.

I would like to expand this by thanking both the men and women who have helped our family through the past 12 months, particularly those who have supported us in actual and virtual ‘bubbles’ or gone out of their way to leave food, treats and other supplies on our doorstep.

Way 11 is: Support women authors and artists.

An easy one for me as I have a passion for books. I am currently reading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and learning The Art of Drawing with Vivienne Coleman’s step by step guide. Waiting in the wings is Becoming by Michelle Obama.

Way 13 is: Mentor a girl or fellow woman.

During the past 9 months I have retrained as a transformational life coach and worked on a voluntary basis with many people, mostly women aged 30+, to support them to adjust to the challenges of living, working and studying in new places, in new ways and under new restrictions.

As I prepare to move to the Lake District to take up my next role as the manager of a new holiday site opening up in May, I would like to extend a final heartfelt thanks to all those who have helped me to transition through the year, including readers and subscribers to this blog.

Writer’s Toolkit: Plot — Scarborough Mysteries

When I was teaching creative writing for Hull University’s BA degree, I would suggest visualising plots as a washing line to hang scenes on. This might work for some. However, several years later on and into my second novel for Constable/Little Brown, I am revising my ideas. With my hysterectomy in 2019, and the restrictions […]

Writer’s Toolkit: Plot — Scarborough Mysteries

Some interesting ideas on thinking about plot development in this post by Kate Evans. Read on to discover how she moves from washing lines, to jigsaws, to collage. Might inspire you to draw your own comparisons between how you approach different activities and how you could transfer these approaches to the way you bring your writing together.

Recommended for World Book Day

Recommended Reads

I have always been an avid reader and can never walk by a bookshop without going in. In my 40s I worked for the library service in North Yorkshire and Darlington while studying for an M.A. in creative writing, and had the pleasure of facilitating the Classics and Poetry reading groups.

I enjoy swapping, sharing and talking about books with others, especially when I come across a new author. In recent times I have only been able to do that with the person in my support bubble and was delighted to recommend The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson to her. I was then intrigued when she looked at the cover and said: ‘That’s a real Judith book.’

To answer that question I have been browsing my bookshelves and reflecting on the fact that, while I shelve my books in categories, they all have one thing in common. They are about journeys. Journeys to ancient, exotic or fictional lands, both inside and outside of past, present and future time, where they learn new ways of speaking, being, seeing, thinking, doing and feeling.

As World Book Day approaches, I would like to recommend the following to you:

The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson: The story of a pastor, his wife and children who are abducted from their home in Iceland and sold into slavery in Algiers. Based on an historical event in 1627, this debut novel is richly imagined, well written and uniquely constructed. As a writer, I was inspired by the use of colour to capture the sense of time and place.

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel: The first of 5 books in the Earth’s Children series and the beginning of orphan Ayla’s journey of survival in a prehistoric world. What stands out for me in this book is the foreshadowing of events and the level of detail woven into the story that gives the reader an insight into the life of the Neanderthal. Detail which comes from meticulous research.

The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula le Guin: A collection of 4 stories from the Earthsea saga set in an Archipelago where wizards still work their magic and dragons pose a real threat to lives and livelihoods. I have read and reread these stories time and again to immerse myself in the magical world and renew my sense of awe and wonder. I love both the stories and the way they are told.

My own writing reflects my tastes in reading and is informed by learning from these and other authors, (both male and female) and life experiences. Grief is the only thing that has ever stopped me reading and writing. When my dad died I felt bereft. My heart and mind were numb. I had neither the concentration for reading nor the inspiration for writing until the day I went into the woods.

Spending time sitting in the woods watching the primrose lilies drift by on the outgoing tide, listening to the birds singing in the trees and the cobalt blue dragonflies dancing in the reeds felt like being in another world, far from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and somehow, through connecting to the natural world I found the will to write: paraphrased from a journal entry.

That ‘time out’ was the turning point which restored my creative flow. On my next day off I visited the library in Norwich (where I was based at the time) and discovered the tale of the Wolf of Hexham (a link to my ancestors), which I then began rewriting during a drop-in session in the ‘Dragon Hall’ of the National Centre for Writing.

The Long Return: an essay on belonging — cultureprobe

This is an essay about belonging. It is also about connection, identity and shame. A version of this will appear in a new book Birds can Fly by my old school friend, the artist Paul Harfleet. What is it about the sight and sound of Swifts, swooping and circling, shrieking and calling, that gets to […]

The Long Return: an essay on belonging — cultureprobe

I was going to blog on nature writing this week and then came across this wonderful essay, which I would like to share with you.

Chinese Fortune Cookies

Japan Day display Northallerton

The above photo is of the haiku stall I organised for the Festival of Japan in Northallerton some years ago. I normally post about oriental poetry forms such as: haiku, haiga or tanka around Chinese New Year, but, to celebrate the Year of the Ox, I decided to post about Fortune Cookies instead.

I recently learnt that Fortune Cookies were invented either by the Benkyodo bakery in San Francisco or by the Hong Kong Noodle Co. in Los Angeles. Both claim to have been the first to come up with the idea of putting paper ‘fortunes’ inside cookies made from flour, sugar, vanilla and sesame seed oil. If you’d like to give this a go, there are several recipes on the internet.

You might like to write your own ‘fortunes’ on pieces of paper to slot into the cookies as you fold them or you could take a look at the list of fortunes I found at http://www.joshmadison.com. The list was created from ‘fortunes’ received by him in Chinese food orders.

Reading through the list made me laugh, smile and wonder about the potential of these ‘sayings about life’ to inspire some creative output. The following are a few to whet your appetite:

Remember the birthday but never the age

There’s no such thing as an ordinary cat

What’s hidden in an empty box?

There are many other sources of ‘fortunes’ and ideas for what to do with them, or you could take a look at the following blogs which regularly post haiku: CatherineArcolio:leafandtwig.wordpress.com and watermelonseeds1.wordpress.com.

Creative Writing and Wellbeing

I was recently reviewing writing I had previously done for therapeutic purposes and decided to refresh my knowledge of what is being written about this subject at the moment. During the course of my research I discovered a few things, which I would like to share with you.

https://livingmarvelously.com has an interesting post entitled: 4 Techniques for Manifesting Through Writing.  The post covers journaling, scripting, morning pages and release writing. Scripting was a new idea to me and one that I might try in the weeks ahead.

Bath College has a 5 week online course starting on the 23rd February entitled: Creative Writing:Writing for Wellbeing. The course includes exploring the sense of self through writing and writing as a reflective tool. This covers letters, journals and poetry.

Teesside University is now offering an international, online M.A. in Creative Writing and Wellbeing. While this course includes some of my favourite modules from the traditional M.A. I completed in 2011, i.e. Writing for Personal and Professional Development, it also has modules for Creative Writing and Wellbeing.

I recently returned to journaling and reflective writing as a means of discovering what is surfacing from my unconscious mind as I learn to draw. This is a new creative outlet for me and one that I hope to combine with words for a future exhibition.

Breaking Free of Boredom

Breaking Free is the title of the doodle above, which was an attempt to capture my mindset just before starting to learn how to draw. I am posting about my new creative outlet today as several people have mentioned to me this week that they are feeling bored.

Boredom seems to have come to the fore as lockdown was extended. Yet, out of boredom can come many unexpected and surprising things.

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying that: “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” We have much to thank him for and can find opportunities to turn the monotony and solitude of our current quiet lives into a productive use of time.

We can break free of routine by: mixing things up, doing the same things at different times, in different places, or different things in new places, thinking out of the box.

For years I have been wanting to learn how to draw. This is something I put on the back burner following negative criticism of my childhood attempts, but, a couple of months ago, I decided it was time to try again. I started with doodling, and then bought a book on learning how to draw.

In recent weeks, I have learnt about strokes, shapes and shades, looked into oriental line drawing and tessellated images and how these are represented in nature.

This has added a new dimension to how I see the world when out walking, brought me hours of enjoyment and a sense of freedom. I hope this post inspires you to find new ways to break free of the boredom. I encourage you to think about something you have always wanted to try, give it a go and see where it takes you.

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