Tag Archives: curiosity

How I Took my Eye Off the Prize

Pass the Parcel. It was a game we played at parties as children. A waiting game. A tempting game. We sat in a circle. Crossed legged. Filled with anticipation. Digesting soggy egg salad sandwiches and over-sugared chocolate cake.

When the music stopped, if the parcel was in your lap, you were allowed to unwrap it; tearing away a layer like the papery skin of a bulky onion.

As the minutes ticked by, the parcel diminished, growing smaller and smaller with each undressing.

I wanted the final prize. I longed to be the lucky winner whom fate looked kindly upon. I sat patiently in that circle, party after party, dreaming of being the one. The golden child who would reveal the treasure.

It never occurred to me that fate played no part in this process at all. It was all up to the grown-up with the cassette player. It was they who pressed the pause button. They who determined which child became the proud owner of a yoyo or a skipping rope or a leaky bottle of bubbles.

The funny thing is – I have no recollection of ever ‘winning’ that game, despite that fact I played it countless times. But I do remember the unwrapping. I vividly recall painstakingly peeling back the tape, willing the present to appear, even though I knew it was at least two songs away.

I remember being enthralled with the possibility. Compelled by the potential. Of course I wanted the gift at the end, but I was equally fascinated by the mechanics. I liked feeling the paper crinkle in my hands as it fell away from the parcel. Perhaps I also perversely enjoyed the feeling of envy that flooded me when it was all over. It began to define me as the child on the outskirts. It prepped me to avoid the limelight, in favour of the familiar safety of the shadows.

Why this memory now? Because it was right around this time last year that my novel, Playing Along, was passed on endlessly, while I sat silently in the circle, cross legged, holding my breath. Waiting to get lucky.

It took me until I was 42 to fully understand how important it was for me to take ownership of the damn cassette player. I could learn how to commandeer my own pause button.  I could release myself from being purely at the mercy of a benevolent publisher, and I could stop focusing solely on ‘the prize’.

Those  cheap yoyos never really worked anyway. Can you imagine all the scores of  ‘winning’ children left with a tangled string and a sinking feeling of inadequacy, even though they were indeed ‘the one’?

Once the all powerful cassette player became mine, Write To Be You workshops and blog were born. I liberated my creativity and discovered a ‘voice’. In doing so, I directly and indirectly released others, also bound too tightly in the very same game.

It has been incredibly humbling and inspiring listening and reading as new voices articulate in that circle around me. Thank you for keeping me company. Each week I learn something fresh and valuable from the process of writing the blog, reading your comments and stories, running the workshops and educating myself about self-publishing.

There is so much to be gained from paying attention to simply passing the parcel. Who knew that taking my eye off the prize could be so much fun?!

What memories of childhood party games do you have? Could you see them as metaphors in your present day?

OR

Reflect on if you might benefit from taking your eye off the prize and immersing yourself more fully in the process instead.

Have you been wanting to share your thoughts or stories on Write To Be you but never taken the leap? There is no time like the present!  Stop waiting for the ‘gift’ to materialise in your lap, just post something from your heart and pass the parcel on!

If you are reading this via an email subscription go directly to the website to comment! Clink on any highlighted links in the email to take you there!

 

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Ready, Steady Write #23

Find your miracle today…

write for ten minutes using the image as your starting point

share your discoveries in the comments…

The Small Print

The US election is breathing heavily. The air is charged. Last week Halloween equalized us… we were all pounding the pavements watching out for our kids and trusting our neighbours to treat them well. This week we are scowling at cars with ‘bad’ bumper stickers and steering clear of houses with the ‘other’ sign perched proudly on their front lawn.

I understand that safety comes in numbers. We look for our ‘likeness’ in others to find protection and common ground. We make assumptions and assessments based on who has checked the same boxes as we have. But boxes can be a burden, especially those that pile high without ever getting the chance to be unpacked.

Democracy is essential but it comes with a list of side effects. Check the small print.

May experience narrow mindedness. Might cause rash generalizations. Beware of jaded judgements. 

If our society continues to rely on categorization to define one another, we are at risk of being stripped of our individuality. Our unique quirks. The ridges on our fingertips that render us particular.

Elections, by their very nature, encourage stark polarization, which as a general rule is best avoided. In my ideal world, a balanced dialogue would take precedent. All politicians would explore vs. explode. Politics would be more like a high school debate club and less like opposing sides at a rivalrous sports event.

Surely we want our younger generations to grow up curious and interested in every dimension of a human being, rather than learning early on how to perilously pigeonhole?

But I guess each of us has a different fantasy of an ‘ideal’ world.

It’s easy to be pulled in by all the ways we are similar – what’s far more challenging is to take time to delineate how we are different, and still remain open to cultivating connection.*

*Some restrictions may apply!

 

How are you bound by the boxes you check? Do you belong to a category that you are tired of being defined by? OR Use the word DIFFERENCE as a springboard and jump from there. Write for ten minutes. I’m here waiting to catch your words…

See you at the polls!

 

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Ready, Steady, Write #22

Reflect on this image

Notice what comes into your mind…

a story? a poem? a memory? a stream of thoughts?

Pay attention to the texture of your emotions

focused and blurred

Write for ten minutes

Share your response to the prompt

(before you press submit comment, please click on the requested fruit and help me keep up the fight against spam!)

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Some Like it Hot

Someone close to me went to an earth shift sweat lodge this week. It sounds uncomfortable doesn’t it? Apparently it is. This isn’t a luxury, sanitized sauna at a four-seasons resort. This is the real deal. You and twenty other people cram shoulder to shoulder into a tent, low to the ground, where you sit on the soil amongst hot burning rocks for two hours.

In the dark.

Dripping ceaselessly.

Confronted by reluctance. Fear. Resistance. Anxiety. And eventually surrender.

And when you surrender – that’s when the good stuff apparently starts happening. That’s when you feel reflective. Resilient. Courageous. Cleansed.

Anyway – that’s what I’ve been told. Which is a very different experience to trying it out myself.

Think about how often  we are ‘moved’ by another person’s story? Moved to tears. Moved to smile. Moved to consider.

Being moved is a valaubale resposnse but also a sedenatry one. Feeling something deeply doesn’t always lead to allowing that feeling to propel you.

Now think about how often you ‘move’ after being impacted by something you’ve heard or read? Move to to contribute. Move to change something in your world. Move towards participation.

You might well be intrigued by someone else’s life experience but if that intrigue doesn’t lead to inspiration, and that inspiartion doesn’t lead to action, then all it remains to be is – someone else’s experience.

Am I proposing that we all squeeze into a hot tent? No. But I am suuggesting that we become more open to being affected by other people’s lives. I am suggesting that we pay closer attention to what ‘moves’ us and then make a move in return.

I personally was fascinated by the idea of the sweat lodge. It left me pondering how much time and money and energy we expend in the developed world keeping ourselves ‘comfortable’ when there is much to gain from being confronted by discomfort. Whether that discomfort be awkwardness, anxiety, fear, trepidation.

It’s essential every once in awhile to drag ourselves out of our element and exist in a place that feels too hot or too scary or too new.

Staying safely cocooned leads to apathy. Not only apathy towards events in the world around us, but apathy towards ourselves. A numb sense of disconnection. Distance from the potential to truly and profoundly grow.

The ‘movement’ I’m imagining can be any size and take any shape.

  • Tackling a conversation you’ve been avoiding.
  • Taking steps towards launching a new project.
  • Signing up for a class or a workshop.
  • Trying something you don’t think you can do.
  • Volunteering at an organization that you believe in.
  • Beginning a diet or an exercise program.

It doesn’t really matter what it is.

Just as long as it makes you sweat.

Write about discomfort. What is it you need to do at this point in your life that will bring sweat and growth?  Remember it doesn’t have to be huge. Baby steps count too. Perhaps posting something here on Write To Be You can be your first attempt at sweating. Does writing make you uncomfortable? Post anonymously. Try it…

OR

Write for ten minutes about something you DON’T want to write about. Face the discomfort. Burn it or tear it up afterwards if you feel the need to.

 

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Play Me, I’m Yours

I was in London last month visiting my ‘other’ home. I arrived feeling dislocated.  It’s an odd sideways movement returning to a place where you have left roots. A place where  you have made memories… sweet and bitter, clear and fuzzy, quiet and loud. When I land at the airport I feel like explaining myself. I want to pause at the passport control and tell them my story.

“I’m both you know. British and American. I have an American passport but a British accent. I’m double sided. Split. Torn in two. I was born here. Have lived in both places. I am always questioning where I belong.”

I wonder if they would listen – momentarily intrigued by the chance to see me as dimensional, rather than a flat document needing to be stamped.

So often we bypass opportunities to hear people’s stories. To colour in their outlines. To add flesh to their bones. I can think of too many occasions where I have met someone in a social situation, and even though I have asked numerous questions expressing a genuine interest in who they are, I am met with indifference. They show no curiosity. Ask nothing about me.

Sometimes we become so bound up in our own head space that we forget to look outward. We forget how nourishing and surprising it can feel to make connections.

During my trip to London, a friend and I set off optimistically with our daughters for a walk on Hampstead Heath. The sun above our heads was daring us to peel to off layers and believe we could be warm. But within minutes of embarking on our jaunt – the heavens cracked open and drenched us through and through. There was nowhere to hide. The four of us huddled together on a nearby bench under two small umbrellas for almost an hour. We shared biscuits and gave in to the absurdity of an English July, growing wetter by the second. When the rain finally let up and we stood up, a rainbow etched itself onto the sky and I knew the afternoon would remain vivid in my memory, even more so than if it had been a simple, sunny picnic.

As we made our way back to our cars we passed a piano in the park. Recently pianos have been dotted across the city of London with signs inviting people to ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’. They even come with piano ponchos to protect them from showers.

My eleven year old daughter took up the invitation. She carefully removed the dripping plastic cover, sat down underneath the rainbow and played ‘Yellow’ by Coldplay — the smile on my friend’s four year old’s face was priceless. I stood transfixed by the magic of the moments unfolding — knowing that the outing was transforming into a story I would always want to tell.

An older man on his bike stopped to listen too and when my daughter finished, he took over, playing an enthusiastic rendition of a Bee Gee’s song. He told us of his frequent visits to the piano in the park. He told us about the others who gathered around him each time for a ‘sing-a-long’.

We became threads linking each other together.

Whoever it is who came up with the brilliant idea of putting pianos in public spaces is a genius. I’d like to write them a thank you letter and tell them how grateful I am that they understand the value of connection. The pianos are providing the gift of a story… a story told through hundreds of notes played in countless configurations daily. These instruments, bared to the elements, hold chapters of lives lived in sudden unexpected bursts of creativity. They are bringing people into contact. Encouraging expression. Allowing strangers to seem less strange.

I only wish they had thought to place a piano in Heathrow airport. At the front of the queue . A welcome distraction while we all wait to be stamped.

Write about an unexpected interaction or connection. Curiosity about others fuels our writing lives. Pay attention. Don’t pass up a chance to ‘Play Me.’

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Wait Here

I’ve been sitting here for a while now pondering the blank screen. It’s not a comfortable feeling – waiting. But it’s also not an unfamiliar one. I feel like I spend a lot of life waiting. Waiting for the oven to pre heat. Waiting for the traffic to move. Waiting to hear back from someone about something. Waiting for the result. Waiting for my toenail polish to dry. Waiting for  my vitiligo to spread. Waiting for that sinking feeling. Waiting for my ‘aha’ moment. Waiting to  visit the places that I’ve left behind. Waiting to take my own advice.

When I was teenager I used to wait for the phone to ring. Actually, looking back, I understand that I was waiting to become a grown-up, a woman, a lover, a writer. I was waiting for life.

It’s tedious isn’t it, this waiting for life to happen?

And it’s hard to avoid. How do we reconcile our expectations of what we imagined might happen with the reality of what is happening? How do we push ourselves out of the waiting room and into the world?

Fifteen years ago I had a book published. it was a children’s picture book which took me no more than a few hours to write. The story arrived inside of me like a sudden gift. It landed elegantly whole, not in splinters or fragments like stories sometimes do. It was the tale of a puppy called Charlie, who was searching for an owner. He was so determined to find the ‘perfect’ owner that he put an ad in the newspaper with a checklist of his criteria (he was a very enterprising puppy).

And then he waited.

And waited.

And waited.

While he was waiting, he discovered a true friend and companion who lived next door. While he was waiting he began to live.

The book, to my surprise, performed very well when it found its way out of my head and into the bookstores. It was reprinted. It was translated. It was nominated for awards. It was selected by the ‘selectors’ as something special.  I thought getting the book published meant that MY waiting was over. I assumed it meant that the career I had been searching for had begun.

I was wrong. And right.

It had begun but the waiting never ended. And a ‘career’ is not one neatly wrapped story, tied with a purple and green polka dotted bow. For some of us, a career is an unwieldily package. Sharp cornered. Taped tightly. Tough to get into to. Sometimes it is even too heavy to pick up and shake, preventing us from flirting with the fantasy of what it might contain.

I never had another book published. Not for lack of trying. I tried. Not a hundred times, but I tried. I waited in vain for that box to find me again. The one with with satin ribbon and the soft cotton bedding, cradling the diamond. But now I’m taking an ironic page from my own book. I’m channeling Charlie and paying some attention to what is vs.what if.

I’m becoming rather fond of  the ungainly weather worn parcel with the tattered bottom. I’ve learnt the value in hacking away at various corners revealing curious glimpses into what just might be inside. I’m actively practicing patience, which requires a lot more productive energy than sitting around and tapping the table top.

And fifteen years on, publishing is no longer dependent on endless waiting. So I’m here, writing, because the only thing my words depend on – are me.

Write for ten minutes about the word ‘waiting’. What are you waiting for? Is there an area of your life where you can stop waiting and take back some power instead?

OR

Write a fictional piece with the theme of ‘waiting’. This could be the beginning of something longer. A character sketch. An outline. An opening paragraph. Anything! Don’t wait… Just write!

 

 

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Ready, Steady, Write # 20

Photograph by cjohnlang

Reflect on this image

What floats into your mind?

A story?

A memory?

A wish?

Allow words to flow

Share in the comments…

 

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Ready, Steady, Write # 18

Photograph by India Thain

Use your imagination…

Share a short short story

A one line caption

A personal reflection

Ready?

Steady?

Go

 

Ready, Steady, Write # 15

Photograph by David Green, 2012

We all stumble across weird in things in the world
but then just pass them by.
Tune into what’s around you.
STAY CURIOUS
Curiosity opens up your writing
and leaves you willing to receive.

WHAT’S THE STORY HERE?!
(remember the fun part is sharing it)

Could be anything, right?
WRITE!

Fiction, a personal response, a poem, one line
Whatever YOU choose
At Write To Be You
there is always permission to play!

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