Tag Archives: growth

Meet ‘Wild Words’

This blog has been sleeping like a baby bear hibernating, dreaming up new schemes for the warmer months. Meanwhile, I’ve been dancing around my second novel and running groups from home, humbled each week by the raw and healing power of  truth seeking and truth speaking. Allowing vulnerability to push through the surface of our pages is always frightening and often liberating. I see it time and time again, when women dare to write about something hidden… they arrive in the light… earth on their hands… tears on their cheeks… hope in their eyes.

Today on Write To Be You, I’m thrilled to host a post by my friend and fellow writer/psychotherapist, Bridget Holding.Bridget main photo

Bridget works on the other side of the world from me in France and the UK, but our message shares the same reflection. She has much wisdom to offer about hibernation and I’m excited to introduce you to her wonderful site WILD WORDS. Explore her selection of online courses and writing retreats – enrollment for her current online course ends this week!  Enjoy!

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Freeing our ‘Wild Words’

By Bridget Holding

I run ‘Wild Words’ online writing courses, and writing holidays in the beautiful mountains of the Pyrenees, in France. Our aim at Wild Words is to free the caged words within us, and harness them on the page. We explore what it means for ourselves and our words to be ‘wild’.

Often I begin workshops by asking participants ‘what are your wild words?’ Immediately, metaphorical hands shoot up. Isn’t it obvious? Wild words are like the tiger, expressive, untamed, and fiery.

But are they? Not always. Because that initial answer is often not our own. Rather, it’s the one that is conditioned into us. It’s a societal view of how we believe our words should behave if we graciously deign to allow them free reign.

And the reason we should be suspicious about our first answer to this question? It’s because the answer is so easy to come up with. In fact, it’s too easy. If we are right, our wild words will rise up all-singing and all-dancing. They will be barefaced shameless, and proud.

However, would the words that are caged within us, really emerge so functional after so long a confinement? At the very least an animal that is confined for a long period of time would come blinking out into the light. And more likely it would cower in the corner of the cage, too terrified to come out at all. And when it did emerge, it would be unsteady on its feet, over-reactive to the bombardment of unfamiliar stimulus it encountered.

Trust me, those words that we really censor, we find it difficult even to think, let alone put down on the page.

Frequently in my psychotherapy practice I see clients who have gaps in their memory, places in which there should be thoughts and words, but in which there are no longer words at all. As writers we can tell when we get close to our wildest words, by the efforts we make to avoid going there. Our bodies and minds change tack urgently. We tune out, cut off, fly away…

So how can we find our own, more authentic answer to this question? Here are some ideas that might help:

-Be patient. Wait for your authentic words to emerge in their own time. Don’t rush them, or force them.

-Sit alongside yourself in the process; support the fragile part of yourself.

-Think about what you want to write, what you really, truly want to write, not just what you are used to believing that you want to write.

-Think about what you have to lose by releasing those Wild Words. Bring that into consciousness. How can you ease that fear?

-Ask yourself: What would it mean to allow my words to be just exactly as they are?

Writing Prompt: Having read this article, spend fifteen minutes writing a piece of prose or poetry that is your personal answer to the question: ‘What are your wild words?’

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December Light

photo 1-2It’s been six months since I’ve posted on the blog. How to begin again after such a long and unplanned break?

Begin again.

One breath after another. One word after another. One thought after another, stretching out stiff limbs, like a hibernating bear waking up from an extremely long and heavy lidded nap.

I used to think that LA never changed. When I first moved back here from the UK three and a half years ago, I’m ashamed to say I felt aggravated by the endless sunshine. I was bound by my longing for seasons, unable to mutter a word of my weather lust to anyone for fear of seeming ungrateful. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the warmth, it’s just that I missed other temperatures. I missed being a voyeur of the trees beyond my bedroom window, watching them dress and undress as the year unfolded.

Turns out I was wrong about LA. The weather does change, only I wasn’t open to noticing. That ‘rigidity’ can often happen when we cling too intently to first impressions. We lock into our opinions, and occasionally we refuse to budge, becoming dependant on the familiarity of a well worn point of view.

Subtle shifts happen here in December and I’m becoming aware. LA is uncharacteristically humble in these later months, liberated from the usual red carpet swagger of a prolonged and brazen summer .

A surprising chill creeps up when the sun dips, and lingers before it rises. The hazy hot smog dissolves gradually and in its place, the sky explodes in the early evening, transforming into a canvas of swirly colour – a parade of pinks, oranges and blues. Certain trees on certain streets shed their leaves, offering up tiny unexpected microcosms of autumn. All but the hard core even retire their flip flops. For a little while at least. And the truly imaginative emerge after a morning of light rain dressed to impress in Hunter wellies and waterproof jackets fit for February in the Scottish Highlands.

LA changes. I just wasn’t letting it.

Sometimes we simply need to pick up where we left off, instead of berating ourselves for having left off in the first place. And sometimes we need to let go of our assumptions and look again. With new eyes. In a fresh December light…

Reflect on this: Is there a situation or a person in your life that you are convinced is unable to change? Can you take a step back and create some space, allowing that person or that situation to be considered in a new light? Perhaps that person is even you? Give yourself and others permission to shift. When you are feeling stuck, I invite you to simply begin again… breath by breath, word by word, thought by thought…

Writing prompt: Ten minutes on stuckness/ first impressions/ beginning again/ or your internal weather patterns. Choose one or all of the above…

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Braking Habits

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I have a vivid memory of sitting in a café with a trusted friend, many moons ago, lamenting my then relationship.

I had quite the shopping list. Why couldn’t my ‘other half’ be different? Why couldn’t all my love and input make things ‘better’ for us?  Couldn’t he see how hard I was working to try and help? This particular friend doesn’t cake decorate her words. She’s direct. Focused. She knows how to intercept tears.

Here’s what she said:

“Picture this – two broken down cars parked on the same street. One of them belongs to you and one of them belongs to him. You have all the tools you need to fix your own car, but for some inexplicable reason you are spending all your time attempting to fix him first, even though your own rent-a-wreck won’t start. You are NOT equipped to fix his car – only he can do that! Newsflash – you ARE qualified to work on your own misfires, and if he sees you revving your engine, polishing your rims, changing your oil – there’s a good chance he’ll be inspired to do the same.”

Okay – so I might have embellished her metaphor slightly, but the wisdom remains. At the time, I felt defeated. Why wasn’t I ‘enough’ to tune him up? Surely he wanted to ‘improve’ in order to make me happier?

Before long, I realized my sage confidante was a pretty astute psychological mechanic, and I embarked on a mission to service my own ailing parts, instead of wasting my precious energy using a rusty unsuitable spanner on his.

In essence, I began to be kinder and more attentive to myself, and as a result, less critical towards him. It seems to me, we are often drawn towards being our own worst enemy, rather than our own dear friend.

With this insight, I felt more effective and less of a victim of my circumstances. Bitterness receded and I became easier to relate to, while he, miraculously, began to find it easier to relate.

Not so miraculous really, it makes a lot of sense.

The most effective method of change is modelling the behaviour you hope to see in others.

A very simple example is one that parents encounter frequently. They yell at their kids in a vain attempt to stop their kids from yelling. It never appears obvious at the time, but if we could watch ourselves on video flailing around in these chaotic moments, the picture would be absurdly clear.

Ghandi might not have been berating a six year old or fuming at his partner when he said

Be the change you want to see in the world…

 but the most poignant mantras can be applied in many circumstances.

So if you’re investing all your efforts into solving someone else’s problems with the intent of  increasing their worth, put the brakes on. While you’re at it, listen for a squeak – a sure indication of where your own work needs to begin…

Did this post resonate with you?

WRITING PROMPT: Take ten minutes and jump off from the quote “Be the change you want to see in the world…” what meaning do these words currently hold in your life? OR Write about a relationship where you feel stuck in ‘fixing’ mode. Explore options. How can you take your tools and turn them towards self development?

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Every Person’s Life

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In 1987 renowned Gestalt psychotherapist, Erving Polster, wrote a book called “Every Person’s Life is Worth a Novel”.  In this book he writes:

Stories must not only be told, but also heard. What is said gains value from the listeners understanding…

He goes on to write:

We also use stories to join our lives with those of other people…

I recently had the pleasure of meeting some of the founders of a remarkable and powerful new venture called Narrative 4 begun by writers, artists and educators who are passionate about ‘hearing’ and ‘joining’. Narrative 4 aims to enable teenagers globally to come together to exchange stories as a tool for social change. The exchange is intended to be literal – an ultimate act of reflection. The idea is for the young people to swap stories and then read each other’s stories aloud to one another – to allow words to transcend all differences and thread together human experience.  The stated ethos of Narrative 4 is: 

We believe sharing stories is the key to opening the world. We call it ‘Fearless hope through radical empathy’

I call it inspired.

We all crave an attuned listener. We carry our stories with us deep in our pockets, etched on our hearts, buried in hidden places. Sometimes our stories are legible, easy to read, but sometimes it is as if they are written on the wet wall of a dark cave and we spend years waiting for someone to strike a match.

And when the day finally comes, the sudden exposure can be glaring. The attention can call forth panic, anxiety, shame, trepidation, but ultimately relief. We want to be heard. We need to be seen. And even the small flickering flame from a single match can shed enough light for us to look around and realize that we are not alone with our stories. Sharing our truths is an act of healing.

I’ve experienced this firsthand both as a client and a therapist. Every week in my workshop I listen intently as participants grow brave enough to write their stories and offer them up to the group. We are not there to assess or critique or shape or edit. We are there to listen. People come to Write To Be You to be seen and heard, and to see and hear. I am humbled by the courage of my participants and I am witness to the bonds that powerfully and delicately ‘join’ us through story, encouraging self worth, enabling understanding, embracing recovery.

I am often amazed at how few questions people ask in social situations. Is it that we are bound by decorum not wanting to appear nosey? Or is it that so many people are wrapped  tightly in their own inward facing cocoon that it doesn’t occur to them to reach beyond that and explore another’s landscape?

Questions are essential to social interactions, and yet contemporary technology encourages a ‘me’ centred paradigm where our young people are at risk of becoming voyeurs and not listeners. Let’s encourage curiosity in ourselves and younger generations. Next time you meet someone you don’t know, practice drawing out their story. Be interested. See what you can learn about yourself by listening to someone else.

And while you’re at it, please join me in exploring and supporting Narrative 4 as a dedicated group of individuals step up to link our ever divided world. Personal narratives are thirsty for oxygen, buried within us they can fester and wilt. Now more than ever we need to return to the ancient arts and allow them to work their communal magic alongside technology.

It is not only in recent years that the most essential tales told have gone ‘viral’…  the passage and momentum of storytelling has been with us from the beginning of time. We just need to keep breathing fresh air into stale corners and lighting that match in the darkest of caves.

Read about the origins of Narrative 4 by clicking HERE and visit their website HERE

A writing prompt inspired by Narrative 4: Write about discovering a story on the wall of a cave. Who has been there before you? What is the writing on the wall? Imagine you are illuminated by the light of the match. Tell both of your stories. Give yourself permission to write in fragments, dream images, floating words. Feel your way…

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Be Childish!

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This is what I know. When we think too much about something it becomes overbaked. Mushy. Charred. Over thinking contaminates the dress-up box that is our right brain. Over thinking can apply the brakes to our creativity with an ear piercing screech.

Writing can be taught but it doesn’t sing until it is FELT.

Thinking too much dislocates us from the creative surge and veers us away from running through the sprinklers on the page.

Have you ever watched a child lost in the zone of imaginative play? The kind of play where tables have names and ears and claws, and pillows are robots and princesses and trolls? The kind of play where a butterfly has tea with a tiny plastic puppy, before joining forces to climb a mountain of marshmallows and sliced peaches, so together they can conquer the cloud rats?

The kind of play we are conditioned to avoid as adults for fear of looking silly, or weird, or childish – a word that we have sadly hijacked and turned into an insult.

“Don’t be so childish…”

I herby declare that being described as childish should be re-imagined as a compliment of the highest order.

Children are straight talkers. Straight feelers. Wild players. Children are excellent role models for occupying the moment. Dancing in the moment. Expanding the moment. Eating up an ordinary moment because it suddenly appears delicious.

In my writing workshops I give grown-ups the permission to play. I offer opportunities and I sit back and marvel at the energy shift in the room. Laughter erupts. Inner critics are squashed like rubber whoopee cushions flattened by the collective butts of creative freedom.

Voices, previously hushed and cautious, are discovered and released. Translucent word bubbles float from pen to pen, heart to heart, wand to wand. Truths told. Hurts heard and healed.

When we stop thinking about writing and start feeling, we allow our words to channel the essence of the child within. Unfiltered. Messy. Pure.

So “Be childish!” Press pause on your think button. Run through the sprinklers in the park and on the page! Climb the marshmallow mountain!

I’ll be at the top, eating peaches, ready to welcome you….

WITING PROMPT  – TEN MINUTES OR LESS!

Be childish now. Write without thinking. Make up a crazy poem or character or a stream of irresistible nonsense. Turn down your adult.

OR

Write about running through sprinklers – experiment with different points of view – first person and third person. Be playful with your adjectives. Bring us into the moment with you…

 

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A Desert Garden

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There is a garden that I pass in my neighbourhood when I walk with Lilly in the mornings. It is a desert garden, punctuated with muted greens, spiky leaves, bursts of yellow and purple, and an array of thorny cacti.

The garden appears on my walk like an oasis. A colourful reef that I want to examine and explore. I am especially enamoured by the landscape because all of these plants grow so beautifully, creating such a magical palette, with very little water.

They grow with a determination – a courage to flourish in spite of being dry.

They grow all year round and serve as a potent reminder to me when I am feeling discouraged, or lazy, or rejected, or low. When I am reading the news and feeling baffled and sad and hopeless. When I am attempting to show an optimistic face to my kids, even though my son’s capacity to navigate three screens (small, medium, large) at any given moment makes me want to wilt. Like a plant with no water. Shrivel. Like a flower without light.

It is at these times that I need to experience that desert garden. In person. Not flashed up as an image to ‘Like’ on Instagram. Not blogged or emailed or linked. I need to feel the texture of those thick flat leaves bewteen my fingertips. I need to lean in closely and investigate the elegant formation of a delicate petal, press my flesh into the point of a cactus needle. I need to pause. Beside the garden.

And see. And touch. And smell and listen.

If  I could, I would invite each and every one of you reading these words to meet me on the corner, so we could gather together and be reminded that growth can still occur in the most unforeseen circumstances. Meaning can blossom. Love can unfurl. Words can be harvested from drought.

But I’m not  so sure how my neighbour would feel about that (I might put a note through their door first!)

So for now – let’s gather here at Write To Be You. Let’s hold out a hand to one another in the form of a story. Let’s prove that healing words can grow from concrete and parched soil. From pavements and dumpsters. From listlessness and doubt.

Our words are seeds. As long as we can share stories – the human spirit will sprout and bloom and our hearts and souls will never be malnourished.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a prompt. I hope you are still with me. Still reading. Still writing. Take a few minutes and share a story today. Write about finding something hopeful where you least expected it or write about a garden that is special to you.

In the weeks to come I will be developing a  ‘Tell Us A Story’ feature where I will share other people’s stories in the main body of the blog. Body of the blog – sounds like a horror film, but I know it will be quite the opposite – it will be pure joy!

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The Reveal

I’ve been caught up in the sparkle this week. After so many months of toiling the soil and tending the garden, I had the pleasure of the reveal on the weekend. I published my book,Playing Along! And for a few days I feel like I have been whisked into the blossoming limelight – emails, facebook posts, tweets galore.

Affirmation and interest from others can be so seductive… pulling you towards the heat like a moth to the flame.

But the truth is, I was one of those brides at my wedding that didn’t love the attention. I felt a bit awkward.  A little bit out of my skin in a sleek silk gown with yellow freesias in my hair. And I guess I’m confronting that same feeling now.

There’s been much written on the nuances of being an introvert vs. an extrovert, but I am beginning to understand that I am both. I walk a fine line between the two – needing and wanting to be ‘seen’ and ‘heard’ and validated, and then soon after confronting spiky emotions: self doubt, anxiety, the dreaded shame.

In fact one of the main characters in my novel, George, walks that same fragile line. Maybe that is why I was able to write him with such clarity, because he reflects the parts of myself that I grapple with.

Every week in my workshop I see people who take a similar journey. Exploring the relationship between stepping ‘out’ of themselves in order to connect with something deeper… something ‘in’.

So this week I am learning to enjoy the sparkle and glide with the glimmer, but I am also learning that it can be superficial. The attention will die down. The emails will stop coming. The sales will slow, and my task will be to continue to write and rediscover the shimmer below the surface.

Resilience.

Self-acceptance.

Vulnerability.

The treasures that are less obviously opulent, and yet worth so much more.

(If you’d like to read about the birth of ‘Playing Along’ you can do so by clicking here.)

Take a moment to think about how you feel about being in the ‘limelight’. Do you crave attention or does it unsettle you? What is your definition of ‘success’? Take ten minutes and write about the line you walk between being an extrovert and being an introvert.

Do you need or want more or less of one or the other?

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2013 – Let’s Go!

Last year I danced out the new year to ‘Shake it Out’ by Florence and the Machine. This year I’m dancing into 2013 with ‘Let’s Go’ by Matt and Kim on the top of my playlist.

Today is just another day in the bigger scheme of things, but the calendar offers us the opportunity to embrace intentions – to stand in a moment and pin it down.

This is what I want to say. This is what has meaning to me…

I’m interested in momentum this year. In movement. I’m curious to keep exploring the energies that silence me and the energies that draw out my voice. I’m really excited and equally nervous about releasing ‘Playing Along’ imminently into the world.

Over this last year I have had the benefit of learning so much from the Write To Be You community. I have been awed by people’s capacity to shift something with their words – to encounter an obstacle and explore it through writing and reflection. But mostly I have been enthralled by people’s willingness to jump into the unknown when the environment makes this possible. To write with abandon and read aloud in a group before an edit. To embrace the uncertainty of what might tumble from their brain and to trust the creative process regardless.

It’s contagious – this kind of creative release. It frees us all up to discover what living authentically can truly look like.

2012, like any given year, has led us to places of deep darkness – collectively and individually. Every year we wonder will the next year be better than the last? And the answer is always elusive. The marriage of lightness and darkness will forever be our greatest challenge.

So when you do feel the life force surging – be it through writing, drawing, photographing, sculpting, playing, composing, creating, relating, loving, grieving, moving, meditating – dance with that energy. Turn up the music. Be silly this year. Be thoughtful. Be kind – to yourself and to others.

“Say what you want to say, make it mean everything…”

2013 – Let’s Go!

What intentions do you want to pin down for 2013? Be specific! Don’t set the bar too high – start small and inch towards bigger. Allow your intentions to materialise through writing. Animate them with your words. Listen to ‘Let’s Go’ and notice how the music and lyrics make you feel. Enjoy the video – it’s funny!

If you have enjoyed reading the Write To Be You blog over the last year, please consider sharing it with friends who might also be inspired by this community. Last year I planted the seed. This year I’d love to see the garden grow and spread even wider. With thanks!

 

Beware the Slippery Slope

I have imperfection on the mind. We could all benefit from opening our arms wide to the flaws, the crinkles and wrinkles, the messy, nubby bits of life that tempt us to smooth everything out so we can see our reflection in a shiny sheen.

My 12 year old daughter brought an order form home from school this week, sent out by the company that took her yearbook photo. I was horrified to see on this form a prominent ad offering retouching of our children’s photographs to ‘Save the Day!’

“This service reduces any blemishes and lines that might take away attention from how great you look! We can do braces too…”

Just to make sure we ‘get’ it – there are before and after shots. A teenager with some acne and then – hey presto – acne gone! A mouth with braces and then – abracadabra – no braces!

God forbid when my daughter looks back as an adult at her yearbook, she should remember she was a ‘normal’ pre teen. Apparently  it is far preferable that I PAY to ensure that she appears ‘perfect’. Glossed over. False.

It’s a slippery slope and one that we now seem to be dragging our children down. Grabbing their hands and pulling them head first into the pitiful pit of ‘you could look better’ / ‘we all need improvements.’ Where might this company draw the line? Would they suggest slimming hips, augmenting breasts, shaping noses to ‘save the day’?

I know I live in LA, but for once that is no excuse!

Sending this kind of a message to children is inexcusable, especially under the guise of offering a service to ‘enhance’ our kids’ appearance .

This is not a service. This is clearly a disservice. Most especially for young people who are struggling with self esteem, feeling self conscious, longing for a transformation. By providing them with the digital magic to ‘fix’ things – we are drastically letting them down. Surely the transformation needs to come from within? A gentle and affirming path to acceptance. A slow and curious climb up, rather than that slippery downhill run.

I think society’s quest for perfection is especially confounding for creative people, because it is at odds with the true nature of expression.

At the core of creativity lies imperfection. Cracks and dents. Bumps and bulges. The endless act of trying something out and then trying it again- not necessarily to arrive at an ‘immaculate’ final product – but to remain playful with the process. 

This tenant lies at the foundation of my workshops and drives my own creative ethos.

Like an adolescence wrestling with their identity – creativity needs time to evolve and grow and articulate. Embrace the braces! Don’t airbrush out all the blemishes. Explore them. They will tell you a far more soulful story.

Take ten minutes and write about ‘transformation’, creative or otherwise. Reflect on your own life experiences as well as intentions for the year ahead.

Are their ‘blemishes’ that you might benefit from exploring? Are you too quick to retouch the undesirable pieces of your puzzle?

Write in your notebook or journal, or share on the blog.

Thank you for being part of The Write To Be You community! I am extremely grateful…

 

 

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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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