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Desperately Seeking Inspiration: What to do when you’re out of ideas

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Inspiration

Inspiration. As a creative person it is imperative. So you have time and the determination? So what? If you don’t have a good idea then you’re at a standstill. There is nothing worse than sitting down to do what you love, only to realise the well has run dry.

All those ideas you kept thinking up when you were busy as a beaver have left you. And you didn’t write them down. While you were lying in bed at night with insomnia and that amazing poem wrote itself in your mind, you thought you’d remember it. You thought it was so damn vivid you wouldn’t need to note it down on a scrap of paper. But now, it’s gone. Now that you are ready to work, you got nothing!

What Do You Do When You Have No Inspiration?

So what do you do when your inspiration station is empty? Do you just sit down and force it out? Do you pace the room willing a grand idea to come with you? Here are my personal tips for inspiration stimulation!

Inspiration Attractors

Get out – Go for a walk

Get up. Get away from the desk/easle/laptop and go for a walk. Walk through the hills. Go for a hike. Inhale the smells and ponder at the world. If you can manage it, don’t take your ipod. Spend some time alone with your wandering thoughts. Let them meander in the clean fresh air.

If you live in the city go for a stroll. Take in the sights and the sounds. See what happens. Maybe pop in to an art gallery. Exposing your mind to new stimuli helps to get new thoughts a’stiring in your noggin.  

Hate walking? Fine. Do some hard exercise. Go for a run even. Or a swim. Exercise gets your heart beating faster and pumps out stagnant energy. Drip sweat and feel that brain fog clear!

Do Something Else

Overworking can lead to burnout. Take a break.  Meditate. Have a bubble bath! Clean out your wardrobe and take your unwanted clothes to an opshop. Do some baking. Make pesto. Who knows what could happen. You could cut your finger and inspire a horror story?

Meet New People

When we work alone all the time it can become normal to get stuck in a day to day routine of solitude. Funnily enough solitude does not always inspire us. As a writer I need to meet new people as a source of character inspiration. The more different from myself they are, the better!

I once met a 90 year old woman at a book club that was just hilarious. She still had all her marbles and she was always playing cheeky tricks on the other members. She had survived childhood polio and lived through the Second World War in England but still she had more sass and spunk than many people my age. She made me realise that it’s mostly just our bodies that age. We are still the same people inside – it’s other peoples’ perceptions of us that changes! 

 Get yourself out there and meet new people! People completely different from your long-time buddies. Volunteer at a charity. Join a craft group or a book club. So what if they aren’t “the kind of people you’d normally be friends with”. Be curious. Learn. Grow.

Inspiration

House work

Boring medial activities that take little brain power are excellent for stimulating thoughts. We’re doing something, like washing the dishes or hanging out washing, but our minds are free to wander. Perhaps the woman in your short film is hanging out washing when she gets shot? Or is she cleaning blood off the bath tub? But why? Who did she kill. Clean you house. Be inspired!

Gardening

There’s just something about gardening that always gets my juices flowing (no, not those juices, sicko). Maybe it’s the fresh air, the sunshine, the connection with nature, who knows? But everything I rip me some weeds outta the ground I get an idea.

I once only gardened for 15 minutes before I had to run inside and write a short story about Tulips. Boom Muthafucka!

Read a Book Under a Tree

Doesn’t that sound nice? When was the last time you read a real book under a god damned tree? To make it even more fun, go to the library and find a book you wouldn’t normally read. Then park your ass under a tree and read.

Stream of Consciousness Writing (AKA Journaling)

Sit down at your computer or start a new page of your journal. Now here’s the important part: Just. Start. Writing. Set your phone’s alarm for 10 minutes (or longer if you prefer) and write anything and everything that comes to your mind. Just start.

Perhaps you’ll write dialogue that will give you a back story to a piece of artwork? Perhaps it will even inspire a whole collection of works. Need more structure? How about write a letter to no one and anyone at all. Start writing and see who the letter turns out to be for. Tell them why you love or hate them. Sometimes stirring up old emotions is all you need to find passion in your work.

You can do the same exercise in a visual sense if you prefer. All you need is a pencil and piece of paper. Paint is fun too or you could try collage! See what happens. See where your mind takes you. It’s often strange the things that come out!

Go on an ‘Artist Date’

The Artist Date is a concept I learned about while reading and studying The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s an eight week course that helps to get you back in touch with, or deepen your relationship with your inner artist.

One of the compulsory exercises is to go on a weekly Artists Date for at least two hours. This could be going to a movie that your inner artist finds interesting, going to an exhibition, a poetry class, going to a dollar store and buying whatever craft supplies appeal to you then going home and making something out of them. Your Artist Date must be done alone however so no hangers-on.

The point of the Artist Date is to disconnect from the need to achieve and instead reintroduce the idea of play into your art. So try to make it fun. Take the pressure off. There is no right or wrong way to play!

Inspiration

What Not to Do When You Need Inspiration

T.V./Netflix

As much as I hate to admit it, the worst thing you can do when your mind will not produce creative magic is to watch T.V! It may seem very appealing to sit down and binge watch Orange is the New Black when you can’t think of anything to work on. But, believe me, that is a dark and murky path that you don’t want to go down.

Watching T.V does not stimulate your mind. It actually puts it into a placated numb state. The cobwebs in your mind just get thicker as that T.V spider works on it’s web. All you will want to do after one episode of Nashville or Breaking Bad is: watch another one. And another, until you’ve finished the whole season feeling sick and sloppy. And most importantly, you still won’t have any new ideas. All that’ll be rocking around in your mind are the characters you have just been watching. Your new T.V friends. They make you feel nice. Now all you want to do is see them again.

Dicking Around on Social Media

“Wow! I feel so inspired, invigorated and self assured after scrolling through Social Media!” SAID NO ONE EVER!

Social media has its benefits but one thing it does not do is inspire us to create art. It actually stifles it. We cannot create from a place of shame and more and more that is what Social Media brings out in us.

Why can’t I have abs like that? I wish I could afford to buy an ass like that too. Oh man look at her amazing art. I wish I could do that! OMG. That idiot got a book published? She is the worst writer I’ve ever read! What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I achieve anything!? Social Media is notorious for bringing out shame, envy and asset addiction in all of us!

Do not open Facebook and piss around finding something to distract you. Get away from Instagram. The internet is a total time suck. It does not so much inspire new ideas, as show us other people’s ideas. Shut the lid and get away from the laptop!

Giving Up

OK. CALM DOWN. Don’t over react. This is not the end of the world. Just because you can’t think up something new, clever and exciting to work on, does not mean it is all over. It does not mean you have failed. The only way to truly fail is to give up on your dream and go back to doing that boring practical job you hated. Don’t wallow in sadness over your inspiration sabbatical. Just relax and follow my tips. Soon enough you’ll be full of ingenious ideas!

Future Proofing

Usually ideas give way to more ideas. They come in flocks. So once you’ve had one, you’ll probably have 10! Don’t drop each one for the newest one that comes along! Commit to one and get it done. Then move on to the next one. Keep a notebook handy to jot down new ideas as they come up. Bullet point all the details you have on your mind and then shut the book. Now you’ll have a cache of clever concepts to visit if you ever find yourself void of inspiration again!

Full Time Unicorn

Fighting Fear

Prayer Vs Meditation

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Meditation Vs Prayer

When I was 12 years old my aunty took my to my first spiritual fair. I had no idea what it was but I went along willingly. When I got there my heart exploded; these were my people. There were Tarot readers, reiki healers, candle makers and crystal stalls. It was there too that I learned the importance of Prayer and Meditation and the difference between the two. 

A Spiritual Awakening

I wandered around as my aunty attended a course on astral travel and looked at all the stalls. I decorated a beeswax candle dipping it in colours and sprinkling it with glitter. The stall keeper; a greying man with a long braided beard, asked me what intention I would like to infuse it with. I looked at him blankly. 

“What would you like to bring forth when you burn this candle?”

 I still wasn’t sure what he meant so I thought for moment and said “I want to do well in swim club.” 

He nodded. “And what is your star sign?” 

“Aquarius,” I replied. 

He chucked. “Of course it is.” 

He took a pointed stick and engraved a few squiggly lines along the candle then filled them with fine gold glitter dust. Then he closed his eyes and held a hand above the candle. 

He wrapped the candle in brown paper and handed it back to me. “There you go. Your very own candle engraved with a sigil for water and infused with Reiki master energy. Enjoy!”

“Do you Meditate?”

I wandered around in awe. My mind was awhirl with magic and possibility. This place was amazing. I never wanted to leave. 

I walked past a man making music with a large white crystal bowl and my head began to buzz. I stopped and watched as he gently ran a large crystal wand around the rim of the bowl causing it to sing a high hum. My hand flew to my forehead, just above my eyebrows where the humming was the strongest. The man stopped playing and looked at me. 

“You can feel that?”

I nodded. “It’s making my head buzz.”

He raised his eyebrows. “That’s your third eye chakra and yours is very sensitive which means you are very intuitive.”

“Oh,” I said, but I had no idea what my third eye chakra was. 

“Do you meditate?”

“Not really. Meditation… is that like praying?”

“Not quite,” he replied. And then he said the first thing that had made sense to me all day. “In prayer we ask and in meditation we listen. And because you are so intuitive,” he went on.  “It’s very important that you take time to listen everyday.”

“In prayer we ask and in meditation we listen.”

Prayer Vs Meditation

In prayer we ask and in meditation we listen is the basis of my spiritual practice. When I am in prayer, which is what I call my space to share with the Universe, it is my time to hold the talking stick and tell the Universe what’s up. I explain how I’m feeling and what I am struggling with. What I’m pondering and what I could really use guidance or clarity on. Then, once I have said my piece, asked my questions, I stop and I listen. That part, the listening, is the meditation. That’s when I shut the hell up for a few minutes and just let the answers come to me from a force much greater and wiser than myself. I open my subconscious up to the Universe, to my spirit guides and just listen. 

Meditation Vs Prayer

What to Ask in Prayer

I regularly start my day with journaling, during which I ramble. I basically write whatever comes out. Sometimes it’s complete trash. Literally:

I need to remember to take the rubbish out and then empty the recycle bin. Why am I the only one who does it? Why do I live with lazy fuckers? 

But some times I stumble upon important realisations or deep questions: 

I can’t believe my friend said that I am avoiding greatness subconsciously. What a dick thing to say. It is weird because she is a very good friend and wouldn’t say it to hurt me… perhaps there is some truth in it… hmm. 

In which case I am then offered an opportunity to ask for guidance. I’ll use this as a prompt for my meditation practice. Before I begin I will send up a silent prayer. Please, God/Universe/Spirit (whichever freaks you out the least), please send me guidance on this issue. Why am I afraid of greatness?

Meditation A.K.A Listening, Made Easy

The next step is very simple yet sometimes the hardest. Simply sit your ass down on the meditation pillow, shut the hell up and listen. Focus on your breath at first. I like to count my breaths in and out to ten, then start from one again. As I’m counting, I visualise writing each number on a black board with chalk, then wiping it off and writing the next number. I call this my anchor, as it keeps me focused on the breathing and counting, which means there is little room for all the other jargon to flutter in to my mind. But believe me it still does! When I lose focus I simply acknowledge that I have, forgive myself and start counting again! 

Prayer: Basically making a wish. 

The concept of prayer often gets a bad rap because of its connection with Christianity and other organised religions. But in reality it is whatever you want it to be! As I kid I used to pray to faeries to bring about good weather or allow me to get a cool part in the school play.

Saying a prayer is basically like making a wish. So if you’ve ever made a wish as you’ve blown out your birthday candles, after you’ve caught a fairy seed on the wind or after snapping off the big half of the wishbone after a Sunday roast, congratulations! You’ve said a prayer!

Prayer, Meditation and The Law of Attraction

When you break it down, using prayer and meditation together is the basis for the Law of Attraction and key to manifesting anything you want into reality. In prayer we get to tell the universe what we want. We get to show the Universe our boldest desires. We can visualise the best versions of us and let the feelings of joy roll through us. The Universe responds to our emotions.

During prayer we get to ask for whatever we want. We can dream big. We can send all of our coolest intentions up to the Universe and say “Come on Baby Girl, I dare you to make that happen!” 

Then, in meditation, we learn to submit which is the simplest and yet most challenging part of the Law of Attraction! But in order to manifest our desires we must learn to let go and to trust that the Universe is capable of delivering our heart’s desires.

When we try to manically manifest things into reality that sends out an emotion of fear, of doubt and of lack. We must simply ask then let go. When you are already walking the right path, already doing all you physically can to achieve your goals, the last thing you want to do is obsess over them. What you must do is submit and LISTEN. The listening, the trust and the faith is what will bring you results.

When we ask and then listen we not only give ourselves time to hear what we really want but we also give our minds a space to be in silence. In this noisy world, silence is golden.

Full Time Unicorn

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Chance Magic – NYC Midnight Short Story Competition

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The NYC Midnight short story competition is a long running, international short story challenge in which entrants have one week to write a story of 2,500 words or less. Divided into heats of approximately 30 writers, each heat group is assigned a genre, character and plot device. After deadline, the judges chose the best stories from each heat, the writers of which go through to the second round of of the competition where they have three days to write a 2000 word story. The finalists chosen from that round must write a 1,500 word story in 24 hours!

This year I was assigned the genre of fantasy and my story needed to include an arranged marriage and a competitive-eater. Obvs I was pretty pleased with the fantasy genre! I had heaps of fun writing this and ended receiving an honourable mention!

The great thing about the competition is it lights a fire under your ass. It makes you work hard and fast to write the best story you can. It also makes you think hard about how to do your best with what you’ve been assigned. And the great thing is every entrant receives feedback on their story – good and bad!

Here’s my story…

CHANCE MAGIC – By Lisette Prendé

When a prudish young faery attends her cousin’s arranged magical wedding she does her best to avoid attention (and the buffet table). But a chance meeting may bring her much more than a serve of gillyflower pudding…

Chance Magic Lisette Prende

At least 10,000 enchanted candles hovered in mid air, illuminating the ceiling of the great hall and shining light on the matrimonial festivities below. The Great Goblin Band had just begun their fifth set and the guests were well and truly making their way through the 77 cases of Elder Mead. 

Alyssa cringed as she saw her mother send a glassy-eyed smile towards the banjo player. He winked in response and tipped his fedora. The double-bass player saw the exchange and gave his band mate an encouraging nudge in the ribs. She wished she could tell him he was dreaming, that her mother would never in a million  years  bed a goblin, but she knew it wasn’t true. 

“Goblins are fabulous Darling!” Her mother had told her. “They’re hung like Centaurs and nimble as pixies. Just don’t try to have a decent conversation with one of them!”

It was faeries like her mother that gave them all a bad name. Sure, faery women did tend to be somewhat… amorous, but that didn’t mean they all were. Alyssa was sick of being labeled an ‘easy faery’ just because all her friends, sisters, cousins, aunts and grandmothers followed the free love faery manifesto.  She vowed she would never be like them. She wasn’t interested in lust, it was true love she craved. 

Taking a sip of her Elder Mead — which had grown warm and slightly flat over the hours that she’d been nursing it — Alyssa looked over to the newly weds. Her cousin Amrynthia sat across from her new Elvin Husband, Thious. She smiled coyly, twirling a lock of dark hair through her fingers. Thious looked like he was about to jump out of his seat and ravish her on the table in front of everyone. The truth was that if it were midnight already he probably would have. Alyssa looked down at her quartz timepiece; forty-five clicks past eighth hour. I wonder if they’ll make it? 

Growing up everyone had heard the stories of the couple who did not wait till midnight. Though the scariest one of all was possibly the tale of the eternally ancient lovers: The newly weds who’d nipped off into the woods for an early consummation (at twenty clicks to midnight no less!) and aged fifty years in an instant.  Legend tells they were forced to spend the rest of their lives together as octogenarians.

Her mother had told her it was an unfortunate reaction that occurred when an arranged magical marriage prediction was disobeyed. What the Great Love Oracles saw must come to pass. So if the Great Love Oracles saw the two lovers connected on the twelfth day of July, the twelfth day of July it must be. Both lovers were to remain celibate for the hours following the magical pairing ceremony, until the official consummation at midnight. Alyssa often wondered why they didn’t just hold the wedding on the day of prediction to avoid disaster but tradition was tradition. 

Alyssa let out a long sigh. She longed to be looked at the way Thious was looking at her cousin. Sure, they had only just met each other and yes, both had just spent the week at ritual freedom orgies, but still, Alyssa couldn’t help but feel a tug of jealousy. She wanted a person to love. Someone kind and funny who enjoyed reading. Someone she could be herself around; who could watch her eat like a horse and not be put off (it was taking all her willpower to stay away from the buffet table). Someone she could choose herself. 

It did happen; Goblins, trolls, gnomes and pixies generally married out of love and chance meeting but it was very rare in elvish and faery families. Arranged magical marriage was seen as upper class – it wasn’t cheap to request a magical marriage prediction and this made it somewhat elite. 

But Alyssa didn’t care for elite. She wanted chance magic. The magic she’d read about in human books: the magic of love at first sight. Oh how she longed to live in the human world and roam the busy smoggy streets. She’d drink coffee and go to second hand bookstores then meet her true love as they both reached for the same book. But her mother would never allow it. She was too old fashioned. She believed in rampant promiscuity and arranged magical marriage.

“Lyssie!” Amrynthia sang, now at her side. “Come dance with meee!” 

Alyssa could smell the sweet sickly tang of Elder Mead on her cousin’s breath and wondered if she’d managed to drink all 77 cases herself. “Oh, no Am! You know I’m not much of a dancer.” 

“Oh that’s pixie rot and you know it!” She jutted out her bottom lip. “Pleeeease. If I don’t dance soon I’ll think I’ll consummate this marriage on the floor!”

Alyssa sighed. She hated crowds and despised being watched. She felt much more comfortable lurking in the shadows.

“You don’t want me to get cursed now do you, Lyssie?” 

“Fine!” Alyssa said, rising to her feet and placing her glass on the table. “I will dance with you! But don’t you dare try and set me up with anyone!” 

Amrynthia rolled her eyes. “For Freya’s sake Lyssie! At this rate you’ll die unflowered!”

They passed a vampire couple in an intimate feeding session at the nearby buffet and dodged a circle of Satyrs involved in a bawdy dance off. One turned as they passed, flashing Alyssa a dribbly smile and offering her his eager phallus.  

“Oh! Put it away Charlie!” Amrynthia snapped. “What are you trying to do, get me cursed? It’s not midnight yet!”

“Oh, sorry, Am,” the Satyr replied, a heavy grin across his face.

“Who on earth invited the Satyrs?” Alyssa hissed as they moved by.

“Argh. My mother had a thing with Marsyas, like forever ago, but whatever!”

If her mother’s past lovers were to be invited to her future wedding, Alyssa feared the entire realm would be in attendance, probably most of the human world too. She shuddered at the thought. Dear Goddess, I hope I don’t have to have a faery wedding. 

The band roared into a rock version of If You Believe in Magic and Alyssa felt her body begin to move to the music. She cursed her faery impulses as she simultaneously revelled in the movement, closing her eyes, allowing her hips to roll and her arms to sway. 

“WOAHH!”

Alyssa was jolted out of her reverie as a large creature crashed into her and something wet and sticky splattered across her face. She wiped the muck from her eyes to find a tall dark Satyr standing in front of her holding an empty plate that had been piled with what tasted like gillyflower pudding. 

“I’m so sorry!” he said. “Here, let me help.” He put his plate down and pulled a silk napkin from his jacket pocket.”

“I think you’ve done enough Satyr!” Alyssa snapped. “Did you leave any gillyflower pudding for anyone else or was it all on your plate? For Freya’s sake! Look at my dress!” Alyssa grabbed the silk napkin and started wiping the muck from her dress. 

“I’m not a Satyr,” he said, hurt evident in his tone. 

Alyssa looked up. He was quite right. He was not a Satyr. He was a fawn. Unlike a Satyr he had the handsome face of a man, with the large floppy ears of a goat. Though like a Satyr he did have hooves. 

“Oh, sorry,” Alyssa said. “I just, I thought you were with that lot.” She pointed towards the group of Satyrs now having a twerk off, none of whom wearing pants.

The fawn shrugged, feigning indifference. “It’s fine. And I mean, there’s nothing wrong with those guys. They can be a lot of fun if you’re in the mood for it. But you know, there’s more to life than…”

“Lucifer’s lemons!” Amrynthia gasped. “What happened to you Lyssie?” She looked down at Alyssa’s dress. “Oh no! I’ll get someone to fix this. There’s got to be a witch around here somewhere!”

“Oh, don’t worry Am, it’s your wedding night. I’ll deal with it.”

“Don’t be silly! I made you dance. Besides, it looks like your mother is keeping Thious company.”

Alyssa turned to see her mother now sitting across from the groom, tipping herself forward, offering her ample bosom. She thought perhaps Am should intervene, but her cousin had already disappeared into the crowd. 

“I really am sorry,” the fawn said. “I wish there was something I could do.” 

Alyssa was still curious to what he was about to say before Am had cut him off. ‘There’s more to life than’…What?

“It’s okay. Though I think I’ve still got gillyflower pudding in my eyes,” she laughed, wiping her eyes again with the napkin. 

“Here, let me.” He took the napkin from her, and placing one hand on her cheek, he gently wiped the sticky goo from her eyes. She blinked and looked up at him, finally able to see clearly. She stared into his dark eyes and her body began to tingle. 

“I’m sorry I assumed you were a Satyr,” she managed. 

“It’s okay. It happens a lot. You know, most people don’t know the difference. So they see me and just think, oh here’s another sex crazed party boy. They assume I have rocks for brains.” He laughed. “They get pretty confused when they find out I’m studying at NYU.”

Alyssa blinked. “You’re…living in the human world?”

He nodded. “My parents have a Demi-god to protect so that means I do too I guess.” 

“How do you…”

“Blend in?”

She nodded. 

“There’s magic for that. The humans can’t even see I’m a fawn but other-realmers can. It’s quite cool actually. They come up and say hey and fill me in on the other realm gossip. But as I was saying, they make assumptions and think I’ll know where all the best bars and brothels are.” He laughed. “I’m like, I can tell you where the best bookstores are!”

Alyssa’s heart was fluttering like a hummingbird. She could feel their lives intertwining in front of her, stretching out long and lean like the branches of a tree. Did he feel it too? “I know exactly what you mean,” she said. “About people making assumptions.”

“You do?” He said, his soft eyes on hers. 

“Well, I’m a faery.” She smiled. “Faery women tend to have a…reputation. You must have heard.”

He nodded and she was sure she could see him blushing.

“Well, not all of us vow to live by the manifesto. Some of us are interested in genuine connection. It’s quality not quantity, if you know what I mean?”

He stared at her, unblinking. “I do.”

“I know it’s very modern of me, but I believe there’s one person meant for us and if we trust the Divine Creator she will lead us to that person. But if we get distracted by lust we get all turned around and we might never find that person. Then we need to pay for magical arranged marriages!”

The fawn smiled at her, nodding gently. “I’m Colt by the way.” 

“Alyssa.”

He looked down at her dress, still smeared with red muck. “I am so sorry about your dress. I’ll definitely pay to have it cleaned. If I hadn’t piled my plate so high it wouldn’t be so bad. What can I say? I like to eat.”

“You do?”

He nodded. “I like to eat a lot. It’s kind of embarrassing.”

“There’s nothing wrong with eating a lot. Is there?” she asked.

“You haven’t seen me eat!” He laughed. “It’s kind of a hobby of mine.”

“Eating is your hobby?”

“Well, It’s actually more of a sport. And please no ‘goats eat everything jokes’.”

“Promise.” Alyssa said with a smile. 

“Have you heard of competitive eating?”

Alyssa shook her head. 

“It’s a sport where you eat as many burgers or hotdogs as you can in a certain amount of time.”

“That sounds like my kind of sport!”

He laughed and Alyssa was sure she could see his shoulders relax at her approval. 

“To be honest, I’m kind of a champion.”

“You are?”

He nodded. “Yeah. I’ve won the National University champs for two years running now.”

“How many hotdogs do you eat?”

“Well, my record is 76 in ten minutes. And it’s actually the world record.”

Alyssa stared at him awe struck. “I’d like to see that.”

“You would?”

Alyssa nodded. “I love food but…faeries are meant to nibble.” She sighed. “I haven’t been near the buffet all night for fear I’d eat the lot and embarrass my mother.”

“Seriously?” He took her hand in his. “Come to the buffet with me. There’s no gillyflower pudding left but there’s plenty of snell cake and flutter boffins.”

Alyssa knew then without a doubt that they were meant to spend their lives together for eternity. But how? Her mother would never let her marry for love and never in a million years let her marry a fawn.

A large BOOM rocked the hall, causing some of the enchanted candles to fall to the floor, extinguished.  Purple sulphuric smelling smoke filled the room. There were screams and gasps and Alyssa felt Colt’s arms wrap around her. 

“Thious! No!” she heard Amrynthia scream and a deep feeling of foreboding filled her stomach as the smoke began to clear.

Beside the wedding table lay two piles of clothing. She could just make out the Sapphire satin of her mother’s gown. Two trembling white rabbits sat wide-eyed on top of the wedding table.

“Your mother slept with my husband!” Amrynthia spat. “On the bloody table no less!” she wept. “Look at him! This could last months. Do you know what that means Alyssa? I have to remain celibate until he becomes Elvin again!”

“I’m sorry.”

“Just get out!” Amrynthia yelled. “Take your rabbit of a mother and go!”

“Well mother, you’ve really outdone yourself this time.” Alyssa sighed. Cradling her mother in her arms, she walked towards the door. 

“Alyssa, wait” Colt called after her. “Would you…” he trailed off and tried again. “I get the feeling things might be hard for you and your mother around here for a while. Would you like to come and stay with me and my parents?”

“In New York?”

He nodded. “I just, tell me if I’m wrong but I get this feeling like you and me are-“

“Meant for each other?”

“Yes.”

“So do I!” Alyssa beamed, as her mother struggled and squealed in her arms. “I’d like that very much,” she said, tightening her hold. 

Colt placed a hand on her cheek and pressed his lips gently against hers. Alyssa kissed him back hungrily. He tasted just like gillyflower pudding.


Feedback

I got heaps of awesome compliments on the humorous nature of the story and the well fleshed out characters but ultimately lost points for the ending – it was rushed and a little to conveniently resolved, which I totally agreed with. It’s super helpful to get feedback like this on your work even just to reinforce what you already suspected.

 

Full Time Unicorn

Magick

Magick: I Became a Witch When I Was Six Years Old…

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Magick Witch

When I say became a witch, what I really mean is that I was called to believe in something greater than myself. A being that was all powerful and loving and not of this earth. A being of pure energy that was all around me; in the trees, the sea and the sky.

One thing I knew for sure what that it was not ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’. Having been raised by devout atheists who shuddered at the concept of Christianity, that was never going to happen. But despite always feeling like I was going to burst in to flames when I ever set foot in a church I still felt that call to a higher power. 

The very first time I evoked the goddess/es I didn’t have any idea who or what I was calling. All I knew was that my seventh birthday party was planned for the next day and it was, as the invite read, ‘A Bodacious Beach BBQ’. However, out of nowhere the weather man had predicted rain and there was no way in Hell I was going to let my party be cancelled without a fight! 

That night, after my parents had tucked me in, I sneaked out of my bedroom window into the backyard. I lugged with me a bunch of my favourite things; my ragdoll (creatively named Dolly) a knitted blanket from my bed and my box of treasures containing sea shells, sea glass, cool stones, $5.75 in change and a medal I’d won at gymnastics. 

Under the light of the moon I set to work. I smoothed out my blanket and with the seashells I arranged a circle. Dolly and I sat inside the circle and in front of us I placed the big guns: My favourite pieces of sea glass, a lump of obsidian, my coins and the medal. Then I got to praying. Dear lady of the sea and lady of the sky, please bring a sunny day tomorrow. I give you my coins and all my treasures if you please bring a sunny day tomorrow. I sat there for as long as I could calling to those deities – though I had no idea that’s what they were. 

Magick Witch

Eventually I heard my parents moving around, leaving the living room, turning off lights. I scurried back inside grabbing Dolly but leaving the blanket and treasures behind. I lay there in bed knowing I had done all I could to change the forecast. All I could do now was sleep and trust in the magic. 

The next morning I leapt out of bed, ripping open the curtains. I squinted as the bright morning sun shone into my eyes. It had worked. My birthday party would not be cancelled or relocated to McDonalds! I wasn’t too surprised because I’d had every faith that those ladies I’d called on would deliver. But when I looked down to the lawn below, I really was surprised. My blanket was still spread out on the grass with the slightly disturbed circle of shells still there, but the coins and my gymnastics medal were gone. Neighbourhood hooligans be damned! I was (and still kinda am) convinced that those deities swooped down and claimed their gifts. 

From that day on I regularly felt the call of the higher beings I’d begun to think of as faeries. Whenever I felt lost or alone or confused I reminded myself that I was not alone, that whenever I needed them I could call upon them. And I did. I lit candles, left notes and snacks and often sent them my prayers. 

Now, having studied and practiced witchcraft and spell casting on and on for years, I find it interesting that I was intuitively called to summon those higher beings. I find it even more interesting that something within me told me to offer up gifts to my deities. 

The offering of gifts is common place in spell casting and evoking the Goddesses. Every Goddess has a preferred treat. For example the Goddess Lakshmi likes ripe fruits and vegetables, flowers, gold jewellery, and money, while the Norse Goddess Freya prefers mead, honey and meat. 

The other thing I did instinctively was cast a circle. One of the very first things you learn when you are spell casting is to create a magical safe space in which to work – like I did with my seashells.

Personally, I think we are born witches. Magick is in our DNA, flowing through the blood in our veins. It’s usually passed down through generations, though a lot of the time it can go un-tapped or out of fear it can be pushed down into the shadow of our psyche. It depends how accepting your family is. I was lucky that my parents never had a problem with me reading tarot or holding coven meetings in my bedroom as a teenager. 

Lately I’ve neglected my magical side and it’s left me feeling quite unbalanced. I’m currently on a mission to reconnect and practice more regularly. I’m loving all of the books on Witchcraft and Spell Casting by Skye Alexander. 

Blessed Be.

Full Time Unicorn

Full Time Unicorn

Creativity

Tragedy: In the Face of Hate Choose Love

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Choose Love

The last few weeks have been really hard. It’s as if our world has completely changed overnight, and it really has. The Christchurch terror attacks have not only changed us as a country but they’ve also changed us as people. 

A lot us are struggling with grief, sadness and even anger and anger is a logical and understandable emotion. However it’s important not to let that anger eat away at you and make you lose faith in the world. Instead, try to choose love.

New Zealand has always been my home (save for the months I spent in Europe in my 20s) and I have always felt safe here. Almost smugly safe. When I meet people who had moved to New Zealand from the USA they always say the same thing; “we just wanted to live in a safer country.”

I always felt pretty chuffed that our little country at the bottom of the world was their safe haven. 

When I was in standard 2 at school (year 4 for you young bastards) I made friends with a girl called Champei from Cambodia. When she started school half way through the year I was jealous of her for two reasons. Firstly because she had long, straight, black hair (whereas I had short blonde curly hair) and secondly because she said she had lived in a house right on the beach. 

Despite my envy we became fast friends because she let me sit behind her on the mat and braid her hair. Soon I learned that he house on the beach had been a small shack and she’d had to leave Cambodia because of the fighting. She told me how her family had had to flee their home and travel to Vietnam. Her family we so happy to finally live in a safe place where they didn’t need to worry about soldiers coming into their village. 

Champei made me feel proud of my country. I loved that we had helped her family live a better life. I didn’t understand how immigration worked at the time but I still felt like it was pretty cool to be part of the country that helped people in need. 

Choose Love

At intermediate I became best friends with a girl from South Africa. She couldn’t get over the fact that people in New Zealand let their kids walk to school. “In South Africa no one walks to school. It’s just not safe.” She went on to explain that not only did she used to live in a gated community but her house also had barred windows. When her mum picked us up to go for a playdate at her house she immediately locked the car doors and windows after we got in. Later I asked my friend why. She explained that if you didn’t lock your car doors in South Africa you were likely to get car-jacked when you stopped at the lights. 

Safe. New Zealand was safe. It was a constant message I received growing up and because I was so constantly reminded of how safe it was here I never once took it for granted. 

But on March 15 when I heard the news of the shootings that’s what rang through my head. I thought we were all safe here? They always said we were safe. Those poor people chose to come here because it was safe. My heart broke as the news unfolded and I wept as I hugged my children tight and sent love to the families of the victims in Christchurch. 

My first instinct was to feel angry. To feel hatred toward the person who had done this and to whoever may have encouraged his hateful actions. But I knew there was nothing that could come from that anger and hatred except more pain. 

It’s normal to feel anger and hatred in response to such a shitty act of evil. But there’s no point sending your energy there. It’s much more productive to choose love instead. Instead of letting the anger take you down, act out of love and do what you can. 

Another thing I’ve found is that awful events like this tend to bring a lot of ugliness out of people that we may not have seen before. Friends of mine have told me of family members who uttered low level bigoted comments after the attacks, or work colleagues who have publicly shamed others for owning an air riffle, aggressively ordering them to surrender it. 

It’s important that when these things come up we don’t lead with anger or hatred but instead use love. When your dim-witted bigoted uncle Jeff tries to go down the route of ‘now that Frazer guy has a point’ try to resist the urge to bitch slap him with the frying pan – or crack an egg over his head (Praise for Egg Boy!). Simply explain what a shitty comment that is to make after 50 innocent people have just been killed. When that lady who catches the bus with you rolls her eyes and mutters “they’re blowing this whole thing out of proportion!” don’t punch her in the tit and call her a stupid cunt, simply explain “Well Sharon, what if he’d walked into your church on a Sunday?” Keep it simple, keep it sweet, and try not to let their hate make you hateful. 

Personally, I’ve found the best way to process these events is through art. The act of moving through the sadness instead of letting it hold you still and weigh you down can be very powerful. Without thinking I found myself at the canvas painting what I felt. I didn’t filter anything, just let it flow. Sometimes it is surprising what comes through the brush…

Christchurch Terror Attacks

Another powerful tool I’ve been using (care of Gabrielle Bernstein) is this: When you feel lost or out of control, be of service to others. This is incredibly powerful. If you feel helpless and like you don’t know how to handle these feelings of grief do something for someone. It’s been amazing to see so many people already using this tool, giving their time and energy to raising money for the families affected by this tragedy. 

Sending love and light to you all. 

Full Time Unicorn

Full Time Unicorn

Fighting Fear

Fighting Fear: Why ‘Quit While You’re Ahead is the Worst Advice EVER.

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Fight Fear

It’s the butt of many a joke and potentially good advice when you’re in Vegas, but the saying ‘quit while you’re ahead’ is the worst advice you can give to a person. When you’re ahead, quitting is the last thing you should do! When you finally get what you’ve been striving for, after fighting fear and all the rest, why the hell would you quit?

Fighting Fear

Most of us are affected by fear on a daily basis. Fear sits in our minds telling us to be careful, play it safe and not make ourselves look like idiots. Because, let’s face it, nobody enjoys looking like an idiot.

Putting yourself out there is scary. It’s way easier to simply stay home and eat chips than dare to do the things you’ve always wanted to. But by never trying anything new or never daring to push yourself to the next level how can we expect to grow?

The Scary Things are the Most Important

Life is scary. Take it from me. I was that kid who was afraid of EVERYTHING. I was afraid of bees because they may sting, so I was also afraid of walking barefoot on the lawn by association. I was scared of sharks (therefore the ocean), the dark, peeing at night, putting my hand up in class, talking to adults, talking to boys, haircuts, horses, babies and knives. At 13 I was terrified of the dentist and pitched such a fit about going that my mother gave up and I went 10 years without dental care. #stillnofillings

As I got older my list of scary things changed. They became the things I wanted to do but was too scared to try. I was scared to look like a dick. I was scared someone would laugh at me or tell me I was crap. And like most girls after the age of nine, I was scared I was too fat.

After a while though, I started to realise that I was missing out on things. I was so busy being afraid of everything that I wasn’t really growing as a person. I was going about my life but there was now sense of achievement or excitement. Playing it safe was boring A F!

Ever noticed how the things you don’t really care about aren’t scary at all? They’re either fun or necessary. Like hanging out with friends or filling up your car with gas. These things don’t register because they’re not on that special list in your mind – the list of awe.

Living in Awe

When we decide that certain things are too awesome to ever be ours, we push them away. We place them up on a pedestal and gaze at them longingly from afar. But fuck that pedestal. You gotta burn it down!

When we place things up on that pedestal we make them bigger and better than ourselves. It becomes harder and harder to attain those things because our ego is separating them from us.

But the secret is that by simply daring to do those scary things we can start getting rid of the awe around them.

Remember as a kid when you’d beg for Santa to bring you that AMAZING toy. You’d dreamt about how cool it would be for months. You’re sure this toy will change your life. Christmas comes and you are so happy that you finally got that toy. You play with it all day long and then the next day. But you find yourself growing bored. Pretty soon your new Glam Glow Barbie is sitting up on the shelf. You still love it but it’s no longer the unattainable golden egg it was before.

The same thing goes with daring to push yourself out of the comfort zone. When you dare to do it, it eventually becomes the new norm and pretty soon you will be ready to level up again. That is called growth.

Fight Fear

Self Sabotaging Potential Growth Opportunities

Just like Santa, The Universe is always watching. Thoughts are not just confined to our minds – they become things, affecting the energy around us.
When we want something The Universe does its best to bring it to fruition. So when we get given an opportunity that offers to bring us closer to our goals it’s only polite to take it!

Do not let fear sabotage your potential growth opportunities!

Don’t Quit While you’re Ahead

And that brings me to my point. When we finally manage to push ourselves our of comfort zone we must applaud ourselves. The last thing we should do is retreat back into our safe space of playing small.

I’ve found it the past that when I finally get what I want I’m so god damn shocked that I go into a fit of imposter syndrome.
I can’t believe they accepted my article pitch! OMG OMG OMG. This better be the best work I have ever done! OMG. What if it’s not? What if it’s shit?

The fear makes me doubt myself and worst of all it takes the fun out of the process which means suddenly this thing I have wanted for so long isn’t any fun. It becomes an anxious process that actually brings me physical pain. It’s like the self doubt is punching me in the solar plexus chakra (because it probably is!).

Seeing as it’s only human nature to avoid the things that bring us pain it’s not surprising that when it’s all over and done with – even it it’s done well – we may never want to do it again.

What’s more, when we enjoy things we send a signal to The Universe to please send us more of this! But when we create from the place of anxiety and make the process shitty, we tell the Universe to please never send us this again. That’s why it is super important to find a way to enjoy the process!

How to Ensure you enjoy the Process

My favourite tools for helping myself work from a space of calm are exercise, meditation and Emotional Freedom Technique.

Every morning before I start work I go for a walk, a swim or head to F45. There’s just nothing like a hard cardio to clear your mind. Then I come home and do at least 10 minutes of meditation (loving this Kundalini chant RN!), and if I’m feeling particularly anxious about something I use EFT – also known as tapping.

Tapping uses meridian points on the body as well as affirmations to release old emotions and anxieties from the mind and body. You can tap on pretty much any issue from headaches to your attitude with money.

This guided tapping meditation is also very good!

But the truth is you can do whatever the heck you need to do to get into a good space to work from. Dance to loud music, sing, make love or eat chocolate! What ever gets you into the vortex!

 

When you’re ahead, keep pushing

So you did it! You felt the fear and you did it anyway! So now what? Now do not stop! Keep riding that horse! Find a way to do more of what you just did until doing that thing is no longer scary.

10,000 Hours

I am always comforted about what Malcolm Gladwell shared in his book Outliers; 10,000 hours is the amount of time you need to spend doing something in order to become a professional. He goes on to use Bill Gates and the Beatles as examples, both of which definitely hit the 10,000 hours mark well before they hit the big time.

The only way to achieve your goals is to keep going. Don’t quit while you’re ahead. In fact, never quit at all!

 

Full Time Unicorn

Fighting Fear

The Should Voice

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The Should Voice

Every time I sit down, the ‘Should Voice’ starts singing away in my head.

“You should do those dishes you know. They’re sitting there all dirty on the bench. You should  really pack that dishwasher and clean the kitchen. You really should.”

The Should Voice Defined

Should

/ʃʊd/

Verb

 

  1. used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions.

 

“She should have been more careful”

“She should not have been so lazy”

Should is one of those awful words that was created purely to make humans feel guilt. Made to apply pressure on the human soul and make us feel bad for daring to sit still and do nothing for one freaking second.

Oh god, I should really shave my legs. I should really fold that washing. I should really go for a run. I should really stop eating carbs. Should should should. Should  you, really?

Who is Your Should Voice?

We all have a Should Voice.

Everyone’s is different. More often than not our Should Voice mimics a parent, grandparent or teacher who was quite self-righteous and had pretty high standards. They likely had their own way of doing things and everything else was “wrong”. Perhaps they were hard to please or tended to be quite judgemental. Either way their perfectionistic energy has attached itself to you. Now, their judgement has become your Should Voice.

My Should Voice – The Old Hag

My ‘Should Voice’ sounds like a pious 80 year old woman. Her voice grinds into my bone marrow and whittles me down until I am forced to act. Forced to get up off my comfy chair, put down my book and partake in some painstaking chore that supposedly I should  be doing.

“You should really mop that floor.” She coos in my ears.

“When was the last time you mopped it? In my day we mopped the floor every week. What would your grandmother think of that un-mopped floor? What would other people think?

Sometimes even when I have just done the things I should  do, she’s still not happy.

“It’s good that you just changed all the bed sheets. But, you really should change them every single week. All mothers should  find time to keep their children’s bed linen freshly changed.”

Who is The Old Hag in my head? And why does she want me to spend my life working like a dog, trying to meet to some immaculate standard of perfection? And for who? Because truth be told, a bit of mess doesn’t really bother me. As long as there are clean clothes and clean dishes, I’m good.

In Defense of The Old Hag

The truth is she really knows nothing else. In her day, you didn’t get out much. You stayed at home, kept the kids inline and you cleaned.

On Sunday you got to go to church which was the highlight of your week. Not because of the joy of worship but because you finally got a chance to gossip! The Old Hag and all the other ladies of the town would gossip like rabid hens.

“Well I popped over to Velma’s place last week and do you know what? The place was a right tip! Dishes on the sink! Windows all smudgy! Goodness me, her poor husband!”

The Old Hag’s biggest fear was for someone to come over unannounced and find her house a mess. So she cleaned. She rubbed her hands raw scrubbing and cleaning. But when she died, no one ever wrote on her gravestone just how clean her house had always been. She was devastated.

The Should Voice

The Hag’s Super Objective

The Hag is not concerned about my well being. She just cares about what other people will think. “What if someone saw the house like this!?” The Hag can’t rest until the house is spotless. She can’t sit still and read a book if there is even one crumb on the table or any little job to do. She sees reading, arts and crafts and drawing as frivolous. “There is always something constructive to be done.” she says.

The poor Old Hag can’t relax.

I don’t want to be like her.

The Secondary Should Voice – The Friend

Most of us will have more than one Should Voice in our heads. Usually one is a voice or reason and the other is a pedantic voice of hyper-perfectionism.

My secondary ‘Should Voice’ is much kinder to me. Instead of a judgemental Old Hag she embodies a caring Friend. A Friend who only wants what is best for me. A Friend who kindly tells me what things I should do to make my life easier in the future.

“You’re really grumpy,” she whispers softly to me. “You should go for a run, you know it will make you feel much better. You haven’t exercised in days, that’s why you feel crappy and your back hurts. That’s why you just want to sit here and watch bad T.V and that’s why you have writer’s block. Go on, you should go for a run.”

While she is still a Should Voice, she is loving. And all she really cares about is me. She doesn’t speak for the faceless other people that I am (according to that old Hag), meant to be trying to impress. She works for me. She works to make me happy, healthy and calm.

Managing the Should Voice

For years I hated both of my Should Voices, because I couldn’t tell them apart.  I thought all they wanted was to make me feel bad. To make me feel lazy, guilty and ashamed. No matter how much I cleaned. No matter how hard I exercised or how many hundreds of words I put on a page each day, the Should Voice was right there judging me. Telling me: “You should really do just a bit more.”

How to tell each Should Voice Apart

Sometimes it can be hard to tell each Should Voice apart. Especially when you are tired but there are still important things to get done. I get particularly confused when my Should Voice tells me to stop writing and cook dinner. I have to really take a moment to make sure that it is the kind voice of The Friend reminding me that it’s best not to let everyone get over hungry.

The best way to know who is who is to listen to what they are telling you to do. Who does it serve? If your Should Voice is telling you to polish your silverware because your Great-Grandmother would be ashamed, who is that really serving? If the should voice is telling you to do some meal prep for the week ahead so you can commit to eating healthy, that is purely for your benefit, so you must be listening to The Friend.

The Should Voice

 

 

Block out the Bad Should Voice and Focus on the Good

Personally, I only want to listen to The Friend. She wants me to keep my house moderately clean so that it is safe and comfortable. But she doesn’t want me to waste my life cleaning because she knows there are plenty of other things I have to offer the world that are much more important. She wants me to fly through life easily and happily managing to somehow juggle everything effortlessly. So, she gives me little tips here and there.

Once I had distinguished who was who, it was much easier for me to figure out if I wanted to listen to those should voices; I could filter out the caring from the callous.

“You should really iron those sheets.”

Shut up Hag! Only freaks iron sheets! I’ve got books to write. Get a freaking hobby old lady!

 

“You should stop watching this ridiculous show and write some of that novel.”

Yes, you are right. I really should, my friend.

Full Time Unicorn

Full Time Unicorn

 

Mental Health

The Importance of Endurance

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endurance

When I hear the word endurance I think of sports. I think of athletes who drink Gatorade and push their bodies to the extremes. I think of marathon runners and Sir Edmund Hillary. Incredible people in the peak of physical fitness. 

But endurance is not merely a physical thing. In order to persist at anything hard, exhausting and strenuous we must have strong mental and emotional endurance as well. 

No matter how many affirmations we say every morning, or how many crystals we keep under our pillow, there will be times in life when we’ll need to endure something painful. It could be heartbreak, grief, anger, disappointment or rejection. It could be illness, depression or anxiety. 

Endurance Defined

endurance

/ɪnˈdjʊər(ə)ns,ɛnˈdjʊər(ə)ns,ɪnˈdʒɔːr(ə)ns,ɛnˈdʒɔːr(ə)ns/

noun

noun: endurance

  1. the ability to endure an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.”she was close to the limit of her endurance”
  2. the capacity of something to last or to withstand wear and tear.

Simply, endurance means having the ability to maintain discomfort for as long as possible. It means trusting that the fight will soon be over and all you need to do is keep going. Endurance means not giving up. Your body may be burning, your heart may be aching, but you ride the wave until it passes.

Creativity and Endurance

For a creative person daring to send your work out into the world, endurance is vital. Everyday I send out query letters to literary agents in the hope that one of them will say yes to representing my YA novel. The reality could be that I will get to 100 rejections before I get an agent. It is not an easy process and every rejection stings just a tiny bit. But, the only options are to either give up or to endure. 

The acting industry is a fickle wench. I have been at this game for as long as I can remember. Yes, the rejection is hard. Yes, it is frustrating to be told you almost got the lead role. I could throw my toys. I could throw in the towel. But then what? Choosing not to throw my hat in the ring when the cool jobs come up would be just plain boring! So I endure. 

Mental Health and Endurance

Endurance is super important when life gets hard. The black dog might show up or that damn tiger of anxiety. Everything can feel heavy and pointless and hopeless. 

Mental illness is a disease that can be fatal. That’s where the importance of endurance comes in. During those times, when you are really struggling, it’s important you reach out. Tell a loved one you are not okay. Go to you GP to talk about your options. See a therapist. But it is the ability to endure discomfort that is the most valuable.

When I find myself in that dark place I tell myself that I know it is not forever. I remind myself that I have been here before and just like last time I will get through it. I be kind to myself and take every moment as it comes. When I feel like I can’t safely endure anymore, I ask for help. 

Parenting and Endurance

Yeah, kids and babies are cute and parenting is super rewarding. However, raising little ankle biters is not without its challenges! 

Nothing is as testing to your patience as parenting. Asking your child to put on their shoes for the seventh time without yelling takes magical self control. Doing it for years at a time with very little sleep takes endurance. 

I cannot count the times I wanted to run away with the circus when my children were little and omnipresent. But I didn’t because my kids needed me. I had to find a way to endure the frustration and mind numbing repetitively that came with caring for small “spirited” children. 

Endurance

Emotional Endurance

When we are hurt, upset or angry it is hard to continue with daily life. It becomes hard to be productive or do simple tasks. This is more common amongst Highly Sensitive People. 

Basically, the energy we use experiencing extreme emotions is exhausting. But with the skill of endurance we can dig deep, breathe and keep on going. 

This does not mean disconnecting from our feelings. It is more about accepting how we feel and choosing to work through it. It means having the ability to sit with our hard feelings instead of choosing to numb them with food, alcohol, spending money, or cancelling the day to watch Netflix. 

Physical Endurance

I was never a sporty child. 

In primary school I was always last picked for P.E class and as a teenager my friend and I stashed snacks in our bras so we’d have something to do while we walked the cross country. 

I had no desire to endure physical discomfort because I simply saw no point in it. 

But recently something has changed.

Enjoying Physical Endurance

I have joined the F45 cult and now I am hooked. Five to six times a week, for 45 minutes, I partake in box jumps, burpees, heavy lunges and pull ups. Yes, it is hard. No, I don’t particularly enjoy it at the time. But after the class I am in The Vortex!

The physical endurance is real. I have to work hard to keep my mind focused enough to make my body keep going. I have to egg myself on, even repeat mantras to distract myself from the burning pain in my muscles. I have to go deep into the zone to push through that fourth one minute set when my body is screaming for me to stop. 

Emotionally, I have to work to quiet the voices of self judgement:

“You’ll never be able to do a box jump because you are too unfit.”

“OMG. Pussy! You are too scared to jump up on that box.”

“Does your knee really hurt or are you just slacking off?”

“Everyone knows you are not working hard enough.”

“You’ll never improve. Give up!”

 I hear these voices of self doubt but I cannot let them in. I simply need to endure them while I am busy physically enduring the workout. 

Endurance

The Physical/Emotional Endurance Connection

It’s been just under four weeks since I started training with F45. I have never felt so calm in my life. I feel more patient with the kids and less snippy and resentful when it comes to cleaning the toilets (I live with three boys who have bad aim).

Emotionally I feel more balanced. I still feel a range of emotions but when the hard ones roll in I sit with them until they roll out again. I don’t try to hide from them or numb myself. I endure. 

Every time I feel a strong emotion I find myself going to the same place I do during a hard workout. A calm zone where I accept each second of discomfort as it comes. It is a very powerful place to be. 

Challenging your Endurance Limits

The more we sit in these places of discomfort the easier they become to endure. 

When I first started doing planks I could barely hold out for 30 seconds let alone the 2 minute goal. Now I can hold on for 1 minute 30 before the burn becomes too much. 

The same goes for emotional endurance. It’s important to know your limits. But I find the more I sit with my discomfort the better I become at it. I hold out. I breathe. I stare it in the face and I take every second as it comes. 

Full Time Unicorn

Mental Health

Anxiety and Alcohol

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Anxiety Alcohol

My true underlying problems with anxiety and alcohol began from a very early age. I was a shy child. In new places I’d hide behind my mothers legs, trying to curtain myself off from the world in her long flowing skirts. In class I’d try to blend in, sitting crossed legged on the mat. When the teacher asked a question I was too scared to put up my hand – even if I knew the answer. Speaking to adults damn near gave me hives, so if I didn’t understand something I wouldn’t ask the teacher for help. 

Anxiety Stole my Tongue

As I got older my shyness got worse. So bad that it was eventually classed as anxiety. I was too scared to catch a bus or train because I might get lost and have to ask for help. The thought of that gave me heart palpitations. What if people saw me getting confused and muddled? What if they laughed at me? I would melt into a muddle of shame! 

My early teens were a total nightmare. I was fine in my tight group of friends but I could hardly speak to anyone else. If I had a crush on anyone my throat would fill with concrete and I couldn’t utter a single word. Sometimes I made weird inhuman noises. 

Anxiety and Music Class

One low point came when a cute guy in my music class struck up a conversation with me. He told me he was going to the Big Day Out. I was in awe. I desperately wanted to go to the Big Day Out and oh imagine if I was brave enough to ask if he wanted to go together! I wanted to say “awesome!” or  “cool!” but instead I smiled widely and said, ‘AWWK!’ Which I assume was some odd hybrid of the two. He looked at me sideways. I was mortified. Instead of explaining myself I decided it was best if I just ran away. So I did. I ran out of class and hid in the toilets until the bell rang. 

My shyness also sabotaged my school work and changed the course of my life. In my first year of high school I studied music. I enjoyed it but I was intimated by the other students and was terrified of live performance. Despite this I still scored an A grade and 85% on my final exam. But the anxiety and shyness forced me to give it up and so the following year I did not do music. I often wonder what would have happened if I had continued with music at school. I’ve never gotten 85% for any test since. 

Anxiety Alcohol

What is this Crazy Town?

I was 14 when my father got a job in a new city. If there’s one thing that’s worse than being a shy anxious teenager, it’s moving to a completely new city as a shy anxious teenager! 

Off we went from Hamilton to Wellington. This new world sent me into a tail spin. On my first trip into the city I witnessed a group of girls dancing around a strange fountain made of buckets as if it were some kind of shrine. They were dressed oddly. One wore what appeared to be a dress made from an old bedspread and another, a statin nightgown my granny would wear, cinched at the waist with a studded belt. There were girls with shaved heads and boys with long hair in pigtail braids. What was this crazy town!

It was so foreign to me and oh so alluring! I could do anything here! The rules could be broken. I could wear whatever I wanted. I could be my true self! But who on Earth was that?

Anxiety: The Identity Crisis

My 14 year old identity crisis sent my anxiety into full force. I wanted to have the balls to dress like Gwen Stefani-cum-Courtney Love but I also didn’t want to attract attention. Big Problem. So what did I do? I embraced my new fashion choices but I built a wall around me. Resting Bitch Face became my norm and instead of smiling I scowled. I was a super hip mute.

It wasn’t long until I attracted some like-clothinged friends. But I would never know if we were like minded because I was too scared to talk to them. They invited me to a party and that’s where I met my new best friend – Loretta. 

Anxiety and Alcohol

After making my way to a house in Art Valley I was promptly offered a beer. Then a cask of wine and another few beers. Pretty soon I was drunk off my tits. And I wasn’t Lisette anymore! Oh no. I was different. I was The Best Version of Me! I could finally drop the stern facade. I could talk! Oh how I could talk.

The words followed off my lips like honey. All those words I’d been holding in were so happy to finally be free! People laughed at my jokes and I felt like I could be my true self.

Anxiety Alcohol

My drunken Alter Ego

The next morning when I woke up I was me again. The Best Version of Me had slipped out the door like a lover after a shameful one night stand. As the night’s revellers all awoke they grinned at me, expecting me to snap to it and carry on with last night’s banter. But  the magic was was gone. 

After the first appearance (and then disappearance) of the Best Version of Me I learned how to mimic her after she had gone. Just enough to keep me talking. 

Everybody Loves Me

As the years went on I relied on alcohol for every social engagement. It was how I made friends. People who were on the fence about me quickly became chums after they had a night out with The Best Version of Me. She was fun. She was wild. She would dance in the street and go skinny dipping in the sea. She would waltz up to a handsome young man and demand he buy her a drink!

Alcohol helped me lose my virginity. If it were not for a bottle of Vodka and the subsequent lustful confidence it may have stayed intact until my 20s.  I mean how could anyone be sexy without being drunk? How could anyone flirt or make a move when they were sober?

Good Things Go Bad

I loved Alcohol. It had helped me to do so much. But somewhere along the way things started to get out of hand. Instead of helping to do things I couldn’t do whilst sober, it started to make me do things I would never do whilst sober. The Best Version of Me was turning bad.

What’s more, once I started drinking I could not stop. This meant that the line between The Best Version of Me and The Worst Version of Me was becoming very, very blurred.

Drunk Me Becomes a Jackass

While some people still thought I was a hoot when I was drunk, others were tiring of her antics. Sober people in particular thought I was a jackass. 

“You called the bouncer a cunt,” my sober-driver friend told me the night after a bender. 

“No, what? Are you sure?”

“I was right there. He said you were too drunk to come in so you called him a cunt and you jumped over some little bonsai trees to get in. Your stiletto got stuck and you fell over.”

“That must be how I got the bruise.”

“I can’t believe you did that. It was so embarrassing.”

I felt terrible but at the same time I felt like sober people should never be allowed to hang out with drunk people. They were like spies; collecting information to hold against you later.

The truth was I regularly couldn’t remember the things they claimed I’d done. All I knew was that when I drank my anxiety went away.

Anxiety Alcohol

Alcohol Becomes my Saboteur

There is a big difference between being a drunken oversharer amongst your BFFs in a nightclub bathroom and doing the same in conversation with your boss and other influential people in your industry. That’s when I knew it was time for alcohol and I to go our separate ways.

The wake up call came on a Sunday when I was enduring yet another hangover and my parents had dragged me along to a friend’s 50th. 

A Shameful Drunken Oversharer

There was a woman there who we did not know but after a few drinks we could have been her besties. She stumbled up to our table and started telling us all about her life. By the end of her 20 minute tirade I knew the names of all her siblings, where they all lived and all the mean things they had ever done to her. 

As she waddled away (to refill her glass) a hot hard feeling was brooding in my throat and tingling my cheeks. It was shame. I felt ashamed for her. It was so painfully obvious that now, after far too many drinks, she felt confident enough to spill her guts to three complete strangers. And the worst thing was I felt sorry for her, because I was her in 30 more years. 

Friend or Foe?

It was at that moment I realised that alcohol hadn’t been a friend to me at all. And The Best Version of Me had been the complete opposite. She had a manifestation of my anxiety disorder. I had come to rely on her to get me through social situations. But all it had really done was mask the anxiety and shyness that I still possessed.

It was time I started learning how to be myself without dutch courage.

Anxiety Alcohol

Learning to be My True Self, Sober.

Now days I never drink to calm my nerves, feel relaxed in social situations or to feel more confident. I drink occasionally to celebrate a special occasion and I don’t often have more than once drink in a sitting.  To be honest, I rarely drink these days at all. I find even a small amount of alcohol kills my vibe the next day. And if I want to live a High Vibe Unicorn Life then I need all the energy I can get! 

Alcohol – A False Sense of Confidence

When we rely on alcohol and other drugs to give us confidence or calm us down we are giving away our power. We are not solving the problem. We are not coming to terms with what the issue really is, we are simply masking the symptoms. 

Next time you reach for a drink, stop and ask yourself why you are having it. Is it because you’re tired, stressed, angry, overwhelmed? Or is it because there’s someone inside you, itching to get out? The answer may surprise you. 

Full Time Unicorn

Creative Industries

How to Write a Book

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How to Write a Book

A few years ago I had an idea. A very powerful idea. One that kept me awake at night and gnawed away at me from the inside. It was an idea for a book that my inner being told me I simply must write. Write a book! It sang to me. Write a book! So on long nights of insomnia I would lay awake plotting and planning. And that’s how it began.

Of course, it took me almost a year to actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and start writing. Because my mind was clouded by my own limiting beliefs. I can’t write a book! I haven’t studied creative writing! This idea is silly. I don’t even have the whole story planned out in my head yet. My head was so full of self doubt that it took the influence of my BFF writing her own first book to finally get me into action.

One thing is for sure. If I’d known how long it would take, how many re-writes I would do, how many adjustments I would make and how many bouts of self doubt I would have to tackle, I probably would never have started.

But now, here I am, with a completed young adult, modern fantasy novel of 85,000 words, ready for the literary agent query process. I have written a book. So how did I do it?

How to Write a Book: Step 1 – The Idea

You could be anywhere when it comes to you; gardening, at the supermarket, stuck in traffic or my personal favourite – listening to Radio NZ and doing the dishes. Out of nowhere it descends upon you. You can almost feel it settling on your shoulders like dewy mist. You have an idea. A great idea. An idea so amazing it gives you goosebumps.

Getting an idea is like a spiritual experience for me – like being graced with the presence of a deity or divine being. It sends me into a sudden sweat and causes me to mutter “fuck” under my breath.

In tarot, the ace of wands symbolises the exciting energy of a new idea. The spark of inspiration that floods you with motivation and oomph.

The trick is to hold onto the power of the idea long enough for you to use it. Sometimes that power can be fleeting; if you don’t sit down with it immediately its energy will float away to someone else. But other ideas are more persistent. They need you, and only you, to bring them to fruition.

As Elizabeth Gilbert explains in Big Magic, an idea is the very beginning of the creative process. Without it the creative process simply doesn’t exist. But Ideas, as wonderful as they are, are not complete in themselves. They need us to bring them into the material world.

“Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

I had my idea for two years before I finally accepted that it wasn’t going to leave until I used it. Or until it found someone else willing to take it on. After two years of hanging out with my idea I couldn’t just let it float off to someone else! Someone who didn’t understand it. It was mine!

I made a deal with the idea that it was us together. Two peas in a pod. We were going to do this. But that’s when the my inner critic decided she had something to say…

How to Write a Book: Step 2: Tell your Inner Critic to Fuck off

My inner critic was not chuffed with me and my idea getting cozy together. She was concerned. She had our reputation in mind, our time and energy. She didn’t want me spending all that time trying to write a book only to fail! What if you find out you can’t do it? What if you never finish it? What if you tell everyone and then lose interest and it becomes just another one of those things you never achieved? What if you do finish it but it sucks and no one will publish it? You could make a fool of yourself! I think it’s best if you just clean your house instead. A clean house never hurt anyone.

I would like to say I found it easy to ignore her. But I didn’t. Her messages of self doubt were loud and distracting. It took me a long time to realise that she was always going to be there but I had the power to tell her to shut the fuck up.

How to Write a Book

How to Write a Book: Step 3 – Decide if you are a Plotter or a Pantser.

Plotters are writers that plot everything out before they even start their book. Pantsers are writers who just dive on in with their idea and ‘write by the seat of their pants’.

I am a plotter, open to some pantsing in between. Personally, I highly recommend doing some basic plotting before you start writing. Knowing your setting, season, characters and basic premise BEFORE YOU START is super helpful. I only know this because I dove in with most of these things undecided and every time I got to a place where I had to make a decision I was halted in my tracks, forced to go back and do research and make decisions.

However, maybe you have to write one book the wrong way before you can learn what kind of writer you are.

How to Write a Book: Step 4 – Start Writing

This is actually the easiest part of the whole process. Just fucking start. If you’ve committed to plotting give yourself a time limit. Set a date on the calendar. But the thing is if you don’t actually start you’ll NEVER have a book.

How to Write a Book: Step 5 – Allow Yourself to Fuck it Up/Learn

I have a saying I tell my kids when they are doing something for the very first time: The first time’s the worst time. Basically, you’ve gotta start somewhere and, while you may be impressed with how you’re going straight off the bat, remember – the only way is up. You can truly only get better from here on in. It’s both comforting and terrifying but you have to accept it to allow yourself to begin the learning process.

How to Write a Book: Step 6 – Cry

I feel like at this stage, if you haven’t already, it’s probably time to have a cry. Trying new things is scary and hard. There’s a whole monologue of self doubt voices in your head telling you that you can’t do it. If you’re lucky, that magical Ace of Wands feeling will be strong enough to drown out the doubt. But for most of us those nasty inner critic voices are loud and mean. If you feel them slowing you down, telling you to quit or forcing you to overthink every word, stop and let it out. Cry. Let them tears roll down your cheeks. Let that shit go so you can move forward. There ain’t no point holding on to those tears – there will be plenty more to shed later on in the process.

How to Write a Book

How to Write a Book: Step 7 – Commit to the Shitty First Draft

Being able to commit to the shitty first draft is the most important part of truly committing to your project. In my opinion the best approach is to smash out that shit. It’s like ripping off a Bandaid. The quicker you do it the easier it is. Bang. It. Out.

Set yourself a daily word count target and do whatever it takes to meet it. I find getting up at 5am to be my most successful writing time. My mind is still in the world of dreams and my kids are still (hopefully) asleep. I can smash out 3000 words before breakfast – but not after.

How to Write a Book: Step 8 – Keep Writing

In order to complete the shitty first draft, you must KEEP WRITING. There will be times when you feel confused, tired, doubtful. But under no circumstances are you to give up and stop half way through. Believe me, a complete shitty first draft is 10 times better than a half-finished shitty first draft.

In my opinion the best thing to do is set aside six to eight weeks to write your first draft. You must finish the whole thing in one go but it is okay to leave some gaps if you must. Then, once it’s done, stick that ugly baby in a drawer for six weeks and fuggetaboutit! Under no circumstances should you re-read what you have written until the six weeks waiting period is up. It will only make you cry again – which is far too soon.

How to Write a Book: Step 9 – Read Shitty First draft

This could very well be the hardest part of the process. There is a reason we call it the shitty first draft. After reading it you will see about 90% shit and 10% gold. You will doubt your abilities as a writer and as a human. Which leads to Step 10…

How to Write a Book: Step 10 – Cry

Yes. It’s that time again. Cry. It is okay to cry. You are sad because you hate your work and you obviously have no idea how to use basic grammar because you found so many ridiculous errors. But that is okay. It can only get better from here. This is the worst it will ever be. The very fact that you have found so many errors and awful sentences means that you have the skills to make it better.

How to Write a Book

How to Write a Book: Step – Polish that Turd

The best way to polish a turd is in real life, so that means print that puppy out, in double lined spacing and sit down by the fire with a stiff drink and a highlighter. It’s time to polish your baby turd.

-Make the first page a slap in the face
-Get rid of needless words
-Adverbs are not as cool as they seem
-Show don’t tell
-Don’t repeat information to the reader
-Keep them on their toes
-If it doesn’t progress the story, develop characters or conflict, do you really need it?

I found some awesome tips in Self Editing for Fiction Writers and Stephen King – On Writing.

How to Write a Book: Step – Make Changes then Give it Another Coat of Polish

Yep, that’s right. Once you’ve made all the changes it’s time to read through it all again. It can also help to read it out loud – that way you can hear when things don’t sound quite right.

How to Write a Book: Step – Cut the Emotional Chord

I understand how hard it can be to let go. But in order to make this book the best it can be you are going to have to learn to distance your self from your work. The next step in the process is going to involve opening yourself up to feedback. Honest feedback. Feedback basically means telling you all the things that are wrong with your work. All the mistakes you have made. And all the silly things that don’t quite make sense. But feedback is the THE MOST IMPORTANT AND HELPFUL THING YOU CAN GET.

So before you set out to get feedback, remind yourself that this is something you created but it is not you. The bones of it are the magic, now allow the universe to help you do that magic justice.

How to Write a Book: Step – Beta Readers

Now it’s time to send out the call for beta readers. Some people use friends and family but I would select people who are interested in the genre and market of your book. I wouldn’t ask my Dad to read my YA fantasy book because he would hate it regardless of quality. The best beta readers are people you don’t know because they are more likely to give you honest feedback. Try people from your book club, writers group or your High School English teacher friends. Select at least five beta readers so you get a wide range of opinions.

How to Write a Book: Step – Receive Feedback/Cry

Even though you previously cut the chord it is still hard take feedback on something you have given your soul to. It is okay to cry. It is okay to give yourself a day of Netflix binging to process all the things that are wrong with your book. You probably can’t get your head around them right now and have no idea how on Earth you will fix the problems. Don’t panic. Just relax and get back to it tomorrow.

How to Write a Book: Step – Implement Feedback

Now, you do not have to implement all feedback. Some opinions come down to the individual and at the end of the day this is your book. If one person suggests something you don’t agree with you don’t have to use their input. If 10 people suggest the same thing, you might want to consider it.

How to Write a Book: Step – Proof Read that Sucker

This is where you can ask anyone and everyone to read your little bastard of a book. You don’t really care if it’s their thing – because you are officially detached emotionally. Now you just need to make it tidy and tight. The more people read over it the more typos they will find. You want that bad boy looking as spick and span as possible.

You could at this stage hire an editor to check and format your book perfectly in prep for the next fabulous stage….

How to Write a Book: Step – Query Literary Agents

Now that brings me to my current nightmare stage; the agent query stage. If you thought writing the book was hard, try dealing with the slow and painful waiting game of querying agents! I can’t really complain. I’ve only been in this stage for six months and I’m less than 20 submissions deep. I’ll keep you posted!

How to Write a Book: Step – Start your Next Book

So this is where I’m at. My first book is currently complete and awaiting representation and publication. We have now learnt that writing books is not for sissies. It is hard and painful. But because we are silly and sadistic we can’t help but do it all again! So why not start book number two!?

Full Time Unicorn