Persevere: One step at a time.

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.” Walter Elliot.

This piece of advice recently popped up on the Facebook Page of Australian Writers Centre, on a day I really needed to see it! ‘Perseverance’ has been my ‘go to’ word for the last couple of years, whenever I’m faltering, tired, fed up, impatient or losing heart. It’s a Post It note on top of my jumble of thoughts. So, when I saw this reminder, on a day when I felt like giving up – in this case, the writing of my novel – I thought, ah, that reminder is for me. That’s serendipity!

When things are difficult or unpleasant in our lives, we tend to put them off. Doing the easy things first is a good option: we clear our environment, our schedule, our minds, so that the difficult task can be focused on. This is my favoured technique. The problem with it is, we can keep putting off the difficult task. That’s procrastination! That’s when we need to persevere!

What I like about this quote is that it’s a reminder that perseverance itself, can be broken down into achievable chunks. If we keep going until we reach the next step, we’ll get through to the end. Think of perseverance as a journey with many stops, not just destination. Reach the step, enjoy it for a moment, breathe, and carry on.

Anything worth doing is worth persevering for. Make the struggle count. Make the most of it. Success will taste so much sweeter in the end. But pause along the way and enjoy the steps too. Make it a lifestyle.

Writing a novel is a mammoth task. 90,000 words is not the only task: they need to be the right words, in the right order, to make the right story. It’s daunting, to say the least, especially with the demon, Doubt, sitting on the writer’s shoulder, whispering – or yelling – who do you think you are? Or, your writing is rubbish! The only way to get through it, is to break it down, scene by scene, paragraph by paragraph, word by word. Persevere until the demon, Doubt, gets the message!

Life is also a mammoth task. It also needs to be stepped through, broken into chunks, lived in scenes! Perseverance is required for each stage, each goal, each battle. Don’t race to the end without stopping to appreciate the passing of each one, the beginning of the next one, and where you are right now.

Perseverance requires patience. It requires stamina. And it requires the ability to appreciate each step before we move on to the next one.

 

More brilliant advice:

“Don’t rush through the experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you.” Rob Bell.

Today is Another Day. Be Grateful.

The ability to connect with nature is one of the most basic and important aspects of modern life. Many people are losing this connectivity, through lifestyle, man-made distractions and lack of mindfulness. I believe they are losing their souls and sense of peace.

Taking ten seconds to notice the outside world as we wake each morning can enhance our appreciation for being alive. Look out of the window. What do you see? What do you hear? Can you open the window and feel it? What does it smell like? You are connected. You are alive.

I’m fortunate; I’m free, healthy and live by a river in a small Australian coastal town. There is a lot to be grateful for right there.

I look out of my window or step onto the deck. The river glistens and teams with visible life. Water hens, ducks, pelicans and cormorants cruise and dive, fishing amongst the seagrass. I can hear the flapping of large wings splashing water as black swans groom.

Before the river are tall Eucalyptus trees, as high as five storey buildings. Magpies, currawongs, kookaburras, corellas and galahs come to rest and socialise on the branches. The antics of the pink and grey galahs make me smile and I understand that it’s natural and good to have a sense of fun. I remember to lighten up.

In winter, some of the Eucalyptus trees burst into creamy white flowers like little tutus on Snugglepots and Cuddlepies. Hundreds of small white butterflies flutter around the tree and thousands of lorikeets jostle to feed on the nectar. The combined tweets and squawks are as loud as the ocean on a stormy day.

Underneath, on the grass, kangaroos munch and hang about enjoying the morning sun. Joeys follow their mummas, eating alongside, trying to get back in the pouch for a quick milky snack or a rest. She lets them until she’s carrying a new one which may be a while if the weather is too dry. In that case, a large joey will still climb in, legs poking out awkwardly and at such strange angles, I wonder how it can contort so. It’s like a teenager that’s outgrown its single bed. Eventually, it will fall out and meet up with a friend for a round of play boxing.

I smile. I breathe. The air is clean. I am free to watch. And I am grateful for another day.

Will you spare a moment to be grateful for the day?

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Seagrass keeps more than dugongs alive!

“The world’s seagrass meadows act like great carbon sinks sequestering twice the amount of carbon a tropical forest of the same size can store…” What? Really? I didn’t know that!

Feet up, Pinot Gris in hand and watching Nat Geo Wild’s Australia’s Hidden Islands, I was engaging in some armchair sight-seeing of Fraser Island. I heard this statement. I rewound the programme and replayed it! I heard right! On the screen was a dugong cow grazing on the seagrass munching away through 28kg of seagrass a day!

“Just one hectare of seagrass can capture 27.4 tonnes of carbon every year and produce 100,000 litres of oxygen per day, enough for 200 people to breathe.”

I’m suddenly fascinated by seagrass, something I like to kayak over on the river in Sussex Inlet, south coast of NSW. It’s great to see fish and sting rays startle and swish away as I pass. But I’ve not thought much more about it. Some people don’t like it around their jetty and illegally try to remove it. Instinctually, I knew this was wrong. Ruining natural habitats is not something that would occur to me let alone choose to do! But now I know a lot more about why it’s wrong.

If we’re going to continue to BREATHE, we need oxygen in the air and carbon stored in the earth. We need just the right mixture for our world to be healthy.

Mangroves, seagrass meadows and tidal wetlands (blue carbon coastal ecosystems) have unmatched ability to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it in the ground below. This process is called carbon sequestration. Carbon is stored in the soil of blue carbon habitats for thousands of years. When these habitats are damaged or destroyed the carbon can be released as CO2 back into the atmosphere.

(Forests are also good at carbon sequestration, but trees have limited storage: they get saturated and have a shorter storage life, say 100 years. Coal is the result of ancient forest and algae carbon sequestration.)

Seagrass meadows are diminishing in size. The reduction in available light caused by enhanced suspended sediment loads and elevated nutrient concentrations, is the most widespread and pervasive cause of seagrass decline. This is a result of coastal discharges including outfalls of industry, urban stormwater, wastes from aquaculture operations (think fish farms) and sewage discharged from boats and ships. They are also susceptible to fishing and boating pressures.

Seagrass is also important for binding sediment, stabilising shore lines against erosion and providing the nursery habitat for fish, crustaceans and molluscs. Sea turtles and dugongs graze directly on seagrass, an important enough point, and they spread seagrass seeds as they poo!

It seems to me that seagrass is extremely important and should be preserved and promoted as necessary to the health of all creatures on earth.

I hope you stayed with me on this one! Following my curiosity has once again paid dividends: not to the writing of my novel – unfortunately – but to my understanding of the earth and my place in it. I hope that I’ve passed along some knowledge that will affect your life – at least so you can prevent anyone you know from clearing the seagrass around their jetty!

 

Thanks to Foxtel’s Nat Geo Wild and

https://ozcoasts.org.au/indicators/biophysical-indicators/changes_seagrass_area/

amongst others.

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Research is Empowering

Research has enhanced my life. It is fulfilling and empowering. I am a stronger person because of it. Since I left my marriage and dumped the kids (they’re in their twenties), I’ve found I have a zest for research.

The most energising form of research is the ‘follow your curiosity’ kind – the Big Magic kind extolled by Elizabeth Gilbert. That is, when you find a subject that interests you, investigate it, read about it, fall into the rabbit hole of the internet for it.

I’ve done this a lot for the writing of my novel, researching everything from Hindu cremations in India to nursing homes in Donegal, Ireland. However, it’s likely my enthrallment won’t equal my readers’, so not a great deal will make it to the story!

The value is in the knowledge I’ve gained, not how much I choose to share with the world. For research to be life-enhancing, it needs to be fascinating. And that’s all! It doesn’t need to serve a purpose. Although, often, it will.

Topical affairs such as gay marriage, live animal export or the Queensland Adani coal mine need to be researched, for us to have a rational, rather than emotional, opinion. It’s dangerous to only listen to the lobbyists, or political parties, news or social media. Research across the board, will, hopefully give us a balanced and purposeful view. Once we have a sound basis, there’s nothing wrong with throwing some emotion into it too. That makes us passionate and I’m all for that!

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve typically been a fence-sitter. I have undervalued my intellect and therefore deferred to others who I’ve had more faith in. I am also fearful of conflict, preferring to run away than argue. But research is making me stronger. I’m learning new things and forming opinions on the way. It’s liberating and gives me independence. Even if I’m still reluctant to share my view, at least I know what I think. This kind of research is empowering. And it’s relatively new to me.

I first read about this in a book called ‘Storycatcher.’ The author, Christina Baldwin, said: ‘Activism in one area of your life builds a sense of empowerment in all areas of your life; you are a more assertive citizen and so is your family and wider circle of friends, for you inspire each other into activism by giving each other hope.’

Case in point, the sixteen-year old Greta Thunberg from Sweden, who has sparked a worldwide movement of school children expressing their feelings about climate change. I hope that these children are inspired and encouraged to research the topic and form an opinion. It is an opportunity for them to learn, have a view and not be afraid to express it.

I was going to tell you about my research into banks and the one in which I’ve selected to open an account. But it seems too boring now. I’ll just say this: sometimes research is just plain necessary! But if it’s important, it can be fascinating. Researching banks has given me a knowledge I didn’t have. And I was able to make a sound decision. That is fulfilling! That is empowering. That has enhanced my life!

What have you researched that has made you stronger?

 

“I am woman, hear me roar.” Helen Reddy.

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticised anyway.” Eleanor Roosevelt.

Plotting, Planning and Perfectionism

Perfectionism is the highest form of Procrastination!

I know, I’ve been down this path before – in LIFE and in the BLOG.

My writing is slowed by painstaking planning. There are two types of writers (so say actual writers who’ve written and published books): Plotters and Pantsers. One does the whole PLOT thing in a rational and methodical way and then does the story writing. And the other writes ‘by the seat of their pants,’ creating as they go along (or being told what to write by the characters themselves!).

I believe most writers fall somewhere in between – on the writer-type spectrum.

I’d love to be the creative type who simply has the story flow out of them. Those writers are sublime beings to me. They’re REAL WRITERS!

I’m on the other end, maybe one point off extreme PLOTTER. I love making notes, researching, reading writing-craft books, listening to authors speak in interviews, following them on Facebook….

I nod my head and take more notes.

I’m amazed that I even have a first draft. If you read it, you wouldn’t be so amazed, because it’s really crap! But that’s okay: it’s in the RULES – a shitty first draft is how it’s supposed to be! Ten points for me!

Now that I’m in second draft stage, I’ve stalled. I’m the plotter, the planner, the perfectionist, and I have a sneaking suspicion, the procrastinator!

I re-did my CHARACTER PROFILES – in extreme detail. They’ve changed a little over two years, and I was getting confused, having to check through realms of notes, even for things as basic as family names. My character profiles are beautiful: tables that have headings like BACKSTORY, QUIRKS, CONTRASTING TRAITS. They’re the kitchen sinks of character profiles! With two vacant rows between each heading! You get the picture? And I have three protagonists, so I got to do three!

Next step: THEMES. Which character expresses what themes? Easy. Done.

Then there’s the CHARACTER ARC, which is another way of saying TIMELINE, in my mind. I can spend days on this! The 10-25% mark where the reader gets a glimpse through the persona at the essence of the character, the dark point at 75% etc. Whoopee! Days of perfect planning.

It might seem like this is all important stuff, and I obviously think it is, because I’m doing it. But is it really necessary? Am I overthinking it? Have I read too many craft books and had too many lessons? Is this just putting off writing the story? Is it PROCRASTINATION?

Or am I the most perfect planner ever?

I don’t know, but I better Post this Blog and get on with it. One day, I might finish the damn book!

Ironically, it’s called The Rest of Their Lives. I won’t say any more!

Follow Your Heart

TOASTMASTERS has been a great life enhancer for me. Not only have I found new, caring, intelligent friends, but I’ve been able to develop my VOICE. This is a WRITER thing but it’s also very human. We all want to be heard, feel valued and understood. Most people join to develop themselves somehow. I joined because I wanted another reason to write. I’ve not only found an outlet for my writing, I’ve found a group of people that encourage me, make me feel strong and interesting. I can speak without fear of judgement and this is a confidence booster.

I’ve included here today, a SPEECH I made a few weeks ago, on my return from the Great India Interlude. I hope you enjoy it and feel inspired to follow your heart, like I have.

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Have you ever had a strong desire to do something that’s not totally rational, or predictable or convenient? Something that pulls on your heartstrings despite your mind saying, maybe that’s not sensible?

Six years ago, age fifty, I did something out of character. I packed the dog, hired a motorhome and left the family for a six-week time out! It was a dream that turned into a life changing journey.

Two years ago, I changed the course of my life. I left my marriage.

It was an action that was neither predictable or convenient. I stepped into the abyss and it took courage. Why did I do it? Because I knew, deep in my heart, that I would never be all I could be if I stayed.

Two months ago, I boarded a plane for India. This may have been rational and predictable. After all, I am writing a novel that includes India and I am known as adventurous. But going to India alone was going to be challenging.

I was nervous about being a single woman travelling alone in a country where native women only travel with their family. If alone, they risk being thought of as reckless or having loose morals. I was nervous about getting sick, finding my way, getting accosted.

But the twinges in my tummy weren’t from nerves. They were flutters of excitement. I wanted to be alone in India, to immerse myself in the place, in the crowd, with the noise and cows and colour. That was what was pulling me there.

I’d been there before and travelled like a maharani. But the India I craved, was amongst the commoners. I wanted to connect empathically.

My book is the story of three women who have the courage to start again (any similarity to me is coincidental!) and one of them lives in India for a year. I wanted the trip to be my version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, maybe Bollywood style.

So, despite my fears and friends’ words of caution, I embarked on my journey. In transit, in Hong Kong, I faced my first challenge. I missed my connection! This was stressful and I wondered if the trip was really a good idea!    I appealed to the gods, asking if I really needed such a lesson. I pulled myself together, found my offloaded suitcase and figured out how to get to Mumbai that night. Arriving at 3am, there was no one to meet me. I had no cash and I needed a taxi. With the help of a kind Indian man, I figured out the foreign ATM machine. Then I set off through the dark, quiet, deserted streets with a taxi driver who spoke no English. Friends’ words of caution were firmly blocked out.

After this initiation by adrenaline infusion, things settled down. My days of research in Mumbai were glossy with success. The help I had was beyond my hopes. Nothing was too much trouble. I found where my character lived, shopped and cremated her husband.

The next part of the journey was a nine-hour train trip to Goa. Another example of facing my fear and doing it anyway (thank you Susan Jeffers) Online horror stories of women-solo-travellers on trains and the cautions from friends had me alert, but concern was unwarranted. At 5am I was escorted by a guide to the right platform and the first-class carriage. The carriage was comfortable and fellow travellers looked agreeable. No scoundrels in sight. The most unpleasant part of the trip was the man on his mobile, shouting ‘hallo, hallo,’ every time the signal cut out.

Goa is a seaside resort town and very relaxed. On my first night, I settled at the garden bar of my resort to listen to the traditional Indian band.

A bellydancer wove through the tables and grabbed my hand. I leapt from my chair, my inner bellydancer coming out to play. Travelling alone is liberating because there’s no-one you know to bear witness to your actions.

As I returned exhausted to the bar, a fine-looking English gentleman sung my praises. I was charmed as we chatted, especially when he told me he bred and showed spaniels. We ate dinner together and laughed at our stories.

I began to think I’d met my soul mate. I was quite besotted. And then he said four words that changed everything. “As a gay man……”

After I recovered, we went on to have dinner together every night.

Determined to never think of romance again, I concentrated on spirituality. One evening in Udaipur I attended a puja, a Hindu ceremony.

I mimicked the worshippers: hands together, sitting cross legged, lining up with the ladies to run holy water through my hair and accepting flower petals. As I made my way through the little alleyways back to my hotel, I almost skipped.

I could tell you twenty other stories: of conversations with women, of feeding dogs and kissing cows, of lascivious looks by young men in villages, embarrassing massages, disturbing road accidents, Bollywood movies with no subtitles, falling a little in love with my guide in Varanasi, clever beggars, and trudging through the snow before dawn to watch the sun                          rise on the Himalayas.

But I’ll just tell you this one. I wanted to get some advice from a traditional Hindu doctor. I had a hand drawn map from my guide in Varanasi and I was told it was an hour-long trip. I was deliberating as to whether it was worth it and was sharing these thoughts with a Swiss woman at my hotel. She looked me straight in the eyes, touched my arm and said, “You have nothing more important to do today!” So, I went.

As I stepped around the cows and into the white building, I was greeted by the doctor. I shared my concerns. His final words were, “You’re fine. You have everything you want in your life. Meditate, fast and you will be well in body and mind. Concentrate on writing your novel.”

Some of life’s greatest moments come when you’re not totally rational, or predictable, or comfortable. They come when you feel that pull on your heartstrings and you go with it.

Follow Your Heart (2)

I Want To Be Free

Have you ever felt like life is a school that’s handing out too many tests? Like there’s too much homework to do and you just want to go out and play? I have! Right now! I’ve had enough!

Life isn’t bad! It’s a good school: the grounds are picturesque, and the building is comfortable. The food is healthy and classmates friendly.

But I feel like I’m running the same circuit and the tests, the hurdles, just get shifted around.

I want to run free. Cross-country.

I’m currently trying to end one stage of my life: that stage where I fell in love, got married, had children, raised them, then found that the air I shared with my husband had gone stale and didn’t sustain me, or him, anymore. Some people can keep that air fresh and invigorating. That wasn’t the case for me. The window was closed and I had to break the glass to jump free.

I want to start the next stage. The only thing is, I’m still not free. I’m still stuck in the grounds! I’ve been here for two and-a-quarter years, trying to scale the boundary walls and only getting part way.

The tests have been emotional, physical, psychological and legal. Sometimes they stand alone and sometimes they’re mixed together.

I’m not going to go into details until I’m well and truly out of, or in, the woods! I may be legally divorced now but the legal and financial proceedings go on.

What do I want to do when I get to go out and play?

You may be wondering: Do I want a new partner? No! (Unless I was offered Kevin Richardson, Lion Whisperer.) Do I want to travel to obscure places that no partner would want to go? No! (Unless you call the Australian Outback and country towns, obscure.) Do I want to be a cougar? I’m too old! And No, anyway!

I just want to be me! I want to follow any path that intrigues me. I want to learn new tricks. Make discoveries. Achieve greatness in my own mind!

I want to be free to make decisions for myself, learn new skills and make each day count towards a fulfilling life.

The most fulfilling thing I could do right now is write, every day, towards completing my novel. The story and three characters consume most of my good thoughts. Those thoughts make me happy, even when I’m struggling! Those thoughts are play! (The other good thoughts are privately to do with Kevin Richardson)

So, Life! Here’s a plea. Can we get the tests over with? Can we say, enough with the homework, go out and play?

Go! Run! Be free! Yehargh!

 

Disclaimer: I apologise if Kevin Richardson is married! I haven’t actually stalked him to find out! 😉

www.lionwhisperer.co.za

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