A novel idea…

I’m in the process of writing my first romance novel. A way of staying in touch with my followers is to take you along with me as I share the highs and lows of fiction writing.

Many don’t appreciate the intricacies involved in writing a novel, short story or even a poem. Considerable time and effort goes into finding perfect words for a poem. A short story is fast moving generally with a beginning, middle and end (or a twist in the tale). Writing a novel is a labour of love taking months (even years) with a vision only the Author harbours (without a guarantee of it becoming a success or not).

Truth be told, writing is hard work! It requires belief, determination and a never give up attitude. Starting and finishing a story takes immense courage. Having stories critiqued is torturous. I learnt this the hard way when I received harsh reviews whilst fighting back tears. It made me question whether I was good enough and if I’d make it as a writer. At that stage I was very sensitive. My stories were my darlings and I couldn’t separate myself from them. It took a long time to accept that not everything I write is going to be ground-breaking. Every failure strengthened my resolve to work harder, learn from mistakes and KEEP writing.

For years I didn’t feel ready to write a novel as I didn’t have sufficient experience in fiction writing. I gave myself small attainable goals like writing short stories, learning the ropes, whilst building confidence. I surrounded myself with experienced writers, absorbing as much as I could from them. I’m not ambitious. I write because it makes me happy. The pay back is when readers appreciate my work, making it worth while.

This is my maiden journey in writing a novel. I have nothing to compare it to nor can I say that I’ll succeed in making it a reality. All I have is a strong belief that the time is right to do this.

I’m a planner when it comes to writing. I like to have a map of where my stories go. But this can spell trouble as too much preparation can block creativity. I saw this in some of my stories where I couldn’t identify with my characters as I was holding the strings too tightly. Characters need to be set free to find their own destiny and letting go wasn’t easy as I wanted to run the show.

The first step in writing a novel is coming up with an idea. Generally music is my go-to when I’m in need of inspiration. I listen to songs and like to come up with stories based on the emotions they evoke. And with so many songs available I could write countless novels… yet I couldn’t find something compelling enough to get lost in.

I was having anxiety that I may never find the right idea and was wasting precious time pursuing dead ends. The more I stressed, the more frustrated I became. I have a close relationship with God and live a spiritual life. I called on Him countless times, praying that I’d find an idea soon. I knew that if I left it in His hands something would come, maybe not as quick as I wished but in time it would.

And it did. Actually God has been sending me messages for a while now, steering me in a direction that confused me as I never considered anything like it before. After too many coincidences it finally dawned on me that the idea for my story was becoming stronger and what seemed impossible before could very much become a reality.

I finally accepted the idea and it felt so right in my soul. God listened to my prayers, heard my frustrations, soothed my doubts and tried to comfort me. He wants me to succeed, wants only the best for me and helps me in every way. You see, I’m not venturing into the unknown alone, my best friend has joined me on a journey that’s going to alter my future 🙂

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Writing Romance…

I adore romance. My adolescent years saw me curled up reading Mills and Boons. I swooned over the hero, the beauty that steals his heart, hated the obstacles in their way, longed to hear their confessions of love and felt sated when they lived happily ever after.

Of course I wasn’t surprised when I found myself drawn to writing fiction and in particular, romance where love is the order of the day. Yet it’s been a long and winding road getting here.

Writing is ingrained in me. It’s a medium I turn to when I can’t make sense of the emotional baggage life throws my way. It was my outlet when I loathed myself during my drinking days. It comforted me during recovery in sobriety. Today it’s helping me reach my dream one day at a time.

I’ve written countless short stories. I’m my biggest critic when it comes to sending work out for scrutiny, living in doubt of not being good enough. It takes courage to believe in your writing, to write everyday despite not everybody appreciating your work. I’ve finally come to a place where it’s okay if people don’t like what I write. What matters are the ones who do.

There’s so much to learn about writing that one gets caught in an abyss of information. I joined a Writing Circle a few years ago where I was challenged to write poems and fairy tales. I had no idea I could do this, yet I persevered and succeeded. It’s rewarding realising the untapped potential one has when stretched. But one can’t really be a pro juggling too many things at the same time.

Therefore I’ve dedicated this year to focusing on one objective. To write a romance novel. I’ve been to a Romance Writing Workshop in February where insight was given into the various imprints on offer. I had no idea of the vastness of the genre or the millions of dedicated readers waiting for fresh stories. I got a 101 on writing romance and set a deadline to get my first draft done.

I’m also part of the Romance Writers Chapter in Cape Town, a group of Authors living their dream writing romances. I actively participate in a small group of writers who task one another to produce stories. This year our aim is to write our novels simultaneously and to support each other during the process.

As much as I’m afraid of the unknown, of doubt setting in, of failing. I need to remind myself how far I’ve come already. This is my calling, it’s what I’ve been gearing for all my life and the time is now.

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Book Review

The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron

A good friend of mine,  Alison Smith  recommended this book on creative writing. I believe we pick up a book meant for us when we need it most. I was wading through a particularly dry writing spell when it came my way. Absorbing the content felt like I was waiting for it all my life!

Julia Cameron is a writer, filmmaker and teacher of creative unblocking. She was married for a short stint to Martin Scorsese, an accomplished filmmaker and director of ground-breaking movies such as Taxi and the Godfather. Their union produced a daughter.

Alcohol consumed Julia’s existence, reaching a tipping point where she desperately needed to sober up or her career could end abruptly. Her greatest fear was losing the gift of creativity whilst breaking the addiction. Courageously she handed over the reins of insecurity to the God of her understanding, becoming unblocked in the process.

The spiritual awakening she encountered led to a journey of teaching artists to discover and recover their creative selves. One of the reasons this book gripped me was the similarities conveyed to the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step program. Ironically it contains 12 chapters, each steering the reader into opening their minds to a power greater than themselves to achieve creative success.

The writing is impeccable, sung in an angelic voice, warming one’s soul. It’s a workbook, with tasks to perform after each chapter, tuning yourself in as an artist. She introduces morning pages, a three page must-do to be fulfilled on a daily basis. The beauty of self-examination is pouring your worries on paper granting you freedom to navigate the day without baggage.

The reader is encouraged to go on artist dates. She refers to the artist within as a child, requiring nurturing, fun times and most significantly, treated like a precious object. Each week one is tasked to date yourself, undertaking activities that bring joy to your spirit. This doesn’t mean expensive treats – a walk on the beach, indulging in a slice of cake at a quaint coffee shop or placing colourful flowers at strategic spots where creativity can bloom. These special moments reinforce the value and faith you carry as an artist.

She speaks of synchronisation – the belief of asking and you shall receive. Nothing happens by chance, opportunities manifest as a direct result of praying for them and being true to our dreams. These acts present themselves tactically and it’s our duty to recognise them, embrace the blessings, offering gratitude to the grace of God.

Julia dispels many doubts artists battle daily. The notion we need to be literary talents to touch success in the writing world. We barricade ourselves by not trusting God to receive rewards we rightly deserve. There is more than enough for everybody, yet we become cheapskates thinking God wants us to stay in jobs that don’t make us happy, crushing dreams and purpose year after miserable year. We wait for better days, time to do the things we love, validation from others that we’re good enough, when all the tools are at our disposal, yet we’re afraid to leap for fear of failure!

I gained an ocean of insight from this book. Morning pages became habitual. Artist dates were scheduled, allowing the child within to feel special and loved. Synchronisation occurred when I opened my mind to possibility. The creativity I craved trickled out, revealing a rose garden, butterflies and a path of sweet discovery.

If you’re looking for a book to awaken your purpose, pulls you out of the sinking sands of “I can’t”, steers you in the direction of your dreams, I recommend you read the Artist’s Way. A phenomenal five star rating from me!

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Sweet Desire…

I know I’ve been slacking of late in my blogging and I humbly apologise. If I thought 2015 was an insane year, 2016 took off with a bang and I’m still trying to find myself!

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The Wilderness

My day job has been keeping me quite busy and I’m incredibly grateful having employment that pays the bills, however it makes it so much harder trying to squeeze in time for writing. I recently got the opportunity to travel to the Wilderness for a short stint as part of a strategic planning session and it felt like a sin to be working in a slice of paradise and not having time to explore its beauty. On a free moment, I took a leisurely walk along the shore and I was in awe of the timeless splendour of the Southern Cape. I could see myself living there – in a cottage close to the beach, cuddling up on a swing chair with Neil, soaking up the surroundings, without a trace of stress on the horizon. Ah – if only my dreams could turn into reality, how tranquil life would be?

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The garden route highway skirting the coastline

But alas here I am, still running like a hamster on a wheel, thinking I’m making progress, only to find I’ve stayed in the same place, dishevelled and utterly exhausted! I only got around to compiling my goals for the year towards the end of February instead of them being New Year’s resolutions! But no matter, promises made then tend to be too idealistic and fizzle out anyway.

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The lagoon and sea intertwining

I recently came across an insightful post on the Change blog  on how to achieve what matters the most and why resolutions never pan out. Many of us tend to list too many goals to achieve, being brain-washed by society into thinking that we can have it all. The longer the list, the greater the failure as we’re too busy juggling them in the air, dropping one at a time. The post recommends focussing on one goal at a time, making it a priority, investing enough time and energy to ensure it materialises. This was an A-HA moment for me – one that has worked well in the past, but has been watered down due to a growing number of goals I want(ed) to achieve. I emphasise the word “want” because they’re nice to haves… I want to run a marathon, I want to lose weight, I want a six pack, you name it, I’ve wanted it all! These wants are great to envision, however none happen overnight, some taking months even years to take shape. Patience is not my friend and we’ve been having an on and off relationship for years now!

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Malini and I 🙂

But the message sunk in. I needed to streamline my goals, I had to be real with myself and ask what held a burning desire for me to achieve. Last year carried a fair share of disappointment and made me realise that although it’s great to plan elaborate goals, life has a way of knocking the wind out of your sail and steering you on a course you had no intention of following. Instead of focussing on the same goals of yesteryear, I decided to attempt something I never thought I had the guts to commit to.

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My number one priority this year isn’t running, nor is it shedding five kilograms… drum roll… it’s to write the first draft of a romance novel!!! The mere thought of it makes me feel like a public speaker about to address a roomful of people.

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My fellow writers have enquired when I plan on joining them for NaNoWrimo (a month when they commit to writing a 50 000 word novel) and I’ve always evaded it, saying I needed more time to learn the craft and develop as a writer. However, I could procrastinate forever and may never be ready! But if I have the courage to take the first step towards making it a reality, then I would have learnt from trial and error.

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It takes me back to a time six years ago when I knew I had to turn my life around and find help to overcome my alcoholism. I’d researched the AA for a while, stalking them via phone for advice, sought ways and means to curb my drinking, to no avail. Until I had the courage to face my fears, to step into a meeting with nobody holding my hand, uttering the words “I had a desire to stop drinking” and forced myself to sit it out without running away was the day my life changed!

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For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a writer and now that I’ve been pursuing writing seriously for the past two years, I’ve finally reached the stage of taking the next step of penning a story from my soul. The past few months has seen me sitting around Meg van der Merwe’s table learning the art of creative writing. I could ask for no better mentor, she has opened my eyes to a world of possibilities, pulled me out of my comfort zone and pushes me to face my fears. I also form part of small writers’ review group who are happy to provide me with guidance as I take on this mammoth mission.

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So what does this mean for my blogging? Sadly, fewer posts 😦 although I will fill you in from time to time on how the process is unfolding. I vow not to abandon my blog and humbly ask for your support as I have a “sweet baby” on the way. The time has arrived to nurture it, give it my undivided attention and fulfil my dream of writing fiction 🙂

Crazy November…

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged and I cannot come up with any excuses other than to say it’s been a crazy month!

What is it about this time of the year that drives us all into maniacs frantically trying to finish all our work projects, sitting in mundane meetings and taking on more than our plates can handle?

I’ve honestly been feeling like I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and I’m sure I’m not the only one! And through all this scurrying from one deadline to the next, my blogging has suffered most!

Last month I signed up for a creative writing course with Meg van der Merwe, a senior lecturer in the same field at UWC and an author of two South African fiction novels. I met Meg through the West Coast Writers Circle I belong to and was taken aback by her passion for teaching the craft to fellow writers. When I received word that Meg was offering a class from the confines of her home, I knew this was an opportunity I could not pass.

So far I’ve attended two sessions and it’s been scary and intense at the same time. I’ve never been part of a creative writing group before with so many talented writers sitting around the same table. Meg is rather unconventional in her teaching; she steers you in the direction of extracting personal information from your life, such as what your name story is and delves into your family history. By doing so she seeks to expose your authentic voice without the bows and whistles. Our first assignment was to interview the oldest person I knew and ask them the oldest story they knew. I decided to interview my Mom and after much coaxing she opened up about her arranged marriage to my Dad. For the first time I gained insight into my Mom’s life as a seventeen year old being handed the devastating news that she was set to marry a handsome man she’d met only once, leaving her family behind to embark on a new life in a town hundreds of kilometres away! I had to write the story as if I was my Mom and capture all the emotions she experienced and it gave me a greater understanding of her struggles, something I would never have learned if I hadn’t pursued this course. My next assignment is to write the story in my Dad’s voice. I’ve been procrastinating somewhat, for I know it will bring up a lot of emotions as my Dad’s passing is fresh in my mind.

November is also the month in which I do service at my AA meetings. What that entails is that I chair the meetings every Saturday at my group and come up with topics that relate to alcoholism and sobriety and share my experience with the members. The topics I chose were prayer and meditation, acceptance, learning to love yourself and gratitude. Each of these topics resonated with me and where I am in my own sobriety and it was a heart-warming experience giving my take on them and listening to the contributions from members. I’ve been doing service for the past five years and initially it was nerve-wracking considering I have social anxiety (something I will blog about soon) and how I managed to face my fears through trial and error (lol) but still received glowing support from fellow members that has helped to boost my self-confidence. Chairing these meetings continues to challenge me, taking me out of my comfort zone, helping me realise I have so much potential waiting to surface.

I’m happy to say I’m running again:-). My injuries seem to be subsiding and I’ve finally accepted that I needed to slow down and concentrate on smaller goals. I’ve went back to basics, reduced my pace considerably and like a snail I’m making steady progress. I returned to my running club with renewed energy and found joy in the sport once again. After much contemplation, I decided not to enter the upcoming Two Oceans Half Marathon. The old me would have signed up for it in a heartbeat, but this time around I hesitated and took into consideration my history with injuries and that I needed time out from big races and the toll it places on my body. The new me listens to the whispers from my body and pays heed to them. During my recovery time, I opened my mind to yoga and pilates; something I’ve never done before. In the past I always thought of these activities to be a waste of time as one doesn’t break into a sweat, so how beneficial could it be? Since my injuries, I’ve had to rethink my stance and found these classes aided in strengthening my core muscles and were unbelievably challenging in ways I didn’t think possible. I’ve since incorporated pilates into my exercise routine and my body is smiling.

Yip November has been a hectic month and I’m not sad to see the back of it! Summer is upon us and all I wish to do is relax and enjoy the holidays and not work as much – except of course to blog now and then!

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Hello September…

Spring has to be my favourite season of the year! I love the sweet sound of birds serenading me awake, an early morning sun rise, the crisp air, colourful flowers on show and the promise of a glorious day.

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In Cape Town, winter is still clinging on for dear life, not wanting to let up. However, as the days roll by, I can feel its clutches weakening as the sun makes its appearance and spring beckons.

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I’ve been earnestly in training for the Gun Run looming in October. As it’s a 21km race, I’ve been increasing the distance steadily hoping to pack in all the training. My long runs over weekends have been marvellous and exhilarating in the company of my husband and friends. They motivate me to train harder, stick by me when the going gets tough and rejoice when the run is in the bag.

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I submitted my fiction story I wrote to my Writer’s Review Group this week. I polished and preened it and every time I read it, couldn’t help feel a surge of joy. It has to be the most rewarding experience I’ve felt in a long while, realising I was able to deliver a gem through hard work and determination.

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September happens to be my birthday month and I will be turning forty. Throughout my thirties, I’ve always dreaded this moment, thinking it would mark the death of my youthful days and kick start the beginning of the end. Yet in this year alone I’ve learnt how harsh life can be losing a parent and how resilient I became with each passing day. I’ve learnt to say no and not have to explain myself to anyone. I’ve learnt that I don’t need to impress people, those who love and respect me already see my worth. I truly hold the key to my happiness and my future looks bright.

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I hope September stays around longer and works its magic on my big day. I want to revel in the fun with my family and friends and pause to take in the moment. I wish all my readers could experience this celebration with me – but not to fret, I will snap plenty of photos and document everything as if you were right there with me 🙂

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I wish you all a splendid spring 🙂

Been a while…

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, not because I didn’t want to, but mainly due to picking up the dreaded flu which I’ve struggled to shake off. It started with a sore throat that lasted for a week with feverish spells, followed by typical cold symptoms and then as a bonus, an onslaught of phlegm flooded my chest. Needless to say I’ve been to the Doctor twice, been on antibiotics and now developed a horrible hacking cough that refuses to budge!

Before my ailments got the better of me I was making slow and steady progress in running. I’d been training consistently and even managed to run a fifteen kilometre race in July. My times were improving and I felt I was on my way back when I was struck down with influenza. The problem in taking time out from running is that one has to start from the beginning to build fitness. Although your legs remember how to run, your body struggles to get back into the swing of things. Patience isn’t always my strongpoint and I’ve had to hanker down and reassure myself that this too shall pass and I will get back to my old self again, albeit longer than expected.

During this time I’ve managed to squeeze in some writing, however not on my blog per se. You see I write fiction too and it’s been months since I’ve produced a story. I take an incredibly long time to decide on a plot, researching my settings, getting to know my characters and only then settling down to write the actual story. This time around I pushed myself to try something different – to write a story not knowing how it would end! It scared the living daylights out of me; I was pulling my hair out even climbing the walls for it felt like I was getting nowhere slowly.

My husband, God bless him, has had to listen to my moaning and groaning over the excruciating process. His advice to me was to stop writing fiction and concentrate on my blog as it fills me with joy. I have to agree with him as blogging is much more fulfilling and I get to be myself which brings me a real sense of satisfaction. However, I cannot give up on my dream of writing fiction and making a success out of it. Just because it’s difficult, tedious and time-consuming doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. I believe the longer you vest in it, the more you experiment, writing fiction will eventually become second nature. I may not be at that point yet and have much to learn, but I will get there – eventually.

This fortnight of torture has made me realise that I cannot give up on my dreams. The road to success isn’t paved in gold; it can be long and winding with no clear direction in sight, fear and doubt, your constant companions, questioning why you even bother to continue. Many a time I was close to throwing in the towel, but I could hear a tiny voice in the back of my mind willing me to continue and I’m glad I listened to it. I’ve managed to write my story, it’s a first draft and it may not be the best in the world – but it’s my creation, my blood, sweat and tears!

Today I urge you to never give up on your dreams, that whatever tries to sway you from your ideals and passion, take it with a pinch of salt. Remind yourself that we all experience bad days, weak moments, even slow seasons, but it doesn’t mean that we aren’t making progress. The universe is still hard at work on our dream – our time will come.

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Week Seven

Recovery after Bunion Surgery

Finally the day of my appointment with my Doctor arrived and I was in high spirits – even though I had butterflies fluttering around in my tummy, I was eager to hear what the next phase in my recovery would entail.

Upon examining my feet, Dr Hastings indicated he was very happy with the healing process. He gave me the greatest news ever – that I could go ahead and fling those ghastly moon boots into the deepest ocean – okay I’m exaggerating here, but that’s what I imagined when he said I no longer needed to wear them *DOUBLE YAY*. He added that I could resume my normal activities – walking, gyming, driving – everything except running.

Next was my appointment with the Physiotherapist and she showed me a few exercises to perform to strengthen my big toes. Then came the moment of truth – whether my feet were strong enough to walk on as no pressure has been applied over the past seven weeks. She helped me off the bed and onto my feet and slowly led me by the hand to roll my feet and walk. I took small steps along the corridor and *drum roll* – NO PAIN – my smile was brighter than the sun!!! She commended how good my feet looked – although warning it was imperative that I perform the exercises daily.

Driving home with Neil felt like I had received an early Christmas gift and got exactly what I hoped for:-). Finally, I was given the go-ahead to walk in normal shoes – okay broad toe-box shoes – at this stage I really don’t care whether they are fashionable, as long as they’re comfortable. The very first thing I did when I got home was hop into the shower – standing on my own feet, water cascading over me, revelling in the longest shower I could stretch! I had dreamed of this moment for months and now that it was transpiring – I was in heaven! I truly appreciate my feet far more now and fully comprehend how simple pleasures can easily disappear from our lives in an instant without us knowing how lucky we are to have the privilege of our limbs or precious bodies.

I was over the moon to resume my normal activities and I went out of my way to ensure that my family celebrated a wonderful Christmas. I prepared as many dishes as I could before the big day to save time and not stress myself out. Even though I found it tough standing on my feet all the time, it was great being able to take care of my family and present them with a delicious Christmas meal with all the fan-fare. My friend Kim joined us and it was lovely having her at our table on one of the most delightful days of the year. Family and friends – the best blessings one could ask for:-).

As Christmas came and went and after eating far too much – I knew it was time to whip myself into shape. Over the past seven weeks, as much as I’ve tried to eat healthy during the course of the week, all the special outings Neil and I undertook over the weekends had cushioned me with unwanted weight. I was struggling to fit into my clothes and the moment of reckoning had arrived to resume an exercise routine.

On Saturday, Neil and I visited the gym eager to burn the excess kilograms. I could cycle, utilise the elliptical trainer, lift weights and swim. When I hopped onto the stationery bicycle, I was cautious not to hurt my feet and placed the level on one and set the time limit to ten minutes. When I finally reached ten minutes – I was flustered and sweating bullets! I couldn’t believe how unfit I’d become, considering I was training for a marathon and had built a huge fitness base before my op. It dawned on me that I was going to have to start from the very beginning and it would take considerable patience and dedication to get myself back on the road to fitness *sigh*.

On the same day I attended a talk by US Romance Author, Natasha Boyd on her journey into self-publishing. I belong to the Romance Writers Organisation of South Africa (ROSA) a group on Facebook which provides a platform for Romance Readers and Writers to communicate, promote their work and review books. I reviewed an anthology by Angéle Wells and Phoenix Kelly “Taking Pleasure Seriously” and was blown away by their writing abilities. Angéle organised this initiative and I decided to attend the event even though I was nowhere close to publishing a book or even writing my first novel.

We met at the Aquarium, amongst the hustle and bustle of tourists in Cape Town, in a conference venue, aptly titled the “Tranquillity Room”. In the back drop was a massive glass panel filled with humungous fish swimming in a merry go round. Only a few writers were present, from the introductions made, everyone was published or self-published writers. Natasha Boyd was warm and friendly and proceeded with her talk on her journey into writing and her great success within a short span of time, the pitfalls of signing with publishing companies who bind you to strict contracts, the advantages and disadvantages of utilising an Agent to market your work, etc. It was a real eye-opener realising that even though a writer has written a marvellous book, the struggles they face in getting their work published and receiving their worth. Natasha Boyd has written two romance novels, and her third “Eversea” was self-published and she conveyed her sentiments on this initiative.

Natasha Boyd gave freely of her time with no compensation made as she was on a visit with her family in Cape Town. It was wonderful sitting with a group of seasoned writers discussing our passions especially in a genre we all love. Even though I felt like a complete novice in their company, it was great to get out again and mingle with other writers, networking and learning as much as I can from the industry and the secrets to their success.

This week was everything and more than I ever expected! Not only have my feet shaped up nicely – I have been able to resume almost all of my former activities:-). I truly feel as if the recovery period was a blessing in disguise. It allowed me the space and time to find myself, to open my soul to new endeavours (meditation), to read to my hearts’ content, to focus 100% on my writing passion, enabling me to meet new writers and broaden my contacts while committing to a genre I adore – ROMANCE. The highlight of this phase was most definitely bonding with my family – a priceless treasure – and I was fortunate enough to be afforded with their unconditional love and care:-).

I want to take this opportunity and thank all my amazing friends – you know who you are – who came out week after week to check up on me, all the messages and calls, I truly appreciated each and every one and I will not forget who walked into my life and left footprints on my heart:-). This might be the end of my bunion recovery updates – however the Sweet Life of Sumi Singh will continue to deliver bigger and better happenings in 2015. I hope you stay with me for the ride…

Book Review

Writing down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg

A friend of mine, Alison Smith recommended this book to up and coming writers. It was on my got-to-buy-book-list and when it arrived from Kalahari.net, I skimmed it and placed it on my to-be-read-book pile.

Since undergoing my op I’ve steadily worked down the pile and hauled it out hoping it would bring on some inspiration. My experience gaged from reading writing books has not been very promising, for as much as I sought encouragement – these books ultimately left me hollow inside and sadly lacking a desire to write.

This book took me by surprise for it proved to be entirely different and unbelievably refreshing. Natalie Goldberg writes in simple (not over the top let me grab the dictionary) English, the chapters are concise, getting down to the nitty-gritty of writing based on her teachings. Her writing is colourful, thought-provoking and wonderfully stimulating.

This book truly resonated with me as the advice passed on doesn’t only apply to writing per se. It can be utilised in any venture one wishes to pursue in life. She compared writing to running and I honestly felt she was personally talking to me. This is what she had to say:-

”Like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Some days you don’t want to run and you resist every step of the three miles, but you do it anyway. You practice whether you want to or not. You don’t wait around for inspiration and a deep desire to run. It’ll never happen, especially if you are out of shape and have been avoiding it. But if you run regularly, you train your mind to cut through or ignore your resistance. YOU JUST DO IT. And in the middle of the run, you love it. When you come to the end, you never want to stop. And you stop, hungry for the next time.”

Upon reading this tantalising paragraph, I had my A-HA moment for I’ve always compared my running to writing. When I started out running I couldn’t even run for a minute, however with steely determination, constant training, eating, dreaming, thinking running – I became a runner! With writing I’ve followed the same winning practice – and hey I’m a Writer:-).

Another concept that caught my attention in the book was writing practice. Even though I’ve applied it in the Writer’s Circle I belong to, I’ve never really incorporated it into my everyday writing. Natalie Goldberg convinced me to write every day – not to think about what I was about to write – not to write a masterpiece every time I put pen to paper – merely to write whatever thoughts were swirling around in my head struggling to find its voice. Since grasping this treasure I’ve written every day and I’ve surprised myself with the amount of repressed emotions I had bottled up inside. I have written pages and pages, not thinking about whether it made sense, not caring how it looked and not limiting myself to length!

Natalie Goldberg has ignited a flame within me to holiday in destinations I’ve never dreamt of visiting, to be a tourist in my own country, to set the wheels in motion of travelling if only to relay these adventures through my stories. My interest has been piqued to not only confine my writing to the solitude of my study – to ship myself to quaint coffee shops or quiet restaurants – to sit on my own with the company of my notebook and just write, write, write.

It seemed such a huge co-incidence reading this book at this time in my life when I’ve embarked on meditating and discovered to my delight that the Author studied meditation with a Zen Master for many years and found her true calling through this medium. In the book she marries her vast knowledge of Zen meditation with writing which I BELIEVE is the secret to her success in understanding the human mind and conveying the message passionately.

I relished this book in its entirety and wished it wouldn’t end, wanting Natalie Goldberg to continue revealing her pearls of wisdom. Writing down the Bones is a must-read to all aspiring Writers wishing to exercise their writing muscles. Not only will it leave you enthused – it will awaken your senses and compel you to write:-)

Week Five

Recovery after Bunion Surgery

My feet are healing nicely and I feel they are getting stronger by the day. I walk around the house quite a bit and have resumed some kitchen duties like washing dishes, much to the delight of my family! Although I have to be careful not to overdo it for I’ve noticed that I cannot stand longer than ten minutes before my feet start nagging me to grab a seat.

Bathing is still an issue for me and I truly cannot wait for the day to arrive when I can finally take a shower on my own without the ridiculous moon boots holding me back! However my appointment to see my Doctor is only on 23/12/14 which means soldiering on until then.

Although I must admit that I’ve been enjoying my time at home. My life is ridiculously stress free – no traffic, no urgent deadlines, no calls from the public, no Boss breathing down my neck, no meetings to organise, no minutes to type (ABSOLUTE BLISS). I’ve felt as if I’ve been living in a bubble where my time is mine to do as I please. If I feel tired I take a nap, if I don’t feel like doing anything – I DON’T, if I want a off day – I take it! These are the gifts I’ve received during this period and I honestly feel like I could get used to this lifestyle. However, all bubbles burst – and once I’m given the all-clear to don normal shoes and drive – my life as I know it now will sadly come to an end:-(.

I’m glad to say I’m still MEDITATING! I practice it religiously – sitting for ten minutes staring at the dancing flame of the candle, swaying thoughts aside, concentrating as best as I can. I cannot say it’s become easier for it doesn’t feel that way but what I can say is I look forward to it everyday – if that’s any consolation! I’ve incorporated it into my life and the one thing about me is that I love to keep up with whatever I start. I hate throwing in the towel for it means I’ve failed, so I persevere to see where it takes me and this is the principle I’ve followed in life which has helped me to succeed in many of my goals. So I have no doubt meditation will remain a constant in my life.

I was delighted to receive news from my Running Coach that my “I love Running” story appeared in the December issue of Modern Athlete. I was aware they were going to use the story, although they had not given me an indication as to when it would happen – so I was pleasantly surprised when it was published. Coach Muller dropped off a copy and it was great chatting to her about the article. They presented my story over an entire page even inserting a picture of me running the Two Oceans Half Marathon this year which I hadn’t seen before – I was DELIGHTED of course (this being my second published story in the past few months – YAY!)

I finally got around to posting some of my poems to a website called “All Poetry” and the response from other Poets has been positive. I tried my hand at poetry a few months ago and although it’s not my strongpoint, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with it. It’s much easier than fiction writing – well the obvious reason is the length of course – but what I truly find enjoyable is throwing all your raw emotions into a pot, allowing your words to waft the air, patiently waiting to taste the feast of your work!

I’m still reading “Writing down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg and again I have to rave about this Author and her writing. I savour every word she throws at me, sometimes getting lost in the beauty of her sentences, having to sit back and read them again and again! Her advice is sound, the tips are valuable and she has planted a seed within me to frequent quaint restaurants if only to sit at a table and write! The other reason why I’ve taken my time with this book is that I’ve also started another, “One Day” by David Nicholls. I’ve had this book for ages – never getting around to reading it and I resolved it was now or never! I’m always sceptical reading the work of Male Authors, not that I have anything against them of course – but I find their writing so different to Female Authors – stronger, daring, less emotional with complex plots thrown in for good measure. I struggled to get into the book in the beginning, but I buckled down and found that I’m enjoying the characters and flow of the storyline – another surprise!

On Saturday Neil and I decided to venture out to Hout Bay. I had a craving for Fish and Chips so we took a slow scenic drive along the Cape Peninsula stopping off at Snoekies to buy the local fare. It was mouth-watering – battered deep fried hake with steaming hot chips drizzled in vinegar and peri-peri sauce *just-what-I-needed*. We found a quiet parking spot between Llandudno and Camps Bay, catching sight of the sparkling azure sea, while eating and chatting. It was a humdinger day in Cape Town – pleasantly warm with not a wind in sight. We sat there for some time, observing a fiery sun – streaks of orange, gold and red mesh into clouds rapidly dipping into the horizon bringing along the night sky.

All in all, the week was tranquil yet surprising at the same time. I’m truly grateful for the lifestyle I have now – taking full advantage of the free time to improve my frame of mind, incorporating advice coming my way through friends or family or the lovely books I immerse myself in. My writing is growing in leaps and bounds, something I’m extremely proud of and look forward to what’s in store next year. Right now the future seems bright and colourful and I cannot wait to see where my feet will lead me too!