Siem Reap Pool“Mid-life is a time of loneliness and regret”, darling husband casually announces after a quiet morning’s mutual reading. Picture this; we are in Cambodia on holiday, sitting side by side on sun lounges and there has been companionable silence for some time. I think about this; is it true for me? In terms of loneliness, no. Being single from 25 to 36 without much intermission apart from very unsatisfactory dalliances and short relationships was grindingly, painfully, cry-in-public-on-buses lonely. I was living in London for much of that time and the impersonality of that megalopolis made it easy to be lonely, and incidentally cry in public on buses. No-one would ever bother you; everyone being primarily concerned with avoiding eye contact.

Now I am in my first year of being 50 I am blessed with a lovely relationship with a partner, and yes, a warm and mutual relationship with my teenage daughter. (Teen parenting can actually rock.) I have been blessed with companionship for all of my 40s and now my 50s are also looking good in that department.

But regret? Oh yes. I do have a few, and as the saying goes, it is usually about what I didn’t do, not what I did do. I don’t regret moving to London, or moving to Thessaloniki, or choosing to proceed with my pregnancy alone, or moving back to Australia (especially not that last bit about leaving Greece for Australia 15 years ago. Sorry Greece, but it was a pretty sound decision in hindsight!)

I regret not buying real estate in the 80’s. I regret doing an Arts degree at the posh University in my home town rather than the more pragmatic Uni which may have facilitated me unleashing my creativity earlier. I regret not living in Melbourne or Sydney at some point so that I could have somewhere a bit less isolated than Perth to call my ultimate home.

I regret doing acting lessons in London rather than writing lessons. I think I have always felt a bit precious about my writing skills; felt above getting assistance to stand in my own power as a writer.

I have learned that absolutely no-one can stop you from writing. You just sit down, and write. No-one can stop you from publishing now either which is an exciting thing. But being published by an actual publisher still carries a huge allure for me. To crack that nut I need to reach out to every single support that I can. And apparently at 50 I can finally see that. A slow starter perhaps, but a starter. Does it really matter when?

After I finished this blog,  all I could mentally hear was Frank Sinatra’s My Way. And that is a good final word. As long as you start, it doesn't matter when. No regrets! Click To Tweet

IMG_2385Wagga – it’s not a name to conjure with and I held little positive anticipation of its pleasures. A 72 hour stay was scheduled in Wagga in New South Wales, Australia so that my husband and I could see his son graduate from basic army training. Attending the passing out parade if you will, where I hoped I would not pass out from the exertion of standing around watching incomprehensible marching formations.

But Wagga proved to be a quiet delight, with a number of pleasant features such as plentiful Victorian architecture, a main street rather than ghastly impersonal shopping malls, and a river winding on the edges of the town.

I did not pass out during the Passing Out Parade, and neither did any of the graduates. The ceremony itself was a largely incomprehensible display of marching but at least we were seated fairly comfortably to watch it; and see our dear boy get the physical training award for his platoon. And to see him so happy in the choice that he has made in his life.

It is a pleasure tinged with melancholy to see your young people moving into the world to try their hand at independent life.

The parenting job done well requires a painful redundancy.

And so we waved him off, with not even a tear although I must admit there was a little crying on the inside, on my part at least. I am sure more than a little part of it is selfish; the privilege of watching young people move into the world, see out the physical reality of their choices, causes me to reflect.

IMG_2405Were my young adult choices the right ones? Did I follow what I wanted whole-heartedly? Why am I still feeling so blocked with my writing? Is the answer reading books like Mrs Dalloway, where I come across the sorts of quotes about time that give me a further painful kick up the arse about its rapid passing? That remind me my time studying Literature at University, is now half a lifetime ago? I seem to have the bit about reading lots of books to develop one as a writer, but what about the actual writing, huh? It is interesting to recollect that going through a creativity nurturing process like The Artist’s Way is not a one-off thing. It needs to be re-visited when “blurts” emerge, what The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron calls negative self-talk about your creativity. So Wagga has seen some interesting mental loop the loops around my choices, my past, my creativity, my future. I have had to resort to getting a glue stick and some collaging materials. When in an artistic funk, collage can work wonders!

PersephoneDemeter20q@72From November 2013 I started on My Crazy Year when I was sure I wanted to start a business. The year actually lasted until I started a new job in January 2015 where I can feel myself once again settle. All along, all I really wanted to do was come out as a writer. But somehow, that was not easily accommodated without upending every other aspect of my life.

During My Crazy Year, I did a lot of online entrepreneur training. I mean A LOT. This is actually my third blog on the topic. The first blog was about how darned addictive signing up for on-line training is and the second (as a recovering training addict) to provide some guidance about when online training is useful; and when it isn’t. You know, if you can’t be a good example, be a horrible warning. This blog asks you to consider four things before you sign up

1. The clever marketing is often an end in itself

So much of the online training available is cleverly marketed to appeal to your pain points, and offer the right solution. If you are a solution-focused person like myself, this marketing ploy will work like a charm. All too often however, the actual transaction that is being offered is a sale, not transfer of knowledge. Once you have been suckered in by the marketing, clicked the “Get instant access” button  to buy the training, that may be the end of the relationship between you and the trainer.  You may never even access or download one megabyte of information and no-one will ever contact you to ask you why and where is your excuse note. It would be hard to track the data, but the attrition rate of online training must be absolutely staggering in terms of money spent versus actual knowledge gained.

Back in the day when I was signing up madly for training, I wanted to find out what was at the end of the rainbow, or perhaps like Demeter, I wanted to enter Hades and reclaim Persephone and bring Spring back into the world. So down into Hades I went, following the trail of the excellent marketing copy for the many training programs that promised all my business solutions were at the end of a click. I so wanted this to be true! After an inordinately long time in Hades I have only recently re-emerged with a somewhat peeved Persephone in tow who wondered when in the hell I was going to complete her release from the Underworld of online sales. I’m back. Really, truly recovered now! I really get it that there is no magic, quick fix; just a focus on one thing at a time, develop your skills and in time it may all come together in a profitable business or in a successful creative project. But it takes time and lots of patience. Not a quick Get Instant Access button.

2. Most online training is done by people who know lots about their subject but didley-squat about adult learning principles

I can’t count the number of hours I have spent listening and reading material, filling in pdfs etc. How often my heart has sunk and the knowledge the  next audio is 1.5 hours and must be listened to at some point, possibly to extract about 20 minutes of actual learning. Whose learning style is that working for exactly? Nobody’s I suspect – it is just the trainer wanted to share all their knowledge in a massive download that swamps but doesn’t necessarily help you to master a new skill. Most people may be familiar with the concept of learning styles – the most commonly discussed learning styles are visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. This relatively simplistic approach to learning styles has been somewhat superseded a more complex learning style matrix by Felder and Silverman. I found a great Mindtools article on Felder Silverman earning Styles that references  the four learning continuums: Active/Reflective, Sensory/ Intuitive, Visual/Verbal and Sequential/Global.  The article even has a link to a questionnaire that gives instant feedback on what your learning preferences are. (Strongly intuitive, moderately active and global, slap bang in the middle for visual/ verbal, if you wanted to know). The point is, as an on-line trainer, you are going to have all learning style combinations you can think of. You need to mix it up if you are going to be able to engage everyone on the internet, and give them the opportunity to gain something from their time with your online course.

3. Quality will win out

About three months ago I stumbled across on-line training enthusiast Dr Kelly Edmonds who has 20 years’ experience and numerous qualifications in adult learning. She notes “to truly teach you need to ensure your students learn, not that you delivered a lesson.” The email that sent me towards Dr Kelly’s website noted the plethora of poorly designed online training and mentoring courses. I thought back to my time in Hades and the many online courses I bought and how few of them really ensured that the students were learning. Just imagine how it would change the space of on-line training if well-designed courses were the norm? What if, say, people in the online entrepreneur space reported on how many people had signed up to their recent courses, how many had completed, and crucially, how many had implemented? It would cause sales to plummet I suspect.

4. Online training still rocks

But despite these cautionary tales, on-line training is something I really do believe in both as student and teacher. The convenience of being able to access training from the comfort of your own home is wonderful; as is the more affordable price tag that is often attached to online training. The technology of the internet creates some exciting opportunities to present material; and the opportunities for those of us who really want to create wonderful quality seem very positive. And of course, online training is completely flexible and ideally suited to be adapted to any and all learning styles.

So… online training is neither good nor bad, but procrastination makes it so. A finished online course where you have taken action on the course contents can be awesome. It’s just a little bit rare…

InspirationThis week I treated myself to an event at our State Library. The topic was “Be Inspired” and the two guest speakers had recently been nominated for a state literary award. One was Dawn Barker, who I interviewed recently, the other Yvette Walker, the winner of the award. Yvette’s book Letters to the End of Love was on our Bookclub list this year, so it was a kind of Book Club outing. (Yes I am going to interview Yvette as soon as I can!).

Both authors were wonderful speakers, eloquent in their love of reading and listing off their favourites and igniting so many memories for me. It felt like a warm fire in my chest, reminding me just how much I love reading, words and writing. It seems I had somehow forgotten this, as my reading diet has become so much more about non-fiction and self-improvement.

What was more electrifying was Yvette’s description of how, step by step, her characters became more than sentences, more than depictions, and became independent beings. I had never had this alchemy of writing process explained in a way that I could relate to. Visualise. Perhaps actually do! The possibilities opened up by a free evening talk seemed limitless.
There’s nothing like the generosity of artists, sharing their time and insights – have you been to an inspirational event lately?

about-dawn-barkerI am delighted to be able to share my latest interview for the Fabulous Women series – the lovely Dawn Barker.

I well remember when her first book Fractured came out; as it dealt with severe post natal depression I was already interested; and the fact that she is a Psychiatrist intrigued me enormously. Her latest book Let Her Go tackles the complex issue of surrogacy.
When I interviewed Dawn the Baby Gammy story was splashed all over the press and we touched in the issue of surrogacy briefly; but as Dawn’s book covers altruistic surrogacy the main point emphasised was the effect of surrogacy on the children and how they must be uppermost in the consideration of the surrogacy debate. Dawn has since written a thought-provoking article featuring three altruistic surrogates in a recent article for the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend Magazine.

The interview with Dawn covers a range of questions regarding the writing and publishing process as she experienced it, for her two books. Dawn’s generosity and transparency in answering these questions was a joy to me. It highlighted the wonderful generosity of writers such as Dawn and how their experiences can provide insight to those of us who are still on the path. I hope you enjoy the interview – you just need to click here to access it.

In the interview I talk about the self-publishing process which at the time I was still finalising. I am delighted to say that book is now finished and available. If you want to find more about my book, click here; but please note the respectful trigger alert as the book tackles the issue of sexual assault.

VirginiaWoolf

If you want to write, write.

Virginia Woolf

It’s been one whole month of Morning Pages. At the risk of boring those who are already doing it, the Morning Pages is a keystone undertaking of the Artist who undertakes to be part of the 12 Week Artist’s Way program.

It’s really, really simple. You get up half an hour earlier than normal (ok already not so easy) and you write three pages, longhand. You just do. It is a bit like tuning up; washing away all those things that are bugging you and clearing the pathway.

For me, the hardest bit is the half an hour earlier bit- and making sure I have time. But I figure having gone to Julia Cameron’s site to be reassured over and over that that there are no rules, no right way, it’s also ok to do Morning Pages when juddering along on a bus. It’s best if you do them when you first get up, but if that is not possible well you do them when you can. Or you might even skip them. The sky will not fall in.

But why skip it? What a glorious space to have! You can write absolutely anything you wish. Whinges, dreams, externalising those incredibly annoying circular thoughts when trying to work out the logistics of the day; “I’ll take the bus just in case there’s nowhere to park my car at the train station. Oh hang on, I’ve got a meeting across town and I’ll need my car. If I leave before 8.10 I think I will make it” etc repeat and fade. I’m sure you know it well!

The handwriting seems to slow me down enough to notice that my mind has wandered mid-sentence and I’ve spliced together two competing or just plain random concepts.

It’s definitely a different process to typing. It just is.

Morning Pages are for Artists as a broad concept, not just writers. We all need an opportunity to vent, clear out the pipes and forge a new path for whatever will come.

I love getting James Clear’s blog in my inbox, recently he posted a blog with his book reviews of five and four star books (below four stars books were quietly forgotten.

One four star book reviewed a book written about a large variety of artists and what means they use legal and illegal, to be creative.

All of them, despite the huge variety of modalities and strategies – all of them made time to be creative. Uninterrupted creative time.

Can we find space in our lives just to be creative?

Jane_Austen_coloured_versionHappy National Writers’ Day! OK, so that is National as in America, and technically it was 9th August which is now yesterday in Australian time, but who needs an excuse to have a picture of Jane Austen heading the blog? Not me, clearly.

I am excited to celebrate this day, whenever it really is, by sharing another interview from the Fabulous Women of Our Time series, which takes up its theme of encouraging we women to get busy with pen and paper, and start writing!

For this interview, I spoke to Wendy Campbell of Glastonbury Books. Wendy is a businesswoman, committed community member, coach, mentor and author of a memoir On Aspiring.  She has now has developed a publishing arm to her business. I wanted to find out more, so I put these questions to her:

  • What are your community values? How have they informed your development as a leadership mentor?
  • How did the writing projects emerge from your work? How did writing On Aspiring fit in with your business strategy and vision?
  • And in turn, how did the publishing arm of your company emerge?
  • What is the one thing you would recommend for people who are keen to get started on writing a book of their own?

You can listen to the audio and download the transcript by following this link. It just asks for your name and email; there is no charge.

Have you got a book, or two, or three in you? Apparently 80% of us do, but only 5% of us get it out there. Are you going to be part of the 5%?

EndymionHaving just finished the book Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven’s Gate, the Film that Sank United Artists I am feeling the need to talk about creativity and limits.

I had never heard of the film until my husband bought the book and was engrossed in reading it. He passed it to me when he finished and it was a riveting tale of what happens when we allow creativity to be an unfettered process, without any limits. None. No limits of basic courtesy towards co-workers, absolutely no notion of wasteful extravagance. No practical consideration of how chasing perfection through creating more than 2 weeks’ solid viewing of footage, take after perfectionist take, could ever be successfully rendered into a watchable film. And by all accounts, no consideration of actual story telling or character; all was sacrificed to the creative altar of the visual spectacle.

While reading, goggle eyed, about the film’s gradual but inevitable slide into excess with the (presumably Narcissist) Michael Cimino directing, I kept on reflecting on the importance of imposing limits on creative endeavour.

Counter-intuitively, imposing limits seems to let something fly loose in the creative process. Take for example, poetic limitations, and the iambic pentameter some of us may remember from our school days. The great sonnets of Shakespeare, Donne et al. The wondrous creativity that was unleashed as they grappled with the limitations of the medium to create something fresh and beautiful.

Perhaps a weekly blog is not quite the same constrictive process as an iambic pentameter, but there was something about the experience of reading this book that made me appreciate anew the importance of discipline. And self-reflection. And not being an arse.

Steven Pressfield covers this so well in his book The War of Art

What I call Professionalism someone else might call the Artist’s Code or the Warrior’s Way. It’s an attitude of egolessness and service… When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication… we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron fillings. Ideas come. Insights accrete

Discipline. Regularity. The Muse. Bring it!

Becky_Robinson_125I love writing, and I love social media, so I knew I just had to interview Becky Robinson for the Abundant Businesswoman’s Summit. We met on twitter and I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview her and find out more about her journey into business.
Perhaps what stands out in Becky’s interview is that she feels an abundance of clients and work! A position many of us would like to be in.
As our conversation unfolded it was obvious that Becky is someone who is a giver; she has developed her business based on a passion for serving, and after three years is showing all the signs of abundant success. Her current business supporting authors to bring their not fiction work into the world, utilising the power of social media, literally came about through her work life, and a constant stream of people asking for her help. After doing it for nothing for a while, she was able to develop her highly successful publishing business.

Given her expertise, I too the opportunity to ask her about the difference beteween an ebook and a pdf, and the answer surprised me!

So did her amazingly generous offer at the end of the interview. Are you interested? Do you want to sign up? It’s not too late, and it’s free! Even though we are into Day 13 if a 21 day series, it is not too late for you to come on board and enjoy all the interviews to date.

I’d love to “see” you there!

Samantha Bennett Meet Samantha Bennett. She is my very first guest on the Abundant Businesswoman’s Summit. I just knew I had to have her on the series when I saw her company was called “The Organized Artist”. “Here’s a gal who can be creative AND abundant”, I thought. “What’s her secret?”

Samantha is an actor, writer and poet. She has found the secret to moving from having a “patchwork” of day jobs to support her life as a creative, to actually running her own abundant business. She created of The Organized Artist Company to help creative people get unstuck from whatever way they’re stuck, especially by helping them focus and move forward on their goals. She helps overwhelmed procrastinators, frustrated overachievers and recovering perfectionists everywhere with her publications and online training.
• In Samantha Bennett’s engaging, lively interview, you will learn:
• The #1 abundance building habit all entrepreneurs must develop
• Why your friends, family and even yourself are the last ones to go to for advice on how much to charge
• Why having the right coach is a MUST not just now, but as you grow
• How being authentic can pay HUGE dividends in getting your client list engaged and ready to buy from you

I am excited about the free gift she offers too – as you will be when you find out what it is.

For many years Samantha has taught creatives time management techniques, tweaked for the needs of the artistic entrepreneur. She has distilled her knowledge into her new book Getting Things Done which is released THIS WEEKEND. This book is just what we creative businesswomen need; “Getting Things Done” I couldn’t wait for the launch and have already bought it, devoured it and feel invigorated and motivated! It is engagingly written, and full of practical exercises you can do. It chunks down creativity so there is a clear, doable plan to get moving on those projects near to your heart. Highly recommended.

I am so excited to have Samantha on the Abundant Businesswomen’s Summit and you can join in, for nada and hear her interview. She manages to be both entertaining and incredibly pragmatic and helpful to get you moving into abundance.

Does it show that I am really excited about this series? I am so looking forward to it starting on 1st March 2014, and I would love to have you along!