Tag: writers

Flow as a Doorway to Magic

Flow as a Doorway to Magic

Harlequin’s Riddle is not your typical fantasy. There’s actually not a droplet of magic in it. Mina, the central character, doesn’t learn magic. There is no speaking of spells, hand waving or use of wands anywhere in any of the books.  There are some fantastic books out there that use this sort of overt magic. But I went in a different direction. What interests me is thinking about what magic already exists in the world. We forget how incredible life is, taking for granted all the wondrous things that happen every day. This is especially true for people. Their minds are complex, their lives are fascinating and their achievements can be staggering.

I’m particularly interested in creativity, and how that shapes people. Or, as becomes evident in my book, how people use their creative abilities to shape the world. Art, in whatever form, can change the way we think about things. It can take us out of the moment, transporting us so completely that we forget who we are. It can help us to empathise and connect with others, or heal long-held hurts.

About Flow

In my explorations in creativity over the years I’ve noticed a recurring theme, which is that when people do their creative practice, whatever that might be, they go into a different state, or mindset. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychology professor, calls this state ‘flow’. In this state creators become completely absorbed in whatever they are doing. The requirements of the real world (food, ego etc.) fall away in place of a sense of fulfilment. This state can be very productive. Csiszentmihalyi also says the “whole being is involved”.

Flow and Writing

Many writers have had the experience of working on a piece, and having some sort of inexplicable or unusual experience, such as a character ‘coming to life’ and taking control of the story. Or writing about a place they’ve never been to, only to discover when they get there or see photos of it that they’ve described things with an uncanny accuracy. This is what fascinates me about flow – what if it is an opportunity to tap into a different mental state that links you in some way to something bigger than yourself? This was an idea I wanted to play with in my book.

Flow in Tarya

In Harlequin’s Riddle I take this idea of flow as a starting point to the fantastical elements of the story. Rather than a doorway to a different mental state, creativity becomes a literal doorway – to a place called Tarya. It is a place that sits beside the real world. There are spiritual aspects to Tarya, but it is not just a separate realm, like heaven. Events that happen in Tarya can have an effect on the real world. Mina, the central character of the book, discovers she is able to reach Tarya when she tells stories. But more importantly, she is able to bring aspects of her stories into being for her audience.

Writers are endlessly fascinated by the writing process. Sometimes it can definitely feel like it is magic. Having a heroine who can do interesting things with her stories is so much fun as a writer. I’d like to think there’s a little bit of me in Mina – or a little bit of Mina in me. But she may have other ideas…

If you’d like to learn more about Mina’s abilities, sign up to my email list (see the bottom of the page) and I’ll send you a free short story that tells you Mina’s back story.



Be a writing angel, not a demon

Be a writing angel, not a demon

Writers have plenty of demons. They constantly battle the demon of self-doubt. At night they try not to listen to the demon of unfinished projects. Sitting at their computer they try to ignore the more prosaic demon of social media. There are many voices whispering in a writer’s head, sabotaging their efforts. Niggling away at them. They honestly don’t need more. What they need are writing angels, voices that will lift them up and encourage them. With this post I’m hoping to convince you to be an angel to other writers, not a demon.

A Writers’ Mindset Matters

Writers can be exceptionally good at empathy – you have to be to put yourself into the heart and mind of any character that you create. Yet all too often there seems to be a sense of ‘scarcity’, as though providing any level of support to another writer will somehow take away from your chances of getting published or being successful. This mindset can make writers suspicious or jealous of each other, which can then manifest in criticism that is more about their own insecurities.

Even worse, such criticism can take the guise of ‘friendly fire’ – ‘I’m doing this to help you’. I’ve seen and heard of this again and again in writers’ groups.  Writers should feel safe to share their writing babies. These groups can be a great way to develop your skills, but they’re not all constructive. I’ll come back to this in another post. For the moment, my point is, writers that come from this kind of mindset don’t tend to uplift their fellow writers.

Then there are the writers who are self-important or self-absorbed, and the ones who have given up, are bitter about it, and take it out on others. There are a lot of reasons why writers might be less than supportive of others. However, the good news is there are a lot of wonderful writers out there who genuinely hold their fellow writers in high regard. Who support them through kind words, through celebrating their successes with them, through buying and reviewing their books. Small acts of kindness. Larger acts of mentorship. Providing thoughtful, caring, constructive feedback on the writing if they are in a position to do so. Because they know what it is like – how hard it is to expose your writing jugular to others. How much of your soul you have put into it.

Sometimes You Meet a Writing Angel

Over the course of years as a writer, I’ve met all types of writers – the bitter, the self-absorbed, the supportive. But I think I’ve only ever met one genuine, fully fledged writing angel. That’s not to put down many of the other wonderfully supportive, caring writers out there.  But there is one writer that I have been incredibly lucky to meet. She is of the opinion that the writing world is big enough for everyone. She is generous of spirit and has the biggest heart of anyone I know. She informally mentors and supports writers of all ages and stages, from absolute beginners to those who have several books under their belt. She shares her knowledge of the industry, she gives her time to read others’ work and she always, always remembers that someone’s book baby is precious, giving feedback in a careful and caring way.

For me, this is the kind of writer I’d like to become.  We all have enough demons sitting on our shoulders, whispering to us as we plot our novels and write our words and create our worlds. We need more angels, standing on our other side, telling us that we can do it – that our writing is worth something.


Decluttering for Writers

Decluttering for Writers

So, have you been following the decluttering craze? I have, and it took me a while, but I realised why it calls to me so strongly. It was after I read a few articles about famous male writers like Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway that I realised why I have thrown so much energy into decluttering (and, let’s be honest, reading decluttering blogs and drooling over ‘after’ photos on Pinterest). These highly lauded, canonised writers had households full of women to tidy up after them. I don’t. In fact, the reverse is true – I have a family that tend to leave bits and pieces everywhere. Now, I’ll say upfront my family are wonderful at doing allocated jobs – putting away the dishes from the dishwasher, feeding our crazy pets, the daily tedium of letting the chickens out and putting them back to bed… But somehow, that surface clutter always keeps trying to creep in there. Computers on the kitchen table. Clothes draped over chairs. Notepads dropped on every flat space.

I love that my family are creative and always onto the next thing. But once that accumulation of clutter starts, it can be hard to stop, and then you (I!) get to the point where it is driving me nuts. Where I realise I can’t get on with my writing because there’s nowhere to put my laptop, or too much dust for the asthmatic family members. Where the call of clutter on my brainspace is too strong. Now, that takes a while because I’m not keen on housework. But it does reach a point where a mighty clean needs to happen. And I don’t want to be spending my time cleaning – I want to be spending my time writing.

Decluttering is Better than Tidying

One of the key ideas in decluttering is that everything has its place, and should be put back there when not in use. Great idea, doesn’t always works. If there’s too much stuff for the available space things tend to get shoved in, then spill out, or they’re just left lying around. So it makes a lot of sense to me to get rid of the stuff that’s just taking up space, getting shifted around, requiring cleaning or mending or dusting but not really loved or used. This may seem ridiculously domestic of me, but it’s actually the opposite. The less stuff I have, and those around me have, the less time we need to spend organising it, and therefore the more time we have for what really matters – like writing (or *insert whatever your passion is here*).  Now it is possible to write in a chaotic space, but I’m not that person. It is impossible to ignore the piles around you, but I am not that person. (Inspirational Lord of the Rings speech reference – tick!).

So, getting rid of stuff helps. Then you can teach people to put their stuff away… An accompanying issue with this is teaching everyone in the family how to cook, so you don’t have to stop writing that incredible scene to put nachos together, but perhaps that’s another blog for another day.