Self help

Let’s talk about mental health as writers

starbucks

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in the library of my university, desperate to be productive.
I have a brand new notebook, brand new pens (coloured fine-liners to be snazzy!), and an iced soy chai latte from Starbucks. All of these things give me the illusion that I’m about to do something big, but that’s not always the case.

Today, it definitely isn’t the case.

I have so many ideas floating around my mind, but I can’t seem to stop myself from getting distracted. My anxiety is getting the better of me.

For the past hour or so, I have been hiding behind my laptop screen from passersby, hoping that they can’t see what I’m writing – which will be stupidly ironic when I post this. Perhaps this is because online, nobody can see how I struggled to maintain my focus for more than a few minutes at a time, or the way I fiddled bashfully every time I stumbled over my words.

We, as writers, need to learn that it’s okay to stumble. It’s okay to take breaks to rejuvenate our minds. It doesn’t mean that we are quitting, it means that we are human.

Specifically, when we suffer from mental illness, we need to learn to be kind to ourselves, and it’s important that we implement that, outside of our writing.

These are a few things that help me, personally. They may help you too, but it’s good to find out what works best for you!

Mindfulness

It’s sometimes easy to rush through life without stopping to notice what’s around you. This is the same with writing – it can be easy to get lost in the idea of getting something done when your mental health isn’t up to par with your productivity.

According to Professor Mark Williams, the former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, “It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour.

“An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs,” he says.

“Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment.

“It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.”

We cannot stay inside our own heads at all times. As well as frequent breaks and exercise, even if it’s just a short walk, mindfulness can keep our minds inspired and energized enough that we wouldn’t have to rely on racking our brains for ideas when we simply don’t have them. This, in turn, reduces the stress of feeling pressured to have something in mind every time we open a blank document. Sometimes just noticing nature or people’s manners and behaviours are enough to help us with that.

Meditation

Meditation goes hand-in-hand gracefully with mindfulness. It’s all about having time to yourself in silence, outside of your anxieties and worries, and getting in tune with your body.

I find it helps to take 15 minutes here and there in the morning, just before anybody else in the house is up, and at night after everybody has gone to bed. This gives me the freedom to sit – cross-legged is most comfortable for me – and pay attention to my body. Honing in on the way I breathe, my own thoughts, sounds outside, and the sensations in particular parts of my body each help me to stop my mind from wander.

Creatively, it helps to pretend that I’m a tree, rooted to the ground. Every time I breathe in, I feel it in my roots, and as I breathe out, I imagine the sensations traveling throughout my bark, along my branches, and finally to my leaves.

Tea

I’m British, so perhaps I’m slightly biased, but coffee doesn’t often do much for me other than making my anxiety more noticeable. Whereas tea has just the right amount of caffeine to keep me alert, yet simultaneously soothes me.

Taking a tea break in between writing makes sure I stay focused and have ample opportunities to relax my mind.

Baths

I’m a bit of a bath-bomb junkie and I spend more time than I care to admit in Lush stores throughout London. I can’t help it – I love taking baths. I love them even more when the water is made up of all kinds of funky colours. I take solace in sitting amongst those colours and pretending I’m in my own little canvas painting.

Again, this ties in with mindfulness, but I like to look at the bubbles and the way the colours merge in with one another and imagine a story inside this canvas. My favourite bath bomb, Intergalactic (£4.25 @ Lush), gives me the impression that I’m floating about in the galaxy. All of my worries are minuscule compared to the size of this vast universe made up of colours and lights, and I can allow myself to float away with the thought of it.

Lighting candles help too! I recommend Garden Sweet Pea by Yankee (£19.99 for a medium jar candle) for the ultimate experience in relaxation.

Writing

This may sound rather contradictory but writing helps. Perhaps this won’t always be genius works of fiction, but merely how you feel. Writing down our thoughts and feelings is a therapist-approved method of putting a break on our emotional responses and really getting to grips with why we feel the way that we do. Similar to venting, it helps to lift our worries from our shoulders and clear our minds.

Remember, having a clogged mind disrupts our fluency in writing creatively. We may get our thoughts jumbled, or just struggle to concentrate. Writing our thoughts clearly at least helps us to feel better organized, and therefore less stressed.

 

These are all methods that help me, but remember that they are not sure-fire cures. Sometimes we need to allow our minds a rest and step away from our work for a while. We can always come back to our ideas, but we need to take care of ourselves first and foremost.

What self-help methods aid you in de-stressing and helping to manage your mental health?

Happy writing, and good luck!

 

 

prose

The Shadow Creatures in the Night

Author Note: This will be a chapter by chapter story, and I will upload chapter by chapter, hopefully at least once per month.

shadowcreaturesmoodboard

Prologue

Have you ever seen the mysterious shadow creatures that bustle about in the night? You probably have. They only appear when you’re on the verge of slumber, but you’ll often notice them. However, when you open your eyes, you’ll be greeted by nothing out of the ordinary, and no indication of any such creatures.

Sometimes you may even hear them as they lightly breathe by your neck or rattle through your room.

The trick is to not fear them, for they mean you no harm.

Poems

Good Morning

An illuminated streak, a warm surprise,she turns around and watches as he peels open sleepy eyes. 

“Good morning, my king”, she whispers, brushing her lips against his jaw,

and he simply gazes at her, lips parted in awe. 

“My beautiful queen”, he mutters and brushes platinum strands from her face.

She smiles softly, in love; in a daze. 

To her, he puts the stars in the night sky every night,

then conjures the sun at dawn, her world he makes bright. 
She kisses him softly, again and again,

and he clumsily rolls atop her. “Looks like we’ve overlain”,

he chuckles, and she pulls him closer

and whispers by his ear “No sir,

the more time I spend with you, the better”.

He laughs, peppering open mouthed kisses upon her neck before sliding inside her.
She moans, clinging to his hips

as he thrusts, panting against her lips.

Sweet words are muttered, getting lost in the air,

and she’s close, he can feel in the way she grabs a fistful of his hair.

She writhes and shakes, his name the only word she knows.

And she’s a writer. Words are usually all she knows,

But he tears them from her lips, pushing her over the edge,

Submissive to him, her pleasure the ledge.

She’s a fool for him, and he for her. 

Her back arches, pushing him further,

until he tenses up, releasing inside her. 
I love you’s are exchanged and they curl up together,

slipping back into slumber, to dream of their forever. 

Self help

Writing Anxiety

tizzu

If you’re a writer, it’s safe to say you’ve probably been there – the need to be productive, but the lack of motivation or ideas to begin. I have a love-hate relationship with writing the first few sentences of anything, especially if I’m itching to get something on paper before quite deciding what. I often find myself staring at blank pages, fumbling with various sentences that just don’t read well enough – as well as battling with my own subconscious (anxiety is a b*tch, ya know), I can quickly burn myself out and self-sabotage to the point of closing my laptop in a slump and being unproductive elsewhere.

So how can we diminish these feelings, despite our anxieties?

The following are tips that help me, but it’s important to find what works for you! What works for one person may not help another.

 

Music

Research shows that music can actually affect your mood. This is evident when people start dancing to upbeat songs, for example. I find that making playlists that pertain to the genre of the piece I plan to write helps me channel the desired mood, and this also helps me to tap into the minds of my characters. As well as this, I have a general playlist of instrumental tracks that aren’t too distracting to write to. If you feel that you would find yourself distracted by singing along to your favourite songs, try piano pieces, or movie and video game soundtracks. It certainly helps me to have some sort of background noise.

If you think that music will distract you altogether, try searching up nature sounds. For example, this video is over an hour long and is just soothing enough to write to.

If you prefer to write in complete silence, find a quiet place in your house to let your mind wander freely. Tell your family or housemates that you plan to write for an hour or so, and ask them if they’d mind leaving you alone for a while.

 

Planning

This method suits both myself and my partner really well. As people who find ourselves overwhelmed by ideas sometimes, it definitely helps to write these ideas down in a coherent manner to avoid them getting lost amongst the hustle and bustle of our minds. I particularly enjoy scrapbooking and making mood-boards of my ideas; this helps me to keep track of idea development and make sure everything is organised. The visual representation of my ideas through scrapbooking also gives me the boost of inspiration I often need to write those tricky scenes.

Try planning out, paragraph by paragraph, what you intend to write about, and then build the words around that. This way, you’ll be getting rid of the hard part – deciding on the direction of the plot, and you can focus wholly on the words and how you’d like to portray the scene.

 

Habits

Get into the habit of writing every day if possible, even if it’s just a paragraph or two per day. This will diminish those feelings of self-deprecation that keep the words from flowing and you might just feel better for being productive! Don’t beat yourself if you end up writing a page of crap, we all have those days. Just be happy for having written something! Crap writing can be revisited later, but not if there’s nothing to revisit.

 

Don’t be afraid to step away from your work sometimes!

We can’t always commit to a single story. We’re likely to burn ourselves out that way. So don’t be afraid to step away and work on something else sometimes.

Personally, I enjoy fumbling around with writing prompts to see what I come up with. Sometimes it just takes venturing into another plot to make you feel refreshed enough to come back to your main story.

Here are a few websites that I frequent for prompts:
http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts
http://writingprompts.tumblr.com/
http://www.creative-writing-solutions.com/creative-writing-prompts.html

Also, I’m giving 642 Things to Write by San Francisco Writers’ Grotto an honourable mention. This book, as well as others of the same series, have helped me to climb up and out of a fair few fickle phases.

If you don’t feel like writing, step away from the page or the screen for a little while. Perhaps do some of those chores you’ve been putting off so you don’t have to worry about doing them later, read a book to stimulate your brain or play a video game. Immersing yourself in something else will help you to quieten your mind, and you can always come back to your story later with a fresher mindset!

 

Take Regular Breaks

Writers aren’t immune to the health hazards of being in front of a screen or in the same position for too long. We all need breaks from time to time; it’s important to move around and rest our eyes and minds now and then. Sometimes, our anxieties are exacerbated by tired minds, and forcing ourselves to get the most perfect strings of words on paper can only be a recipe for disaster. Make sure to get outside every so often, even if just for a short walk. You may even draw inspiration from the outside world! I find that taking a notebook on walks proves to help me come up with ideas better than I would if I was cooped up at home all day. That said, don’t push yourself if you really don’t feel like writing. We can’t always have effortlessly productive days.

 

Self-Care

Make sure you practice self-care! It is extremely important to eat well, get a good night’s sleep – and perhaps a 90-minute nap here and there, and exercise when and where you can. Your body won’t forgive you for eating trash, stewing in the same clothes over and other, and keeping yourself up at night, and all of these can contribute to your writing anxiety. A healthy body can make for a healthy mind and a healthy mind will flow more freely when it comes to writing.

Keep your hygiene in tip top shape too. Going too long without a wash will prove a distraction, and there’s nothing more refreshing than feeling clean and fresh.

—-

Allow yourself to follow these tips to aid in finding your own methods of getting through your writing anxiety. What works for me may not work for everybody, but just know that you can get out of this slump! Most importantly, don’t push yourself. Be kind to yourself and set yourself realistic goals to avoid feeling disappointed by the end of the day. Only you know what you feel you can achieve throughout the day.

What are your tips for getting through a writing slump?

Good luck, and write well!

Uncategorized

An open letter to my father, the first person to break my heart

Dear father, the first person to break my heart,

First and foremost, I’d like to thank you. 
The pain that you inflicted upon me earlier in life led me to grow into a strong woman. 

The first time I fell in love, I was already fluent in heartbreak. The way sobs rolled from my tongue was an all too familiar memory, so I handled it exceptionally well when she used and abused me. You taught me to recognise when I was not wanted, so I walked away.
See, at such a meagre age, you didn’t give me that option. You had me gazing lovingly at my very own father figure, just to be tossed far away. 

You’re lucky that my mother was fluent in heartbreak too. She’d had it harder than you could ever imagine, and she still played the hell out of the role of both parental figures, meanwhile you played none. All respect I had for you, I bestowed upon her. She has been my warm embrace, my knight in shining armour, my most frivolous laughter. She’s twice the father you could ever be. I thank you for giving her that strength.  
Right now, I’m in love again. I know you’d be disappointed to hear that. You couldn’t have cared less for me, yet you still wanted to chase boys away – left, right, and centre. Now, if I’m honest, it took me a long time to learn to love and to trust again, and I know that you’re to blame for that, but I’m happy now. You taught me how to look out for the warning signs, and for once in my life, I’m so god damn happy, I could hug you, and maybe even send this to you as a thank you note in calligraphic ink, on decorated paper, in an elegantly designed envelope – but I won’t.
Thank you for breaking my heart before anybody else could. I now know what to look out for, and in whom I should place my trust. 
And finally, I feel safe. 
Have a good life. 
I hope you regret losing me every day.

Writing Games

Writing Game

Place your finger randomly on the page in front of you. Your finger will have landed on a word or words. Write the word down, as well as the 3 words preceding it. You now have a 7-word phrase. Write this down & once you have written it, keep writing for 5 mins. You must not stop writing & you must not think. Try to write as fast as you can. You are not producing a work of art.

BookGrief is the Thing with Feathers – Max Porter

Death felt fourth-dimensional, abstract, faintly familiar.

Scary as it was, there was something oddly comforting about greeting death at the door – almost reassuring, in fact. After seeing my husband in his skeletal cancerous state, I often wished for it to be over for him. That was, however, after I spent five years praying and begging for his recovery, but to no avail. However, nobody could have ever prepared me for the turmoil that was to be the process of grieving.

I had never smoked in my life, but I now found myself hanging out of the window, inhaling the poison from clumsily made roll-ups. He died because of this very habit, so why did I wish to follow suit? I missed him unbearably, that was the problem. I tricked myself into believing he wasn’t really gone, and that I could just get out of this world and into the afterlife just as easily as he eventually did. But again, it was to no avail. I coughed, cried a little, cursed my love for not quitting his addiction earlier, then cried again until I vomited.

This was my life now, clearly, or lack thereof.

Review

Little Nan’s Bar, Deptford

The best of every nan’s living room, right on Deptford’s doorstep.

We’ve all been there – warm hues of scattered browns and golds, shabby trinkets, Bone China dinner sets, and worn – but equally as comfortable settees. I’m sure I speak for many of us when I say that the welcoming atmosphere of our grandparent’s house is one that we fondly remember. I remember well the days when I would stand in the kitchen with my nan and help her bake buns, cakes, and cookies. I remember thinking that nan’s buns were the best I’d ever tasted.

Little Nan’s Bar is a reprise of every single one of those memories.

Located a stone’s throw from Deptford station, Little Nan’s Bar is hard to miss with its eccentric outdoor seating, stuffed animals, and warm night mood-lighting. But it’s not until you enter its doors that you see how truly nostalgic the place actually is.

   

Attention to detail is a significant quirk of Little Nan’s Bar – I glanced around for the best part of an hour, and I’m not even sure I saw every last bit and bob.


Having just returned from a gruelling train ride from Essex, all I wanted was a nice, strong cup of black coffee, and Little Nan’s Bar was happy to provide – at a reasonable price too; £1.50 for a mug of filtered coffee big enough to keep me buzzing for the rest of the evening. It was quieter than usual, being a rainy Monday, which I was thankful for as it gave me the freedom to look around at my own pace without disturbing anybody. I can imagine that it can get incredibly busy, however, making for a night out that we all need to try. I mean, when’s the last time we had the opportunity to get absolutely bloody trollied on huge cocktails in a nan’s living room while propping ourselves up against a Daniel O’Donnell cushion?

I do regret not getting something bigger to eat, however. I’ve heard great things about the food, but I did treat myself to a small teacup of cheesy snacks to accompany my coffee, again at a very reasonable price of £1.

I fell in love with this adorable tablecloth

Little Nan’s Bar holds several awards for “Best Afternoon Tea” and “Best London Bar”, and rightfully so. I can’t say I’ve ever had such a whimsically kitsch, Alice in Wonderland-esque experience in the six years that I’ve lived in London, but here I was, sitting in awe of everything around me. I emphasise the word experience because that’s what good afternoon tea should be. It’s what sets Little Nan’s Bar apart from other similar establishments in London. You can really tell how much Grandson-Tristan cherishes his nan and experiences had with her. I would have loved to have met her, but I’m thankful for this insight into her home that Tristan has carried along with him.

 

Do I recommend? Heck yeah I do! Catch them right next to Deptford Station – you can’t miss them!