Monday, 20 January 2014

January Joy & Jest!


Oh January is such a maligned month isn't it? Well, I've got a few things  to share with you that may persuade you otherwise, on this 'Blue Monday' too, apparently the most depressing day of the year. 

First of all, there's the January Mindful Writing Challenge (Mindful Writing) I've been taking part in. The concept is simple: notice one thing every day and write it down. ~Notice one thing every day and write it down.~ As Mary Oliver urges: 'Instructions for living a life: Pay Attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.'   From sunsets to skies to food to clothes to coloured paraphernalia, I've been going around this month with my eyes wide open. The exercise encourages awareness, and with awareness comes gratefulness and a willingness to find significance everywhere.
Here are some of my observations, or small stones as they're called on the website. They're neither poetry or prose, just a small written note of significance:

Silver streamers 
flung on the clock 
from last night's celebrations 
make time sparkle 
                                     -(New Year's Day)

A constellation of pink stars 
sparkle around me - 
a sequined cardigan 
hanging in wait 
                                       -(5 January)

The new moon 
always a surprise
a wink of silver
from a sympathethic eye
                                                 -(6 January)

Tangerine sunset 
like a shot of Vitamin C
for the soul
                                                 -(8 January)

Shining in the window
the wolf moon
bright as a floodlight
white as a tooth
howls for attention
                                        -(13 January) 

Seagulls stretch their wings
delighting in the blue,
while we warm our winter faces

in surprise sun, subtext singing
of Spring

                                             - (today)  

I plan to finish out the month with these, and hopefully continue on throughout the upcoming months. It's such a great idea. Days you feel pass you by with nothing seemingly happening, you sit down to write your small stone and realise that something did happen, no matter how small, it had significance for the fact that you noticed it, and partook in the act of writing it down.  

You can read a kaleidoscope more here: or try searching on Facebook or Twitter for the hashtag #smallstones.  You don't have to write them to enjoy reading them. But reading them will only inspire you to write them!

Another great tool to banish the January blues is this book: The Awe-manac by Jill Badonsky. Yes that's not a dud spelling on my part, it does say 'awemanac' rather than almanac - promising as it does a daily dose of wonder. Every day is noted with a special array of inspiring content such as:
- the Daily Soul Vitamin (inspiring quotes, which I heartily enjoy) 
- Toast of the Day (appreciations of ordinary things, for example: 'here's to pens that make your handwriting look better than it actually is')
-Aha-phrodisiacs (writing prompts - my favourite from this month - 'write what accordion music would look like')
-Dose of Mirth (funny witty offerings of advice)

It's quirky, fun, surprising and as it says on the tin, inspiring. I highly recommend it! Today's 'soul vitamin' is: "In order to achieve the impossible, you have to attempt the absurd" - Miguel de Cervantes Savedra.  It's also National Hat Day. (The book follows the American calendar, so lots of interesting national days...) Like did you know that January is national gourmet coffee month? And it encompasses lots of cool interesting days like National Cat Day, National Make Your Dreams Come True Day, Festival of Sleep Day, National Bath Day and National Nothing Day! Did you ever consider January to be a bastion of such fun days??! I can't wait to see what trivia and whimsy the upcoming months will bring!

Another January joy I've stumbled upon is Vintage's decision to start a year long #shelfhelp book endeavor. Their idea being that 'shelf help' - reading good books - is better for you than reading (sometimes drippy) self-help books. It's book therapy at its general best! They have chosen a feelgood book for each month and an online bookclub space in which to share and discuss views.  First up for January is 'The Examined Life' by Stephen Grosz. You can see the rest of the book selection here:

And if you don't agree with their chosen books, why not choose your own? For there is nothing better than a good book to make you feel better, pick up your mood, and put a swing in your step! 

So there. I hope I've added a little joy and jest to your January!

~ Siobhán

Useful Links:

Mindful Writing ~
The Awemanac ~ 
Shelf Help ~

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Sunday Morning Musing: Writing as Communication

'All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation - it is the Self escaping into the open.'  ~ E.B. White

In spoken communication, there is a lot of static. A lot of half-meant words, a lot of chewed-up sentiments, a lot of noise. When we communicate by talking, we can put on any emotion, any front, any self, change our colours like a chameleon to match our conversation partners. It is easy to disguise ourselves in the spoken word. But writing is different. 

Writing is a way of telling the truth. Truth that is bent in telling is not so easy malleable in writing. And that goes for truth of self.  When we write, we can't be anyone but ourselves. We fictionalise,  invent characters sure, but at the core, it is us, -'communication by revelation' EB White calls it. The written word is the key that opens the cages our true selves may be confined to. We are free to be ourselves on the page. 

And on the page, the Self, like any free spirit, likes nothing better than to soar. 

~ Siobhán

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year Musing

'New Year's Day is every man's birthday.' ~ Charles Lamb

Well, it's here, 2014. And I have a feeling it will be a good one, don't you? Sparkly and spontaneous and star-studded and brimming with hopeful possibilities! 

I've been spending the day reveling in the shiny newness this time of year engenders. The feeling of having a blank slate, a new beginning to get going with. I love reading through all the various well-wishes and reflections online from writers and the like. And so here, I would like to share some of their wise words with you to mark this New Year.

First up, I stumbled across this lovely wish from writer Neil Gaiman doing the rounds on Twitter today:


Sentiments I agree with entirely!  And if you go onto his blog (Neil Gaiman's Journal) you'll find more:

'I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you'll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you'll make something that didn't exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.'

'And for this year, my wish for each of us is small and very simple: And it's this. I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something. So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.'

A refreshing point of view to say the least.  And then I came across this piece on singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie's New Year resolutions, an endearing mix of the banal and the sublime:
Woody Guthrie's New Year Resolutions Brain Pickings 

1. Work more and better
2. Work by a schedule
3. Wash teeth if any
4. Shave
5. Take bath
6. Eat good — fruit — vegetables — milk
7. Drink very scant if any
8. Write a song a day
9. Wear clean clothes — look good
10. Shine shoes
11. Change socks
12. Change bed cloths often
13. Read lots good books
14. Listen to radio a lot
15. Learn people better
16. Keep rancho clean
17. Dont get lonesome
18. Stay glad
19. Keep hoping machine running
20. Dream good
21. Bank all extra money
22. Save dough
23. Have company but dont waste time
24. Send Mary and kids money
25. Play and sing good
26. Dance better
27. Help win war — beat fascism
28. Love mama
29. Love papa
30. Love Pete
31. Love everybody
32. Make up your mind
33. Wake up and fight

Tick, tick, tick! Here's the real deal alright - 'Keep hoping machine running', 'Stay glad, 'Dream Good', 'Learn People Better' - what could be better objectives to set?  Take that all you diet preachers and practitioners bah!

I can't help but mention a catchy refrain that could be used as a pretty cool resolution too from my favourite band The National. From their song, 'Blank Slate': 'Gonna be a blank slate/gonna wear a white cape.'  Not bad advice eh?! (And while we're on the subject of music, here are two songs I think capture the spirit of the New Year in sound: 'Chicago' ~ Sufjan Stevens and 'Better Days' ~ The Goo Goo Dolls)

Can't go without including TS Eliot's famous words on the New Year from his 'Quartet' piece, saying how the New Year comes with a sort of blank slate. Everything will be different from here on in. We all have a right to a new start.

'For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.'

Indeed.  New beginnings. Blank slates. The gateway to the future opening before us, the past a grey blur, the future gold and beckoning, ripe, prosperous, possible. Goodbye to the old, hello to the new or 'Ring out the false/ring in the true' as Tennyson put it. 

Whatever that may be to you, I wish you well with it. And may all your 2014 dreams flare into being. For as WS Mervin notes in the poem below, they are all still completely 'possible'. Everything is.

Happy New Year, 



To the New Year - WS Mervin
With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible