12 June 2013

What to do when your inspiration throws you curve balls?

Inspiration has no rules - but it can take you to your dreams, and a happiness you have never known.  Maybe to dreams which were buried so deep you'd forgotten they existed.  Maybe to new dreams borne from deep inside of you; a part of you which you have been ignoring because life had put you on a different path. 

You tell yourself it's silly.  Your life is a steamroller headed in one direction.  You can't mess with that can you?  The excuses pour into your head; no, you can't do anything about this; you have your daily routine - can't possibly deviate - it wasn't part of the plan.   And so another inspired idea is lost.

But look at the people who inspiration found, and they acted upon it.  For some of them it not only changed the course of their lives, but it changed the course of all our lives.  Steam power, light bulbs, rubber, electricity, penicillin, the wheel, gravity, could the world possibly be a sphere revolving around the sun?  When these inspirations found their people, it was likely easier for them to look the other way and carry on with their life as before, but they saw beyond that.  These people changed everything.

Why is all of this relevant to you?

Inspiration doesn't have to be as huge as the wheel to improve our lives infinitely. We follow many small ideas and they guide us.  If we follow the light that is inspiration it will take us on a journey.  That inspiration is your soul guiding you to your own happiness.

But that idea isn't part of the plan!

But what happens when inspiration throws you curve balls  things you werent expecting?  Does this sound familiar?  It happens a lot, and recently it happened to me.  What I learned is worth sharing, and I hope you will find it useful.

I've written in this blog of my journey from illness into writing.  My learning and energy could only be poured in that direction, or into activities that could help me towards that goal.  I had unwittingly attached blinkers to my eyes  I know Im not alone in that respect.  Many of us, along with age, develop tunnel vision whether we realise it or not.

I chanced upon an advertisement for an advanced diploma in photograhy.  My body reacted at a visceral level.  I felt an energy release deep in my gut that radiated through me.  No, I couldn't do that; it wasn't part of the plan. I must keep focussed - must not let myself be distracted - can't let this pull me away from my dreams.  So I parked the idea and moved on - or tried to.

The thing is that this visceral sort of inspiration comes from a place deeper than your consciousness.  This is a place which knows you - your capabilities, likes, dislikes, and even dreams better than your "conscious mind". You ignore it at your peril - it is guiding you for a reason.  We need to remember that our "conscience minds" are influenced by those around us, the values society teaches us, and can lead us to make the wrong decisions.  It may be a decision which makes total sense, but nonetheless is the wrong one for us.  You see; our conscious minds are fallible.

That visceral hit I had when I saw the photography course had no such misleading influences.  It was true to me, and who I am  - just as yours is true to you and who you are.  That hit was guiding me away from a wrong move.  It knew all about the love for photography which I had buried when I put on my blinkers.  It knew photography couldn't possibly pull me away from my dreams as it was as much a part of my dreams as writing.  It knew that words and pictures have been seen together on the same page for hundreds of years before they invented the camera. That visceral hit into my belly was there to make me look past my blinkers.  The truth was that I've been heavily into photography since the early 1990's, invested much in learning and kit, and already built a large portfolio.  So why was I ignoring something which was so clearly a passion - and a big part of my life?

What is part of the plan is not always relevant.  Plans can change for the better.  Mine can; yours can - and they should.

It's never really a curve ball

Inspiration may send us what appears to be a curve ball, but the old cliché is true.  Appearances can be deceptive.  Look into yourself  really look.  Is the inspiration compatible with the real you (that bit buried deep inside), or the version of you which you believe yourself to be (via your fallible and "conscious mind")?

I think that you already know that if the inspiration comes from that place deep inside of you - it's never really a curve ball.  I think that I did too.  I have no option other than to follow my literal gut reaction and see where it takes me.  I decided to let myself develop from the inside of my soul, rather than over-think with the logic society has assured me is the truth  your insides never lie.  What truer path can there be? 

We're all more than we think we are   

Im more than just a writer.  Thank heaven my inspiration reminded me.  This "curve ball" is part of the journey I was meant to take.  Inspiration comes to you for a reason, sometimes at the most inconvenient of times. 

My journey and this blog may not develop in the way I had initially envisaged, but that is part of the fun. I intend to enjoy this journey, and I hope that you will enjoy yours.  

From my portfolio
It is likely that a sister site will be borne as a companion to this site, as I continue to develop my portfolio.  I'm already developing it.  Ill let you know.

What curve balls did life throw at you?  Did you embrace them?

Do you have any inspirational ideas as to how I should combine my writing and my photography?

Copyright © 2013 C. S. Wimsey. All Rights Reserved. 
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17 February 2013

How To Reach Your True Potential

Have you ever felt frustrated that you could do so much more, be so much more? You’re doing what was expected of you in life, but there is something missing. There are no easy answers; many issues come into play, including fear and (lack of) confidence, along with various practical issues. You may hear your inner voice telling you, “I wasn’t that good at school”, “my skills are limited”, “I don’t know how to be anything else”, “I’m terrible at interviews”, “I can’t do that because I have to pick the kids up from school”. That inner voice is relentless; it could go on indefinitely if you let it. The problem is that if you listen to it, you can be sure you will never develop to your true potential.

Inner voice and plateau

I didn't say developing to your true potential was easy, and your first obstacle is that inner voice – I’m fighting it too. I’m enthusiastic, even passionate, about my life journey, but recently I found myself stuck on a plateau from where I could not move.  Many are in the same situation as I was - trying to break out, but feeling trapped. Thankfully I was overwhelmed with the desire to escape this plateau which was imprisoning me, preventing me from developing my potential - moving on.

Nobody was going to present me with a nail file hidden in a cake, and I couldn’t hope for keys – that only happens in stories – right?  I had to work out what prison this was, and who had passed sentence.  There were no bars, no guards, no one actually restraining me, yet I was stuck; as are many of us for my situation was not unique.  This was a prison of my own making - I had passed sentence.   I could have blamed the situation, those around me - but the truth is that it is only ourselves who can determine whether we move forward, or stagnate. It is only ourselves who can free us from our plateau, for it was ourselves who put us there.  There is always a way; it is just a question of finding it.

Query the judgements holding you back

We are all capable of passing such judgements upon ourselves, and we do so frequently – in fact, daily.  Those judgements prevent us progressing and developing to our potential – although we may not realise it.  “I can’t drive on a motorway”, “I can’t speak publically”, “I can’t walk into a room full of strangers”.  You probably recognise this thought process – and it is an infinite one; that inner voice again.  The question to ask here is why can’t you? 

Anyone can physically walk into a room full of strangers and talk – unless you have a physical handicap which prevents you.  So what is stopping you?  Often the answer is that fear is holding you back from your potential.  Fear is a natural bodily response.  What the body is telling you through fear is to be careful, to protect yourself.  It is not telling you refrain from the activity which caused the fear.  If we refrained from every activity which provoked fear no one would ever mount a bike, a roller coaster, enter a car, a plane, take those first steps while learning to walk, enter into their first school...  In short, we could not live our lives.

Fear amplification

It was fear which was holding me back - my own fear – but it was more than that. My fear was embedded in scars. I was carrying negative past experiences around with me, which amplified my beliefs of “I can’t”. No one was telling me I couldn’t move on in my journey, but I believed I couldn’t. I believed “if I try to do this, something bad will happen – because something bad once happened in the past.” “I can’t do this because somebody once told me...” My scars were twisting my logic, and as a result I had sentenced myself to be chained to the spot for eternity by my own fear.  

If you really look at people who are happy or have succeeded in their journey they have many things in common. They don’t have an absence of fear – they feel fear just as we mere mortals do. They may well be just as scarred as the rest of us, re-enforcing their fears. I am not the first to think about this concept; as Mark Twain once said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” We shouldn’t let out past scars dictate our futures - if you throw the dice twice, it is unlikely to throw up the same number.  If the first or second number doesn't suit - throw it again.  After all, "character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries." - James A. Michner.

You are always the master of your own destiny – but box clever with yourself

We don’t want to be stuck, so we must overturn the judgements we've passed on ourselves.  Be careful, but don't use your fear as an excuse not to act.  But it’s not that easy is it?  Knowing it is your own fear holding you back doesn’t break those shackles, because there were no shackles in the first place - undoing them won’t set us free.

I decided to pass another sentence upon myself to replace the void – an alternative and motivating sentence.

I sentence myself to:
  • follow my heart 
  • muster the courage to defeat my fear
  • allow myself not to be perfect (this is a big one for me – I used to be a lawyer!)
  • enjoy life
  • to be to be a first rate version of myself – and not a second rate version of someone else (see The Garland Approach)
I now have a sentence of goals which illicit good feelings within myself – the good feelings are the key to making new avenues open for all of us. I feel myself starting to move towards my new sentence and  moving away from my plateau – a by-product of my new desires and goals.  Once you pass your own sentence, you will in turn find that moving towards it unwittingly moves you away from your own plateau.

Your turn

If you feel stuck (or even if you don’t) – try and work out what fears are holding you back. Is the past bound to repeat itself? How do you know – do you have a crystal ball? Appeal the sentence that you have put upon yourself – what new sentence do you impose? Does it illicit good feelings? Remember the scope of your new sentence is limited only by your imagination. Why not share it with us?

Copyright © 2013
C. S. Wimsey. All Rights Reserved.
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31 December 2012

Hello 2013 – looking forward to seeing you!

Lots of things did, and didn’t, happen in 2012. We in England hosted the Olympics, and shock/horror, did well. A Brit won a tennis grand slam, and a gold medal. Didn’t see that coming when watching his tears at Wimbledon. The Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, and became popular again. William and Kate are having a baby and the Royal succession is guaranteed, irrespective of whether it is a boy or a girl. That’s a first. 

We were engrossed in the third series of Downton Abbey and the Grantham succession was secured too – with a son for cousin Matthew and Lady Mary. Cut to a dubious shot of Matthew driving himself home – have we seen him drive a car before? It didn’t bode well, and the succession is going to have to skip a generation. How will baby Matthew manage from his nursery? We’ll find out in 2013 – so there is much to look forward to.

I started 2012 hardly being able to walk. I’ve come a long way – and I can see that despite the disasters that have fallen on my personal 2012. I was therefore extremely grateful, if not surprised, that the Apocalypse didn’t happen on 21 December when the Mayan calendar ended. My Christmas shopping wasn’t wasted, and I think my luck is turning in time for 2013 – maybe it’s my lucky number. Or I intend to make it so.

I made my resolutions months ago and have already laid much groundwork for 2013. Little things like not being able to walk, or my laptop dying a couple of days after Christmas Day aren’t going to slow down my journey. Mere blips. No hurdle is insurmountable with the right mindset. Our Paralympians will testify to that.  My laptop had the good manners to give up the ghost when the boxing day deals were on - it was my trusty friend even in that. Although I did recover all my data from my old hard drive, please learn from my lesson. If you are a writer – back all up your writing – every day. All hard drives will eventually fail, it is as inevitable as, well, I would say the X factor winner having the Christmas number one, but that didn’t happen either this year...

So my journey is looking good for 2013. I have motivation, and a shiny new red laptop from which my blog posts are now being written. What’s not to like for 2013?

What are your plans for 2013? Are you going to make it as memorable as 2012? Why not share your dreams for 2013 by leaving a comment below?

Happy New Year to you all and I hope it brings you all the joy you could wish for. I’m toasting you with cyber champagne as you read this. Keep well.

Copyright © 2012 C. S. Wimsey. 
All Rights Reserved. 
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16 December 2012

Determination; Belief; Attitude

These words alone will not get you to where you want to go, but when you can get them working together there is no limit to what you can do. How do you find your determination and belief? How do you sustain them, and how do you make them work for you?

Those of you who read this blog regularly, know that I found my determination through Henry. I was never again going to be in a situation where I had to give up something I loved so much. That determination was initially blind – I had to focus it – work out how I was going to regain control of my life. As I worked out my plan and started to implement it, I began to believe. I started to see results – small steps adding to each other into something meaningful. I knew then that I had the power to change my life; I am not unique – we all have that power. The tricky bit is harnessing that power and using it to propel us on our journey.

Henry - whom I loved and lost
If you want something enough and are prepared to take positive action, then that is the start of your journey. Completing that journey depends on you sustaining that determination. I’ve found that if used properly determination will sustain itself. Seeing results and receiving positive feedback creates more determination, and also belief. As Muhammad Ali said “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”

The reason belief can make things happen is because of the change in attitude that it produces. We step out of our comfort zones because we believe we can. We explore the unknown with an infectious enthusiasm which is contagious to others so that we are welcomed there. It is the positive people we are more likely to take notice of – so be that person. That attitude can also help you through the hard times. If you believe in yourself and you receive a rejection, your belief can be the difference between giving up, and completing your journey to success. If you believe, you know that there is a place for your work, and you are determined to find that place – to carve out your own niche. Look at the list of authors who were rejected in a previous post here. You will see authors who are now household names – in fact some of the best-selling authors ever. It wasn’t their talent which was the difference between failure and success – it was their determination, their belief, and their attitude. They saw a way forward long after others may have given up. They saw the doors and gates that may open after others closed – because they believed. As John Stuart Mill once said - “One person with a belief is equal to ninety-nine who only have interests.”

If you take nothing else from this article - always remember the words of William James, “Belief creates the actual fact.”

Do you believe? Are you determined enough to make it happen? If so my readers and I would love to hear from you in the comments section below – go on – inspire us!

Copyright © 2012 C. S. Wimsey. All Rights Reserved. 
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21 November 2012

Defence Against the Dark Arts – Tips for Your Writer’s Toolbox Part 3

This is part 3 of a series. I recommend that if you haven’t read the previous two articles that you read them first by clicking here for part 1, and here for part 2 .

In part 1, I explained how a writer’s life isn’t easy and that we need to be prepared for when the “Dark Arts” start to pull us down. I spoke about self doubt in part 1, and rejection and bad reviews on part 2. We must defend ourselves against these dark arts and protect our writing gift so that we and others may enjoy it. It is all part of keeping my journey as a writer – and yours – on track.


Have you ever noticed how a student house becomes tidier than it has ever been when exams are looming? I know mine did. I didn’t suddenly become house-proud and virtuous, and neither did my peers. You can’t justify going out to enjoy yourself when you need to revise, but for some reason housework is an acceptable chore which must take precedence. We’re constantly finding excuses not to do that unpleasant task, make that scary telephone call to an editor, start/continue writing that novel. The more we put things off, the bigger hurdle they become in our minds. We spend hours worrying about that telephone call as if that editor is a big green monster looking to eat you up as soon as you draw breath. We spend weeks worrying about that novel; is the idea good enough; we haven’t done enough research for that section we can’t possibly start it now; it’ll never get published anyway. The more excuses we make the bigger the mountain in our head becomes, and we become fearful of climbing.

The funny thing is that often, in the time we take putting off that task, we could have completed the task several times over – and felt better about ourselves in the process. The time we spend finding excuses to put things off is not a healthy or constructive use of our time. I recall an old lawyer colleague of mine started to put a dot on every letter in his in tray each time he looked at it and prioritised something else. When a letter had 15 dots on it, it was clear he had spent more time avoiding answering that letter than it would have taken him to deal with it. Nevertheless, we still persist in this kind of avoidance behaviour – every day.

Apart from being a huge drain on our time and productivity, procrastination can prevent perfectly good ideas ever being written. Don’t become a victim of it. What if your favourite author had succumbed to their procrastination? Think of the books you would never have been able to read.

Make that call to that editor as soon as it comes into your mind. Then the call is made, and you have no need to spend that time worrying and finding excuses. You haven’t built the call up in your mind to be as difficult as scaling Everest; and the chances are that editor was a perfectly pleasant individual. The call was wrapped up in five minutes, and you can now move on, and get on with your writing, pitches, and submissions. If the call had a positive outcome then that is great; if it didn’t, you don’t have to worry about it anymore, and you can learn from it and move on – with a positive focus on moving forward. You’ve lost nothing, you’ve gained time.

I’ve been skirting about my novel ideas for a long time now – very fitting that the working title to my novel is “Eternity”. I have many plot ideas, and no words written, and at risk of stating the obvious, unless I write any words, my novel will never be finished – I won’t even have a working draft to play with. Some of that time I’ve spent playing with those ideas is essential. I need to know my characters, I need to know my basic plot and sub plots. I’m writing historic fiction, so I need to do research. All those things need doing or whatever I write isn’t going to work. But if I hold my hands up and be completely honest with myself, I was also holding onto fear. A fear which made me use every excuse I could find not to start typing those words. Is my idea good enough? Will it work? Are my characters right? I would wager that I’m not alone.

I knew I’d hit a brick wall in my head, so I talked over my ideas and concerns with some fellow novelists in my writing group. The result? “Your ideas are perfectly sound, we’d like to read it, so get on with it!” I’m paraphrasing of course, but that is pretty much what it boiled down to – I’d been procrastinating. I was lucky enough to have the input of a several times published author in that group, and I will be following her advice. I’m never going to know entirely whether my ideas and characters are going to work until I start writing them. Sometimes you’ve got to just press on and write regardless of your research – get that momentum flowing. As you write it will highlight the holes in your research and you can do it later – make a list as you go on of things you need to check on. Getting on with this process will focus where you need to do your research, so that you don’t waste time getting lost in learning everything there is to be learned – regardless of its relevance to your novel. That in itself is a form of procrastination.

Basically – if you are finding you are doing everything except moving forward with your writing you are probably procrastinating. Stop right there and be honest with yourself. Would your time be better served just getting on with doing the task, or doing that piece of writing you are avoiding there and then? After all when it’s done you can go for that drink without any guilt gnawing at your conscience, and enjoy yourself.

How do you deal with procrastination? Why not leave a comment and help our community of writers with theirs? You don’t have to be a writer to be familiar with this dark art – it affects us all, so why not tell us about it and stop the virus spreading?

Copyright © 2012 C. S. Wimsey. All Rights Reserved. 
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11 November 2012


I don’t know how it happened - 11.11.12, and I am so much older than I feel. We had 11.11.11 last year, then 10.11.12 yesterday. Just numbers to reflect upon, seemingly insignificant dates, but is any date insignificant? I’ve been delving into history and the meaning of historic fiction. In a previous post I wrote of the intimate connection between history and stories; history teaches us – stories help us to really understand. History was born out of stories and stories are born out of history.

Image in Public Domain
Today I think of my character Sam in my “Dream of Christmas”. Sam never existed, but many Sams did exist, from whom Sam was born. They fought in the trenches of World War One long after Sam’s short story ended - as Sam would have done after the Christmas Truce ended, war resumed and real horrors repeated. Sam faced a temporary hope as hostilities ceased along the front lines on Christmas Day 1914. England felt the familiar loss to Germany at football in no man’s land; makeshift balls being fired instead of guns. Sam would have to wait another four years to shake hands with another German – if he even survived to November 1918.

I look at my history classes in school, which taught me about the horrors those brave men suffered so that we could have the lives we live today. After those lessons I knew, but my understanding was sparse. I wasn’t there to witness those horrors. My understanding came from behind a safe school desk; fed into my limited experience as a child. My experience didn’t equip me to imagine the implications of what was being taught. Much has been added to those teachings in my later years. I’ve read stories retold through characters that we can all connect with – stories told through their eyes, not by a list of facts printed onto a grubby school text book.

Image in Public Domain
I connected with these stories, and they along with my schooling have led to a much better understanding and appreciation of 11am on 11 November. I think of Sebastian Fawkes’ Birdsong, Michael Morpurgo’s Warhorse, and Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way which I’m currently reading. Having the story told through the eyes of a character you care about brings tangible understanding and empathy for what it was really like for those men. An empathy that a list of facts and dates can never bring. It’s just stories we’re reading here – but they bring a new respect. For me they are more than stories. They re-tell the truths that really did happen to men on a daily basis, so that we may understand, respect and never forget.

I think of Sam and his new German friend Dieter. I realise the horrors were no less great for Dieter than they were for Sam. Today I remember all the brave men who fought in a war which should never have been necessary. I’m a mere story-teller, who used to be a lawyer – but in my memory you will always live.

Copyright © 2012 C. S. Wimsey. All Rights Reserved. 
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26 October 2012

Overcoming Adversity

I’ve been struggling with what life has thrown at me lately and I remembered a quote; and how it penetrated my thoughts the first time I heard it. “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him” – David Brinkley. Life throws bricks at all of us, and it is our reaction which makes us, or destroys us – not the bricks.

We can shoot a green glance at a fellow human being – “they’ve had it so easy – why can’t it be that easy for me?” We don’t see that our green glance is tinted with rose. It may appear to us that our fellow human beings are having a much easier journey – but if we bother to find out the truth behind their success it is likely we will uncover an entirely different account. Worrying or dwelling about our plight brings me to another quote I tweeted recently “worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere”.

Image in the Public Domain
I can almost guarantee that the subjects of your green glances have had plenty of adversity and bricks thrown at them throughout their journey. Their reaction was not to sit in their rocking chair and worry - at least if they did they didn’t stay there. At first glance Dame Kelly Holmes made her two gold medals in Athens seem so easy, as if they where a formality. I recently saw an emotional interview with Dame Kelly by Piers Morgan. I was amazed that she even made it to Athens after learning the amount of and weight of some of the bricks life threw in her direction:

Image by Russell Garner
  • Dame Kelly’s mother was faced with the choice of getting rid of her baby, or leaving her parent’s home to make her way all on her own. The father didn’t stay around to help her. Her mother chose Kelly and hardship. One can’t help but admire her mother for that.
  • Dame Kelly was in and out of a children’s home as her mother struggled. 
  • Dame Kelly battled injury after injury until it seemed that her dreams had slipped away. Athens was her last chance to make it happen, and it could have gone horribly wrong. 
  • Dame Kelly did not get through her hardships without mental scars – adding to her pile of bricks. 
Despite all this Dame Kelly Holmes took those bricks, built a fire and used it to spur her on. This was not before she had already lost many medals to adversity.

I wonder whether Dame Kelly Holmes would have found the glory she did in Athens if it hadn’t been for the foundations she built through adversity? We will never know that, but what I do know from experience is that every adversity you overcome makes you stronger. You learn from your experiences mentally and emotionally. You gain confidence because you know you are capable of overcoming adversity. Your end goal begins to mean more to you and you become more determined. You no longer take anything for granted so you become a better person inside and out.

Next time you face adversity start by taking a look at the pile of bricks you have already amassed – you may have to look hard, but you’ll be surprised. You’ve done it before and survived, more than you may think. Have you been rejected by a life partner and survived? Now there’s a big brick. Any rejection is a brick thrown in your direction – big or small. Look at the difficulties you have got through in your schooling; your relationships; your career. Your bricks will be many, and your foundation sizeable.

I was recently given a lecture on this very subject. I was slapped around my face with the wet octupus of my achievements in the last 12 months. I paraphrase - “You’re beating yourself up for not having your career travelling at 100 miles an hour yet, but hang on... You could barely even walk 9 months ago! You’ve just come through hell with your father’s illness! Look how far you’ve come!” Basically, I’ve overcome a lot of adversity already.

In some respects with the size of those brick foundations, getting my career back on track should be a breeze. It doesn’t feel like it, but I’ve scaled larger mountains, it’s true. I’ve learned much from my illness and that of my father. I learned and developed in the time I was forced to take off work. So much so I’m a different person, with skills and understanding I would not have had, but for my adversity. I didn’t waste my bricks rocking back and forth worrying – I used them to make me stronger. I’ve had a lot of bricks thrown in my direction, caught them, and survived. They are now mine to use as I see fit. I could sit on them and rock – but that would be out of character. I will use them to build, and I hope that I can inspire you to do the same.

What adversity have you suffered in life? Upon reflection, did it make you stronger? Why not share your experiences below to help to inspire others?

Copyright © 2012 C. S. Wimsey. All Rights Reserved. 
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