Do you know where you’re going to …

Do you know where you’re going to?

Do you like the things that life is showing you?

Where are you going to?

Do you know?

 

Meaningful lyrics from the song by Diana Ross and the theme song to the 1975 movie Mahogany. 

I have never seen the film (or at least I don’t remember seeing the film!), but I know the song very well. The words are evocative, bringing strong memories to mind and powerful feelings.

Listening to this song, thinking of my younger self and who I am today, I could choose to be troubled by the sentiments in the lyrics, allowing myself to be seduced by melancholy and nostalgia or I could choose to let the lyrics to wash over me and move on to the next song.

But I choose instead to be inspired by the lyrics, to explore my feelings, to dive into the deep waters of my past, my present and what my future may hold.

Life is short and we only have one.

A cliché but a universal truth.

So think about it. Do you know where you’re going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to? Do you know? Do you get what you’re hoping for?
When you look behind you there’s no open door. What are you hoping for, do you know?

This song poses questions of humanity which we all ask ourselves. But in essence it’s a song about regret.

Regret. A big theme.

Artists, writers, music makers, all creatives who are brave enough to explore big themes grow in their work.

As a writer, I draw inspiration for my writing in many different ways. Music has the ability to move us, stimulating our memories and our imaginations. When I listen to a song, when the mood is right, when I am open and reflective, I can tap into and channel my emotions and the energy is stirred into inspiration for my writing.

How?

By considering the mood that the song sets and by focussing on that feeling – joy, sadness, triumph, love, regret, whatever it is and by writing from emotional depth, from wherever it is the song has taken me.

Sometimes the lyrics will tell a story, or perhaps the song shines a light on a portrait of a character, or the lyrics may take me back to a time in my past. I can then mine that memory for inspiration for a scene, I can explore the portrait of the character and flesh them out, I can ponder the story in the lyric and try and expand upon it.

I can even use the story in the lyric as a springboard for a longer piece, a different piece  or a chapter in my current book.

What type of music inspires you? Is there a song that really moves you?

 

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LIHazleton.
Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love animals.

Dare to be … me

I am me in the here and now.

I am my past from which I can never escape, nor do I want to.

I am my future in which I want to grow to be best me I can be. I recognise this is a well worn phrase, a cliche, but it’s true. I do want to be the best I can be. For me this means striving for continued personal development. Among other things, this means I want to develop my talents and potential, learn about myself, enhance the quality of my life, realise dreams and aspirations, help others and contribute to the universe.

Committing to personal development means I am willing to change. It means never giving up, putting myself in uncomfortable situations, experiencing challenge and taking risks. It also means looking after myself and meeting my needs. It means putting me first. This is not being selfish. It is being self aware. It is being where I want to be, doing what I want to do and being with who I want to be with. It is knowing wherever I am, whatever I am doing it is the right thing for me because it is only when I care for myself, can I care for others.

Attending to my personal development has led me to becoming a writer.

I dare to be a writer.

I dare to be me. 

 

Day 8 – Kinlochleven to Fort William – 15 miles

The last day of my West Highland Way walk and the last (for now) of my ‘Dare to be’ reflections.

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LIHazleton.
Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love animals.

Dare to be … a listener

As a qualified Psychotherapist, I have been trained to listen. I listen to others on several levels; the words spoken, the words unspoken, the physical body, the emotions displayed, the transference in the room and the transversal to name a few. Listening is a skill that can be learnt but it requires a willingness to give oneself wholeheartedly to the other whilst at the same time never losing connection with oneself. To listen to the other, caring for them whilst constantly monitoring oneself and ones responses and ones congruence requires a special listening which can be exhausting and challenging.

This is real listening and is a gift to the speaker.

I dare to listen in this way because I learn. I learn about the other, I learn about humanity but the most rewarding aspect of this listening is I learn about myself. Having self awareness, the ability to monitor my own responses, when I truly listen, I discover more about who I am and with this self knowledge comes the ability to grow and develop.

I apply real listening in my writing life. When I write, I am listening. As the words form in my head and are transcribed on the page, I am listening to the deeper meaning. I monitor as I write, constantly aware of what’s happening in my physical body, my emotional state, the visitations from the past or recent happenings. I believe writing this way facilitates writing with emotional depth and helps me flesh out my characters and scenes.

Real listening is rewarding in both my writing life and in my day to day life, but it can come at a cost. It can be frightening to discover things about people or oneself you may not have chosen to know. Once knowledge is imparted and received it needs to be processed and this may not be easy. I choose to listen but I listen with care.

Will you dare to really listen? Try it and see how it impacts your writing. You may be pleasantly surprised.

I dare to be a listener.

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Day 6 – Invaroran to Glen Coe Mountain Centre – 9 miles

LIHazleton.
Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love animals.

Truth No. 15 – I am Vulnerable

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I was vulnerable as a child (we all are), I remained vulnerable through adolescence and into adulthood and I am still vulnerable. I am proud to be be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is being open to truth, not only my truth but a universal truth.

The universal truth is we are all vulnerable. Listen to Brene Brown speak on TED about vulnerability and you will see why.

Because we are mortal beings, vulnerability is a universal feature of our human condition. Our suffering, injury, illness, death, heartbreak and loss are experiences that define our existence and loom as constant threats. To be human is to be excruciatingly vulnerable. Using the adverb excruciatingly is a conscious choice. Fellow writers will know we learn to avoid using adverbs in our writing, but I choose to use excruciatingly to emphasise how painful and distressing feeling vulnerable can be.

It is natural for humans to avoid suffering and so we deny our vulnerability. “We’re fine,” we say when our truth points to the opposite. No, we are not fine, we are vulnerable. Of course, to have a temporary sense of power over all events and circumstances, is one of the privileges of being human and especially of being youthfully human. As we mature and grow older, we understand this privilege must be surrendered as we must surrender youth and as we succumb to ill health, accidents and experience the loss of loved ones. After all, ultimately we have no choice over these things.

So, why not reveal your vulnerability now? Try it and you will be rewarded with richer, more fulfilling relationships.

What happens when we risk showing another person our vulnerability? We become real and being real is wholly healthy. Why? Because we can be ourselves and being ourselves is a lot easier and less stressful than keeping up a pretence and wearing a mask. Hiding and pretending can be emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually exhausting (I know!) and the more you allow your essence to mature and acknowledge your vulnerability, the more you will attract authentic people into your life and create a network of supportive, real friends.

***

Now, what lessons are there here that can be applied to our writing?

If you search the how-to-write section of any bookstore, you might conclude good stories are all about craft, plot, character, suspense, dialogue, etc. Of course these things matter but what I believe matters more is an author’s ability to be vulnerable on the page; to be open, daring, unabashed and unashamed; to be fearless and willing to blow away any taboo and to resist heeding any notions of embarrassment.

As Brene Brown says in her TED talk, to be vulnerable is not a weakness, rather, it’s “our most accurate measure of courage.”

My urge to be a writer is a measure of my courage, but more it is a generous act at its core. I want to share my story to give a reader an insight into a world they haven’t experienced. This is my gift, the gift of vulnerability, of being human.

 

LIHazleton.

Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love animals.

Truth No. 12 – Alone and Lonely

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Most adults have pondered the difference of being alone and being lonely. Simply put being alone is a state of being; loneliness is a state of mind.  But what about children, small children, children under ten? Can they articulate their feelings and are they adept at recognising when they are lonely and if so, are they able to do something about it? A fortunate child will have parents and care givers who will be monitoring for loneliness and will act if they detect their child is lonely.

When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time on my own. I suffered emotional neglect as well as being left alone at home, so it was a common place occurrence for me to be alone physically and alone psychologically. I was aware I was on my own a great deal of the time and I was aware it was unusual. With no siblings, a latch-key kid, a mother who was there only for the necessities and an absent father, it was my norm. But what I wasn’t fully aware of, was that I was lonely.  I just felt miserable all the time.

Loneliness impacts children in different ways. For me:

  • I developed a low self-esteem
  • I didn’t take risks. Trying new things and calling attention to myself left me feeling vulnerable and risking rejection
  • I felt disgruntled, disconnected and worried, pulling away from others and feeling more isolated as a result
  • Attempts to get close to my mother as a child and failing plus having no male role model caused me to feel hopeless about developing close relationships later in life

 

What about now?

Fortunately, I understand the psychological impacts loneliness has had on me during my childhood and later in adult life. Most importantly, I understand the danger of clinging to the feeling of loneliness because that’s what connects me most closely to my mother and because loneliness feels like a private space which is familia and which is shared with my distant and rejecting mother.

I understand the risk that I may cling to social isolation because isolation is what most closely reflects my emotional experience as a child.

With this self awareness I can act in ways that matter to me to avoid the state of loneliness.

I take care of myself.

 

Now to the writing.

If you have a character who is experiencing loneliness, how can you portray this in your writing? Consider:

  • Physical signs of loneliness most likely to be observed by an outside observer and not the lonely character. For example: slumped shoulders, gazing into space, tears, sadness, a monotone voice, looking down or away …
  • Internal responses to loneliness. For example swelling in throat with the onset of tears, insomnia, fatigue, unrest …
  • Mental responses to loneliness. Your character avoids social interactions, is consumed by anger or sadness, daydreams about connections with people …
  • Cues of long term loneliness. Addictions, unreasonable / unacceptable behaviour, withdrawal from society, suicidal tendencies … there are many more.
  • Suppressed loneliness. Being too friendly, being taken advantage of, committing too quickly in relationships
  • Loneliness is not introversion. Remember not to develop your character in this way.   An introvert is a character who seeks, thrives in, and enjoys their solitude. A lonely character is one who lives in self- or socially-inflicted solitude—who feels that they are not accepted on some level and who desperately wants to escape their isolation by forming strong relationships with others.

 

LIHazleton.

Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love animals.

Truth No. 11 – A face that doesn’t fit

 

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Faces. We all have one.

Whilst I am sure you have considered what your characters look like and may have described their eyes, nose, mouth, any distinguishing features, hair and facial expressions (without using cliches and overdoing it of course!), have you thought about how their faces ‘fit in’ with society or how they feel about their face?

Maybe your character suffers from a skin disease like pityriasis rosea, has a cleft lip, no eyebrows because of a condition called madarosis or maybe they have a severely protruding lower jaw.

More interestingly, maybe your character has psychological issues with how they feel about their face and how they fit it with those around them. How would you describe their face then?

All writers know that less is more and strive to allow the reader to form their own impression of how a character looks. As writers, we learn early on not to over describe, but can we enhance our writing and our readers experience by delving a little deeper?

When you introduce and develop your characters for your readers, don’t write the usual about how they look facially, think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective.

***

I have a face that doesn’t fit … doesn’t fit into the family I was born to and brought up in; my maternal family. I have always felt this, but until today have never told anyone or expressed feelings about it.

I don’t look like my mother at all. I don’t have her eyes, her nose, her ears, her hair. I sometimes catch a glimpse of her in my lips and eyebrows, but that’s all. I feel the same about my maternal grandparents, my aunties, uncles and cousins. I can see family resemblances between them, but not to myself. And I have no siblings to compare myself to. I stand out as looking different from my known family. My face just doesn’t fit in.

When I first met my father at the age of 49 and my paternal family, I could tell straight away I was my father’s daughter and part of his line. Ah, yes, this is where I get my nose, eyes, ears and everything else from.

In my enquiry, I can go deeper; I feel as well as my face not fitting with theirs, I don’t fit in with my maternal family. As a child and young adult, I struggled to relate and to connect to them. I still do and it still hurts, but I am working on that. I was different, I am different. I know why now. I am no longer ashamed.

Would I have felt any differently from how I do today if I’d been part of my paternal family as well?

I will never know.

 

LIHazleton.

Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love animals.

Truth No. 10 – I don’t have one

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November 6th – My father’s birthday. I know this as fact, but I don’t feel it as truth, because the truth is, I don’t have a father. There is a man still alive in this world who’s sperm fertilised my mother’s egg, but this man is not my father.

I don’t have one.

I grieve for the loss of a father I never had.

I know if I had father, I could have been a more resilient person in my younger years. I believe my own natural resilience, found much later in life, has assisted me in finding the fathering I need. But it took a long time.

A father is supposed to be a girl’s first example of men. She will choose her future romantic partners based upon the man that her father proves to be.

I didn’t have the role model I needed to make good decisions in partners. I bounced from one disastrous relationship to another, each being a painful experience with lasting consequences. It took me a long time to feel comfortable with men.

I haven’t been fortunate to get what I needed from my father as a single source, so I have learnt to adapt and have found fathering from diverse sources; in mentors, spiritual experiences, from looking at my father’s life and his past, who and what shaped him and indirectly from the fathers of my friends and loved ones, from heroic role models I will never meet, from images and art and even from encounters with strangers.

***

I have been thinking about good father figures in literature. One of my favourite books of recent years is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The relationship between young Liesel and her adopted father, Hans Hubermann, is in many ways the heartbeat of this book.  Mama addresses Liesel only as ‘saumensch’ and is quick to offer a slap across the face, Hans, or Papa, adores Liesel, playing his accordion for her and teaching her to read. Hans Hubermann’s soft strength shines throughout Markus Zusak’s novel as a positive force in the otherwise harrowing and tragic setting of Nazi Germany.

 

In your writing when you have a character who is a father, consider the father you want him to be. Do you want:

A Bad Dad like Humbert Humbert in Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov

An OK Dad like Franklin Plaskett in Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin or

A Good Dad like The Dad from The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

 

LIHazleton.

Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love animals.

 

Truth No. 9 – Roots that bind

To fully develop your main characters (your protagonist and antagonist), consider where they have come from in both a physical and psychological sense. What does their ‘home’ (or ‘non-home’) mean to them? Place the psychologies of your characters in relationship with the world that formed them. Understanding the spirit of the places your characters call ‘home’ will add to their emotional depth, helping ensure your characters are real, full and rounded.

Think about what makes a reader care about a character. When a reader sees themselves or someone familiar to them in a character’s concept (in their world), the connection is instantaneous and they want to read on.

Every person comes from somewhere, has a ‘home’ or ‘roots’ and a past. Fail to consider the concept of ‘home’ and  a character’s past and you miss an opportunity to grow and develop your characters and thereby engage your readers.

 

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***

 

I was born in Essex. I left when I was eighteen. I never returned there to live and will never return there to live. I visited (occasionally) and still do visit (occasionally).

Many people gravitate back to their roots, the place they were brought up because of a sense of deep connection or family ties. It may be where they feel most ‘at home’ or where they feel safe. ‘Home’ is the place where a person feels in control and properly oriented in space and time; it is a predictable and secure place. Sadly this was never the case for me.

My childhood years were marked by trauma and emotional abuse and as a consequence, the usual developmental stages into healthy maturity did not happen. In my twenties. thirties and into my forties, I really didn’t know who I was or what I truly thought or felt. Virtually everything I said or did seemed to be fabricated for that particular situation as I had real problems trying to identify what I was thinking or feeling. I didn’t know who I was.

Fortunately, all this is now in the past as I have discovered (and am still discovering) who I really am.

However, despite how far I progress along the road less travelled in search of my true self, the real me, there will always be a part of me that remains tied to my roots. It doesn’t matter how much I blossom, a piece of me will always belong in Essex. As the saying goes: you can take the girl out of Essex, but you can’t take Essex out of the girl.

The roots of a tree stretch deeper than you think but to know your past is to know your future.

 

***

 

 

LIHazleton.

Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love animals.

Truth No. 8 – I was Betrayed but I did not Betray

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Being betrayed by someone you love is crippling.

I believe silence is betrayal and because of this, I know I was betrayed by my mother.

What about being the betrayer of someone you love? Could you?

I couldn’t.

Despite my suffering, I couldn’t betray my mother. I sacrificed my own self esteem, emotional wellbeing and happiness in upholding her choices and in so doing, denying my own integrity and authenticity.

Why?

  • Because I loved my mother more than I loved myself.
  • Because I was a child; my mother knew better than me
  • No-one would believe me if I spoke out
  • I was ashamed of my mother
  • It wasn’t my secret to tell
  • I didn’t want to hurt her
  • I didn’t want to lose her love
  • I was afraid
  • I didn’t want to make her angry
  • Betraying someone you love is something you never, ever do

 

***

 

Now to the writing:

Betrayal is a particularly effective emotion-filled type of conflict that can be used in fiction to create long-lasting problems for characters.

Betrayal can be slow and the betrayed may not notice or feel the effects until much later. Or betrayal may be a shock, the betrayed brought to a standstill while they recover from the betrayal. This may take time.

Betrayal in any guise by trusted friends and loved ones is confusing and disconcerting. It can cause physical, emotional, and mental stress. The betrayal can lead to irrational behaviour or send a character back into behaviour they thought they’d overcome.

Betrayal can be an instigator to all sorts of irrational acts, rage, accidents, revenge, self harm, unsafe behaviour.

A betrayed character may resort to drinking, drug use or any other addiction or the betrayal could send them back into behaviour they thought they’d overcome. Betrayal might lead to unsafe sexual behaviour or to rage or irrational acts.

It might lead to rage toward innocents or it could simply lead to inattention and accidents.

Betrayal could lead to revenge either accomplished in the next chapter or in the next book of a series.

The possibilities are endless.

Consider adding betrayal to your storyline and watch as a greater emotional depth to your writing ensues.

 

LIHazleton.

Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love animals.