Space – The Final Frontier

I wasn’t sure what I would write today. No urgent new thoughts are prevalent in my head. No pressing issues have surfaced to be considered and pontificated on. Life for the last week has been rather more a series of ‘busyness’-es and culminations. A clearing of the decks, if you will. As if something really important is about to happen, and I need to be ready for it.

The theme of absence, of waiting – of honouring a necessary space – is one which I visit often. Our current culture places little value on anything that doesn’t happen in an instant. It urges us to seek stimulation after stimulation, pushing us relentlessly forward through a barrage of superficial emotion, rarely encouraging us to stop and reflect. Even more rarely, recognising the need simply to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’.

Such a headlong rush, by-passing the depth of life, has its consequences. ‘Time goes so quickly now,’ I hear older people saying. ‘I don’t know where the time went,’ and so on. A tacit acknowledgement of non-engagement with the creativity of being alive. And often accompanied with a strange desire to focus on the next thing, the completed project or the unaccomplished dream. A wistful yearning for an imagined future.

Or, maybe more detrimental to well-being and a love of life, a sickly reminiscence of times now gone by, a sad longing for things happened and finished but not released, a desperate hanging on.

I wonder what it is we find so difficult about sitting in the midst of stillness or emptiness. That vital period of nothingness before something blooms. For how can anything new be created in a space already filled by something else?

The highlight of my last week has been my walk with the dogs along the estuary footpath. The place was littered with an abundance of fresh wildflowers. Bursting through a backdrop of scintillating greens, I saw hundreds of ‘Lords and Ladies’, proudly flaunting their virile and unusual structure above the ground-covering mosses and clovers.

There were Campions and Cow Parsley, Nettles and Nipplewort, Violets and Vetches. Every so often, I passed an explosion of Stitchwort, spilling exuberantly over the margins of its allocated spot. But most astonishing of all was when we reached the edge of the woodland, set beyond the footpath fencing, roughly at head-height, so I was looking up into the rich lustre of ultra-marine, carpeting the land as far as the eye could see. Bluebells. Thousands and thousands of Bluebells.

We had been along this footpath only ten days or so before. Then, I’d wrapped myself in winter leggings, fur-lined waterproofs and woolly hat, and glimpsed the snow-plastered hills through obliging gaps in the clouds. Passers-by had commented on the longevity of winter and bemoaned the late spring. What they failed to recognise was the importance of the delay.

The vibrant display of colour and abundance that greeted me this week was the out-pouring from a patient and necessary gestation. A slow and hidden maturing of secret – private – growth. Some things need to be done in the dark. They require a delicate ‘feeling of the way’, a sorting of the energies, before they are ready to show what they’re made of.

In the speed we ask of ourselves with popular lifestyles, we neglect this waiting process, this gentle trickling towards a new understanding of expression. We seem to think if nothing obvious is happening, nothing is happening, and forget to be mindful about what goes on beneath the surface. But this is the very core of creativity. It is impossible to produce a masterpiece instantly. It has to be crafted and lived with quietly, until its outlines become recognisable or its innards can be sensed.

Caroline Myss, theologian, academic and author, talks about the process of writing a book as one of being on a surprising journey. You set off where you think you’re going to go. You have the book you want to write in your head. Then, as you work, things become unclear. What you thought you were going to say evaporates, and the words you planned to use grow elusive. Until you find yourself in ‘the wilderness’.

From here, you have two options. You can give up in despair, or you can honour the gift of the space you have discovered. She has learned to sit and be patient, and in her own words – ‘I wait for the book I’m supposed to be writing to come to me.’

 

Indie … Indi … Go! The Conclusion

Last week, as I drove up the motorway into the Cumbrian landscape, encompassed by spectacular dark clouds and dazzling sunlight, I encountered a rainbow.

Rainbows, for me, are always very special. The unbelievable magic of rich, pure colours appearing out of nowhere, consisting of nothingness, timeless in their beauty yet so brief in their existence, vanishing piece by piece back into the invisible world from which they emerged – well, I think you can see why I choose to express the moment by describing it as an encounter.

And I have encountered some amazing rainbows over the years. I have seen double, and even triple, rainbows, complete from end to end, arching over the mountains of Skye and plunging into the sea. I’ve witnessed a rainbow that sat steadfastly planted on a highland main road as a huge lorry ploughed through it, changing from red to orange to yellow … as it passed  through.

Once, walking along the beach in Morcambe Bay, I watched a series of rainbows build in the sky ahead. First, merely a segment, which gradually stretched itself across the clouds to rest on the headland, calling its partner to follow it as it went so that by the time it landed, it was already becoming a double. Then, just as I stood, gasping in awe of its pristine beauty, a third began to form – this one dancing its way underneath the other two. at right-angles to them, making a gyroscope! How privileged I felt to witness such a divine display.

In comparison, last week’s rainbow might have seemed a trifle mundane. It was a single, and much flatter than the usual complete arch, as if its feet were sunk well into the earth and I was only seeing the uppermost segment, perhaps. Its far end was playing the trick that rainbows are so good at: the further towards it I drove, the further away it moved, always maintaining the same distance, beckoning me on towards its ‘pot of gold’. True to the myths, always out of reach, a fool’s ambition.

But the end nearer to me played a different game. It suddenly jumped over the hill it had been hiding behind, rushed up to the side of the road next to where I was driving and proceeded to travel with us – ‘us’ being me and my two dogs. Rowan, my younger, sat entranced, staring out of the window. I, of course, could only keep glancing, as it was my job to keep the car safely on the road.

For the next mile or so, the rainbow remained our companion, colouring the view through the side window as we went, escorting us – it seemed – as we headed towards our day’s adventure. Then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, it was gone, leaving me with the memory of yet another precious rainbow moment.

Those of you who have been following my blog, may have been wondering about the title I’ve been using for the last couple of weeks: Indie … Indi … Go! I  have a life-long fascination with the colour Indigo, ever since discovering my first rainbow as a child and being taught its colours. What a strange name! What an unusual way to describe the bands of colour created by splitting white light through a prism.

Everything starts off with familiar ‘practical’ shades  – the ones we use every day. Red – orange – yellow – green – blue. The primaries, as they are known, and their blends. Basic colour theory. Then suddenly these two surprising additions: Indigo and Violet.  Almost as if they’ve been made up.

I began, inevitably, to ask questions. Where did the names come from? Who chose them? Why was it decided there were seven bands of colours when the last two could easily have been labelled as a composite? There’s no space in this blog to chronicle my discoveries and reflections in full. For now, it’s enough to record that I have come to live with a rich understanding of energy, how it works in the world and how it works in humans.

I have learnt about the wisdom that is available to us through our own energy centres – the chakras – of which there are seven, each with their own rainbow colour. And I have practised the wonder of manifesting my own inner rainbow from red to indigo and violet, discovering in the process that when one builds towards personal authenticity, one no longer needs to go chasing after ‘fool’s gold’ because the true pot of gold will find its way to you. Just as the rainbow did last week.

Indie? Indigo!

 

Indie … Indi … Go! Part 2

So I’ve been living with the idea of becoming an Indie Author for a while now, and I find that I like it. For me, it feels like an authentic choice. I don’t think it is any less, or any more, of an adventure than attempting to acquire a publisher through the conventional route, but it is a better adventure from my perspective because I get to hoist the sails and point them in the right direction to catch the wind.

Once I was deep into writing my first novel, people would ask me what I planned to do with it. The idea of getting published honestly didn’t occur to me when I first started writing it. Although I’d been writing academic-style and non-fiction works for the majority of my life, I had never tried writing fiction. I had no idea whether I’d be any good at it, or even if I’d enjoy doing it.

Now a couple of years down the road, and I feel as though I’ve stumbled over my ‘life’s work’, as they say. No day is complete for me without putting pen to paper, and dipping into the various stories I’m currently engaged in – just to see what will happen. If I begin the day with writing, the rest of it flows smoothly – or perhaps more accurately, I flow smoothly through whatever life throws at me. On top of this, there has been the delightful encouragement of friends and colleagues who’ve read, or listened to, what I write, and tell me that it’s good.

Hence, considering the possibility of publishing has gradually become a firm decision to do so. That was when I discovered the disappointing reality that is the publishing industry.

I was geared up for rejections. That was not the problem. I’ve faced enough rejections in my time to know how to deal with that, and not take anything personally. In my head, I believed that someone, somewhere, wanted to publish my book. My task was just to keep going until I found them.

What I hadn’t banked on was the fact that nowadays, authors get rejected before they even get as far as sending a manuscript to a publisher.. One has to be accepted by an agent in the modern publishing world, who then represents you to the publisher. And agents, according to one article I read, receive an average of three thousand submissions a year. That’s approximately ten to read every day! And when this particular article went on to suggest that what agents need in the current set-up is an agent of their own – to vet the items being sent to them before the agent her/himself ever gets to view them – well, I quickly realised I was about to join a losing game.

At that point, I began to consider some of the Indie Publishers I’d encountered on my internet travels. Like Magic Oxygen Publishing – who run an annual short story competition and plant a tree on a plot in Bore, Kenya for every entry received, as well as funding the building of a new classroom at the school alongside their Word Forest. And Britain’s Next Bestseller with their unique blend of supportive publishing – kind of a cross between self- and conventional publishing with a dollop of crowd-funding thrown in. It looked a whole lot more fun.

And when I stopped to consider what I warmed to with these smaller, innovative options, it was largely the fact that I would be more involved in the process of production. That I would not be at the mercy of some faceless corporation, two or three steps away from direct communication, who really had only one interest in acquiring any new work – making a profit.

I began to think if there’s profit to be made, maybe some of it should come my way. This, you have to understand, was an entirely new thought for me. I’m not very materially-minded. So when someone introduced me to the concept of uploading to Kindle, followed up by the idea of using CreateSpace, topped off with the title of Indie Author … well, that felt right up my street.

What a wonderful world that allows me to be the person I’m meant to be, to write the stories that come into my head and share them easily with people who’d like to read them, without all the hassle that used to involve. From where I’m sitting, that feels like a good adventure.