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Writing to Be Your Own Hero

When I was younger, I often felt like life was happening to me, instead of ‘me’ happening to life. I was the sidekick in someone else’s story. It’s a pretty disempowering feeling, the idea that all around you people are making things happen, forging on with their journeys and experiences, and meanwhile you’re stuck, really only there to provide support to the main character, to be their shoulder to cry on and kooky best friend.

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We are ALL the main characters in our own life, and we ALL have stories to tell. I’ve been working on exploring how The Hero’s Journey, a sort of template for adventure stories, can help people in their search for wholeness. We explore who we are as a hero, what magical elixir we’re searching for (our life goal/aim) and who we encounter on the journey (mentors, demons, tricksters).

When we start to look at our lives through the archetypes and metaphors, it’s easier to notice patterns. It’s easy to see that the kindly older person we constantly seek advice from is our mentor, and that often much of our problems on the path are self-imposed by our shadow selves, by doubt and fear and anger.

I’m currently working on creating a program using The Hero’s Journey to help those on a journey of wellness and health, so if you’ve had problems with self-image, EDs or are struggling to reach your fitness goals with a positive outlook, get in touch to find out more about the study I’ll be doing this year.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in The Hero’s Journey, I’d suggest looking into The Writer’s Journey.

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Rebirth, Renewal, Rethink: Taking off the Layers

Spring is on the way! At least it should be. All around us, nature is bursting into bloom, and we should be too. Shake off the weariness of winter, take off those protective layers, and let the sun warm our skin. How do we do this? We start dreaming.

 

This is always the time of year that I start to dream again. I dream of summer holidays and lazy days. I make lists of all the things that make me happy about this time of year, all the things I can look forward to as the days get warmer and longer. There’s power in lists, and power in dreaming. What are lists if not dreams aided by intention? You definitely want to do them, you’ve committed to them on paper! Whether you get around to it or not, you’ve taken it from the subconscious to the conscious realm. And that means something!

 

Are you feeling a little more hopeful now that spring’s rolling around? We become more curious when everything about us is changing and growing, don’t we? The days I’d rather stay curled up with a book and a cup of tea are behind, and now is the time I want to go walking in the woods, looking at everything with wander and excitement. It’s the perfect time to get inspired, and to be open to that creativity. 

 

Go on the walks you did as a kid- get excited by the sound of the ice-cream truck, the smell of the seaside. Dance to cheesy music and fall in love too quickly. Access the things you’ve not done in a while, and the memories will start flooding back. Capture these moments like polaroids, cherish them, swim in them. When we make ourselves open to the tiniest details, when we fine tune and really pay attention to the fabric our lives are made of, we become open to it.

 

So, dear writers, I encourage you to cherish the playfulness of life, to roll up your trousers and waddle out into the pool of your childhood memories. Make lists, make plans, get excited.

 

And if you’re feeling the renewal and revamp vibes this season, we have a couple more spaces left on the Writing for Wellbeing Workshop next week (Saturday 26th April) in Barnet. Plus we’re doing a special Easter Sale, so if you enter the Promo Code: FACEBOOK50 you’ll get the whole day workshop for only £32.50! 

 

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Get Creative? Get 50% OFF!

Who doesn’t love a bargain? For this week- we’re doing 50% off our Creative Writing for Wellbeing Workshop on 26th April 2014 in Barnet, North London. A whole day (10am-4pm) which includes all materials, drinks, snacks and a gorgeous lunch! 

We’ll be using creative writing exercises and tasks to work on ideas of containment, history, and learning a little more about ourselves through our stories. Wondering if it’s for you? Do you have some things you’d like to approach creatively? Maybe things that are a little uncomfortable to deal with head on? Feeling down on yourself? Missing someone? Feeling a bit stuck? Maybe there’s nothing going on with you, but you’re looking to get a little creative, or think a bit deeper?

It’s fun, we promise! And at the 50% off price of £32.50, you can’t really lose!

 

Go HERE to book tickets, and put the code FACEBOOK50 in the promo code box! It’s a season of renewal- the seasons are changing, the world is waking up- why not join it?

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Authentic Storytelling: Writing the message or telling the story?

 

Writers have quite a responsibility when it comes to the stories they spin. We are constantly looking for the message, the bigger picture. If the good little girl gets rewarded in love, we feel like we must be good to get what we want. If bad characters are punished, we feel we must believe in that punishment.

 

But what happens when fear of the message takes over your storyline? What if you have an ethnic minority character who happens to be the bad guy? Are you a racist? What if your gay character doesn’t end up with a partner but your straight character does- are you prioritising who gets happiness in society?

 

Every web we create sends out vibrations, saying that our belief system sits within these words. And that’s not always true. Sometimes I don’t give another character a love interest because I don’t have time, or I don’t want to end it in a triple wedding like a Jane Austen tie up. Sometimes, the bad guy is just the bad guy, because you want to make it more interesting, and give them a backstory. Not because you’ve decided all people of a certain race are evil.

 

But people will call you on this. They will expect absolute answers for every decision you’ve made, when really, some of them are just based on the fact that they felt right. A friend of mine is currently trying to write a villain who happens to be gay. Now, is there a way to do this without demonising gay people? Yes, of course. But is there always going to be one person with a foghorn standing there and judging her for the choice? Probably.

 

People are complex creatures with endless facets, constantly changing and evolving. To represent one of those on the page clearly is pretty much impossible. But in writing (as in life) reverting to labels never helps anyone. My friend’s character is not evil because he is gay, or gay because he is evil. He is an evil character that serves a purpose of evilness in the story, and also happens to be gay because…well, because he is. Just like how people are, because they are.

 

And what if you don’t have a message? Or worse, if the message doesn’t fit the genre you write in? When coming up with concepts for my new novel, I’d just watched two awful movies ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ and ‘Made of Honor’, both of which deal with the bullshit ‘We’ve been friends for years but now you’re getting married and I’ve realised I love you’ storyline. So I wanted to write a story where a girl and a guy live together, and are friends, and other people don’t get it, and keep waiting for them to get together. But they don’t. Because they’re friends. The message was there. Men and women can be friends, stop demonising it and making it all about romance because we all know that’s not true.

 

Except…well, no-one wants to read a story like that. Firstly, because it’s a story where nothing changes, and people want change, but also because people WANT the main characters to get together. They don’t care about the moral, or the message or what it means for society if we think our friends secretly want to shag us. If there’s a nice guy and a nice girl, and they get along, movies and novels tell us that they’re a possibility. And no amount of talking about the message will make that a satisfying read for people who have become used to the pattern of existing friendships in romcoms. I’m pretty sure we don’t do this in real life. We don’t look at a best friend of the opposite sex we’ve never been attracted to before, and suddenly decide they’ll do. And if we do, it’s more interesting to write about what takes that person to that point, where they are emotionally and how that affects the friendship.

 

My point being, we often feel like a story can’t exist without a message, but a message without a working story just feels like being hit over the head with someone else’s morality. Not fun. My chick lit books tend to work on the same theme, which is taking a chance and trusting someone. Do I do this deliberately? No, but I like writing emotionally distant and strongly sarcastic female characters, so the message comes naturally from how I enjoy writing. The message tends to reveal itself along the way, and if you’re already absolutely sure about what you’re trying to tell the world, well, just try and be careful you’re not hitting people over the head with it. Being able to enjoy a story, even if you don’t agree with it’s view of the world, is one sign of great writing.

 

Don’t forget my Writing for Wellbeing Workshop on 26th April, where we explore things like where our personal inbuilt narratives meet our characters on the page. If you want to explore how and why you write a little better, it’s the perfect opportunity! Plus, if you Quote: WORDPRESSCODE in an email to andrealmichael@aol.com when ordering, you get 10% off the ticket price! Bargain!

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Owning, not Moaning: How Writing Can Offer a Positive Perspective

You know that image of the moody teenager curled up in her room, writing poetry about how life is meaningless, or that boy she likes doesn’t notice her, or that nothing ever changes? Why do you think that’s become a cliche? Is it that creative people feel more deeply? Or it is that strong feelings are released through creativity?

Picking up a pen when life gets you down doesn’t have to be about losing yourself in your problems. You don’t have to write depressing poetry, or moan about your life in a journal. You can, if you think it will help, but some people don’t like to get too bogged down thinking about their issues, feeling like focusing on them will only make them feel more negative.

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There’s a place for this theory in writing for wellbeing. Yesterday, I woke up in a foul mood. The neighbours had been partying right through until I got up at 6am. I kept dropping things, losing things, and was pretty much a rain cloud for anyone I interacted with. And I didn’t want to stay that way. So I sat down with a cup of tea, and I wrote a list of things that made me happy. True little details that gave me joy. Listening to Belle and Sebastian on sunny days, singing in the car, walking barefoot on wet grass. I filled two pages with these random little details that make me happy, and when I stopped, I was able to realise I’d fixed my own mood. Sure, that morning had pissed me off, but it was behind me now.

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Writing acts as a perspective shift. Other ways of doing this are writing down your issue, then retelling it from a different person’s position. Even writing in third person (he/she) instead of first (I/me) gives you distance. And that’s what you want, in order to affect change, you need space. You need a moment to move away from what’s been bugging you, and to switch your focus.

 

We’ll be exploring more positive uses for writing in my Writing for Wellbeing Workshop in April, (April 26th 10am-4pm Barnet) more details HERE.

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Write What We Know, or Write to Discover?

It’s an old writing adage that we should write what we know. Some contest it, some live by it. I think it’s rather unavoidable. Even if you’re writing about a futuristic world war where robots made from old bean tins have started a mutiny, you’re writing about human emotions. Even when it’s robots.

We can’t help but write what we know…it’s just that sometimes we don’t know that we know it. My point here? Writing is revelatory. It’s all very well saying that if we’ve been a butcher for fifteen years, we should use our experience to influence our settings, lend authenticity to our creations, but often we find parts of ourselves embedding in our fiction anyway. 

I’ve often written things, and only found where their familiarity comes from when someone else points it out. Ah, that broken toaster that was a metaphor for how we love unconditionally, we actually had one of those in our first house, didn’t we? Huh.

These aren’t always major revelations, but with the right questions and tasks, they can be very powerful. As writers, people often think we spend a lot of time on self-reflection, but the truth is, if we’re dealing in fiction, we’re more interested in other people. Usually the ones who are having conversations in our heads! But we can use what we enjoy and find useful, to explore parts of our own lives!

Think about how you come up with a character’s name, or when you’re a reader, how do you identify with the character. What does their name signify? What possible meanings can come from it. Now think about your names. Not just your given name, but any nicknames, any affectionate words, or unwanted familiarities. How do they make you feel? How do they define you? We name characters and allow their names to shape them- are we given the same opportunity? What about titles? Wife, mother, husband, brother, teacher, agony aunt? Boss? How is who we are shaped by the names we are given.

These are just some small wonderings, but it’s an example of how we use writing to look inward, even when we’re creating outwardly, and it’s part of a task I’ll be doing at my Writing for Wellbeing Workshop in Barnet in April!

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For details and tickets, click HERE

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Wellbeing at the Weekend: Week 1

Hi all,

 

I’m going to try and offer a writing exercise every Sunday that will be gently creative, something for you to try out and explore for your wellbeing at the weekend.

This week we’re going to start with narrative. What is the story and structure of your life? What has been achieved? Where have your plot points and tailspins and adventures been?

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Imagine you are writing your autobiography. Choosing what to include and not include in the story of your life is defining for you- what makes your story? What was the making of you?

Think about what the title would be, consider how you would arrange your chapters, what those chapter titles would be. Where would you start and end your story? Is it a star chart, jumping from point to point, getting higher and higher? Did you have a dip? Have you risen again from the ashes?

 

Don’t feel you have to force a plotline to form. Our lives, day to day, are about plodding. They’re about slow and quiet realisations that look little but mean much. Looks for the simples and re-occurring themes in your life. This can be as simple as noticing the bluebells in the garden every year, and recognising the passage of time. The tune that recalls a certain memory when you hear it. These realisations and moments of contemplation matter, they are the fabric that binds us.

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Think about the stages in your life. Where are you now? Are you at the beginning of your journey? We are always discovering, always changing and growing. Do you think you can recognise the stages and phrases of those changes?

 

You do not have to write your biography, just plan our the chapters. Give them titles, decide what would be involved. Perhaps you would like to try to write a bit about some of those moments that you feel are defining. Try to get as close and as within the moment as you can- look for the sensory memories, the strange details. As you envelope yourself in your own memories you will often find these details appear. The taste of school dinners, the journey to your first job, the feelings and sounds and blur of having children. Look through photos, talk to people, try and regain the wholeness of these moments. To truly own your history is a beautiful thing, and to find the narrative is to feel like the journey carries on, open for exploration and new beginnings.

 

Don’t forget about my Writing for Wellbeing Workshop in April!

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