Stay Home – A Year of Writing Through Lockdown is the first book published by the Community Interest Company myself and author Sim Alec Sansford run, Chasing Driftwood Writing Group. The book has been published under Chasing Driftwood Books and we hope there will be many more to come. In fact, we will be annoucning a brand new community writing project very soon!
So, what is Stay Home about and why did we put it together?
At the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, I turned almost daily to my blog to write about my fears and experiences as a nationwide lockdown saw the closing of schools, colleges and workplaces. The majority of us stayed home. We watched the world from our windows, took our daily walks, and turned to music, books and streaming services to entertain us. We also turned to gardening, pets and chicken-keeping! For a short while, our lives stopped and a new reality took over. As my blog posts and ponderings piled up, I decided to open up my blog to guests who might want to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences of life under lockdown. I had in mind at this point that putting together an anthology to publish under Chasing Driftwood would be a good plan. So, we opened it up to even more people, including the adults and children who attend our writing clubs and workshops.
We were overwhelmed by the wonderful submissions of personal essays, stories and poetry and we soon had a decent sized anthology on our hands.
It’s been a great learning experience for myself and Sim. Of course, as self-published authors ourselves we understand the process of compiling a manuscript, formatting, editing, proofreading, choosing a front cover and uploading to Amazon, but there were still new things to learn along the way. We would like to publish more anthologies in the future written by the people we work with, so Stay Home was a fantastic opportunity to learn from.
It has been published under Chasing Driftwood Books and is available now in ebook and paperback from Amazon. All the money from book sales will go back into the CIC to help fund our next community writing project. If you re interested in reading the book and supporting emerging writers and our next project, then here is the link to check it out.
Dreaming Of Another World is a new feature on my blog, inspired by a piece I wrote a few weeks back. I wondered if other creatives felt the same as me, that another world could be glimpsed during lockdown and that perhaps we ought to use this unique time to change our ways. I reached out to other writers and bloggers to ask how lockdown affected their vision of the future. Has the experience changed them and if so, how? Are they going to make changes to their lives because of what has happened? This next post is from author LE Hill, a former journalist who used the lockdown isolation to finish and publish her first novel. She also runs a writing based Community Interest Company, like me! Enjoy the post and if you would like to know more about LE Hill and her novel The Girl I Left Behind, the link is at the end.
By L E Hill
Five months ago, I was sitting in the café at John Lewis in Glasgow drinking coffee and catching up with one of my close friends who I see only once or twice a year. It was almost deserted and as we chatted we realised it may be the last time we caught up for a while.
Earlier that morning, when I arrived on the early train to Glasgow, I met my brother briefly and we hugged albeit wondering if we should. I’m so glad we did – who would have thought hugging or showing affection would become so taboo. We talked about our kids and the prospect of the schools closing at Easter. Little did we know what lay ahead.
Later, I met another dear friend who by coincidence was also in town. She had flown up from London for the weekend to visit her mum and had packed a bag as her employers had advised her to work from home for the next few weeks. She ended up being back for almost four months.
I stayed with my parents that night and as I said goodbye the next day before getting the train, I wondered when I would see them again – especially as my dad has ongoing health conditions. We were all waiting the imminent announcement that we were going into lockdown.
That morning I willed the train to go faster to take me home to my own family. As I looked out of the window and watched fields flash by, I could feel the creep of anxiety begin. I felt as though I was on borrowed time and wanted to get into what would soon become my bubble.
My biggest concern was how it would affect my children – particularly the abrupt end to their academic year; cancelled exams; cancelled activities; having their freedom curtailed and having to think about things that didn’t event enter my head when I was their age. Yet I watched in amazement and with pride as they and their friends adjusted and adapted and showed great resilience despite everything in their world being turned upside down.
For the first couple of months of the pandemic I didn’t have much time to dream. My mind was hectic – too busy making sure my kids were okay, worrying about my parents and trying to juggle work. All of my freelance community work dried up overnight – as meeting places shut down and everyone stayed at home. Perhaps that lull did in some way fuel my thoughts and trigger something which had been at the back of my mind for a while. I did indeed start to dream.
I have always wanted to write books. I have written – since I was a child –. yet up until lockdown I hadn’t written very much at all for about a year. I had completely lost all confidence in my ability to write. I just didn’t feel good enough.
I know the joy that creative writing can bring – I teach it to community groups in a bid to help people share their stories and build confidence. I work with older people, those living with dementia and their carers and survivors of domestic abuse. I love watching people smile as they discover the joy of writing, sharing their story and realising that they can do it. Yet I could not.
Over the years I have written four books. Two will probably stay in a drawer forever, but over the past couple of years I have been tirelessly trying to get two novels published. I naively thought that if I signed to an agent and publishers showed interest then I was on the home straight. Not so. Despite strong interest and requested and detailed rewrites for two, the interest then faded away. I soon learned all about the term ‘being ghosted’. I lost my confidence, forgot about how much I used to enjoy writing and decided that my dreams of having my work published were pointless.
But during lockdown I thought a lot about the fragility of life. I read the devastating stories of loss and anguish and how much Covid-19 had affected so many people. I also regularly reminded myself how lucky I was that my family were well and safe.
So – I gave myself a shake. I’m not getting any younger and who knows what is around the corner. I finally accepted that I didn’t need anyone else’s approval to get my book out there. Just my own.
A friend designed the cover, I planned a launch date and on July 11 published my debut novel, The Girl I Left Behind.
It’s not perfect, I have loads to learn but isn’t that what life is about? I have no expectations either. I just want to write. And I have been. I have started to enjoy journaling, writing Haikus and have managed to rewrite another book which I had put away in a drawer.
I bumped into someone locally who had bought The Girl I Left Behind and she told me that my book had got her back into reading again; a friend from university – that I hadn’t spoken to for years – contacted me to tell me how much she enjoyed it.
Even my dad, who never reads anything other than the sports results, has been reading it. For me, that is what it is all about.
I keep reminding myself that I am where I am supposed to be today and things generally work out for a reason. My years of dreaming about having my work in print have finally come true.
LE Hill has always loved reading and writing and her short stories and poetry have been published in various anthologies. She has been shortlisted in national writing competitions and been a writer in residence with Women’s Aid East and Midlothian. A former journalist, she spent much of her working life in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London. She has also worked in marketing and communications and has an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University and a PhD from Stirling University.
She is particularly interested in creative writing for health and well-being and runs a small social enterprise in East Lothian, Sharing A Story CIC, using shared reading and creative writing sessions to reduce social isolation and build confidence.
Thank you so much to LE Hill for writing this piece for my blog! I still have spaces to fill for this feature so please get in touch if you have a story, poem or non-fiction piece on the theme of dreaming of another world…
At the start of 2019 I wrote my yearly post setting out my writing goals for the year ahead. I only gave myself six goals, so how did I get on? In what has now become a tradition, I will go through them and see how many I achieved! Next week I will set out my 2020 goals.
Submit some writing-related articles – I’ve written some well-received articles for Author’s Publish in the past and have quite a few drafts of potential articles. I’ve just not had the time to polish them up and submit them! I need to get back into doing this. It’s fun, it’s great for exposure, it improves writing skills and it pays! I should have more time in 2019 with my youngest finally in full-time school.
REALITY; I did this! I think I had three articles accepted by Author’s Publish this year, but I would need to double check that’s correct. But anyway, this one can be ticked off as achieved!
Continue To Work On The Six-Part Series, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side and release parts 3 and 4 early in the year – This was a surprising thing that happened in 2018 and pushed some other plans out of the queue. I reworked and revised the original novel into two parts and re-released in 2018. I then wrote a brand new part 3 and reworked what was the sequel This Is The Day, into what will serve as part 4. I then penned a very rough part 5 in a notebook and planned part 6. I know how it will all end and I’m so excited to get it done! In 2019 I aim to release parts 3 and 4 very soon as they are almost ready, and get part 5 to second or third draft status.
REALITY; I did this too! In fact, I did more. I released parts three and four at the start of 2019, finished part 5 and wrote part 6! Currently I am working on parts 5 and 6 side by side, and we are at draft number four. I am very happy with how these have turned out and can’t wait to release the final two books probably towards the end of 2020 once they have been fully polished up!
Publish A Song For Bill Robinson – this book is ready and has been waiting very patiently for over a year! I spent all of last year polishing up Elliot Pie and getting side-tracked by The Boy series. This YA novel should see a release in 2019. I may try a few small press publishers first and if no joy, I will publish it with Pict and release probably late spring, early summer.
REALITY; I did this too! A Song For Bill Robinson was released on 6th December this year. The second book in the trilogy, Emily’s Baby will be released Spring 2020 and I am currently writing the first draft of the third book, The Search For Summer.
Continue to work on YA post-apocalyptic series and get first draft of the first book completed– This is another thing that keeps getting pushed back, but I have got to Chapter Twelve now in the first draft of book one. If I can get that first draft done in 2019 I will be very happy.
REALITY; Nope, didn’t achieve this. I did work on it now and then and I think I’m at Chapter 20 or something similar. I haven’t worked on it for a while now because A Song For Bill Robinson and Emily’s Baby needed so many more edits/proofreads in the last few months, plus I’ve dedicated every evening to working on The Boy series parts 5 and 6. I hope to get back into this series in 2020.
Continue to work on the various writing projects under my Community Interest Company, Chasing Driftwood Writing Group – There are two on the go. One in planning stages. Lots and lots more I want to do, but in 2018 time and fear really got in my way…I’ve decided I really need to get braver and more pro-active with all of this. I started the business in 2015 and became a CIC at the end of 2017. 2018 was my first year as a CIC and I’ve felt out of my depth the entire time. I’ve been on the verge of quitting more than once. I really, really want to do it. Not just the community writing project, but the school project and another project I have in mind. I think about them all the time and feel so passionate about it…yet it all seems too hard sometimes. I’ve decided the main problem is I am all alone. I do have a treasurer and a secretary and they are wonderfully helpful and supportive, but other than that, I’m juggling it all alone. I need to buck my ideas up this year and get things done. I need to work harder and faster and with more determination. And I really really need to work with others!!
REALITY; Mixed results on this one. None of the projects I was working on have been launched yet, but one is getting closer and my dream of not working alone all the time came true! For one big project I am working with The Red House Museum and the manager Laura has really been like a mentor to me this year. I also took part in a literary festival this year, giving a talk to teen writers. And I started more writing clubs! I have three new clubs starting after Christmas, and three on the go, so if they all take off, there will be six regular writing clubs. Two for adults, two at schools, and two for home-educated children. It’s still very much an up and down thing for me, but I have got more confident this year and received the kind of feedback and praise I really needed to keep going. Encouraging other writers is my big passion and my company will continue to look into ways of doing this!
Work on short story/poetry/blog collection – I would love to say I’ll publish this in 2019, but I think that’s too ambitious, and I know it will get overshadowed by The Boy series and Bill Robinson…Still, I do hope to work on it a bit more. I had so many short stories lying around (some new, some from a previously released collection) that I decided it was time to get them all together and release another collection similar to Bird People. I’ve polished up a few and have loads more I need to work on. I’ve also got some old blog posts I want to include and even some poetry. Eeek! Yes, that’s a bit scary. I’ve always been intimated by poetry, reading it and writing it. But the thing is, my head is so constantly full of words it gets hard sometimes, and I just want to expel some. We will see what happens, but to release another collection would be really, really fun.
REALITY; I didn’t release a collection but I had admitted that was ambitious. I have been working on a collection throughout the year though and it’s really coming together. There are still some stories I need to write and the poems just keep coming. I’m not sure I will release this in 2020 as I don’t get much time to work on it. I think I will just keep adding to it whenever I feel like it and release it when its big and good enough!
So, I didn’t do too badly at all. In fact, if I look back, it has been a pretty good year for my writing and for my company. Everything is heading in the right direction, which is all we can ask for, I guess. I feel positive about these goals and how I tackled them. In other ways, for other reasons, this year has not been easy. When I write my 2020 goals next week you might notice that they are not entirely writing related for the first time.
But over to you! Did you set any goals at the start of 2019? How many did you manage to achieve? Are you going to set any for 2020 or just go with the flow? Please feel free to share and comment!
” Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.”
Self-doubt is something that has plagued me my whole life and I am sure I am not alone in that. When I was younger especially, I had a habit of talking myself out of things I wanted to do, because this inner voice did not believe I could do them. This voice told me it was better to stand back and hide. Run away. And that’s what I did, one way or another, for many years.
Of course these days, as a so-called adult, I know better than to compare myself to others. I am me and I have come a long way since my anxious, angsty teen years which were nothing short of a horror show.
At least, I thought I had.
One of these days I am going to blog about the perimenopause which I believe I have entered but not yet. It’s definitely making everything worse as my teenage me is back to haunt in oh so many ways…
Self-doubt and imposter syndrome being one of them.
I’m pretty sure all writers get imposter syndrome one way or another. Well, maybe not Stephen King. I have to admit, I don’t really get it with my writing. And that’s not to say I’m big-headed about my work. I’m not. Why would I be? I hardly sell a thing. But because I write for myself first, for the pure pleasure and joy it brings me, for keeping me sane, giving me an escape, I could go on…Writing is my biggest passion and it always will be. I don’t think my writing is the best thing ever, but it does make me happy, so I don’t feel like an imposter, because I am just being me, doing what I love.
But for the last few weeks the imposter syndrome has really hit hard in other areas of life. In fact there are only two areas unscathed. Mothering and writing. I know I am a good mother and I know I am a good writer, at least for myself.
But hormones and emotions are having a lot of fun with me right now. Clawing their way onto my back and digging in for the ride. Whispering in my ear that everything I do is a failure, that I’m a failure, that I ought to give up and walk away, that I’m rubbish, useless, pointless. I feel this pressure given only by myself every moment of every day. It’s like something I cannot shake free from.
For the last few weeks I have seriously considered quitting my company. For those who don’t know, I started a writing group in 2015 as I could not find a local writing group to go to that fit in with having kids. I started my own and after a lot of thought and research I branched out into kids workshops. I used to be a childminder and I had really missed working with kids so it seemed to make sense to combine two things I loved, kids and writing and try to encourage the next generation of writing.
This then evolved into me becoming a community interest company in 2017, which was a brave move because it is just me, on my own, doing everything. A few years later and I still can’t shake the feeling that although the idea behind my company is a good one, I am not the right person to be doing it. When I stand in front of new writers and talk them through the ups and downs of self-publishing or building an author platform, I often think, who am I to be telling them anything?
The urge to quit has got very strong lately and it’s hard to explain why, as everything is going very well. It’s hard work, it’s time consuming and the paperwork drives me crazy…but I do genuinely enjoy being with writers, whether they are children or adults. So why the self-doubt? I’ve no idea but I wish it would go away.
It really is like a nasty voice whispering in my ear the whole time. It got so bad last week that I almost decided I would quit…I would go back to dog-walking full time because I’m better with dogs than people, there is less paperwork, less stress, more time alone, no people and so on. This was me wanting to hide. Wanting to run away and avoid the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. This week I feel differently and several things have helped me be more positive. So how to battle through imposter syndrome?
Here are a few things that have helped me lately;
look for concrete evidence that you are doing well. This could be financial, ie sales, or a promotion at work or whatever, but if there is concrete proof through your finances that you or your business is doing well, cling to this and use it to quiet the scathing voice of self-doubt
feedback. Another concrete piece of proof you can cling to when the voice of self-doubt comes whispering…last week I had a lovely email from a parent with regards to one of my writing clubs. It made me realise that actually over the years I’ve had a lot of lovely emails from people, so this means I have actually helped and made a difference to some of the people I have worked with.
write your fears down. No matter how irrational. You don’t have to show them to anyone else. Just write down what it is that is bothering you or niggling at you. I usually do this in the form of poems that only seem to come to me when I am feeling stressed, panicked or sad. It really, really helps to let it out.
find a level-headed person to talk to. Last week, battling the overwhelming urge to quit it all and become a recluse, I really, really needed someone to talk to. I like being alone and never feel lonely, so perhaps I do have a tendency to gently push people away. But I suddenly realised I needed a human to talk to, face to face. I needed a coffee with a friend, someone who wouldn’t mind me babbling on about my self-doubt, explaining my imposter syndrome and helping me work through it. I nearly asked on Facebook, can you believe that? I didn’t, of course, and as it happened, I ended up having a lovely long chat with my eldest daughter, who is a very sensible person. It helped a lot.
make a list of pros and cons. Whatever your self-doubt is telling you to do or not to do, write down the pros and cons of doing it or not doing it. I made a list for each company, my dog walking and my writing group. There were way more cons for the writing group and that is understandable. It’s a far bigger challenge where far more can go wrong! But writing out the pros really helped me realise the positives about my company, which I had started to forget.
Take some time. If I had made a snap decision after making that pros and cons list, I would have quit my company and googled how to dissolve a CIC. I would have followed through on my upcoming commitments and then bowed out and returned to full time dog walking and writing. Oh, how tempting and blissful that sounded…But I knew that as my hormones and emotions are all over the place, I should wait for the storm to die down and see how I felt a few days later, the next week, the next month and so on. Definitely don’t let self-doubt lead you into rash decisions.
try to remember why you started in the first place. This is what I came back to in the end. Why did I start this company? Because I love writing and I want to help other people start writing and keep writing. Because I want them to feel like I feel when I write, to have that escape and that release, to be able to create new worlds, new friends and adventures, to be able to use writing to make sense of this world and this life, to make sense of your thoughts and feelings and hopes and fears, to say something to the world, to leave your mark…Those were the reasons. They are still the reasons. So, as long as I can still see concrete evidence either through financial means or feedback, or both, I know that I am achieving what I set out to.
Be kind to yourself. It’s easy to say that, isn’t it? I see memes like that all over social media. Self-care. Self-love. We are all pretty terrible at it and I’m not sure why. That might be a topic for another day. And the advice is there and it’s quite correct, but it’s easy to say, easy to tell someone to be nicer to themselves, but far harder to actually follow that advice yourself. I try to do it in small ways. I have that coffee on the doorstep and some time to breathe. I give myself occasional days off where I just sit on the sofa and chill. I have that wine or cider on a Friday night. I hug and kiss my kids. I surround myself with animals and nature. I read, write and listen to music. Those are the ways I remember to be kind to myself. As for the inner voice of self-doubt, I don’t think she will ever go away but some days she is a lot quieter than others, and that is something.
Over to you. Do you suffer from self-doubt or have you ever experienced imposter syndrome in all its ugly glory? How did you deal with it? Please feel free to comment and share!