Reflections on.. the craft of writing.

“What did you want to be when you were little?”

It’s amazing how many times we’ve been asked this question, or asked it of others in turn. I always thought I’d be a writer, artist or musician and instead, I became a Recruiter for some of New Zealand’s largest corporates.

Growing up in my earliest years we were surrounded by creative people of all walks of life. It was the most natural thing in the world to me as a 5-year-old to assume that I too, would take a creative path when I grew up.

After my dad passed – life changed, the creative personalities largely dropped away and I didn’t really have those figures to look to anymore. I studied a little bit, fell into office work and stumbled my way into Recruitment because I loved how much you could learn about different jobs, companies, industries and professions – without actually having to commit to those jobs yourself.

It was perfect for someone like me, who loves to learn, listen, observe, go down research rabbit holes, meet new people, make connections and have a positive impact on peoples lives. It’s only now – 17 years in – that I’ve come to appreciate the art and science of recruitment on a different level.

For years I’d focused my efforts on corporate life… working hard, overachieving, creatively problem solving, continuously improving, putting in way too much energy than was strictly necessary, and doing my very best to be taken seriously in a profession that not many people understand, and fewer still actually value.

But this niggly voice in the back of my head was always crying out to create.

So in December I packed up my laptop for a wee while, waved a slightly teary goodbye to the excellent team of recruiters I led, and headed off for a summer break. Ostensibly, for a decent chunk of time to refresh and reset after the madness of building and engaging a team in the midst of a global pandemic. (And see friends and family again, after lockdowns put a stop to socialising)

The ultimate goal? Creative writing. Even as I’ve slogged away in the corporate world, I’d always fancied myself as a writer. An observer of life and collector of stories. But who has the time or energy for creativity? I’d always told myself one day I’d take a little break and get a head start on writing.

And here I am.

The process of creative writing is like night and day compared with the ranting/ blogging and recipe writing I’ve done on this site since 2007 ..and the biggest surprises?

I love the process: after working out pretty early on that I’m the Architect type of writer, I’ve thrown myself headfirst into world building, plotting, character development etc. Understanding that there will be drafts, re-writes and more re-writes; and made peace with this.

I’ve always been a writer: remember those comments about learning, listening, observing and going down research rabbit holes? Classic writer behaviour. Not to mention the note taking..

There’s so much to learn, and thats exciting: there’s incredible tools, resources, video courses, blogs and communities for writers and that feeling of being part of a community of creatives (that I’d craved since I was a child) is at my (literal) fingertips.

So have I written a book? Not exactly – but I have begun building a compelling world, fleshed out and built nuanced characters, imagined scenes, begun to write lore, plotted the story across three books (!!) and started plotting the story arc of my first book.

It’s the start to writing that I could have never had before: having a clear head; free (at least for now) of work situations ticking over in my brain and taking up space.

Instead of scrambling to get ready each weekday and travel in to work, we begin with a beach walk (meeting as many dogs as possible) before delving into my process, and it’s magic.

Will I ever go back to Recruitment? Well, yes – if I want to pay the bills! (And I’ll want the challenge soon, knowing my brain)

Will I ever regret taking time out for this moment? Never, not in a million years.

 

Reflections on…. living through a global pandemic.

First off, that’s a title for a blog post I never thought I’d write.

Secondly, how ENORMOUS is that virus image? I thought about changing it/ scaling it down but have decided it’s an apt metaphor for how this virus has taken over the world… ergo: the image takes over the page. 

It’s been roughly two years since covid-19 “officially” became a global pandemic, certainly enough time to sit back and reflect – and as it happens, I’ve been indulging myself in observation and musings for several weeks now.

This morning we were lucky enough to start the day with a walk along our local beach, where there were plenty of happy dogs running about, people stopping to chat to each other, some die-hard surfers doing their best to find waves on a non-surf beach, and local humans generally in good spirits, moving about with relative freedom – albeit with masks at the ready.

What struck me is that whilst this landscape looked similar to BC times, there is an undercurrent to daily life that simply didn’t exist at the start of 2020.

At the beginning of the pandemic (here in New Zealand), we felt like we came together as a nation – and we were a team of five million, uniting against the spread of the virus.

As the BBC put it here, relying on science and empathy.

Lockdown 1.0 (as we so affectionately named it) was filled with incredible things:

  • We saw people taking time to walk their neighborhoods (often for the first time ever) and we put teddy bears in our windows for wandering families.
  • People created Facebook groups showcasing NZ brands to support local.
  • We encouraged people to buy vouchers for local cafes and restaurants, to keep businesses thriving in uncertain lockdown conditions.
  • The government rolled out support packages to encourage employers to retain staff.
  • We told each other to check in with the old and vulnerable in our neighborhoods.

Here in my neighbourhood we were even graced with the cycling opera singer, prompting people to lean out their windows and balconies to cheer.

2+ years in, the world, and our little corner of it – looks and feels vastly different. 

As the lockdowns persisted, the people of Aotearoa (much like the rest of the world) have become tired, confused and irritable.

We began wondering (worrying) about the future, and today our news feeds are filled with divisive rhetoric, and stories designed to pit us against each other.

And whilst it’s true that unemployment is lower that its been since pre-GFC days all it takes is a look at our front page news to see where the hearts and minds of kiwis currently lie.

Yes its newsworthy that a self-proclaimed prophet was arrested for allegedly breaching bail conditions after a charge of attending and organising a protest in breach of alert level 3 restrictions – but do we really need to give this individual and his followers so much airtime? 

What about the other anti-vax/”vaccine hesitant” voices enjoying an enhanced platform to share their views? Freedom of choice is important, but when these individuals make up such a proportionally small percentage of the population, you can’t help wonder if these articles are being intentionally published to simply rile people up and get more interaction/ more views (and therefore more revenue)

You can’t blame the  news articles for that right? Right?

Well lets think about that.. we are what we consume. Be that food, music, art or media. If we are constantly being fed negativity and divisiveness instead of the full story of what’s happening in the world – how will that make us feel? What does prolonged exposure to negativity do to our brain?

Obviously not everyone has the time and/or ability to step back and review or analyse what they’re consuming (and how it makes them feel) because humanity is exhausted.

But now, more than ever, we need the good news stories – we need to know about the acts of kindness in our communities, the people caring for and thinking of each other – we need a voice for those that are taking the time to care so that we can reconnect with our communities and each other.

We know now how prolonged stress makes us feel. We’re NOT at our best right now – so perhaps we need to remember some of that lockdown 1.0 kindness.

If you can feel your blood pressure rise reading mainstream articles, or you start grinding your teeth when tuning into the 6pm news – perhaps its time to turn off/ tune out and tune back in with yourself.

We are what we consume after all, and if we don’t stop clicking on those negative and divisive headlines, the stories will not evolve. So maybe show those algorithms what you really want to see? 

Far be it for me to give advice on the internet, but if you’ve made it this far I’ll share something that has helped me navigate the sh*tshow that is the global pandemic: Gratitude.

It takes practice if this is not something you’ve done before, costs you nothing yet can change everything.

I’d start here – take 2 minutes to remember and articulate the good things that came out of this pandemic, it could be little things like:

  • No commute! No work clothes!
  • Learning to cook. (sourdough anyone?)
  • Rediscovering music and fav movies.
  • Watch parties and zoom calls with friends (this would have never have happened previously)
  • TV chat shows via video chat, bringing a realness to media we’ve not previously seen.
  • The incredible freedom that we’ve enjoyed in NZ, comparative to other nations.

Or perhaps we should just turn off socials and get out in our neighbourhoods again.

If the past few weeks have shown me anything, its that whilst there aren’t as many teddy bears lounging in NZ in windows – there are still people out and about, trying to make the most of this incredible NZ summer, and as cheesy as it sounds – a smile and a kind word go a long way.

The Art & Science of True Happiness

Sometimes I wonder if true happiness is the real ‘holy grail’.

It seems like the whole of our existence is spent defining, refining, chasing, striving, comparing, ruminating and generally being fixated on happiness.

Whole industries have been created to tell us what it means to be happy:

  • Buy this car!
  • Get a bigger house!
  • Go on this holiday!
  • Lose that weight!
  • Buy those shoes!

We have advertising companies crafting these wonderful ideal people, living a seemingly perfect life, bombarding us with the idea that everyone else is having a better time than us, and we’re sucked into this cycle of buy, consume, strive, compare and buy again… and when we buy that coveted ‘key to happiness’ we wonder why we are not suddenly, deliciously, deliriously happy.

And and it’s not just about consumerism. We are trapped in this cycle of constantly comparing our unique selves to the rest of the world.

It could be the desire to climb the corporate ladder… ‘better’ job, fancier title, more responsibility, more money to spend on more things so that people can definitely tell you are successful and happy.

It could be based around your looks… constantly dieting, primping, preening, spending hours to get ready with the perfect hair, makeup, dress, shoes…. taking a million selfies to post to social media and prove to the world that you are an effortlessly beautiful human specimen who really knows how to have a good time (…’I woke up like this’)

 

Since when when did happiness come from things?

What will it take before we realise that the only true yardstick for lasting, genuine joy is within ourselves?

True Happiness – the genuine, lasting, deep joy that fills you up – comes from within.

  • It starts with mindfulness, stillness.
  • Taking time out to breathe.
  • Learning to be still in your own body.
  • Learning to enjoy the way your body moves, it’s strength, its gracefulness.
  • It comes from enjoying lifes pleasures with intent.
  • It comes from being present in your own mind and realising you have the power to direct your thoughts.
  • It comes from knowing that thoughts become things – and yes patterns take time to change but it’s worth it.
  • It comes from knowing that what you focus on becomes bigger, that you grow your intent and you shape your world.

 

When you slow down and smell the roses you realise all the other things that you’ve been missing..

The interesting thing about the pursuit of happiness is that it actually doesn’t cost anything. We’ve been duped into thinking that happiness is a commodity – to be bought and sold to the privileged few lucky enough to be able to afford it.

Yes, nice things are nice. But what you are looking for is that feeling of connection and contentedness with your world, and it doesn’t come in a bottle, on a plate or in an expensive shopping bag.

It comes from being able to appreciate how utterly amazing this world is.

  • It’s a good nights sleep, and waking up with the birds and the sun feeling rested and ready to take on the day.
  • It’s smiling at a stranger and having them smile in return.
  • It’s spending time walking – using your feet on the earth and paying attention to your surroundings.
  • It’s talking to random people you meet and asking if you can pet their dog.
  • Its seeing gangs of overexcited kids chasing each other around a park, screaming and laughing.
  • Its a good book, a favourite song, a board game with friends.
  • Its making a healthy nourishing meal and taking the time to enjoy your mad culinary skills.

But most of all, it’s realising that you don’t have to play into the hamster wheel of corporate life, or conscious consumerism – and that you are infinitely powerful in creating your own joy.

And the best thing about it, is that you can start right now.

 

should

Change: and the important business of being AUTHENTIC

‘Death & Taxes are the only constant in life’ – or so the saying goes.. I’d disagree a little and say that change is the true constant.

Even though I haven’t felt like I have grown/been challenged in a professional sense for some time, theres certainly been a evolution of my spirit and my outlook on life.

I remember back to when I first undertook Coach training, born out of an incredibly deep-seated desire to help people – yet I was so afraid that people wouldn’t take me seriously, or value what I had to offer, that I became so focussed on people perceiving me as professional, and that overtook my real aspects of value:

The ability to empathise

My intuition

My spirituality 

Genuine desire to connect and to help

My (very) cheeky sense of humour

This spilled into my ‘day job’ too, and for so long I was focussed on proving myself, being ‘outcome focussed’ – ‘committed to delivery’ and all those typical phrases we throw around in HR. I wasn’t true to myself and being so utterly focussed on one aspect of your personality is stifling.

A couple of years ago, I got a new boss.. this woman was everything that had been lacking up till that point, she was warm, honest, genuinely looked out for my team and I, had my back, and not to mention had a wicked sense of humour to boot! So for the first time in a long time, I felt as though I could in turn be myself.. and my sense of humour and enjoyment of my job increased exponentially as a result.

When people are genuine and authentic – it encourages others to be authentic in return.

Women in the workplace can feel threatened by other women, they often feel like they need to overcompensate, or even put others down and bully them to make themselves look better.. and it’s damaging. A lot of the behaviour is false, two-faced and downright mean.

We are not robots. We have emotions, feelings – and more often than not, when we are in tune with these aspects of ourselves, and being our full, true, authentic selves – we thrive.

I’ve realised that I have very little energy, time or interest in collaborating with people who insist on playing this game. And through that realisation, and my ongoing desire to be authentic in what I do, I’ve bought authentic people into my life – we can’t avoid the bullies all the time at work, but we can decide how much energy and thought we spend on them.

So as I continue to move towards my passions with greater velocity, I look back with an increasingly clear head about where I am in my life – professionally, personally, mentally, emotionally and spirituality – and I’m proud to say that its been my hard work and determination, combined with an attitude of gratitude for some pretty special people in my life, that has allowed this change… 10 years ago I would have never shared my thoughts and emotions in such a public way, but if by sharing myself and being authentic allows others the grace to do this to, then that will be the most rewarding part of all.

 

The things we humans obsess over (Part 3)

I’ve had several conversations about this of late, both face to face as well as online… and if I were to define this aspect of contemporary human obsession it would be “online persona“… let me dig a little deeper here and explain what I mean:

You’re in a room gathered together with a bunch of friends, on the pretence of ‘catching up’ – at any one time you will have:
One person texting, pxting or checking their emails
One person wanting to take pics of you all together to post later (once they’ve edited our their dark circles, wrinkles or spots)
One person checking and/ or sending a snapchat, checking into foursquare (for some reason people still use this?)
Three people posting pics of their food to instagram/ twitter / facebook
One person updating Facebook to tell the world that you’re all there in this location, having SO MUCH FUN, tagging you all to articulate that fact..

You’re all there, together, but you’re not.

Since when did posting about what you are doing, rather than being in the moment and experiencing it become more important?!

We are so obsessed with trying to reassure the world that we lead these awesome, exciting, glamorous lives, that we’re not even living them. 

How do I know this? I’m part of it. I blog, tweet, update, instagram, snapchat along with everyone.. but it bugs me that in a room full of people, I can be the only person who leaves their phone in their bag. It’s a sign of respect, of wanting to actually listen and engage with the people you are physically with. And its amazing what it can do for the quality of conversation.

Why are we so obsessed with creating this online persona? This BEST person that we could possibly be? The one with the flawless pics, interesting social life and outgoing winning personality? We work SO HARD on this, and then spend the rest of the time trying to live up to this unrealistic image and expectation that we have created for ourselves…

And we wonder why people are more unhappy now than ever before?

Perhaps if we spent a little more time barefoot, walking on the grass, or dragging our toes across the sand, and left the smartphone at home for a wee bit, we’d start to experience our lives again in an organic way. We could connect in the ways that humans are supposed to, with conversation, listening, smiles, questions, touch and laughter.

 

Rather than WIFI.

 

 

 

The things we humans obsess over (Part 2)

So I’ve done 22 days no alcohol now, and I’m feeling pretty good. Previously I’d done 5 weeks in 2013 and that was a monumental exercise in fabulousness. But with this new-ish clarity of thought comes the inevitable reflection on just how utterly obsessed we are with the ‘demon-drink’ …..and I’ve realised how much alcohol is a knee-jerk reaction in modern western society.

 

Had a bad day? A glass of wine will sort that.
Nailed that project at work? You deserve a drink!
Survived the working week with all your limbs intact? Time for a beverage!

 

It’s like drinking is so ingrained into what we do literally day to day that it takes a concerted effort to minimise the ingrained knee-jerk reaction to relax with a drink…..

Think about it:
Oh it’s a beautiful sunny summers night, I’d better make the most of this and go out and have a beer in the sun!
Oh it’s a rainy winters night, freezing out there! I should tuck up with a yummy glass of red wine in front of the fire…

It’s the elixr for the masses, comes in all shapes and sizes, flavours and strengths, colours and packages, it picks you up when you’re down, transforms your face to a smile from a frown, helps lubricate communication all over town, makes you think you can dance and ‘get down’ – it’s what?! ALCOHOL! Yay! *cue mexican wave*

Now I don’t propose to have all the answers to this (or anything for that matter) what I want you to do is simply stop and think for yourself.

To start asking yourself how you feel about drinking…. to see if you resonate with anything I’ve mentioned, and to see if you too could start to challenge the assumptions modern society has placed upon you about drinking. *glug glug*

Could you go a week without drinking? A month? What changes in your social habits would you need to make in order to do this? How would your friends and workmates react?

After almost 10 years in Recruitment (an industry body known for enjoying the ‘odd tipple‘ *cough*) I can hand on heart say that I still enjoy a deep spicy glass of Shiraz, and smooth and velvety Central Otago Pinot Noir, and love the giggly brain-fuzz and silliness from a ridiculously over-priced glass of Champagne…. but my attitude to drinking is slowly changing.

With glorified boozing in adverts tempting me… And bars full of laughing, smiling, beautiful people – waving about their bottles of beer and oh-so-tempting glasses of chilled Pinot Gris as I wander past …I almost feel like I’m ‘sticking it to the man’ some days…. so yeah, fight the power and whatnot, I’m off to pour myself a stiff tea.

 

The things we humans obsess over (part 1)

Lounging around in bed this morning, putting off the inevitable part of the day where I get up and pretend to be a responsible adult, I found myself reading an article about the Oscars most important fashion moments (or some equally inane drivel) and promptly gave myself an internal donk on the head.

This was an article about image, style, impression, capturing a moment, icons, zeitgeist and the like all wrapped up in a piece of material draped around a body. Because that’s just it, isn’t it? It’s material? Didn’t we first decide to wrap ourselves in things because we don’t have fur? Wasn’t it so we didn’t freeze our nips off in the ice age? Or was it because of a gaping realisation that we were cruising around nekkid in a fabulous garden (and had been for ages, why didn’t someone say something??) and thought that a leaf would be an appropriate cover for the bits the god gave us?

So when did necessity (the mother of invention, and by that logic the father of pants) become such an obsession? It’s not ‘what you’re wearing’ but “who are you wearing dahhling?” and since when did we judge a persons worth on their ability to look good in a piece of fabric?

And why (this is the biggest issue of all really) do I own so many dresses, and yet constantly find myself looking for more?

Pants are overrated, but what’s so awful about the human body that we’re all more obsessed with covering it up, than embracing the glorious-ness of our own bits?

Why do we need to primp, preen, nip, tuck, starve, paint and hide ourselves…. why do we let that piece of material speak for us?