Tag Archives: blogging

Collaboration and creativity

I’ve always liked to collaborate. I’d much rather sing with other people than sing alone. I’ve been working creatively with my husband Tom for well over a decade now. I’ve co-written with various people along the way.  My blogging is held in part by my being part of a wider blogging community, where ideas flow between people. I think the idea of the lone creative isn’t true, it’s just that not everyone acknowledges their creative family, or the people enabling them to do the work.  Humans don’t exist in isolation and therefore cannot actually create in isolation either. We’re all held by our societies, and family histories and we all depend on people who make our food, clothes, electricity and so forth.

I’ve been collaborating intensively with one person for a couple of months now. I’m committed to two ambitious projects, and smaller side projects keep opening up. What’s particularly interesting about this collaboration is that it’s changing all of my work, not just the bits I’m co-writing.

I note that my ideas flow more easily, and I have a lot more of them. My imagination feels like a trim, lively sort of creature as it bounces about inside my head. I’m more relaxed about what I do, and more confident and that’s showing up in all sorts of ways.  I’m getting feedback from people who are involved with my work and can see the difference in other projects, too. I’m faster. Things that would have taken a couple of hours now fall into place in one, or less.

I like myself more as an author right now than I have done in the last twenty years. Oddly, I feel like I’m finding my voice – something I thought I’d done a long time ago. I’m also finding out, week by week, what a Nimue/Abbey voice sounds like, and what kind of stories that might lead to. It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before, and at the same time, it feels like coming home.

I’ve been sharing posts here that are me responding to Abbey’s ideas. Over on the Hopeless Maine blog, I’ve got pieces where his words and mine are much more interwoven, and the stories come from both of us.

Druid Life – a blog about a blog

Readers, I have done a thing! As of yesterday, this blog site is advert-free. Having used wordpress for the best part of a decade, I’ve taken the leap and started paying for it.

While I greatly appreciate the many free things available online, I do also believe in paying for things that you value so that the people who make them can keep making them. I really like wordpress and it has helped me greatly as a blogger. I’m in a place where I can give back to them by paying for my blog, so I’m doing that.

The reason I feel able to pay for my blog is, quite simply, Patreon. The support I have there means I feel confident about making this change. I know that much of that support is as a consequence of people liking my blog, so it makes sense to pay that back by making this blog a better space for readers.

And honestly, I do not like adverts. I have no doubt that adverts distort our priorities, infect our longing with consumerism and contribute significantly to our unsustainable behaviour. Apparently free things are often paid for by adverts. It’s worth noting that even on sites like youtube where content creators can benefit from ad revenue, most creators don’t as the bar for getting funds is set high and the money per view is a pittance. It’s not the way forward.

So, I’m glad to get adverts off this site. I won’t be replacing them with adverts of my own, or directly monetizing this blog in any way. I will occasionally plug the stuff I’m doing and stuff that I like but that’s as far as it will go.

If there are topics you’d like to see me explore, or questions you’d like me to try and answer, jump into the comments section. If I can come up with something potentially useful, I’ll do my best.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for going on this journey with me. Thank you everyone who has subscribed and thus encouraged me to feel that this blog is worth investing energy in each day. Thank you if you’ve supported me on Patreon or Ko-Fi. Thank you if you’ve shared links or re-blogged me or otherwise given freely of your time and energy. I believe in free things, and gift economy and sharing, and I also believe that everyone should be able to afford to live, and that there are balances to strike.


Creativity and risk

There can be no real creativity without taking risks. Of course, there are a lot of good things a person can do who doesn’t want to take risks as well. Study, practice, developing skills, learning about relevant things – this doesn’t have to feel risky not least because we never have to share it.

There is a school of thought that says we should create purely for ourselves, driven by our own passion and inspiration and to hell with what anyone else thinks. Many creators we now think of as great were not valued in their own lifetimes. There’s another school of thought that says a piece is not complete until it has an audience and that the audience is co-creator of the finished work. Without someone to interact with a piece, an important part is missing. This is more how I feel about things.

When we set out to create, the idea of impacting on another human tends to be part of the mix. We want to move them, and we’ll probably know how we want them to feel. Write a horror novel and you want to scare your reader, and maybe gross them out and give them nightmares. Write erotica and you want to give them some hot flushes, and so on and so forth. Most of us, at heart, want to be liked, and want what we make to be liked, because that’s validating. And on a practical note, people who like what you do are more likely to pay for it, and this leads to being able to eat. Living only for your muse is fine if someone else is paying the bills, but most of us don’t have that option.

No matter how good you are, there will always be someone who doesn’t like it. That’s inevitable. Many people deal with the pain of bad reviews and negative feedback by having some people they trust, who like them. It’s a lovely thing to create for people who get what you do and are going to enjoy it. Of course, finding those people can be a messy trial and error process. How much risk can you take on that journey? How much negative feedback can you bear? Is there a point when a person should admit defeat and quit? Or should we never give up? I don’t know.

I come back to this blog, always. I’ve been through more cycles of despair than I care to count – it’s really tough in the creative industries at the moment without any personal angst on top of that. I have plenty of personal angst, too. I’ve wobbled repeatedly, and every time I’ve wobbled, people have come back and asked me to keep this blog going. It’s not my most creative work, it’s not a means to anything else, but it’s wanted, and I would rather put something wanted into the world than not. There are still days when blogging feels like a risk – too much exposure, too much vulnerability – but it’s useful, and that keeps me going.

So, thank you to those of you who keep coming back, keep commenting, keep saying that you find this useful. When I can’t write anything else, I push myself to write this, and there are times when it’s the only even slightly creative thing I do. I believe firmly that every human should have the right and the space to create, but that’s difficult unless we hold those spaces for each other. Thank you for turning this space into something meaningful for me.

Blogging, pacing and a re-think

For years now, I’ve run Druid Life as a pretty much every day blog. Occasionally I miss days, but not often. This week I’ve taken the decision to halve my output. I hope those of you who are following me will be ok with this, but part of the point of halving my output is to improve on the quality of my blogging. It should give me more time to think about things, and fewer days when I cobble a post together for the sake of posting, rather than because I have something to say.

There are other reasons. I want to make more time for music, for fiction writing, and for time off. I’m also exploring video making a bit more. As I’ve been spending time promoting other authors, I’ve come to notice a thing about the internet. It’s especially true on Twitter, but not just a Twitter issue. Vast numbers of writers get out there every day to compete with each other for your time and attention. Many of them do not get the attention they deserve, and there’s also a lot of empty vessels out there making a lot of noise. I want to change my relationship with this. By cutting down on my blogging, I’m making room to spend more time sharing other people’s work, without as much risk of overloading anyone on social media.

My aim is to post here on odd numbered days (the Moon Books blog posts on even numbered days, so this will balance nicely). It may well be that I use the days I’m not creating content to reblog other people, and for guest blogs. I may use that space to flag up things I’m doing other places, I don’t know – we’ll see how it goes.

I’m looking for a gentler life balance, I want it to be easier for me to take days off, and I want to invest more in the quality of my own work. I want to spend more time reading. The daily blogging has become so much an intrinsic part of my day, that not doing it is going to feel weird, but I need to challenge myself, and letting go a bit with this could, I think, be a good thing.

When I started this blog I was a total unknown as a Druid and as an author. That’s changed a bit. Increasingly however, authors have to spend a hell of a lot of time pushing themselves forwards in order to build a readership and sell books. I don’t want to feel this constant pressure to attract people and persuade you to be interested in what I do. I want to share things I think are interesting. I want to help other authors and creative and active people – make life that little bit easier for people who are doing good stuff. So this is, in part, a laying down of all ambitions to be a Very Important Druid or a popular author, in preference for doing something I think will be more useful. I feel good about this choice, and optimistic about the shift of focus; it seems like a step in the right direction for me.

Things I have been doing

As it’s been a busy week or so in life beyond the blog, I thought I should do a quick roundup of other things to check out. In case anyone gets the urge!

I wrote at Sage Woman about seasons and mists, at Mystic Living today about the challenges of ancestry, and guest blogged with lovely witchy author Sheena Cundy about magic, madness and inspiration. Sheena has a really funny and touching Pagan novel coming out later in the month – The Madness and the Magic, hence the blog theme. She’s fab, do check her out.

Last week, John Holland of Stroud Short Stories prodded me into writing a ghost tale – long and complicated reasons but it is basically all his fault. A matter of hours after I’d written it, I got an email from another lovely author – Sheila North, asking if I happened to have a Halloween story because Sine FM were looking for something to read on Saturday. That was about perfect timing, so I sent Evelyn’s Pale Daughters over, and now they’re audio! If you come to this blog a long time after publishing date, they may have gone away again, but that’s uncanny things for you. I’ve never listened to someone else reading my stuff before. Quite an experience! It’s towards the end of the program, and my choice of tune follows…

Also last week, I attended Miserable Poets’s Cafe in Stroud. Here’s a video – audio quality is not great, but hopefully you can hear most of it. The things you need to know are that the chap running the event is Bill Jones, and that’s him on after me. His reaction is priceless! And no, he’s not sought a restraining order yet.

Books and blogs

As those of you who have been with me for a while will know, I also write books. Mostly I don’t write about them, because that would be dull for all of us. The relationship between books and blogging however is (I insist!) going to yield some more interesting thoughts.

Books are a very old form of communication, blogs appear to be very new, but they have a lot in common with the pamphlet writing of the last 400 years or so. Pamphlets were low cost to produce and available to far more people than the elite ‘book’ and there were pamphlet wars, full of written arguments between rival factions getting steamed up with each other. It wasn’t so different, it’s just this is faster and involves les standing on damp street corners yelling at passers by. Well, for me, at any rate, other bloggers may do differently. Instead we get to stand on the corners of damp social media sites, yelling at passers by to check out our wares. Not much changes.

Nimue as blogger is not quite the same person/voice as Nimue as book author. Blogging is what I do first thing in the morning as a way of warming up my brain. I write a blog in about quarter of an hour, read it outloud to Tom to make sure it makes sense, isn’t too self-indulgent and isn’t awash with typos. Then I post. I pick topics out of the air each morning based on whatever’s been on my mind lately – there’s not much logic and structure and the only continuing narrative is created by what little coherence there is in my life.

I think about books a lot more. I plan them and give them structures. I undertake research and deliberate exploration rather than just spouting whatever’s on my mind. I polish the sentences over numerous re-drafts and make some effort with references and the like. If the blog is me first thing in the morning, the books are me when I’ve had a LOT of coffee.

I don’t duplicate content. You may get the odd blog post promoting the books where I copy a bit to give you a flavour, but that’s about it. Once I know I’m working on a subject in a serious way, I don’t blog about it – to keep my thinking book focused, to stop the project being diluted, and to make sure anyone reading the blog isn’t going to find they’ve paid for something already known to them should they pick up a book. I also don’t duplicate posts from other sites, so if you follow me in more than one place, you’ll only see a given blog post once. (If you were wondering, I do a monthly alternative wheel of the year blog here, I blog at Moon Books  and JHP Fiction intermittently, and other pieces of mine are scattered widely across the internet.) As a blogger it would be far less work to just re-use articles across different sites. However, as a reader that would annoy me, and I like to imagine I have one or two people who get around to everything and whose dedication should be rewarded by making sure there’s always something new.

A book is always a failed attempt at saying something definitive. A blog is always a successful work in progress that lacks for coherence and conclusion. In many ways the blog is my more natural environment, because there’s more room to grow and change as I go and to explore the nuances of those shifts. It’s harder to step away from an opinion you’ve carved into the immortal rock of a book. Perhaps I take books too seriously!

As a reader I come to books and blogs very differently. I read a lot of blogs – usually in the morning, and very much to keep a sense of what is going on out there now. Book reading is an evening activity, and not about the contemporary at all, often. I read old books more than new ones. I read paper more than ebooks. Who we are as readers of blogs and books may be as diverse as who we are as writers of the same.

A life made of stories

All autobiography is to some degree a construct. As soon as you start talking about your ‘real’ life there’s a process of editing, and as with all kinds of history-making, more is bound to be left out, than mentioned. I’m very conscious of this when blogging, because I write from my own life a lot. I pick which points to dwell on. I decide which experiences are important or interesting enough to seem worth sharing. Consequently my life probably comes across as a lot more engaging than it is. But then, much of the life of an author involves sitting down and churning out words, and that bit is no kind of spectator sport! All normal human life is full of dull but necessary bits, and unless the laundry is your art-form or you’re really into cleaning, it’s not easy to talk about that in engaging ways.

We all tell stories about our lives, whether we consider ourselves to be ‘storytellers’ or not. We tales of who we are and where we came from. Those tales can root us in land, culture, family, community and faith. Such stories can be powerful, grounding forces in our lives that underpin identity, sense of purpose, sense of self. We tell stories that explain things. These can be helpful. I’m claustrophobic because I had a bad experience in the London underground. I don’t have to feel ridiculous or irrational, I have an explanation. However, if my story is that I can never make friends because I was bullied at school, or no one will love me because I am fat, that story can become a toxic thing that prevents me from taking the risks needed in order to move on. If my story is that it is never my fault and people are so unreasonable wanting me to behave decently, then I’m going to be fairly psychotic.

The stories I tell are constructs. They are true stories, but just by making a selection, I change the effect. Most often what I do aside from missing out the boring bits, is remove from the story those people along the way who I haven’t much liked. They become vague allusions, unnamed, ill-defined. It is a power that I know causes offence because I’ve had some very specific feedback, from one of the few people I don’t talk about in detail. People only like me, she said, because I am so selective in the stories I tell, I construct a falsely good impression of myself. If you really knew me, you’d hate me as much as she did, she felt.

I think she was missing the point. I don’t write this purely in order to be liked. I write to be useful. I’m guessing most of you do not read this because you are interested in my life, per se, more because you are interested in what light stories from my life might shed on your stories from your life. That’s a good deal more useful all round. Used that way, it doesn’t matter how factually ‘true’ a story is, only how useful it is. My stories are limited by being from my perspective, but other perspectives are available and a few of those cast me as villainous, selfish, demanding and unpleasant. I don’t expect to be able to keep everyone happy.

What I have for you today is a story. It is a true story, except that I missed out the boring bits, and I pared the cast down to a few interesting figures. A lot else happened during the time frame I’m talking about, but for the sake of coherence, I left those bits out too. This is a story about spiderwebs and the tenuous strings of connection that hold my life together. https://soundcloud.com/cradle2gravestories/nimue-spiderwebs-allow
It’s hosted by cradel2grave stories, who make a habit of this thing – people telling tales from their lives. It’s a really interesting project, so do have a poke around!

Time, blogs and habits

I get the odd comment now and then about how I manage to blog pretty much every day. The short answer, is habit. It is easier to maintain just about anything if you can acquire it as a habit. Here I am, dead beat and late in the day, and sorely tempted not to write a blog, but this is something I do every day, and so I show up.

I’ve explored prayer, and meditation. Both are easier to maintain if I set aside a specific bit of the day for them. I’ve been a dabbler in music most of my life and I know that practice is easier to manage if there is a habitual pattern around it. Good sleep patterns are also habits, and I try to cultivate those with habits of behaviour at the end of the day designed to encourage sleeping. Exercise is most easily maintained through frequency and habit. So is housework. In fact the majority of things that take up our time can be structured into routines to ensure that we keep doing them.

The first issue this raises, is one of time. There are only so many hours in a day, and how you deploy each is now in question. If your habits are unconscious, then you won’t automatically know what time is devoted where. Television, facebook and computer games will easily suck up a lot of time without that being noticed. All too often, our habits of time use are not considered, and not serving us. However, once you consider how you deploy your time and what your habits are, you have to start weighing and valuing how time is used. How much time is spent commuting? How much goes on reading? What does cleaning cost you in terms of time? We only get to use it once.

The second issue, is of order verses chaos, and I don’t get on with too much order, which means I can’t live to a tight timetable.

Every choice to make something a habit and give time to it every day, is a choice that excludes other possibilities. It doesn’t matter whether we do that consciously, or not. If we do it consciously, we get to decide and that’s got to be an advantage. Every half hour I devote to writing a blog is not spent on writing fiction. Every hour on fiction is not spent on music, every hour of music is not spent on cleaning. There are balances to strike between needs of the body, the soul and the bank balance. The need for rest, the need for play and for more stimulating experience. Duties to honour, and inspiration to seek, and no minute replaceable.

There are no right answers, and the habits of time that would suit each of us best depend very much on our needs. I chose blogging, for at least a small fragment of my day. I don’t tidy up as often as I might.

A slowness of books

I rather thought I’d have my third Druid title handed into the publisher before midwinter, last year. It didn’t happen, not least because I was very ill. My first 2 titles (Druidry and Meditation, Druidry and the Ancestors) both came out in 2012 and I was aiming to keep up a good pace there. It’s not quite gone to plan, I’ve had issues of block, weariness and too much everything else… Then Trevor over at Moon Books suggested I write a smaller book for the Pagan Portals line. I jumped at the chance, and the result – Spirituality without structure will be out in the not too dim and distant future. It was an interesting book to write, allowing me to use much of the wider research from the current Druid title, and it helped me focus my thoughts.
Spirituality without structure is an exploration of how to construct your own path, without being confined by conventional religious structures and systems. More of that nearer the time!

The first draft of the next title exists in hand written form. I’m a bit ‘old school’ in that I’m happier creating books on paper. I think better. Electricity has been in short supply, and gazing into the middle distance looking for just the right turn of phrase is a lot harder when the clock is ticking and the juice will run out. I also like having a tangible hard copy that will not melt away in the event of technical malfunction. Getting the next book from paper into the computer has been a bit of a fight. I think it’s more to do with energy levels than enthusiasm, the subject fascinates and inspires me, and also scares and confuses me, making it ideal in many ways. I feel a bit like I’m waiting for life to deliver some sort of punch-line, but it hasn’t shown up yet.

There’s a number of other projects in the pipeline that I’m not in a position to talk about in public yet – fiction stuff. So I’ll just tease you with that, but there is a thing on the way for next year that I am seriously excited about. We’re also talking to Archaia about book 3 of Hopeless and the timing for that, with book 2 due out around Halloween – you can already pre-order it on Amazon! Of course none of this has helped me get the Druid book written, there only being so any hours in a day.
The other big distraction, has been setting up to do a teaching course through the Patheos Pagan blog. I’ve been a columnist there for a while, and when they talked about developing a teaching space, I opted in. So, quite a lot of time went on planning and writing the content for that. You’ll be hearing more about that too, in the next month or so.

There is an argument for saying, do one thing at a time. I gather from the Zen folk that this is considered necessary for mindfulness. The trouble is, I just don’t have that kind of mind. Mine is a grasshopper brain and it jumps about between things. Trying to focus all of my energy into one project tends to make me more vulnerable to block and getting bored. However, the fingers in many pies approach makes me less than brilliant at always turning everything in on time. I’ve become adept at not getting deadlines in the first place. On which subject, I have been sounding out a publisher about a book on dreams, as well, which might happen next year.

I have promised myself that I will get the next Druid title written and handed in before I start on the dream book, or on the novel brewing in my head. That’s about as close as I ever get to discipline. I’m also planning to rerelease by self-publishing, some of my older novels so I need to take some time and polish those up, and we may be going to put out some Hopeless related material that way too. Oh, and audio meditations. Would you like some of those? I might be able to add that to the mix in a month or so. I’m signed up to do an alternative wheel of the year monthly column (links soon) and I’m writing more for The Druid Network too.

I have a feeling that the next twelve months or so are going to be a tad crazy, as in the midst of the above I’m determined to get out to more events as well. With Auroch Grove getting started and OBOD mentoring in the mix, as well as distinct opportunities for a more interesting cultural/social life, I’m starting to wonder quite when I’m going to do any sleeping. I’m just going to assume that it can all be made to fit together, and, with a rare nod to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, seize the carp.

The Quest for Inspiration

I notice over on her blog, Cat Treadwell is pondering inspiration – http://druidcat.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/the-joy-of-inspiration/. Here I am, dog tired, with a ton of things I need to be doing, struggling to get together a blog post. Yesterday there just wasn’t time. I try to blog every day because I think it is important to write every day. It’s like flexing more physical muscles, and keeping in the habit, helps. Making the effort to find a good idea and write about it, keeps my brain clunking along. This is rather a ‘cheat’ blog, because the reason for writing it is actually how short of inspiration I am.

Much of my mental energy at the moment is being diverted into getting the stuff from the boat to the flat – and all attendant stuff sorting. Quite a lot of my mind is occupied with trying to wrestle the Canal & River Trust into acting more decently. I am making progress, they want an in person meeting, but I am sore pressed for time. However, other boaters can and will go in my stead, so I may be able to pass the baton there. All well and good, but between the two, energy for wordy creativity on the blog is not what it could be. I’m so worn that finding the energy to work on typing up the current book (first draft was on paper) is an effort. So much for this being the high energy time of the year.

I have a good relationship with the awen most of the time. If I seek inspiration, it comes, and I do something – be that a poem, a blog, a blanket or an innovative meal. I don’t generally suffer from a shortage of ideas. Often the bigger issue for me is picking through the rush of possibilities to find things, or combinations of things, that will work. There are days when that just doesn’t happen, and this is one of them. I know what the problem is – if I try and run to hard and too long without resting, I lose the ability to manage the idea flow. If I do not nurture myself with good input, that also doesn’t help. I need more rest time, and more absorption time. I have been reading Jonathan Green’s excellent Pax Britannia books, and have read Craig Hallam’s Greaveburn and Meg Kingston’s Chrystal Heart, which have all helped keep me going. Tonight I shall curl up with Genevieve Tudor’s wonderful folk program (google it, you can listen online). Tomorrow, back into the maelstrom no doubt. In fact, this afternoon I have to get back under a bed to tackle the things that dare to dwell in such places… may the gods have mercy on me.

It’s not difficult to get ideas for books, or blogs or anything else you might want to do creatively. The world is full of ideas, old and new. The trick is having the peace of mind to be able to encounter those and reflect on them, the skill to separate good ones from useless ones, and the wherewithal to then turn that idea into a thing. And lo, I find myself somewhere over my target minimal word count, and possessed of a blog after all. Inspiration, it’s often just a case of doing the work and a lot less mysterious than it seems.