Writing retreat

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My family sent me on a trip so I could write. I posted my plans on Facebook whilst I sat in Preston Brucciani’s, sipping coffee, waiting for my train. “Sounds great,” said a friend, “but what does a writing trip consist of?”

“It consists of writing.” I replied.

I’ve spent four days totally alone in this hotel room. I’m in a nameless city, a little north of the border. I don’t know anyone here and I’m avoiding even googling places I could visit. Everything is centred on writing.

My room is a gift, everything I wanted: very clean, very plain, piles of soft towels and crisp white bed linen, a kettle for tea, good internet. I’m a stone’s throw from Starbucks and Sainsbury’s. First night here I went out to a Japanese Restuarant and ordered chicken and rice. It wasn’t the same without company. I’ve eaten in my room since then, yogurts and sandwiches and packets of crisps.

One night I woke at three and couldn’t get back to sleep. So I slipped out of the crisp white bed sheets and boiled that kettle. I sat on the sill of the floor to ceiling window, drinking tea, seventeen floors up and watching the city at night. Clear lines of lights, twinkled into the distance making the roads and the streets where the unknown people live and work shine. The night people stand in twos and threes sharing cigarettes, in doorways and on benches in pedestrianised streets under the trees. There are taxis and road sweepers moving determinedly through the darkened streets. I am entirely alone, anonymous but happy, high up behind the glass watching it unfold.

A lovely friend was praying for me last week in church and I was a blubbering wreck. It took me by surprise. Everything started falling away from me fast and I didn’t know who I was or what I was doing. I sobbed and just let Andy hold me. Let’s not say it out loud, I’m afraid and secretly ready to give it all up; writing, recovery, everything. I know these crazy thoughts from my past, and know they can sometimes ambush me like this. There was a time when a thought like this could fell me, but not anymore.

Just as I dried my tears and cleaned myself up, a dear acquaintance, but not a person I knew very well, came found me, just to say he liked to read my blog and eagerly anticipated each new post. Who knew?

A few days later we were all in the kitchen after a meal and I tell the story. “Do you think that was God telling me to keep writing?” I nervously ask my husband and, my boys. They just smile and shake their heads.

So I’m writing. And turns out, a little time alone with Pages and some Post-It notes was just what I needed to teach myself something about my creative process and the job in hand.

If you’re a creative person I can’t speak highly enough of making some time in your schedule to work on your project without any distractions. If you’re someone with a callings on your life and big plans for the future, I’d really recommend a little homemade retreat even for the shortest time. Pray, write, read, think.

This is what I learnt.

1. I really do love to write. Sometimes my fingers fly across the key board and I can feel the metre of the words moving from my head through my hands and onto the page. It’s completely exhilarating ( and full of typos!). At other times it’s much slower, but with patience and quiet I’ve seen that the words still come.
2. Writing a book is much harder that writing a blog piece but I have a much clearer idea of the what I need to do to make this writing into a book not just a series of disjointed essays.
3. It’s hard to measure what is your best work practice or your most creative time of day when you are trying to create between day jobs, domestic tasks and family demands. Alone in my hotel room I noticed that I work slowly in the mornings and pick up as the day goes on. I like to work into the night.
4. It’s easy to make unrealistic estimations of how much writing work can be done in a day and then blame short falls on other people disturbing you. I have been working for 6-8 hours a day and writing about 5 000 words. That’s without any demands or distractions. I need to remember that at home my daily word count is bound to be less.
5. I still have a lot of hard work to do if I’m going to produce the book I’ve been thinking about but I do now have a few fledgling chapters all about making sure our sad does not become depressed and other ways of living life full.

And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Saviour, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes.
Jude 24-25 The Message

 

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Inspiration

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GO

Inspiration is one part of respiration: breathing in and breathing out again.

Breathing in is inspiration.

28,000 breaths a day and I’m not even counting. I’m not even thinking about it. All of that beautiful life goes on without my thanks, never giving up, never discouraged. Breathing out and breathing in again.

They say the name of God YHWH, sounds like our breath. 

Yod – Hay – Waw – Hay.

God breathes and it’s the sound of His own hushed name, the sound of I AM spoken like life itself. And I’m pulling that life in, grasping hold of it, clutching hard at it, pulling in one deep breath at a time. I never knew how much this mattered; just to breathe.

On Saturday, the sun had left the day warm and we lay on the grass in our sleeping bags as the sun set.  Andy, me and Lucy alone with the small breeze moving the leaves in the trees and two bats alight in the slow dim dusk. There is nothing else to do here but attend to the sound of our own rhythmic breath, inhaling, exhaling, inspiration, expiration.

Counting our breath ’til the stars appear in the sky.

STOP

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Lisa Jo baker was off line this week enjoying a well earned rest and there was no Five Minute Friday for us to link up to so Steph suggested the prompt word INSPIRATION. Below are some of the lovely contributions that followed.

Why not consider joining in our FMF writing venture? The next prompt will be posted on Lisa Jo Baker’s website on friday morning. Get in touch if you would like some help.

What is Five Minute Friday?

We write for five minutes flat. All on the same prompt that Lisa Jo Baker posts at 1 minute past midnight EST ever Friday at lisajobaker.com. And we connect on Twitter with the hashtag #FiveMinuteFriday

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

5minutefriday

Sarah

Inspiration…

Breathing in

What do I breathe

Hope or despair

Love or hate

Revenge or mercy

The atmosphere that inspires me

Gives me life, shapes who I am

The truest inspiration

Comes and goes with my breath

As I breathe in God’s mercy

Inspired by His love

Each breath is a gift

A real inspiration

A touch of creation

To focus my thinking

Until I expire

 

Heidi

I recently heard someone describe inspiration as   ‘ ideas having sex’. It’s an unusual analogy, which conjured up some funny mental images for me. But I kinda like it. I mean, I got what they meant. Inspiration will always involve a relationship, a deep connection that is creative and meaningful. It also involves more than a little effort and lots of fun.

We usually speak of inspiration in warm, fuzzy terms. It’s generally recognised as a brief moment in time. Our language supports this – a flash of inspiration, a light bulb moment, a ‘eureka’ moment, all speak of something great but inherently fleeting. We usually fail to acknowledge the relationship and effort that produced it.

Today, when I felt a distinct lack of inspiration, I had to first and foremost look at my connection with God. In prayer, worship and Word, how much have I connected with Him lately ? Then, what else have I been reading, studying, listening to ? Relationally, has there been a connecting of my own heart to another’s ? Even more challenging – am I looking only to be inspired or am I also seeking to be an inspiration?

When I don’t have anything to do, write or say…. well, never mind…I usually keep waiting for an inspirational moment to just happen. And that is where I need to change. My perception of inspiration is too small. I have shrunk it to something I passively receive, usually from God and then from those I regard as greater than me. I realise I have made it a passive rather than active part of my life. I shun the effort required on my own part because I do not want the responsibility, nor run the risk of failure. In other words, a cop out. Consequently, poetry and prose remain unwritten within. Worse still, hearts ( my own and others ) go untouched and life is a little less fun.

So, time to change. Here’s to pursuing inspiration – to creativity, effort and fun. May we all have it and be it. And, most importantly, may we connect deeply with God and with one another. After all, isn’t that what life is all about ?

Carolyn

When I have been asked what my inspiration is, I nearly always have to ask for clarification. Inspiration for artwork, writing, living, specific actions or just existing? There are so many different things that inspire me in different areas of my life. There is overlap of course. I often use text in my artwork because I love words and books, but text also serves to inspire me to write. Scripture inspires the way I live (or I hope it does), but it also inspires artwork. Specific artists may inspire me to look into certain styles and techniques and certain writers may inspire me to read or to write in a different way or try a new form. If I read of news events such as the missing Nigerian schoolgirls, or the woman condemned to death in Sudan for apostasy then I may be inspired to pray and to act.

Read more HERE …

Steph

In anatomy terms, to inspire is to inhale. it is to take in the air around us and fill our lungs. to take something, and create something new from it.

Inspiration in general terms is to take something you see or something someone does and use it to generate ideas and motivation in yourself. to take something, and create something new from it.

There are a list of things I could sit here and tell you about that inspire me; a walk in the woods, the idea of future prospects, my best friends little sister… its endless, but unless I then do something with this inspiration, with the ideas and feelings they spur inside me, the what is the point?

Read more HERE …

Su

Good friends? Good food? Inspiring teaching? The satisfaction of a tidy house? Worship? Fun with children? Errands run? Uniform washed and neatly hung on the maiden?

Read more HERE

A safe house for stories

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Yesterday we all showed up at Su’s in the afternoon for a little cake and open house socialising on the first really sunny day of the year. I sat with Jackie in the swinging chair and we talked about how the sunshine was warming the soil and all of the veggies that she would be planting this year in her beautiful raised garden beds.

Yesterday we all showed up at Su’s like a cupboard full of chipped plates and cracked cups, a mismatch of odd crocks brought out for a larger than expected party of guests. In twos and threes across the lawn and quietly on sun loungers closer to the house we talk with new friends and old friends of holidays, family, home and work; small fragments of our story brought out to air in the glorious sunshine of that good spring day.

A few of us over red velvet cake and cups of tea got talking about our Five Minute Friday fellowship of writers, how we all came together, an accidental muddle of new writers, aspiring writers, secret writers and non-writers to organise a few words each weekend based on an improbable and random prompt. It is something we like to do, we have found a voice and an audience of great kindness and grace. We tell the stories and we read the stories. We use our words to help each other come out of hiding because each story is good and should not be left in the dark.  We won’t be going viral any day soon and the publishing houses are not queuing up to take us on, but there is more to say.

We have made a safe house for stories. We love to read the stories and would love to host your story here.

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What is Five Minute Friday?

We write for five minutes flat. All on the same prompt that Lisa Jo Baker posts at 1 minute past midnight EST ever Friday at lisajobaker.com. And we connect on Twitter with the hashtag #FiveMinuteFriday

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

The prompt this week is GLUE

I am delighted to share a piece from Sarah and links to blog posts by Steph and Debbie (click on the photo to open the link.)

 

GO

Glue – it holds things together. Seldom visible, it is nonetheless an important part of so many things. The outer, obvious parts, the exquisite crafts, would generally work if something were replaced. If I don’t have that fabric , I can use that one; if I don’t have a button I can use a bead. But if I don’t have glue, the whole project will fall apart.

I know people like that – the quiet unobtrusive ones who are rarely seen at the ‘front’ of an event, but who tirelessly hold things together behind the scenes. Not the people who are often rewarded or admired, but the ones on whom we depend without knowing it.  We owe a huge debt of gratitude to these ‘glue people’. So next time you thank the people up front, take a moment to look for the glue.

STOP

 

Five good things for families

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I thought I’d share some good things for spring time and Easter.  Just for fun. Here are easy crafts to make and do and add a little family creativity to the holidays. There’s even more here on the Pinterest board I made for Easter and you can find some Easter colouring sheet at Doodle Art Alley.

Enjoy!

1. Easter Crispie Cakes

If you’re making crispie cakes and adorning them with mini-eggs there’s no shortage of recipes to be found across the net, though these are so easy you hardly need a recipe. The instructions below works just fine even for barely supervised children, just remember to melt and add ingredients in the stated order to avoid the chocolate seizing up.

chocegg

 

Ingredients

200g chocolate

120g butter

6 table spoons of golden syrup

180g rice crispies

Mini-eggs to decorate

1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water or carefully in the microwave.

2. Cut the butter into cubes and add gradually stir in until it has melted.

3. Add the golden syrup one table spoon at a time stirring until thoroughly combined.

4. Add the rice crispies and stir gently ensuring the cereal is coated with the chocolate mixture.

5. Spoon the mixture into 24 paper cases that you have arranged in a bun tin.

6. Decorate with mini-eggs and leave to set at room temperature.

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Alternatively you could make some cupcakes and decorate those with mini-eggs. Click here for a recipe and look out for pretty pastel coloured cake cases to make your baking look especially pretty.

2. Decorating Eggs

Last year Lucy and I bought dye that was specifically designed for eggs and if you can get hold of some I thoroughly recommend it. The deep dye eggs you see here were produced using egg dye and a black sharpie. I think you’ll agree the results are impressive.

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This year we used food dyes which produce a subtle and less even colour distribution across the egg shell.  I bought white ducks eggs from our local farm shop which show the colour off to its best advantage. I recommend boiling the egg in the dye then leaving them to cool and soak for 24-48 hours. Food colouring is cheaper than a special product and you probably have some at the back of a cupboard or amongst your cake decorating miscellany. Again we finished them using a sharpie and a few dabs of bleach.

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Click on the picture below for more fabulous egg decorating ideas at Buzz feed.

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3. Simple Easter cards

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You will need:

White A4 card

Coloured tissue paper

Black sugar paper

PVA glue and scissors

1. Cut the tissue into inch wide strips.

2. Cut a small curved hill shape and strips for the cross from the black paper.

3. Assemble the card by glueing the tissue strips horizontally to create a sunset effect and sticking the hill and the cross over the top.

4. Donut tombs

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 You will need:

A paper plate

A ring donut

An oreo biscuit

Desiccated coconut

Green food colouring

Water icing

Paper, glue and a cocktail stick for the flag.

You will find instructions for this activity all across the internet. It’s pretty self explanatory apart from explaining that the water icing can be used to hold the thing together; stick the donut to the plate with a dab of icing and stick the Oreo across the mouth of the tomb with another dab of icing. The coconut is coloured with a little green food colouring to make the grass and the flag is assembled using paper, glue and a cocktail stick.

5. Spring texture garden

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We made this craft at toddler group before the holidays. A simple craft for small children, it is best made with a good selection of paper of different textures. We used sand paper, bubble wrap, foil and different types of craft paper.

You will need:

A paper plate

A purchased chick

A selection of papers, different colours and textures

Glue and sellotape

1. Assemble the garden by arranging the paper and sticking it down with glue.

2. Add the chick and attach with sellotape.

Enjoy your holidays!

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Paint

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GO

It is no secret to those of you who know me: I have suffered from depression.

At is worst, it has been a condition characterised by an inability to receive comfort or love from anything or anyone.

At times the only relief I could find was to sleep.

But as I recovered I began to find that in an art gallery, I could for a few short hours, experience a freedom from the inside of my own head and enough hope of healing to keep me sane for a little more time. In a gallery I found some pieces that were missing from my cold black life. I found colour, form, perspective, shades, compositions that held in balance conflicting views and most of all I found beauty.

I found hope and beauty in paint.

Paint: brushed and stroked, marked and manipulated, smoothed and textured, in dots and dashes, in broad sweeps and layers.

One small window painted in colours on a solid black wall. It loosed my tongue, swelled my soul and made me reach beyond the flat colour palette into the beauty of the beating heart of the God who lay somewhere on the other side of the paint.

STOP

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This week several friends have submitted posts based on the prompt word PAINT. I was interested to watch two main themes emerging: finding the confidence to develop our own creativity and the positive impact of visiting a gallery.

Su has written about her own art and painting journey,

Debbie has started her own blog, At Home on the Rolling Sea and has posted a poem there

Steph has a post about her own art and trip to a gallery

Carolyn has written about her own creative work which is a significant part of her personal story.

And finally *STOP PRESS* a contribution from Karen,

GO

Paint is something that is a big thing in my life at the moment.  To paint or not to paint on a weekly basis?  Moving home and needing to freshen up is a chore to me.  I had time off work recently and paint is what I did along with some very good friends who came to give me a hand.  Painting with friends is so much more fun and so much less a chore.  Now one friend is trying to convince me to veer away from the safety of magnolia.  I am not yet totally persuaded, but may be converted soon.  Then the decision is what colour to paint?  There are so many colours and shades and variations on a theme, but  what I do like about paint is the persuasive art of naming it to conjure up an image like azure blue makes me thing of a Caribbean sea and waving palm trees, pillar box red or lime green the choice is endless.  If you want to discover my choice once I’ve done the deed, call in and have a coffee sometime.

STOP

And some wonderful quotes from David,

 

“Such is my relationship with God: on my gigantic canvass of life, I am the one throwing all of the brightly-coloured paints, creating genuine splatters, authentic whirlpools of colour, beautiful patterns, wonderful streaks and stains and wild accents; God is the one with the paintbrush who stands beside my canvass filling all the intricate and amazing details in between the whirlpools and the streaks! We’re happy together!”
C. JoyBell C.
“Once, Turner had himself lashed to the mast of a ship for several hours, during a furious storm, so that he could later paint the storm. Obviously, it was not the storm itself that Turner intended to paint. What he intended to paint was a representation of the storm. One’s language is frequently imprecise in that manner, I have discovered.”
David Markson

 

There is still time to join us. you don’t have to be an experienced writer and you don’t even need your own blog. Our writing collaboration is demonstrating that we all have something to say and no one is excluded. So why not add your voice by following the simple instructions below?

 

  • Write for 5 minutes using the prompt PAINT, anything you like (free-fall) !
  • Email the piece to me and I will post it on my blog or you can post it on your own blog and send me the link
  • If you post on your own blog you can also use the linky tool at the bottom of Lisa Jo Baker’s post and share your piece there
  • If you share on lisajobaker.com you should check her guidelines and comment on the post that appear immediately before your own

5minutefriday