Monday, 16 January 2017

Am I bored enough yet by Lynda Alsford

"Don't it always seem to go. That you don't know what you've got till it's gone". I realised the truth of these words from Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi over Christmas. On Christmas Eve I got in my car and drove to Essex, some 90 miles away, to spend Christmas with friends. I thought I had everything with me. I stopped at a service station on route. I put my hand in my bag to get out my phone, so I could tell my friends there was not much traffic and I may arrive sooner than I had said. But there was a big empty space where my phone should be. I had left it at home. 

My first thought was 'Oh no'!  This was quickly followed by a sense of peace and relief that I was not tied to the phone. I would have a true break, with no-one being able to contact me. I relished the experience. 

Photo by Anete Lusina via Unsplash
I arrived at my friends' house half an hour earlier than I had told them and they were not in. I couldn't ring them to tell them where I was. I didn't know if they were OK and delayed or had had an accident. They were ringing me to tell me they were delayed and getting no response from me. They were anxious about me too. I didn't have their number written down anywhere and didn't know it off by heart so  couldn't ring them from another phone. 

Apart from this initial worry I found my phone-less Christmas enjoyable. I was more present with what was going on. I could only focus on where I was at the time, who I was with at the time and what I was doing at the time. I could really be with them. I wasn't looking at my phone every 5 minutes. I didn't realise how often I looked at my phone until I didn't have it with me. 

This experience has made me decide to try to use my phone less over the coming year. I want to learn to concentrate on one thing at a time. I want to be more present with what is going on around me, whether that be silence, conversation with friends or a TV programme. I may find I observe more of what is going on around me, which I hope will improve my writing. 

Photo by Mohammad Bagher Adib Behrooz via Unsplash
My experience has also made me realise that I don't often stop and just spend time truly relaxing. I am always doing something. I'm looking at my phone, the TV, my laptop or a book. Even when watching the TV I often have the phone in my hand playing scrabble or doing a jigsaw on it. It's constant stimulation. I often end up not giving any one thing my entire concentration.  I am rarely bored. I think it may contribute to increased stress levels and decreased creativity. Perhaps we need some time to be bored in order to increase creativity. 

I am reminded of the poem by William Henry Davies

    What is this life if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.

    No time to stand beneath the boughs
    And stare as long as sheep or cows.

    No time to see, when woods we pass,
    Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

    No time to see, in broad daylight,
    Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

    No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
    And watch her feet, how they can dance.

    No time to wait till her mouth can
    Enrich that smile her eyes began.

    A poor life this if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.

What do you think?

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The ACW 2017 reading challenge!

A reading challenge doing the rounds at the beginning of the month suggested reading 26 books in 2017 - one book every fortnight.  The meme provided categories of books across a broad range of genres.  Well, after a few tweaks to those categories (such as taking out 'a book over 100 years old' and adding in a couple of explicitly Christian categories) I give you the ACW 2017 reading challenge!

The suggestions I've provided are not even slightly comprehensive - I think I could have published an encyclopaedia-length list - and the authors here are all, to my knowledge, members of ACW, or connected in some way through the local groups, as well as having been recommended by members of the ACW Facebook community.  What a diverse and accomplished lot we are! 

So, this year, why not broaden your reading and support fellow writers at the same time by attempting to read at least one book from each category?  Don't just stick to my list - use the comments section to add your own reads, reviews and recommendations - and don't forget to share far and wide and get others involved as well!

(Just click on a book to see more details.  All links open in a new window)

Saturday, 14 January 2017

New week resolutions 14th January 2017 by Susanne Irving

Setting resolutions seems such a great idea, just as eating healthily and sensibly seems a good idea after the Christmas and New Year indulgences. However, as soon as someone offers me a nice piece of dark chocolate, homemade biscuits or another sweet I really enjoy (or I see Christmas goodies at bargaining prices in the January sales), I am back to my old eating pattern.
So with some trepidation, I checked out what I published in this blog a year ago.  I was convinced that I had written about my New Year resolutions. I was trying to figure out how to explain to you that many of my resolutions had not quite come to fruition – truth be told, there were some items on my list that I had forgotten about almost as soon as the words were written!

I am not alone in my struggles. Research has apparently shown that by the middle of January, so around about now, a lot of people will have already given up on their New Year resolutions. By 30th June, most people are no longer working on their goals.
As it turned out, I avoided the thorny subject of resolutions and played it safe in January 2016 by publishing a piece about my art course instead. It doesn’t solve my recurring problem with resolutions though.

For a few years, I made the resolution not to set any resolutions, but soon noticed the drawbacks of that approach. If I don’t have a plan, 
·         I am more likely to say “yes”, just because I am asked, and let other people make plans for me, 
·         I overspend my resources (both time and money) because I have not decided what I want,
·         I give myself the license to procrastinate (not that I need a lot of encouragement!),
·         I start projects without finishing them, which leads to clutter which leads to a sense of paralysis. 
There is also the small issue that Jesus seems to expect people to make a choice when He asks them what they want Him to do for them, and simply saying “I don’t know, You choose”, doesn’t seem to be the approach that is likely to elicit help.
So once again I have written down what I want to accomplish or change this year. Every week (OK, for the last two weeks) I have reviewed the vision and planned some weekly activities and experiments that may help me take steps towards achieving the goals. 
As I get easily distracted and bored, I figured that a week is about the right length of time to focus on something. When things go well, I simply extend what I am doing for another week. If things don’t work, I will try something different.
I am curious: Do YOU set goals? If yes, what helps or hinders your progress?
About the author:
Sue Irving is the co-ordinator for the Creative Communicators in Petersfield. She has co-written a book with her husband John about their experiences when climbing Kilimanjaro. It is aimed at both trekkers and those who are going through a dark time in their lives. How to conquer a mountain: Kilimanjaro lessons is available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon, with all proceeds going to charity.