Tag Archives: self care

Six Degrees: From Phosphorescence to The Nature Fix

It’s time once again for one of my favourite challenges! You can read the rules here for the Six Degrees Challenge as hosted by Kate from Books are my favourite and best.

This month we start with a book that I have not yet read, but I’ve had my eye on for a while: “Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark” by Julia Baird. Alas, it won’t be released until July, but it’s another thing to look forward to this summer.

From Goodreads:

“…when our world goes dark, when we’re overwhelmed by illness or heartbreak, loss or pain, how do we survive, stay alive or even bloom? In the muck and grit of a daily existence full of disappointments and a disturbing lack of control over many of the things that matter most – finite relationships, fragile health, fraying economies, a planet in peril – how do we find, nurture and carry our own inner, living light – a light to ward off the darkness?”

It seems a particularly appropriate book to read during these pandemic times.

“Book of Delights” by Ross Gay

From awe and wonder to delight.

I love this book! And even though not everything Gay writes about is delightful, it is still a delight to read the entries. Gay set out to write about a delight every day for a year, and although he didn’t manage to do it every day, he discovered a lot, including that the practice of doing so gave him “a kind of delight radar”. So the more he studied delight, the more delight there was to study. He also discovered that his delight grew the more he shared it.

“Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process” edited by Joe Fassler

From delight to life changing.

Do you remember a passage of literature that changed your life? The book is based on Fassler’s series “By Heart”, in which he asked artists to choose a favourite passage from literature and explain its personal impact and why it matters. As Fassler writes in the preface, “…each contributor tells some version of the same story: I read something, and I wasn’t the same afterward.”

“Vesper Flights” by Helen Macdonald

From life changing to wonder of nature.

Macdonald hopes that this book of essays will work “a little like a Wunderkammer. It is full of strange things and it is concerned with the quality of wonder.” She already had me in the first essay when she writes about her experience of clucking to a falcon chick still in its egg and the chick calling back.

“Two Trees Make a Forest” by Jessica J. Lee

From the wonder of nature to a journey to the forest and flatlands of Taiwan.

Having lived in China for a few years, I know a little bit about Taiwanese history as it relates to China, but this book introduced me to so much more. Written by an environmental historian, the memoir shows how “geographical forces are interlaced with our family stories.” Winner of the 2020 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction and a current contender in Canada Reads.

“The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature” by Sue Stuart-Smith

From a journey to the forest and flatlands of Taiwan to a journey to gardening and its benefits.

I’ve not read this one, but I am hoping that my book club picks it to read one month, as it would be fascinating to discuss this with like minded people. 

From Goodreads:

“A distinguished psychiatrist and avid gardener offers an inspiring and consoling work about the healing effects of gardening and its ability to decrease stress and foster mental well-being in our everyday lives.”

“The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative” by Florence Williams

From gardening and its benefits to connection to nature and its benefits.

I’ve started reading this, but again I am really hoping that the book will be one of my book club’s picks. The introduction already presents many startling facts. For example, “Mappiness” in a study discovered that it isn’t who you are with or what you are doing that is one of the biggest variables that makes you happy, but instead where you are. Being outdoors in all green or natural environments made study participants happier than being in urban environments.

So what’s the connection between the first and last books? Both deal with ways to weather the storms of life. In fact most of these books deal with that same subject.

I hope that you have enjoyed my journey this month. Next month we will start with 2020 Booker Prize Winner “Shuggie Bain” by Douglas Stuart.

I wish you many happy reading days.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

Writers and Self Care

Lately I have seen workshops and webinars about writing and self care popping up. I am glad to see that this important topic is being addressed.

A lot of writers share the same traits. We are often introverted. We can isolate ourselves. Many of us suffer from anxiety and depression.

Writers also are in an industry that can be really tough. We face a lot of rejection. There are many ways that we are sucked into comparing ourselves. We often suffer from impostor syndrome.

So what is a writer to do? It helps to know that a writer is not alone, which is why it is wonderful to see these workshops and webinars. We can learn from each other.

I recently watched a Showcase webinar from WriteOnCon about the topic. I will share one insight from each of the three facilitators that resonated with me.

Tara Gilbert, an agent and writer: 

Gilbert advises writers to find an alternative creative outlet, such as painting, playing the piano, or, in her case, photographing her dog. Know your limits, and when writing becomes too much, engage in one of these choices instead.

Monica Hay, a former social worker and a writer: 

Hay doesn’t do social media anymore (except for a little bit of Twitter about once a week). She found that when she deleted her accounts, it did amazing things for her mental health. There are a lot of comparisons happening on social media, as well as a lot of bullying. 

Jessica Bayliss, a psychologist and writer:

Bayliss has found it beneficial to find a support group that is separate from her critique group. Your critique group may not be able to offer you the support that you need, and your support group should be there to support you in ways separate from critiquing.

Jessica Bayliss also runs a series on her blog called “It’s a Writer Thing”. Click here to read one of her posts; this one is about pairing a stimulus with your writing to create a habit.

Phil Stamper, who is an author, but also works for a major publisher, was interviewed during WriteOnCon about “Mental Health as a Writer”. What he does to cope with anxiety is to set boundaries, e.g., he won’t check his e-mail in the middle of his workday in case he gets a rejection, which will ruin his day. Instead he will check his e-mail later in the day. Also, he suggests celebrating “milestones”, such as getting your first full request. Many writers never even get that far. In fact, many writers never even get as far as writing a few chapters! Celebrate that!

I also found the panel, hosted by Inkwell, that I attended at Wild Writers Festival helpful. Afterwards they gave out a handout regarding writing about difficult subjects. In the handout one of the suggestions is to “Make a list of ways to take care of yourself when your writing triggers tough feelings…” The group takes it a step further and suggests that the list should include ways to indulge in all five senses.

I didn’t indulge in all senses last week (but it’s something I am going to think about doing more), but I am going to write down five things that helped me:

  • During a really low point last week, I confessed my fears and thoughts of failure to my naturopath, who gave me a much needed pep talk.
  • I spent some time colouring again, sometimes while listening to favourite music.
  • I walked every day. I have increased the lengths of my walk again, which have helped me to process a lot of my thoughts. Plus anytime getting out in the sun, especially in the winter, is beneficial.
  • I spent a lovely morning volunteering at the butterfly conservatory. Not only did I get to chat with some of the employees, but I also surrounded myself with the plants, birds, and butterflies of the tropical paradise.
  • I kept up my writing habits, despite feeling down about my writing in general. 

No matter where you are in your writing journey, your writing benefits you in some way, even if you are not at the point of being published. You are transforming into that butterfly, even if it doesn’t feel like it! Happy writing.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler 

Wild Writers Literary Festival 2019

The Wild Writers Literary Festival is held once a year in Waterloo, Ontario. I enjoyed my first festival so much last year, I decided to attend again this year. This year I signed up for three workshops.

“Facing Your Fear of Poetry”

The facilitator, Sarah Tolmie, is an associate professor at University of Waterloo.

The workshop began with us breaking into groups of four in order to braid long ropes together. Although no one understood why we were doing this exercise, we had a lot of fun with it. You can see the results in the picture.

Afterwards we discovered that weaving together the braids was a metaphor for the process of creating poems. We then discussed what we had learned through the activity. For example, weaving together the strands made them connected, and, therefore, stronger. As well, you need to get the blood flowing to your brain in order to be able to create. So if you are ever sitting in front of a blank screen, then go out and do something, and, according to Tolmie, preferably something complicated.

“Ten Tips for Writing Great Creative Nonfiction”

This was my favourite workshop of all three. One reason is that I am starting to write more and more creative nonfiction.

The other is because the facilitator Ayelet Tsabari, author of a memoir in essays called “The Art of Leaving”, was very generous in sharing her tips to writing great creative nonfiction.

Tsabari began by saying that everybody has a story. (This is something I have always said. I really enjoy talking to people about their story as opposed to the latest TV shows or movies.) However, if you want to write great creative nonfiction, you need to tell your story well. Tsabari shared some tips about how to do so. She gave many great suggestions including discussing that often puzzling term called “Voice”, which she defined as your distinct personality, or what sets you apart from other writers. She also tackled the controversial issue of “show and tell”. According to Tsabari, you need to not only show but also tell; however, you need to know when to do each. In the picture you can read one of the author’s examples of showing from her own work.

A member of the “Creative Nonfiction Collective Society”, a national organization, gave a brief talk at the beginning of this workshop. The society will be announcing a contest soon, and they will host a conference in Toronto in May 2020.

“Self-Care for Writers 101”

This workshop was facilitated by Inkwell Workshops, a Toronto based organization.

A panel of writers discussed self-care for writers, which is a topic that needs to be addressed more often. For example, after writing, particularly on a difficult topic, you need to do something you enjoy. For me, that would mean taking a walk or chatting with a friend. How about you?

I am looking forward to next year’s Wild Writers Literary Festival. As well, I am considering entering the Creative Nonfiction Collective Society’s contest and may even attend their 2020 conference.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2019 Linda Schueler