Category: Writing life
Feeling inspired by Jen’s recent book post I wanted to share some of the books that are dear to me. I own a lot of books and all of them have impacted me in some way, but these are a few of the non-fiction ones that changed me for the better…
The Book of Love and Creation by Paul Selig
Okay, this is where I finally step out of the woo woo closet. As I mentioned in my own book, I’m not a religious person but I’m definitely bit of a spiritual magpie. I bought my first deck of tarot cards in my teens and have been interested in all thing new age ever since. Out of all the metaphysical books I’ve read over the years, this is the book that’s had the most profound effect on me. There is so much love and wisdom, such gentle humour, such deep understanding, so many a-has… If you’re at all interested in personal growth and consciousness, read this book.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
When I grow up I want to be Anne Lamott. Out of all the writers-writing-about-writing books I have, Bird by Bird has the most dog-earred pages. Her suggestion to “write a shitty first draft” helps me to get over myself every time I sit down to write something. It really is a wonderful book about writing… and life.
Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Conner
Out of all my journalling books (are you sensing a theme here?) this one speaks to the way I use my journal to connect to my own innate wisdom — and that which is outside of me. Also check out Life’s Companion by Christina Baldwin.
Selected Poems by Sharon Olds
When I started blogging back in 2006 I reconnected to my love of words in a way I hadn’t felt in all my years as a journalist. Finding my way back to poetry opened new doors in my brain, and it was Sharon Olds’ work that moved me the most. She writes about the guts of life. She just knows.
The Dance by Oriah Mountain Dreamer
I loved The Invitation, but it was The Dance that pierced my heart. If you’ve read my book it won’t be a surprise to discover I love Oriah’s words — the way she weaves personal stories and realisations together was my guiding light as I did my best to create my own tapestry. We all have to start somewhere and she was a huge inspiration for me.
Companion Through the Darkness by Stephanie Ericsson
This is the book that kept me afloat in my first year of bereavement. Never has a book been more important to me than this one. These days I find I can’t pick it up as it connects me to my past loss so fast I have to sit down. Powerful and healing for those who need it.
Creating Money by Sanaya Roman & Duane Packer
Another one to file in the woo woo category (my my, I’m really showing you all my knickers today!) but this book was another life-changer for me. When I moved to Bath in 2008 and was trying to rebuild my life, this was the book that helped me the most. It wasn’t even the ‘money’ part that drew me to it — it helped me figure out where I was going. It helped me get closer to my purpose. A few months later I created Unravelling and taught it as an evening class… and now I’m here. Magical book.
So there you have it. A few of my most treasured books.
What books have changed you for the better? Please do share!
There’s an elephant in the room that I have to address. I touched on it in last week’s post — that was my attempt to let a little steam out of the pressure cooker, but it’s still building and now I have to say something.
I have blogger’s block. More specifically, there’s stuff I can’t talk about on the blog and it’s blocking the way for any other posts to emerge.
As some of you have guessed already, it’s the dating. Not that there’s anything major to report in that area right now, but I’m so acutely aware that current and future dates will be able to read my blog (some have been clever enough to try Googling “Susannah” and oh, there I am, plastered all over the bloody internet for all to see). Being famous in my own virtual living room is proving to be as much of a hindrance as I feared it might be. I mean, there’s SEVEN FREAKING YEARS of archives to explore — it’s like handing someone my diary. And yet it’s not. This blog is the public face of the last seven years. It’s what i felt comfortable sharing with the world, and there is plenty I have not shared. But when you dive into the archives for the first time… it’s overwhelming. God, it overwhelms ME sometimes.
I mention this because I don’t want to leave you guys hanging, and even though blogs are more like online magazines these days, this space remains personal for me. I have no intention to fill the pages with guest posts and impersonal Tips for Fixing Your Life. I started blogging to chronicle my healing journey, and here we are, nearly eight years later, and things have changed. A lot. The healing journey has morphed into a life lived with intention and curiosity. I share my stories and experiences because that is what I know. And I do it in the hope that it might be useful to someone else, and frankly, because it’s helpful for me, too. There have been many moments over the years when I’ve wondered why I think anyone would give a toss about me and my journey. But then I only have to look at the majority of the books on my shelves to see that sharing stories and experiences is the language I understand best. Leading by example. Reporting back from the trenches. Yes and yes, I love all of that. The books that have had the greatest impact on my life are all personal tales from women sharing what they know. Writers like Julia Cameron and Oriah Mountain Dreamer. Dawna Markova and Ann Lamott. May Sarton. Joan Didion. Erica Jong and Natalie Goldberg. Diana Athill and Cheryl Strayed. Anais Nin and Sharon Olds. I’m not saying that my writing comes even close to the magic of this tribe of extraordinary women, but these are the writers who’ve inspired and supported me over the years.
I wrote the first part of this post yesterday. This morning I woke with a possible solution — perhaps it’s time to blank slate this space. To let go of the literal archives that weigh me down. I no longer need the ballast of my story to justify my presence here. As I wrote the book in 2011 I knew I was putting the past to rest; now it’s time for the blog to catch up. So as of right now I’ve started archiving the archives. 2006 has gone, 2007 is next. Then 2008. Maybe some of 2009. I won’t get rid of everything as there are still plenty of useful posts here, but I’m ready to let go of the heaviness of the story. It’s not me anymore and honestly, it hasn’t been for a long time. I honour the past — and yes, i still have my moments — but I am more interested in the future. And the awkward humbling reality of the present.
I wrote my first ever journal entry when I was eleven. My guinea pig had died and it was clearly noteworthy enough for me to open a (Brambly Hedge — remember them?) notebook, jot down the date and write “Tonic died today.” Our guinea pigs were called Gin and Tonic — I think Gin departed this world soon after, too. From then on I wrote in the notebook, filling it up and starting another, filling that up and switching to a binder with looseleaf A4 paper. I have my entire teenage chronicled in an ever-changing array of handwriting styles, coloured pens and dramatic exclamations — losing my virginity is recorded in extraordinary detail *ahem*
Having this diary is such a gift. I’ve dipped into it over the years, and once I get past the cringe-worthy accounts of a teenage girl’s life, there are gems to be found, flashes of insight that make me marvel at how much I intuited even at such a young age. But the most important thing that diary gave me was a journalling practice for life.
When my love died in 2005 I filled a whole Moleskine notebook in a month, pouring out everything I’d wanted to say to him, trying to make sense of what had happened. I had our entire relationship recorded in my journal, from every sweet thing he’d ever done for me to the usual frustrations a couple in love encounters. My journal has been my sanity keeper in the worst times of my life. It’s been the receptacle for the sweetest memories, the most embarrassing secrets and the daily humdrum banality of being alive.
I’ve always wanted to have one of those sketchbooks filled with artsy inked notes and clever watercolour vignettes. I went to art college but I can’t draw to save my life, so I’ve learned how to do it my way, with words and cut-out images and the occasional glue stick. I call it my Creative Dream Journal and it lives in a turquoise Filofax filled with images and scribbles, plans and lists, poetry and musings. So much of what I have drawn into my life over the last few years first existed in my CDJ. Which is why I decided to make the creation of a Creative Dream Journal the focus of my new course.
Over the years my journal has existed in many forms, but at its core it’s been my confidante and safe place. Whether I’m using pen and paper or postcards and washi tape, it’s the way I access my innermost dreams and my most honest and authentic voice. I don’t lie in my journal so I always get the truth about myself reflected back at me. I can join the dots backwards and witness my own growth. So many times I’ve leafed through my journal to figure out why I was feeling a certain way and had I felt that before…. had I survived it? And it’s all in there, the proof that I have survived: the grief, the PMS, the moving home, the making and breaking of friendships. It’s all in there. Its like having my own manual-of-me.
When I die I’m sure there will be loved ones who’ll appreciate having my journals to read through to help them feel more connected to their mama/auntie/wife, but for now my journal is for me alone. It’s the bestest friend I’ve ever had and my constant companion.
I really can’t say enough about how incredible — and useful — journalling is. So I’ve made a course to share the love and help others ignite their journalling passion, too.
Registration for Journal Your Life opens tomorrow. I hope you can join me!