Bad Art Is Fabulous in So Many Ways

Bad Art Is Fabulous in So Many Ways

‘Our spiritualities will be found not in what we profess, but in where our energies are most invested most hours of most days.’

James Hollis

Bad art is fabulous in so many ways.

Instead of letting poor writing or bad movies depress you, you can use them to inspire you. They can be a source of deep learning. In talks or on retreats, I bring out two books to prove my point that anyone can write a book – Roundabouts of Great Britain and Images You Should Not Masturbate To, both published by traditional publisher. True.

I’m right in the heart of writing my new book, The Sabbatical, about a group of women in their fifties, in which I want to shatter and refuse to accede to the defeating clichés about midlife, you know – the despair about ageing, sunspots, wrinkles, crowsfeet, the paunch, urinary incontinence, the muffin top, the weight gain, the libido-MIA, senile warts, the onset of all kinds of age-related (age-appropriate) wear ‘n tear, conditions, even diseases. We are worn-down-to-death by these narratives, they offer us nothing but same-old stories; an accession to decrepitude; more of what came before.

The Sabbatical is the third in the trilogy of Secret Mother’s Business, and explores the empty nest, divorce, widowhood, sickness, regret, relationships with adult children and the deep questions of what our responsibility is to the younger generation. I just didn’t want to fall into the bemoaning trap: getting old sucks, we’re invisible, woe are our tired-dried-up bits; let’s have another glass of wine.

So I was excited to see Amy Poehler’s directorial debut in the movie Wine Country, about a group of old friends who go off to Napa Valley to celebrate one of the friend’s 50th birthdays. Finally, a movie about women my age – ’bout time. I settled down to watch this, with huge anticipation thinking it would surely give me inspiration.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

I am always loathe to take up the role of the critic, it being such an easy, lazy position, generally by people who don’t create themselves. But – and this is a strong opinion – I detested this movie. If that’s what women become in our midlife, we are surely doomed – ridiculous, alcohol-motivated, sex-with-younger-men-seeking ego-maniacs. I wanted to be no-one in that movie. I didn’t want a single one of those women as my friends.

I love the talent of the actresses in that movie, but I wish Amy Poehler had just asked herself: what do women in their fifties need to know about themselves that society doesn’t already push down our throats? What kind of role models are women who are not obsessed with romance, body image, children and getting independently wealthy? What ‘message’ or vision of life is this movie in service to?

James Hollis writes, in Hauntings:

‘The goal of life (these days) is not an afterlife, but apparently to enjoy this one. But the materialistic vision of our time leads to this dilemma: if the numinous is not experienced in the outer world, it will manifest either as somatic illness, internalized pathology, or we will be owned by our search for it among the objects upon which we have projected our existential yearning in the outer world. Thus shiny new objects, seductive technologies, sex and romance, hedonism, self-absorption and most of all, distraction, constitute the chief ‘spiritualities’ of our time.’

Wine Country has been a great inspiration for my new book but not in the way I expected. It has helped me clarify the kind of women, conversations and bigger picture message I want my book to convey by showing me what I surely do NOT want to reflect back to readers. I want readers to finish my book, excited about ageing; their inner wisdom and the strength of their life experience to offer light to the younger generation.

So, I guess, thanks Amy Poehler for the awfulness that is Wine Country which has helped me shape, conceive and give life to my characters – women who are, each in their own way, strong leaders, deep thinkers, and who are taking our responsibility to lives beyond our egos, seriously.

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Show Don’t Tell: A Golden Rule of Writing for Aspiring Authors

Show Don’t Tell: A Golden Rule of Writing for Aspiring Authors

One of the trickier ‘golden rules of great writing’ that can be difficult to understand and execute is the ‘show don’t tell’ rule.

Anton Chekhov wrote, ‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.’

What does it mean to show not tell?

It’s the technique of painting a picture for the reader rather than spelling out what a character is sensing or feeling.

When should we use the ‘show don’t tell’ rule?

Generally, when we’re writing about emotions and senses, showing works well. However, we need a balance of showing and telling in a text. Telling is more effective when we’re summarizing backstory or describing action.

Why should we use it?

When we show, we paint an image for the reader (like in movies) so the reader gets to interpret and feel his or her own emotional response. This is how we create rich, vivid text that is open to interpretation. It makes writing inviting, not didactic.

E.g. She was grief struck (telling) versus ‘Something cold flickered inside her, memories of her mother moved like minnows beneath a dark surface.’(showing)

When we ‘show’ we leave spaces for the reader to fill in with his or her imagination.

The movie director, David Mamet talks about ‘telling the story in cuts…through a juxtaposition of images that are basically uninflected…a shot of a teacup. A shot of a spoon. A shot of a fork. A shot of a door. Let the cut tell the story. Because otherwise you have not got dramatic action, you have narration. If you slip into narration, you are saying, ‘you’ll never guess why what I just told you is important to the story.’ It’s unimportant that the audience should guess why it’s important to the story. It’s important simply to tell the story. Let the audience be surprised.’

Telling robs the reader of his or her own emotional take on the situation. It flattens instead of expands the text.

‘She is lonely’ versus ‘She looks for a kind face but never sees one.’

When we ‘show’ we’re letting the reader in, we’re writing for the reader. Showing opens rather than closes the text.

‘He felt hot’ versus ‘Large half moons of sweat grew at his armpits.’

The writer Adam Robinson’s exercise for showing not telling is: drop an adjective into a sentence like this ‘He was so….. that he once.’ Or ‘the day was so cold that…’ Then delete the first half of the sentence.

Have fun experimenting.

Keep writing – the sentences you don’t write keep you where you are. The ones you do, take you places.

PS: Show Don’t Tell is just one key element of writing. For more tips and exercises to strengthen your craft, sign up for my 7 Day Free Writing Challenge.

Join the 7 Day FREE Writing Challenge

 

This writing journey over one week will serve those who are new to writing and don’t know where to begin or what to write about. As well as seasoned writers, we all need to reignite an old flame with words to see if there’s any chemistry.

Join me for my next 7 Day Free Writing Challenge and learn simple but profound writing tricks.

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Nobody Can Do This, But Me

Nobody Can Do This, But Me

When I was younger, I believed I needed rescuing.

One day, sitting at an airport, I realised I didn’t want to be that person. I was homeward bound, after galivanting with no purpose, when I suddenly recognised that I could take responsibility for myself, and that I didn’t need to sit around waiting for someone to do it for me. That was the day I began to grow. I took charge of me. I decided to hold myself accountable for the unfolding of my life.  And since that moment, I have grown and evolved into the person I am today. Once I was a lost, lonely girl waiting to be saved.  But now when I look into my past, and see the me I have become, I am in awe of what I have achieved, especially because back then I didn’t know I could.

I run my own Pilates studio now.  And at the beginning of last year I realized I was at another crossroads. I was tired. Tired of being beholden to ideas and thoughts that were not my own, of trying to make everybody happy, and of not sticking to my boundaries. I took a month sabbatical, and the time away helped me see things from a different vantage point. I became clear on what I liked about my profession (and what I liked about myself), why I wanted to teach, and what my boundaries were. I asked myself, ‘What did I want to impart’, ‘Who was I willing to work with (and who was I not)’, and ‘What was important to me?’ I worked on channelling my energy from ‘have to do’s’ to ‘want to do’s.’ I rediscovered my joy of teaching. I remembered what I wanted people to feel when they were in my communal space, and what I wanted to give back to those who trusted me to move them.

I began to see who I was again. I had never been one to put down roots, for years being a restless wanderer, but over the years this changed. I brought my energy, my trust, my process of belonging in my own body – of falling into my skin – to others who needed a safe place to learn to do the same. My sabbatical happened to coincide with an imminent house and studio move, and I realised I would be able to create a studio space to encompass these insights.

About  Robyn

Robyn Spacey is a born and bred Capetonian. Though she hasn’t travelled extensively,  with a mountain, beach and city on her doorstep, she believes she lives in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Robyn is an avid reader, a movement teacher, andmother to a young girl. In her work, she uses words to impart ideas to clients to visualise the unseen spaces under their skins. This trusting of words to bodies has translated into the belief in the power of her own story, the confidence to pen them onto the page, and a deepening into the process of writing her book. She is, has always been, and will continue to be a writer.

Get more of Robyn at www.movementsanctuary.co.za or www.thebookclubblog.co.za

With physical renovations being necessary, I also decided to rebrand my business. Both processes needed consideration and choices in different aspects. One asked questions of my external vision, and one of my internal. Now, my decision making process can be haphazard, leaning either to a firm no nonsense approach, or the complete opposite where I don’t know ANYTHING. (I blame the effect of the moon for this…) But, I persisted. I answered questions, visualised, stretched, and transformed. Finally, with a little help from a designer who managed to climb into my head, I now have a new logo, a new name, and a new space.

I did it. I made it happen because I am no longer waiting for someone to save me. I realized a dream because I believed in myself, and in taking that next step.

For me, 2018 was the year of change, and so while all of this was happening (renovating takes time), I was also writing the first draft of my book. And I realised writing is a lot like rebranding. It is a vision only I can see. A dream only I can feel.

My book lives only inside of me. Inside my soul. There are characters who slowly reveal themselves to me as I begin to trust my vision, my words. But this book requires tenacity, effort and persistence. Bravery. It requires that I put in the work. It demands belief in myself and what I have to say. It needs rescuing from the very heart of me, by me.

No one else is going to do the work. Only I can let the words out, one after another, to trap them onto the pages of reality, to become tangible. To be a reflection of what I can achieve, of who else I am becoming. It takes time and trust. Belief, even in my darkest moments of doubt. It takes re-writing as many times as I need to. It takes asking the right questions, visualising, stretching the mind, and confidence in the transformation so eventually, with a little help from my mentor, I will manifest my book into reality.

One word at a time.

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One Story in an Immeasurable Community

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Playing By My Rules

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Sometimes You Just Need a Little More Time

Sometimes You Just Need a Little More Time

If you ever want to learn how to build a successful business, grow your team, create online programmes, become a publisher and burn yourself out in a few short years, just follow my example.

Since 2014, I’ve been on an exhilarating, heart-opening, community-building trajectory – and it’s felled me. I’m talking marrow-sapping weariness. I knew I was burning out a year ago – the bigger my business grew, the faster the pace of my life became. I slept little. I talked about ‘taking a break’ but I didn’t know how to stop the ride. So mid-December last year, my body stopped it for me.

I don’t mean to ever glamorize suffering – and if I ever do – please just slap me (not physically, I’m anti-violence, but you know, just let me know what utter bullshit that is). But I do know that our worst experiences – while they bully us out of our strengths and break us into itsy bitsy pieces – herald a new era.

And thus begins mine. Which, I’m excited to say, has some benefits for you. Today our new website goes live. You can go to it here, but let me share what we’ve prepared for you.

My team and I have grown so much in the past few years, we’ve learned a hell of a lot from all of you, our beloved community – through the feedback we’ve received, that we’ve rethought, rebranded and reworked our offerings to give you:

  • more time,
  • more options,
  • more free stuff.

 

About Joanne

Joanne Fedler is an internationally bestselling author of 10 books, writing mentor and publisher. In the past seven years, she’s facilitated 12 writing retreats all over the world, mentored hundreds of writers (both face to face and in her online writing courses), set up her own publishing company, Joanne Fedler Media, and published four debut authors (with many lined up to follow). She’s passionate about publishing midlife memoirs and knows how to help people succeed in reaching their goal to become a published author.

Here are the highlights:

1. You can now do the 7 Day Free Writing Challenge – anytime and at your own pace. It’s available all year round. No rush, no stress, just in your own sweet hours (but don’t procrastinate on your writing, please). Feel free to do it again if you’ve done it before, or have a crack at it for the first time now.

7 day FREE writing challege

2. You can choose what kind of help you’re looking for based on what you’re writing and where you’re at in your writing journey (beginning, somewhere in the middle, memoir, self-help…)

3. You can help yourself to a library of free resources we’ve stacked in here for you including our free Author Potential Profile Assessment.

4. At any time, you can reach out to our team for a free one-on-one chat to help you when you’re stuck.

We hope we’ve mapped an experience that guides and supports you like never before. Please let us know what the user-experience is like, we’d love your feedback.

 


the midlife memoir breakthrough

After the success of The Midlife Memoir Breakthrough just a few weeks ago, we’re planning a few live events/retreats in 2020 (when I’ve had a proper Sabbatical and written my new book, which is called…. The Sabbatical). If you want to be the first to know when and where – please reach out to Norie so we have you flagged: [email protected]


We launched Michele Brown‘s book This Kind of Silence in Sydney on 31 March – and what a day that was. You can catch the speeches here and buy a copy of her astonishing memoir here.


Now – it is time for me to switch off. My team is still here, and ready to help at anytime. Meet them all on the new website by clicking here

Come and Join Joanne for the next 7 Day Free Writing Challenge

 

Where do we start when we want to write?
How about right here?

I designed this 7 Day Free Writing Challenge for people just like you who have always wanted to write but don’t know where or how to begin the journey.

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Swimming with Details

Swimming with Details

I just returned from a family trip to the Big Island of Hawaii where we celebrated my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. We experienced vast views of lava-filled fields against turquoise waters, watched white puffs of whale blows, cheered breaches of power, savored sunsets and colorful skies, and golfed on fairways frequented by goats.

One morning, we drove south of Kona to a beach commonly referred to as Two Step because of its easy gradation for swimmers into a popular, vibrant snorkeling destination. After carefully stepping barefoot over mounds of black lava brushed with a dust of golden sand, four of us sat on a mossy ledge at the water’s edge. With sunshine beaming on my shoulders, I put on my fins, mask and snorkel, and joined the gentle surf, returning to the warm, refreshing Pacific Ocean with a glide.

Swimming out, my neck became a swivel of curiosity, marveling right away at the colorful life below. White coral, purple leaves, schools of bright yellow tang, and sharp spines of black sea urchin filled my view. I studied hidden openings to see creatures darting in and out, parrot fish lingering, and a large school of black fish shuffling by.

I ventured out further after noticing where the sharp shelf of reef fell off to introduce a deeper, less color-filled, more barren territory. Drawn to ray beams of light that cut through the empty water to create an angelic-like display, I explored the place of open serenity. This new scene seemed like nothing compared to the brilliance of the reef, until I glanced to my right.

 

About Michele

Michele Susan Brown is the author of This Kind of Silence: How Losing My Hearing Taught Me to Listen. She is a writer and a speaker based in Northern California, where she lives with her husband, two dogs, and the wild birds that visit her backyard feeders. Michele enjoys connecting with others and engaging in deep discussions about the importance of listening to our own intuition, being brave and vulnerable, and the freedom found in authenticity and truth.

You can connect with her at www.wisdomwithinworkbook.com, and/or write to her at [email protected]

A pod of at least sixteen Spinner dolphins were suddenly beside me. Several seemed to greet me with inviting eyes, and I instinctively placed my hands behind my back, clasped them, and gently kicked my fins to increase my pace and join them. With grace, we all swam together. They gradually joined me near the surface where each took their conscious breath.

I stared at their pointy rostrums, their dark-lined flippers, the subtle shade changes on their bodies from belly to pectoral fins. I became one with them for moments that folded into minutes. My heart expanded, my eyes filled, and a surge of awe moved through me at the utter sense of oneness. We were the only beings that existed, and I enjoyed their company for as long as they allowed.

Later, sitting in a beach chair on uneven lava and feeling reflective, I started thinking about being a writer and the importance of being able to create vivid, strong scenes. I realized how my experience in the water could be an effective example and a reminder of how to do that. And I began to ponder deeper into how I might communicate the nuance in every moment, regardless of whether it is common or exceptional.

When I want to write important scenes, it helps me to visualize writing it as if watching a movie.

The “pan out” or larger view set-up, and then the zoom in and focus on specific action and detail. If I can think of myself as a movie director watching a scene unfold, I can ask myself questions like:

  • Where are we in space and time?
  • What’s visible and noticeable that calls to be captured?
  • What sounds do I hear?
  • What sensations are evident?
  • What details beckon to speak?
  • What emotions arise?

If I can linger there, draw out the experience by immersing myself in it with full presence, and capture it with visceral words, then I can link arms with my reader and take them on the journey with me.

Just as the dolphins drew me right into full presence alongside them.


 

Michele has just launched her book, This Kind of Silence, on International Women’s Day.

To learn more about the book and to watch Michele’s interview with Joanne Fedler, please click the button below.

 

 

“A beautifully written book that instills hope in the great mysteries of life and reminds us of the powerful connection between the body, mind, and soul. This story will return you to the deep wisdom of your own knowing. It may even make you believe in miracles.” —Joanne Fedler

 

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