How to Touch What Is Beautiful

How to Touch What Is Beautiful

lessons in writing

‘I did not survive to be untouched.’ – Mark Nepo

Today, my friends, is my 52nd birthday. I know, right? I don’t look a day over 50.

The past year has been a mix of magic and mayhem. I count among the highs my discovery of ocean swimming and the return of my writing fire. A serious back injury, and the loss of a beloved friend, Carol Thomas took me into some deep grief that keeps coming back and nudging me, reminding me how impermanent everything is.

2019 has also been the year when we’ve finally woke up to what’s happening on our planet. 

It’s so difficult not to feel overwhelmed with indifference, anxiety, anger and sadness. You may find yourself escaping into food, drink, shopping, travelling or Netflix just to get some relief. We’re all looking for ways to stay untouched by what is going awry around us.  

It’s a simple wish, isn’t it? The desire to feel happy and well. But in a world that is diseased and poisoned, perhaps it’s impossible to feel truly well or happy when everything is so askew.

So maybe we can’t have ‘happiness,’ but what is certain is that we can touch it. Now and then. Maybe we can’t be ‘calm’ or ‘peaceful’ all the time but we can taste it, here and there. We owe it to ourselves to touch what is beautiful and meaningful. If we can keep returning to touch and be touched by awe, gratitude and wonder, we stay connected, alive, in tune with what is both painful and the grace that helps us overcome pain.

For a while, I’ve been thinking about how to create something that could bring pleasure or joy or mindfulness to others – through writing. Not a big project like a book, something small, manageable and designed to be fun.

So I put together a little joy-bundle called Just A Touch – it’s 24 writing exercises over 24 weeks. Each exercise takes you somewhere, just for a while, and lets you play.

Just a Touch Online Writing Course - Exercises

Just a Touch is designed to:
– bring the kindness of writing into your life;
– connect you to your heart through writing even if you don’t know where to start;
– tickle your writing bone and take you by surprise.

It would help me immensely to cover the costs of the creation of the course if you’re able to purchase it for $39.95 AUD.
However, if for any reason, you cannot afford this, please don’t let this stop you.
You can pay whatever you like for it over $1 AUD. 

 

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.

Joanne Fedler birthday

‘I write and I feel how the tenderness and intimacy I maintain with language, with its different layers, its eroticism and humor and soul, give me back the person I used to be, me, before my self became nationalized and confiscated by the conflict, by governments and armies, by despair and tragedy.’ – David Grossman

 

It would give me such pleasure to know you’ve chosen to touch your writing over the next 24 weeks, and that you’ve committed to the radical act of being touched by the grief and grace of your life.

Get Just a Touch here.

It’s super-easy:

* purchase the Just A Touch course by clicking the button below or click here;

* you will receive your first writing exercise immediately;

* every week, for the next 23 weeks, you’ll receive a new writing exercise in your inbox

(if you can’t find it in your inbox, please check your spam/promotions folder).

I had so much fun creating these exercises, I hope they’ll keep you in touch with the part of you that needs nurturing in these troubled times.

What Is Worth Being Famous For?

I always wanted to be famous. I once imagined if Ellen DeGeneres just had the chance to meet me, we’d become best friends. And that if Annie Leibovitz got a glimpse of my profile, she’d beg to photograph this nose. And that if Jamie ever got my lamb shank recipe out...

A Man’s Job

There is, however, a fine line between an acceptance of these jobs as ‘natural’ and the slippery slope into boorish gender stereotypes in which I am invariably left unshod with a frilly apron at the kitchen sink. Whilst I can do anything if I wish to, I do believe there are certain tasks I, as a woman, am simply and without further explanation excused from. I don’t want to get into a conversation about it and I don’t want to fight about it.

Memoir Is a Moving Target

I thought I knew what my memoir was about. I was there after all. I thought it was a matter of working out where to start and where to end so I could settle my story down somewhere in between. How difficult could it be? So I started writing, in earnest, in the place I...

The Stories Our Wardrobes Tell

‘Can I wear this?’ my teenage daughter asked, holding up a black silk shirt from my wardrobe. ‘I need a black top for drama and I don’t have one.’ ‘Ummmm….’ I paused, remembering that the last time I wore that shirt, it was ripped off me in a moment of passion by a...

Zoom In

Holy shit. I need glasses. Like clockwork, the switch for my blurry vision gene was flicked on the day I turned forty. I’m not sure why I was surprised. I’m the one who, for decades, was prepared for my period every fourth Tuesday at ten o’clock. Some women know the...

Three Voices, Three Stories, Three Survivors

“My husband hit me.”I saw the darkened bruises on the chestnut brown skin of her face, just under her right eye and asked, “Aayana, what happened?” anticipating the worst before she answered. It was the first time I had heard those words. I had watched my father...

Bad Art Is Fabulous in So Many Ways

Bad Art Is Fabulous in So Many Ways

lessons in writing

‘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.

How Do You Say the Thing You Are Not Allowed to Say?

“What is the source of our first suffering? It lies in the fact that we hesitated to speak....it was born in the moments when we accumulated silent things within us.” - Gaston Bachelard There are things we are allowed to say and things we are not allowed to say. We...

Ouch – a Painful Start to 2019

I rushed to South Africa mid-December, when I got that call. You know the one. Your father is critically ill. During the 14-hour flight, I prayed. Please let him live. I cried when the lights went down. I didn’t know what I was flying back for. A protracted, drawn-out...

The Catharsis of Writing

Beneath the bluest of skies, clouds can gather. This week my clouds collided in a cacophony of noise. Many of us with mental health issues are lured by the seductive whisper of maladaptive coping mechanisms, and traversing darkness can blind the strongest of us to any...

Mistakes to Avoid When You Write a Self-Help Book

I’m such a huge fan of a great self-help book which can raise our vibrational frequency if the author wrote it with energetic integrity - not from a place of ego, but rather as a transmitter of wisdom and as an act of service to the reader. A book like this is often...

What Your Reader Doesn’t Want to See

I’m a novice writer. But I’m an experienced reader, as most writers (novice or not) tend to be. As I sink my teeth into yet another book, I find myself frustrated with the writing, but intrigued by the content. The author had a clear vision of what the story meant to...

To My Sisters Who Are in Their Midlife

To my sisters who are in their midlife, I read a piece yesterday about how ‘invisible’ women over 50 become. It was one of those old cliched tirades against menopause and ageing and how she's going to wear her short skirt and go to clubs and get drunk and do what she...

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

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

lessons in writing

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.

Girlfriends

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One Story in an Immeasurable Community

Some years back, when I had half the number of children I do now and half the ache in my heart, I found my first writing community. It was at the Centre for the Book, a historically solid structure in the middle of Cape Town, close to the austere buildings which...

Writing About Writing About Writing

I have recommitted to writing. This is the anthem I have been singing for the last two-thirds of a year—a requiem for wasted time, claimed during the approach of my son’s first birthday. I was in a place of relative peace as this promise to myself was made, and I...

Joanne Fedler Media Spotlight: Jess Zlotnick

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Spotlight on Michele Susan Brown

Happy International Women's Day. I hope you're going to make some time for yourself today - to listen in to your heart, and to reconnect with the life inside you that is only yours. Maybe do something kind for your body. Give it a compliment. A massage. A dunk in the...

How to Salvage Your Writing from the Crematorium of Cliche

Aspiring writers sometimes ask me, ‘How can I write like you?’ The answer is, ‘You don’t want to write like me, you want to write like you. You want to find your writing voice, and that will be nothing like mine.’ But I get what people are really asking me. They’re...

Nobody Can Do This, But Me

Nobody Can Do This, But Me

lessons in writing

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.

Surviving Teenagers

I call my kids to come see this YouTube video of some father in the US who ends his rant against his teenage daughter’s ‘I-hate-my-parents’ Facebook post, by emptying the barrel of a gun into her laptop. I suppose I’m hoping it’ll dawn on them I’m not such a terrible...

What Is Worth Being Famous For?

I always wanted to be famous. I once imagined if Ellen DeGeneres just had the chance to meet me, we’d become best friends. And that if Annie Leibovitz got a glimpse of my profile, she’d beg to photograph this nose. And that if Jamie ever got my lamb shank recipe out...

Girlfriends

Men are good for a great number of jobs, I’m thinking specifically of killing spiders and changing tyres, but they are useless when it comes to a second opinion when shopping for a new outfit and repeating the conversation they just had on the phone which you know...

Nobody Walks This Earth Alone

Nobody walks this earth alone. TS Eliot wrote, ‘April is the cruellest month,’ but he got that wrong. It is June. Yeesh, it was a bad month. My work threw up one hardcore challenge after the other. I barely had a chance to catch my breath before the next one hit....

Are You Sharing or Over-Sharing?

I am by nature a sharer, and am delighted, for example, when people help themselves to food on my plate. As far as I’m concerned, few things are more enjoyable alone than in a group. I am happy to be shared with too. Tell me your secrets, your deepest desires and...

Where the Fight Is Won or Lost

You can learn the craft of writing any way you choose: you can take a course, you can read a book about writing, you can read great writers until your eyeballs bleed. There is no one way to learn what you need to know about writing. And that's because the craft of...

Sometimes You Just Need a Little More Time

Sometimes You Just Need a Little More Time

lessons in writing

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.

Playing By My Rules

It is early evening after dinner, and I stare into the kitchen sink. I gently draw patterns with the bubbles that remain from the washing up. I herd them into the centre of the sink and I turn the tap on and let the water trickle slowly, washing some of the bubbles...

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...

The Art of Reframing

I come from a family of Oh My Godders. In my family, everything was a potential calamity: a sore throat. An impending storm. A parking ticket. Being late. Being early. Now if you grow up in OMG-hood, you learn to panic. Without much provocation. Everything in life is...

On Returning to the Home I Grew Up In

We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there. ―Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon I sit and watch the sun come up over Johannesburg...

This Is Not the Story I Wanted to Write

This is not the story I was planning to write.But sometimes the stories we don’t intend to tell are the ones that most need to be shared.It begins with a typical night out: drinking and dancing at a club. Except the drink a guy handed me was spiked. I have no...

Writing Is Also About Erasing (On Editors)

Before I became a published author, I didn’t like editors. I couldn’t bear the thought of them, with their red pens and their pursed lips, their eyes like crabs across the page, just looking to pinch at my text with their editorial pincers. I used to be terrified of...