Face to face: face those fears and show them the door!

We are all in our own way battling fears and self doubts, about decisions made, life choices, jobs, creative endeavours, pretty much everything. Yes there are those lucky few who sail through life never second guessing anything they say or do, who have unswerving self-confidence regardless of any reasons pro or against – well good for them. But for the rest of us mere mortals, especially those of us who are pursuing a creative career, writers, illustrators, actors, singers etc., crippling self-doubt kind of comes with the territory. ūüė¶

The fact that you have chosen an entirely subjective career path which by the nature of it, is open to a great deal of criticism, speculation and even ridicule, hardly helps. Neither does the fact that most creative people tend to be very sensitive – almost a precursor to being a writer, poet or artist of any kind.

Pencil portrait of Richard E Grant

So, apart from navigating the choppy waters of crippling self-doubt and external criticism, sometimes, just sometimes you have to man (or woman) up and face your fears.

For me, some of that is allowing myself to be bold enough to actually set goals for myself. To say that this year I am going to achieve ___________.

Setting goals is a scary business, it’s laying your cards face up on a table and saying to the world – this is what I’m going to do and risk that ridicule and criticism if you don’t manage it.

But, as a brilliant writer friend of mine has said, someone who has ambitions and rightly so (watch this space people), what’s holding you back? Face those fears, fly your flag, pin your colours to the main brace and declare “I am here, and here is what I am going to do! I WILL achieve this!”

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So, I am risking¬†the embarrassment of setting out my goals for this year – there is no try, there is only do or do not: ūüėÄ

  1. Completely finish writing and edit Darkling Rise (the very long awaited sequel to White Mountain that has taken me FAR too long to write!).
  2. Lose a minimum of two stone (hopefully three) for long-term health benefits and a major life commitment I have made to myself (before I’m too old for it to work) – I’ll be less cryptic when I’m nearer to achieving this goal.
  3. Continue writing short stories and my dark novel, Ravenwing (hopefully to a first draft stage).
  4. Continue building my illustration business. So far I haven’t had to advertise as people have been approaching me, but I need to step up my game and get more commissions going and widen my reputation.*
  5. Build a stronger online presence, as my mate calls it, sort out my ‘brand’, which will help grow followers, fans and help sales as well as getting more reviews and make me more visible to potential opportunities. Yes we’d all love the Game of Thrones success of George R. Martin (though I’ve never fancied the fame bit)¬†but at the end of the day, most of us just want to be able to write and create full-time and make a living from it (enough to pay the bills at least).
  6. Finish my picture book ‘The Little Girl Who Lost Her Smile’ (the story is written but I need to finish drawing and painting all 24 illustrations – I had no idea just how much work is involved in making a picture book!).
  7. Bite the bullet and try subbing to agents, both for my picture book and Ravenwing (once it’s finished) and stop being afraid of success or trying to be successful!!!!
  8. Continue the daily Artmaniac Challenge, creating new art EVERY DAY for a whole year!**
  9. Pay more attention to my lovely little blog (yes, you guys) and blog more often – Sorry!

So there you go,¬†9 goals for the year. Will I achieve them all? Only time will tell, but I’m going to try my bloody hardest.

Face your fears…

So, what are YOU going to achieve this year?

Pencil sketch of Christopher Walken by Sophie E Tallis

* Yes, I have some exciting news to share to do with HarperCollins. I have signed a contract with them and will fill you all in very soon! ūüėÄ

** The reason for my doing portraits at the moment for the Artmaniac Challenge, is due to the wonderful inspiration that is the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year (and yes, I am thinking about doing it next year!) ūüėÄ xxx

 

Adjust Your Expectations.

A brilliant, brilliant post here and so so true! ūüėÄ

quickmeups - short uplifting messages.

We’re taught to try our hardest to expect the best. Give it your all and great things will come your way. We love stories of triumph and succeeding against the odds. We love the stories of sports star that came from nothing, and young singers with no formal teaching who becomes famous in front of our eyes.

We see it so often that it becomes normal. If they can do it, we all should, and we expect the same. The problem is, if every time we touch a basketball we expect to make every shot and be the best… we probably won’t be very content after the game.

If every time you pick up a guitar you expect to write a chart-topping hit song, you’ll probably end up disappointed.

While it’s important to dream, to set goals, and to strive to be our best, it’s also important to Adjust Your Expectations.

Inspirational smile from an older woman working in the streets in India. An older woman…

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Are you supported? Friendship and passing 27,000 hits!

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Okay, this is not a blog post about supportive bras (sorry guys!), but it is about friendship and support. Do you have people who support you or leave you swinging in the wind?

I am absolutely THRILLED that my¬†tiny little blog has now passed 27,000 visitors and want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who have supported this blog, whether you are a one-off fly-by visitor or a regular ‘pull up a chair and chillax’ visitor. You guys are utterly AMAZEBALLS!!!! ūüėÄ xxx

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Well, although this is a time of great changes and sparkly new horizons, all of them positive – like the brand new job and scary new career I’ve just embarked on¬†after having been a full-time teacher for the last 16 yrs; I admit that this post is a bit of a ‘moan-fest’, something I don’t do very often. But I’m¬†eventually venting¬†about something that has bugged the crap out of me for the last two years.

It’s funny, I was recently reading a very heartfelt and extraordinary post by brilliant fantasy writer, Tricia Drammeh, all about how important it is to be supported by family and friends. The post really struck a chord with me, as it did for so¬†many other¬†writers: http://blog.triciadrammeh.com/2014/05/21/when-your-family-doesnt-support-your-writing/ Please check out the rest of Tricia’s wonderful blog: http://blog.triciadrammeh.com/

Although writing can be exhilarating, life-changing, life-affirming and just a wonderfully fulfilling¬†creative ride…it can also be incredibly isolating, lonely, frustrating, un-rewarding, demoralising and difficult. That rollercoaster journey of success, failure, hopes and¬†dreams, both realised or crushed, is hard enough as it is, but the journey becomes all the more difficult if you are embarking on your creative path without the support of nearest and dearest.

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Now, I count myself as being very lucky, as my family even including Aunts and Uncles, have been incredibly supportive and encouraging of my writing journey. But, like many other writers,¬† I too have experienced the opposite. Despite the majority of my friends being amazingly supportive, more than I could ever have hoped for, strangely enough my oldest ‘best friend’ of the last 20 yrs+ has been pretty dreadful.

Daft I know, but it has not only plagued me, but deeply hurt and upset me. I can openly say her name, Joanna, why? Because I know that¬†she will never ever read this. She knows nothing of my writing life and doesn’t care. She doesn’t know that I have a blog, let alone the fact that my little blog has attracted¬†over 27,000 visitors since I started it in Jan 2012. She doesn’t know that I’m on Facebook at all, have a FB book page with over 1,000 likes, have countless followers on Pinterest, set up my own Illustration business, recently had a short story published in a wonderful anthology, Felinity by Grimbold Books.¬†41wpCDigqbL[1]She was vaguely aware (though no doubt she has forgotten) that I did a very¬†successful Waterstone’s book signing tour in 2012, but wouldn’t know what towns and cities I visited and certainly didn’t bother attending the one just down the road from where she lives.

Again, Tricia Drammeh’s post really resonated with me. For the last 20+yrs I have supported Jo through thick and thin, for every success, every failure, every relationship, every drama – no matter how big or miniscule. I send cards to congratulate, commiserate or just to buck her up and say I’m thinking of her, even cards when she moves from one rented property in her town, to another just down the road. She is an only child, which in itself shouldn’t mean anything, except to say that in her case she is selfish and totally self-obsessed and has always been used to being the centre of attention and having people ‘do for her’. Now, the silly thing is, I never minded playing second fiddle, being the ‘listening ear’, the sympathetic shoulder, the invisible person who always supports her. I didn’t mind the fact that our friendship was always so one-sided, all about her, never about me. BUT, in 2012 something big happened in my life, the biggest thing that had ever happened to me – my first novel was published.

At the time I tried not to be hurt when I received congratulations¬†cards and even flowers from ALL of my friends, even work colleagues and people I didn’t know well, everyone I knew¬†EXCEPT from her. My novel was available for a limited time to pre-order, and by doing so the people who pre-ordered could have their name printed inside the book. Again, all my friends raced to purchase their pre-ordered copy, but Jo? Despite months of gentle hinting, she didn’t, eventually, with only days to spare,¬†I plucked up the courage to be more assertive and asked her (knowing the answer), if she had bought a copy yet as the deadline was coming up. I had to literally twist her arm. Whereas my close mate, Heather (totally lovely), was the first to buy a copy, Jo was the absolute last. I couldn’t believe how totally and blatantly uninterested and unsupportive she was being, just because for once this was something to do with me and not her. Months continued like this, all my friends asking about the upcoming publication date, wanting to read excerpts, wanting to be involved in any way they could, but Jo, nothing. She never asked questions, never brought it up, it was like the 500 pound elephant in the room, all conversations reverted to the usual drone about her love life, wanting to lose weight, talking about food and Tesco’s or her long list of imagined ills and troubles – i.e. all about her as usual.

I admit, for the first time ever, my rose-tinted glasses that had been superglued to my head, actually came off and I saw clearly how completely skewed our relationship had become.

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I had visited her down in Devon in the summer of 2012, which was once again a visit ‘all about Jo’¬†and been shocked and embarrassed when we visited her other friend (who she see’s every few days) and Jo quickly blurted out in the car on the way there that her friend knew nothing about my book so I’d have to tell her. It just re-affirmed how unimportant it was and I was. Bear in mind too, that¬†her ‘friend’¬†had dabbled in writing for years and has always been a jealous sort, so you can imagine how she reacted to the news. This, btw, was after Jo had admitted to¬†me that she gave her copy of my book away to some guy in Totnes.

Publication day came and went and nothing, no congratulations, no acknowledgement even. Again, in very rare excerpts, I had tried talking about my writing and my new novel and told her I was having a big book launch at Cirencester. I knew she had no dates that clashed with it, but I also knew, from her total silence on the subject, that she had no intention of coming. She would rather spend the weekend with her bf of the time than support her best mate.

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The day of the book launch came and like a fool I was still hoping to see her walk through the door, of course she didn’t. Instead, ALL my family and friends came ‘en mass’, dear Heather travelled nearly two hours with her two little babies to attend, my dear dear Lindsey (who I had never met at that time) travelled for two hours to support, my wonderful close mate, Will Macmillan Jones travelled all the way from deepest darkest Wales to be there, everyone EXCEPT for Jo. The book launch was a huge success and sold out in just over an hour, but still, all I could think about was Jo.

And so it continued.

Then I got a true glimpse into why Jo¬†was behaving the way she was. She visited my place with her chain-smoking obnoxious bf at the time. We went for lunch and during lunch I was shocked to have this bf ask me about my book, something Jo never did. I soon understood why. During the lunch I was then subjected to a full-on interrogation. The bf asked me a flurry of aggressive questions about¬†my book, I tried to ignore his condescending tone. As soon as I tried to answer, he just interrupted me with comments like, “Humph, sounds like every other book I’ve read”, “Sounds just like Harry Potter” (which I have NEVER read and don’t personally like) “But what exactly makes it different?”, “You haven’t answered my question!”, “Who did you get your ideas from?” etc., etc. I was being bombarded, I looked across at Jo who not only hadn’t come to my rescue and told her offish bf to BACK¬†THE F**K¬†OFF, but was sitting there, arms folded, totally silent and with the most awful smug expression on her face. Cheshire cat comes to mind. ūüė¶ grinning-chesire-cat[1]

It suddenly dawned on me…these disparaging remarks, the belittling, the arrogance, the condescending attitude, all of it could only have come from Jo. Those were her words spoken through him.

It was finally clear where her lack of support came from, she thought I was an idiot, an immature fool following childish dreams. Who the hell did I think I was – pretending to be a writer? Did I think I was going to be the next big thing? Delusions of grandeur or what? The feeling of disdain, palpable embarrassment¬†towards me,¬†her sad little friend deluding herself into thinking she had achieved something, that I was ‘an author’. I struggled through the lunch, said my courteous goodbyes and burst into tears the moment they left. I felt utterly crushed. ūüė¶

Ever since then, even though her nasty bf then dumped her a few months later, I swore I’d never talk to her about my writing/books again, and I haven’t. It hasn’t been hard as she¬†isn’t interested¬†and never asks. So, we carry on, me going through the motions of a friendship that now seems so hollow. More Jo dramas to support, more imagined problems, exaggerated health issues (which magically only arose when I became ill last year), all the things that still keep Jo at the centre, where she likes to be. Meanwhile and by stark contrast, my real friends are exactly that, REAL. We support each other and can talk to each other about anything. And again, because¬†I know Jo isn’t interested in anything other than herself, I’ve stopped talking to her about anything important to me, about my new job, my plans for the future, my family, any of it. Our last conversation was, as usual, all about her, her ‘bad back’, her problems, etc., etc.

3b61948569022d0457a6b60ad7d39393[1]Yes, I know I should have the guts to simply be honest and have it out with her, but frankly I’ve been worn down by it all. I have great friends around me, I’ve just eventually realised, despite the length of our friendship, that Jo isn’t one of them. ūüė¶

So ‘moan-fest’ over, promise.

How do YOU deal with disappointment and lack of support from those you call friends? How do you move forward?

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THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR LISTENING TO THIS ‘LETTER TO JO’. ūüėÄ xxxx

Smile

Smile

Smiling platitudes.

Weak mouthed grimaces continue to do the rounds, circling and dancing with the others.

A hideous and sad little minstrel band observes from the gallery watching the fools do the gargoyle dance below.

Kiss ass.

Fit in.

Part of the team.

Half friendly, half embracing, barely concealing the contempt for each other.

Then the nightly farewells and well wishes, watching yourself reel off the same shit, hating yourself in the frozen air of the car journey home…

…complicit in your own downfall,

but ready to do the same dance and the same smile

tomorrow.

*

Sophie E Tallis ©Smile

My Own Silver Linings PlayBook – The Road to Recovery and ReadWave.

Silver Linings

Firstly, I’m so pleased that after weeks of having blog technical problems, everything is sorted. So, hello again my lovelies! ūüėÄ xx

Secondly, I simply cannot get my brain to accept that it is November already. All Hallows Eve has passed in a haze of heightened sugar and badly written hammy horror and suddenly the nights are full of smoke from blazing bonfires and the familiar shrill whizz of fireworks.

We’ve had a mild Autumn, a thankful tiding¬†given the rare and gloriously sun-drenched Summer we enjoyed this year, with its bounty¬†of flowers, butterflies and bees, its¬†azure skies and hard-baked earth. Ah…what bliss!

But, as the clocks have now gone back, reminding us that Winter is truly at our doorstep, and the dull days linger less and less, with darkness descending earlier each day, there is no escaping that yet another year is drawing to a close.

So, where has it gone?

Have you achieved the goals you set yourself at the beginning of the year? – in those heady moments of New Year’s Eve, when everything¬†is exciting and fresh¬†and the year ahead seems like an endless Pandora’s box¬†of possibilities and opportunities? Or, has the year passed you by in a blur? pandora's box

For me, it’s definitely been the latter, but I have optimism for the next year, after all, 13 has never been a lucky number for me, so 2014 should be fine, eh?

But, there have been some good things this year, apart from the lovely Summer, and the support of family and friends (you know who you are!) and my adorable white wolves… earlier in the year, while on Goodreads, I was contacted by a rather nice chap called Rob Tucker. He had just co-founded a new website, ReadWave,¬†http://www.readwave.com/¬†dedicated to showcasing new writers and the best short stories for readers to enjoy and share. He kindly invited me to join ReadWave as he liked my work and asked me to spread the word, which I did, diligently telling all my mates about this amazing new site which many of them have now also joined. readwave_full_logo[1]

The beauty of ReadWave, unlike other writing sites, is that there are no forums to get embroiled in petty arguments with infantile minded trolls cruising the net to pick a fight because they have nothing better to do. It’s just all about the stories. Read what you want, comment if you want, like and share if you want, it’s entirely up to you. They have some truly great stuff on there. I’m thrilled and rather humbled that all my work seems to be popular and is well received, http://www.readwave.com/sophie.e.tallis/¬†and I’ve even had the honour of having a piece ‘Staff Picked’, they now call it the ‘Editor’s Choice’, reserved for the very best work. Woo hoo!

This has been a particular solace to me this year, as due to this damn illness and the strange mental effects it has, my short-term memory and concentration are totally shot to hell, which means that I really am incapable at the moment of being able to focus on anything long enough to sustain¬†a thought through to its conclusion. (I won’t tell you how long it takes me to do each one of these posts, it’s truly embarrassing).

In other words, novel-writing is totally IMPOSSIBLE. The plain truth is, that since I got sick back in Jan/February, I haven’t been able to touch any of my book projects. As weeks became months, I stopped crucifying myself over it and just had to let the frustration and anger go, I could no sooner do it than fly to the moon. My physiotherapist told me to take things slowly, in my stride, that part of¬†my re-cooperation after such a huge vestibular collapse,¬†was to do small things. Try to read. Try to write a sentence. To take the mental challenges as slowly as the physical rehabilitation. Walk before you can run kind of thing. walk before you can run

Reading was impossible for the first couple of months due to swirling text, then I simply kept zoning out, reading the same page over and over like some zombie or a toy whose battery had stopped. Over the summer though, I had a breakthrough, I was able to read my first book since February, it took me a LONG time, but I did it and I retained what I read…well, most of it. Then I read another book, and another, and another, all great mental exercises (also my friend Lindsey Parsons fantastic debut novel, Vortex, was such a pleasure to re-read). Again, over the summer I tried writing and kept zoning out again. A simple thing like¬†writing a letter, would take hours and hours of stopping and starting and resting. But weirdly, one thing I found I was able to do, as I had done before I got ill, that somehow didn’t require that heightened level of concentration but just simply flowed naturally out of me, was write poetry and short stories!

And so, after the frustration and failures of not being able to do anything, I found after many long months, that I could still do one thing and do it well. So, I have a HUGE thank you to say to Rob Tucker. That unexpected encounter on Goodreads gave me a creative life-line, like this blog,¬†which in turn has helped me in my recovery. Rob doesn’t know any of this, but if he reads this and I hope he does, THANK YOU!

The icing on the cake, was when he recently asked me to become a Staff Reviewer on ReadWave, which I gladly accepted. Then finding out that another short story I’ve written is going to be published next year by a lovely UK-based publisher (unlike my last one!) and that I’ve been asked by several authors to provide illustrations for them for their books, all wonderful small things I can do!

All this has taught me, that although times can get very tough and bleak, there is always a silver lining out there, you’ve just got to keep going and look for it!

ūüėÄ xxxx

English: Silver Lining The end of a cold storm...