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The Power of Words

The Power of Words

Call it a Mantra, an Affirmation, an Intention – whatever word you have for it. It’s powerful.

I’m writing today about the single word (or cluster of words) that inspire me to be my best self each day. It might be a phrase that inspires mindfulness or confidence. It might help me to trust myself more, to step back and get out of my own way. It might help me work on something I know I’m struggling with, for example, being kind or assertive, or acting with self discipline.

I’m not much of a one for ‘positive thinking’. I don’t think that just by thinking positive things I can change everything around me. Suddenly, I’ll be rich. Suddenly, I’ll be the boss. Suddenly, everything will make sense and my purpose will be 100% clear instead of this fuzzy outline I play with everyday.

I like to believe I’m more of a realist than that.

But, I do think I can manifest positive energy and experiences by maintaining a healthy attitude and surrounding myself with people who are supportive and encouraging.

I’ve tried affirmation practice previously, after reading Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life. Great book. But, it didn’t stick. Instead – it’s the Yoga With Adriene January challenges and feedback from career mentors that has really helped me recognise the power of words – of mantras, affirmations, setting intentions. Even if it’s just a word: Breath. Open. Allow. Trust. Balance. Release.

Words are powerful.

String them together, feel around them, the ideas, the emotions that they bring to the surface and that power is magnified. Speak them with intent. Relate them to your daily life – even the simple tasks, like washing the dishes.

‘I wash the dishes as an act of love to my family. A clean kitchen is important for preparing healthy food and keeping the air clean.’

Just ask my husband – I need a mantra for washing the dishes. It’s a task I find a chore, and often try to sneakily wait for him to do. Except, when I’m actually doing it, the motion of scrubbing, the act of cleaning, when I’m in the groove of it – it does feel good. I feel like I’m doing something useful, productive and important. That small act of self discipline, generosity and love … I really need to wash the dishes more often – especially when he’s done all the cooking!

Words can change how you feel.
Words can be the difference between a good day and a not so good day.
Words can change the whole world.

Without words…

I’m trying something new on the blog: sharing my mantras. Some days it will just be a word. Some days it will be a pep talk. I’m interested to see which themes repeat, which are easy to take on, and which do I struggle with or make me cry. What resonates – with me? With you?

This is very personal. It doesn’t matter how many quotes on instagram I read, or inspirational books, or podcasts or whatever. Writing my own is my way of feeling through it all. If these don’t resonate with you – maybe try writing your own too?

xx

Posted by jhamby in Blogging, Mantra, 0 comments
Taking Stock

Taking Stock

I’m taking a leaf out of Al and Pip’s blogs, here and here, and ‘Taking Stock’ this January. I really liked this idea, probably because I love lists and reflection, and I’m really happy that Al lead me to Pip – because Pip crochets stuff!

Sending a very warm thank you to these two awesome Aussie ladies for the inspiration for this week’s blog. If you want to try this list yourself, I recommend writing it twice and noticing any negative self-talk that crept into the first version. Life is too short to keep that soundtrack playing.

Making: Study notes, so I can blitz my exam in April.

Cooking: More regularly. Learning how to meal-plan.

Drinking: Woodford Reserve Bourbon, but I’d love to get my hands on another bottle of Cotswold’s London Dry Gin.

Reading: Yoga Therapy for stress and anxiety, and Talking to My Country by Stan Grant. Also, my bro-in-law’s script-in-progress.

Next read: Heat and Light, by Ellen Van Neerven.

Wanting: A flowy skirt.

Looking: At my wedding photos … I really need to sort through more of them.

Playing: Battlefront II – occasionally on PS4 with the hubby.

Deciding: Which story idea to polish for spicy bites.

Wishing: I prioritised my time better.

Enjoying: The hot, sunny weather.

Waiting: For the RWA 2017 Spicy Bites and Little Gems anthologies to arrive in the mail.

Liking: My whiteboard. It’s where I do some of my best thinking.

Wondering: If I could sync my whiteboard with my bullet journal – knowing that neither are electronic …

Loving: Yoga With Adriene’s TRUE series of yoga videos. Start here.

Pondering: Whether I can keep up my daily yoga practice the whole year.

Considering: Running a marathon. I like the idea of it, but it’s already a big year.

Buying: Nothing but food and necessities if I can help it. But I really want Louise Allan’s the Sisters’ Song, and about a hundred other books and manga and DVDs.

Watching: Arrow. Stephen Amell mhmm.

Next watch: Maybe the Crown Season 2?

Hoping: That I can make a difference in people’s lives, somehow. Really not sure on the how. Reckon I need to stop thinking and hoping and just start, somewhere.

Marvelling: At the generosity of strangers.

Cringing: At my own self-doubt and negative self-talk. If I wouldn’t say it to a friend, I shouldn’t be saying it to myself.

Needing: To keep waking up early – it felt amazing this week.

Questioning: Whether I can do everything I want to.

Smelling: Curry – haha.

Wearing: My purple Dr Marten’s. Dreamed of them since forever, and love how strong they make me feel.

Following: Too many aspiring and emerging authors to keep track – plus some very inspiring established authors. Check out who I’m retweeting or sharing on FB.

Worrying: That I’m not good enough.

Noticing: My breath.

Knowing: That I need to stop worrying so much.

Thinking: In. Out.

Admiring: Margaret Atwood – always.

Sorting: My favourite websites and blogs into folders on my bookmark bar – and then syncing my laptop chrome with chrome on my phone.

Getting: Sick waaaay too often.

Bookmarking: All the things.

Coveting: New earrings.

Disliking: Back sweat. My own. I don’t care about yours. But mine is really bothering me.

Opening: My wallet, too often.

Giggling: At my husband’s Dad jokes. He’s not even a Dad yet, not even close, but gosh!

Feeling: Optimistic.

Snacking: On nuts and a square of dark chocolate – usually.

Hearing: Traffic, but it sounds like the ocean – said my Dad. *Shakes head and smiles.*

If you made it all the way down here … wow. Thank you.

Posted by jhamby in Blogging, 0 comments
Letter Writing

Letter Writing

Letter writing is important to me. I’ll write them on paper or as a long email depending on the recipient and what they prefer. Kind of like reading – it doesn’t matter to me if the book is printed, or on my kindle or even on my phone. So long as I can get my hands on it, it’s mine, and I’m reading it or writing it.

I used letters to keep in touch with my Grandmothers while I was living in the UK. One had the most beautiful set of paper: floral with scattered scrabble pieces. The other is techy and prefers to receive emails. Now I’m back in Sydney, it’s the reverse, using letters to keep in touch with my husband’s grandparents.

I use emailed letters to keep in touch with former colleagues and some uni friends. It’s a fun and personal way to catch up with people who don’t post it all on social media. Instagram is picture-perfect, Twitter is a snippet of thought, Facebook is a random collection of article links and holiday photos – but the letter is the long-read where people divulge what most excites and most troubles them. The letter is more balanced and intimate.

I write letters to have conversations with people that I wouldn’t or can’t have in real life: people who may have passed on, or are no longer in my life, my younger or future self. To get out of my head and onto paper everything that I think I’m feeling. Often, writing it down is enough to let it all out. Or even to realise that what I think I’m feeling is disconnected from what I’m actually feeling. It can be easier to see negative (self-)talk or hyperbole written in print, than in my head.

I use letters as pep-talks. If I want to inspire my current self, I might write myself a letter, a long affirmation, a vow, a promise, an encouraging and understanding friendly letter. I’ll try to turn that negative self-talk around.

I’ve always been curious about the fan-letter. I think I found fanfiction before ever I realised that you could write authors letters and they might actually read them. Strange, but I guess I used to put authors on a pedestal and forget that they were live humans and contactable. I’ve not sat down to write a private letter to an author yet. Although, to a degree, some of the review style posts on this blog, and that I’m planning for the blog later this year, are more open letters to the author – thanking them for the little gem of joy their book brought in to my life.

How important is letter writing to you?

Posted by jhamby in Blogging, 0 comments
Writing Goals 2018

Writing Goals 2018

Hi

In my New Years post I mentioned I needed to have a think about my writing goals for 2018. I wasn’t sure what was achievable. I’m still not and I don’t think I will be until I try. So let’s just go with the wish list for now and I can work the rest out later.

  1. Finish the damn book

    FTDB – the first draft at least – should be the goal of any aspiring author. I didn’t manage it last year. Getting married, moving countries, changing jobs … is not exactly a BAU year in the life of anyone. I’m not gonna bash myself up for that one.

    However, I feel close. After entering the Selling Submissions competition last year, I have a Synopsis that I’m happy with, that gives me direction, but still leaves freedom. I just need to connect the dots, flesh it all out, get it down.

  2. Entering short story competitions

    Starting with Little Gems and Spicy Bites in January with the RWA. The themes are Jade and Chains respectively, with word counts in the range of 3000-5000. I’m excited by the idea of these. The first is mild/medium and shorter, but Spicy Bites is an erotic fiction contest.

    I confess I read spicier romances- as anyone whose seen my kindle library knows 😉 But I haven’t tried writing it before, so this is going to be entertaining. To get an idea of how badly this could go… check out the Bad Sex Awards – for older readers only!

    Keeping my eye out for other competitions later in the year. Suggestions welcome!

  3. I’ve applied for a Critique Partner with the RWA

    One of the best ways to improve is to get feedback, so I’m taking the plunge in 2018. I don’t want to be a writer in a garret. Isolated. Tapping away. Hoping that someone will like it, without ever actually asking anyone. Even Rapunzel hated being Rapunzel.

  4. Blog

    This is where things get a little more optional. I’m going to aim for once a month minimum. If I can get out once a week, on a Monday, that’s fantastic! But, at the very least, once a month. I like blogging. It’s a chance to connect in with the writer community, with friends and family across Australia and the world.

    Through the blog, I’m learning to be a little less precious about my words, and get comfortable with sharing.

To all the writers out there: What are your writing goals for 2018? Looking forward to cheering you on!

Posted by jhamby in Blogging, 2 comments
5 Reasons I Failed NaNoWriMo, … but I still feel like I won

5 Reasons I Failed NaNoWriMo, … but I still feel like I won

  1. I didn’t plan beyond the first week. I had a list of prompts and scenes, for if I got stuck in a rut, but I didn’t use them. I am getting way too comfortable in the familiar of the rut. I need to commit to climbing out of it faster!
  2. I got sick. And then I got sick again. Flu and then stomach bug. Which meant all life subsisted on the minimum. I slept a lot and am now getting my diet and exercise back on track better than before. Feeling good 😉
  3. My excellent accountants needed all my tax info for the two countries I’ve been resident in lately. So happy they are organised and got it done with plenty of time to spare, but bye bye November and spare cash. On the plus side, I’m now budgeting a more frugal lifestyle, which means more cash for the stuff that really matters, I.e not takeaway lunches.
  4. We moved house. Yeah that’s kind of a biggie. Especially, when half our stuff was stored with my parents, and the other half at my grandma’s, and boxes arrived from England just in time. It’s been really special setting up the place the way we want and getting comfy in our own space again. Rediscovering beloved items and keepsakes brings a lot of joy.
  5. My husband and I are newlyweds, and given the choice of writing or being loved up… on top of all the above demands on my time and health? I naturally chose the latter. Hey – I’m a member of the RWA. Why only read and write about Romance when you can live it! Love you Mr Hamby xx

Lessons learnt and all that about commitment, making time and not biting off more than I can chew. But I am 7k words richer than I was in October and have ticked off some of the major life goals and admin that coincided with NaNoWriMo, which to me is a big WIN!

How did you go with NaNoWriMo?

Posted by jhamby in Blogging, 2 comments
5 reasons to compete

5 reasons to compete

I wouldn’t call myself competitive, because I’m not always aiming to win. Trying not to be an arrogant twit about it – but I want my tombstone to read ‘resilient’, ‘adventurous’, and ‘tenacious’ (as well as Loving Wife etc). I think these words are reserved for people who put their creativity out on the line. They aren’t precious about it. They try things. If they make a mistake, they course-correct.

Indulging in solitary pursuits like singing and writing it is easy to turn yourself into Rapunzel. Only your hair isn’t long enough for the witch to climb let alone the prince; and when the prince finds you, if you keep writing and singing on your own all day and ignoring him- he’s not going to be impressed. In writing circles, they call this the Garret, and it’s not a good thing.

When you compete, you meet other people: competitors, judges, organisers, volunteers, mentors and more! You let your friends and family know what you’re up to and build a support network, a community. You take yourself out of the tower.

If you’re really lucky, they will give you some feedback. I love this quote:

Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.

~ Neil Gaiman

Feedback from other people is usually nicer than the feedback we give ourselves. Competing is a good way for me to perspective-check my thoughts. Other people think I suck less than I think I do – which is always a boost. Think of it this way, would you talk to your friends the same way you talk to yourself? I’m working on being a lot kinder to myself.

Getting feedback is also one of the quickest ways to learn. How do you know what you’re doing wrong if you don’t ask the people who know better? How can you fix things if you don’t know they are wrong?

But most of all – competition is exciting. It’s an adrenaline rush. You are taking a chance and you don’t know what the outcome will be.

So, in short, my 5 reasons to compete are to:

  1. Interact with people who have similar interests.

  2. Make yourself vulnerable, and humble that ego, by receiving feedback.

  3. Embrace the challenge and shut up the negative voice that repeats: I can’t or I suck or What the bleep am I thinking?

  4. Learn something new, and learn it well.

  5. Feel the thrill of the accomplishment.

Today, I entered in to the RWA contest SellingSubmissions. They hold a number of competitions each year that encourage you to work to a deadline, polish a WIP to a high quality and get that all important feedback.

What chances are you taking this year?

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NaNoWriMo 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017

I’m in!

Can’t believe I’m signing up for this again. It would be amazing if I could beat what I managed to get out last year: 12,670. That novel has since grown to a 49,708 word beast that is no where near finished the zero-th draft and needs a lot of chopping. But I can’t chop until it’s all out. So that’s my goal this November. Wrangle the rest of the beast onto the page so I can set it aside for a while and then start editing!

I have a few mini goals before NaNoWriMo starts that centre around what the Romance Writers of Australia offer. I am an aspiring member of the group. Joining up was one of the best things I’ve ever done (Thank you Allison Tait for the encouragement). The group is so supportive – with email loops and Facebook groups and more. The courses give amazing feedback, I’m learning a lot about the craft and commitment. I am currently writing a science fiction novel with romantic elements, so it’s great that you don’t have to be a full blown romance writer to join.

My mini goals for NaNoWriMo Prep are with RWA:

  1. Selling Submission due 30 October

    The RWA have competitions! This is my big task for the week. The beauty is in the feedback. There are so many amazing writers in this group aspiring, emerging and established, I have to be in it to learn!
  2. In the RWA e-loop we also do BIAW – Book in a Week – a mini-NaNoWriMo – where we set our word count targets and are accountable to each other. I need to get in another 1500 today to reach my goal of 2000, because I got distracted reading obsessively during the week. Oops ;)That’s one of the things I find about writing – you need to read (for the love of it and to boost the creativity & industry knowledge), but you need to read in moderation, so you still have time to write. I don’t always get the balance right. Reading all Saturday long is fun… but then you don’t get any words written at all. It’s inspiring though, right?

Come join me on the NaNoWriMo website! My username is JessicaMHamby – same as everywhere else 🙂

 

Posted by jhamby in Blogging, 2 comments
Writing course wishlist

Writing course wishlist

I have $20 to spend on a writing course. Woohoo! 

How? I filled out the Australian Writers’ Centre survey and they gave it to me. For free. It was quick and easy to do. I love this team of industry professionals, they are so generous and welcoming!

So the question is: 

Which one??? 

Click on the course name to be directed to the website and a full description. 
Advanced Fiction Writing

I’ve done the creative writing stage 1 course, this is supposed to be the next step. I’m hesitating, because I like to jump steps and some of the other courses on this list grab me more. But I’m also not sure this is a step I can afford to jump?!

Write your novel program

This is a six month program, which means it’s really exxy overall, but great value on a monthly basis. I’m not sure which novel to use it on – the current first draft or the shiny new idea or even the 15 year idea that I keep shelving? But I’m really tempted to try it. 

Editing Essentials

I want my novel to be the best it can be before I submit it to agents or publishers. That means not submitting my first draft. I need to know how to edit. Full stop. 

Kate Forsyth’s History, Mystery and Magic course

I want to write a novel like this one day and I want to sit a course led by Kate Forsyth. So this would be amazing! Full details are not yet available, tear. So I’ll have to wait.

What course would you take? Have you taken any of them before? 

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Haddon Hall: for Jane Eyre and Princess Bride fans

Haddon Hall: for Jane Eyre and Princess Bride fans

Haddon hall is gorgeous and full of real and cinematic history.

There is no rope or prescribed route. Minimal crowds. You meander your way through as you please.

An oakpanelled room had an open fire and a musician playing twice during the day. A classical guitarist strummed to our visit, but I think they change it up regularly. It cost no extra. You could walk in and walk out as the music suited you.

The garden held a small wedding while we visited… and you could see why. It was so beautifully kept and in keeping with the stony backdrop of the Hall.

It’s a Medieval hall that used to be separate buildings, a hall, a chapel, the kitchens, but over time as the technology improved and the risk of fire reduced, they were connected. Tapestries depicting the senses decorate the walls. The main hall has a slightly raised dais at one end, and a manacle to chain you to the wall at the other end. Time was that refusing to drink was a punishable crime against the spirit of conviviality.

The royals seem to enjoy visiting the hall, they have graffitied the wall above one of the fireplaces. It is covered with glass or something to protect it.

So what kind of literary fan are you? If you were to visit Haddon Hall would you see Mr Rochester’s Thornfield or Prince Humperdinck’s castle?

I adore both. Jane Eyre for its intensity and richness of character. Princess Bride for its comedic value- and one of the best sword fighting scenes ever. I’ve read the books, I’ve watched the films.

Even so, I don’t always like Mr Rochester, I think he’s a bit of a git. As for The Princess Bride, it is soooo corny. The side of my cheek is sore from biting it by the end.

Here are some of my favourite quotes from each:

Jane Eyre

“Do you think I am an automaton?–a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!–I have as much soul as you,–and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh;–it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal,–as we are!”

“I would always rather be happy than dignified.”

The Princess Bride

“Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!”

“As you wish!”

“They’re kissing again. Do we have to read the kissing parts?”

Posted by jhamby in Blogging, Reading, 0 comments
Chatsworth house or Lyme park?

Chatsworth house or Lyme park?

If you’re a Pride and Prejudice fan (guilty! Though Persuasion is my favourite Austen) then you’ll likely be familiar with this question. Which makes for a better Pemberley?

Luckily you don’t have to answer it because you can visit both in person like my husband and I did. Or watch either as Pemberley.

In the 1995 BBC TV series, Lyme Park is used as Pemberley, in the famous lake scene semi-recreated here by my handsome hubby.


In the Kiera Knightley version, Chatsworth house features. For Austen fans, Chatsworth house has the added benefit of being visited by Elizabeth Bennet in her tour of Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle.

Both houses and grounds are truly stunning, but with very different histories.

Lyme Park, house and garden was famously home to the Legh family. The house was built in the late 16th century, but Thomas Legh directed substantial renovations to the property in the Regency era. The tour of the house centres on the life of Thomas Legh, an adventurer who traveled through Egypt and wrote about his experiences. On returning home, he became an entrepreneur. The library is also home to the Lyme missal, a 15th century prayer book, touted as the most important printed book the National Trust’s collection.

I loved Lyme Park because we saw a magnificent herd of deer grazing. They also had a second hand bookstore in the basement. There was a lego tour and an opportunity to dress up for families, which was very sweet. My husband and I walked on though. We’ve done P&P dress up before 🙂 I’ll save that for another post. Lyme Park was also less busy than Chatsworth to my delight and relaxation.

Pro tips:

1) Ask the staff lots of questions, they know heaps of history!

2) Wander up to the deer park for a gander.

Chatsworth house was the 16th century home to Bess of Hardwick, the second most important woman in Elizabethan England. The house is still occupied by the Cavendish line (of her second husband). Her fourth and final husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, was tasked with being custodian of Mary Queen of Scots who was kept prisoner at Chatsworth house for a time.

I loved Chatsworth house because it had vast landscaped gardens you could amble through and lose the crowds that gathered in the house. The maze was magnificent and challenging. The house and family have a strong connection with fashion throughout history and there is currently an exhibition throughout the entire house celebrating this relationship. In the chapel, the family wedding dresses, christening gowns and mourning clothes were displayed – it was a deeply moving tribute to life and death through fashion.

Pro tips:

1) We did the garden first thing in the morning, and the house later in the day. The queue for the house was crazy long first thing.

2) Visit nearby Bakewell and The Bakewell Tart Shop (in the footsteps of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan). The Bakewell tart is delicious.

I can’t choose a favourite between them. Can you?

Posted by jhamby in Blogging, Reading, 0 comments