RISE: a collection of poems

My collection of poems about motherhood, family, old friends, spiritual journeys and the sea entitled, ‘RISE’, is available to download for free on Smashwords.


I’ve had all my poems sitting together in a folder for a while now. I’d published them in drips and drabs on my blog, but I’d been planning to do something with them for a while, maybe a chapbook or a simple ebook. But I was lazy.

Yesterday I was invited to read my science fiction poem ‘Future Imperfect’ as part of a gathering, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend. Instead, I sent a recording of the poem (which you can hear here) and it was very well received by the group. It will now be included in a chapbook of poems, dedicated to the late New Zealand author Brian E Turner.

Also yesterday I had an unexpected visit from the Head Weasels, more commonly known as anxiety and depression. Their timing was irritating and rather ironic. An article by writer Lee Murray focusing on writers and mental health, and which I had been quoted in, had just gone live that morning.


I was in a funk. I didn’t want to write. Instead, I did some digital doodling and ended up creating two new “Goddess” pieces – Ocean and Stars.

Inevitably, as these things often prove to be, the latter piece spoke to me as potential book cover art. She had come to me at just the right moment and reminded me that I don’t always have to focus on one creative area, even if that’s the one that is shouting at me the loudest and demanding my attention. A sense of achievement can come from enjoying the journey just as much as the destination.

To use old words to explain new feelings: (from Becoming Open, Nov 2018)

“Mental health forms a large part of my inspiration. I write about it, draw and paint about it, and talk openly about it. On days when I am emotionally exhausted and demotivated, I might only manage a few lines of writing, short shower-thoughts or in-the-car ideas. On heavy, black days I write of the darkness; spitting out harsh, sharp, bitter thoughts, born from a place of emotional hurt. Sometimes, when I can feel things changing, I focus on the good and the positive and being grateful. I can manipulate my emotions in this way, turn the metaphorical wheel and steer away from any negativity for a while.

“Writing for mental health is not the same as writing about mental health. Granted, it can be, and sometimes exploring the darker or more complex side of your emotions is an important and useful strategy in establishing a positive mental space, but I think it is simpler than that. Writing for the pure enjoyment of writing, brings focus. Pouring a part of yourself into something you create is both liberating and invigorating. It allows you to take time to explore your thoughts and emotions in the way you need to. It gives you connections and opens new doors.”

I feel like I have shoo-ed away some of the Head Weasels now, or at least whipped them into shape a little bit. Honestly, though, as much as I detest their visits, I do accept that they are a part of me and my life, and they shape me just as much as happiness and positivity do.

“I write to make myself feel better. I always have. That doesn’t mean that I write because something is wrong, rather that things are more likely to become wrong if I don’t write. I write to bring focus to myself and my experiences, to put things into proper perspective, so that I can acknowledge and assess the impact those experiences have had on me. I write because sometimes it is easier to put my thoughts on paper than to verbalise them, especially if those words are difficult to say. Writing every day helps me challenge my anxieties, release tension and frustration in my mind and body, and brings order to my daily routine.

“I write because often the stories I really want to read have not yet been written, and the characters in my head are so real to me that writing them into existence can feel like a powerful exorcism. I write because sometimes it is the only talent I have which I feel quietly confident in, and yet despite that confidence the demon of Imposter Syndrome quite frequently raises it’s critical, disparaging head. I write to vanquish that demon. I write because I believe my words can influence people. Not in a “save the world” kind of way, but in a way that means the reader can take an idea away with them, that they may find a spark of inspiration or reflection, perhaps even go on to write something new themselves.

“I write mostly because it brings me joy. Joy in the crafting of a narrative, of weaving the words into complex threads that entwine themselves around their readers, bringing joy to them in turn.”

Open call for submissions — Black Dogs, Black Tales

I am extremely pleased to announce that after a good deal of plotting and scheming, I will be working with a fantastic team of people to put together a brand new horror and dark speculative fiction charity anthology entitled, “Black Dogs, Black Tales.”

This collection of short fiction will be raising money for the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, a charity very close to my heart. One in five New Zealand adults have been diagnosed with a common mental disorder at some time in their lives. This includes depression, bipolar disorders and anxiety disorders.

I have been working with my own group Well-Written: Writing for Wellness, both online and through workshops, since 2017 and I strongly believe that writing and creativity has helped me manage my own mental health. It seems appropriate that I use the written word to do whatever I can to support all those who are in need of help.

I’ve approached Steve Dillon from Things in the Well to be the publisher, and he’s gladly signed up for it. It will be formatted to align with their distinctive look and feel, and will fit in well with the other books in their series of themed anthologies.

If you want to know more, including how you can get involved, check our call out page here. And if you can’t submit but still want to help, you can donate to our Ko-fi page here.

Our official Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/blackdogsblacktales/ where you can find out about the reasons why I’ve set up this anthology, read introductions from the international team and get up-to-date news and announcements regarding the ToC and cover art.

Don’t Self-Reject!

Have you ever felt super excited about doing a Thing, only to suddenly find yourself crippled by unexpected anxiety, uncertainty and a strong urge to run away and hide? I don’t just mean a physical Thing, but also a creative or artistic one.

Self-rejection is the nasty little brother of the Imposter Syndrome Gremlin, and he will take every damn chance he can to put a kibosh on your plans. As a writer, that usually takes the form of self-rejecting when sending out stories for submissions or when querying publishers. I don’t believe anyone wants to self-reject and succumb to the Gremlins, it’s more that sometimes the Gremlins become a little too hard to beat.

The other month I saw an amazing place to submit a short story — an anthology already supported by some outstanding authors and with a top-notch publishing team. My dark little writer’s heart skipped a beat, and on an impulse, I sat down and started to write. 

What came out was a good story, I knew it was, and I even managed to freak myself out with the monster I made up. Sure, it wasn’t Paul Tremblay or Josh Malerman standard (two very, very good writers who I admire) but it was fun and creepy and twisted. I liked it. 

Three days later I had convinced myself my story was absolute garbage, I would be an idiot for sending it, and every editor who read it would slap their thighs and point and laugh, and ask themselves, “Why on Earth did she think we would accept that piece of shit?!” The Imposter Syndrome Gremlin was clearly working his horrible magic… again. A friend of mine asked me if I’d sent the story, and I told her, “No, there’s zero chance of it being accepted.” She replied, “There’s only ever zero chance if you don’t send it.”

I wanted to argue, I really did, but I knew straight away that she was right. What exactly was stopping me? Fear of failure? Fear of making a fool of myself? Maybe even some peculiar fear of actually being accepted and not knowing how to handle that?! I bashed out a cover letter, formatted it how they needed and hit SEND on the email.

And I felt so sick! I always feel anxious after I submit anything, but this was a whole new level, and I got to thinking, wow, what was it about this particular sub that had got me into such a state?

Any writer knows that rejections are an unfortunate but common part of writing, especially if we are sending our words out into the wild. Most of us either end up developing walrus-thick skins in response, or we give up. As my dear Nana would have said, “It’s not how many times you fall that matters, it’s how many times you get back up and try again.” Giving up is never an option for me, I really am just that damn stubborn. Self-rejection, however, is a tricky one. To get over it I often have to properly dissect the reasons why I’m wavering, and turn that narrative completely around. 

Here’s some of my Problem/Solution examples.

Problem: I don’t feel like this piece of work is very good.
Solution: Why not? Is there an obvious problem or something you can fix or change in some way? Could you polish it a little more or get feedback from someone you trust? Do what you can to make it shine then let it go. Remember: striving for perfection is like chasing the horizon. 

Problem: There are lots of people submitting, My work won’t even get looked at anyway.
Solution: It definitely won’t get looked at it if you don’t send it. You have nothing to lose. Write a good covering letter and do what you can to make it stand out, take a deep breath and hit send. 

Problem: Everyone else is a much higher calibre of writer than I am.
Solution: See solution to Problem 1. Also, how do you know that? Don’t assume anything about your talent — you will always discover greater and lesser persons than yourself in every aspect of your life. Comparisons are not always useful unless you’re using them as a springboard to improve. 

Problem: This is a lot of effort and I’m not sure if it’s worth my time.
Solution: Only you can answer that. If you genuinely think it’s going to take up too much time and energy for little return, that’s a reasonable concern. But be honest, if you’re using time and effort as an excuse to not do something, don’t do that. Almost everything good takes time and effort, writing is no exception. 

Problem: I’m submitting all the time and getting lots of rejections. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong and I feel like giving up!
Solution: Find a writer you really like or enjoy and study how they write. Ask yourself why you like what they do; what do they do differently to you; and how can you emulate that in your own style? Avid readers are great writers — I’m not here to argue, it’s a fact. Also, the more you write, the better you’ll get. Unfortunately, very few of us are born with that Brilliant Debut Novel gene. we have to work at it. Only you know how much work you are prepared to put in. 

Whatever you write and however often you do it, first and foremost if you write, you are a writer. Start calling yourself that. See how the word feels. Introduce yourself to people as a writer. Own that shit. 

Above all, don’t let the Self-Rejection Gremlin join forces with his Imposter Syndrome brother. If you want to imagine anyone pointing and laughing at you, telling you that you are no good or don’t belong, imagine them… and think about how good it feels to blow those little bastards to smithereens. 

Finally, here’s a little reminder of a piece I wrote way back in January.

Write the damn story.
What are you waiting for?
No, you don’t need permission from anyone.
If you’re doubting yourself because you don’t think you have the talent, that’s okay. Maybe you don’t… yet.
But you have passion, and often that’s better.
You can learn the craft, but first you have to put the effort in.
You won’t ever improve if you don’t try.
The first draft is going to suck.
Yes, really, really suck.
It’s going to be the worst story you will ever write.
But the first draft is just you telling yourself the story.
Everyone you idolise had to start somewhere.
Some of the best writers now are only so because they’ve put a lot of work in.
There will always be better and worse writers than yourself.
Criticism can be painful, but also useful.
Learn to listen to, accept, and learn from every piece of feedback you get.
Realise that your friends and family will probably not be honest with you.
Seek others’ opinions, especially those of your peers.
Write the story you want to read.
Set goals, stick to them, hold yourself accountable.
Don’t wait for inspiration, just start.
Show up. Show up. Show up. Eventually the muse will show up too.
Do what your heart tells you.
Writing is an art. You’re an artist. Paint pictures with your words.
Write the damn story.



Header image: “Tall Poppy” digital art, T. Wood 2019

Knock, Knock! Imposter Syndrome Calling…

I woke up this morning to find I had been tagged in an awesome yet terrifying tweet — a friend of mine had included me and my anthology, “Dark Winds Over Wellington,” in a list of must-read female dark fiction writers. I’ve read all of the other books she listed and they are absolutely tremendous. Of course my very first thought was: “I don’t belong on this list!”

Why do I do this to myself? Obviously imposter syndrome has a massive influence, but why? I was first published by Continuum Press (now Bloomsbury Academic) fifteen years ago. I wrote three academic texts for teachers; did technical edits and proof reads for Sue Cowley; and contributed to a number of “… for Dummies” titles released by Wiley Press. It wasn’t a huge earner, but it paid enough that I could buy myself a new laptop and it helped to impress any potential employers. If feeling less like a fraud was simply about proving that you can do something, I’ve already succeeded.

But I’ve never felt particularly proud of those achievements. It was simply something I could do, so I did.

I’ve been writing and sharing my fiction since exactly this time last year. September 2018 saw me enter my very first short story contest with the New Zealand Writer’s College, which then encouraged me to start writing and publishing more of my stories. I did it awkwardly, however, and lacking in confidence. I admitted on Twitter the other day that I didn’t have a launch party for my “Dark Winds…” collection, or send out ARCs for reviewers. I didn’t have a sales plan or try to promote it very much at all, and a big reason for that was due to crippling imposter syndrome and self-doubt. Not believing in myself or my work enough to send it out into the world with a flourish and a fanfare, or at the very least a small flag. I thoroughly regret that.

Yet even now when people say they’ve read it and enjoyed it, I find it hard to believe them. “Sorry for any mistakes,” I want to say. “I probably should have paid for a proper editing service.” Or, “I know some of the stories are not as strong as they could be.” I feel awkward and unsure. I convince myself that most people read it and laugh at the preposterousness. “Why on earth did she think that was worth publishing?”

Yeah, that’s the imposter syndrome gremlin whispering in my ear again. Little sod.

This year so far I’ve released my own anthology and had stories accepted into a horror-themed collection which raises money for charity, and in two horror/dark fiction magazines. I feel excited and also validated by my peers — I feel “seen” for the first time — but there’s also a part of me which still feels like a fraud. I look at the other authors I share page space with and I question if I really belong. It’s so infuriating!

The idea that you can have a laundry list of accomplishments and be highly regarded by your peers and still feel uncertain about the standard of your work completely fascinates me. When does it end? Does it ever?

I don’t know how much of these feelings come from bad experiences in my past — times when I felt like my achievements had not been recognised by those whose opinions were important to me. I realise now that those people will never give me their validation, and more importantly, I don’t need it, but I understand why those those feelings still affect me. I wish they didn’t. Perhaps in time I’ll learn to squash them down completely.

I interviewed a pretty famous writer recently who cited shyness as one reason for choosing to self-publish — a writer who has enjoyed a career that spans almost four decades and has written numerous stories, felt too shy to approach a publisher with their work! I was really surprised. I know it’s not unusual, and being that writing itself tends to attract a more introverted type of person, it’s little wonder. Still, the idea that you can have a laundry list of accomplishments and be highly regarded by your peers and still feel uncertain about the standard of your work completely fascinates me. When does it end? Does it ever?

In contrast, I don’t ever want to get cocky or act like I’m entitled. I don’t think very highly of those authors who behave arrogantly or dismissive to their fellow writers. Why would you alienate yourself from the community like that? I believe you can have confidence in your abilities without needing to be an ass about it. I think I’d rather be seen as a good and likeable writer than an outstanding one and a dick. Just my personal opinion.

When someone tells you they liked what you’ve done, or they appreciate your work — listen to them. Believe them.

So, do I belong on that list? Should I really be rubbing metaphorical shoulders with other, much more amazing writers who I believe are way better than me? My imposter syndrome gremlin will growl at me for saying so, but — Yes! Why the hell not? Sometimes people see things in you which you will never see in yourself. Why doubt them? When someone tells you they liked what you’ve done, or they appreciate your work — listen to them. Believe them. Don’t put yourself down, and definitely don’t let others do that to you either.

Every time I forget to “toot my own horn” and to celebrate how far I’ve come, I’m doing myself a disservice. It’s not dumb luck or nepotism or money which has got me where I am, it’s bloody hard work. It’s been constantly chipping away at the marble block knowing something wonderful is hidden inside. It’s reading and writing and learning and listening, and figuring out how to be the best I can be right now, while also understanding that the world keeps turning, the horizon keeps moving, and I can keep on getting better.

It’s not your job to prove to anyone that you deserve a place on that list, not even to yourself.

We all belong on a best-of list somewhere, and it might be a list we feel uncertain or awkward about being included on, but we have to allow ourselves to let those feelings go. It’s not your job to prove to anyone that you deserve a place on that list, not even to yourself. Trust me; if you’re on it, you deserve it. Well done to you.

By a twist of wonderful serendipity I was also reminded of a great anecdote by Neil Gaiman which discusses imposter syndrome. You can read it on his blog here: https://neil-gaiman.tumblr.com/post/160603396711/hi-i-read-that-youve-dealt-with-with-impostor

“Some years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”

And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”

And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.”

My Contributory Verse

My brain is being an asshole. I don’t mind admitting that at all. Sometimes it does this, and I know it will pass, but while I’m floundering in that deep, dark hole, everything pretty much sucks.

On the positive side, I’ve used it as a catalyst for some extremely dark new stories, which I absolutely love. They’re much more bleak than my usual style, and I was initially worried if perhaps I was dragging myself down; immersing myself unnecessarily in misery and despair.

A friend said to me, and I sincerely hope he won’t mind me quoting him here: “My superstition has long been that confronting the black dog in fiction keeps it from sniffing too close at your heels.” and I know exactly what he means. The reaction of creating in response to hardship, helps to not only distract us from the pain, but to focus on our talents and abilities. It gives us something to cling to, a life raft of hope. More than that, it helps us make sense of ourselves, even if our art is not directly related to those dark thoughts.

One of my absolute favourite movies is “Dead Poets Society”, and I will never not sob at the ending. There are many quotes I could use here, but I feel perhaps this one is the most appropriate. It refers explicitly to poetry, but it applies itself just as equally to any body of creative work:

John Keating: We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

I suspect a lot of my general unease lately has been influenced by the feeling, perhaps some peculiar peer pressure, that I somehow have to explain why and what I do. That my art has to have a meaning. 

I don’t.

My first collection of short stories was a passion project, I did it for so many reasons, but first and foremost was for love. It is a snapshot of where I was in my life. I never expected it to be revolutionary or groundbreaking. It’s not. That doesn’t mean it’s bad or has no worth, it means it has a fixed place in my creative journey. It’s my contributory verse.

On Twitter this morning, another friend shared a short video of David Bowie responding to the question of why you should never play to the gallery.


“Always remember that the reason that you initially started working, was that there was something inside yourself that you felt if you could manifest in someway, you would understand more about yourself and how you coexist with the rest of society. I think it’s terribly dangerous for an artist to fulfil other people’s expectations, I think they generally produce their worst work when they do that. The only thing I would say is, if you feel safe in the area that you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”

Whenever I need to quieten my mind, or just get a sense of myself again, I go to the sea. The sea doesn’t care who you are or what you do — it can be beautiful and calm, or mighty and terrifying. It just does as it wants, it needs no validation. I admire that.

Last year, I wrote and published a piece focusing on belonging, and finding where you are in the world. I’ve since edited and amended it, returning to it when I need to. A large part of it needed no changes. I believe it still rings true.

Here, in Wellington, the two loudest sounds are quite frequently the wind and the sea. While the sea is only truly loud when you are standing close to it, the wind comes bustling around your house, knocking on windows and rattling doors, demanding to be acknowledged. Wind is obnoxious; even on a calm day it has many forms, but it always feels like the most intrusive of the elements. With other forms of weather there are ways to avoid it or hide from it, but wind seems absolutely determined to find you.

“Hi! Hello! I’m here again!” It seems to say, as it grabs you by the ears with both hands and leans into your face. It can be like a demanding toddler, or a sedate old man. It can run and whoop and swirl, or it can meander and caress. Either way it seems impossible to hide from it completely. In that way it is the partner of the sea. Both are unstoppable and will do exactly as they wish. Both have great power and strength, the ability to ravage and destroy, but can be equally calm and restful. They do exactly as they like and nothing gets in their way. You must learn to accept them and work with them, or accept that you will always be fighting against them. A fight you will never win.

“Why fight us when we are so much greater than you? That’s simply how we are.”

I feel like too many people fight the wind and the sea in their lives, perhaps without realising it. I know I did. They still believe that they can tame the elements without appreciating or understanding their immensity. They see the wind as a nuisance to be overcome, the sea a force to be tamed. That’s not true. To wilfully ignore or challenge the guiding forces of your life ultimately never ends well.

I am not afraid these elements, even though I am fully aware of the destruction they can cause. I prefer, instead, to celebrate how impressive they both are. You can keep your calm days, give me instead the power of the ocean, the roar of a storm in my ears. A calm day may be beautiful; the sea, gentle, the wind, a mere kiss on the cheeks, but at any point the weather may change, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Embrace the power and the wildness, or spend your days always railing against a force that does not care about your emotions and can flatten you without a thought.

I write because I must. When I don’t, I feel incomplete. Sometimes I slip into the desperate trap of seeking validation, and then I tip the rancid sawdust from my ears, and go about my day.

My brain, right now, is being an asshole, but it will pass. And in the meantime, I’m quite curious to see what stories might emerge.

I’ll let the Dead Poets boys – using the words of poet and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau – conclude this post:

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. To put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Finding My Way Back

My regular readers and followers will know that I frequently write for mental health. I’m also aware that this often turns people off too.

“Oh great, she’s going on about depression again.”

“Why does she always focus on the serious stuff?”

“She must be pretty unstable if she has to keep focusing on all that.”


I “go on about it” because it’s incredibly important to me, and because I believe that one of the best ways to change things that aren’t working, is to address our challenges and to talk about them.

I’ve not been my best self recently. I’ve been demotivated and anxious, and I had failed to kept up with my daily writing routine. I felt like it wasn’t bringing me the level of joy I had become accustomed to. I wasn’t sure why at first, but I also recognised that I had been giving out a lot of energy, without feeling like I was getting any in return. I wasn’t feeling seen for what I was doing. As a result, I’d lost sight of my real purpose and goals.

Amanda Palmer talks in her book “The Art of Asking” about the basic human need to be seen by others.

“There’s a difference between wanting to be looked at and wanting to be seen. When you are looked at, your eyes can be closed. You suck energy, you steal the spotlight. When you are seen, your eyes must be open, and you are seeing and recognising your witness. You accept energy and you generate energy. You create light. One is exhibitionism, the other is connection. Not everybody wants to be looked at. Everybody wants to be seen.”

I had fallen into the trap of believing others were “stealing” my energy. Merely taking what I was offering them and giving nothing in return. This wasn’t true, my self-doubt demons were whispering in my mind and making me think the worst.

I am a Wild Woman. I am connected with myself and I recognise and understand the many paths my life journey has led me along. I am done with asking for permission to take up space. I don’t believe you measure your own self worth by the opinions of others. I believe in living your life with authenticity and integrity, and that you become a better person by lifting others up not by putting them down. I don’t listen to people who tell me what I cannot do, and how people treat me or respond to me says nothing about me and absolutely everything about them. I also know most people — myself included — are works in progress. I try to always be kind, or at least strive to understand others’ motivations.

I am a Wild Woman, I know this without a doubt, but I’m no Wonder Woman. I’m still human, and I still fail sometimes.

I realised that not only was my writing not enriching me in the way it used to, I had stopped exercising and moving physically as much as I did. My daily routine always involved me reading or catching up with a good TV show while hula hooping in the morning. I’d been under the weather, I had a cold, it was as good an excuse as any to “take it easy”. Except, when I got better, I didn’t return to my routine. I got a lot of headaches, especially in the morning, one almost every day. I was starting to worry that something might be wrong with me. I felt constantly tired and I wasn’t getting outside enough. I wasn’t walking around and getting fresh air. I was squirrelling myself away at home, hiding behind a computer screen, being “busy”. Except my being busy also seemed to end up becoming some strange form of self-flagellation while worrying about what people thought of me. Tweeting excessively but getting no likes. Refreshing the browser just in case I’d missed something. All the many toxic things I turned my back on when I gave up Facebook.

Social media can be amazing. It can inspire, connect, heal and educate. It can also be a heaving cesspit of narcissism, trolls and and irrational behaviour. I don’t want to get into a larger discussion about social media, but for me, and knowing my own personality and behavioural traits, it is not always a very pleasant place for me to play. For me, right now, “The only winning move is not to play.” (WarGames, 1983) I am still working on strategies where I can use the positive parts of social media without getting sucked in completely.

And so, I had realised I needed to clear my head, and get rid of the ball of anxiety which seemed to be turning my stomach to stone every day. I took a walk on the beach.

Whenever I need to quieten my mind, or just get a sense of myself again, I go to the sea. The sea doesn’t care who you are or what you do — it can be beautiful and calm, or mighty and terrifying. It just does as it wants, and it needs no validation. I can identify with that. It’s the same feeling I get when I get up somewhere really high. It puts everything in perspective and gives me space to focus. If you want to get a sense of that feeling, watch Carl Sagan’s “The Pale Blue Dot” on YouTube https://youtu.be/GO5FwsblpT8

The sun was bright but the wind was bitter, I had to keep walking to stay warm. It was late in the day and the sun dipped towards the ocean, bathing everything in a strange yet peaceful light. I walked to the rocks at the far side of the beach and watched the waves flick up and over their jagged edges. I found pieces of smooth beach glass, which always makes me smile, and I held it in my palm as I walked. I stopped, and breathed deep. I let go of all my negative thoughts. I felt fully seen by the elements and the land.

This morning I returned to my usual exercise routine. I felt so much better for doing it. I chose turmeric tea over coffee and I didn’t get a morning headache for once. I turned off Twitter and logged out of everything else, and sat down and wrote for a while. All those old feelings of joy returned. Satisfaction through artistic development and my personal creative journey. I felt more like myself again. Not so stretched. Balanced and more calm.

Recognising your unhealthy behaviours can be a necessary and important process, just as any self-care is essential to you. I’d fallen into a very common trap of expecting to gain validation through the opinions of others. Letting comments and likes dictate how I felt. It made me miserable, and unfulfilled. Because, ultimately, I know that while support and praise are wonderful, you cannot be emotionally satisfied if you pin all your happiness on that which others give you. You have to give it to yourself too. Recognise your achievements and celebrate how far you’ve come. Because if that attention is not forthcoming, or is lacking in some way, it can be far too easy for you to convince yourself you’ve failed. And that’s simply not true.

I write about writing for wellness, because without it, when I stop writing, I stop being well. I don’t have to write *about* mental health, to be writing *for* it. I write to bring focus to myself and my experiences, to put things into proper perspective so that I can acknowledge and assess the impact those experiences have had on me. I write because sometimes it is easier to put my thoughts on paper than to verbalise them, especially if those words are difficult to say. I recognise that writing every day helps me challenge my anxieties, release tension and frustration in my mind and body, and brings order to my daily routine.

I am “well written”. I write to feel well, and it works.

Well-Written – Writing for Wellness

I run an online blog and support group called Well-Written; a writing group which encourages women to write for positive mental health. We share our ideas and creativity, and we listen to what we all have to say. It is aimed at being an empowering and nurturing space not just to write about mental health issues, but also to celebrate writing as having a positive impact on our sense of self. Here I explain why I feel this is important, and why I keep doing it.

Why am I doing this? Why am I putting so much of my energy into this? I could give up; maybe I should give up. It would be the easiest thing in the world to lie down and just stop. No-one is listening to me anyway.

I hear these thoughts in my head very regularly. In fact, they never really go away. Sometimes they are LOUD and they FILL MY WHOLE BODY. Sometime they are so quiet as to hardly exist. But they are always there.

I’ve always written for my mental health, from the very first time I began keeping a diary at the age of eleven. At that age I knew I was writing words that I wouldn’t be sharing with others. As I’ve grown older I realise that sharing those words not only helps me, but can help others as well. It can spark an understanding; a realisation that we are not alone in our feelings. If what I’ve written can help and inspire just one person – even if that person is myself – then I have achieved something powerful.

I started Well-Written because I needed a distraction after losing a friend to suicide. I make no secret of the fact that my initial intentions for Well-Written were first and foremost to make myself feel better. To reach out to other people. To stop myself thinking dark and frightening thoughts. I did the only thing I knew I could do which wasn’t self-destructive – I wrote about my feelings. I never intended to share them, that wasn’t the purpose at the time, but those words opened something up inside me. They made me realise that while I felt unable to talk about how I felt, I could write about it, and I could share those feelings. Anonymously if necessary.

Sharing your words is scary, especially if those words are about things which are deeply personal to you. You may doubt your voice, or feel nervous about speaking out. You may not want others to know that you are capable of such thoughts. This applies to all of your writing, not merely that which focuses on your emotions or mental health. The knowledge that once you send those words out into the world, there can be no taking them back.

I often remind myself that while I cannot control how my writing is received, I can control what I offer to the world. I can control everything I put on the page. I can speak my truth; honestly and with integrity, and I can be mindful of how I use my language. I can be honest without being hurtful. I can speak about what processes work for me without judging others.

I used to feel a deep unease at the idea of my family and close friends reading what I wrote. Now I understand that my writing often answers questions which those close to me had felt unable to ask. I was worried that I might damage my relationship with them in some way, not seeing that my keeping such thoughts from them only widened the boundaries between us.

Eventually, I realised that I don’t have to write to appease anybody. I write only for myself. I will be judged, both positively and unfairly, on absolutely everything I write. Once I understood that, I was able to let go of my inhibitions. I could write freely and openly about everything I wanted and needed to write about. I have sparked conversations, I have shared myself with others, and I have let go of the doubts that made me question: should I share this?

It’s not easy. I don’t think bravery or courage are quite the right words to describe it – although they are an important part of it. Instead, I believe it is more akin to peeling back another layer of yourself and finding a piece of your authentic self. Finding your voice and knowing it deserves to be heard. Having something to say, and not waiting for permission to say it. Writing your story as it needs to be written.

It’s easy to give up; it’s perhaps one of the hardest things in the world to keep fighting, especially when you are tired or demotivated. I want to tell you that we all often feel like that; but you do not have to fight alone. Well-Written is a village, a community, your own personal cheerleading squad. It is a safe space where you can be supported and nurtured. Where you can speak openly without judgement about the things that matter to you.

Why am I doing this? Because it’s important to me and, I believe, to others. Because too many people are too scared, or too uncertain, or simply haven’t found the right words yet to speak. I completely understand; I used to feel the same. I want to let you know that your voice might be quiet right now, but I am listening and I still hear you.

I hear you.

Zine Culture

I made my very first zine this weekend. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and no plan. I decided that instead of trying to make it nice and pretty, I would use it as a creative brain-dump. So I cut random images from magazines (I didn’t even cut them neatly!); added a few of my own poems and thoughts; and made a visual exploration of what was going around in my head at the time.

I found the process very enlightening and empowering. I began making it with little consideration about any particular message or goal, but the end result was definitely positive, and seems to have a strong, underlying message of growth, moving forwards and expressing myself. I like the fact that it is rough and messy; it says much more about the emotions and creative urgency I was feeling – the need to get my ideas out of my head and into a tangible format. I could definitely revisit it and make it neater and prettier, although I do think that would change the dynamic of the overall piece.

You can read my finished zine here 2019-03-04-08-38.pdf


The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a zine as: a non-commercial, often homemade or online publication, usually devoted to specialised and often unconventional subject matter.

In short, a zine is something that you make yourself about whatever you want it to be about – even if the content is super weird, or unique to you as a person. Most definitions of zines include the fact that they are small-circulation, self-published, and often inexpensive or free.

The most important aspect of a zine is generally that the publication identifies as one. Many zine-makers will say zines are as much about the community as the product, and that identifying as a zine is what separates these publications from comics, literary journals, websites, and other types of independent publications.

The term “zine” came from the 1920’s and ’30’s when sci-fi fans created zines about themselves and their interests. The culture exploded in the 1970’s when the punk scene emerged and people would create music zines, often with a political undertone or message.

People often make zines about topics or communities that mean a lot to them such as feminism and human rights, however you can make a zine about something you’re a fan of – often referred to as a fan-zine – or a zine thats just about you and your life called a personal Z or /Z for short.

Most zines are made by cutting and pasting pages together, photocopying them and then binding them together into a booklet, typically with staples or thread. However, there are a lot of zines made with unconventional materials, and there are also digital zines.

Artists often create zines to distribute their work, whether they are writers or photographers or illustrators. The options are endless: poetry zines, a photo zine, a comic, a collage zine, a zine of essays, a fanzine dedicated to your favourite band or artist, or a political-manifesto-type zine. Alternatively, you can focus on a topic and go from there.

Basically, there are zero rules here. Zines are primarily about creating and sharing your thoughts and your passion with others. Your zine can look however you want it to. You don’t have to be an artist to create a zine; all you really need is some paper, a pen and an idea.

Zines give you a reason to ask yourself: what do I have to say? Then to give yourself permission to say it.

Slowing Down and Changing Gears.

I’m tired. I don’t want to admit it, but I am.

I promised myself last year to pay more attention to my ‘give-a-fuck’-budget, and by that I meant that I needed to consider whether something was really worth my time, my energy or my money. I also said that if an event I was invited to involved fake smiling, I wasn’t going to go.

The most likely reason I am tired is because I have broken these two promises to myself.

I throw a lot of myself into everything I do. I get excited and passionate and, foolishly, I expect other people to share that energy. I forget that most people don’t have the same amount of drive or they are simply too busy and can’t, (or won’t,) make the time.

I tell myself that’s okay, but it doesn’t stop me feeling disappointed. I’ve found social media particularly bad for this, I can’t tell if it’s due to algorithms messing up my reach, or people simply being apathetic, but I’ve felt, on more than one occasion, like I’m shouting from a high mountain into a void. My voice is nothing more than a squeak. Social media exhausts me and I know it’s toxic for me. Yet it is also one of the easiest ways of connecting with people, of bringing like-minded souls together. So I persevere.

I also know my mood fluctuates frequently, thanks to depression, chronic illnesses and PMDD. I tend to throw myself into what I do to counter these afflictions. Sometimes at the expense of self-care. Lack of feedback or validation can make these feelings worse. Thus the downward spiral continues. As much as I don’t want to, I have to accept that I cannot do everything on my own and by myself.

All that said, I am setting myself limits on the things I do now, and prioritising the ventures I get involved in. The Well-Written blog has not worked how I hoped it would, I suspect it may be time to retire it, or to reconsider its purpose. The Facebook group has plenty of members, but very few contributors. Again, I need to reconsider in which direction it needs to go.

In comparison, the Wild Women, Wild Voices workshop has received a phenomenal amount of interest, which tells me that is a much stronger area to focus on. I am still absolutely committed to writing for well-being and promoting initiatives to support positive mental health.

I have almost finished my first book – a collection of short speculative fiction stories. I aim to publish the ebook on various platforms in late March. I will be writing about the process and sharing that later in the year, possibly also offering a workshop – a guide to self-publishing.

My frequent readers know that my mantra is to never ask for, nor wait for permission to share your art. Writing a book has been a journey of self-discovery and expression, and I have found many wonderful people in the writing community who have both helped and inspired me. I have listened and learned and finally completed something I am proud of. I would not have been able to do that if I had not stopped seeking permission to take up space.

I will also be volunteering to help with and promote ConZealand, the world science fiction convention, due to be held in Wellington in 2020.

Introspection and re-evaluation are all very necessary parts of a creative journey, and the returns must at least validate, if not celebrate, the process. You will not win every time, but you must learn from your losses; adapt and improve. Self-care is essential, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Likewise, you cannot lead and inspire others if you are not inspired yourself.

This isn’t meant to be a ‘poor me’ post. This is simply me, being honest with myself, accepting my limits, and focusing on what is important and fulfilling right now. If I don’t slow down, I will break. I’m not stopping, I’m just easing off the gas a little. I’m taking some time to enjoy the ride.

The best writing tip I ever received: Don’t stop

Writing is hard.

Oh, certainly, the act of writing is easy enough; you start with a word, and you add another, and then another, and another after that. Eventually, you form sentences and paragraphs. If you keep going, you might end up with pages and chapters, and beyond that, entire stories. Just like Dr Frankenstein, with enough perseverance, you too can create a monster.

What nobody told me is: that’s actually the easy part.

The really difficult bit is; taking that first, unruly draft, and honing it into something beautiful which blossoms fully to life. That you write a story that deserves to be told. A tale which would be impossible, nay, irresponsible, for you to withhold from the world. You need to gather your pile of messy parts, sew them together, and fashion a magnificent body.

A great number of people start out strong, but give up easily. They run out of time, or inspiration. They start questioning their abilities too much, or, in some instances, not enough. Many fall into the dreadful grip of Imposter Syndrome and decide to put their words away for a while.
“I’ll go back to it later,” they tell themselves. “I don’t have to finish it now.”
They know in their hearts that is a lie. I lied to myself so many times.

Others listen too hard to the voices; those of their own and others, which tell them to give up and to give in. They lose their confidence, and their creative voice.

I’ve been told, and read, many writing tips, and all of them have their benefits and their place. You need to find, flex and build your creative muscles. Start small and keep going until you can benchpress those coveted 2,000 words a day. Write every day, and read just as often. Get up fifteen minutes earlier and start a new writing routine. These are all good tips, and will take you great places; but the best one, the one that encouraged me to finally write and finish my first book was: don’t stop.

Every serious writer knows that writing every day is the best, (and quickest,) way to hone their skills. Just like playing football, or going for a run, if you practice every day, you’ll reap the rewards. If you don’t, well, you won’t lose the skill completely, but you’ll likely end up more fair-to-middling. Little League. A weekend amateur. Certainly not Stadium or Olympic standard.

I don’t mean write without breaks or continuously; no-one can write a novel in one day. Consistency and frequency are key. Don’t put it off or put it away for later. Don’t tell yourself you’ll go back to it – do it now. Write every day, if only for half an hour. Remind yourself that it is far better to write only fifty words than none at all. If you wait for the Muse, you’ll never write a word. If you confine yourself to only writing at weekends or every other day, you will do yourself no favours in the end.

Get started; keep adding more words; build up momentum, and, whatever else you do; don’t stop.