Bite-sized chunks of positivity

At the beginning of the year, much like a lot of other people I suspect, I made some resolutions. Small ones, that were attainable and non-stressful. More like mini-goals to be honest. The previous two years have been a bit of a challenge, to say the least. Last year I published a grand total of zero new stories, and this is the first year in five years I have nothing to put forward to be nominated for an award. That feels strange but also not completely unwelcome. As much as I would have preferred it to be via my own choice, I did need a break. So when it came to resolutions, I decided to keep things manageable and in bite-sized chunks. One of those little nibbles was to write a blog post at least once a month… I guess I’m just squeaking in there with that one! 

When I was trying to figure out what to write this blog post about, I found myself with lots of ideas but very little motivation. I wanted to write some essays again, maybe a short story or poem, but my brain is still a little unwell from everything that happened to it last year (TL/DR version: medical negligence via the dental profession, lots of pain, lots of trauma) and I am struggling to encourage it to “make the words good” right now. That will change, I am positive about it, but I do need to be kind to myself and be mindful of my limits. 

One thing I did find easy to do was get back into doing a Life Journal, which I actually started doing in 2020, and I credit it with keeping me grounded through the pandemic. In my Life Journal, I keep track of my moods, my sleep and my motivation levels. I set myself monthly goals and create bingo squares for certain skills. I permit myself to mess it up and be as rough and haphazard as I want to, so I don’t worry about keeping it neat and perfect. Perfection is the enemy of good, and in the past, I have been so anxious about “mucking it up” that I’ve ended up not writing anything. There are no rules for my Life Journal except one: check in every day. That check-in can be as simple as colouring a box to show how I am feeling and how much sleep I got the previous night, or it can be a long-form diary entry where I write and draw much more. Keeping it small and simple means I’m more likely to keep it up. And so far, for this month anyway, I have. 

It can be hard to get back into the swing of things that used to be so easy but have now become difficult. Hard to reclaim who we are after we have lost a part of ourselves. I spent a lot of time feeling sad and angry about what I’d lost, and the worst part of that was feeling like I couldn’t write anymore. I felt like something that really made me who I am had been taken away, and it terrified me. Especially as I was no longer sure about who I was. Giving myself that tiniest nudge to just scribble down a few thoughts and ideas, or make goals that mean I have to think beyond the immediate and believe in a future, has helped my brain feel so relieved. I know now a lot of the loss and despair was the trauma talking, and while that’s okay, being able to see what lay beyond that was important too. 

Although I haven’t written much, I have been keeping busy creatively in other ways. I discovered metal stamping last year and made a lot of cool bangles. I drew and painted (I even illustrated some book covers for other people), I decorated my writing room, I read a lot, walked even more, and took myself outside as much as I could. I’ve kept my body busy in the hope it would also exercise my mind, and I think that much is true. Something I did very recently, just this month, was to figure out how to make a pair of custom vampire dentures. It was a project I’d wanted to do for a while, and also helped me reclaim something from the trauma I went through. Also, they look fantastic!

My writing goals for 2024 are small and tentative. I really hope to finish Rabbit, and I have a few other shorts that have been buzzing around my brain for a while. I feel like it would be quite appropriate to put together a toothy horror collection, although I’m not sure how many people would actually be interested in that! (Although Little Teeth did get a very good reaction when it was released.) I’m not stressing about it though, in fact, I’m actually quite interested in seeing where things will lead me, even if that is not at all in the direction I was aiming for. If the past two years have taught me anything it’s to just keep going. I can stop, and I can (and should!) rest, but I won’t ever give up.

Here’s to the future, and hopefully a lot more “making the words good”!


I am a bit of a magpie, I admit. I love hoarding shiny things. They’re not always shiny in the conventional sense, but they always hold a great deal of excitement and wonder for me. Planners and stickers and pretty new pens definitely fall into this category. As do LEGO mini-figures and things in the same colours as Paua shells. But by far the thing I hoard the most is notebooks.  

I have been reading the wonderful new book by Tom Cox, coincidentally called NOTEBOOK, and it inspired me to have a dig through my own, rather haphazard collection, some I had even forgotten about owning. Tom’s book is a collection of thoughts and ideas from notebooks past and present. These do not form a necessarily linear narrative – random musings in notebooks rarely do – but they do shine a light into his personality. Like all of his nonfiction books, it reads like going for a ramble with a friend, exploring the nooks and crannies of the countryside, secret places most people never see.

And so, in keeping with the theme, this a piece I wrote in a new notebook about writing in new notebooks…

As many others have already said, writing in a new notebook feels like a strange parallel to your life. Do you want your entries to be perfect, your handwriting neat and all spellings correct? Or will you simply get into it, scribbling your thoughts randomly and excitedly as they come to you, without a care for how they spill out onto the page?

The first page, of course, will always be the best; the cleanest and neatest, the one with the most promise. But as you continue and your arm gets tired, the angle of the paper more awkward or the ink in the pen begins to run out, you notice the changes. I suspect what worries us most sometimes is other people noticing the changes. Which rather begs the question, are we writing in notebooks for others to read or simply for ourselves? And if it is indeed the latter, what does it matter if our penmanship is not neat, or if our spellings are wrong, our sentences incomplete? We must write for ourselves, first and foremost. Write because we want to tell our story.

I do not wait for the lovely thoughts or the most optimal circumstances, narrating some sanitised version of my life. I use my writing as a mirror to reflect and examine, and also to explore. I don’t like feeling scared of a new notebook, succumbing to the pressures of keeping them “nice”. I have far too many notebooks in my possession, most of them filled with thoughts and ideas, even those of the dull and mundane, because in life, nothing is truly dull and mundane. It is all part of a journey that may lead you to another adventure. Living IS the adventure.

Being and loving and exploring and experiencing, all of that makes us, us. And yet, each and every one of us, no matter how great or important, can be reduced to two simple dates; our birthday and our death day. Everything we are, everything we become, condensed into the little hyphen that connects them. Our whole lives written only as a —

The trouble is, you think you have time… Everyone thinks this. They look at their lives and they save things for best, or they hold off doing something until they are older or retire, and they fail to recognise or appreciate the time they have right here, right now. The time they have been given, not to put in a little box and save for later, but to use NOW.

Our being here is powerful. Life is a complex, messy twist of events in which we are entwined. We can try to make sense of it, or we can celebrate it or we can allow it to simply push us along. We might even do all that and more. But we should endeavour never to become stagnant, or to squander our time. Don’t save something for a special occasion. Every day of your life is a special occasion.

And so is true for new notebooks.

Life Journaling

“Perfection is the enemy of good.” – commonly attributed to French writer and poet, Voltaire. 

“Achieving absolute perfection may be impossible and so, as increasing effort results in diminishing returns, further activity becomes increasingly inefficient.”  

As pretty much everyone else has said in their yearly roundups and reviews, 2020 was, to put it mildly, a bit rubbish.

One of the best things I did this year was to start outlining monthly goals and tracking data. It meant I could prioritise my time effectively and put the work into the areas that needed it most. Not only that, I started tracking aspects of my life and health that allowed me to see patterns and changes, which in turn meant I was able to analyse my productivity and do a bit of ‘body-hacking’. How did I do this? With something that I called a Life Journal.

I have tried bullet journalling many times in the past and given up within the first month or so as its always seemed too over-complicated, time consuming or I failed to see the benefits. Much in the same way that I can never keep a regular diary – I have to dip in and out of it when I feel like it – it was a habit I could never seem to stick to.

Making A Habit Stick

It is only a couple of days away from the end of 2020 and I have a full and complete journal to show off for once. So why was this attempt different, and what did I do?

At the beginning of the year, when everyone is often thinking about resolutions for the oncoming months, I started reading about habit forming, specifically the 21/90 rule. 

This requires you to commit to a new goal for 21 days without a break. After those three weeks it should start becoming a habit. Do it for another 90 days for it to become a permanent change in your life.

If you can commit to something for 111 days (3 months and 3 weeks) the 21/90 theory says that you will cement this action into being something that you do regularly and (hopefully) enjoy doing.

Find The Why

Before I started thinking about what my journal might look like I had to ask myself the Why? – “Why do I want to do this journal?” 

I believe the Why for any new project or idea must always come first, even before the What and the How.

“Why will I stick to this version of journaling when all my previous attempts have failed? Why is tracking this data important? Why have I chosen the physical form over digital?” 

The answers to all of those questions were simple. As someone with ADHD on the autism spectrum I was tired of feeling like a hamster on a wheel, never really optimising my output or being able to identify the areas that I could improve in. I had plans to level-up my writing career in 2020, and that required a level of strategising and planning. Added to that, my health wasn’t where I wanted it to be and I knew that keeping accurate data would help me address problem areas. 

Put simply: I wanted to keep a record of useful data that I could use to improve myself in 2020.

Second to all of that were some other pressing questions:

“What will I get out of it? How will it function? When will I add to it? How much time can I give it?”

Did I want it to be functional, personal or introspective? Did I know what kind of data would be useful to track? Did I want it to be visually appealing so I could share it on social media in some way and inspire others? This seemed pretty unimportant at first, but as time went on I realised how useful it was to share parts of it.

As for time, my morning routine always started with a cup of coffee first thing, so when better to spend five to ten minutes every day filling in a journal? It was easy, realistic and didn’t feel like I had to make any grand gesture or put a massive effort into making it happen. 

Tracking with grids

I really liked the idea of A Year In Pixels and I loved how simple a design that could be. So I made some grids (well, my husband did, as he’s much better at that kind of thing!) and thought about what to track. 

I decided on:

  • Head Weasels / Mood Tracker
  • Sleep Tracker and 
  • Did I Exercise Today? 

All these grids had a colour key and all I had to do was colour in a square each day. So simple, and yet so effective.  

I also thought about things which would be useful to me throughout the year. I was curious to know how many books, films, TV series and new music I enjoyed across a 12 month period, so I decided to add a monthly Entertainment page. This came in really useful when I wrote my yearly roundup.

To manage my story submissions, I kept a record of everywhere I had sent my work and whether it got published, plus a separate page for everything I published myself or had featured on other blogs. My acceptance rate this year was 1:3.5. I sent out work to 28 markets and had 8 acceptances, which I am extremely happy with. 

Setting Goals – Checkpoints, Not Monoliths

I thought about my goals for the year in terms of Life, Health and Work and gave myself an ideal outline of goals which were attainable and practical. 

When thinking about goals I find it useful to consider three points: 

  1. Make them specific and actionable – eg. “Exercise more” is too vague. “Take a ten minute walk every day” is more clear. 
  2. Realistic and sustainable – “Write 1000 words every day” is a fine goal, but “write for at least fifteen minutes every day” is something you can stick to. Small wins will add up to bigger ones. 
  3. In your control and changeable. “Go to bed at 11pm” is ideal, but “Aim for seven hours of sleep a night,” gives you a realistic and flexible goal. 

I wanted to challenge myself and strive to improve, so setting myself short-term monthly goals felt like I could keep moving forwards. Progress, not perfection became my mantra and gave me permission to be messy, to not always keep things neat or pretty, and to not beat myself up if I didn’t tick everything off each month. The primary goal was to always keep moving forwards. Any goals I gave myself were moveable checkpoints, not monoliths carved in stone.

I also set aside space to think about my writing goals for the year, setting myself challenges and focusing on areas which I really wanted to tick off, but with no specific, monthly timeframe.

When COVID-19 hit and New Zealand went into lockdown I added another tracker to record the days spent in different levels. Rather than making me focus on the negative, I found it very useful to mark down milestones, and it felt really important to me document something that was quite clearly world-changing. It also prompted me to write down my Quarantine Questions which I believe really helped my mental health.

Where have I ended up?

The rest of my journal became filled up with a number of creative things:

  • Quotes I Loved 
  • I Was Brave – I Felt the Fear and Did it Anyway 
  • Week Day Routine 
  • Insulin Needs and blood test results
  • A Place for Thoughts (which became a diary of sorts)
  • Story Ideas and Planning

plus many others.

What I have ended up with is a really useful, interesting and fun insight into how I work, what I like, and where my strengths and weaknesses lie.

The journal has helped me identify areas of my health which I could improve on such as getting better control of my diabetes. It has motivated me to plan my time better, and work smarter not harder. I have realised the types of writing I like most and how better to plan projects. I can see that I am far more physically active than I used to be and that makes me very happy.

Above all, it’s helped me let go of the idea that any journal had to be perfect to be meaningful – functionality takes precedence over aesthetics.

The focus should always be on moving and improving, and your list of goals should inspire you to do that, not make you feel guilty if you fail. Every word you write is progress.  

Remember: Progress not perfection. 

And now, I’m planning my Life Journal for 2021.

If you want to use some of the tracking grids and entertainment icons that I use in my journal, sign up to my mailing list and I’ll send them to you free of charge. 

If you would like to share your journalling story with me, you can reach me on Twitter @Tabatha_Writes, or email me:

This post was co-authored with developer, technologist and writer, David Gary Wood.

Online Connections: On Going Viral

I’ve been on Twitter on one way or another since November 2010. Like a lot of people, social media is a conflicting place for me. Sometimes it’s a fun and exciting playground where I can make connections and find new friends. Other times it can feel like a toxic sandbox overrun by spiteful trolls. I tend to stay in my little online bubble and don’t bother engaging with those who bring their negative energy to the platform.

I don’t do follow-trains or like-for-likes, and I rarely add anyone who I don’t have similar interests, ideas or a real-life relationship with. I’m not “here to debate” and I block unsavoury users without pause. My DMs are definitely not open. I don’t even have a user icon which shows my real face. Living in New Zealand I’m a reasonably active participant in NZ Twitter — which really emphasises how almost everyone on the islands are only two degrees removed from each other — but I’m definitely not an “influencer.”

On the morning of the 17th January I was actively considering deleting my account for a while. Not for any particularly bad reason, but I was aware that it was significantly reducing my productivity. I felt like I wasn’t quite getting the quality engagement that I wanted — the signal to noise ratio was way off. As an introvert who pays lot of attention to mental health issues, I was also aware that I had fallen back into old, bad habits that were contributing to my rising anxiety levels.

But I also knew, like the Hobbit Samwise Gamgee, “There’s some good in this world Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.” I felt that I just needed to keep searching for it.

Out of curiosity I composed and sent a tweet.

“Please give me recommendations of amazing kick-ass women on Twitter to follow. Women who are strong & confident, who take absolutely zero shit and have powerful, thoughtful voices. I need more connections to Wild Women. Earth Mothers. Warriors.”

Within half an hour the ball had begun rolling, with people tagging many influential women in the maker and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Mathematics) communities. Then New Zealand Twitter joined in, adding suggestions of mana wahine — strong Māori female figures. (Mana wahine is often understood to be a type of Māori feminism, although it is not as simple as that.) Writer Twitter was the next to add suggestions — mostly horror writers and poets, being the two “scenes” I am an active part of — with both well-established and beginner female writers being tagged. And so it went on.

“Cool,” I thought, as I muted the replies to stop my mentions blowing up. “That got a lot more attention than I was expecting.”

It was a gorgeous, sunny day. A friend of mine and their daughter were walking 59km in the name of kindness, and promoting their walk on Twitter with the hashtag #kindnessmatters. Pretty damn inspiring. I didn’t think I was up for walking 59km, but I could definitely manage 10km into the city. I guess acts of kindness and giving back were mingling together in my head that day. Somehow it felt important to add my own steps to their journey.

I went out and forgot all about Twitter.

Six hours later I checked my feed and almost spat out my coffee. My curious tweet, to which I had expected maybe a dozen or so replies, had gone viral. With over 600,000 impressions and 13,000 total engagements, the comments and likes had escalated monumentally. It would have been impossible to read through them all, but a skim read told me something incredibly important: there was zero negativity here.

Every single comment was from someone using their words to lift up and celebrate the women that they considered strong and kick-ass. Women they admired or found inspiring in some way, who meant a lot to them or who had a positive impact on their lives. Some used the thread to celebrate their friends, or women that were close to them. Others added strangers and celebrities; politicians and party leaders. There were movie-stars, singers, writers and artists. Women who did important work for charity or gave back to their community in some way. There was a fabulous wide range of diversity and inclusion, with women of colour and from the LGBTQIA+ communities equally tagged and praised.

It’s good, healthy & empowering to reject labels, especially those that others may try to put on you, as much as it is to find ones that feel right.

Some women said that while they chose to reject the labels I’d used as they did not feel like they were appropriate, they appreciated the mention and acknowledgement. This in itself was a powerful affirmation and a reminder that it’s good, healthy & empowering to reject labels, especially those that others may try to put on you, as much as it is to find ones that feel right. Others embraced and claimed those labels and were delighted that other women thought of them in such a way. The level of positivity and mutual support was absolutely astounding. Apparently my tweet had tapped a nerve, or exposed a need which hadn’t otherwise been addressed. It spoke to women (and a few men too) and fostered a sense of online community and mutual recognition. Women were being seen for who they were and what they do, and showing other women the importance of that.

Eventually, I killed the thread by protecting my tweets for 24 hours. By the next morning it had amassed over 700,000 impressions and 14,500 engagements. Sadly, but predictably, by this time a few trolls and bots had sneaked in. Not enough to even make a dent on the overall vibe of positivity, and their comments were more weird than abusive or unkind, but it was enough to make my uncomfortable introvert side say, “Time to stop now.”

For me, saying “no” is essential self-care, and knowing when to walk away from something is as important as speaking out. It might seem strange but while I value being seen, I don’t necessarily want to be looked at.

I am highly unlikely to ever be famous for anything I do, and I have to be completely honest, I’m totally happy with that. I found the intensity of attention rather unpleasant, despite it only being online attention and overwhelmingly positive at that. I always feel wary about sticking my head above the parapet, knowing that the mood online can turn sour quickly, and there are as many dark corners of the web as there are light. For me, saying “no” is essential self-care, and knowing when to walk away from something is as important as speaking out. It might seem strange but while I value being seen, I don’t necessarily want to be looked at.

However, for this specific tweet to go viral seems amusingly “on brand” for me. The work I did last year facilitating Wild Women workshops with my Well Written group was aimed primarily at providing safe spaces for women to speak and write honestly and openly about themselves, and to foster connections with other women in areas that they felt they were missing. Finding your community, and deriving strength and encouragement from that, is something I feel incredibly passionate about, as well as sharing that sense of connection and providing spaces for those who need them.

I’m incredibly happy to have found so many kind, supportive and kick-ass women via my tweet, and it’s great to know that others have found the same. Seeing so many strong women lift each other up was truly heartwarming, and I’ve decided I won’t be quitting Twitter any time soon. In fact my tweet has shown me that it could be extremely beneficial to expand my Wild Women work into more online places and, if possible, increase accessibility to supportive sessions for women.

Until then, I will keep on searching for, and promoting, strong and confident women. All those doing good work and supporting each other. The Wild Women, the Earth Mothers and Warriors who have powerful, thoughtful voices and take absolutely zero shit.

Header image credit:

When the Universe Calls Out To You, Answer It

It was a glorious, sunny day in Wellington yesterday. I had planned to spend most of it writing and editing, but common sense told me that I should make the most of the pleasant weather before it changed again. Locals may say, “You can’t beat Welly on a good day,” but equally, you don’t really move here for the sunshine. Nestled on the coast of the Strait that runs between the two islands, the days are frequently changeable. But I digress; Mother Nature beckoned, and so out I went.

I met up with a good friend of mine at the marine reserve at Owhiro Bay, and our home educated children poked around in rock pools searching for starfish and crabs. The rocks were covered in beautiful deep-blue Vellela jellyfish, also know as ‘by-the-wind sailor’ and ‘purple sail’ jellyfish. Vellela are carnivorous, and they catch their prey with their tentacles which swirl in the water. These tentacles bear nematocysts, and while the toxins in them are relatively benign to humans, they are deadly to the plankton and other oceanic organisms which form the Vellela’s diet.

We took a walk (and the children scooted) to the Te Kopahou entranceway and Visitor Centre situated at the start of the Red Rocks/Pariwhero Walkway. The rocks themselves were formed 200 million years ago by undersea volcanic eruptions. Small amounts of iron oxides give them their distinctive colouring. Various Māori legends say that it is blood which makes the rocks red: Maui stained the rocks with blood from his nose before catching Te Ika a Maui – the North Island; Kupe wounded himself on sharp paua shells; Kupe’s daughters, pining for their father after he was gone on a long voyage, gashed themselves on the rocks.

We didnt quite make the walk to the Pariwhero themselves as we bumped into local eco-artist and scientist Raewyn Martyn, who was installing natural art on the rocks and driftwood around the coast. Raewyn is the writer of “GREYWACKE LOVE POEMS: returns” and she uses a biodegradable plant-based and bacterial plastic (biopolymer) with pigment from greywacke rock to “paint” on the landscape.

Raewyn has developed this substance with polymer scientists at Scion, a Crown research institute, and Victoria University Wellington’s Ferrier Institute over a period of 18 months, and it reacts to heat, light, moisture and microbial activity. It will eventually safely dissolve back into the landscape if it is not reconfigured and reused.

My eldest child was absolutely fascinated by this and did his usual of asking ALL the questions. I am always incredibly proud of him, and it seems he made an impression on Raewyn too as she signed her book for him, and gave him a piece of the biopolymer to experiment with.

I, of course, went and spoke to the sea for a while, and let its meditative effects wash over me – no real pun intended, although an unexpected wave did hurtle to the shore and soak my legs up to the knee. I will never tire of that feeling, nor the unique and indescribable grounding it gives me.

I might have stayed at home yesterday, written another 2000 words and chipped away at my Works In Progress. Instead, the universe decided it wanted to gift me with inspiration and awe. It wanted me to get out and look up and breathe a little more deeply and free. Or maybe it was all merely a coincidence. Either way, it was a glorious day.

You can follow Raewyn at her Instagram @fallenwalker and at her blog

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 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

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

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.