I recently returned from a wonderful writing retreat at a retreat center about two hours from where I live. I had been told that it was beautiful, but I did not know how magical the place really was until I got there. It consists of several cottages scattered around one large property, surrounded by majestic gardens filled with flowers, little statues, a labyrinth and several meditation spaces. I ate breakfast and dinner at the restaurant every day and the rest of the time, I wrote on the little veranda of my cottage. When I needed a break, I would take a walk around the gardens and explore. After almost a whole year of not finding or making the time to write, I reveled in the space and beauty and by the end of the week, I had a first rough draft of my second memoir.
I arrived back home to my electricity having been cut off as my rental house owner had neglected to pay the bill for several months, even though I had been paying him my share regularly. Thankfully this was sorted out by my dear mother who had been staying in the house with the girls while I was away.
On Sunday morning, I decided to stay in bed and recreate my writing retreat in my own home. My garden is gorgeous too, I love my house and there is no real reason why I can’t make my life as beautiful at home as it was on my retreat. Of course there is the housework and the cooking and the homeschooling and my work, but I have decided to carve out a little piece of each day to continue my writing. I will try to get into the habit of doing this in bed every morning for at least an hour before getting up to start my day. That way there will be no distractions.
During my writing retreat, I also had some major personal realizations which I’ve added into my book and I now look forward to seeing the happy ending unfold. I also hope to go back to the beautiful country retreat early next year to get another chunk of writing done and hopefully, I will be able to publish my second book sometime in 2016.
I woke up on the first day of the year and decided to start out as I aim to continue. I remembered (as hung over as I may or may not have been) to smile at myself and say, “Good morning beautiful! Today is a wonderful day.” This has become subconsciously habitual for me, put into place with only a couple of weeks of conscious practice.
I then had my usual cup of coffee in bed brought to me by my lovely daughter, and instead of jumping up and running into my day as has become my pattern over the last few months, I reverted to my previous and more peaceful morning routine. I stared out of my French doors at the hundreds of tiny yellow dandelions scattered across the grass, I watched the red feathered blooms of the bottle brush tree dance in the wind, I looked to see if the lemon trees had started bearing fruit, and I became mesmorized by the patterns that the clouds paint on the sky. I read a little bit from one of the non-fiction books next to my bed, and then I began to write. Writing in bed in the morning, before the hussle and bussle of the day, has always worked for me. Whether it is a blog post, an article, a new workshop, a piece for my next book or simply a journal entry; writing just flows in my quiet contemplative morning time. I love to write in between pauses of beautiful scenery outside my bedroom door, sips of outstanding coffee made in my new coffee machine, the gentle sounds of birds, and the comforting weight of my animal friends snuggled in and around my legs.
All this, I miss when I long-jump into my day, not to mention the pearls of wisdom that arrive in the quite reflective time. This is how I always started my days in the country, until a few months ago, when life seemed to get too busy to just sit around in bed all morning. How much I missed by giving up this precious time and what a wonderful reminder to never give it up again. It only takes an hour or so. I have designed my life so that there are only two mornings a week that I have early commitments – meditation class and intuitive art class – and I am happy to give up my morning ritual on these days. But not on the other mornings. There is nothing so important as to miss out on my ‘me’ time.
And so, dear friends, you may just see me around on this blog a little more often. I love to write down my thoughts, but because I have been writing my second book (albeit very slowly), I have not wanted to duplicate by writing on this blog. In the meantime, I have missed all of you and stopped doing something that I love. So here I am again!
I plan on having a wonderful, magic, beautiful, abundant and joyous year. And I wish the same for each and every one of you.
Grace Peterson, friend and author of REACHING–A Memoir, invited me to participate in this blog hop and answer four questions about my writing process. I haven’t blogged anything in quite some time and so I am grateful for this opportunity. I invite you to visit Grace’s blog and check out her memoir on Amazon. What a fascinating story she has to tell!
1. What am I working on?
My one goal this year is to work on my second memoir, a follow on from my first book, and the story of my journey from grief to grace. I can’t tell you much more about it at this time as the book is still a work in progress, much like myself. I find that writing is similar to sculpture, or any other art form. You begin with a blank page, an open canvas or a block of wood, and as you continue, even the artist herself is amazed at what emerges from the bareness. It will certainly be a lighter read than my first book, It Rains In February, which covers the story of my husband’s suicide.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
No story in and of itself is unique. Yet there is only one person who can tell a particular story, their story, in their own voice, and that is what makes each work unique.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I am a storyteller by nature and telling real-life stories is a part of my life. A friend once laughed as she remarked on how I could formulate a simple trip to the grocery store into an interesting story. My writing journey began by journaling my way through pain and grief, which ultimately transformed into my first published book. Writing is a voyage of self-discovery for me and I wonder now how I ever managed without it. Writing has become my form of healing. I write to try and make sense of the inexplicable. I write to put my memories on paper, for my children. I try to do what every writer aspires to, and that is to evoke strong emotions within a reader. I write from the heart and share my stories in the hope that it will not only bring me clarity, but may also provide entertainment, insight and inspiration to others. I write to give hope in a world where there often isn’t any. Stories connect us all and give us a reason to believe that the impossible can be possible.
4. How does my writing process work?
Stories swim around my head all day, every day. Unfortunately, not all of them make their way onto paper. In one moment to the next, a whole story can disappear as my thoughts stray to the shopping list or some other task that requires my attention. I try to make it a priority to scribble down even just one snippet of a thought, in the hope that the memory will return to me later when I have time to sit down and concentrate. I do not write in consecutive order or linear time. I write what comes into my mind or heart. A feeling, a smell, a reminder, a look from a stranger, a dream, or a song on the radio that stirs up a memory.
Books, however, do not write themselves and it is vital to set aside regular dedicated writing slots where there are no other distractions. For me, this happens at night time after the rest of the world has settled down. This is not necessarily the time when inspiration flows, so I’ll often use this opportunity to look at my random notes and attempt to continue the thought process. It also helps me to have some goals in place. This year I have committed to write something every day, even if it is only one sentence. And I have a goal to finish my current book by the end of this year. I have discovered a nifty writing tool, Scrivener, which I am using to create my new book.
* * *
Leila Summers is a storyteller, writer and personal coach with a love for all things creative and human. She lives in South Africa with her two daughters and animal friends. Leila published her first book, It Rains in February: A Wife’s Memoir of Love and Loss, in 2011 and is currently working on her second memoir.
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It’s been some time since I’ve written anything on this blog and so I thought I’d give a quick update on where I am. In January, I wrote a post with many ideas about my plans for this year including starting to write Book Two. Writing went well for a month or so. After that I put all my journal entries and notes into one place on my computer and added some scribbled ideas here and there, but to be honest, I haven’t really been writing. Not yet, anyway…
My last blog post was at the beginning of May, and a lot has happened in my life since then. Firstly, it wasn’t as easy as I had hoped to get by without the income from the sale of my house after I put the balance away with the idea of using it for a trip overseas to promote Book Two. Life became somewhat of a struggle and I wasn’t making ends meet financially. All work dried up, Book One sales dropped, and I lost inspiration for writing Book Two. Some days, I did nothing but worry about how I was going to feed myself and the girls.
By the end of May, it was an effort to remain positive. It was during this time that I listened to several online inspirational talks on the Hay House World Summit, selecting the ones around the topic of abundance. During one of the talks, the speaker asked the question, “If you could do anything you wanted to do as a career, without any conditions attached, what would you do?” I sat with that question for one night. The following morning, I answered it in my journal. I would be a Life Coach. This wasn’t something I had ever considered before that moment. I immediately googled life coaching courses in my area and as synchronicity would have it, I discovered to my amazement that Hay House was holding their first ever training in the nearby city of Cape Town beginning two weeks later! I signed up, remembering that I could pay for the course with the money I had saved for my overseas trip. From that moment on, things have been falling into place rather effortlessly in my life. I discovered a new purpose!
As a certified Heal Your Life® teacher and facilitator, I have not only experienced incredible healing in my own life, but I also find immense joy in working with others. I am so grateful that I followed the intuitive signs that have led me to this wonderfully fulfilling place in my own life. I am now in a space to follow my inner promptings and continue to write Book Two.
I have started a new Facebook Page where I share inspirational posts. Would be lovely to connect with you there.
Much love and excitement,
At the beginning of the year the owners of my rental house came to do their annual inspection. While walking around the garden together, they gave me some information about certain plants and trees. I had a particular interest in two trees. One bears both oranges and lemons on the same tree, and the other bears both apricots and nectarines. It seems that the previous owners had managed to graft two trees together so that the trunks merged and only one trunk is visible making it look like the same tree. I found this fascinating. The owners were particularly surprised to see that the avocado tree was full of leaves. They told me that when they bought the house, they were advised by a garden expert to cut the tree down as it was dead and would never again bear any fruit. The owners had decided not to remove the dead tree but rather to give it a chance. In the last month, I was amazed to find that the tree is bearing fruit! It was another small reminder not to believe it when we are told that there is absolutely no chance. Sometimes incredible things do happen against all odds.
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. ~ Albert Einstein
Some people say that there are no such things as miracles, but I believe that miracles happen every day, if we only know how to see them.
I wear two rings on my right hand – my Nana’s antique ring, and my wedding ring. They sit comfortably next to each other as reminders of two special people I love who are no longer on this earth. A few hours before my Nana died, the nurse took the ring off her finger as her hands began to swell. I put it onto my right hand for safe keeping and that is where it has remained. When my husband died just over a year later, I moved my wedding ring next to it. I have almost lost both rings before, but they came back to me.
Last week Tuesday, I had a few errands to run in the nearby town before driving to the airport to fetch a friend. After I had been to three different places, I dropped the girls at ballet before heading to the airport. It was only when I turned onto the highway that I noticed there was something missing. There was a black hole in my Nana’s ring where the beautiful rectangular aquamarine stone should have been. My heart sank. Where had it fallen out? How would I find it? I tried to calm down with self talk. It was only a physical thing. It wasn’t the end of the world. It would be okay. Perhaps I would still find it.
As the days went by, I grew less hopeful. We searched every place where I had been that day. I had gone through my handbag and car with a fine tooth comb. Still, I continued to wear the ring with its empty space in the hope that the stone might find its way back to me. Though I felt sad, I tried to remind myself that things aren’t as important as people, and I will always have my Nana and her memories even without her ring. I also asked her, if she has such powers on the other side, to try and make sure that if I wasn’t to find the stone, that someone who really needed it would find it, so that it could at least help another family.
Today, six days after the stone went missing, I was on the phone to a good friend relaying the story to her. I explained that I was still wearing the empty ring, and would only take it off when I believed that the stone was truly gone and there was no chance of finding it again. After we had spoken for a while, my girls walked into the room with three of their friends. I gave them the signal that I wasn’t to be disturbed as I was on the phone, but they only smiled and said, “I think you will want to hear this Mom.” And then a little boy opened his hand and inside his sweaty palm, sat my shiny little aquamarine stone. I screamed with delight, shouting into the phone. I could hardly believe my eyes!
Later, the little boy showed me where he had found it on the brick paving outside the kitchen door. A place I have swept furiously several times in the last few days. It seemed impossible that it could have stayed there through the wind, the rain, and all my sweeping. The more I thought about it, the more impossible it seemed and as I sat outside with a cup of coffee, I wondered… Could my Nana have put it there? Or at least protected it so that the broomstick hadn’t sent it flying off into the garden never to be found again. However it happened is still a mystery, but for me there is no doubt that it is a true miracle. My Nana must have known that I was the person who needed it the most.
If you'd like to read this blog as a story, click here to go to the first blog post and continue reading in chronological order.
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What readers are saying…
"I just finished your book and loved it. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It was beautifully written and was difficult for me to put down!" ~ Kimmie
"Your book was beautiful! My heart ached with you all the way! I cried so much that my head hearts! Lol. Thank you for sharing your journey....you are a beautiful soul. Love to you and your girls." ~ Jannette
"Your book struck a personal cord with me. Thank you for making me see I am not the only one. Best wishes to you and your girls." ~ Tabitha
"Brilliant writing. Heart rending subject. Emotions expressed superbly. Too sad! Loved your descriptions; 'rain falling like sheets of glass...', 'syllables dropping at my feet.....' and many, many more. Five stars!" ~ June
“I didn't want your book to come to an end; yet, I did, as I knew it would be a new beginning for you. Your words, no matter what pain may lie behind them, are so beautifully strung together. I can't thank you enough for pushing yourself to write your story, very REMARKABLE story, for so many to love and learn from.” ~ Allison
“Your book has every emotion possible. The love you have for Stuart is unconditional and not found often. I admire your strength as a women wife and mother. God bless you and your girls each day. Thanks for sharing your story!” ~ Bridgette
“Just read your book, couldn't put it down. God bless you and your girls and for loving Stuart the way you did. I truly believe he is at peace. My best wishes to you all... you have touched a piece of my heart xx” ~ Lydia
"Have just finished your very moving and beautifully written memoir. I wish you and your daughters much happiness for the future. Thanks to you your girls will have good memories of their beloved father together with an understanding of his battle with depression." ~ Nicola
"You are a very brave and compassionate woman and I'm so glad you told your story. It has also helped me on my healing journey and it will help so many others too. Thank you so much for sharing and for your beautiful writing. I will be recommending it to many people and hope to read more of your writing in the future." ~ Kae
"AMAZING BOOK! I COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN! Thank you for sharing your deepest self and your incredible journey. You are a true inspiration. I will tell everybody I know what a MUST read this book. You are a gifted writer, and I look forward to your next book." ~ Maryanne
"I just finished your incredible book! THANK YOU FOR sharing your pain. The story is incredible a true example of unconditional love." ~ Myra
"I took a whim and downloaded your book on my kindle. I had no idea what it was about or who you were. And let me tell you, i am so glad that i did. this was one of the most moving, loving, heartbreaking and amazing books i have ever read. I couldn't stop reading it and refused to do so until it was finished. What a moving story, and thank you for sharing it." ~ Beth