Passive Learning

I like reading stories where I learn something.

Because of this, I like to research topics or visit places I’m including in my stories so that I base them on fact and I am presenting something true the reader might learn, or perhaps investigate further. Plus I think stories are more credible based on truth.

It’s nothing new, to learn something from stories. Historically, when the majority of the population weren’t literate, or before books were widely available and affordable, people learned from stories. Just think of fables and bible stories, designed to remember something, e.g. a moral.

In fact, stories are used a lot. I read about a memory training technique, a long time ago, where a person say, trying to learn the order of a pack of shuffled playing cards, creates a story. They visualise a ‘route’ along a street, or a setting they are extremely familiar with, and place the cards in positions as they create their story. Later, when they recall the story, they visualise the cards in their positions and get them in the right order. I imagine this takes a awful lot of practise and a long time to do.

Mnemonics are the same; e.g. Richard Of York Gained Battles In Vain for the order of the colours of the spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue indigo, violet); Two Old Angels, Sitting On High, Chatting About Heaven (maths – equations for tangent, sine and cosine). I remember these two from my schooldays many, many moons ago!

What’s interesting for me, as a writer, is the research I might have to do then to find ways of incorporating facts into my story, but that’s what makes it fun for me 😉🙂

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I have a couple of mantras I live by and I didn’t recognise until recently how I came to create them:

If it’s regarding making a decision it’s… ‘If I don’t know what to do, I do nothing.’

This generally works well. And it doesn’t mean I don’t consider the problem at all, quite the contrary, I think it through, deeply. However, more often than not an answer reveals itself. Although, I will accept that sometimes, what might have seemed like a good idea at the time, goes sour: Time and life moves on, subcultures and hidden agendas are revealed and changes of circumstances and influencing factors and it turns out it was a wrong decision after all.

However, most things aren’t immutable; you’re allowed to change your mind. Move with the times.

My other mantra is … ‘If I have nothing of value to say, I say nothing.’

This, I’ve learned, is my innate nature. I am an introvert and a highly sensitive person. (Crikey the ‘accusations’ I’ve endured my entire life over that!) All my life I’ve always had to endure certain contexts where I feel really uncomfortable, e.g. large groups of people chitter-chattering and shallow small talk; it completely frazzles me out. Drains me completely. And some people, even when they sense I’m tense, dismiss the way I’m feeling tell me to ‘chill’ or ‘relax’; that turns my internal spring even tighter and I get even more distressed.

On the other hand, in a small group of two to four people having a deep intelligent discussion on something of value, to gain clarity to meaning and I’m in my element. When I’m interested and feel passionate about a topic, it’s great to discuss it and listen to others’ perspectives.

To understand where these mantras derived, I’ve been reading up on introversion and highly sensitivity; I have classic introvert preferences:

• I prefer to write not speak, when I have time to choose my words and consider the meaning.

• The phone is a nightmare for me, always has been – message or email me instead.

• The thought of public speaking anytime terrifies me.

• I love attending lectures, but not a workshop or group discussion.

• Give me work to do, preferably remotely, and just let me get on with it (with a line of communication open, in case I need it).

• Please don’t include me in Group Think, Team Building Days and ask for ideas in a meeting, e.g. brain storming. Give me time to consider and research the topic and allow me to email/message my ideas.

The many books and websites I’ve read recently regarding these topics suggest there are changes in cultural attitudes towards introverts, high sensitivity (HSP), and human givens. (Really?) People like me shouldn’t have such a hard time anymore – in fact we should feel valued. We’re caring, intuitive, deep thinkers, creative and innate learners, we read around topics without just taking the first idea unquestioned on board.

I now understand why my mantras are particularly apt. After decades of going against my innate introverted nature I want to be kinder to myself in future and learn strategies to remove the pressure to conform in a harsh, loud, competitive ‘me, me, me’ world.

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A Blogger with nothing to say?

I haven’t posted for months again, but then one of my mantras is If I have nothing interesting to say, I won’t say anything.

I’ve been undertaking a personal learning journey the last few months which I’m sure some of what I learned will go into a story.

I intend to get back on track with my personal goals this year, which includes writing blog posts and get my novel published that’s been languishing on my hard drive and more recently in The Cloud for far too long. It deserves to be set loose in the world because there might be some readers who will enjoy it.

I’ve been learning some new skills too – related to writing, of course; calligraphy and art, in the hope that something I read recently that the physical act of writing creates strong neural pathways to stimulate the brain. Let’s see ;o)

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I learned a new term today – ‘Slashie’

I’ve been absent from my blog again and I know things have to change. I go by the adage that if I have nothing useful to say then I don’t say anything. I do the same with decisions; if I don’t know what to do I do nothing and eventually the answer comes to me.


These past few months I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research into publishing my completed novel. I considered traditional publishing, publishing on places like Amazon (because that’s easy to do) and I’ve done a huge amount of research into self-publishing. I learned that a lot of authors choose self-publishing these days so they can ‘retain control’, etc. and it’s never been easier. That seems a good idea but …

One writer on getting published advised, unless the work is sent out into the world absolutely perfect the writer will be forever judged by it. Good or bad.

Nagging Doubt creeps in.

First, I thought, liking something is subjective and I can think of writers whose stories I didn’t enjoy, but nevertheless millions of copies of their work were sold because others did. People will either like something, or they won’t, and I can hope a few folks will think my story is a good read and value for money (I’ve been told by at least a dozen people that it’s enjoyable and satisfying, but then I wonder are they just being nice to me because they’re friends… but they insist not; ‘It’s good’.)

Nevertheless, Nagging Doubt and indecision continues. And where does Slashie come in? A Slashie, I read, is a person who uses various talents to work and has multiple income streams.

A few years ago I set up a tiny, tiny micro business, which never really took off and I wound it up. When I consulted business advisors at the outset I was told to stick to offering one set of skills because otherwise I’d look like a Jack-of-all-trades (the second part; ‘and a master of none’.) Typical British dismissal of someone trying to follow their heart.

And now that I think about it, not being brave enough to do lots of different things, using lots of my skills, has always been my problem. I’ve been trapped in jobs I really didn’t enjoy just to earn money (because that’s what you’re supposed to do) and dismissed what I really enjoyed doing, which would make me get up in the morning to go and do them and earning money would be a nice, if necessary, bonus!

I have to rethink.

I’ve written and edited a novel and if I’m going to self-publish it I have to learn new skills such as marketing and use various previously learned skills to get it ‘out there’, such as formatting. (More Nagging Doubt …)

In addition, I enjoy a variety of crafts and up until now I’ve given away the things I make, or made them for family and friends, because of the Jack-of-all-trades dismissal, which makes me think they’re not good enough to sell.

Only last week I said to a friend that I’ve got to start thinking like an artisan (and act on the advice I gave to someone else). I’d crocheted a special cushion cover and was complimented on it and told I should make them to sell. I dismissed the suggestion because the cost of the materials would be too much before the hours it took me to do it. Then I thought, writers don’t charge by word count or an hourly rate; they send their work out into the world in the hope that someone is prepared to buy it (and hope they will enjoy it) and the recompense might be volume sales. An artist paints a picture and sells it as a unique work. A dressmaker sells a finished garment. Et cetera. I don’t have to think ‘hourly rate’ which has been drummed into me, ‘to be commercially viable’. An artisan thinks, ‘what would someone pay for it?’

Be a Slashie!

I hope sharing my thoughts and insecurities inspires someone to follow their hearts.

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Happy 2019

It’s at this time of year people review the past twelve months, check their goals and objectives and create new ones for the coming year.

When I taught emotional intelligence I used to say don’t try and start new year resolutions on January 1st because there’s far too much pressure and you’re quite likely to fail, Start them later on a non significant day (Monday’s are bad too!)

Just think about all those gym memberships that are abandoned!

The Facebook writing group I belong to, of course, started discussing goals and objectives for 2019, as traditionally these things are done with the new year. Bearing in mind my views on setting such goals, I joined in and wrote two down, which I knew I could achieve but did not state Achieve By dates, nor how I was going to get there. In my head the date is 6 months away and getting there is just sitting down and writing. Maybe a bit too fuzzy but I’m doing something else that supports it.

The good news is I have almost achieved both goals and it’s still within the first week in January!

The point of this post is if you’re going to create goals in January make them achievable and that will give you the incentive to set more goals to build momentum to achieve more as the year progresses, by setting more goals as they are accomplished.

I don’t know how I feel about visions now. I guess people who build successful businesses have them to give them a general direction to aim for. Or maybe they don’t; they’re just astute at choosing the right paths when opportunities present themselves.

I personally stopped having a grand plan 5 years ago; the carpet was pulled out from under my feet and goals, plans and dreams evaporated by a life changing event. Maybe I shouldn’t have let them go altogether, I should have just treated it as a temporary setback, and wait awhile instead of giving up.

Now I have begun to get back on the track; maybe despite my reticence, the vision I had subconsciously underpinned some decisions I made recently towards getting my life back on track.

I still have something to accomplish!

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Delayed ambition

Anybody who reads my blog posts would think I am a procrastinator – I couldn’t disagree!

“Life” or mental blocks sometimes get in the way of goals and ambitions. They sneak up, steal time and take over, and establish themselves as the “norm”.

Now that I’ve recognised what’s been happening I can deal with it – watch this space.

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SMART Goal setting

It’s the time of year when people make New Year Resolutions – as I said in a post a few days ago, I don’t believe in them.

Chatting with a friend this week, I was reminded of something I used to teach students on a personal development course about goal setting – A goal is a dream with a deadline. There are two benefits of setting a deadline – if you do the dream is tangible and achievable and not merely fantasy. The deadline makes it so – I will achieve X by Y. (Motivators would say goals have to be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.)

However, not being very good at listening to my own advice, it dawned on me this morning that I did achieve a fantasy goal last year; a long-standing dream linked to a holiday photograph (making it visual set as a gadget background wallpaper I was subconsciously reminded of it every time I play patience/solitaire!!!) And it must have been at least 12 years since I came up with it. Not any of the above SMART points. Not one! Anyway, this morning I realised that last year I achieved it and I’m living it.

I wonder if I’d made the goal SMART would I still have achieved it? But I would have realised sooner that I had… on the annual review date, which I am sure I would have been constantly pushing on. Result! :o)

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The magic of writing a journal

I’ve no doubt that writing a journal is a very cathartic process. I’ve done it for the past few years when I’ve needed to get things flying relentlessly around in my head out of my brain; only to find they were replaced with more thoughts and phrases instead. Committing them to paper sort of works. I was going through a very traumatic time in my life. Eventually I put the journals through a paper shredder. I didn’t want to go back over the thoughts and I certainly didn’t want anyone else to read them.

In fact, if I think about it now, the act of complete destruction initiated a turning-point in my life and I moved on.

The problem I’ve been working on since, is trying to fire up my inspiration to write a manuscript for a second novel; no matter what I do I get stuck in a rut and lapse back into reality – rather like writing the catharsis journal. Yesterday I realised my problem is that I stopped writing a daily journal; I’ve tried all different types of journals since Destruction Day from files on my laptop to, writing apps on my iPad. But nothing regularly, every day. Silly me!

Writing a journal doesn’t just have to be catharsis, or reviewing life, the universe and everything. Just the act of just writing something, anything… whatever is in my head for just three pages can straighten out my brain and create some kind of logic.

So I have started again and this time I haven’t even gone to the expense of buying a special notebook. I’m just using a notebook I was using for keeping notes. If I can keep it up for a month or so, I will find/buy a special journal notebook to separate it from keeping notes. The act of handwriting and using my nice fountain pen and making a point of just three pages instead of the rambling thoughts is motivating and helps my brain to be more logical.

My Three Pages and Stop journal.

I read somewhere, I think it was in Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, that if you stop mid-sentence it helps you continue writing the next day. I must try that.

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Thoughts on ‘New Year’

I’m in a writers’ discussion group and just before Christmas debated ‘New Year’ – why is it January 1st and so close to Christmas? Of course the discussion covered calendars,  traditions, history, political and religious viewpoints, then it started getting interesting.

I came to the conclusion that I’d like New Year to be set at 22nd December, after the Winter Solstice:  We’re heading back towards summer and within a few weeks the days will start getting noticeably longer with more [hopefully] life-giving sun rays. It makes sense because, I’ve read, our pagan ancestors would be awaiting the return of the sun to grow the new season’s crops, so feasting at partying at year end is a tradition anyway in order to make it through the lean winter months when not much food grows and there’s not much else to do during long winter evenings.

With New Year goes the tradition of making a resolution (or two).

I cannot think of a worse date to set out towards a goal. There is far too much pressure; there is always the joke about annual gym memberships starting in January rarely exceeding the third week, or thereabouts. And anyway, when do you actually start? The Christmas season doesn’t officially finish until 12th Night (6th January) and some people still have ‘left-overs’ lurking in the fridge, or the odd box of chocolates  hanging around – so, for example, you can’t start a diet then – it would be wasteful. Another instance; if you want to give up smoking… do you start at midnight when you’re still at your New Year’s eve party?

Daft idea!

I suggest we choose any date and hour we like, or deem suitable, for starting out towards a goal, which is what a New Year resolution is. Perhaps the most sensible time to start is when we first think of the goal … right now.

Good luck!

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The run up to Christmas 2018

I hope you, my followers, are having fun with your Christmas preparations.

I’m happy to say I’ve escaped all the commercialism and just doing things very quietly. My tree is up and the mincemeat and cake made, and the Christmas presents for the family delivered. A little baking and marzipan and icing for the cake one afternoon and they are finished.

I actually quite like doing little tasks like that when I don’t have to concentrate on what I’m doing – just get stuck in. It allows my subconscious to wander and just see what ends up in my brain. Hopefully the breakthrough idea for a second novel and then such tasks (and sleep) allow the storyline to evolve.

At least that’s what I noticed with my first manuscript; I used the principle of NaNoWriMo – i.e. write everyday for a month, even if it’s drivel. What I actually created was a basic manuscript – a chapter a day, so 4-5k words – to hone and edit.

I used to think writers were a bit airy fairy when interviewed I heard them say it wrote itself. Well, actually, I noticed that because the story and writing it every day absorbed most of my thinking, and right at the front of my brain, that it did write itself. Or I’d dream the next chapter and all I’d have to do is get up and write it.

I plan to get stuck into more tasks where I don’t have to think much and see what transpires!

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