Conscious Writing

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A few weeks back, I went to a creative writing workshop run by author Julia McCutchen. It was called Writing Consciously and Creatively and I was immediately intrigued.

Do I write consciously?

And what does that even mean?

This was on my invitation:

This is for women who want to discover and express their true voice on the page and in the world.

I stumbled in, slightly late as always, to a small intimate looking room up a few flights of stairs in the Hay House building. The atmosphere was calm yet controlled, and I took my sit and poured myself some water. It was very quiet and everyone was focusing. Frowning with concentration. The room full of books and food and plants by the window. I guess you could describe it as slightly intense, and slightly unsettling. Only because I was worried I’d have to share my writing woes or processes or stories. And that sort of stuff is actually quite personal. They asked me to take off my shoes. We closed our eyes through a lot of it. To really get into it, I had to throw away the stresses of my day, otherwise I knew I’d feel a bit stupid in the middle of a room in London, bending and breathing.

I must clarify straight up that this seminar was not as “hippy” as it could sound, and much more than buzzwords around meditation and mindfulness. Believe me, I’ve got enough average books sitting on my book shelf that talk about mindfulness which did nothing for me. I am a cynic. But Julia’s theories were scientific. Well-researched. A huge amount of hearty testimonials that these conscious writing exercises worked, and we were there to give it a go.

I was amongst a small group of writers, who between us, decided to discuss things which had often be embarrassing to talk about openly. It was strange discussing any inner “issues” we’d been having – maybe because we’re so used to sitting behind our laptop screens, hating our Word documents, hating ourselves and hating what sits in our “deleted items”, and we hardly ever talk about it. Either that or we’re in the pub with friends who don’t want to talk to you about a “serious” problem your having with your sentence structure or moments of “I can’t do this. I hating writing. Why do I bother.” It’s no fun for anyone.

Discussing it with other writers is hard too. For me it’s fear of not being understood. They say that’s only ever what social fear comes from.

**

Interestingly this workshop wasn’t just about discovering our voice in the context of bashing your keyboard with biscuit crumbs and a few tears: it was about finding your conscious voice daily. IRL. In the world. The voice in which you speak, always; because they shouldn’t be different.

I didn’t realise until this workshop that I wasn’t always writing consciously. Essentially it means when the words are coming through you, not just from you. 

When you are writing, you should be aware of these things (at all times):

– the words you are writing and;

– who you are as a person writing them.

My writing is my perspective. I am just one person’s point of view. The world is big. Be aware of that. Be aware of your circumstance. Be aware of your surroundings.

Your background. Your experiences. Your family. Your beliefs. Your past. It’s all very important when you are writing. It’s why you should rarely just “dive in”.

Julia took us through a series of exercises (both mental and physical) and allowed this space to “get in the zone” essentially. She had a point: how can you just launch into brilliant creative writing when you’re still worried you’ve left the oven on?

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Taken from the Preface of Julia’s book, writing consciously is about “discovering our true voice [which] leads to clarity about our core message, which enables us to write what we are truly here to write and express ourselves authentically through all facets of our authorship.”

I liked Julia’s energy as soon as I met her. She was open about her own story and her journey and work behind her book. I also enjoyed the presence of the other women in the room, who I felt were not there to judge or ask about your own process or motivations – we all let ourselves be guided along by Julia, lost in our own thoughts.

We were then taken on a guided meditation, which was the first time I’d experienced anything like it, especially in a group. I don’t want to say too much here about the journey Julia took us on because it’s all so beautifully outlined in the book – but it’s safe to say that it’s a sort of emotional experience, lost in deep thought through guided soft speaking. You get taken somewhere in your mind, and I can only describe it as going “deeper” into your thoughts.

We are all so busy with tweeting and emailing and doing our washing and paying our bills and making cups of tea and getting annoyed with Daily Mail commenters and disagreeing with politicians that actually: it was total bliss to be away from the noise, even for a few minutes.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can buy the book here

The workshop was hosted by Julia McCutchen, the author of Conscious Writing, Discover your true voice through mindfulness – out in September but available to pre-order.

FACEPLACE LA-to-London facial: A review

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I recently received an invitation from FACEPLACE (newly located at the amazing Rosewood Hotel) to review a facial. But, not just any facial. FACEPLACE is pretty big in LA, named by Vanity Fair as  “the most sought after facial in LA.”

So obviously, because I am a very curious person, I wanted to try it because I wanted to SEE what it would do to my skin. Having good skin is important because it reflects your health but also can make you feel really confident even if everything else is going wrong. My skin is up and down, but on the days that I can wear no make-up and no foundation, I feel great. I love a natural look but it just depends if my skin is OK enough to let me “bare all”.

So I went along to the Rosewood and had an hour long facial with Rowan who gave me a brilliant skin consultation (i.e. told me off for not drinking enough water, for starters), and also took me through all the different stages of the facial as she went.

The products were incredible light and soft, it made me realise that the stuff I use is a bit cheap. The whole point of the facial isn’t too look like you’ve just had Botox, but to make your skin look healthy and rejuvenated. In LA, apparently seeing a facialist is like going to the dentist, you make time for it in your schedule but it’s important. I’m not massively into beauty, I don’t spend loads on make-up for example, but I feel like taking care of your skin is something else all together. I don’t see it as being vain, I see it as looking after yourself.

The facial consisted of extraction techniques, essentially this means they extract all of the dirt from under your skin, it was quite therapeutic even if *slightly* painful at times (but in a strangely enjoyable, satisfying way). The other part of the facial included a galvanic current (my science GCSE all came flooding back to me as I was explained to how all the ions/currents work). Vitamin C was being pumped into my skin for a few moments that instantly made my face glowing and less dull. In a few minutes, I looked like I’d been in the sea and sunshine for about a week.

The most amazing part of the experience is once it’s all over, your skin feels AMAZING. So fresh, and glowing and healthy. What’s great is that the facial was totally bespoke to me and my skin type which gave it exactly what it needed. (My skin was very dehydrated, whoops).

If you’d like to try it yourself (it is honestly incredible) then by quoting “Girl Lost in the City blog” you can get your facial for £100 instead of the normal £130 price for the full 75min treatment or the 45min “taster” version for £75.
I’ll also be giving away a facial on my Twitter feed so watch out for that.

 

Let me introduce you to Mindful Chef

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Since moving in with my boyfriend into our new flat in Hackney, I’ve been handed lots of cookbooks as moving in presents which I’m actually (surprisingly) enjoying going through and having fun picking new things out to try. Mainly Mary Berry beginner guides, admittedly. It’s nice to have our own kitchen finally. Not sharing with anyone now means we (*cough*…I) can make all the mess I want experimenting with things and then leisurely clearing it all away whilst bopping along to the radio.

The thing is: time. Because aren’t we so busy busy busy? Weekends are nice for experimenting because it doesn’t matter as much if you get things wrong because you’re not in a rush. But on weekdays, it’s hard to fit in time to cook anything exciting, plus the cookbooks are big and chunky and pretty scary-looking at times. And there’s often too much choice. And it’s nice to go out for dinner. But it’s not that nice on the old bank balance.

So, you can imagine my delight upon discovering the Mindful Chef meal-kits. Yes I am also slightly biased because the founders are from my home-town in Exeter and really nice guys but it’s also an excellent idea; something there is a genuine demand for. The boxes are laid out in such a fantastic way that it’s also so easy; you receive the food (meat and vegetables), the meal cards with a really clear step-by-step method and they come in separate paper bags so you don’t get confused. For me personally, it wasn’t about having a string of weight-loss #EATCLEAN #FEELINGBLESSED meals because Instagram was telling me to; I simply liked them because they were delicious and gave me energy. That’s all I (personally) really care about: having a good amount of energy to take on the busiest of days/weeks so I can be my best self at work, battling side-projects, seeing friends & not being grumpy because I’m on a sugar-low. Because as much as we might try and ignore it, bad food really can make you feel awful.

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In Mindful Chef’s own words:

“We’re a new British company who believe that what you eat is really important, but can be difficult to get right, especially with the time pressures of a busy lifestyle.  Our mission is to make it easy for you. Every Sunday night or Monday (the choice is yours) we’ll deliver you all the fresh ingredients you need to make 3 nights of healthy meals with just 15-30 minute prep-times.

You won’t find any pasta, white/brown rice or white potatoes in any of our recipes.  Instead, our chefs design dishes with nutrient-dense organic British vegetables, grass-fed meat and fish caught by local dayboats.  Knowing where your food comes from is a big deal to us.”

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Cajun Chicken Tacos Staged 5

One of my favourites was the avocado spinach and bacon frittata.

And what’s really great, is you can keep the meal cards whenever you’re in need of a nice healthy pick-me-up. I just keep mine in the cupboard if I’m in need of some inspiration.

So, in a nutshell, I totally recommend! Give it a go, and order yours today. For only £24 for 3 meals I think that’s a total bargain.

Things I care about at the moment

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  • Nicki Minaj and all her songs
  • Organising my podcasts so they are easy to scroll through
  • Eating nice food (by “nice” I don’t mean healthy)
  • My family holiday next month
  • Making sure there’s always a bunch of flowers somewhere in my home
  • Writing enough to feel satisfied at the end of each week
  • Wearing clothes I like even if they aren’t always on trend
  • Listening to music that puts me in a good mood all day
  • Unfollowing any Negative Nancies
  • Reading more memoirs
  • Being more understanding of other people
  • Doing the *right* thing whatever I think that is at the time
  • Writing ideas down even if they feel shitty
  • Leopard print
  • Hand-writing more often
  • Printing out photos
  • Meeting new people
  • Being 100% honest
  • Saying yes to new projects
  • Coffeeeeeeeee
  • Coloured hair
  • Voluntary teaching
  • Replying to stranger’s emails
  • Being nice
  • Speaking up
  • New books
  • Ted Talks
  • Squishy pillows
  • Walking instead of tube-ing
  • Summer evenings

another year older

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“I like other people’s birthdays, I just don’t like my own.” I tell my boyfriend.
“Well, deal with it. We’re going out.” He replies.

Weird really. I just don’t like celebrating it.

I don’t think anything happened to make it that way. I haven’t been scarred by a bad birthday. Although on my 13th birthday my friends at school all ignored me until lunchtime and when I was about to mention it,  tears wobbling around my eyes, they announced “SURPRISE” and took me to a massive picnic they’d organised on the school lawn. I was so traumatised that I couldn’t enjoy the sausage rolls in all their glory.

When I was younger I used to try and hide it so no one could embarrass me or sing to me or ask me questions about what I was doing to celebrate. The answer was normally: nothing. I don’t like my own parties. I like other people’s. I’d feel forced into organising something and then hyperventilating that someone would text me last minute to say they couldn’t make it and then I’d whole spend the night crying in the bathroom and not appreciating who was there. Because that’s the thing about birthdays, they’re meant to be a nice thing but sometimes it’s all a bit forced. You don’t have to do anything but you feel like you should. Same with weddings maybe. I’ve realised that I’m happiest in a small crowd of people than trying to throw extravagant parties. I’m great at throwing surprise parties for other people though.

In general it’s not a great look being grumpy on your birthday either, mainly because you should just be grateful that you are a) alive to celebrate another year and b) that people care about you enough to want to make a fuss even if you don’t want them to.

Maybe it’s the thought of another year spinning past, or it’s just the day itself where someone potentially forgets by accident making you angry or sad, or you’re disappointed that it’s not the *best day ever*. It’s only a day. Another normal day where people who you haven’t spoken to for twelve years write “HB” on your Facebook wall.

This year though, I was reminded how many wonderful things I have to be grateful for. Because I really really do. I caught up with a friend at Take That concert on Monday. My boyfriend took me to the Typing Room on Tuesday night (my actual birthday) and we had five delicious courses of pure bliss and amazing red wine. It was a warm evening and it wasn’t far from our house so we could wander home late and I just felt so happy, to be living together, and to be living in my favourite part of London. My older sister rang me for a long chat. My little sister sent me a wooden card all the way from Australia. My mum came to visit and we went shopping and had breakfast just the two of us. Last night I had my closest friends over for dinner and we reminisced and laughed and drank white wine outside on my balcony. Fifteen years of friendship is a glorious thing. One of my very talented best friends Polly designed me a frame with a personalised message to hang on the wall of my flat. I also have some major news I’m announcing very soon.

In general each year I’ve got older, the happier I’ve become. Dawn O’Porter has written a really lovely column in this month’s GLAMOUR about this exact thing. I like getting older, I like being happier in myself and my own opinions and thoughts on things. I care less and less about the people who aren’t on my side or any negativity that aims to drag me down, quite frankly.

So yeah, I wanted to write on here that I had a lovely lovely birthday. And write about how great things are. That I’m grateful for the people I have in my life. This blog is my online diary after all. Writing down good times is important, especially on a shit day to look back and read something nice.

Over and out. xoxox

10 Favourite Brené Brown Quotes

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OMG can we just talk for a moment about this incredible woman BRENE BROWN?

If you read my blog or know me in person you will know that I get obsessed with people quite easily. The list of people I adore is a long one, and I’ve recently added researched and motivational speaker Brené Brown to that list. She is just fantastic and inspiring and when watching her videos I get a feeling of I.CAN.DO.THIS, and isn’t that what it’s all about?

1. On owning your story.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.

2. On haters. 

“Don’t try to win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer.” 

3. On being vulnerable.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

4. On doing your thing.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

5. On perfectionism.

“Perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life-paralysis.” 

6. On other people.

“We’re all grateful for people who write and speak in ways that help us remember that we’re not alone.”

7. On just doing it.

“Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.”

8. On being kinder to ourselves.

“Sometimes when we dare to walk into the arena the greatest critic we face is ourselves.” 

9. On being narcissistic. 

“When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary.” 

10. On being brave.

“Courage has a ripple effect. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.

Ted Talk: The Power of Vulnerability

Brene Brown on Blame

Why your critics aren’t the ones who count

Harsh but true: advice from my two of my favourite internet writers

I love this podcast Plz Advise by Molls McAleer. I listen to it on my iPhone on the podcast app but you can also listen via Soundcloud. Molls has loads of different guests on each week and I find it funny, and pretty blunt in places. This one (it’s from last year) is one of my favourites, featuring another writer I love Ryan O’Connell.

The question was:

“Hey, I’ve been writing for some years now but I can’t sit myself down and write a short story or even a book. What advice and/or tips would you give to another writer struggling with a lack of motivation. What is your process for writing? How did you get your opportunities to write for TV [Two Broke Girls]?”

The straight-up answers:

– Molls says:

“I’ve answered this question a million times. I f*cking wrote and wrote and I wrote and wrote. If you have no motivation to write then, no offence, this might not be the career for you. Writing is something that needs to come out of you and even if it sucks at first, you wake up every morning with the urge to take your little fingers and stroke some across a keypad and make f*cking words, and then make some paragraphs, and then eventually, they get good. I don’t know where it comes from. This is no answer. The answer is, you have to really want it.

– Ryan says: 

“That’s exactly it, you have to really want it. And spoiler alert: not many people want it. Or, they don’t want it as much as they should. When I worked at Thought Catalog and had relationships with a lot of the freelancers and they’d be like “how can I get my career to go further” and I’d be like: “you could start writing?” There are so many people out there who call themselves writers, and they don’t.fucking.write. They’ll do ONE blog post and be like “Oh I finally did it!” You learn if you write every single day.

– Molls says:

“What led up to me working for 2 Broke Girls was me hustling, writing, and networking and meeting people and connecting with others I admire. I’d ask myself, how can I be involved? Get involved.

– Ryan says:

“Sorry to be like “way harsh Tai” but it sounds like you don’t want it enough. I can’t relate when you say you don’t have the motivation. My motivation was I wanted it. That’s it. That’s the motivation.”

Listen to full the podcast HERE.

Subscribe to Plz Advise HERE.

Caitlin Moran’s Inappropriate advice for creatives

This is paraphrased from Caitlin Moran’s Hiive talk that I found on YouTube. I thought she said some super interesting stuff about writing and creative processes. Any writers out there will find this useful, I think. Full video embedded below the text.*

*Also: as I went on a search for a photo for this blog, I thought WAIT A MINUTE, there’s that one from the GLAMOUR Awards in which I waited behind Caitlin whilst she finished her conversation and then I leapt out and squeezed her without giving her much warning, let’s include that!

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Caitlin Moran’s 9 Pieces of Inappropriate Advice for Creatives:

1. Nerd your arse off.

You cannot be too obsessed with what you want to do for a career. You can’t research it enough. If you want to be a writer, you need to READ. You need to read your rivals and read the past. Steal ideas and inspiration from three or four hundred different people. You’ll look innovative but actually you’re just stealing off a dead Granddad from the past. Bring in lots of different influences to your work. (But don’t plagiarise).

2. Write the story that is already in you.

Not all stories have to be about a teenage boy with “a force” or a radioactive spider. Caitlin had a sudden revelation of actually let’s write about the stories that don’t yet exist. Make a list of the stuff that hasn’t been talked about and write about that. Invent the future.

3. Don’t let anger show.

Lots of people do things for revenge and everything is a big sub-tweet. Use that anger as a fuel but don’t let it take over. Don’t write in anger. If you communicate in anger people won’t hear what you’re saying. People will hear emotion and respond emotionally back at you – then you’re not talking about the issue, you’re just shouting. Tell jokes and people will “relax their buttocks”.

4. Be lovely to everyone.

It doesn’t matter how much you think someone is a douche, you should keep it in. {This is HARD, but it is very very good advice}. Even though everyone looks the same, you will “always meet these fuckers again”. And if you’re gonna have a bitching sesh, do it in the toilets but check under the cubicle first. “Saying someone is lovely makes you look lovely!” Oh and don’t bitch on social media about your job.

5. Classical conditioning, with chocolate.

If you have to make a difficult phone-call or get anxious eat a packet of Malteasers. You will associate doing that job with eating, sugar and nice chocolate.

6. You don’t have to be the most interesting person in the room.

In the media industry, Caitlin says a massive mistake you can make is to believe you have to be the most fascinating person in the world. You don’t have to walk into a room and blow people away. You don’t have to be “kooky” and legendary, it’s exhausting. Simply remember to yourself. And be nice.

7. Have a cup of tea and a biscuit.

It’s easy to confuse a genuine break down with just needing a Hob Nob.

8. Everything is material.

There are two things to write about: things that are amazing at the time, and bad things that will make great anecdotes. Go out and get your future material.

9. Give it time and love.

The very best things in the world are a combo of time + love. You don’t have to acquire a magical power. Just work four times harder than everyone else and give up your weekends if you have to.

 

b l u e

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Sometimes you just wanna do something DIFFERENT. For me, randomly, this weekend, I wanted BLUE HAIR! Because, why not.

I’ve been going to Blue Tit London for years, since it first opened in Dalston, when I lived with my best mate in Stoke Newington. Since then Blue Tit have opened other salons, one in Clapton, Peckham and Brockley.

I’ve gone pink before, and this time I was looking forward to doing something a bit brighter. The lovely Luigi used a creative colour treatment on me and hey presto: a few hours later I skipped out into the sunshine feeling very colourful indeed.

Here are a few other colours the Blue Tit London gang have done, taken from their Instagram feed:

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Pastel blue dye by Blue Tit’s 

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The This is brilliant musician Teishi who went orange for Field day. Colour by the awesome Sam Boggia.

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Blue Tit colourist Shelley goes purp.

Are you off to a festival soon? Blue Tit will be at the following festivals: Secret Garden Party, Standon Calling and Dimensions.

Or book in now for your creative colour: bluetitlondon.com

Embracing Imperfection

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This is my 1,000th blog post.

On average I write 700 words per post which means over four years I’ve written 720,000 words.

That’s the length of NINE books.

Apart from, it’s not, at all, because it’s string of random thoughts, with typos, on up and down days. There’s no narrative apart from mood swings, and rants, and reviews. There’s no editor. Or sales targets. Or sentences I’m massively proud of, or quotes that can be embroidered into cushions and sold on Etsy.

(I’m saving those for my book – *nervous laughter*)

But I was thinking recently about this blog, the way it’s so flawed, and so imperfect, and how I quite like that. Relatives call me to say I’ve got typos and I don’t correct them. I read back on posts from 2012 and cringe and hate the way I’ve written it and disagree with all my old opinions. Some of it, just isn’t good. But, I won’t delete them, because I bothered to write them at the time, and I should respect my previous feelings and intentions. Something must have jarred with me enough for me to pull out my laptop and write about it. And I never want to disrespect those moments.

Some posts I re-read and think YES!!! That’s what I was trying to explain in the pub but I wish I’d just asked them to read this post because I could EXPLAIN IT BETTER!

Because that’s another reason for having a blog, to selfishly mull over your own thoughts and make sense of them.

I wandered how I could find the time or energy to write 1,000 posts. The only way is because under procrastination comes ‘perfection’. Most of the time we put things off because we want them to be perfect and the thought of that makes you pull back from fear. Creating a place that doesn’t scare you, where you don’t feel judged or most importantly you don’t judge yourself, results in feelings of freedom and motivation.

People always ask what the secret is to starting, or maintaining a blog, and I think running a blog that makes you so feel safe and happy when you write and when you hit “publish”. Embracing imperfection means you won’t be riddled with anxiety. Because you have the right level of expectation. You’re just happy you wrote something.

It’s the same with any project that involves story-telling. You cannot put such strict guidelines on your work because it will never turn out the way you envision it. There will always be imperfections.

Writing is always flawed.

Let’s just tell our stories without being too hard on ourselves.

Glamour Awards 2015

11248700_10155591659610317_1809227404071884011_nWHAT A NIGHT.

The most brilliant evening. I spent most of it just soaking in the radiance of the many many incredibly inspiring women in the room all around me.

Highlights for me were Caitlin Moran’s speech, Amy Schumer’s speech (and in general just being near her, I’M IN LOVE), Claudia Winkleman’s hosting skills, Jennifer Saunder’s presenter speech (before Amy S won the award), and just mingling, chatting, and live-tweeting all night for GLAMOUR, obviously.

My dress was Temperley from The Outnet, hair by Privé by Gina Conway and make-up by the incredible Nic Chapman, one half of Pixiwoos.

I WANNA DO IT AGAIN!

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