Cold days, long, dark nights and those feelings of melancholy that often creep in to remind us that January is here and difficult for many, all adds up to the January Blues doesn't it? Half-way through the month already and the concept of 'Blue Monday' is upon us again. It may have been a travel company's PR stunt originally, but the idea seems to have taken hold and tapped into the general mood that January brings. Usually it's one of disappointment in not keeping resolutions made with good intentions and a tad of self-loathing of quite how much weight I've managed to put on over the last few weeks of festive eating and indulgence.
So I started the year with a blog looking at the loose goals I was setting for myself, wary as I was of labelling them as resolutions and not wishing to set myself up to fail. A couple of weeks in and already I am glad to have taken this more relaxed approach which gives me plenty of time in which to achieve them. Alongside this, I have been looking back at what I achieved over the last year, for I think all too often, we focus on what we didn't get round to doing and we miss out our highlights. When it's cold outside, it does me good to reflect upon how far I have already come, even if there are still many steps ahead for me to take, especially when it comes to my writing journey.
As I thought more carefully about last year, I remembered quite a few achievements that I had actually forgotten about - interviews, collaboration with new writing friends, books added to my published list, completing a script with my daughter, celebrating small moments with family and friends, days out and a snatched holiday in Cornwall (albeit in far different circumstances than we were used to previously.) Scrolling back through the year, I found a blog post called 'Summer Scribbles' sitting in my drafts folder. I'm not sure why I didn't post it at the time, self-doubt maybe. The summer seems a long way off, on this dreary January Sunday, but perhaps it is helpful to remind ourselves that it will come round again. With that in mind, I'm posting the blog now - in the middle of January, snuggled with a blanket on my sofa, hoping that tales of the seaside and the summer help to lift your mood anyway.
“Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside…" so the old song lyric goes, but it remains true for me, far beyond my bucket and spade days. So it was great to get away
recently, to walk along the pier, eat fish and chips taking in the view stretching to the horizon and allow the air and the pace of the weekend to reboot both body and mind. It’s certainly true that the sea continues to draw me in, even though I no longer build sandcastles.
Away with my husband as a little celebration of our wedding anniversary, notebooks were put aside in favour of long walks, coffee conversations, a climb
to the top of a castle keep to take in the 360 view, and an hour or so skimming stones on the beach, listening to the waves. Sharing such experiences will no doubt give me more material to draw upon when I return to the pages of my notebook, as all writers know that you cannot write about life if you don’t take some time to go out and live it.
Doing that has been more difficult within the world we now have of pandemic restrictions but that fact in itself, has given me a better appreciation for the experiences that we do have. The threads of appreciation, taking time to be in a moment and to value it, have woven through a lot of my writing. Those threads seem even more appropriate now. With that in mind, I am offering these ‘summer scribbles’ as a way to take stock of what has been going on for me in the writing world beyond our little break. For though I currently have no major work in the pipeline, I have been dipping a toe in here and there, just like I did in the rock pools on Worthing Beach.
Spreading the Word
In case you didn’t catch it, one of the main things to mention - beyond finalising my latest publication ‘Polaroids and Petals,’ was my recent YouTube interview with Vince Stevenson on his Boomers On Books channel. He is a champion of Indie authors and poets and is well worth a follow. In my head, the process of doing this interview had become a much bigger deal than it should have done so I was proud of myself in managing to complete it. Beyond that, there are two aspects of the interview worth noting here.
The first is how the conversation naturally turned to discussion of imposter syndrome - the writer’s nemesis, add in a dose of those midlife dips in confidence and that’s one heady mix to contend with. The energy expended in overthinking decisions in the writing process can be draining at times. I am sure many will find connections with that sentiment, something that I tried to capture within this poem.
In front of me she stands,
Making demands I cannot meet,
Projecting an image
Of confidence, of knowing,
Shadows show my inner thoughts,
Thoughts that jeopardise,
Encapsulated by a lack of motion,
Rigid to the spot, reluctant to bloom.
From 'Diary of a Dizzy Peri' - Karen Honnor 2020
The interview was set up to talk about my first book ‘Finding My Way,’ now in its second publication. However, talk moved beyond that to incorporate thoughts about my whole writing journey and of course, that included discussing my poetry and even sharing some examples of it. Doing so proved to be quite the emotional event, which brings me on to the second point I wanted to make - the feeling of achievement.
There was a live chat scrolling alongside the interview and comments popped up as we were talking and as Vince and I shared some of my poetry. The positive nature of these, especially when I got a little emotional reading the poems that evoked memories of my Dad, brought me both comfort and validation of what I am doing in continuing to write my poetry. Over the last year, I have published three poetry books. With each of these, I have gained confidence in expressing my inner poetic voice. I have also made connections with readers and that has made me proud. That is an achievement that my little YouTube interview reminded me of and something worth hanging on to on those days when the voice of the writing demon is whispering in my ear, questioning what I am doing. I am learning to turn down the volume on that voice.
With that in mind, I would like to share how I have been spreading my words around in other ways too. I get a little thrill each time I hear feedback from readers, be that in the form of reviews posted about my work or with discovering that my poems are making connections and being shared in public forums like The Chatty Cafe scheme. Alongside connections with readers, I am thankful to have been welcomed into the writing community, especially within the world of Twitter.
Recently this included being asked to write a guest blog piece on Lily Lawson’s writing site. Lily is a fellow poet and an extremely supportive member of the writing community. I was thrilled to be asked to contribute a little piece called Let the Music Play. In this piece - a blog and short story - I found myself considering the similarities between music and poetry and how both make deep connections with us, evoking emotions and sparking memories within the space of a single phrase. A well-known lyric, a familiar chorus, or notes and words that have combined in such a way as to make that special connection. Long may both music and poetry continue to enrich our lives.
That thought brings me almost full circle, back to the beach and to the latest poetry publication that I mentioned. I’ll share a little teaser of it here for you, in a way that combines both of my passions - poetry and the sea. I have chosen to share this poem, ‘Seashell’ because a reader sent me a photograph of himself, enjoying reading it whilst sitting on the beach at Brighton, having what he termed as a little relaxation time. How wonderful that he should be kind enough to share that moment with me. Poetry and the sound of the sea as his background - the mermaid within me can think of nothing better. So while the summer escape that we are all used to may be proving elusive this year, I hope that you are all finding little moments of relaxation in some way. Perhaps you'll find a little seashell for yourself.
A single seashell on the shore,
Protection from the world outside,
Safe-house for any given flaw
Against incoming tide.
Small, white seashell, sat in sand,
Tumbled by the waves of years,
Now clasped by a collecting hand,
Symbol of both smiles and tears.
A simple seashell, smoothed by time
With nothing much to see,
Yet simple, is in itself sublime,
A chance to simply be.
From ‘Polaroids and Petals’ - Karen Honnor 2021