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  • Writer's pictureEmma Nichols

Confessions of an Author 101

If you had said to me when I wrote my reflections on a decade blog for the 2020 New Year that within four months the world would have been turned on its head, I would have laughed and said, well that will be a good thing. I could not have imagined how that would roll out though…until now.

We are living through a period in time that will feature in the historical records of the future. Along the lines of WW1 and WW2, but with a truly global impact and no enemy to shoot our weapons at, and as a result, our children will grow up with a different perspective on relationships, work, money, love, and life itself. Priorities have shifted and will continue to change in the coming months and years as we work out how to live and rebuild our future in what will feel like a new world. Some people will want to fight and blame others, to reclaim the power they never truly had when really the biggest battle comes from within each one of us. It is our inner world that needs our action at this unprecedented time.

I am not a religious person, but today is Good Friday. It is Easter weekend. It is about rebirth and chocolate. My nine-year-old a couple of years ago said, why do they call it Good Friday when it should be called bad Friday because Jesus died on this day? She made a good point. Most of us have a detached attitude towards death, but the truth is simple. Death leads to rebirth. Maybe this was the intended lesson of Jesus’s resurrection as apposed to the literal translation that we will be saved by God again. We will each have our opinions on that but I’m not a fan of chocolate. So, here are my confessions.

I wasn’t born a writer.

I didn’t pass my exams in English at school.

I have learned to write by reading good and bad texts (not that I could tell the difference), working my way through a military career that involved significant and painful academic writing and subsequently studying a degree in Psychology and a Master’s in Business Administration. One thing has led to another. I would not have been able to study for a degree on my school academic record--not a hope in hell--but because I progressed my military career and underwent officer training the university kindly let me in. Did I know writing was my destiny then? No.

I wasn’t born an athlete.

I’ve never been much of a planner, but I have always created opportunities out of the scenarios I have lived through. I learned discipline. In the army to keep fit when we were confined and I was in half-marathon training and needed to get my hours of running in, I would jog on the spot in my room (3mx3m) using the mattress under my feet to cushion the blow of repeated stomping. I would mentally rehearse running, breathing, pacing and fighting fatigue. I always believed negative things would pass…and they do.

I wasn’t born a mother or a wife.

I have learned that strong routines and taking positive action are critical for maintaining our sanity in times of hardship, and for most of us isolation is one of those times. Even as an introvert, I still enjoy the company of people, but with my normal routine blown out of the water these last weeks I have had to adjust, and it’s been challenging.

Firstly, I have a wife who has commandeered my office and is at home 24/7.

Secondly, I have two children who have commandeered my time and are at home 24/7.

And, thirdly, I have a dog wondering why she’s only getting one half-an-hour walk a day when she's used to getting three hours, and why everyone is at home 24/7.

I have had to sit with my children so that they do their school work and then patiently watch them as they talk incessantly and meander their way painfully slowly through every exercise expecting my input to every sentence, and every maths problem. Discipline and routine are learned skills. If I don’t do this, it will cause further stresses that neither I nor my wife needs right now.

I have wondered whether I am going insane. Where have my five hours of writing time a day gone? Peace and quiet, and contemplative time...what's that? My manuscript lies gathering dust and my memory for the story is distant and foggy. I have the kids bunking down with me at night because they feel more secure and it’s like holiday time for them. I can’t deny them this small luxury in a time of crisis. It would be cruel to do so. But that is my world. My choice. My pain to live with.

We are trying, like you, to maintain some sense of normality in the face of adversity. This phase isn’t so much about looking to the future, that time will come. This is about learning to live each day as it comes with new rules and learning to celebrate the smallest achievements that we might otherwise take for granted.

I WAS born to learn.

It has taken some time and a lot of patience to adjust to a new routine and I am sure we will continue to change it as things evolve. But there is so much that I have learned in the last few weeks, about my children, my wife, and myself.

This precious time with our immediate family will be unlikely to be repeated in my lifetime. We are fortunate that we live in semi-rural Buckinghamshire with more countryside around us than there are people. We are (relatively) safe compared to others. We follow the rules. We have a roof over our heads, food on our table, and fuel for our hot water and heating. We have the internet and can talk to our distant families and friends. The spring weather has been kind to us…I am grateful for that. The birds sing very loudly in this part of the world…it’s exquisite to be able to hear them clearly. The farmers are still farming…I love watching them hard at work on my morning walk with Indi. I don’t go shopping anymore…I hated shopping. And, I am learning to write. Fortune favours the brave, they say.

We often need others to help us learn and I have been fortunate in the last few months to work with Nicci Robinson at Global Wordsmiths, who some of you may know as author Robyn Nix. Not only is she a talented author, but she is also a fabulous coach. If you have followed my writing journey, you will see the transformation when Cosa Nostra comes out next week. I am a WIP and will continue on this journey of improvement in the hope that my stories give you an escape from those aspects of isolation (and life) that drive you nuts.

This time of uncertainty will pass, and we will be reborn as a result of our experiences. Changes will be demanded of our governance and systems and the way the world has operated will need to be reviewed. Positive things will come from this period in our history. Yes, we will lose people we love. Yes, relationships will be challenged on every level. Yes, work and money issues will arise. But one thing is true…

WE cannot change what has happened, but we CAN chose how we respond to it.

I believe we will be more resilient and better able to cope with adversity. We will have more respect for those things we have taken for granted and for the environment that hosts our time here. And I hope that we all choose to be more accepting, more patient, more considerate, and more compassionate with ourselves and with others.

Together we will create a better future.

But until that time, do share...and tell me, what are your confessions?

Stay safe, and be kind. We are all struggling, even if it's not always obvious.

With love, Emma x

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