For those of you who’ve been following my story these past years, you’ll have heard several announcements about books being written. Here’s a wee synopsis of where I am with that:
me in my garden in the glen
In the winter of 2008, deep in a glen in the Scottish Borders, whilst getting into my mojo with the seasons and energy of the land, and running monthly art-club-gallery-shop events, I had a vibrant flash of inspiration: to write a lovely book. My head had been so full with ideas and visions, and my heart so busy with a deep desire to influence the world positively, a book to sum it all up seemed like an excellent plan.
view from my garden in the glen
The inspiration came to me in the space I’d created, sitting with a local Buddhist circle: that silence allowed an image to form, of occupying fully my purpose in supporting transformation: rather than my being an activist or speaker or teacher, I could simply state my truth quietly and clearly. It struck me too, that I’d had a few adventures along my way, thriving on very little, and was now living a pretty tip-top life and work dynamic, which could inspire others to follow their dreams. I’d been thinking about the term Spiralling Upwards, since writing extensively about my work transforming community in one of Scotland’s most deprived council estates. I was interested in how we can turn around the downward spiralling pattern in any situation and, through very simple daily changes, and a lot of hard work, slowly bring more nourishment, happiness, and profound fulfilment to our days.
the garden from the house, glen estate
As the winter wore on deeper, and I was house-bound (confined to a small zone of life-giving warmth immediately next to the stove, actually), the multitude of thoughts and words around this idea just poured out. It is one of the fabulous aspects of our Scottish culture which I adore: those seemingly-never-ending winter nights which have to get filled with creative endeavours; a haven for writers and makers!
showing ‘secret shop’ guests around my flourishing garden in the glen
By the spring, I’d written over 65,000 words, and it seemed time to start pulling it together. This was where I struggled. It just seemd too big. It was like an immense jungle-garden, where as soon as you get one area functioning and beautiful, you find some deep-rooted weed-pest which has overrun another corner. My spring energy was bursting out, the wood-chopping was wearing me down, the landlord put a block on my art events, and I suddenly felt a(nother) very strong gut intuition to simply up sticks move to a warmer country.
my first proper trip to italy, december 2009: sperlonga
Since arriving in Italy, my book faltered, in various ways. I was pretty distracted by a ton of crazy shit which seemed to ensue around me, one crisis after, or on top of, another: an utterly dreadful relationship, a crisis of finding myself alone and without resources in a foreign country, buying and renovating a house on the lowest imaginable budget, sabotage and manipulation, pennilessness…
Though I tried so hard to push these 65,000 words around, and neaten them up, even taping them to the wall so as I could see them and get my head round them, it all just seemed as chaotic as it had when I looked back at the first draft. It seemed staid and clunky, uptight and distracted (like my mental state, at the time!). Each idea I thought up for pulling it together, seemed to lose momentum as soon as I thought it, and all my approaches to bring the notes into final draft just crashed. So I settled into the long-term vision, trusted that it’d come eventually, in its own way, like all good things: I just let it ferment a while.
View from the arthouse
So I just bumbled along and trusted in the process, whilst my head concocted a vast array of alternative book formats… I was stuck with how much I wanted to get into the book, and needed a container to contain the scale of it- I couldn’t find the dimensions of it at all. When I started plotting out the purpose of the book, I felt the weight of the world, the weight of what I’d left in my country, the weight of people whom I’d lost and grieved for over the past years: all these unnecessarily self-destructive cycles and consequences welled up around me, and I couldn’t rise above it. I wanted to write in a way which would somehow shift all the bad stuff in civilisation. I know, it’s too big a brief: it swallowed me up, and the book gathered dust. But in my life and work, I got on with thriving, in micro-leaps.
View from the arthouse
I had this deep urge in me which wanted to express itself, but my language seemed too intellectual, and it was like I was writing in a vacuum. I needed to create a context first. Not to find a context, but to make it from scratch.
me on the amalfi coast; exhibiting at prado in Caserta; participating enthusiastically in vinalia winefest
In the meantime, I explored my new neighbourhood in Italy, learned the language from scratch, exhibited paintings here and there, partied with the Guardia folks, and worked away like a maniac on my new house. I plodded on labouriously, wading through lakes of tears, blood, sweat, coming out several years later on a far, happier shore. My art business thrived, my B&B hosted a wide variety of fascinating and lovely guests, and my story began to draw attention throughout the zone and beyond.
before, during, after: my special chapel guest room
Then I participated in a well-known American TV show, it got shown around the world, I (and Guardia Sanframondi) got inundated with thousands of demands and guests and opportunities and dear new friends. A new community started rising up, and artistic activities and connections and magical things started growing and happening. I helped develop a new international artists’ residency, and then was a protagonist in a wonderful new creativity-and-transformation fest called Ri-CREARE; both resoundingly successful. I had various moments where I felt like I was living my dream, and inspiring others to do the same: my heart sang, and my days became richer and richer!
two portait commissions, and a list of illustrations from the What Pumpkins Dream kid’s book.
I spent a year making portraits of one family in the town. And a year helping bring together a children’s book, which re-inspired me in finishing my own book, by its colourful simplicity and profundity. I even had various revelations about how I could shift the container of the book; it turned into two books- one about my adventure in Italy, the other about Spiralling Upwards… I started again on sifting through notes, pinning up mind-maps, brain-storming and disciplining myself to just get on with it. It still wasn’t happening; each time I got into the writing, it petered out, dried up. In my newly-chilled out state, more successful and happy and fulfilled, I knew it couldn’t be rushed, and that there was no point beating myself about the head about this.
(Note- What Pumpkins Dream children’s book is currently going to print!)
me on the amalfi coast
Throughout these 5 yrs in Italy, I knew what I wanted to say, but it was still too long, too complex, too wordy. And I lacked the confidence to just put something out there. This was the hardest aspect: I know I excel in managing crises, in working passionately to fix and transform things which are abandoned or broken, but when it came to really stepping into my full strength and abundance, and succeeding with my writing, I just faltered, like a racehorse unwilling to take the hurdle. A classic Scottish character flaw, which really did my head in.
view from the arthouse
To get to grips with my lack of confidence, I invested my cherished earnings from my first year of the magical B&B in two splendid courses: this helped me immeasurably in clarifying my intentions for the book, and they taught me the tools to methodically go about making my vision work. First was The Transformation Game at the Findhorn Foundation in north Scotland, the other was B-School with Marie Forleo, an online business course like no other. These two experiences aligned me on the inside and the outside, and gave me vital tools which I had been lacking- most of them around confidence- which I spent the next months manifesting methodically in my life and work practises. The two courses also got me acknowledging that I was actually extremely isolated, and needed a group of peers to challenge and support me in my work. The B-School team and subscribers pulled me into their support web, and I finally felt like I’d landed on a planet where I could breathe!
me in edinburgh, capital city of scotland, seat of our parliament
Then came this most magical year, 2014; the year of YES in Scotland, and my involvement in our positive case for Scotland’s independence (a referendum for whether or not Scotland should be an independent country, is taking place here on September 18th, which I am very proud to say is also my birthday). As the year unfolded, and the country’s grassroots really started to come into its own, I began to feel two very significant new kinds of confidence take over me, which I had never known in my life: first was the fact that I now belonged to a nation of optimistic and engaged citizens, and secondly, was that my voice was now accepted as one of value, as someone who has an opinion- a passionate stance- on the issues around our nation’s transformation. This was new: this felt good: now I began feeling this sense of identity, of my cultural identity, worth, collective purpose; I felt real where before I had always felt utterly disconnected. I felt like I was getting my country back, when it had been sneakingly taken away right in front of me.
a phrase which I feel sums up this grassroots movement for a positive Scotland
This is no small thing, to feel like I am part of my country, and that it is a country I am engaged in and proud of. The Scotland I look at through the alternative media and new perspectives and voices of today, most certainly is NOT the Scotland which I left (and more than once) for cheerier climes. Our confidence as a nation did not arrive overnight, but it did recently suddenly catch our collective imagination a-flame with a quantum force. Together we’re transforming the direction and intention of Scotland as a vibrant successful country, and we all know that this massive transformative effect will radiate outwards on a vast scale, well beyond the UK.
The effect of Scotland’s awakening has radiated inwardly in myself, too, as I’m certain it has for many other Scots. It makes me want to actually live in my own country, to be engage in politics there, and to contribute to the economic, collective and spiritual movement forward which the country is making such astonishing steps towards. And that confidence I was always seeking, which my courses and peer-support helped lift me into, is now sealed forever into my character and path: forced out-wardly expressed confidence (which I have often used as a false mask, to act like I’m tougher than I am), but the very typical Scottish quiet-but-determined, no-bullshit, potent and tapping-into-the-source, force for good- the quality which incidentally seems to be spear-heading our YES independence movement.
view from my family house in high corrie, on the isle of arran
So here I am preparing all my notes, all the drafts and my stuffed-to-the-gills hard-drive, packing them into a suitcase alongside my YES badges and heavy autumn coat, and getting ready to board the ‘plane for, ironically, a brighter horizon. I’m setting myself the task of putting a book onto paper finally this next month: any book, so long as it is one complete finished publishable document with something to do with positive creativity at its core. And I might just get the necessary clarity of perspective and inner fire to make that happen, by being at home during this momentous time of positive-issimo change, with sufficient distance between myself and what has transpired these past years in Italy! Cannae wait!