I Love You, But We Need A Break

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(A letter to my protagonist)

In the words of every reality tv contestant and judge, what a journey. Two years ago was when your words went onto paper. Of course I realise you were with me much longer than that. You’ve been lingering around in my head for more years than I would like to acknowledge. It’s seems so silly now why I spent time with others before you. Stories and characters who never made it past a first draft. Most only had half first drafts. 

I don’t know what it was that called me that day. Another attempt. I didn’t have much of an expectation. Unsure where to even begin. I was feeling nostalgic for another time. A time before social media, when to speak to your friends as a teenager you had to dial the home phone and risk speaking to a parent. No wonder we were all so paralysed to call boys. And in that thought, you appeared.

I had no idea what your story was, I only knew you and I liked you, a lot. So I trusted you and strapped myself in to see where you would take me. I fell fast. I couldn’t get enough, I was bouncing out of bed to sneak in that precious time before the rest of my life began. Those moments when the world was still, yet you and I were on the computer creating a frenzy of activity. It was hard to stop. Someone asked me the other day, when I revealed the number of drafts we had taken, aren’t you over it? No, I responded like a love struck teenager and I’m sure my eyes glossed over with that response. 

There was something about you. Because you were the first character I took beyond the first draft. Oh, the apprenticeship began. You made me laugh and scream and filled me with so much creativity I felt I would explode. Then there were times I would stomp around the house shaking my hands to the ceiling wondering what was going on and what happens next. Because often you would stop, in dramatic fashion, to allow my subconscious to process and drip feed into my conscious. Then there was the time you made me cry. Physical tears ran down my cheeks and my heart ached for an event that didn’t happen in real life to people that don’t actually exist. 

I know your story now and I have done the best I possibly can with it. I have planted some seeds and we need to step back and see if they will grow. Of course if not, we can plant a few more. But germination takes time and there is nothing we can do to speed that up. It is out of our hands. But I hope. My dream is that I may have the joy of sharing you and your story with the world. 

For now I want to say thank you. For what you have given me. A belief in my abilities. I thought I knew writing, but I knew nothing. You taught me how to write, and how to edit and how to revise and how to cut out beautiful prose that has nothing at all to do with the story. Thank you for anointing me with the title of author. For reigniting a childhood passion that will not be extinguished. And that is really why we must take a break. Because there is so much more in the world of writing I want to explore. Perhaps I’ll get back into writing poems, with enough of them I could curate a couple of tomes. Of maybe I’ll try my hand at a children’s book, I’ve read enough of them lately it’s worth a look. Of course there are many more stories to tell and I feel I’ve cheated on you already with starting that process again. So thank you, for helping me find the joy in writing. For now it’s time to go and play with words and meet new characters. As they say on tv, it’s goodbye for now.

Having A Baby During A Global Pandemic

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The nappy bag sits in the car, untouched from when I put it together in the late stages of pregnancy. I remember sitting in the nursery surrounded by baby paraphernalia and envisioning what essential items had to be in the bag. What would I need for the numerous play dates, mothers group and other baby related activities? I had to be prepared for anything that could happen while away from the house. That time seems like a different life where I dreamt about introducing my new baby to family and friends. Where I assumed I would have leisurely coffee dates on preschool days, acquainting myself with another mum of a newborn and we would discuss all things feeding, sleeping and everything in between. Time spent away from the home was a freedom I took for granted.

There was an indication my grand social plans were not going to go as I assumed, when a few days from giving birth the hospital rang to inform me no visitors were allowed outside my husband. I understood, yet I was upset and grieved when I realised I was about to be forced apart from my first born for the longest period of our lives together. As it turns out, aside from my two boys not meeting each other shortly after giving birth, having no visitors while in maternity was lovely. I slept when baby slept and there were no distractions outside the needs of my baby and frankly I’d recommend it to all new mothers.

When we came home the world was quickly changing. Toilet paper had turned into gold and I sent Hubby on a mercy trip to the shops to purchase the raw ingredients needed for hand sanitiser. Suddenly there was no touching and we were instructed to keep our distance. I had a newborn that everyone wanted to meet and to cuddle and to brush their nostrils across the top of his head and inhale the intoxicating smell of youth. A gathering of friends at my baby sprinkle only a month before and now no one was allowed to visit. 

Staying home was frustrating at first, cabin fever quickly set in and I was mourning for what I was missing; mothers group, music, story time, getting out and about. But then a strange thing happened, a metaphorical corner was turned and it wasn’t so bad. The grieving was over and acceptance stepped in. I discovered a new freedom, the freedom that comes from not rushing out the door and having somewhere to go, the freedom to just be. My boys and I are operating at a pace of life I have never experienced before, and I like it. 

Sometimes you don’t realise what you need until it is handed to you. There are so many things outside my control and all I can control is my outlook to the world as it stands right now and my situation within in. I know I will never have time like this again. Time with my boys, where every moment is spent in the present. Where we take each day as it comes and simply see how the day naturally unfolds. Many are lamenting on what they are missing, yet I am appreciating all I am gaining. This situation is a gift, I can see that now. Of course it will not last, like everything it is temporary. The plans I had will come to fruition and when they do I will blow the layer of dust off the nappy bag, hop out of the car, pull out the pram and surround myself with people. And until then, I’m putting my feet back up on the lounge and holding my boys in my lap, we have nowhere else to be.

Sunday Meditation – Obstacles

Obstacles cause us to fall into two groups. Those who will from those who wish. Those of us that only wish will abort our pursuit at the first obstacle. Those of us that will know before the first step that we will come across many hurdles on the way. We expect them so when they appear it is not a surprise. Some of these obstacles require us to climb over them. Others require us to find a way around them. Then occasionally, some challenges command us to stop right where we are and force us to wait. These calls for inaction are the hardest to overcome. All we can do is wait, rest, take stock, applause the terrain we have covered so far and remind ourselves of why we are doing this. With reflection and the strength of patience, these obstacles end up removing themselves, clearing the path before us and ensuring we are ready to go again.

Sunday Meditation – Thank You

It is disheartening to bear witness to the current destruction that is happening across our beautiful country. Yet the power of humanity we are seeing provides that glimmer of hope. While it is difficult to watch we can help and there are many initiatives we can get involved in. There is also gratitude. We can give thanks, to those on the front line who are battling for us day in and day out. To those who are assisting in the affected communities. To those who are reaching out to our wildlife. We see you and we acknowledge everything you have done and are continuing to do. Thank you for being the heros in this tragedy. Thank you for your unending efforts and your ability to keep going. And thank you for reminding us all how fortunate we are to live in the best place in the world.

Becoming A Writer

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I always wanted to be a writer. I’d been studying my whole life as a reader, but it wasn’t enough. There are many more readers than writers out there. I needed to do more so I began to read about writing, took a short course, listened to podcasts. I bombard myself with writing knowledge but learning only the theory of the craft would take me so far. Sitting down and writing, not once, not occasionally, but every single day took me into the realm of artist where I gained the invaluable practical knowledge. 

Writing and showing up each day to write is when my craft grew exponentially. The snippets of information I had gleamed in my initial studies would pop into my head and they began to shape my art. I tried techniques suggested, those that worked stayed and those that didn’t were filled away as do not use. As I continued on, through the days I longed to sit at my desk and write and those days when I didn’t want to, but did anyway (and those days always produced the best work and left me feeling glad I showed up) I realised that the biggest teacher of all was the art itself. I had proven myself a willing student, had managed to close the door on those swirling voices telling me I was not good enough, that I was wasting my time, that it was all a load of crap. I pushed through and kept going and then, the art began to teach me. 

The creativity, which was so sparse I question if it was even there in the beginning, began to grow. It grew to the point where I entered the magical state of flow. I would sit for hours, churning out material and unaware of the time that had passed. But it wasn’t just at my desk. I would be in the shower early in the morning and run out, dripping water all over the floor, reaching for pen and paper to scribble down the idea that burst into my head; the next storyline or conversation or character development. Those came to me at the most unusual times but they were the diamonds and I was not going to miss a single one. 

Beginning was the most difficult part of all. Continuing on was tough, but as I continued there was a spark that lit up and soon enough burned into a raging fire that would not let me stop. The idea has caught me and it was not letting go until the job was done. Yet that burning passion came later. All I had in the beginning was one thought. Enough of this wanting to be a writer, they only way it’s going to happen is to stop wishing and start doing. That was all I had. I sat down and I typed. The next day I sat down and I typed and the day after that and so on. I didn’t even know what the story was in these early days. I had a vague idea of something with no idea of an ending or even a middle and I went along. Once I’d proven my commitment, the muse showed up and guided me along the way, taking my story into places I would never have conceived at the start. 

I continued to study. Reading, listening, talking with others. The study was much easier now that I had the ability to apply it to something. Then came that moment where I reached the end. The manuscript was finished. I rested it (just one of the thousands on invaluable tips I had gained) and came back to it. Yes it was in need of an enormous amount of work, but I knew I had tapped into something. The passion was burning and it fuels me still, to keep going. Because I am an artist now, a professional, I know my craft inside out and I know the standard I want to achieve and I am working on that standard each day. Like all good things worth accomplishing, it is taking longer than I ever anticipated, but I know it is worth every amount of energy I put into it. I know I am crafting my masterpiece that I will be proud to attach my name to. There will be others after it, however, like the first time of anything, there will always be something special about this one, the piece that taught me how to be a writer.

Sunday Meditation – Flexible

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Flexible. All we can control in this life is ourselves and how we respond to what life delivers to us. The randomness, the ups and downs and those events that come at us from the side, shaking the ground we stand on. Being flexible allows us to continue on towards our dreams while adjusting to these events in our life and not allowing them to take us so far off course we become lost. This means being aware that goals will change, timeframes will shift and falling down requires us to reexamine and make changes as we pull ourselves up again. With our goals in view we recenter ourselves and continue on in stability, with a lightness that allows us to mould again when our world once more shifts its angle.

Sunday Meditation – Intuition

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Intuition. Developing our intuition comes from knowing ourselves at a deeper level, who we are and what matters to us. When we fail to ignore ourselves we will seek our answers externally, often relying on other people to guide and direct us. Yet no one can know us better than ourselves, for even our closest companions barely scratch our surface. To hand control externally will ensure our lives continue to be tossed and turned like a boat in rough seas with no one taking the wheel. When we have developed our intuition we are able to proceed with an inner confidence and faith in our decisions, even if those around us disagree. We know what is right for us and what will serve us to accomplishing our goals. When we honour this inner wisdom our lives become steadier and more consistent and we are no longer surprised when opportunities arise, because we took the steps to lead ourselves to them.

What Is My Book About?

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Since announcing to the world I had written a novel, I’ve been asked many times; “What is your book about?” It’s a great question and a natural one, it’s certainly the first question I would ask someone. However every time it is asked I want to scamper away because I haven’t yet formulated an answer. The question is also a reminder that I should sit down and write out my pitch for the novel. How do I answer this question without going into too much detail and accidentally giving the ending away. The first few times I was asked this question I waved my hand and said it is contemporary women’s fiction. My novel does fit into that category, but what book with a female protagonist written post 1950’s doesn’t fit that category. That response doesn’t reveal a single thing about the content of my book only that the main character is female. 

It wasn’t until I began to review the submission guidelines for my first choice in publisher that I started to think more seriously about this question. Firstly, what category does it fit into. If I choose the generic ‘contemporary women’s fiction’ how will my book ever stand out in such a sea of storylines. Besides, my book has a specific theme. It’s a love story. Or perhaps more accurately, love stories. And yet I shudder to say it’s a romance. I read a substantial amount of novels that fall under the category of romance, although it’s not something I openly admit to doing. When I think of romance I don’t think of the novels that capture my heart but the twenty Mills & Boon books I bought for $2 at a country fete while on holidays sometime in my early teenage years. Each one indistinguishable from the next. 

I was asked the question again the other day, wanting to change my response I replied my novel is a romance. The immediate follow up question was; “Like 50 Shades of Grey?” I recoiled. While I would never disregard another artist, and acknowledgment must be given for the enormous success of the trilogy, success most commercial writers dream of, that particular genre of writing, isn’t my cup of tea as granny would say. This was also the response I feared getting which was why I avoided saying romance to begin with. Straight up my book will not have you racing for a cold shower. 

When I was 16 I was introduced to Pride and Prejudice, the book and the mini series with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy (the only adaptation I recognise). I fell in love with that story and since then have fallen in love with love. Call me an optimist, I am. Attack me for wearing rose coloured glasses, but I find it the most enjoyable way to view the world. Label me a hopeless romantic, it fits me well. From where I stand, love makes the world go round and stories of love are some of the oldest and most enduring stories there are. And for almost all of us, tales of love are what we can relate to, both those with happy endings and those without. I am a storyteller of love, a cheer leader for love. My name is Elissa Johnston and I am a writer of love, and proud.

My story? It is a tale of love that spans over two decades. It will take you on a wonderful journey with a strong and endearing protagonist who I hope the reader falls a little in love with. It asks all kinds of questions about love; the search, the falling and love at different stages. And how do we make love fit in with life, how do we marry it with friends, with family, with career, with dreams. How high does love rank among our other desires and what do we do when they seem to conflict. And in the end, does she find love? 

Interested? I hope so and to that I say, watch this space.

Sunday Meditation – Passion

Passion. Those things that immediately spark within our core and summon us to action, that propel us, are our passions. They significantly contribute to our meaning, our mission within ourselves, our families, our communities and our work. They enable us to continue on when change becomes uncomfortable and allows us break through our comfort zones. When we labour on our passions, it is not work, it is pleasure and it drives us towards the visions we have. Life is dull without passion and often when we feel lost and dissatisfied it is because we have drifted away from what makes our heart sing. We know what our passions are, we simply need to cut the noise in the background and focus within and listen. Getting back on track is simple, by taking the smallest action towards our passions we will be reignited and renewed again and ensuring we are living our lives to the fullest.

Sunday Meditation – Hope

Hope. When we reflect on what we haven’t accomplished, on the mistakes made and the things we wished we could change in the past, our focus faces downwards and ensures our journey continues to be painful. Yet with hope, we can look upwards, at the promise of things to come, of our circumstances improving, of passing through our struggles and grasping the dreams we are working towards. Hope enables us to spot the opportunities that linger on our peripheral, and when we reach out for them they pull us up and forward with a force we would not have had otherwise. Hope propels us forward and enables us to tread lighter in the present. Regardless of what has taken place, or where we are in this moment, instilling hope ensures the future will be better, and that future will become our present.