On new years eve I was having dinner with friends and someone suggested we do top fives. You take it in turns to say one highlight from the year past. It made a change from talking about the state of politics or how many great people had died in a shocker of a year that was 2016.
There were five of us and we shared stories together until it was time for fireworks. After I’d shared number three a friend said:
Wow, you really challenged yourself this year didn’t you!?
And I realised, every story I’d shared had a pattern.
- It was something I was scared to do
- I didn’t think I could do it
- I did it
- I enjoyed myself because I realised I could do it after all
I was doing mini Rockys (you know the films with Sylvester Stallone?) all year and the hard work had led to my highlights. Had I never taken the challenges, I’d never have got to the highlights.
I’m writing a children’s book just now about a character who is afraid of something so he just doesn’t do it. And he thinks he’s fine. In some ways he is, he’s comfy enough. But his friend suggests he might be missing out and tries to encourage him to try and do the thing he’s afraid to do.
All through life I’ve been scared of things so I wanted to show children that courage isn’t the absence of fear, courage is something you need because life is scary. It’s not a magic potion that makes fear disappear. It’s a choice to act when you’re not comfortable, you’re not sure you can do it, you’re not sure others will like it and you might look like an idiot. That’s what courage is.
When I write for children my characters have a habit of reminding me of things I need to remember. It’s like in my head I think ‘I want others to know that’ and then I realise I really need to know it myself. I’ve been like the character in the book where I think I’m fine but my world is limited because I’ve let a boundary of fear define how far I’ll go or how much I’ll try. I’ve chosen comfort above courage because I’m afraid of looking stupid or failing or being rejected. That’s not how we start off in life. That’s not how we are made. If it was, we’d never learn to walk.
Looking back over the year was a good reminder that trying new things and learning and growing is what we’re made to do. Our brains make new neuro pathways as we learn, because they’re designed to work inside changing, problem solving creative humans. That’s all of us.
So if it’s daring to be honest or signing up to try and keep trying something new or having the courage to really enjoy the present or just the courage to do something everyday when you’re feeling so bad that just going to a shop seems like a mountain to climb…
Whatever it is for you, you can do it!
TOP FIVES FOR 2016 :
Playing an International for Scotland Writers in Italy (and being the only Woman on the Team)
Image Credit top left: Adrian Searle
This was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in my life – starting in a stadium, in Italy in a Scotland kit felt amazing! Also I need to thank the friends who told me over and over I should go. One even texted me every day asking if I had booked flights. I was scared because I didn’t know the guys well and I was the only woman and I thought I wasn’t good enough. But I had the most brilliant time! Also I really worked on my fitness the month before so I could play okay in 29deg heat. Italy had a woman on their writers team too and both teams were lovely. Here’s the captain Doug’s fab match report (warning- there’s lots of swearing in it!).
Chairing at Edinburgh International Book Festival
Totally one of my favourite jobs ever! I got to look after brilliant authors and illustrators TIm Warnes, Nick Arnold and Tony De Saulles. Read about it here.
Becoming a Chaplain to Hutchison Vale Semi Professional Ladies Football Team
Yes I am wearing a giant manager style coat and look twice as big as everyone else! I really enjoyed supporting the team in 2016.
Mining Memories: Creating Digital Stories with Children via the Perspective of Animals
One of my favourite school projects with the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative and Boness Public Primary – read more about it here.
Being a Dinosaur in a play for adults in Edinburgh International Science Festival
Image Credit: Chris Scott
This was the dress rehearsal. It was like AE but for dinosaurs that have been debunked. We wrote our parts too – as part of Illicit Ink. Read more about it here.
New Challenges for 2017
I wrote three books which are coming out this year – I’m planning events now. You’re invited to the Book Launch of Ollie and the Otter on 9th March, 6.30pm at Waterstones Princes’s Street, Edinburgh.
I’ve finished the season of chaplaincy so I can work on music related stuff.
I’m working on a new non-fiction book project and I’ve recently written my first radio play for BBC Scotland Schools radio. It’s about space and emotions and will be broadcast in March.
I’m working toward my first illustrated book (I’m an author of other books but I’d like to illustrate too). You can read a bit more about the journey towards illustration here and here. Here’s one I drew over Christmas on my ipad: