help me find things


…like courage, certainty, a sense of purpose…motivation!

I have been on-again/off-again working on a book about keeping journals, featuring my journal pages (the above is an example) for about four years now, possibly even longer.

It’s not about ‘art’ it’s about vulnerability, honesty, my heart to your heart, the depth of a daily life….I imagine a  vulnerable book with my homely, shabby journal pages and my take on the creative life and why keeping a journal is such an essential practice for creative people…or well, just people, actually.

However, I veer wildly with this project from deep immersion, drive, fun, certainty ‘Write the book you would love to READ, Helen’, write to your friends and loved ones, write to all the people struggling to find purpose or to hold it or to white-knuckle-it through the hard stuff…

… a stultifying self-doubt, agonising inertia, FEAR FEAR FEAR – – ‘why would you do this? WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? no one wants to read this self-indulgent drivel…people will make fun of it…you’re a child…this is beyond pathetic…what are you, eleven? … this will be the kiss of death to your writing life….’  Y’know, that really helpful internal looping/mental torture that we are capable of inflicting on ourselves…

I would NEVER talk to another person like that….but I can squash myself into the ground without a second thought.

There is no middle-ground with this project….no days of ‘It’s fine, I’m not totally sure but I’ll keep on trucking…see what happens….’ It’s either HELL YES! or omigod-no-never-what-was-i-thinking-i’m-going-to-go-and-live-in-a-cave-and-learn-to-live-without-people-and-derive-nutrition-by-sucking-rocks….

Here is what I have so far:

20+ years of my journals

Four long essays to sit alongside the journal pages, about keeping a journal, life, creativity and self-care practices…

A scanner (I have scanned about 1/20th of what I need to scan – it’s a huge job…)


All that is stopping this book happen now is me and my own ‘stuff’. 

I SO need to get out of my own way…..which is easier said than done.

I don’t have a publisher (I haven’t looked for one). I am thinking I would probably self-publish this, using some kind of crowd-sourcing thing whereby people basically pay for the book up-front, before it has gone to production.

So yeah, ….your thoughts, advice, courage, opinions, boots-up-bum, prayers, links, love, advice, frank and open discussion are all very welcome right now.

Can someone please give me a shove?



fresh inspiration

When is an ‘inspiration wall’ not an inspiration wall?

When it’s been up for almost two years and you’ve stopped seeing it anymore…

I have a creative room out in my backyard. Our garage was converted to a sleepout by previous owners and now we’ve set it up so half of it is guest-room (well, guest-nook) and half is my creative space.

The wall beside my desk I put up a montage of inspirational images. It was overdue for a freshen up, so for a couple of months I slipped anything that caught my eye into a folder (magazine cuttings, mail my friends sent me, vintage book pages etc etc) until I had enough material to redo the wall.

Here is the old inspiration wall:


& Here is the new:

sw_2sw_3 sw_4

Do you think I am the only 41 year old still sticking photographs of pop stars on her wall? Ha ha.

word of the year 2014

Last year I did Susannah Conway’s excellent worksheets for planning the year ‘Unravelling The Year Ahead’. I find them to be a good combination of compassionate, specific, gentle, but also motivating and, this is important, fun!

Part of the process is coming up with a word for the year. Something that in one word sums up your hopes and intentions for the year, something that you are working on in yourself or your life, something which will quickly remind you of your intentions and set you back on the path….

For the curious, my word of the year last year was WILD

This year, I have gotten as far as reading over last year’s, printing out this year’s and selecting a word – but I haven’t done the workbook yet. I had some thinking to do first, and then I decided to wait until the children went back to school so I will do it next week.

Looking back over my hopes for 2013, I won’t bore you with my inner-mess but here’s one funny thing – I was deeply upset about an interpersonal relationship thing at the time of writing….I wrote about it like it was the end of the world and I would take a long time to heal from it but I was non-specific enough that when I re-read it a year later…

…I cannot for the life of me recall the issue in question. Not even the person, let alone the THING!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha….humans are funny.

Today’s major angst is tomorrow’s ‘WTF was all that about?’ How’s that for giving things a sense of perspective? (Also realising my memory is REALLY not what it used to be.)

Anyway, if you want to work through a great set of questions to shape your hopes, plans, intentions, wishes and desires for the next year AND make yourself a little record of where your brain was at for your future self to laugh at in a year’s time….you can find the workbook HERE

& here is the word I chose for 2014. I might write a bit more about this word in the future….and I might not:

TA-DA! :


don’t meet your heroes/moz-life

I got Morrissey’s ‘Autobiography’ for Christmas. I started reading it right away on Christmas afternoon but here’s the thing….it was too intense for me, so I stopped. It was so very Morrissey. Intensely his voice and his essence. I couldn’t quite cope. The phrase ‘don’t meet your heroes’ circled my head – did I want to steep this deeply in Morrissey’s brain innards, when my ‘relationship’ with him in recent years is not without difficulties?

I have adored Morrissey since I was 14. I even went through a phase of trying to look like Morrissey. Here is evidence. I am fifteen here and I had a goth boyfriend who use to like to pretend to be a vampire by leaping out at me from behind corners, wrestling me to the ground and biting my neck. Ah, teenagers:


& I went to see him perform when he came to NZ recently and it was sublime. He did not disappoint. However, it isn’t without challenges maintaining the life-long love of Moz. He is difficult, curmudgeonly, veers a bit towards racism at times (actually, he is just plain old racist towards Asian people), has some interesting ideas about violence and romanticizes gangs, he is bitter and bitchy and prickly and solipsistic.

Yet, I do still love the old hag. He informed my teenage years. He taught me so much! Through The Smiths I learned about the Moors Murders, Candy Darling, Keats, Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Machester geography, Skinhead culture, James Dean….so much more I can’t recall right now. He gave me strength and courage as a vulnerable freaky teen to embrace weirdness and he made literary-geekiness COOL.

Anway, I have returned to reading the book. & I am making notes of the most excellent bits, which I will share with you on here. He is a great writer. His book is unruly and hairy and meandering and needed tougher editing, but who would want to argue with Morrissey? so I can see why no editor was ballsy enough to tell him….but the good bits are GREAT. His wit, his way with words, his dark patina.

He’s like family to me, which is why even when he is inciting race-hate, being naive about the ‘glamour’ of violence and remaining static of outlook in a world which is romping on….I can’t reject him.

He describes one of his harridan teachers saying ‘she will die smelling of attics.’

SHE WILL DIE SMELLING OF ATTICS. This, on page 10. Oh, so many pages to go….

Have you read Moz’s book? What did you think? The consensus seems to be that there isn’t enough about his romantic life and far, far, far too much about The Smiths courtcase….


standing in an empty room, talking to myself


(Look at these outrageous Dahlias – the ones Willoughby chose – they are so big and obnoxious and like a child’s drawing of the sun. I would NEVER have chosen them, and I love them.)

I talk to myself a lot these days. I guess because I spend most days alone…and I’m good company! Little words of encouragement out loud: ‘Take it slow….careful! You don’t have to get it all done right now, you know. BREATHE.’


I just spent two weeks painting four rooms of the house a shade of warm white called ‘China Ivory’. There was a lot of talking to myself. There was a lot of swearing and cleaning up of dripped paint. There was a lot of shuffling of furniture from room to room. It took 100% longer than I thought it would and now I am behind on everything else.

Mind you, I always feel behind these days. There is something uniquely stressful about being a mother…(this is not to undercut the stress of non-mothers, everyone gets stressed, I know, but I do think mothers experience a uniquely wearing type of stress). Mothers hold the whole family in their brains (and hearts) ALL THE TIME…and it’s a lot to hold. I am always trying to remember what everyone needs and where they need to be and what they’ve eaten lately and which appointments I need to schedule for them and how I’ve screwed them up and the ways I fail them and how much I love them and how tiresome they are and how emotionally-healthy they are or aren’t and how I could do better to support them….this work never finishes. It wears at me sometimes in the form of this feeling of never being caught up, always having more to do than I have lifetimes to attend to.

(Because photographs of white walls are not that interesting – I took some photographs of the stuff on the walls….but check out that freshly applied white paint. WHOAR.)


Plus this time of year starts to feel like a hurtle, doesn’t it? The freefall towards Crassmass – yaaargh! Heeellllppp!

I liked the house empty. I liked the plain white walls. I liked painting over dark red and then dirty-beige with white. I did a kind of zen-stand up comedy routine to myself. Lots of jokes about Karate Kid ‘sand the floor’….and how many zen buddhists does it take to paint an empty room white?


I didn’t want to put the mats back down or the furniture back in or the paintings back up.

I can imagine a life for myself where I live in a white room and sleep on a mattress in the corner and the only things in the room are tea things and books.

But I did put everything back, because there are four of us who live here, because it would have been weird not to, and because that was the thing to do next.

Lately I am in this open state that can feel very free and can also feel like ‘lost’.

I have no ambition. I have no certainty about who I am or what I want. I don’t want anything except for the people I love to be well and happy. Sometimes it feels like deep peace, sometimes it feels like BLANK. Vacuum. Nothingness.

This is a common experience of ‘mid-life’ (I’m 41). This feeling is why people have affairs or buy silly cars or suddenly get tattoos or trek the Himalayas. I feel lucky that I have yoga and meditation which mean I am constantly engaged in associative practices which mean I can feel this stuff and not freak out or need to lurch towards change to fill the emptiness which is opening up inside me. The emptiness can be a huge gift and a tool towards grace and clarity, so long as you don’t freak out and fill it with random shit to distract yourself from the yawning canyon of emptiness in your centre.

paint_1 paint_3

No wonder I liked the empty rooms, white walls and single-minded task of the last two weeks.

Everywhere I look, white. Bright. Light. Just keep painting. Just make the white whiter.

Empty everything out of the room…

…spend two weeks in the empty room…

Fill the room up again.




darling, you are radishing!

Here is a photograph of a jolly bunch of radishes I bought the other day.


They were fine tasting radishes, mild but peppery, juicy, sweet. Their plump brightness cheered me right up, because I’m the sort of person who is cheered by radishes or silly pop songs or even just a very good very hot cup of tea.

I’ve been fighting off the inclination to write one of those terrible posts where the blog writer write tediously about their own blog, and what the point of it is, and how they aren’t sure why they keep blogging and how photographs of jolly radishes seem a bit absurd in the face of the plight of the bees, and children getting gassed to death while going about their business and general chest-crushing future uncertainty. But fortunately, I haven’t succumbed. Or have I? (See what I did there?)

Here is a different view of the same radishes: