For several years now, I’ve embraced the habit of choosing three words for the year, to help me shape and define how that year might unfold.  And this year? One of those words is stillness.  I have felt it gathering, that need to be still, for the past few months. This year is a time to make that need more explicit, and the practice of it more conscious.

Finding stillness has always been a big challenge for me.  In a busy life that involves juggling writing with an academic career and the things I’m passionate about – creative cooking, dancing, deep connections with those I love – across three different towns and cities, there isn’t much time to be still. I know I need it. It’s a crucial component of the Five Rhythms dance practice that I’ve loved for so long. Yet it remains a challenge.

At this point in the calendar, I associate stillness with darkness. I’ve just returned from rural Scotland, where I celebrated the turning of the year.  Transitioning from 2018 to 2019 involved not just stillness but darkness, in a place away from the glare of too much artificial light, a place where the dark has its own illumination – that of the soul.  Over that holiday, in which I slept in a beautiful, beamed barn in total blackness and where the silence was punctuated only by the call of the owls, I read Clark Strand’s Waking Up to The Dark.  His book is a beautiful meditation on the significance of darkness on our lives and our consciousness as a planet.  I’d urge you to read it, if you want to make space for contemplation in your life. Strand says this:

I have not described how darkness feels against the skin. Everyone has felt it, but in an age where consciousness itself is no longer consciousness, but only a by-product of watt-age, most people have forgotten the feeling of the dark.

The darkness fits the body so well that we might as well be entering the water when we wear it.  It flows everywhere the light is not – across every bone and sinew, surrounding every hair. It hugs the shadow within a shadow and, when we are ready, lets down a milky richness white with stars. 

We come from the dark, and we return to the dark.  We are not merely in it but of it.  The darkness does our thinking when we let it, and it is in the darkness in which we move.

Here’s to allowing stillness – and moving in the darkness – to nurture our thinking and creativity in 2019.


My last post was about setting intentions for the new year, inspired by my recent reading, and the practice of choosing three words to help focus those intentions. Here, I reflect on the first word in the list of three: clarity. What role does it play in creativity, and how do we achieve it in order to best do the things we want to do? [click to continue…]


Three little words: suggested reading for 2017

January 4, 2017

I love January, don’t you?  Crisp, sharp mornings and cosy nights by the fire.  I realise I’m in a minority as a fan of winter. But, at this time of year, I relish that feeling of emerging, mole-like, blinking in the dark.  It’s a time when we can reclaim and rediscover ourselves.  Everything can feel […]

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3 words for 2016

January 17, 2016

There’s something special for me about winter: the stillness; the turning inward and time for reflection.  At the turn of the year I always try to reflect on the twelve months just gone and the ones still to come. I’ve never really been big on goal-orientated new year’s resolutions.  But recently, inspired by Chris Brogan, […]

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‘I Have a Dream….’

January 14, 2015

What do these words mean to you?  Tweet

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Effortless Writing

November 12, 2014

Earlier this year I moved house.  Five months later, most of my books are stashed away in storage but I did keep my creative writing books to hand – and have finally managed to unpack them and get them onto the bookshelves by my desk.  I couldn’t resist stopping to flick through them, my eye […]

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Elizabeth Gilbert on creativity and the myth of genius

October 29, 2014   ‘Don’t be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed, for just one moment through your […]

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Glasgow Women’s Library: 21 Revolutions, Jackie Kay

October 22, 2014

Over the past year, Glasgow Women’s Library have been running a brilliant project to celebrate women’s lives – by having contemporary Scottish women writers respond to pieces in the library as inspiration for their work.  Here’s a podcast from the fabulous Jackie Kay, reading the pieces inspired by the collection (scroll down the page a bit […]

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Welcome to my website

October 21, 2014

Welcome to my website.  I’m a novelist, dramatist and prize-winning short story writer.  My novel Sisterwives is published by Crocus Books and also available on Kindle.  My debut radio drama The Cloistered Soul was broadcast by BBC Radio 4  as part of the ‘Original British Dramatists’ series.  You can read my prize-winning short story (winner of the […]

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Cultivating a garden together

March 22, 2014

This month I co-wrote a post for Something Rhymed with my friend and writing buddy, Antonia Honeywell.  Dedicated to literary friendships, ‘Something Rhymed’ is the brainchild of Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney, who are themselves friends and writing collaborators.  Mine and Antonia’s post is in part a testament to our shared experience of writing, […]

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