Conscious Uncoupling & Coldplay’s heartfelt lyrics


After the high profile celebrity couple announced their separation yesterday, it seemed poignant to post Chris Martin’s latest release. Despite the hype surrounding the choice of words to describe their split, this song hints at the raw side of relationship breakdown.

For further thoughts on this, check out my latest article – Gwyneth, Chris and Conscious Uncoupling – over at Threads.



5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Write A Book (And The 1 Reason Why You Should…)

Photo: marsmet (CC)

Photo: marsmet (CC)

  1. Everybody is doing it. There was a time when writing a book was seen as a major, commendable feat; authors were held somewhat in awe. Not anymore. Since the typewriter was ditched and we all got our hands on new technology, writers have been springing up all over the place. The advent of the internet and the ability to self publish has enabled an explosion of authors into the marketplace. Just look around on Amazon Books for a few minutes and you’ll get the idea (if you hadn’t already realized). Nearly every fifth person on social media sites seems to have written a book or a novella or a travel guide (well, at least if my followers are anything to go by), while virtually every other person expresses an intent or desire to one day write a book. So, yep the market for books is beyond saturated, and if you’re going to write something, you better check that it’s unique or in demand.
  2. It will consume far more time, energy & mental exhaustion than you could ever imagine. It may consume your every waking moment. Just consider your most stressful project, dissertation or creation to date, and how much it took out of you to complete it. Now quadruple that, or even times it by 10 (depending on the length, complexity and genre of your book), and you’d have a vague idea of how much work will go into this brilliant book idea of yours. (For more on exactly what’s involved, check out this article). Despite what you may have heard, writing a book is work, not a stroll in the park. Are you willing to invest that much of your heart, mind and soul into getting your book into print? Thought not. Think again. There are other vocations out there, you know.
  3. It’s not just about churning out text for the content of your idea any more. You’ll really have to look into expending effort into producing a website (or outsourcing it to a professional), and think about additional social media channels devoted solely to your book. Yep, basically more time, and probably a hefty sum of money to get on the writers’ bandwagon these days. If you think such things are an unnecessary extra that really wouldn’t concern you, you better do some research. Even the big publishers are looking for authors who are willing to go the extra mile with establishing an online presence and connecting with readers.
  4. If all that hasn’t put you off yet, maybe this will: The project doesn’t end after the book has been written, or even published. Next comes selling hard copies to friends, neighbours, colleagues, twitter buddies, random strangers etc. It’s all about marketing yourself, chasing leads, requesting reviews and making friends with others who’d happily advertise your book to their friends and followers. Yet again, even if you land yourself a deal with a top publisher, they’ll expect you to do your part in marketing your book. You are no longer just a bona fide writer, you are now expected to be a promoter and marketer. Believe it. Could you actually do this, or does the mere thought scare you silly? If so, now’s the chance to forget that vision of becoming an author and put your ideas on the slush pile of Silly Ideas To Be Forgotten, Never To Be Resurrected Again. Just think of all the stress you’d save yourself, not least the embarrassment of having to sell an actual product to the wider world.
  5. And finally – and this is the most convincing reason of all… In pursuing your dream to write a book, you will subject yourself to the greatest tension ever known to writers everywhere… No, not waiting to see if anyone will buy your book; no that’s really not that bad. After all, you don’t have to tell anyone how many copies you’ve sold! No, the ultimate fright comes after you’ve sold a few and the reviews start coming in – from readers you don’t even know. Yes, waiting for reviews, and along the way requesting reviews, often having no idea what they will say, could possibly be the scariest moment of your life. Are you ready for those 1* reviews to come in from those who think your book is the biggest load of rubbish they’ve ever read? I have not asked anyone for 5 stars, not even my over enthusiastic big sister – and yet a few glowing reviews have rolled in. But I am not naïve. When I think about it, I don’t think I would even give myself 5 stars! I know those 1* reviews will likely soon come in. How am I so sure? That’s easy, just check out the reviews for your most favourite book ever, or a well known blockbuster that comes to mind. Scroll down. Yep – there they are – the 1* reviews from disgruntled readers who really weren’t impressed with the story or style of that hyped up book! Do you really think that if J.K.Rowling couldn’t avoid 1* reviews, that somehow you’re so special that you won’t get any? You must be joking (unless you only ever sell 5 or 10 copies to your best friends and family.)

The 1 Reason Why you Should Write a Book…

If all the above has failed to deter you from pursuing this writing malarkey, then here’s the one reason, and one reason only, why anyone should actually press on and write that book they’ve so wanted to write. And here it is (drum roll, please)… The ONE reason you should ever write a book is because YOU HAVE TO! Because it’s stirring in your bones & your soul, and you finally relent & accept: ‘This is what I absolutely must do. I will get no peace unless I get the words out, printed on the page/screen/scrap of paper.’ If this is you, then what are you waiting for? Get on and get writing your book! We want to hear about it. Tell us about your book idea in the comments below.

And while you’re here, why not check out the links to my novel and book website? Thanks!

‘You just make mistakes when you rush.’ A reminder to slow down…

Creative Commons: Ell Brown

Creative Commons: Ell Brown

I’d just finished writing an article and looked forward to settling down to my tasty stir-fry leftovers for a quick lunch before our big supermarket delivery was due to arrive. I hadn’t received a text saying exactly when within the hour they were likely to come. Alas, in usual Murphy’s Law fashion, I had just taken the first bite of the spicy dish, when the doorbell rang. Drat.

‘Oh well’, I thought, ‘I better just unload everything quickly so I can settle down to eat afterwards.’  As I unpacked the vast amount of items (there was practically no food left in the house), I engaged in a little small talk with the delivery guy. I apologised for ordering so much stuff and said I’d try to hurry up, knowing that the drivers have several deliveries to fit into their daily schedule. His laid back response stunned me…

‘No hurry’, he said calmly. ‘Take your time.’

‘But won’t you be late for your next delivery?’

‘There’s no point worrying about that, I just take my time. And you just make mistakes when you rush.’

I relaxed, emptying the boxes a little less manically.

The young employee explained further: ‘All the drivers get really stressed and talk about it in the canteen at work. They all moan about how hard the job is and how they have to rush around to get the deliveries done on time, but I’m just not that bothered. They say to me ‘Aren’t you worried about being late?’ and I say ‘Nah, I take my time’. I end up making the deliveries on schedule most of the time anyway, and there’s nothing you can do about a customer being slow to unload, or a traffic jam en route.  The others tend to make mistakes ‘cos they’re in such a rush.’

I slowed down some more, deciding that after putting away the food for the fridge freezer, everything else could wait until I’d eaten my lunch.

I couldn’t get that line out of my head. ‘You just make mistakes when you rush.’ How true – in so many areas of  life. I thought about the couple of typos in my novel (hurriedly checking the final proof before it went to print); I thought about the times I’ve left something important at home or at work, because I’ve dashed out the door without checking my bag; I thought about missing a crucial email after hurriedly scanning through my inbox.

Rushing makes us feel as though we’re being productive and using our time well. Ironically, the converse is true: rushing often slows us down, as we have to go back and remedy the errors or mistakes we make. Rushing also robs us of a calm, relaxed demeanour.  Instead of simply getting on with a job or task at hand, we’re constantly looking at the clock or feeling on edge. The young man delivering my shopping was able to work efficiently at a moderate pace, without letting his job get him down or stressed.

Slowing down as we work certainly has its benefits: A relaxed attitude, a cheerful manner and a more pleasant individual for others to work with. The many health benefits of living stress-free have also been well documented by researchers. Slowing down doesn’t mean being lazy or inefficient; it simply means pacing yourself and working consistently, often allowing you to achieve more than if you had hurried.

So I’m going to purposefully implement this laid back philosophy into my work ethic and family values. Rushing, quite simply, isn’t worth it.

The Greatest American Export

Creative Commons: dok1

Creative Commons: dok1

There are numerous American imports and influences which we Brits despise: fast food eaten sloppily on public transport or while walking along the street, relentless chewing of gum, the blatant misuse of the word ‘like’, the tendency to be loud and obnoxious, the wearing of white sneakers and baseball caps by middle aged, wealthy tourists… The list could go on. Surely every nation has a catalogue of deplorable habits or practices that are caricatured by outsiders?

But no matter how much one criticises American trends, culture and politics (George W and Sarah Palin being particular recipients of mockery), most of us still remain appreciative of the following: American movies, and sheer optimism.

Yes, love them or loathe them, Americans exude optimism and promote looking on the bright side of life. Unlike the British, renowned for our moaning and complaining (especially over our dull weather), the people on the other side of the Pond have an infectious inclination towards cheerfulness, positivity and resilience.

And why not? It’s running in their genes – the history of their forefathers, who against the odds set out across the Atlantic, suffered extreme weather and multiple setbacks, and went on to build towns and form a nation. Every Thanksgiving is a reminder of their former poverty in the face of their current abundance. The legacy lives on, through the ‘can do’ spirit of those who reject notions of giving up or settling for second best.

Excessive self promotion and flaunting of wealth may well be cause for criticism, along with consumption of too many doughnuts (yes, that’s how we spell it over here!) but in my view there is little more depressing than the constant whining and negative pronouncements from a growing class of disillusioned, disgruntled youth.

The internet age is a time of the greatest opportunity: Anyone can start a blog, sell on eBay, create an app, put a video on Youtube or promote photography on Flickr. The optimistic are pursuing these avenues and seeing how they can realistically make their mark. Is it any wonder that developers from the United States create more successful apps than any other country?*

Optimism is surely the greatest export from the States, not Coca-Cola or any other manufactured thing.  Like a breath of pure, fresh air, optimism is refreshing, pleasing to the soul and, best of all, free.

If only it would be promoted more in our education system and work ethic, and revived among the young, rather than the sugary, fizzy substances, which are now frequently peddled in school corridor vending machines.

* “In terms of engagement, American apps reign supreme, securing 70 percent of the total number of users and engagement this year.” (Source:

“Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”, Philippians 4:8, the Bible.

On Matters of Motivation

Creative Commons: Arya Ziai

Creative Commons: Arya Ziai

When it comes to getting stuff done, I’ve observed a fair range of behaviours and responses in regard to completing tasks, classwork or other types of challenges.

I’m a parent of three sons under 15 and also work part-time with young people at college. I used to be in the classroom, teaching, and have regularly been part of various teams – both in paid or voluntary settings. I’ve gained experience through tutoring 1:1, too.

As a result, I’ve seen the world of difference in working with those who are self-motivated, and working with those who are not.

You can nag, cajole, persuade, bribe. But at the end of the day, a nagged person will only achieve momentary success for a particular season or project. They’ll constantly need guidance, oversight and assistance to get anything done. In contrast, a self-motivated person will by default become a successful or independent person – in whatever life’s direction they pursue – since they push themselves to achieve more.

The self motivated tend to exhibit the following traits:

  • A positive or can-do attitude – they get going with planning or writing or contributing ideas. Without sighing or whining, as if they’ve been asked to schlep a tonne of bricks to the North Pole.
  • Determination – to tackle the task set before them, despite any challenges or setbacks. Determined people believe that what they need to complete is within their capabilities and act accordingly. They know they can do it, and just get on with the task at hand swiftly.
  • Initiative – willing to try out solutions and work things out by various methods, without constantly asking for someone else’s permission or help. Those who show initiative are quick thinkers.
  • Acknowledgement of their flaws or shortcomings – They are aware of their limitations and will be quick to ask for help or guidance or advice from a variety of sources, when necessary. They don’t wait until it’s right before a deadline before approaching someone for help.

Conversely, the unmotivated are a disgruntled bunch, showing frequent signs of apathy, negativity, discontent and over-reliance on others. They don’t plan or think ahead, and get annoyed when they find something difficult.

It doesn’t need stating, that it is a joy to work with those in the former group. Those who are motivated tend to be happier and more likely team players. They’re committed to seeing through an activity or assignment.  They’re often known as ‘high flyers’.

So what makes someone self motivated?

I think there are several reasons…

  • They see the bigger picture, and are aiming for something beyond the current task. Frequently, they’re working towards a level or an exam which will allow them access to something aspirational – such as a place at university or an award or a vocation. More simply, it could be that they welcome the praise or minor reward to come after completion of the task.
  • They thrive on a challenge. Instead of thinking how difficult or impossible a task might be, they are eager to show others what they can do and what is possible.
  • They have high self esteem and take pride in their work. They can’t bear to give half hearted attempts at anything. They recognise that their work is a reflection of who they are as a person.
  • They place value on quality and success. Average is not an option.

So how can self motivation be developed in children or young people?

  • Help give them something to aspire to, a vision of what they could be or could gain – whether a career or sporting achievement or recognition from someone acclaimed. Let them see that they have potential to do or be something great by praising their good qualities and encouraging them to think about their future.
  • The small things matter. Don’t let them get away with chucking their clothes on the floor or dropping litter. Encourage them to organise themselves and to take responsibility for their possessions and prioritise their time. Model this in the way you organise yourself.
  • Make them follow through on commitments or promises. Don’t let them quit easily or let others down without good reason.
  • Be cheerful and upbeat around them. Discourage any forms of hyperbolic whining or complaining.  Self motivation cannot be fostered in an environment of whining.
  • Encourage them to tackle tasks – even the most boring ones – quickly and efficiently, rather than deliberating for ages.

Fortunately, it is possible to change from unmotivated and downbeat, to self motivated and confident. Young people have great potential for adaptability. Once they hit adulthood, however, it would seem that that they’re more likely to be stuck in the patterns they’ve adopted since childhood.

Not everyone is brilliant or high achieving or clever. But everyone can become self-motivated to ensure they give their optimum to the things that matter.

 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart – Colossians 3:23

Smashing Stereotypes

Photo: Creative Commons

Photo: Creative Commons

We all do it. Sizing people up, making nanosecond judgements about the people we meet, based on various unwritten criteria floating around our heads. Brainy. Boring. Mumsy. Geek. Chav. Fun-loving. Hippie. Mean. Tarty. Snob.

Last week, someone said that I didn’t look like a mother, I didn’t seem the type. Yikes, is that a good thing (as in, I don’t look all mumsy)? Or is that a negative thing (do I look like a self absorbed person who wouldn’t possibly want children)? Or is it simply that I look too young to have kids (I know I often look far younger than my age)?

But then I just chuckled to myself. I don’t look like a lot of things. I’m sure I don’t look brainy – yet somehow I managed to clinch a first class honours degree. If I want to appear intelligent I opt for glasses rather than contacts but it doesn’t always work! I probably don’t look like a poet or guitarist, yet I’ve penned quite a few poetic lines and have been strumming tunes for quite some time now. I don’t look like a teacher (yes, people used to be surprised when I told them back when I was one) – since I often seem laid back and totally not authoritative. I admit it, I’m no scary teacher, but I can certainly step into ‘Mrs Carter, teacher mode’ if the occasion so requires. (I no longer teach, but am still involved in educational settings.)

I’m pretty certain I don’t look like I could be fluent in German, yet I am (well, used to be), having studied German and European Studies for four years. Now I’ve written a children’s novel (as yet unpublished), I’m wondering whether I look like a writer or author. Maybe on some days, who knows!

And finally, apparently I don’t look like a Christian. That one made me smile. A year 8 pupil once made this announcement after the topic of church came up and I mentioned my interests in this area. “Really, you go to church?” he said. “But miss, you don’t look like a Christian!” Again, I really wasn’t sure at first whether this was a positive or negative thing. But then I quickly determined that it was, in fact, rather a good thing. Who says that a Christian has to look a certain way anyway? I certainly wasn’t wearing anything outrageous to class that day, just my pretty average teacher-y gear, perhaps my cool brown boots, though I really can’t remember.

It just goes to show how wrong we can be about someone, based on first impressions. It’s funny how in the Old Testament, no-one thought that young David looked like warrior or king material. In fact, he was the least likely candidate. Yet he went on to defeat the fearsome menace Goliath and reigned over Israel for 40 years. And who can forget Susan Boyle, star of Britain’s Got Talent show a few years back? No-one expected her to sing with such power and capture the hearts of the audience.

Has anyone ever been surprised to hear what your roles or skills or interests are? Or have you ever been way off the mark in your judgements about someone?

As for me, I’m all for surprising people and smashing stereotypes. 

People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart: 1 Samuel 16:7

September 11, 2001: What a day can bring

September 11, 2001. A date forever etched on most Westerners’ minds, and certainly that of most Americans. Everyone speaks of where they were on that fateful day. We don’t even need to think about it, the memories flash instantly back to us.

I remember it clearly. I was with my two young children over at a friend’s house when the phone call came. It was an ordinary day, we had been chatting over cups of tea as the little ones delved into toy boxes.  My friend switched on the TV and we gawped in disbelief at what we saw unfolding on the screen. As our kids squealed and played in the background, oblivious to the immensity of the moment, we watched the scenes of devastation. The Twin Towers, those iconic buildings that grew to represent New York City, were unable to withstand the attacks.

On September 11, we don’t just remember the where. We also remember how we felt. The shock, the helplessness, the incomprehension, the startling realisation after the second plane flew into Tower Two that this was not an accident. The sinking feelings as news cameras on the ground relayed the fear of those in the vicinity of lower Manhattan. The widened eyes of incredulity as word spread that office workers were jumping out of windows to escape the flames.

My husband, Tim, and I had lived in New York City for several months before moving out to a suburb in New Jersey. Tim used to commute to work in the financial district, arriving by train at the World Trade Center. We had walked those streets and loved the picturesque skyline. I even had a visitor’s pass which allowed me to take friends to the top floor of Tower One, to the unique ‘Windows on the World’ café with spectacular views across the city. I’d taken several friends, relatives and even my first son in a baby carrier up there. My son was born in America – I held a distinct affinity for the World Trade Center and the American people. I was gripped by the images on the TV and felt gutted.

We had been back in the UK less than a year before the towers fell. Tim and I recognised that we could have been caught up in the turmoil of that fateful day and the aftermath of the following months. Over the next few days after September 11, I could think of little else. Above all, I just found it hard to accept that it had actually happened; it seemed surreal.

The more I thought about it, the more I felt burdened to express myself creatively. I picked up my guitar and penned a song. The first lines of the verse rang out to a haunting melody:

The day began as usual
People rushing off to work
None would be expecting
The things that were to come

The chorus continued:

You don’t know what a day can bring
You don’t know what tomorrow holds

September 11 is a yearly reminder that I should take nothing and no-one for granted. That I don’t know what’s ahead around the corner and that I should value every moment with my family. No one called their bank or their boss on September 11; all that mattered was family and friends. And as each year rolls by (has it really been 12 years?) we see how fleeting this life is.


Caught on camera – Cameron’s great train gaffe/ FaithWalk comment

red box

It could possibly go down in history as one of his most embarrassing moments in office. That, along with the time he and his wife, Samantha, drove off home without realising that their daughter was not with them, but rather left behind at the pub. Poor Cameron, it’s not fun being made a laughing stock. Though I’m quite sure that someone would have warned him that it was part of the prime ministerial job description.

Leaving his distinctive red, ministerial box, full of official documents and potential state secrets, in full view on a train table, with the key still inside the lock, will be remembered for quite some time. Never mind the fact that Cameron was just a few steps away at the buffet car or that his official security people were watching over his stuff. We can all picture Bourne Identity style scenes as rogue spies swoop in to whisk away said briefcase, while bumbling officials sip coffee or check their Twitter pages. Even the guy who snapped the photograph and ran to the tabloids could have been a dodgy opportunist.

Oh the perils of parenting flaws or major gaffes in the public eye! We mere, ordinary mortals do not run the risk of having the times we left our Mastercard in a store card machine or let our toddler run amok in a shopping centre (ahem!) plastered across the Daily Mirror. I, for one, am immeasurably glad to be rather incognito in such circumstances.

So why are we so unwilling to cut him some slack or to downplay such incidents? He’s only human, surely we all make errors? Do these blunders really matter all that much? Or do they demonstrate the height of irresponsibility?

The general consensus appears to be that it matters because of his position. He’s the Prime Minister, the highest role in government. The overriding issue raised is that if Cameron is not so conscientious in areas pertaining to his family or state documents, how seriously does he take the job of running the country? Perhaps that’s an unfair assertion, but at the very least, Cameron should have pocketed the key before wandering off to buy coffee. Those on the Opposition benches will definitely be having a field day in Parliament over this story for the next few days. [Although Downing Street has denied any wrongdoing on the Prime Minister’s part, surely there should be more secure protocols in place regarding the transportation of official documents?]

The incident highlights how we often love to gloat over others’ mistakes or make jibes about their misjudgements. In an age of savvy smartphone snaps, which can be instantly uploaded to Instagram or any interested news outlets, every faux pas can be recorded and shared. It must make those in public office particularly uncomfortable. Their every move or slip up may become viral hits across social media sites or front page news within hours. And yet we forget that our every move is also being viewed and recorded. Not by the latest technological gizmo, but rather by our heavenly Father, who sees all that do and even knows all that we think. The tabloids may not show the slightest interest in our escapades, unless we hold an important position, but God is aware of, and is interested in, all that goes on in our lives – from the greatest to the least. In terms of high or low positions in society, it makes no difference to Him; we’re all on his radar, all the time. Both the good and the bad (and the plain stupid) things that we engage in matter to Him; they don’t go unnoticed. Before we’re swift to mock, I’m reminded that I,too, have made innumerable blunders or indiscretions. And I’m thankful that, despite my imperfections, I’m still valuable in God’s eyes. (See Psalm 139 for more on this.)

From seedy to celebrated: the acceptance of porn into mainstream culture (and parliament)


Today I’m privileged to have an article featured over at Threads, a really great site. Check it out!

From seedy to celebrated: the acceptance of porn into mainstream culture (and parliament)

On GCSE results day…


Photo Credit: Hammersmithandfulham, Creative Commons

Your grades will not affect your future so much as your attitude and your determination. If you can sharpen these two characteristics you will increase your chances of success in many areas of life – not just your career.

Who you are as a person will always be infinitely more memorable to those whom you meet than how many ‘A’ grades you achieved at 16.

Don’t waste time comparing yourself to others who sailed through and clinched straight As. You may well have talents and abilities beyond the restrictions of an exam paper. Remember that many highly successful people – entrepreneurs, artists, politicians – did not achieve well at school. Read more about that here. This is also worth a read. (American spelling)

Decide now that you will not let your grades – however good or bad – become the benchmark against which you measure yourself. In the grand scheme of things, these grades in your hand today are not necessarily a reflection of you or your future. They are only a small part of your story. Now it’s time to move on. Make decisions, take re-takes if you think that’s what you should do, and focus on developing new skills. Aim for new heights and enjoy new experiences.

Above all, focus on the good things in your life, not the negative. Don’t let disappointment cloud your optimism for other hopes and dreams.

And if you achieved the grades you wanted – well done! You worked hard and things worked out for you. However, remember that you will not always gain what you want in life; sometimes doors will be closed to you and you will also taste disappointment in one way or another. Be considerate of others and have some empathy towards those who are not feeling quite so elated as you.