My writer's group has been at it again. We have written three stories for your enjoyment. You cannot take the subject of murder lightly, though creepy and dark. However, I hope you can have moments of laughter during the reading of our characters' confessions.
I love running writing workshops that extend our skills. However, this past week or so, I've had Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS flare. I was feeling so exhausted and could barely walk. So, I asked if my lovely friend Ester could run the group on Saturday instead. She said yes and immediately came up with a murder mystery activity.
We were given pictures for the following categories: The Hapless Victim, Evil Accomplice, Pieces of Evidence, Scene of the Crime, The Murder Weapon, and Found in Someone's Pocket. We were to reach into each envelope and take out a photo, and then write a confession to a murder.
*Please note, the following are works of fiction.
The prompts I had were:
Accomplice: Indian contortionist
Evidence: Photo from CCTV
Scene of the Crime: Empty room
Murder Weapon: Poison
In Pocket: Ticket from a parking garage
Here’s my story:
27 August 2008
Today I want to share with you my recipe for the perfect winter comfort beef stew. This is a recipe that my mother used to make and it was always a hit at our church pot luck dinners.
The beauty of this meal is that you can keep it on the stove and keep adding to it, so you’ll never run out of stew. Or you can freeze it in meal size portions to use at a later date or give it to someone in need.
Growing up, we always had a supply of Winter Comfort Beef Stew in the freezer as mum would have them ready for family and friends who came down with the winter flu, or who had fallen on hard times.
This supply was especially useful in the winter of 1993. I had just discovered that my brother was being abused by our local pastor. He was a slimy individual, yet no one believed my brother when he reported the abuse. Pastor Frank always talked his way out of any allegations and had a gift of turning things around to make everyone think the kid was making it all up.
Pastor Frank would drive my brother out to the local paid car park, and park in quiet corner, do what he came to do, then drop my brother home again. Even the discovery of the parking ticket in his pocket didn’t change people’s minds that Pastor Frank was anything less than a good, upstanding citizen.
I digress. In the winter of 1993, Pastor Frank came down with pneumonia. My mother had her supply of frozen stew, so I saw my chance. I offered to take a meal to Pastor Frank and my best friend, Arjun, came with me.
We went to his home with the meal mum had already heated, and a packet of Rat Sac at the ready. As always, we waved to the CCTV camera Pastor Frank had at the door. We were just another of a long stream of visitors while he was unwell.
We served him stew laced with Rat Sac, and chatted to him while he ate. When he was done, we washed the dishes and said good bye.
The Rat Sac must have done its job as we heard the next day that Pastor Frank was dead. He had been found in the spare room by Mrs Maguire, the parish secretary, and it was reported that he had been poisoned.
My brother was spared further abuse at the hands of Pastor Frank, and so were any other number of young boys. I have no regrets and have never been caught.
Now, here is the recipe for my mum’s Winter Comfort Beef Stew.
I got the idea for the format for this confession from various Facebook writing groups where they talk about confessions being included in food blogs as no one reads the story before the recipe!
* This blog post originally appeared on Melissa's website here.
These were my prompts:
1) Evil accomplice: A guy dressed as Ronald McDonald being arrested.
2) The hapless victim: Weird, sleazy guy with a ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’ necklace.
3) Found in someone’s pocket: A $12 docket from the drycleaners for a coat.
4) Pieces of evidence: Photo of a burning car in a paddock with five boys with coats and masks on standing in front of it holding hands.
5) The murder weapon: A blue ring octopus.
6) Scene of the crime: a dingy motel.
Here's my story.
Macca’s Deathbed Murder Confession
Yeah! Hi. My name is Macca. Well, that’s my nickname ‘cause my last name’s McDonald. Can’t really tell ya my first name ‘cause I forgots it. ‘Cause stuff happened, and the psych reckons it’s because I went through some sorta trauma as a kid. But, she’s wrong. They all be wrong.
How do I know? ‘Cause my Think Melon be bringing stuff back. Memories, as I lay here dying, they be coming back. Like them puzzle pieces which get lost underneath the couch for the longest of times and then some decides to move the couch and pick up them puzzle pieces. But, at the moment, they be like a pile of memories. No order. No real substance. Blurred by bits of dust and time. Maybe talking it out will help slot it all into place. So, I guess I should start at the beginning.
I grew up in a small country town. One supermarket. One doctor. And one dingy hotel. We had to catch a bus to go to a school in the next town. Though, once, we did have a school. It burnt down and no one built it again. Haha. Some reason I always laughed about that.
I lived with my crazy uncle Ronald. He had wild red hair and worked at a crappy restaurant downtown. He let me do whatever I wanted. My mates would always hang out at my house. We liked to get dressed up in weird masks and go burn stuff. My uncle didn’t mind. Look. He even took a picture of me and my mates burning some idiot’s car.
Oh! I remember. It wasn’t just some random’s car. It was some sleazebag’s car. And that guys name was… Oh. Ooo. His name was Bryce... Bryce Rickford. He always wore an unbuttoned jacket with the shirt hanging open to show his chest. Weedy guy he was. And he wore this big thick chain around his neck with a ‘Who’s Your Daddy’ pendent.
For some reason, Uncle Ronald really didn’t like Bryce. Bryce lived at the motel. He’d lived there for ages. Then one night Uncle Ronald asked me and my mates if me wanted to get dressed up and go for a drive to burn something. We did. We burned the sleaze bags car.
By the sounds of things, that sleazebag Bryce had come into the restaurant and had been horrible to just about everyone, and no one did nothin’. And he did it a bunch of times. Uncle Ronald had had enough. He kept sayin’ ‘He’s going to pay for what he did.’ Don’t think burning the car would do much. I already had a better idea. But, burning the car was fun. Uncle took that photo. I even remember the smell of the burning metal and the petrol fumes and the clinking of the metal as it expanded, and the flames licking at the sky. Beautiful. And right after that photo was taken Uncle Ronald yelling at us to ‘Run!’ ‘cause we were in a field of long dry grass and the fire had started to spread. So funny.
When we got back, all of us were sworn to secrecy. We made a pact never to tell anyone about what had happened, ever. Then, when me mates had gone home, Uncle Ronald sent me to the drycleaner, to get my coat cleaned. As I left my bedroom, I made sure Bro was okay. I had a special job for him.
Oh, yeah. I forgot to tell you. Day before the car burning, I’d gone with my class to the beach. Snagged myself a blue ring octopus and popped him in a jar. Deadly little buggers they are. Just one has enough poison to kill ten adults. Called him B.R.O. Blue Ring Octopus. Get it. Haha.
The day after the car burning, I rode me bike to the Motel. Took Bro with me. Staked out the place and made sure Bryce was out. Then I convinced the receptionist I was Bryce’s nephew from the city. Told him a sob story of how I’d travelled all this way and was so tired, and could I wait for my uncle in his room. Sucker let me in. I snooped a bit. Moved the odd thing around so Bryce would come lookin’ for 'the person in his place.' Then I hid in his wardrobe. Yuk. Smelled of Old Spice and Brylcreem.
Then I heard the door open, and Bryce chuck the keys on the table. And then he swore. I could hear him stomping around the place, cursing and swearing. My heart was pounding. I was smiling. The time was near. The bedroom door squeaked open.
‘Come out. Come out, wherever you are, my little 'nephew'.’
Man. You could even hear the air quotation marks.
I slowed my breathing. Screwed of the lid of the jar. I got ready. Bryce flung opened the wardrobe doors. I yelled, ‘Time’s up!’ and flung the salt water and Bro right in that sleaze bags face. You should’ve seen the look on his face as he fell back on his bed. Then the wailing started.
Last I saw of Bryce Rickford he was screaming in agony. Goodbye, Bro! You did well.
Then I left and played with my friends at the park. It was fun.
Ester de Boer
Here are my prompts:
Here's my story:
3rd of January 1981 in the Big Banana Caravan park in Yorkeys Knob.
I began, during a period of convalescence following a serious crochet injury, to write letters to prisoners. I came across this site online that asked people to write to felons serving long term sentences in prison in the US. Perhaps I was drawn to the sense of danger – that is, communicating so intimately with dangerous criminals while at a safe distance. There are certain subjects you’re not allowed to talk about, and it is strongly advised that you use a false name and PO box, for obvious reasons.
One man drew me in more than the others- Albert Fruit. I call him Bertie. It wasn’t romantic at first, but there was something tortured and soulful in the poetry he sent me, the simple, childlike drawings of life behind bars… He told me how he’d been framed by his employer, a rich bitch named Marcie Crump. Crump lived in an opulent inner-city penthouse inherited from her late father, the sock baron, Marmaduke Crump. Bertie worked the machines at one of her family’s huge sock warehouses in Seattle and then after hours doing odd jobs at her penthouse. She lived surrounded by cats and the penthouse was crammed to the ceiling with junk she hoarded and smelt like cat piss.
That was 1978, the year of the terrible exploding socks incidents- you may have heard of it. Fifty innocent people were left footless after her socks suddenly exploded on their feet (a result of the chemical compound used to create their new anti-odour fibre being activated through friction- in gym socks!) and she and her fancy lawyers plotted to blame Bertie. They claimed that he’d doused the socks with radioactive explosive foot deodorant bought from roadside vendors in Turkmenistan. Bertie’s never even been to Turkmenistan! But poor Bertie was representing himself against a team of the best lawyers money could buy, and, well… He’s not very smart, my Bertie.
Anyway, through our letters we got closer and closer until he proposed to me. I didn’t hesitate. I know people won’t understand, but love has no barriers, not distance, not bars- so I bought an airfare to the US, and we married at the high security prison with the guards as witnesses. I returned to Australia, empty and lovesick, but my Bertie had a stroke of luck. Some bunch of do-gooders that do theatre therapy with prisoners visited his block. They did this crazy play about the importance of keeping up good eating habits while behind bars, with each dressed up as a different type of food, dancing about on stage. Bertie, who has always had a streak of the thespian in him, asked one of the actors if he could have a go in his banana suit. He said the moment he donned that suit, he felt a sense of freedom he’d never felt- he frolicked, twirled and danced, to the delight of the other inmates. He’s got a natural charisma, my Bertie.
The escape was actually accidental. The real banana man suffered a concussion backstage (slipped on an actual banana skin, would you believe!) and was knocked cold. Nobody saw, though, but my Bertie, and he wandered out to get help, only to be gathered up with the theatre therapists and ushered out one set of doors, then another, then another… Well, Bertie just kept his head down, and shuffled along and out to freedom! With the help of some contacts he’d made on the inside, Bertie got a fake passport and borrowed money to travel to Australia. We met up in Yorkey’s knob near Cairns, and, under a new identity, my darling Bertie got a job as the face of the Big Banana Caravan Park, entertaining the children. The kids just loved him!
For a while things went brilliantly, then one day we went out for drinks (hobnobbing it up!) at a posh resort at Port Douglas, and who should be sipping cocktails in the lounge but that rich bitch Marcie Crump- wearing a fur, even in the middle of summer, and with her cats, poor little things, all shackled strapped down in a plush velvet pram she pushed around. (Bertie hates people who wear fur, even in cold weather. He’s a real animal lover- that’s one of the things I love about him so much). She looked right at us- right at my Bertie- and an evil smirk stretched across her mutton-done-up-as-lamb over-painted face. I was the one who decided what we needed to do…she would talk for certain.
Bertie, though, wanted to try a softer approach. Back when he used to work for her in her penthouse, he overheard a lot of conversations between her and the stakeholders of the company- dodgy things- illegal things. His idea was just to blackmail her- send her an anonymous letter to her hotel room. Unfortunately, He wrote a return address on the back. (He’s not the smartest, my Bertie). She wrote back and let us know that, apparently, using hair dye on your cats’ fur and sneaking champagne bottles into the neighbour’s wheelie bins do not count as a strong basis for effective blackmail. Bertie was despondent- he couldn’t go back behind bars, so he decided to follow my plan.
She was going back to Seattle in a week’s time, so we had to move fast. Marcie, apparently, loved health spas. I dressed up as a glamourous cosmetician and knocked on her hotel room door, announcing with excitement that she had won a weekend at the most expensive health spa in Australia- the Pig Pen. Although skeptical, she was finally won over when I told her that the free offer was not made to the common public, but only to a very exclusive clientele. I also assured her that all the products used were tested rigorously on as many helpless, endangered animals as possible. She was sold.
The address of the spa was a pig farm just down the road from the caravan park. We arrived in advance on foot through the bush so we wouldn’t be seen driving there and back. She was confused when she arrived with her pram full of cats- no upmarket salon or army of staff waiting to fuss on her. From behind the barn leapt Bertie- heroic and fearsome! What a man! “You evil, cat-tormenting liar!” he cried and before she could reply or defend herself, he stuffed the banana costume over her head and tossed her into the pig pen, where the pigs (raised solely on a diet a ripe, tropical bananas) swarmed over her, turning her quickly to a gruesome fruit salad. We quickly unshackled her poor moggies from the pram and used an old bicycle in the shed to ride back to the caravan park, beaming all the way.
There was just one hitch. As she struggled to free herself from the banana costume, out of the pocket of her fur coat fell a piece of paper. It was a return ticked to the US. Bertie took it thinking how nice it would be for us to celebrate with a little holiday. Unfortunately, that was the final bit of evidence that got us caught.
He’s not that smart, my Bertie.
Thanks for reading our stories. I hope you enjoyed them. If you'd like to read more, in the Search bar, type in 'stories.'
Melissa Gijsbers also runs Junior Writer's Club for young writers. Coming up she will be holding a virtual, and an age appropriate, version of Confessions of a murder. Please feel free to contact her is you have children who may be interested.
Feel free to like and share this post.
Have fun by creating a short story by using a story starter and then change the mood. You'll surprise yourself and it's lots of fun. We used this during our last Zoomed writer's group, Dribbles and Scribbles and we roared with laughter at the results. And we all certainly need a laugh these days.
First of all we chose a Story Starter from a great list of story starters from Sally Odgers book, How to be an Awesome Author. I told everyone to just have some fun and play (thanks, Jen Storer for this advice in your Scribbles Academy) and write a short story. I gave everyone 20 minutes and we were off. For the first time in a long time we all felt we had some head space to write. Let's face it, 2020 has been a roller coaster.
At the end of twenty minutes we took turns in reading out what we had come up with. The were hoots and howls of laughter, gasps, comparisons to the feel of certain books. In other words, fun.
We then moved on to the workshop. Mood.
For this we headed over to LitCharts.com and read through what they had to say about mood.
What is mood? Here’s a quick and simple definition:
The mood of a piece of writing is its general atmosphere or emotional complexion—in short, the array of feelings the work evokes in the reader. Every aspect of a piece of writing can influence its mood, from the setting and the imagery to the author's word choice and tone. For instance, a story that begins "It was a dark and stormy night" will probably have an overall dark, ominous, or suspenseful mood.' LitCharts.com
We've looked at creating mood in all different ways many times before in our writer's group. (Some we've even blogged about.)
However, this time I decided to do something different so that we had the opportunity to combine all the skills we had learned previously. So, after reading through what mood was all about, I announced to the group we were now going to use our story we had written earlier and change the mood. One thing which was not mentioned but many of us did anyway, we changed what our character focused on as we had already work shopped this a while ago.
So here are our stories so you can see the difference.
Mrs Perry’s garden was overgrown with thistles. Mood 1.
Mrs Perry’s garden was overgrown with thistles. They twisted and twined themselves around bushes, spread across the garden, strangling various plants as it went. It spread across the grass and up and over the washing line. It hung there like a many fingered skeleton grasping at what looked like the remnants of an old shirt and was now a piece of faded cloth. An icy breeze grasped at the material and finally ripped it from the thistles grasp and the remnants of the shirt was tossed and carried past grimy windows and up into the stormy sky.
Rory froze as he caught sight of the cloth, his hand on the rickety old gate. His feet felt as if they were cemented to the spot and his breath came in small gasps. He could feel his head starting to spin. No! He did not want to be here. He did not want to go into Mrs Perry’s and apologise to her for his ball going through her window. He did not want to apolgise for breaking the garden statue when he snuck into her yard to retrieve it. She. Freaked. Him. Out. He caught himself and started some deep breathes.
In. Hold. Out. Repeat.
‘Hey! Rory!’ a familiar voice called.
Rory jumped. Billy Dickenson, his best mate, laughed. Gah! He was the reason why he was here, and he got off scot free. So not fair.
Rory scowled. ‘What?’
‘Good luck. You’re gonna’ need it.’ And with that Billy sped off down the street, his laughter carrying on the breeze.
Rory’s hand shook. The gate groaned as he pushed it open. He stepped onto the path and started towards the front door. Overgrown tree branches grabbed his hair, his jumper. Spider webs clung to his face. He swore to cover his rising panic.
The sky overhead darkened and lightening flashed just as he reached to knock on the front door. The door squeaked open and there stood old Mrs Perry. Tall and thin wearing an old moth eaten dressing gown and what looked once were fluffy pink slippers but were now a strange grey colour. Her thin grey hair stuck up in every direction. Mrs Perry stared down at him.
‘I-I’ve come to do some gardening,’ he stammered.
‘Come in, Rory,’ rasped Mrs Perry. ‘I’ve been expecting you.’
Mrs Perry’s garden was overgrown with thistles. Mood 2.
Mrs Perry’s garden was overgrown with thistles. They jumped and hopped over the rose bushes in full bloom, encircled the lilac tree, and hugged the camellias. A gentle breeze blew through the garden and carried the scent of lilacs and roses past Rory. Rory was rooted to the spot. One hand on the rickety front garden gate. The other clutching two sunset roses.
His face felt warm. From the beautiful spring day; and from other things. His guts felt like a gazillion lizards were leaping around in there. He sighed. Though he did not want to go into Old Mrs Perry’s and apologise to her for his ball going through her window, and he did not want to apolgise for breaking the garden statue when he snuck into her yard to retrieve it, he did want to meet ‘Her’.
‘Hey! Rory!’ The voice of his best mate, Billy Dickinson, jerked him out of his dream state.
Rory jumped. Billy Dickinson, his best mate, laughed. Gah! He was the reason why he was here, and he got off scot free. At least he wouldn't be around to interfere.
Billy scowled. ‘What?’
‘Good luck. You’re gonna’ need it.’ And with that Billy sped off down the street, his laughter carrying on the breeze.
Rory’s hand shook. The gate groaned as he opened it. That’s going to need some oil, he thought. He stepped onto the path and started towards the front door. A blackbird began to sing its song. Ahhh! What a romantic touch. For a moment he stood transfixed and then he remembered who was waiting for him. He smoothed down his hair and pushed his way forward through overgrown tree branches. They’ll need pruning back. He wiped off the spider webs which clung to his face as he reached the front door. I'll have to get rid of them.
Sunlight burst through the many branches as he reached to knock on the front door. The door squeaked open and there stood old Mrs Perry wearing an old moth eaten dressing gown and what looked once were fluffy pink slippers but were now a strange grey colour. Her thin hair stuck up in every direction.
Mrs Perry stared down at him and grunted, ‘What do you want?’
The sunlight had penetrated into the gloom of the house and lit up the person standing behind Old Mrs Perry. Young Mrs Perry. All gorgeousness and sunlight with an air of melancholy about her, and it was actually her he had come to see. Perhaps, after all these months, he would be the one to put a smile on her face.
‘I-I’ve come to do some gardening,’ he stammered, as he stuck out his hand holding the roses.
Grapes were usually green, weren’t they. Mood 1.
Grapes were usually green, weren’t they. Or purple. Never orange. Orange was reserved for oranges and mandarins. Come to think of it, none of the fruit in Old Mrs Marshall’s fruit bowl was the colour it was supposed to be… and none of the grown ups seemed to notice, or care.
The grown ups sat happily nibbling at orange grapes, purple cheese, and bright blue nuts, along with sipping a wine in a green that looked suspiciously like it had been made from brussels sprouts.
The children thought the wine should also have been orange as it was made from grapes, but it was definitely brussels sprouts green.
Even the orange juice that was given to the children was a strange colour. It was a pale purple rather than orange. None of the children wanted to touch the food or drink offered. They felt as though a spell had been cast over the house somehow, missing the children and only landing on the gown ups, who kept telling the children not to be rude and to eat what was offered to them.
‘Grapes were usually green, weren’t they?’ Joey whispered.
‘I guess,’ Emma looked at the strange array of food before them.’
‘Nothing is what it’s meant to be,’ whispered Callum.
‘I only eat red Food!’ declared Molly, standing as tall as her 4-year-old, one-meter body would allow. ‘I might get a tomato,’ she hissed to the others, ‘or maybe a red frog,’ The other kids rolled her eyes and wished her luck.
‘Sit down Molly,’ her mother said. She was sipping puke green wine. ‘Don’t be rude.’
‘But I only eat red food,’ Molly said. She sat down, the fight going out of her. She pushed the strange coloured food around her plate. There was no way she was going to drink the ‘orange’ juice that was actually purple.
Emma wrapped her arm around her little sister.
‘It’s OK,’ she said, ‘You don’t have to eat it.’
‘There’s a pot over there,’ Joey whispered, ‘we can empty the juice into it. I’m sure the plant will like it.’ The other children nodded enthusiastically. ‘Watch my back.’
Joey moved across the floor, slowly, careful not to get the attention of any of the grown ups and emptied the first cup of juice into the plant pot.
Ester de Boer
Dear Clara, why did you steal my kayak. Mood 1.
why did you steal my kayak?
We were three hours away from camp by river, but now I have to climb down on foot, and the terrain is tough! Tree branches grab at my hair and clothes, and under the canopy of the jungle, I lose all sense of direction, not to mention the insects… did I mention the insects, Clara?
Seriously, my insect repellent? It’s one thing to nick the boat, but to leave me, stranded in the jungle at the mercy of Argentine killer ants and what the heck? Is that a spider? No way! Clara! I’m covered in bites and they burn and itch like crazy and there are spiders…SPIDERS, CLARA! Big, scary buggers with legs that resemble gnarly, hairy-knuckled fingers dangling above my head, creeping into my backpack. I’m terrified one’s going to creep into my swag and get me in my sleep.
Why did you steal my sleeping bag and replace it in my backpack with a sack full of rare, spiked, poisonous Bayara leaves? I put my hand in to pull it out and now the skin is peeling from my fingers and it’s making me insane. I know we’ve had our ups and downs. I feel like you’ve never forgiven me for that incident with Deidre. How many times do I have to tell you that she was teaching me an ancient Mayan yoga technique? Oh my god I feel sick… and these ant bites are kind of swelling and ohhh my stomach… I’m just going to have to wrap myself in the swag and sleep best I can…
I can’t find the medicine case. It had the antiseptic cream, Phenergan, anti-malarial tablets… I think these insect bites are beginning to fester. I want you to know that, no matter what I’ve done, it was always you, Clara.
It’s raining. I’ve scrunched myself up in the swag for the night, but the rain finds places to trickle in. My hands have gone an alarming shade of green where I made contact with the bayara leaves… I’m not sure now if I’m still wet or just sweating profusely. Babe, I missed you so much.
Couldn’t you at least have left the Imodium?
Why did you dig a large pit in the ground, fill it with sharp objects and poisonous snakes and cover it with palm fronds? In my delirium, I stumbled right into it and now I am lying, impaled, waiting to be finished off by what looks very like a Guatemalan spitting asp.
Dear…. Clara…….. Why???
why did you steal my kayak?
The walk down from the mountain is slower, much slower, than the trip by river, but I know how to bide my time, Clara.
I have discovered more things missing. You really have been a nasty girl, but I am patient… I am suffering, of course. That is what you wanted, to make me pay. That’s what you do, Cara, but I forgive you.
I could hardly believe you would be so petty, so spiteful, but it’s part of what I have always told you about yourself. Sometimes you harm yourself and blame me, but this is the proof. You took my sleeping bag and set a deadly trap to poison me? You made me very angry, Clara. But I’ve calmed now and am ready for us to work things out. You’re confused and don’t know yourself- you have a lot of trust issues and this is your way of showing it,
But I’m patient, Clara. I’m very patient.
I barely slept, with the stinging of the insects and the driving rain and mud. I’d ask why you do these irrational things- steal, sabotage our relationship, try to control the situation, but I don’t believe you know yourself.
But I do, Clara. Which is why you need me- why you can’t survive without me- I wish you could understand the torment it puts me thorough when you do these things, when you make me so angry, when you make me do things that hurt you.
It’s because I love you Clara.
You took the medicines
You really are trying to kill me, aren’t you? Yes I’m hurt and angry, but I forgive you Clara. you’re a sick person.
But when I get back down to you, we can work it all out. I’ll be setting a few new rules, Clara, but know that they’re all for your good.
I can’t wait for us to be back together. The jungle has cleared and I can even see you, frantic, buzzing back and forth around the cabin- I’m having a little laugh to myself. Did you discover that the car doesn’t start Clara? I could be there is less than an hour, but it’s such a pleasure to watch you, my little Clara. And I am patient, very patient…
Have fun and let me know how you find this exercise. And maybe you may know some kids who may like to try this out, just for fun.
If you've enjoyed this post, feel free to like, comment, and/or share.
If you'd like to keep up to date, feel free to subscribe to my Newsletter.
When you have lived with fear your whole life, it takes years to learn a new way of living, and thinking. I’m not talking about the type of fear that is healthy, the one that keeps you safe; the fear that you can make friends with. I’m talking about the type of fear that is crippling and holds you back from living an amazing life.
I’ve lived with fear my whole life. In the past few years, I’ve learned how to overcome the crippling fear that held me back and I’m living a life that I only dreamed about. Recently, I had fear rise up. A new fear. I had no idea where it came from, and, to tell you the truth, I had no idea what I was supposed to do with it.
This fear was different, and it was to do with the Overcoming Fear, Living Courageously workshops I’ve talked about. I kept putting them off. I wasn’t even researching. I stopped reading the book I had bought to help me prepare these workshops. I procrastinated. And I’m not one to procrastinate. I don’t put things off… normally. I was getting so frustrated with it all. I was ready to pack the whole idea away. I don’t need to have these workshops; I reasoned to myself.
I wondered what on earth was going on with me. I tried to push through and shove how I was feeling down. That behaviour only brought everything to a grinding halt… again. I finally decided to put half an hour a day to finish reading the book I was mainly using for research. A small step towards my goal. During my reading I came across a story about a boy who was anxious about a play he was in. When asked why he was so anxious he replied, ‘This is really important to me. I’m afraid to stuff it up.’
Until recent years, I’d lived with fear controlling me my whole life, but now it doesn’t. I’ve learned to manage my emotions and not be controlled by them. So, this whole fear of completing and running these Overcoming Fear workshops was nuts to me. When I read this story, it resonated within me and I realised why I couldn’t move forward. These workshops are super important to me and I don’t want to stuff them up.
However, I want to share what I’ve learned with others, children and adults alike. I want to be able to empower children, and adults, to overcome fear and live a courageous life. And, I also realised something else. I would've wanted to run these workshops even without my book, ‘Raymund and the Fear Monster’. The book has only served as a catalyst towards me planning these workshops.
Now that I realise this, I can get on with creating these workshops. I have my ‘why’. I won’t suppress how I feel. I look at it, recognise the emotion, name it, and then deal with the emotion appropriately. And I will take it one small step at a time so I don’t overwhelm myself.
Here is a quote from the book, The Opposite of Worry by Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D.
“The solution (to suppressing your emotions) is to emotionally move step-by-step toward each scary feeling.
It is by doing this I will get these workshops done, one step at a time.
I want to encourage you today, to look fear in the face and take a step towards it. One small step. Allow yourself time to feel what you are feeling. And, when you are ready, take another step. For some, it may be a just taking public transport for the first time by themselves. For others, it may be standing up to speak for two minutes in front of people you don’t know.
My challenge is for you to do the above exercise this week. As for me, I’ll try Facebook Live.
Let me know how you go.
Until next time,
My first Facebook Live video.
Below: My second Facebook Live a week later.
Week 3: Think about what you're thinking about.
Disclaimer: This is not intended for clinical use. These videos and blog post are dealing with the general symptoms of fear and anxiety. It's me sharing my personal experiences and what I've learned. If necessary, seek professional help.
If you've enjoyed this post, feel free to like, comment, and/or share.
Though I did not have much to do with my Pop, and my Nan died when I was a baby, their art was always around, inspiring me that maybe someday I could do the same. My parents separated and later divorced when I was 13. And, as my father was violent, we had to go into hiding. Though in years later I did meet up with my dad and have a small amount to do with him, it was not a lot and he no longer was doing any art. He has since passed away.
My big breakthrough with both my art and my writing (which I thought I was all good with) came when I picked up a copy of, The Artists Way by Julia Cameron at the beginning of this year. It was first published in 1992 and, as Ali Stewart has so aptly put it in her recent blog post, Three Important Insights from The Artists Way, ‘with umpteen reprints, several spinoffs, and numerous nips, tucks, and facelifts, the perennial title continues to unstick stuck creatives.’ It has certainly unstuck me.
So, what was it that unstuck me and helped me overcome my fears? A lot of hard work and commitment for the full 12 weeks of The Artists Way program, and committed to stretching and challenging myself ever since, that’s what. Each week of The Artists Way program, especially at the beginning, you have to work through questions and activities to find what is keeping you stuck. I was amazed how the very act of WRITING an experience down and seeing it black and white could unblock something within. Do it! It will amaze, shock, and surprise you.
For me, it was a combination of having my classmates laugh at my stories. I was a shy kid with very poor self-esteem. Looking back now I can see that my stories were funny. At high school, I would write stories straight out of left field and have a totally different take on the assignment. This also caused my classmates to burst into laughter and for me to wish I could just sink into the floor and disappear.
My art was different. I had one great art teacher for three terms in year eight. But, the rest of the time my art teachers were interested in Abstract Art which I hated. I wanted to learn to draw and paint nature, people, and animals. As I said at the beginning, I couldn’t get past the ‘yuk’ stage. I didn’t know how.
About five years ago I got hold of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. This was my first breakthrough. Going through the exercises and then trying to draw later I was amazed at the difference. As you can see below, there is a remarkable distinction between the two drawings.
In The Artists Way there is a section of affirmations. One spoke to me and has made one of the biggest impacts. I can nurture my artist. Up to this point, because I felt my artwork was no good, I didn’t need to invest time and/or money on courses or good materials. Oh. My. Goodness. The change that happened when I gave myself permission to invest in good quality paints, paint brushes, paper, liners, as well as online courses was incredible.
So, what did I do after The Artists Way?
I drew. I painted. I continued to take myself on Artists Dates. I spoke with illustrators like Giuseppe Poli and Katrin Dreiling and picked their brains. You can read what they told me here and here. With Giuseppe’s encouragement, I joined the 52 Week Facebook Illustration Challenge and started putting up my work online, not just in that group but everywhere on my social media pages.
My illustrations aren’t great. But, the very act of having to come up with a new piece every week is a wonderful discipline. These were my Artist Dates as well as going to the art store for art supplies. And I can see the improvement already. I often sit in amazement of what I just completed. I also signed up with Skillshare and started taking Nina Rycroft’s illustration courses, as well as any other courses that I felt could help me learn how to use the different mediums.
For me, putting up my art on public display is about conquering my fear of not being good enough and feeling afraid of never measuring up. I have changed my thinking. I no longer compare myself to my friend Ester, who is an amazing artist, and an incredible illustrator. Nor do I compare me to anyone else. I am me. I look at the world differently to anyone else. I am discovering my own style. And, most of all, I am having fun. I experiment all the time. I now compare myself to myself and how far I have come in such a short time.
And do you know what has surprised me the most? This release, this freedom I have found in my art has found its way into my writing. I play with words. I have fun with them. I have fun in my stories. I especially noticed this in the Sci-fi/fantasy novel I just finished. I had an absolutely thrilling time writing the last part of my novel. Each time I sat down I felt exhilarated.
As for my art, I have signed up to take Nina Rycroft’s illustration Masterclass e-course. And my friend Ester is taking it with me. We’ll be doing it together. How cool is that?
So, what about you? What can you do to become all that you can be and start understanding your fears, overcome those that hold your back?
- Identify your fear and have a good look at it. Is what you afraid of going to hurt you, or put you into danger? If yes, I can’t help you and you need more than this blog post can provide. (I’m not making light of your situation. I’ve been there.) If the answer is no…please continue.
- Write down where you think these fears stem from. It could be a childhood incident. It could be more than one and is still impacting you today.
- Work through that incident. What did you think and feel about it at the time? What was really true about it? How do you feel about it today? Write it all down.
- What can you do to challenge yourself creatively to get yourself out of your comfort zone, and also, what can you do to play? Then go ahead and do it!
- Do something new each week. Or it could be the same activity but stretch yourself a little more all the time. For example, the first week you may go to an art store and buy yourself some art supplies. (Or it could be the $2 shop depending on budget). The next week you could actually draw and paint. The next week you could watch a YouTube clip and try out some of the painting or drawing techniques. Or you could check out your local Neighbourhood Learning Centre and learn rope art, or glass blowing, or sculpture.
- Ooo. Did I say play and have some fun.
- Put your work out there. You never know where it can lead.
Valerie Khoo is now getting commissions for her rope art AND her artworks. Katrin Dreiling has just had her first book come out. It’s written by Michelle Worthington and illustrated by her. It's called, The World's Worst Pirate.
As for me, people are liking my illustrations and watching my journey. One day, I will realise my dream and write and illustrate my own picture book.
You can find out more about Julia Cameron and her book: The Artists Way
Betty Edwards has a website. Find out more here and read her book and do the exercises. It’s amazing.
On my blog you will find:
I'm passionate about helping people overcome their fears and live courageously.
I love to share as I learn.
I have dyslexia.
I share what it is like living with a chronic illness, Fibromyalgia, and learning to live in the moment and enjoy my life.
There are writing tips from my Writers' Group, Dribbles and Scribbles, as well as short stories that my friends and I have written.
I am a qualified Youth Worker and Education Support Worker. I am a Member of the Australian Society of Authors.
The content on this blog is information only and the author is not liable for what you, the reader, do (or not do) with that information.
Raymund And The Fear Monster