3 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. My Writing Process: Intertextuality

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are three days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

Day three is all about Intertextuality.

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Intertextuality is a literary device which creates interrelationship between two or more texts.

The term was coined by Julia Kristeva in the 1960s and has been widely used by poststructuralist and postmodern literary scholars.

The most frequent form is when one book refers to another book’s characters, plot, or scenes.

This reference can be simple or complex. The simple form may reference the title, or a famous character. The complex form may adapt a complete storyline or various characters from another book.

It can be an accidental, subconscious, casual, or deliberate endeavour. It can also be explicit or obvious or implicit, so the reader or scholar will need to delve into the text.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy employs simple and complex forms of intertextuality deliberately and explicitly.

The simple form of intertextuality is employed by most writers. Charlotte Bronte mentions Gulliver’s Travels, The Bible, among other texts in Jane Eyre, for example.

I mention Victorian writers, their works and their characters throughout my trilogy. Some examples are, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, Dr. Watson from Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Emily Bronte, among others.

The complex form of intertextuality in The Eyre Hall Trilogy includes the use of many characters and back story from both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea.

jane_eyre_an_autobiography_by_charlotte_bronte_2370006095781   Product Details

On the other hand the plots and most of the characters in the three novels which make up the trilogy are my own.

Intertextuality can be carried out using any or several of the following literary devices: allusion, quotation, parody, paraphrase, mimesis, expansion, transfer, among others.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy makes use of all of them, there are direct allusions to other works, including quotations. Some of the original characters are parodied. Events which took place in Jane Eyre are paraphrased as back story for the reader. I have also attempted to emulate the literary style, although I have adapted it for a modern audience. The original work is expanded and many events and characters have been transferred.

Many writers borrow ideas from the works they have read. Scholars call this literary sources, and all authors from Shakespeare to Joyce have done so in their works. It’s nothing new, and nothing to be ashamed of.

I wrote another post on sequels, prequels, reinterpretations, rewritings and writing back which explains my intentions in writing a sequel to Jane Eyre.

I also wrote a post on why Jane Eyre needs a sequel on author Shani Struther’s blog earlier this year.

There are plenty of examples of writers using this literary. James Joyce retold The Odyssey in Ulysses. Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, is based on two characters from Hamlet. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is based on Bertha Mason’s story from Jane Eyre.

The purpose is to modify the readers’ understanding of the primary text by adding another perspective or layer of meaning to the original text leading to a reinterpretation of both texts.

My main aim in writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy was to invite the readers to rethink their opinions of Mr, Rochester, and expose Rochester as the tyrant he was and reinstate his victim, Bertha Mason.

Another aim was to honour the Victorian writers whom I consider my literary Masters, by referencing their works for contemporary readers.

Stevenson, Carroll, Dickens, Wilde, Kipling.

Few readers have never read Jane Eyre or seen a film or television series based on this novel. Most of those who have never done so directly, have heard the story of the poor governess who falls in love with the owner of the house and discovers that his mad wife is locked in his attic.

For those few who have absolutely no idea of who Jane Eyre was, there’s plenty of back story in book 1, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, to help fill in the blanks.

I hope my readers will enjoy a fascinating journey into Victorian England when they read The Eyre Hall Trilogy 

 

4 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Writing Stage Three: Plotting

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are four days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

Day four is all about plotting all the scenes into a three part structure.

3 BOOKS ALL HALLOWS

Plotting From Aristotle to Vonnegut.

Most novels combine engaging characters and a compelling plot to varying degrees, however some novels are more concerned with how and external conflict is solved. A prime example is a detective novel concerned with a criminal case and its solution. Other novels focus on personal conflict and the relationships between the characters. In this case, the outcome is often a change of attitude, or a new situation in the characters’ lives, not the solution of a specific incident.

I’m more of a character-driven writer than a plotter, because I’m more concerned with how my characters feel about their problems, and the processes they undergo to overcome them.

Nevertheless, I do plot and my plot is also important, it’s just not more important than my characters personal journey of self-discovery.

In this post I’m going to tell you about my plot structure for The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

According to Aristotle’s Poetics, all drama has three basic acts corresponding to the beginning, the middle, and the end of a story.

Three thousand years later, Kurt Vonnegut told us that a good story has a hero who gets into trouble and then out of trouble, everyone loves that story.

 

Screen writer David Trottier put it like this, ‘Put your hero in a tree, throw rocks at him, and get him out.’

There are few surprises to this basic structure, which has been used over and over again, of course, the fun is in the way it’s presented.

Basically, the first part presents the conflict, the middle complicates it even more, and the end resolves it.

I use this basic 3-part structure in my novels, too.

My three novels have three parts with ten chapters per part.

Each chapter has one scene and some have two related scenes.

Part I includes the setting, main characters and first crisis. I start throwing the rocks as soon as possible. In fact the first crisis happens in chapter I in the three books. I thrust both readers and characters into the situation without warning. This event changes the main character’s life drastically and unexpectedly, to such an extent that Jane literally loses control of her life.

This first crisis is sometimes referred to as enticing incident. It’s what sets the ball rolling.

The rest of the novel is spent dealing with and sorting out this situation, which is partially resolved in books 1 and 2 and finally tied up in part 3.

Part II, also called the midpoint, the central character takes stronger actions, the conflict intensifies, or more conflict appears, and the pace quickens. The main character is at a point of no return. Jane must go forward even if she’s walking straight into another crisis at midpoint, and she knows it. When all seems lost, things take a turn for the better, leading up to part three on an optimistic note.

Part III starts well, but there is another major turning point, which is usually referred to as the crisis or dilemma, occurring towards the end of the novel. It usually involves making a decision aimed at solving the initial problem. It’s often a low point where all seems lost. It is followed by the climax, which is the result of the choices made and leads to the final outcome.

If the novel is part of a trilogy, as my case, there can be no satisfactory solution to the crisis in book I, or there would be no reason for a further book, so it ends on an unsatisfactory ending, sometimes called a cliffhanger if it’s more dramatic, so the reader will want to know what happens in book II.

Book two starts with the same structure all over again, leading to book three, which has a more satisfactory ending. I say satisfactory, because the ends are partially tied up, not because it is totally happy. But more about happy-endings tomorrow.

Scenes

Each of the thirty chapters include scenes.

These scenes include crisis, turning points, surprises, complications, revelations plot twists and turns, and a climax, and a resolution along the way, otherwise it would be a very boring ride!

Scenes are vital, because they drive the story forward. Each scene must have a purpose within the novel, which will move the plot forward or give us some vital information about the characters or back-story.

I give each of the three parts a name, and each chapter a number and a name, too. It helps me in the planning stage, and it signposts the action for the reader (by the way, these names undergo multiple changes throughout the writing process).

This is the Index of Midsummer at Eyre Hall

Part One: Season of Darkness

Chapter I – Abodes of Horror

Chapter II – The Best of Times           

Chapter III – Betrayal

Chapter IV – Winter of Despair         

Chapter V – The Worst of Times       

Chapter VI – Fugitives

Chapter VII – Nothing Before Us       

Chapter VIII – Hell is Empty   

Chapter IX – The Age of Foolishness 

Chapter X – Wrath     

Part Two: Spring of Hope       

Chapter XI – Locked out of Heaven   

Chapter XII– Everything before Us    

Chapter XIII – Epoch of Incredulity

Chapter XIV – Stairway to Heaven    

Chapter XV Pride, Greed, and Lust.   

Chapter XVI – The Agony and the Ecstasy

Chapter XVII Manderley        

Chapter XVIII – In Search of Helen    

Chapter XIX The Road to Hell

Chapter XX –  First Love         

Part Three: Season of Light   

Chapter XXI – Persuasion       

Chapter XXII – Seashells and Puppies

Chapter XXIII – Present Blessings      

Chapter XXIV – Mr. de Winter’s Request      

Chapter XXV – Thunder Moon at Eyre Hall   

Chapter XXVI – Susan’s Inferno         

Chapter XXVII – James Eyre Kirkpatrick        

Chapter XXVIII – Max and Helen       

Chapter XXIX – The Light and the Darkness  

Chapter XXX – Return to Eyre Hall    

****

I didn’t plan it all before I started. I started book one with some characters and a situation and let them speak and act. A third of the way through, I planed it all, loosely. I didn’t consciously use Aristotle’s proposal, although it may have been ingrained in my subconscious due to my literary background as a graduate in literature.

This plotting structure has worked for me with the Eyre Hall Trilogy. It helped me to organize my erratic thoughts into coherent scenes, but I honestly have no idea whether it would work with any other novels I’ll be writing. There are lots more methods for plotting a novel.

How do you plot your novels?

 

 

 

5 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Writing Stage Two: From Pen to Keyboard

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are five days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

Day five is all about the transition from the scene I’ve seen in my mind to the written version.

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, once I’ve visualised the scene and run through it in my mind’s eye, I start my writing process.

The first thing I do is pick up a pen and a writing pad (I prefer large ones, but sometimes I use smaller ones I can carry in my handbag) and jot down my thoughts.

This first draft looks nothing like the final version and works like this:

First I write some loose ideas or instructions, like detailed playwright’s stage directions. I might add some snippets of dialogue, and some instructions or notes to myself, like ‘remember to make sure the reader knows it’s late afternoon and the journey will take four hours.’ I’m sure nobody would make any sense of it, except myself!

A few days ago, I learnt that this technique is called ‘Freewriting’ and is very useful for writers thanks to a post by Icy Sedwick How can freewriting help writers with plotting or blocks? Read this fascinating article if you want to know more about how this process can help writers.

Lucy EScribiendo

This is a small notebook because I’m writing on a plane, but I prefer big bulky ones!

Next, I usually do some more visualisation, because writing it all down has sparked my imagination and raised more questions or included more people or actions in the scene. I might have to do some research or rethink the whole scene.

The second time I take up the scene, I start writing all over again, using my first notes and any new ideas I’ve come up with. At this stage it is usually a much more coherent text, but it’s still nowhere near finished.

At this point, I usually stop using my pen and take up my keyboard. This is the most productive part, five or six handwritten pages, about 1,000 words, easily become 5,000. And the best thing is that once I get to this stage, the words flow like a waterfall.

 

Lucy writing

I usually write in my garden or patio or near a window overlooking my garden and the countryside. I was at my daughter’s house here, by the beach.

 

When I finish my first typewritten draft of a scene, I know there’s more work to be done on it in the future, but I move on to another scene, for the time being.

Although I move on, I reread and edit what I’ve already written regularly, expanding, cutting out, and modifying as I go along.

I follow this process this with every scene, and each scene usually becomes a chapter, although some chapters have more than one scene, but more about my scenes tomorrow.

Do you your pen before your keyboard too?

Do you ‘freewrite’?

 

6 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Writing Stage One: Visualisation

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are six days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

3 COVERS

I’m a visual learner, thinker and writer.

This means I need visual input to learn, understand and interact meaningfully with my environment.

As a learner, it means I need to see and/or make charts, images, diagrams, mind maps, videos, etc. to fully understand what I’m learning.

Visual 2

As a reader, it means that if the writer doesn’t show me where I am and what and who I’m seeing, I can’t relate to the novel, which is probably why I love the detail and atmosphere conveyed in Victorian novels. However, this doesn’t have to be wordy. Think of poetry; just a few words can express complex feelings and situations.

As a writer it means I need to see images in my mind of who and what I’m writing about, before I write, and it’s why I want my reader to be there with me, inside the characters’ shoes and looking around through their eyes.

These mental images can be based on memories, or something I can see, either physically or virtually, but I need that trigger.

Visual 1

For example, I need to see Eyre Hall before I can imagine anything happening there. I also need to see my characters: their clothes, hairstyles, accessories, mannerisms, etc. before I can hear them speak or watch them interact.

This visualisation stage happens in my mind’s eye, sometimes consciously as I take a walk, sit and think, or unconsciously when I dream.

It is the starting point of all my scenes. I’ve seen it all before I write it down.

I call this the summoning or activating stage, where I’m thinking scenes through, like a chess game. I purposefully think about my characters and location. I see what the characters are doing, where they are and what they are saying like film shots. I rewind, repeat, change, until I’m comfortable with the scene.

I can’t start writing until I’m satisfied with the scene I’ve seem.

Sometimes my imagination isn’t enough to visualise what I want to see, and I need to see photographs and paintings, of people, places and objects related to my scene, because if I don’t ‘see’ it, I can’t conjure it, and I can’t write my scene.

For example, I was having trouble writing about the sea scenes in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall. I saw plenty of pictures about naval battles and storms, but I needed to get inside the ship, before I could hear Michael and Captain Carrington speaking in the Captain’s cabin, and I couldn’t see the room at all.

Sea 1

Quite by chance, I went to Madrid for a weekend in March 2015, and decided to look into war museums, and I discovered that there was a fabulous Naval Museum, which is very close to the Prado Museum, where I spent an unforgettable afternoon. I was lucky enough to take part in an enlightening guided tour of naval history from Columbus to the present, using the museum exhibits.

Captain's cabin.1

There was one exhibit which mesmerised me and enabled me to write the scene I mentioned; an exact replica of a captain’s cabin in a 19th century frigate. It struck me powerfully how grand it was. The polished wooden walls and furniture, rich carpets, drinks cabinets, paintings, upholstered chairs, which were in stark contrast to the rest of the rooms on board.

That visit was like magic. On the two-hour train ride back home, I jotted down all my ideas for the scene, and when I returned, I sat on my computer and it happened. But more about how the actual writing process tomorrow.

Are you a visual thinker?

Here’s an excerpt of one of the scenes on the ship in the first part of Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall.

******

Captain Carrington looked up from his desk and waved a hand towards the chair facing him, and then busied himself with some papers, seeming to ignore my presence.

It was rumoured that he had spent so long waiting for a captain’s commission, that his hair had turned white and his skin grey. His face was dented with deep ridges that cut his hollow cheeks, and his head and stomach were unusually large compared to his scrawny limbs. I wondered how he had become so overweight with the meagre portions we ate while at sea.

He folded a document, which looked like a letter, and then stared at me before speaking at last. “Why are you here, Midshipman Kirkpatrick?”

“I wanted to be in the navy, like my father, sir.” I had said the words so often I had convinced myself they were true.

“Who are you running away from?” 

I took a few seconds to reply to his unexpected question. “I have never run away from any man, sir.”

“I can believe that.”

His eyes dug into mine, once again. “Cold blood. Determination. I’ve seen you kill without a second thought, when you needed to.”

The crew were mostly decent, self–respecting men, who worked hard and obeyed the regulations. However, there had been a few blackguards of the worst sort, tough, merciless men who stole rum and provisions, slept on guard, and increased the workload of the rest of the crew. Many of them had served their time in prison, where they should have remained. A group of such criminals had provoked a mutiny threatening the captain’s life shortly before our arrival in Jamaica. In spite of being flogged for not joining their criminal uprising, I managed to escape with the help of a few brave and loyal sailors and suppressed the rebellion by slaying the scoundrels.

“I’m prepared to do what is necessary for my ship and the crew, sir.” I was relieved that the conversation had returned to professional matters.

“Then it’s a woman you are running away from.” He smiled wryly, and I knew there was no point in denying it. I could not imagine how he knew, because we had never spoken about personal matters. “Not a woman, sir. A very special lady.”

“They are all special to someone, my boy. Beyond your station, perhaps? Her family didn’t think you were good enough, did they?”

“Something like that, sir.”

“So you came here to fix that, did you? To prove that you’re worthy of the damsel?”

“I came to forget.” I had not spoken to anyone about Jane since I left Eyre Hall and it was more painful than I had imagined.

“Of course, to forget.” He nodded mockingly, pressed his fingers on the mahogany desk and raised himself up painfully, swearing as he limped around the cabin. He stopped behind me, breathing down my neck. “But you can’t, can you? She is in your thoughts, under your skin, inside your blood, and you cannot pull her out. You smell her before you fall asleep and touch her in your dreams, don’t you?”

I was relieved that he stood behind me. I needed time to compose myself. How could he know how I felt if I did not understand my feelings myself?  

“And when you wake up, your whole body misses her, and your heart aches to hear her voice, you long to look into her eyes, preferably looking up to you from beneath.” I felt his hand on my shoulder. “Am I right, Kirkpatrick?”

I was silent, containing my breathing. How could he know?

“So, what are you going to do about it, man?”

“Nothing, sir. It’s impossible.”

He returned to his seat, staring at me again. “And if you were to return as a commissioned officer, as a lieutenant. Would that make it easier to convince her father?”

“No, sir. It would not.”

“Interesting, no father.” He shuffled the papers on his desk then looked up. “Is that why you’ve been trying to get yourself killed almost every day since we set sail six months ago, Lieutenant?”

“I’m not a lieutenant, sir.”

“You’re a dangerous and valuable man who can kill with one hand and plan the mathematical coordinates of the ship with the other. Your father would have been proud of you, and, one day, so will your beloved’s family.”

“Thank you, sir, for your concern, but I’m afraid not, sir. The lady is out of the question.”

“Then you’ll have to replace her.”

“Never.”

“Admirable self–control and loyalty. I presume she must be married?”

“She is beyond my reach, sir.”

“You were a valet at a country estate before enlisting, am I right?”

I nodded.

“I don’t think a young maid would have made you flee, or rejected you, and seeing the ambition and astuteness in your eyes, I added two and two, and realised it must have been the mistress of the house, or her daughter. Which was it?”

*******

Did I manage to bring you into the captain’s cabin? Did you see the characters? Are you intrigued?

 

 

 

 

 

7 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall: On planning and pantsing

Many things have been happening during these bloggingly silent months, and I have an important announcement to make.

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are seven days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day to celebrate my achievement.

 

3 COVERS

 

The idea of writing a sequel to Jane Eyre in order to revindicate Bertha Mason and uncover Rochester’s real nature, opening many eyes, including Jane Eyre’s, had been taking shape in my imagination for a few years before I put pen to paper.

On a warm, sunny day, towards the end of June 2013, I sat in my garden with my brand new PC, and started pantsing my novel.

I had a location: Thornfield Hall had been burnt down and Jane had inherited a great deal of money from her uncle, so she had built another more modern country house on the same spot: Eyre Hall. It had neither an attic nor a rookery.

I had a setting: Twenty-two years after Jane and Rochester’s marriage, while Rochester is on his death-bed.

I had an antagonist: My first scene was crystal clear; Richard Mason would arrive at Eyre Hall, causing havoc in Jane’s life once again. He was Bertha’s brother, the man who had interrupted Rochester’s first bigamous marriage attempt in Jane Eyre.

I had the catalyst: This time he had a more shocking revelation. Bertha had given birth to a baby girl in the attic, whom Richard had removed to Jamaica under Rochester’s orders. Annette Mason was twenty-two years old and ready to claim her birthright. Annette is the most vital character in the novel. Without Annette there would be no Eyre Hall Trilogy.

I had the anti-hero: Rochester was responsible for Jane’s ‘unhappy marriage’, and the tragic events which will ensue, due to his crimes and misconduct.

And of course  I had my dear protagonist: Jane Eyre. She is the link to all the other characters and events. The trilogy is concerned with the way in which she will react to the events and other characters, and how her fate will develop as a result.

My characters were strong and well-defined in my mind, so I just made them interact and talk to each other and the story gradually grew.

My first surprise was that more characters appeared of their own accord, right from chapter one. The most significant was an unplanned and unexpected hero, who emerged, and practically took over my novel and Jane’s life, on page two; Michael.

More characters appeared, interacted and events started to get out of hand. I soon realised two things I hadn’t counted on:

1) I needed a plan, and  2) one novel wasn’t going to be enough.

So about a third of the way into book one, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, I planed the rest of the first novel and outlined the next two, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall and Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Needless to say, my early plans have changed drastically along the way, but even though plans change, you need a plan as well as an open mind.

It’s been a fascinating adventure. Months of research, reading, rereading, writing, rewriting, editing, discussing, fretting, and 280,000 words later, I have finished my journey, or not?

 

#IWSG Writing Book Three in a Trilogy

This post was written in response to The Insecure Writers Support Group, which posts every first Wednesday of every month.

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

Today I’m feeling especially insecure and apologetic, as a blogger and as a writer.

I can’t believe it’s been almost two months since I last blogged. I definitely need to explain myself.

Apart from work and a few personal matters, which cropped up unexpectedly and inconveniently, and I’m not going to bore you with, the rest of my time was taken with re-re-re-editing the third and final novel in The Eyre Hall Trilogy. Everything else had to stop, including my blog (and the A-Z Challenge) and most of my social media interaction, because I just couldn’t cope with everything that was going on, and I’d put my book up for pre-order, thinking I had plenty of time… and I didn’t, as always.

I struggled with book one, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, because I was proving to myself (and the unsuspecting world) that I could actually write and publish a novel. In the end I felt and still feel proud of my efforts.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed book two, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall. I had proved I could do it, so I was just enjoying the ride. Lots of romance, action, adventure and suspense. It’s definitely my favourite.

Unfortunately with book three, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, the insecurity, struggle and strife has returned… in a big way. Can I do it? Can I finish this trilogy the way it deserves? Can I close all the threads? Do I even need to tie it all up neatly? Where do I stop?

I completed my first draft at the beginning of April, and since then I’ve been listening to beta readers’ and editors’ comments and tweaking bits here and there, and adding a chapter, which they convinced me was needed. The whole process has been driving me crazy.

Don’t get me wrong, most of the comments were positive and my ‘test’ readers have enjoyed it, but, there are always comments and suggestions for change or improvement, so over the previous months, I’ve been  focussed on what needed to be improved, which was a stressful focus.

I’m now waiting for the last proofread to be returned to me. Then I have to re-read it once more and make the final decisions before I upload it on kindle next Thursday, the 9th of June. I should be looking forward to it, shouldn’t I? So why aren’t I?

I’m more than insecure this time, because I’m downright terrified of not getting it right and spoiling the end and the whole trilogy.

I can’t wait for next month, when the launch will be over and I’ll be feeling more optimistic perhaps…

How do you feel just before your book launch?

Have you written the third part of a trilogy? What was your experience like?

If you’d like to read some of the other posts by insecure writers, they’re here

Compassion and Happiness: A Room Without a Roof #Happiness #1000Speak

We normally think of compassion related to pain, sadness, poverty, misery, but today (I’m a day late, I mean yesterday,) is also International Day of Happiness, so I’d like to join 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion and reflect upon compassion as a way of bringing some happiness to other people.

compassion-logo-finished

It’s not a pleasant situation for me when I’m feeling happy and someone around me is in emotional pain. It could be a colleague, a friend, a neighbor, or a relative. Today I’d like to suggest simple strategies for making people happy, or at least less unhappy.

The satisfaction of knowing I’ve helped others is priceless, so it’s something I normally try to do, and it’s really not as hard as it seems. I’m not an expert or a psychologist, but I’ve been a teacher for over thirty years, a mother, a grandmother, a wife, and friend to many, so here are a few things I’ve learnt along the way.

listen-2

  • Listen to someone who is obviously unhappy.

You may think they don’t want to talk, or you may be too embarrassed or busy to listen, but you should make an effort to find out what’s the matter. They say a problem shared is a problem halved, and I’ve experienced it so many times myself, that the power of listening is invaluable.

Why to listen

Firstly because it lets them talk, which means verbalizing what’s happening to them, and crazy as it seems, it’s not something people do unless they talk or write about how they feel, and you’d be amazed how many people do neither. It stays bottled up inside…festering. You can’t solve a problem you don’t verbalise and analyse. Amazingly, I’ve noticed that very often, just telling someone why you’re upset is enough to feel a little better. Isn’t that worth a few minutes or half an hour of your time?

Listening 1

How to Listen

Active listening means talking as little as possible yourself and focusing on the speaker. You may need to ask a few questions to keep them engaged, but don’t be judgemental, don’t tell them what to do (unless you’re specifically asked, which mostly you won’t be), don’t give them examples of your own; it’s about them, not you. This stage is only about listening to them. Finally you can recap what they’ve said to make sure you (and especially they) have described the situation clearly.

  • Comfort them. It’s a good idea to give them some comforting words or a hug. You don’t even have to talk or say more than a few words. The power of a hug, a smile, and a few comforting words like, ‘I’m sorry you’re feeling sad,’ or ‘Is there anything I can do to help?’ is invaluable, and it only takes a few seconds.

power-of-hugs

  • Give them ideas to cope. If theyre ready to listen you can speak now. If they’re too upset to listen to you, you might want to postpone this stage, but often, they’re in need of your input on the situation, after all, that’s why they’ve opened their hearts to you. Now it’s your turn to speak. I love this part, because there are so many simple things you can do to cheer yourself up that you forget when you’re immersed in your own sadness.

The first thing is to admit that you don’t have a solution to their problem, but you have ideas to lighten their load and help them think things through or move on with their lives.

Problems

This is where the room without a roof (from the song Happy by Farrell) comes in. when you’re unhappy the roof oppresses you and doesn’t let you see the daylight outside, so you need to do simple things to make holes in that roof until you’ve broken it completely.

One quick and easy way to cheer up is to listen to music, sing your favourite song and dance or go for a walk with your headphones. There are so many songs which cheer you up, we each have our own. These are a few of mine, depending on my mood: Happy by Farrell, anything by Bruno Mars (Uptown Funk), Black Eyed Peas (I Gotta Feeling), Madonna (I’m Breathess), or Simply Red (Jerico), Adele (Rolling in the deep). There’s no excuse with Spotify and Youtube, you can listen to almost anything free!

You can also watch your favourite film, even if it makes you cry, but better if it makes you laugh.

You can phone your special friend or relative who lives thousands of miles away, and if they’ve passed away, you can still speak to them in your mind. Try it, they’re listening to you. Tap onto them through your subconscious, see them, hear their voice, have that conversation you need to have with them. You’ll be surprised what they say.

You can write about how you feel in a diary or write some flash fiction, or plan a novel with the situation. If you don’t feel like writing a coherent text, write a lists of things you’re grateful for or things you want to do in the next few months, or a list of things to do or say in your situation.

If you’re a writer, use your negative feelings for your characters and think what they would do and how they would feel in your situation. It helps to let off steam and extrapolate.

Read a book. There are so many, from self-help to romance, suspense, historical, science fiction, whatever catches your eye. Read the blurb and ‘Look inside’ first, and if you don’t like it move on. Don’t feel like bothering to find a book? Reread your favourite novels or your favourite parts.

There are plenty of self help books out there, I’m not up to date, but I got a lot out of these books: The Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi), To Be and To Have (Fromm), I love all of Deepak Chopra’s books, The Prophet (Gibran), The Power of Now (Tolle) Here are a few more suggestions:

Do whatever you like, whether it’s cooking, shopping, painting, gardening, yoga, do it. Spoil yourself. Buy ingredients for your favourite meal or cake, or pay a visit to a Garden Centre…

So often in life, problems improve over time, but we need to fill that waiting time with activities that will lift our spirits. They’re like bridges taking us from one side of the river to the other.

Happy 2

  • Check up on them. Make your shoulder available for a good cry. Let them know you care. Phone up or ask them how they are. Don’t exaggerate or dramatise, just ‘morning, how are you feeling today?’ or ‘Fancy a coffee?’ is enough. You’ll know how to take it from there.

Take part in the International Day of Happiness 2016. Download your free Happiness Guidebook packed full of ideas and actions to create a happier life for you and those around you. Read other posts on Compassion and Happiness.

There’s only one pitfall: Negative people. People who are always grumpy and seem to be unhappy, but on the other hand, they thrive on complaining and playing the role of martyr or loser and try to infect you with their negativity. I know you can cope, but just in case: keep away! They’re pretty poisonous. for everyone else,

Be Happy and make someone else Happy!

Smile