Donna Booth was the winner of the 2017 Mairi Hedderwick Writing for Children Bursary. This blog post originally appeared on Donna’s own website HERE. We have published it here with her kind permission.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Since all my books were picture books. Unfortunately, secondary school quickly dampened any (publicly spoken) belief it would ever be possible. I never really gave up hope however and I kept writing, mostly in secret or at work (newsletters, proposals, yawn). But I believe in the magic of manifestation so … here’s my story.
At the start of every year, I set myself a list of goals (part of our Vitality Goddessprogramme). Every year, there are a few based around my secret life-long ambition to be a writer. On my goal list this year were …
- enter a writing competition
- win a writing competition
- go on a retreat at Moniack Mhor
Now I am a HUGE believer in asking the Universe for what you want and I know that taking baby steps towards your goals shows the Universe that you’re serious, but even I was amazed at what happened.
Earlier this year, I entered the Mairi Hedderwick competition for writers of young adult and children’s fiction … my first ever writing competition entry. I was beyond proud of myself for doing even that. The deadline passed and I heard nothing … and then the lovely Rachel called out of the blue. Miracle of miracles I had won. I don’t think I made much sense on the phone, or when I ran out to the garden and screamed at G … ‘Oh My God! I’m not a sh*t writer!!’
Can you guess what the prize was? Yes indeedy .. a writing course and retreat at Moniack Mhor.
So now, pretty much convinced that I’m some kind of manifestation magician, I strut around the house for a day thinking I’m also the next J K Rowling … but it didn’t take long for the doubts to start creeping in
- what if they phoned the wrong person by mistake?
- what if this is the only piece of writing I’ve done that wasn’t sh*t?
- what if everyone else on the course can actually write and I have to leave or stay in my room?
- what if I go all fan-girl on the tutors (writers are my rock stars) and humiliate myself?
It got so bad, I couldn’t even write in my journal for a week. Then I got a hold of myself and decided that if the Universe was going to give me this opportunity then I was making the most of it! The Universe doesn’t know the difference between positive and negative energy so it was important to me to keep that manifestation positive and enjoy whatever arose.
The fated day arrived and I packed my laptop, many notebooks (apparently still not enough .. I bought another one on the way down) and clothes (bizarrely I packed for the arctic and had to get a couple of t-shirts on the way down too).
After a very beautiful wee detour which took me almost to the banks of Loch Ness, I finally arrived. Moniack Mhor is the most gorgeous white farmhouse set in picture perfect gardens. It is on top of a hill and looks down over many other hills and valleys. Coming from the Highlands, I’m used to breathtaking beauty, but the views here are special.
Even better, I was greeted by Cashew, the resident dog. Could this place be more perfect? I wondered whether they’d let Cashew sleep in my room?
The people looked ‘writerly’ and to my relief were very friendly. My room was gorgeous, the view even more so. I piled my notebooks on the desk at the window and did a little happy dance. I was going to make the most of this week, I was going to read out stuff, comment on people’s stuff, write at least a thousand words a day of stuff .. probably closer to five thousand and I was going to definitely finish my book and have it ready for publishing.
Some of that came true.
Our tutors for the course were the most perfect double act – Melvin Burgess, the great guru of young adult fiction and the truly wonderful Jenny Valentine. We were even lucky enough to be read a bed-time story by Gillian Cross, creator of the Demon Headmaster! They were hilarious, insightful, honest, supportive and the best tutors I could have hoped for. We had the great pleasure of hearing them read from their own work and also the great terror of having them read some of ours.
I learned so so much. I forced myself to read my work out at every opportunity and I even started to enjoy it. Nobody looked pityingly at me (well not to my face) and nobody asked whether I was maybe on the wrong course. I began to realise that ideas were there .. all the time .. just floating around waiting to be captured. If you haven’t read Big Magic and you are creative in any way .. read it now!
One of the most useful parts of the week was the feedback we received on our current project. Of course I wanted Melvin and Jenny to tell me that my novella was the best thing since Gatsby – of course they didn’t. It had been bothering me for a while .. so much that I didn’t look at it for a year after I finished it. I liked my idea, I liked some of my characters (and strongly disliked others) and I loved the location but if I have to be completely honest, the thing I was most proud of was that I’d finished something that long!
I did consider throwing it on the fire and starting again .. maybe sticking to haikus or something equally lengthy .. but I sat with my feedback, I worked through the exercises on the course, I did very little actual work on my novel .. probably not even 2000 words the whole time I was there. Most importantly I met some wonderful people, two gorgeous dogs and a baby.
Even when I came home, I let it all simmer and now I’m delighted to report that it nearly makes sense. My novel has a plot, I love my characters and place and I know why they are there. I’m not 100% sure what they’re going to do but then, I never am. It’ll be a novel and I know it will be a much better novel for the experience. I loved it so much I’m going back again in December. Of course this time round I’ll finish my novel and it will be as good as Gatsby and it will be published by Summer next year 😉 (ooooh was that another manifestation request … maybe I should add that I’d really like to win the Next Chapter Award??)
So … my tips for making the most of the magic of manifestation
- Write down what you want
- Believe that its possible (even if that belief is buried deep under a pile of self-doubt)
- Be specific – the Universe delivers what you ask for so make sure you ask for exactly what you want
- Take every opportunity offered
- Take steps towards your goal so the Universe knows you really want it
- If you EVER get the opportunity to attend a retreat or course at Moniack Mhor, take it, even if you don’t think you’re a writer. It is a magical place and it will change your life <3