That toad, writing: still here after all these years….

Well, it’s clear from a number of emails and a few comments received, that “Why must that toad, writing, squat on my life?- part one -  hit the spot with a number of fellow writers! My favourite story for luring the reluctant writer to the toad-dominated desk was the one about the luscious bacon sandwich, all crispy with lashings of butter on extremely tasty sourdough bread, made the night before and left, wrapped in foil, sitting on the laptop as an irresistible morning bribe. Try it!

( yes, maybe there is a vegetarian option.Just haven’t come up with it yet….)  

My Writing Cave

My Writing Cave

photo: Anne Whitaker

Now, as I was saying….

For the first seven years of self-employment, my writing skills were channelled and honed some more. I wrote case notes for my counselling and astrology client files, confidential reports for GPs and psychiatrists, and endless handouts for my assertiveness training courses and astrology classes. Students were presented in every class with flurries of A4 sheets in a rainbow of colours. Goodness only knows what they did with them all.

“ You should be an English teacher, or a writer, Anne,” said a student one day.“ This astrology lark obviously doesn’t fulfill your literary side!”

“ Thanks for a very helpful and illuminating suggestion,” was my sarcastic reply.

By the early nineties, the writer in me must have decided that hiding her light under a bushel of other professional pursuits was no longer sufficient. In 1992 I had my first submission for many years accepted and published by a feisty new Scottish feminist magazine called Harpies and Quines ( their name briefly got them into a fight with Harpers & Queens!)

Between 1992 and 2001 I had some forty pieces of journalism, articles and essays published in a wide range of magazines, journals and newspapers from The Mountain Astrologer(USA) to Scotland’s award winning newspaper The Sunday Herald. I was the agony aunt in their “Mindworks”  supplement during the summer of 1999.

Then, at the end of 2001 I keeled over completely following a prolonged family crisis which triggered a menopause from hell. My sabbatical was mandatory; for months I could barely get out of bed. Life was a matter of surviving not merely from one day to the next but from hour to hour, racked as I was by acute anxiety, flushes, palpitations, chronic insomnia and exhaustion – all brought on by burnout and a severe hormone imbalance.

Did this shut the writer up? Not a bit of it. For the first six months, as a central plank in my sanity-saving strategy, I kept a daily ‘Gratitude Journal’. No matter how bad the day had been, each night I wrote down six things for which I was grateful, no matter how small.

For nearly two years I kept an imagery journal, to record the astonishing guiding imagery which arose spontaneously without any conscious intention or effort on my part. I still keep a brief daily diary and a weekly perspective journal.

Nine months after collapsing, I felt able to stagger into my office one or two afternoons a week. The very slow completion of my first book over the next year gave me a creative focus, which was a huge help in the protracted process of recovery. The book is titillatingly titled “Jupiter meets Uranus: from erotic bathing to star gazing– but is in fact a research study of the individual and collective manifestations of the 1997 Jupiter Uranus planetary conjunction, set in its mythological and historical context. It was published by the American Federation of Astrologers in April 2009.

I had a variety of articles on various topics published during 2001-7, and spent much of 2007 completing the first draft of Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness: a sceptic’s take on paranormal experience”, a memoir and rational analysis of thirty years’ intermittent (and not very welcome) paranormal experiences. Then came the setting up of this blog, which to my great amazement has now been going for over five years.

I serialised Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness on the blog from 2o10-12. It was so well received and commented on that I decided to publish it as a downloadable pdf. Note: available now!

And then, last year, under the spare bed in my husband’s study gathering dust, I found the manuscript of a children’s poetry book I had written thirty five years ago which was beautifully illustrated by an artist friend, Albert Ennemoser. Then, publishers loved it but said “Sorry, it would be too expensive to publish”. So we forgot about it and got on with life.

Now, thanks to the web – and digital printing –Rumbold Raven’s Magic Menagerie” , eighteen short poems featuring an eccentric, colourful assortment of animal characters: Dorelia the extinct Dodo, Feeble Fred the dozy frog, delightfully dreamy Salome Seahorse, and wellyboot-wearing Tiger Tigbaloo to name but a few, is now published.

Its first well-received incarnation is in pdf form, available from this blog. Hopefully, the print version will be out very, very soon, courtesy of BookViral. I am really looking forward to that! And so is granddaughter Lola, the inspiration for the book’s resurrection, to whom the book is dedicated.

And what next? Well, I have a few ideas bubbling away. The toad is croaking seductively in my left ear, even as I write…..I don’t think he will ever go away…..would I want him to? What do you think?

900 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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4 responses to “That toad, writing: still here after all these years….

  1. I think that life gives you the gifts to deal with the hardships – how you use them is the tricky bit. You have done so superbly well and so I know that wee frog will never stop croaking – and thankfully you will never stop writing or inspiring others to do so.

  2. I think that I’m exhausted and amazed at all of your accomplishments, Anne. And especially how you got through those physically and emotionally debilitating years. I can’t imagine you would wish your life to be any other way, croaking toad and all. Remarkable!

    • Well, BP, I really appreciate your affirmation. Many thanks! Yes, we can only live the life we have been given. There have been times when I have wished for a simpler one, though! And by the way – I really love frogs and toads….where I grew up we didn’t have any since the soil was either too acid or too alkaline(can never remember which!) to support them . So they were a great little wonder to me when I first encountered one, out tramping the Scottish hills in my early twenties.

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