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writing prompts
heart mind writing

Imagine This …

Imagine This …

You are sitting at your desk

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up as you twirl your favorite pen in one hand and nurse a mug of peppermint tea in the other

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up as you twirl your favorite pen in one hand and nurse a mug of peppermint tea in the other, you blow steam from the top of your mug because the tea is hot and it is very difficult to start writing

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up as you twirl your favorite pen in one hand and nurse a mug of peppermint tea in the other, you blow steam from the top of your mug because the tea is hot and it is very difficult to start writing when a robin bathes vigorously in the birdbath outside your window reminding you how low the water really is

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up as you twirl your favorite pen in one hand and nurse a mug of peppermint tea in the other, you blow steam from the top of your mug because the tea is hot and it is very difficult to start writing when a robin bathes vigorously in the birdbath outside your window reminding you how low the water really is, so you go to the garden to fill the birdbath back up and maybe water the roses, and the rhododendrons by the back fence, before heading back in and then

You are sitting at your desk …

catching ideas welcome presence
creative presence

The Idea Catcher


“I have so many ideas that I’m lucky if I don’t trip over them each morning.”


I love the image of Bach tiptoeing through his room, over ideas strewn on the floor like discarded underwear. Isn’t that just how creativity works, too? Ideas are abundant. Having ideas is much easier than grabbing hold of them and bringing them into the world.

An Embarrassment Of Brilliance

When looking for a good metaphor it often helps begin with nature. And the abundance of creative activity in nature amounts to an embarrassment of brilliance: millions of eggs laid by sea turtles on a beach on a single night; galaxies bursting at the seams; countless fruit rotting under countless trees; the outrageousness of Spring  where whole landscapes burst into bloom for a few weeks.

Maybe you’ve experienced one of those lazy days sitting in the garden, trees swaying, bees droning in the background as a s stream of creative ideas flow through your mind, only to be swept away as you fall into a nap. Or maybe your ideas arrive in the shower. Or you receive wild visions while stuck in traffic. You, too, are the conduit for an embarrassment of brilliance.

Like Bach, ideas are floating all around us like a rabble of butterflies. The next step involves action. We need to pick up an imaginary butterfly net and snatch the ideas we most resonate with, the ones we commit to working on.

Why It’s Hard To Move From Idea To Action

Once we commit to an idea it is removed from the safe bubble marked ‘daydream’ and we start to make a place for it in the real world. Undertaking this process means to risk mucking it up, or being ridiculed.

I have piles of notebooks that I keep in a red box, each one filled with sketches, doodles, ideas. I love that box. It’s like a bright red cocoon for my ideas. They sit there like fat little grubs, readying themselves for the day they’ll burst out into the world.

Flipping through my notebooks can be like walking through a butterfly pavilion.

I safely watch all my ideas and sketches from here, some more viable than others; there goes a lime green one floating up to the canvas ceiling, while another struggles to free its soggy orange wings from the edge of a water feature.

But this is an exercise in separation, too. I keep myself apart and safely view my ideas with both hands tucked into pockets to avoid squashing anything.

In Order To Create

We need to get involved, no more viewing from a distance, it’s time to pull out that net and commit.

Problem: you might find a sense of dread rising when it’s time to do that.

Sometimes, dread comes from the tension between the ideal version of the idea in your head and the flawed version which your limited abilities may actually produce.

And it’s true, the flaws will be there. Ideas are delicate things, their wings can be easily torn, they might not adapt well to a new environment. But the work of adding beauty and meaning to the world involves the realization that a lot of ideas just won’t make it. There’s no need to take that personally, it’s just the truth.

And the beauty and meaning we’re talking about there is the singular beauty and meaning that comes filtered through you, and your perfectly flawed life. That’s the flavor of your personal magic and only you can bring it into the world.

Leap Into Action

Here are some tips for moving from idea to creation. Let’s snatch these ideas as they float past, then do something with them.

Start Small

Small starts are a great way to build momentum. Once you begin the transition from ‘idea’ to ‘action’ it’s like adding oxygen to kindling. I’m an anxious starter and have learned over time to build in small, non-intimidating actions at the start of each project. For writing, a brief entry in your journal can work. For art,  sharpening pencils, organizing paintbrushes, selecting the right paper can be enough to get you settled and ready to make those first few marks. Once you’re on your way your project starts taking over and sweeps any nervous energy away.

Get Present

Being in the moment is a great way to both open yourself up to inspiration, and to grab what the muse offers you and run with it. Being mindful and aware allows your perception to open out a little and gives inspiration more chance to strike. Noticing is a simple writing meditation that can help you get settled into the present moment and open to creative possibilities.

Inhabit Your Body

A great way to get in touch with your creative abilities is to move your awareness down into your body. Your body is a vessel of inner wisdom and connecting with your body allows you to sidestep the bustle of mental chatter. Things are quite here and there is space for wisdom and beauty to emerge.

A great way to bring awareness into your body is to let your feet be flat on the floor and imagine that you are breathing in and out through the soles of your feet. As you breathe do a simple body scan , moving your attention down from your head–to your throat, the center of your chest, belly, pelvis, knees, feet. Even a few seconds of this has a settling effect and you can feel the difference.

Fail Often

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Samuel Beckett

Lowering the stakes is a great way to begin a project. Realizing that your self-worth is not tied to every blog post, painting, or workshop that you create is a blessed relief! Is it really a problem if this blog post tanks? or if an illustration looks a bit out of whack? No. It’s tempting to aim for perfection but th truth is that the more you’re prepared to fail the more you produce.  And BONUS: the quality of your work improves dramatically.

Give It Some Air

I used to be a drug and alcohol worker, and one thing we did was to sit with clients as they wrote down what they saw as the ‘good’ and ‘less good’ aspects of their substance use. This exercise had a profound effect on people, it was often the first time that all the desires, consequences and judgements, good and bad, that had been swirling around in their heads was released, and they had a different perspective on them.

You can get this same effect with your ideas–by telling someone else about it, or putting it into another format–I often sketch my blog post ideas, or write a mini description of an illustration I want to do. A simple shift in perspective can really freshen things up.


Ideas are tender beings, sometimes they just need to work in the dark for a while. It’s like being in a cocoon, if it’s opened up too soon everything is lost. No one can tell you when, either. Only you can know.

Leave Foot Prints

At 5 years of age I got a pair of ‘Bata Scout’ school shoes. They had lion paw prints stamped into the sole, and at the back of the shoe, just above the heel, was a tiny opening with a secret compass tucked inside. I remember walking in the dirt and checking out my foot prints with the air of a seasoned jungle explorer.

We can also leave footprints of our creative projects. I keep notes of each stage of creation whenever possible. When a project tanks, it’s footprints are left behind for you to retrace and get a sense of where and why things went wrong. Sometimes you can even pick up a failed idea and set it in a new direction.

How About You?

What’s your favorite way to get from ‘idea’ to ‘action’? Do you use some of the methods outlined here, or do you have your own strategies? If so, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

welcome history of trees
heart mind writing

A Brief History Of Trees

When we moved in, the back yard was empty except for newly laid lawn and an old gum tree in the back right hand corner. Stripped bark circled the base of the tree like discarded snake skins.

Holidays at Budgewoi. I always woke first and walked along the lake, in and out through the paperbark trees, their upper branches filled with morning sky and magpie songs.

First grade. On my way to the bus stop I’d walk under the jacaranda trees on a carpet of discarded purple flowers, they looked like a trail of delicate, miniature trumpets.

I got stuck stuck halfway up while climbing the fig tree, and sat there calling for my dad to help me down.

In the rainforest at Cedar Creek, the water was icy cold and I let eels slide through my fingers while dad took photos for painting. The trees rose up, blocking out the sky. We arrived home during a wild storm. The next day the whole city was underwater.

At school assembly the Principal informed us that a fellow student had been playing in the school on the weekend and had fallen from the tree at the edge of the playground, onto the asphalt. He was in a coma.

Funeral. Walking back to class from church. Looking at the tree, trying not to look at the tree.

Every year. First day of school. My mum takes a photo of me and my brothers in front of the maple tree in our front yard.

Most weekends there was a barbecue, swimming in the pool (a thousand bloody kids!), backyard cricket games under the myrtle tree.

The sky was blue and bright and burning. We climbed up into the plum tree. We ate plums in the breezy shade.

Canoe trip on the Murrimbidgee river. After a hard day of paddling the first night is freezing and we drag the base of a giant fallen tree over to the fire, we barely got it on there, thick roots flew out in all directions like tentacles. We named it ‘The octopus fire’.

Parked by the norfolk pines at Manly beach. Checking out the Winter surf from the car while listening to Midnight Oil.

The only thing I liked about this house was the bathroom window. Every time I took a shower I could look into the upper branches of the tree outside the window, and imagine I was somewhere else. Somewhere wild.

Old friends: Three turpentine trees beside the creek along the valley track at the back of my house. The angophoras guarding the top of the track just before our yard. The ‘reading tree’ in the garden with leaves that reached all the way down to the ground.

Aboriginal meeting place, Mt Wilson.  The trees curved up from the ground, spaced apart, they looked like dancers waiting for their cue. I rested by a small creek. A rotting log had jammed in there and been hollowed out by the force of the water, now the creek flowed through it. Blue dragonflies hovered.

Arriving at the Social Ecology retreat, we walked down the track through fine rain. The trunks of the yellow gums were wet and shining.

Flying into Seattle. Everything is green.

The whole crowd moved from point to point in the garden. There were poems. Friends sang from the balcony. For our wedding vows we stood in a circle of birch trees.

My son running for the first time, through the apple trees, chasing his cousins.

When we visit the zoo, I always fill my pockets with eucalyptus leaves from the ‘Australasia’ section.

Conducting my first labyrinth workshop surrounded by cedar trees and madronas. We do our final walk singing, our voices trail off, one by one, as we leave the labyrinth. You could hear the waves falling on the beach below.

heart mind writing

The Art Of Noticing


How do you feel when you face a blank page?

Some days it’s not a big deal for me, some days it’s difficult.

When it’s good, writing and creating is like something fresh and vivid pouring itself onto the paper.

Then there’s the not-good times. The block shows up first in my body–as heat, as tension–it’s like I’m a thermometer and the red mercury of dread is rising up through me.

That feeling reminds me of exams I’ve taken where I sat, pen in hand, mortified as every drop of knowledge evaporates, leaving me stuck on a hard seat staring at the sheet of paper demanding answers from me.

Most of my experience of writer’s block is somehow related to false expectations. Set by me, or a someone else, as if I’m being examined and about to be ‘found out’ as lacking something.

I’ve developed a practice that helps me with all of these things, that is changing my relationship to writing, it’s called ‘noticing’.

Noticing is my way of dissolving false expectations, and tapping into what lies underneath all of that anxiety. It’s a way of claiming a small victory for myself. the small victory of starting. Which often leads to a snowballing effect–once I’ve pierced the crust of my anxiety I’m free to mine all the good that lies beneath it.

This Is How It Works

Start by writing the word ‘noticing’ at the top of your page, and begin to write whatever comes into your awareness, in this moment. Anything counts, if the pen is moving, this is working. There is no quality requirement here, we just record what’s happening in the moment, even that is just a starting point, if you veer away that’s fine, too.

Whenever you get stuck, or need a moment to regather, or simply want to follow a new train of thought write the word ‘noticing’ again keep the pen moving:

Noticing the boys walking outside my window, chatting away. The sound of geese? ducks? the light is low and I see grey through the window. The room is warm. Noticing tension in my head. At my temples. I’m tired and flat. Noticing the light falling on the page, how my hand casts a shadow over the tip of my pen and each word is written in shadow then moves into the light as my hand moves across

The repetition of the word noticing does a few things. First of all, writing the word noticing means that before I come up with my own first word, ink has already met the paper: no blank page. It sounds insignificant, but with writer’s block there are no insignificant victories. There’s writing, and there’s not writing.

The word noticing also gives me a focus, I have a clear simple action to perform, that keeps me from spinning my wheels.

I also like the rhythm of the word: ‘no-ti-cing‘. I often write it out a few times when I’m stuck and just enjoy that rhythm, and what it draws out from me:

noticing noticing noticing … a plane flying overhead, the small of my back is tight, I’m leaning forward in my chair, now shifting a little, my back has eased slightly , still tight. the window just brightened, the sun is out and there’s a mess of garden hose all lit up on the ground outside.

No grammar check, no spell check, no checking anything here. The exercise is all about getting the pen moving, and touching base with your present moment experience.

Noticing is for everybody. The great thing about this exercise is you can’t get it wrong, because you’re just recording what is coming into your field of attention as it happens. And also, you can’t get it right, because no matter how fast you write you can’t possibly capture with pen and hand all the things that are you are noticing in any given moment.

Ideas of right and wrong become completely irrelevant. Take that! Inner Critic.

It’s a great practice to begin a writing session–that’s my favourite use. I also find it calming, and will often ‘notice’ for a few minutes before writing an email, or filling out a form I’ve been stressed about, or even if I just want to sit and do some journalling (I never know what to journal about, so noticing is really helpful there. )

I’ll sometimes take a pen and paper out into the garden when I’m supervising my son’s play, too. It’s nice to sit out there with a cup of tea, do a bit of noticing, run around with the boys for a while, do some more noticing. It’s a great way to check in and touch base.

You can go as lightly or deeply as you choose to with this. Sometimes, I’ll start off noticing and hit an idea or a feeling that really draws me in and the noticing becomes something else entirely– a blog post, a starting point for a poem, or a painting.

Anything can happen.

And Hey! Did you know I’ve written a whole ebook on noticing for you?

It’s called ‘Notice Your Life’ and it’s free for you to download right now!

Just fill out the form at the bottom of the page, then hit that big orange button to get your copy delivered.

You will also receive the Welcome Presence newsletter with tips, blog updates, and conversations on being more present in the world.