Episode 26: As the crow flies

In which our protagonist sees meaning and symbolism where it probably doesn’t exist

A giant black bird (a crow?) just landed on the skylight, glared in at me for a while, then bounced away. It was carrying a pink flower in its mouth - not one that we have anywhere in our concrete garden - and it seemed to want to say something. It landed with a thud, tapped at the glass, and glared, waiting for me to look up before scuttering. 

Now, this could just be a coincidence. Birds land on roofs all the time, right? But the incident happened while I was sitting at my desk contemplating what to tell you this week, dear Reader. I had thought I would talk to you about my revelation last week, my new way of thinking and being, my decision to ditch arbitrary goals and just let it be for a while. Then, as I was doom-scrolling and avoiding the work, I got triggered by seeing three posts in five minutes where people of note were talking about fatphobic attacks. I felt a rant coming, a desperate need to explode all over the internet somewhere, anywhere. 

And then, enter the crow. My woo-woo brain went all melty, desperate to Google the significance of black birds, especially those who come bearing floral gifts. Panicked messages were sent to the family checking that all was ok - the crow is a portent of death, right? But actually, it turns out the crow symbolises much more than darkness. 

According to the interwebz (which means it’s totally 100% true), the crow is a symbol that everything you have been working towards is now coming to fruition. It’s a symbol of change and transformation, the bird of ancient wisdom and second sight. The crow, it is said, teaches us to be mindful of judging others, and to stand out in thought and action - even if it goes against popular opinion. And, interestingly, according to one internet person, the crow can mean you’re on the verge of a creative breakthrough - that you’re “feeling a robust creative surge and do not know how to bring it to the surface”. 

Is seeking meaning where it might not be really that bad?

Let’s go deeper into the woo: the crow had a small pink flower in its mouth. Pink flowers represent grace, gentility and happiness. So a symbol of change and transformation, bearing the symbol of grace and happiness, happened to land on my roof and tap at the window, glare at me for more than a few beats, and then hopped off, just as I was contemplating my life? I’m sure it’s nothing.

I’m sure the fact this little visitation comes as I sit here to contemplate my future means nothing.

I’m sure my avian friend didn’t know anything about how blocked I’ve been, how stuck I’ve been, how I’ve been trying to wade through quicksand and feeling increasingly like Artax. (Ooh, showing my age: for the kids, that’s Atreyu’s white horse from The Neverending Story).

I’m sure the flying symbol didn’t know I had a fantastic coaching session with the inspiration that is Sheryl Garratt last week, and I’m now seeing my block and my burnout in a whole new way, a way that’s lifted a weight off and is helping me see much more clearly.

I’m sure symbolism is just wanting to see meaning in things that aren’t actually meaningful. (The other half said it was “just a crow” 🙄)

But still.

Five thoughts brought on by the crow (and the week that was)

Thought one: my arbitrary goal-setting isn’t helping me. It’s just piling on pressure to achieve and then giving me a stick to beat myself with when the deadline invariably passes. B*llocks to hard-set goals; I’m just moving gently in a new direction and celebrating each small moment.

Thought two: my future career is still up in the air. While I’d been talking about “going back” at the end of the summer, my body language advises otherwise. To be quite honest with you, Dear Reader, the thought of going back to copywriting fills me with acute dread - apparently I screw up my nose, my shoulders rise and I tense up when I talk about it. On the other hand, I am visibly excited about the possibilities that lie in the creative coaching path. I’m sure my crow friend would have something to say about that.

Thought three: I might have 20+ years of professional writing under my belt, but I have exactly zero as a fiction writer and creator of worlds. I need to stop thinking this novel should be coming as easily and swiftly as a piece of content marketing or an article; it’s not a non-fiction book. It’s a new way of thinking.

Thought four: I’m still in burnout recovery. Those plateaus and upward trajectories are not end game; there is still a long way to go, and I need to give myself the time to rest and think. I’m unlikely to get this opportunity again any time soon.

And finally, thought five: my crow friend also symbolises needing to let go of the past. Those fatphobic/fat-shaming rants that I wanted to go on were fuelled by growing up in a country that declared “fat chicks” as sub-human. No, seriously - me, an overweight teenager, saw cars with stickers and boys with tshirts proclaiming “no fat chicks” all the damn time. It’s no wonder I have hang-ups about my size. And while I’m working on improving my health, that won’t happen overnight either. So there’s no point in going on rants about fat-shaming. I am who I am: a fallible human.

So thank you, my little crow friend. Even if this was a random visitation and I’ve put all manner of meaning on an everyday occurrence, you’ve helped me to remember what’s important. 

And to you, dear Reader, thanks for being with me for the last half a year. You keep being awesome, ok? 

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The week ahead 🗓

  • Writing: My only goal with the novel right now is to play around in the world to get to know it. When the story is ready to be told, it will reveal itself. 

  • Work: Gearing up for the second module of my coaching training, and starting to consider the all-important practice client search. (Feeling stuck on something? Maybe I can help? 🤷‍♀️)

  • Health: My Diabetes UK One Million Steps challenge efforts started well: I totally forgot it was July. Whoops. You can keep an eye on me and my progress via my “page”, here. (And if you fancy sponsoring me to spur me on, the diabetics of the world will thank you for the extra research money.)

  • Routine: I’m finding my rhythm. Solstice goal: build rituals that benefit me and how I want to be. Plus, join me and hundreds of others at the LWS Writers’ Hour every weekday: 8am London, New York, California and NZ.

On the stereo 🎧

Our Extended Play, by Beabadoobee

This EP (and the work of Beabadoobee in general) evokes warm summer days out in nature, soaking up the rays and spending time with good friends - if it was the early 90s and you were in Reality Bites.

Off the shelf 📚

Ten Things About Writing, by Joanne Harris

Stuck with neverending creative block, I turned to Joanne Harris this week. Harris has written more than just Chocolat, y’know - another 18 novels, plus novellas, short stories, game scripts, the libretti for two short operas, several screenplays, a musical and three cookbooks, no less, so she knows a thing or two about writing. This book was inspired by her sometime-series on Twitter, and is crafted in a way that you can dip in and out as you need to, or read it cover-to-cover and see the entire lifecycle of writing for publication. Some of it will resonate, some won’t, but it’s all very matter-of-fact and grounded in the real world. An essential for the writerly bookshelf. 

“Reassess your ambitions. Ask yourself what you really want. Is it really to be a professional writer? If so, why? If the answer is money, remind yourself that the average professional writer earns less than a Starbucks barista. Then ask yourself this: if you knew you would denver be published, would you still keep writing? If the answer is no, then maybe reconsider your priorities.”

Visual confirmation 📷

I had an artist’s date on Sunday - that concept from Julia Cameron that says creativity needs to be regularly fed with new blood (though she puts it much more philosophically). At any rate, off I trotted to central London for the first time since early March 2020 and visited a couple of exhibitions: Ritual Britain, a celebration of art and folklore at The Crypt Gallery in St Pancras; and Unfinished Business, a look at the fight for women’s rights at the British Library. 

These creepy things were particularly inspirational to the novel…

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Meanwhile my Suffragette brooch found a friend at the Library.

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