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Sunday, January 21, 2018

With Love for Books Second Anniversary - Guest Post by Rose Alexander

Guest post by Rose Alexander

I’m delighted to share my thoughts on positivity with all of you readers of the With Love for Books blog. However, I can’t lie and say that writing it was easy. It wasn’t. It’s hard, after a lifetime spent cultivating an aura of wry cynicism, to change your ways. But I’m hoping that this blog post may herald a fresh beginning – and that’s why I leapt at the chance to do it. I knew I needed something to kick start my new positive outlook on life (resolution number 3 for 2018, after 1: ‘stop spending so much time obsessing that every other author is doing so much better than you’ and 2: ‘stop buying fabric for your stash and patterns that you like when you haven’t a hope in hell of ever getting round to making any of them because you work full time, have three children and need to write more books’) and this blogging offer turned up at just the right time.

What to be positive about, though? Or is that putting the cart before the horse because, actually, what is positivity? Word for Mac thinks there’s something wrong with it because it underlines it accusingly in deeply sceptical red. Other disillusioned, world-weary, work-enervated fellow teachers I mentioned it to sputtered into their chipped mugs of cheap instant coffee and dismissed it as New Age hippy nonsense. “I’ve got 75 exam papers to mark, a week’s worth of lessons to plan, a meeting with the head and parents’ evening – and that’s just the To Do list for today!” snarled one out of the corner of his mouth. “And you’re asking me where I get my ‘positivity’ from? I don’t. I get by on paracetamol and alcohol (only after hours, natch), like the rest of us.”

Oh the irony when, having slunk away into my corner and googled a definition, I unearthed this:

p o s i t i v i t y

n o u n

1. t h e p r a c t i c e o f b e i n g o r t e n d e n c y t o b e p o s i t i v e o r o p t i m i s t i c i n a t t i t u
d e .

Example: " p u p i l s d r a w p o w e r f r o m t h e p o s i t i v i t y o f t h e i r t e a c h e r s "

I shared this with aforementioned colleague and how we laughed. But it’s true – I know only too well that when I am feeling down and lacklustre, that’s how my lessons are and that’s how my students are. And, crucially, that’s how my writing is, too. All the more reason to search for that elusive positivity.

I’m currently reading This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay and alongside the laugh-out-loud bits is the frankly depressing reality of working for the NHS and the ridiculous, unimaginable pressures junior doctors are put under. I wouldn’t for one moment suggest that being a teacher is anything like as stressful as being a doctor – the hours may be appalling but I’ve never been asked to work a nightshift! And, of course, teaching isn’t a matter of life or death, although working with students to get them the best possible educational outcomes so that they have the best possible life chances is pretty important.

But there are a lot of parallels between how the NHS operates (pardon the pun) and how the education service does. Both are totally reliant on the unpaid overtime of staff to keep running; if teachers and doctors didn’t regularly work far more hours than they are contracted or remunerated for, both systems would collapse. Both involve people being given responsibilities they are in no way ready or prepared for and leaving them to run with it, hoping that they swim not sink. (Mixed metaphor there but you know what I mean.) Both jobs mean regularly being shouted at, insulted and exposed to bodily fluids. (Oh yes, children have ‘toileting accidents’, even in secondary school, and they’re always throwing up or having nose bleeds. I mean, always.) Both professions have a high attrition rate – and with the NHS in particular, it’s scary to think of how many harassed doctors and nurses are turning their back on unrealistic expectations, unremitting pressure and unstinting demands.

So, in the midst of all this, how to be positive? Hopefully Adam Kay feels a bit better these days, and undoubtedly less exhausted – he no longer works in the health service, has written a bestseller, 92% of his reviews are 5* and he’s a household name. He even has adverts for his book on the tube! A richly deserved success.

But we can’t all be him, so what about the rest of us, when everything is still same old, same old, the weather is beyond awful, the bills keep going up, the oceans are full of plastic, terrible wars are raging, the roof’s leaking, our books don’t have quite enough reviews, or good enough reviews, we don’t have as many Twitter followers as everyone else seems to have or as many subscribers to our blog as we’d like and we’re getting older and we’re tired but we have to keep on trying because we haven’t written a bestseller yet and and and …? (You can see when this stopped being a generality and became about yours truly….)

Now this is when one really needs positivity. And suddenly, as I was writing this, it dawned on me.

Positivity means stopping the noise that gets in the way of being happy, or if happiness is too much to expect, at least content.

Positivity means doing what you can about the environment and the state of world peace without thinking that you, alone, can solve it - and beating yourself up when you inevitably don’t.

Positivity means being able to see that things are OK, really, and so much better than so many others have it.

Positivity means banning the negative thoughts. Just not letting them in. This takes away their power and sets you free.

Positivity means accepting yourself for what you are and not worrying about yesterday because you can’t change it.

Positivity means making the best of the tools you’ve got today and letting tomorrow take care of itself.

Positivity means sharing the love – doing things for others without an expectation of reward. (That’s teaching, all right!) And being kind.

Above all, positivity means focusing on the positive.

A resolution for life, not just for the new year.

About Rose Alexander

Rose has had more careers than is probably strictly necessary, including TV producer / director making programmes for all the major broadcasters, freelance feature writer for publications including The Guardian and secondary school English teacher, not forgetting cocktail waitress, melon picker and interior designer.

Writing a novel is, however predictable the line seems, the realisation of Rose’s childhood dream and the result of finally finding ‘a voice’. The triumph is that the voice was heard above the racket created by her three children plus rescue cat (tabby white, since you ask). Rose likens the experience of penning Garden of Stars, a multi-layered love story, to another recent achievement of learning to ice-skate: progress is two-slides-forward-one-back; insecurity, self-doubt and despondence reign supreme; onlookers laugh, mock or even worse, smile indulgently.... But the finished manuscript, polished and pristine, is like the perfect pirouette performed on freshly raked ice. (Rose can’t do pirouettes yet, obviously, they just made the best simile.)

Rose is currently working on several new projects including a novel based on a relative’s true story of an epic journey as a ‘flüchtlinge’, fleeing the vengeance of the rampaging Red Army as Nazi Germany collapsed.

Rose Alexander also writes under the pen-name Alex Day.




  1. That is a great philosophy to follow.Great post, thank you. I am going to try to be more positive in future.

  2. Very inspiring (yet doable) things to keep in mind!


  3. I love reading these post they are so uplifting.

  4. I really enjoyed reading the guest post, thank you!

  5. Thank you for this encouraging post!

  6. Well said sister; that said I am basically a pessimist. Born that way, can't help it.

  7. Very good conclusions, and I think it can become a habit more and more to think positive - to turn things around and not say, "I don't have this," or "I'm not as good as so-and-so" BUT "I have this and this" and "I'm able to write and sell books (you, not me, haha) and people do enjoy them!" Keep on and thanks for the encouragement! :D xx

  8. Enjoyed the post! I especially agree with "Positivity means sharing the love – doing things for others without an expectation of reward. (That’s teaching, all right!) And being kind."

  9. Lovely read. Positivity is the key to great self belief and happiness
    "I can - I am - and I will"

  10. I need to be more positive, thank you for this lovely guest post!

  11. What a glorious post! Like you, Rose, I was born with a cynical and rather pessimistic view on life and sometimes it is extremely hard to stop myself slipping back into my rather depressing ways. But I have to, if not for others then for my own mental health. I have lived on this planet long enough to learn that I can't dwell on past mistakes and regrets get me nowhere. While I struggle with being positive, I have at least become much more accepting of both myself and others which is a much healthier way to be.