Creative Constraints: rewriting your limitations with your creative journal.

Creative Constraints: rewriting your limitations with your creative journal.

We can’t always create despite our limitations. Sometimes we have to create with them.

In some stories, we don’t climb the mountain, defeat what’s ‘holding us back,’ and emerge victorious.

Some constraints are not to be defeated. They may be precious: lovely, down-haired creatures who wake us feverish and sniffling in the night. Some are simply part of us: limitation and gift bundled wired right into our neural pathways. And then there are those human limits that are, simply, non-negotiable.

Maybe the question is not how to escape these constraints. Or even how we could have created if only…

Sometimes the question is simply, how to create with these (human) conditions?

If you’ve ever felt like your creative endeavors were drifting beyond your grasp and that limitations loomed too large in your life, then this is for you. (And it’s also for me--because it’s full of everything I have to remember as well).

the Fall 2018 Literary Edition--and the story behind it...

We’re celebrating our second Literary Edition here at Vagabond English.

Here’s to many more chances to write, create and draw on each other for inspiration.

It’s not only fun for me to see what everyone writes, or that the challenges and courses I cook up inspire you to put out new and exciting creations into the world.

I simply enjoy creating alongside you. Every time I dream up a writing challenge or series, it seems I find inspiration to keep writing myself.

We have so many exciting moments here—so many personal images submitted, beautiful moments captured, writing that pulls you in and helps you travel the globe. You’ll find a few first poems—and a toddler photo of one of our community members if you look very closely.

So grab a cup of tea, and take a moment to explore the moments captured of some of the wonderful folks here in our community.

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Wondering where all this came from?

All of these stories, poems, pieces of creative non-fiction were inspired by writing challenges at Vagabond English:

I hope you enjoy the literary edition and that you make a habit of picking up pen and notebook and writing something of your own—just for yourself. And I hope that this literary edition is first and foremost a reminder:

You’re not writing alone. We’re all in this together.

Thanks for celebrating with us today.

Napulé Pizzeria on a Rainy Evening


I’m sitting by the window, listening to the cars splash through the puddled street. The neon light from the diner across the street seem brighter through the wet glass.

The music is low and unrecognizable enough to ignore. The wine bottles have gathered a layer of dust that no one is in a hurry to shake off.

The lighting is dim. Perfect for writing. Perfect for peering out the window. Perfect for watching the slow traffic and the occasional pedestrian walking at a jog to escape the raindrops sooner. The lighting is the second sign (after the owner’s Italian accent) that the pizza baking in the blue-tiled stone oven will be worth more than it costs.

The pizzeria’s owner is throwing his hands up, half-amused, trying to figure out a spreadsheet on a thick and dated laptop. “I don’t know these things – this internet,” he tells his employee. “People tell me to google, but I don’t know google. But now, I have to understand these things.” He is old enough to have let the Dot Com era, the 2.0 era, and whatever era we’ve just been through pass him by without bothering to go online. I imagine he has no understanding of what ctrl+alt+del means (and what it used to mean). This is the third sign the pizza will be fantastic.

A quick glance through the menu reveals that there is olive oil on everything. That is, I suppose, the fourth sign.

The sound of the rain hitting every surface is accompanied by the subtle smell of dough rising, as if the air was populated by invisible specs of flour, inhaled with every breath.

There is nothing momentous in this moment, but it does bring a satisfying revelation: everything sounds better when it rains.

By Mathieu Roy


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Mathieu Roy is a writer and editor based in Sackville, New Brunswick (Canada). Nothing gets him going like leisure, old stuff, and spooky nonsense.  You can find more of Mathieu’s writing on Medium.

Photo by LuAnn Hunt on Unsplash

Travel Is My Therapy

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I love to travel, exploring new things, meeting with new people, You can call me a travel bug. Travel is my therapy.

"Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown." -Anthony Bourdain

Travelling makes you richer in many aspects of life and facilitates your growth. The more you travel, the smarter you become. It enables you to explore more about yourself and gives a new vision you look the world. When you dive into the unknown you learn something new and gain experience. Indeed, it makes you feel more alive. Travel adds more colour and adventure to your life. Every journey is a new story and every road has a story to tell. When we travel it does not mean life stops. It continues, but we live from a different perspective. It scales your vision towards life and stretches your mind with new experiences or memories.

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“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” — Dalai Lama.

This quote encourages me to pack my bag and leave for that unknown place. Recently, I drove along the two most scenic landscapes of the world. Journey to the "Great Ocean Road," and the Milford Sound. First one is in New Zealand, Queenstown and another is in Australia,Melbourne.

Both Places are awarded the label of "world's most scenic trips. One is in Australia, Melbourne and another is in New Zealand, Queenstown. I am fortunate enough that I have had visited both places and if you asked my suggestion, it wouldn't be easy to choose one over another. Both destinations are ideal for the nature lover because wilderness is untouched and preserved. The tour will satisfy your wanderlust and heighten your awareness. Here weather can help you decide which road you should take as if you are winter lover than pick Milford Sound, Queenstown or The Great Ocean Road,Melbourne if you like mild weather.

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It takes approximately 6 - 7 hours to reach both places, and every turn covers breathtaking scenery. The Milford sound is a fusion of spectacular natural beauty. The Queenstown trip would be incomplete without seeing this ethereal art and you could not afford to miss this...You will be amazed by the aesthetic art of nature. On one side, clouds hanging over the mountain peaks, on other side Sun Rays, scattering through the trees draw a phenomenal pattern on Earth.

 The Great Ocean Road covers breathtaking scenery, rainforest, magnificent trees, flower, spectacular valleys, rivers, hills and so forth... It was a windy and rainy day. When we got to our destination, (The Great Ocean Road) it was still pouring. But we could not resist getting off the bus...And no need to say what happened next as our clothes were soaked and shoes full of dust. But the experience was beyond our words and we were speechless. Indeed, we were Mesmerized by the beauty of nature.

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If I could travel to a new place every day, I would jump at that opportunity in a heartbeat. Sometimes, we get caught in our daily lives and forget there is the whole world full of treasures and gems. Just pack your bag and let your hair down...

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page".

- St. Augustine.

By Ranjana Agrawal

Photo credits: Ranjana Agrawal



Ranjana is a Life Coach and the co-founder of “BeTheButterfly”. You can read her blog here. She also have an Australian based online store of Spiritual items.

On Their Way to School

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Emma has lived her entire childhood and teen years in the same house. The old blue red house made out of woods and surrounded by a thin wire fence. The house was not big, but it was the perfect size to nestle her mom and her two younger brothers. Every morning, from Monday to Friday the three of them would walk for one hour on their way to school. It was a long walk and most of the time her brothers didn’t feel like going to school at all. She knew John and David loved to hear her stories, so on every walk of them to school she started telling them stories.

It could be about anything, an old tree spirit in the corner of the street or the family birds which song’s could be heard two blocks ahead from where they were. The two boys loved listening to Emma’s stories. They didn’t even get bothered when she told them about the young candy seller who was followed by an old spirit who used to live in a haunted house near their school for the fifth time that month. It didn’t matter how many times Emma would tell them so, they would always get scared about it.

However, Emma was not used to repeating the same story; she knew every corner of that school route had a new story worth telling. After a while she realized that those story moments were not only to encourage her little brothers to go to school anymore, they were a way to encourage herself too.


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by Isabella Moimaz

Photo credit: Isabella Moimaz

River Run

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The slosh of the waves
The murkiness of the water
The salt in the air
My footsteps echo as they hit the path
Alert and agile
Every stride takes me further out of myself
Every stride brings me closer to peace

The freedom of the run
The connection with nature
The silence of the noise
My cocoon throbs like a heartbeat
Keeping me warm
As I wrap my arms around myself
As I cross my own finishing line

by Karina Pearl Thorne  

Photo credit: Karina Pearle Thorne



Karina is a teacher and writer from London. In her spare time she enjoys listening to music and dancing in front of the mirror, poetry readings and writing workshops. She loves to experiment, be creative and work with others. You can join her community, Share Your Story With Confidence, here.

Ochil Hills

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Looking up from our garden as a kid the Ochil Hills dominated my view. The sun dipped down behind their western edge in summer, leaving a golden ribbon on the hilltops for the briefest of moments. Fighter jets disappeared behind them. “Where are they going?” I used to wonder. What could be behind those hills?

As I awake from my flashback to childhood, I decide to pierce the mysteries of the Ochils and Alva and test my memory. With Google maps. I retrace the confines of my childhood world. I move the cursor along Ochil road, advancing to the top of the cemetery. I’m on the edge of Alva: after, it’s just fields and hills. I look for the donkey we used to feed a carrot to. I can’t find Farrier’s, or the monkey bars I used to swing on. Have I taken a wrong turn somewhere?

I head back in the opposite direction, still flanked by the natural barrier of the hills on one side. A farm borders the western side of Alva, with its McMansion style house and quad bikes in the front garden. I never knew what they farmed, but they used to light a bonfire on November 5th.

Google offers me a pleasant surprise. The “back road” really is called “Back Road”. I had always thought it was a nickname, in opposition to the main road that runs parallel to it.

But Maps won’t let me see the details. Where are the paths up into the Ochils from Cochrane park? How can I see the playground equipment from the 90s?

When I zoom in too much, I can’t orient myself the way I want. When I zoom out, I can’t catch the details I’m trying to match up with the ones in my memory.

I zoom out completely to get a bird’s eye view of the Ochils. Better than a bird’s eye: a satellite's eye. Were the hills really an impenetrable fortress? From the air, they look like the sort of birthmark you’d go see a dermatologist about. An uneven blotch on Central Scotland. On the northern side of them is Gleneagles: a golf course was tucked behind these wild hills all that time.

Going East, I spot more details. Castle Campbell nestles in the posh end of the Ochils, near Dollar, where, at Dollar Academy, a private school, girls in pleated gym skirts played hockey on the pristine lawn. The University of Stirling sits at the western end. Continuing further east, you end up in Perthshire. I had no idea.

Swimming lessons in Dollar on Saturdays. Psychology playgroup at Stirling University before primary school. The view from our garden. The Ochils bordered, defined and determined my movements as a kid. 25 miles of mystery, unveiled and dissolved after a few minutes on Google Maps.

by Cara Leopold

Photo credit: Cara Leopold



Cara helps advanced English learners who love TV and cinema fall back in love with their favorite films and series by getting subtitle free.

Check out Cara’s website here:
Leo Listening

A Morning Like Her

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Silence pervaded bitterly, except for the hissing sound of the tall palm tree stretching out from the double glazed window in her bedroom. The steady wind played with its swaying fronds tapping them right and left, and up and down. They  surrendered to its smooth blows, embracing those instances of natural bonding, an amalgamation of movement and sound, composing the symphony of a shadowy, yet, warm fall morning. She could decipher a twittering echo of birds here and there merging with the rise and fall in the rhythm of the bulky multi-layered palm tree, oscillating in the grayish cloudy reflection of the sky. From time to time, a clear sound of cracking twigs played on to add additional tempo to a crowning ambiance. High pitched as it was, it echoed her own breakdown.

by Mongia El Abed



Mongia lives in Tunis, Tunisia and is a teacher, mother, and an aspiring writer. In her free time, she loves listening to music, singing, reading books and, most of all, writing.

Photo credit: Mongia El Abed

The Hibiscus


No one has told him
about the Indian summer
and he got all confused

When he realized
his mistake
it was already
too late

So now
he is standing here
but in blossom

Unbecoming, unashamed
wearing his eccentric pink jewels
on his naked body

Why am I trembling

Why is the world
so beautiful

Why is beauty
so harsh

by Veronika Palovska


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Veronika is a writer, designer, and teacher. She helps independent online teachers and coaches build outstanding brands at

Photo by Cameron Ahlvers on Unsplash

When a Story Won't Let You Go: Where to start and how to come home.

When a Story Won't Let You Go:  Where to start and how to come home.

If you write long enough or live long enough, you’ll meet a story that won’t let you go. I’ve met a few of my own. And in conversations with other writers, I’ve heard this murmured again and again: there are stories that nag at us, tug us with a near gravitational pull. Stories that won’t let us ignore them. Sometimes we welcome them and begin the process of scribbling them down like there was nothing else we could imagine doing.

And there are those other stories too.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far about rewriting those stories—and my life.

Mindful Art and the Art of Mindfulness: a feedback loop.

Mindful Art and the Art of Mindfulness: a feedback loop.

On creative play and having a personal renaissance.

Imagine yourself indulging in one of your favorite creative pursuits, losing track of time. I think you know what I mean. If life has had you on high speed lately, you may have to think back a bit. So give yourself a little space to remember the last time you lost yourself in what you were doing and just be in that moment.

What are you doing? Noodling around with a poem? Doodling? Coloring? Are you wrist deep in clay?

You know the way you feel--the beautiful focus where nothing else exists and you are ‘in’ your creative process? Or maybe you ‘are’ your creative process. Where you sort of ‘become’ what you’re doing? Where work and play seem to merge and everything else drops away?

The stillness of being sucked in by a creative pursuit is the reason my living room is held hostage by the ‘art table.’

The Real Reason You Should Capture Your Moments

The Real Reason You Should Capture Your Moments

When you set out to change your writing, sometimes you rewrite your life.

In your quest to be a better writer, do you ever find yourself haunted by scenes in books you’ve read?  I’m thinking of a chapter entitled “Heaven” from the novel All the Light We Cannot See.  Read it and you find yourself lying in wildflowers during wartime to contemplate heaven, experiencing the way a blind girl ‘knows’ bees.

To sweep your reader off the page and into the story like Anthony Doerr, you need a simple kind of magic that any of us could possess--if only. You need to be able to observe and capture the details that hold us to the story--and to life itself.

That’s where I get stuck. The time I spend in my head leads me astray.  I worry and plan. I have goals, the personal, the professional, the immediate. Sometimes the sum of my existence is a race to school in the morning: noses wiped, teeth brushed, catastrophe and mud puddles averted.

We all have our ‘to-do’ lists to juggle, fears that quicken the pulse and goals that deserve our intensity.  That’s just life, whirling around us. But if you don’t pay attention? You’ll find yourself down the rabbit hole--in a dark, tight place. Worry, preoccupation, and the fast life can contract your imagination and powers of observation down to something like a pinprick. Believe me, I’ve tested it for you.   

Why you should write something no one will read.

Why you should write something no one will read.

As much as I need to send the hopeful, green shoots of my writing into the world, I never forget this: even in the best of times, some of my writing has to take place underground.

Writing only for myself changed me (and my writing) forever.

Writing in public is like shuffling barefoot over loose, black earth. As delicious and all-consuming as it feels, you’re not really all-in. You’re still on the surface. An entire world is wriggling, pulsing and expanding just under your toes--and if you only write for others, you’ll tread on in oblivion.

The world opens up under your feet when you start writing alone. When you keep some of your writing only for you. When you reserve even a small part of your writing for your eyes only--without publishing, sharing or showing.

Don't find time to read. Read to take back your time.

Don't find time to read.  Read to take back your time.

I can't tell you how to find time to read. 

Time won't churn up like change between the cushions. 

You won't find it peeking out of your mailbox like a refund check.

And, despite what the life hackers say, you can't make more.

There are moments when life is beyond your control. When crisis knocks on your door, and you have to adjust your reading habits for a while.

But sometimes crisis moves in and starts sleeping on your couch. 'Crazy-busy' becomes a main character in your story. 

I'll just speak for myself: it happens more than I care to admit. It's too easy to slip from dealing with small crises, to simply living in crisis mode.

And here's what I've learned--one 'busy' person to another:

When your time doesn't seem to belong to you anymore, finding time to read is a fool's errand.  

It's the other way around. You're going to have to read to take back your time.   

When life takes you for a spin, READ.

When life takes you for a spin, READ.

You're going about your day--loosing your car keys, drinking your coffee, all the usual stuff of life, when life decides "Not today."

She sweeps you up in her fingers, tosses you into the wash--for a spin in the suds. The lid of the machine snaps down over your head. And now your life is churning and frothing.

All your plans cancelled for today; you wonder which way to swim. You try keep perspective. It's nothing personal, right? We'll all end up in the wash sooner or later.

Of course, you have your own own story.

My own trip through the wash includes includes a loved one, a car accident, months navigating hospitals, a new baby (that never slept!), moving in and out of a series of apartments all over the South of France, life as an immigrant...

And yours?

Constraints, blessings, chaos...bubbles. How's a human being to read in these conditions?

Then again, how do you make it through the wash without books to carry you through?

Special Edition--Curl up with a An interview with Cara Leopold

Special Edition--Curl up with a  An interview with Cara Leopold

After a long week, there's nothing better than putting on a pair of fuzzy socks and diving into a comfortable couch with a great book.  But you know what's not far behind?  

Diving into the couch knowing that, tonight, a great film awaits you! 

Because there's a certain magic in films (and series).  Maybe it's a magic not too far off from books.  

  • First of all, there's the chance to see a great book in another light when it gets made into a great movie. 

  • Then there's the fact that films are like single serving adventures.  You get the whole story, condensed down into one sitting.  (Well, sure you can read a book in a single sitting, but it takes just a bit longer!) 

  • If you're a writer you can get some unexpected inspiration from films and series (the good and the bad...) 

  • And if you're passionate about languages and cultures? Learning while you explore the creative expression of people around the world? Well, films, like books, are a beautiful way of joining in the fun.. 

Today at the blog, we'll focus on one exciting area of the film, language odyssey: 

Why we should read, write, and create together--as if our humanity depended on it.

Why we should read, write, and create together--as if our humanity depended on it.

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you value creativity.  How do I know? It may be a big world out there, but Vagabond English is a tiny community. Maybe, you and I have had the chance to ‘meet’ for a chat--about your reading, your writing, your quest for something a little different.  

That’s how I know you’ll understand when I tell you that often--too often--I can’t help but think that the biggest problems we face today boil down to a crisis of creativity.

Think about it.  When faced with today’s challenges, how many times do we see the same fearful reactions, watch our societies reach for thoughtless solutions or frame problems without even pausing to understand them fully?

If you watch the news once in a while, I bet you can think of some examples.  If you’ve stopped watching--well, it may be because of what I’ve just mentioned.

All of this makes me wonder--is watching and reacting enough? 

Maybe it’s time to ask ourselves that small question that is the beginning of any creative endeavor: ‘what if?’ 

Vagabond English Literary Edition--and Celebration!

Vagabond English Literary Edition--and Celebration!

Maybe you didn't realize I was inviting you to a celebration today, but thanks for coming!

Thanks for joining me on a year of reading and writing adventures.  (Yes! our blog and book club have just hit the one year mark.)

And after this year of reading books and stories, journaling, and slowing down the pace of life in general (or at least trying!) we've got our very first literary edition.   

Your fellow vagabonds--your fellow adventurers of the written word--are here to share a part of their writing journey with you.  

The stories, poems and personal essays you'll read in this very first literary edition are a collection of work inspired by the Slice of Life Creative Writing Program, the Short Story Series, or the Tiny Story Challenge we recently held at our Book Club on Facebook.