Welcome to the second post from The Simple Now series! This week I am so excited to share my interview with the lovely Huma from Our Story Time blog. We talk about the power of writing and slow, simple living. Huma is just the most beautiful writer and her words are filled with inspiration, wisdom and grace. I can only dream of one day being able to piece together a sentence the way Huma can and I feel so privileged to have her writing on my blog. You can also find Huma on Instagram at @ourstorytime . Enjoy!
Hi Huma! Thanks so much for contributing to ‘The Simple Now’. It is so lovely to have you here.
First of all please can you tell us bit about who you are and what you do?
Of course – my name is Huma, and I am… many things! I’m a writer, a mama to three little boys and a trainee yoga teacher. I blog on simple and purposeful living at Our Story Time and I also wrote an award-winning book of literary short stories, called In Spite of Oceans.
I just love this quote from your blog: ‘There are days when the world spins madly on its axis and there’s so much to do, little people looking up at me with eyes deep like chocolate drops, counting on me for so much. Yet the act of writing, the act of simply crafting a thought or an idea together and taking some sweet time to piece the right words together helps me slow down a little’.
So, what does slow living mean to you and what part does writing play in this for you?
Slow living to me means taking a deep breath and a big pause so that I don’t get overwhelmed by the potential madness of daily life. To me, it’s not about aesthetics – it’s an act of looking after myself so that I can look after the others that depend on me. Living slowly, taking my time to be mindful and stopping to think things through rather than just rushing to get things done is what helps me stay calm and grounded. It helps me both practically, with organising and staying on top of a busy family life with three little boys all under five, but it also hugely important to me for my own well-being. Stopping to reconnect with myself helps me figure out what I need to do and how best to do it. Writing is the means to make this happen – writing helps me process and connect with myself. It helps me declutter my head and turn the volume down on the noise outside.
Why do you think writing can be so important for leading a slower, simpler and more intentional life?
Writing is a huge part of living intentionally. It allows you to stay in touch with yourself, and your creativity, even if you are are simply noting down your day in your journal. It’s so easy to lose sense of your self in social media and all the demands that life puts on us, but in writing, you can just simply be you. It requires no tech, just a pen and paper. It’s the simplest way of being productive. I find the act of writing longhand (which is how I prefer to do it) simply forces you to tune into yourself, think about what you want to say and how to say it. Journalling is by its very nature is an intentional act – it is you telling yourself, “I’m going to write about this, I’m going to write about how I feel and how I think.” It’s putting yourself first, and I believe we all need to do that. Whether you journal, write blog posts or are drafting your first novel, you’re giving yourself a chance to connect with your creativity, test your imagination and free yourself from the mundane of the every day. The act of writing is so simple, but so transformative.
Do you think writing can be beneficial to people who don’t consider themselves a ‘writer’ and what kind of things would you recommend they try?
Yes, absolutely. Writing is so accessible – anyone can start. I find a lot of people think they have to “sound” a certain way to be a writer, but you truly don’t. My best advice is to write simply and honestly and in your own voice. If you want to elevate your writing and really practice the craft of it, of writing something beautiful, then my next piece of advice is simply to read. Read exactly the kind of writing you wish you could produce and let it inspire and challenge you. Don’t read somebody else’s work thinking “I could never write like this” but read thinking “What could I do to write like this? What could I do to write better than this?”
You talk about ‘living beyond aesthetics’ on your blog. Please can you tell us a little bit more about how you approach this and why it is important?
I used to love decorating and described myself as an interiors addict. I was swayed by the aesthetics of a space. I loved Pinterest and would always be on the look out for buying decorative “things” to help create a “look.” Looking back then, I guess I didn’t really know my own style because I was so influenced by what others were doing. But that all changed when I had children and I grew in confidence in so many ways, but mostly about realising how I wanted our home to feel and how I wanted to raise our kids here. I feel now that what matters most are the values by which you live, not simply the style which surrounds you. For me, home is more about a feeling than an aesthetic. So that is what I mean by living beyond aesthetics. Now, when it comes to choosing pieces for our home, whether practical or something inspiring for the walls, I always consider how it will add to the feeling of our home first. It’s important to me that our home feels calm and safe and that’s the feeling that transcends through the choice of colours, the linens on the beds, the pictures on the walls. I don’t feel the need to look around at how other people are decorating their homes now, as it has to come to mean something so much deeper for me now.
You write a beautiful series on Our Story Time called ‘Thoughtful Little Things’ where you consider some of the really simple moments and things in life that bring you joy. Can you explain why you think focusing on these simple, every day moments amongst the chaos of modern life can be beneficial?
Yes of course! Thoughtful Little Things, in fact Our Story Time as a whole, is one big note-to-myself. It’s my way of making myself to slow down and remember to be grateful. Life will never be simple, day to day, but you can always try to find simplicity in the little things and that’s what I’m trying to do. I know it always makes me feel so much more grounded to feel appreciation for what I have, and to remember that there’s joy to be found in even the smallest of things.
Your writing has a brilliant honesty about it. You manage to capture everyday life so well and with a really optimistic outlook yet without shying away from the struggles too. Do you think being honest online is important? And can it help us to live more intentionally?
Thank you so much. My blog is very simple. It is a mirror that I hold up to myself. And so I write about what I’m facing in my life, and look to how I can simplify it. I have shared some struggles, yes – such as finding my career path again after children – but I also share the seemingly small trials of every day life, and I find these can be the most delightful posts to write -such as how we finally found a way to get the kids to sleep better, or how to make a tiny kitchen work for a growing family. I have come to realise that I can have a pretty-looking blog with pretty pictures and pretty words, but it doesn’t mean I can’t write about the important things that matter to me in life too (and so, this post on diversity in children’s books, for instance). I write honestly because I know no other way to write or to be. I don’t feel like I’m writing for a business or a brand, I’m writing for me and for people who like to read what I write. Writing with honesty is my way of living with intention and purpose. And if that’s the message you believe in, and want to be known for then yes, you should embrace that too. It shouldn’t feel like something you “should” do, it should be something that feels natural because honesty, by its very nature, is natural. And, as a writer, writing with honesty is what gives me my writing voice in the first place.
What do you do other than writing and reading to try and achieve a healthy mind, body and soul?
I love yoga and happen to be training to be a yoga teacher. I feel that mindfulness and creativity go hand in hand and learning to focus in yoga really helps me find that balance. People always think about yoga as being all about difficult poses, but it’s more about taking some time to still your mind, or simply just be at ease with it. We study a lot of the theory and philosophy of yoga as trainee teachers, and the philosophy is so, so beautiful. I wish that side of yoga was more accessible to everyone because it puts so much of life into perspective.
We live in a world now where so much happens online and it can often be really difficult to switch off. Do you have any tips for approaching the online world in a mindful way?
My phone has recently started telling me what my average screen time is and it’s making me aware of what else I could be doing with my time. On the one hand, I like being online for my blog and for Instagram. But on the other hand, I don’t like how easy it is to fall into that scrolling trap – especially before bed; those dull eyes! I charge my phone overnight in the living room, not in my bedroom, so I’m not tempted to look at it in the morning or at bedtime. I quite simply prefer to spend time with my kids and husband than in front of a screen – and because that’s important to me, I try and make sure that’s what I do. So if we go some place to visit, I’ll take a few photos but then put my phone away because I’d rather be in that moment with them instead. At home, we have a gentle no-phones at the dining table policy, which means my husband and I can be with the boys fully for mealtimes. A couple of years ago, I turned off all my notifications for every app from Whatsapp to Gmail and Instagram; notifications are so intrusive and disruptive and I think it’s important to remember we are in control of our lives, not the screens we choose to have in our lives.
Finally, on a completely different and lighthearted note what is your favourite colour/group of colours and why?
Neutrals and warming deep tones of woody cinnamon and mustard and rust. It sounds seasonal, but really, I love these colours all year round. They remind me both of the colour of scorched earth in summertime and the tawny leaves of autumn. And they happen to be the colours of my website too!
Thanks so much Huma! Don’t forget to take a look at her blog, Our Story Time.