Welcome Maribel Steel. As Pen & Prosper concludes its popular "Roar Series" honoring women of achievement, I bring to you today, a fierce female who is the embodiment of courage, strength, beauty and wisdom.
Prepare to be "wowed" as she shares how she is "mastering the art of blindness" as a writer and creative artist.
Q. Can you tell us a little about who you are and how you began writing?
I’m a bit like a butterfly – having darted around life doing many things. After raising four children and practised as an Aromatherapist & Masseur, vocalist & teaching artist, these days, I’ve settled on being a writer and inspirational speaker.
It was when I began to write my autobiography in 2010 that I was reminded of my passion for writing memoir stories. I asked a writing mentor to look over my book and when she sent me her comment, ”It’s OK for a first draft” - I nearly fainted. I thought I had finished it!
In reviewing the structure of my story, I realised I had a lot to learn so I set about finding anything and everything I could on the craft of writing. Pretty soon I was gobbling up as much advice as I could, both in print books and on the Internet. Each week, my inbox spilled over with advice from the many website subscriptions I had eagerly joined. This boosted my confidence as a writer as I plodded away at revisions of my book.
Yet as I tried to refine each paragraph and chapter, the book itself didn’t seem to be progressing. A whole year went by and I still had nothing to show my family. So to prove I was actually doing something worthwhile at my computer, I decided to start a simple blog where I would post stories from the unpublished manuscript.
Gateway to Blindness made its début in the blogosphere in 2011 and this career move has been one of the best things I could have done to establish my own niche within the marketplace of freelance writers and bloggers.
Q. What quote would best embody your philosophy on life?
As a person who has been gradually losing my eyesight to an eye condition since my teen years, my thoughts (and the stories I write) focus on lifting one’s gaze above the challenges of life by seeing possibility rather than disability. Our attitude is the key to how we approach any obstacle in our life.
One quotation that really embodies my personal philosophy is:
“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.”
Q. How would you describe your writing style?
When I am writing non-fiction, I try to be honest and upbeat. I like to think I am giving my reader a gift through the posts I craft, offering little gems in the form of insights they may not have considered before.
Losing our eyesight is a frightening concept for anyone but what I can share is my life experience of a different perspective. There truly is a way to master the‘ART of being blind’ and this is the message I share, both in writing and in giving presentations.
From time to time, I do write some fiction pieces and although these are much harder for me to craft, I love to use fictional characters and scenes to tell a true story!
Q. What advice would you give to others dealing with physical limitations and life's challenges?
Accept the challenge life has dealt you and find ways you can be supported to continue the journey. Accepting doesn’t mean you have to like the ‘disability’ it means embrace who you are and understand your limitations. Life doesn’t end with a challenge, it takes you in a different direction than the one you had planned – so be kind to yourself and use all the talents you already possess to help you move step by step along a new pathway of discovery. And don’t go alone! Enrol help whenever you can. This is powerfully delegating to others where you will both experience a beautiful win-win situation.
Oh, and do take your sense of humour everywhere you go – it’s a life saver! If you can let go of frustration and calm down to see the ‘funny side’, this will help you get out of embarrassing moments with your dignity still intact. Believe me –I’ve been there, done that. Many times.
Q. What keeps you inspired without giving up?
The amazing support I receive from my loving family, dear friends and loyal readers encourages my heart to keep pushing onwards. My family is like my fan club, my blind friends are my life-colleagues. I am also inspired when I meet people who need a little extra help to embrace the ‘see-change’in their own life.
On my not-so-good days, I have to observe the inner critic who tries hard to destroy my confidence and demand I just give up. Two things work best for me: I either re-read some of my work to prove to the inner critic I have actually written some worthwhile prose or I take a break and treat myself to doing something completely different from writing.
One recollection that helps me every time to keep my heart engaged in life is the time when I was trying to read my four-year-old son a book at bedtime while peering at the page with a huge magnifying glass. I almost burst into tears. I just couldn’t do it and had to put the book down and apologise to my little boy. My son jumped up from the bed, his blue eyes sparkling with empathy. With his little arms around my neck, he said, “Please Mummy, don’t ever give up. You can tell me one of your stories instead.”
Q. What would it surprise others to know about you? Do you have any hobbies?
People may not know that I have a total love for horses. Being around these divine creatures lights up my life. The magnificent horse is my totem animal. Whenever I travel with my partner, he has to stop the car if he has seen a horse so I can whinny to the horse in the field and wait for it to trot up to the fence where I can pat and chat some more.
Q. How do you define "success"?
I’m going to include another quote here which beautifully embodies my feelings on this thought. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“What is success?
To laugh often and much
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children:
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends:
To appreciate beauty
To find the best in others
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition:
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived,
this is to have succeeded.”
Q. What is your proudest accomplishment?
I am so very proud to have raised four children as a visually-impaired parent (three were born as planned home-births and one in an ambulance). The lessons and gifts we have exchanged by adapting to each other’s different ways of being – blind parent, sighted child – has been an incredible experience for me and one that continues to inspire and delight me every day.
Maribel Steel is a mother, author, blogger, inspirational speakerand peer advisor for VisionAware (AFB). She lives in Melbourne, Australia and has Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). She has been published in several print journals in Australia and has contributed over forty guest posts for overseas blogs. To learn more about her philosophy in ‘The ART of Being Blind’ visit:
Photo Credit: Harry Williamson