Random thoughts and writing on life, memories and creativity
It means so much to me to be able to share this picture of my long-awaited book, a collaboration with four wonderful ladies in my writing group on the Isle of Thanet in Kent, England. It was due to be completed in 2020 but it just wasn’t happening. I do believe that the right time comes and by waiting it has become even more than I hoped it would be and with the cover designed by my eldest daughter Jessica.
This little book represents what I am about, inspiring people to write and share the little stories in life with the benefits to wellbeing this can bring. Included is a selection of life coaching exercises for self-coaching appearing throughout the book. It’s one to dip into with a notebook and pen to hand to capture what thoughts come to mind.
I’ve self-published the book using my own Waves and Pebbles Publishing imprint and at the moment copies will be available directly through me. It is a little book but one that I hope will make a big difference, resulting in many special memories being captured and shared.
There are many writing prompts that you can take wherever you wish, don’t try and stick to the original prompt, let your mind wander. You don’t even need to be a writer to use this book, if you like you can draw instead (though I haven’t covered drawing in the book). It’s surprising what appears on the page in just five minutes if you allow the pen to just move across the paper without self-judgement.
I’ve just created a new page on Facebook – Writing Back to Happiness – which I hope will be available online later today. Please do follow my page. I intend to do some Facebook lives based on the book which will be starting soon and I will come back here to talk more about what is happening.
Recently I started watching an old series of Portrait Artist of the Year (2020). There was one artist, Curtis Holder, who really intrigued me and ended up winning the whole competition. He uses drawing to create his portraits that involve a multitude of lines, a kind of scribbling that doesn’t often leave the page. Gradually you see the person emerge and there is something quite special and intuitive about the whole process that seems to capture a sense of movement.
Inspired by the series, my aim is to work on creating portraits of my family members that create some kind of memory. The first one I did was one of my daughter while she was studying … I wouldn’t say it looked like her but it captured a moment in time and is part of my creative journey.
I do art for my own enjoyment, not to show others unless it is to inspire people to just have a go at something creative. It is a way of bringing mindfulness into your life without specifically practicing it.
Anyway, back to the picture. Curtis uses coloured pencils and after the series I discovered what pencils he used. I decided to treat myself to a slightly cheaper version but they are still of professional quality. I was excited when they arrived, looking forward to experimenting.
The next day, I decided to go out in my garden and create a flower. I wasn’t going to copy a photo, or get up close and study a flower precisely. Instead, I sat with my hot chocolate taking in the view of yellow Californian poppies surrounded by lush green grass. Orange Californian poppies are one of my favourite flowers, many years ago I lived next door to a very kind and gentle elderly lady who had some in her garden (she actually brought them back from California – or so I like to believe) and they always remind me of her. I didn’t know you could get yellow ones until they emerged.
I admired the poppies from a distance, blurry blobs of sunshine. Once I had decided what I wanted to do, I went indoors to select a handful of Light Yellow Glaze, Strohgelb Cream, Earth Green Yellowish and Dark Chrome Yellow. Later I returned for more, Warm Grey, Middle Purple Pink and Dark Cadmium Orange, plus of course my favourite colour for the sky, Phthalo Blue – in reality it is lighter than the photo shown here. I just sat and became fully absorbed in the moment with the sun bringing a luminous radiance to the colours spreading across the page.
A warning … know when to stop. I was really pleased with my picture and then I grabbed some more pencils. I realised too late that I had picked up some pastel pencils that weren’t blending with what I had used. I rubbed off what I could and tried to remedy but it went from bad to worse. I tried creating a tree trunk and ended up with something that looked more like an eye so I added eye lashes as the final touch and turned the picture around.
Watching Portrait Artist of the Year led me to learn about Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta. The prize for winning the competition was a commission to create a portrait of Carlos for the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and there was a whole episode that captured the process of Curtis creating his portrait. I found it fascinating and it resulted in something quite different and I think very special, I would love to see the original but it looks like that may be quite a wait. On checking, I find that the Gallery is currently undergoing considerable work and is only partially open until 2024. I did discover the Gallery’s Edwardian Tearooms, a vast space surrounded by works of art and with seating booths that have Champagne buzzers. This reminds me of one of my new activities during the pandemic. I started writing and planning a novel set in Edwardian times, something I never thought I would consider. To be honest, I enjoyed the research as much if not more than the writing so I didn’t get very far as I went off in so many different directions. So maybe a visit to Birmingham in 2024 would be a good plan to sit in the Edwardian Tearooms and be inspired to do some more novel writing.
I was led on a different research path with Carlos Acosta, discovering that he has such an inspirational story and in the programme he came across as a really nice, genuine person, and extremely talented. So another package dropped through my door this week – Carlos Acosta – No way home – A Cuban Dancer’s Story. I’ve not yet started reading it but I have already sneaked a peak at the photos included within of Carlos with his family and some ballet pictures. I also want to get to see the film Yuli one day which is based on his story.
Carlos was appointed Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2020. Below is a link to further information about him on their website and also a link to the commissioned portrait of Carlos on the artist Curtis Holder’s website.
In 2015 I started this blog when I was dealing with treatment for a life threatening form of leukaemia. I kept the blog up for some while – it helped provide me with a focus – and when I was able to go out, I enjoyed taking photos and sharing them.
As life returned to some form of normality – I had survived! (needing checks every six months) – my blog writing slipped. I had a couple of attempts to rekindle it but somehow life got in the way. Yet when I wrote my first book “Life Happens, Live Happy” (available on Amazon – author Kay Underdown), I fully realised how both writing and blogging had helped me through some very challenging times.
When I eventually graduated from University in 2017 with my degree in Social Sciences, having had a whole year out due to my illness, the idea for Life Story Writing was born. Workshops and courses using my own unique approach combining coaching, creativity and sense of belonging.
Following graduation I had to negotiate some difficult, and unexpected, life paths. the outcome is living in the most wonderful area by the sea, one of my dreams that I had long wanted to achieve but never before had the guts to see it through.
There followed a period when I half-heartedly worked towards working for myself as a coach and running workshops but somehow the time wasn’t right. Life was good. I still felt as if I was on holiday whenever I had the time to wander but I lacked something and I just didn’t know what that something was. So I returned to University to start a Masters degree in Methods of Social Research and during this time I had a period of exploration and fine-tuned my direction. It was the Life Story Writing workshops I wanted to focus on. I had an inner conviction that they could really make a difference to people’s wellbeing, and could help increase happiness and sense of belonging.
After a few initial workshops on happiness and empowerment and life story writing, I started running a longer course for a local charity aimed at people aged 50+. That course has led to something very special to me – a small life story writing group. One of the outcomes from this will be my next book – “Writing back to Happiness” Life Story Writing the Waves and Pebbles Way. I started handwriting this book just after Christmas with a lovely new fountain pen, part of a set gifted to me by my group.
It is during these meetings that I have realised how much I really enjoyed blogging, and not really understood why I stopped doing something I loved so much. Anyway, here I am, back again!
I am excited for 2020. It somehow feels that it is a year of the unexpected but that it will be good, providing new adventures with opportunities to explore all that life has to offer and doing it in my own way.
I truly wish anyone reading this the very best for 2020 and the coming new decade. May you give yourself the gift of time to explore what it is you really want to do with your life – whether that’s carrying on doing the things that you love or allowing yourself to explore new avenues based on your own life values and future dreams.
Watch this space as I continue “Writing back to Happiness”. My focus for my Waves and Pebbles blog continues to be random stories about life, creativity and memories – with the addition of nature – which are all reflected in my Life Story Writing workshops and groups.
I live in Broadstairs, on the Isle of Thanet in Kent, England. We are blessed with beautiful bays, sandy beaches and amazing skies. In 2020 I will be running short courses at various venues, usually hotels and cafes where you can relax and enjoy a social occasion and do some life story writing back to happiness along the way. I am also exploring the possibility of offering online groups so if you might be interested in this, please let me know.
I hope you have all enjoyed the festive season and are looking forward to what the New Year 2020 and the next decade will bring. I’d love to hear your life stories and what your hopes and dreams are for the future.
Please feel free to comment here or visit my website http://www.kayunderdown.com. You will also find my page on Facebook @empoweringyoubeyondyourdreams (Kay Underdown, Happiness & Empowerment Coach). Like my blog, this has not been kept up to date and I am looking at developing my social media presence specifically aimed at Life Story Writing. I’d love to hear your own experiences of writing … or perhaps the reasons why you don’t write … I also encourage people to draw their stories if they don’t want to write or to do storyboards, a bit of both!
A year after I finished writing, I have NOW self-published my book “Life Happens, Live Happy” through Amazon KDP. Writing a book was one of my life goals and to be honest I felt like I had achieved it when I finished writing it last Christmas, as the goal was never about selling it. Perhaps that was why it took me so long to actually get it out there. Then again, perhaps it was all about timing, or the fact that it was a very personal book that it feels quite scary to share with the world. It now seems like the perfect time!
This book is very important to me and it was quite therapeutic writing it. Like this blog, it has at its root what happened to me in 2015 when I was diagnosed with a life-threatening form of leukaemia and was seriously ill in hospital. When I returned home after more than a couple of months in hospital, it was blogging I turned to as something to give me some focus in life, to distract me from the seriousness of what I was dealing with. So this little book talks about some of the issues around this time and what helped me, particularly having a positive approach to life and acknowledging the simple things that can make us happy. Like this blog, it is quite random in nature.
Back in 2017, I joined the Sue Stone Foundation as an accredited coach and this has made an immense difference to me, and it is Sue Stone who kindly wrote the Foreword for my new book. Sue wrote the book “Love Life, Live Life”, which I read I believe back in 2008 and found it very inspirational. Sue was later one of the Secret Millionaires on the TV programme and I feel very privileged to be a member of her Foundation whose aim is to spread positivity, love and success throughout the world.
I hope that some of you reading my blog will end up reading my little book. The aim of the book was to inspire anyone on their own life journey, whatever their challenges may be. It is available on Amazon across the world in English language, in the UK it is £6.99 plus postage for the paperback, the Kindle version is available for £2.99 or if you subscribe to unlimited then it is free under the KDP Select scheme. This is a new adventure for me and 2019 is going to be an exciting time. If anyone else reading this has experience of self-publishing through Amazon I would love to hear from you. I would also love to hear any thoughts on my book if you have a chance to read it.
The Sue Stone Foundation is holding its first online summit on Monday, 21 January in the evening. I will be one of the participants as a member of the Foundation. If you would like further information about this, just leave me a message.
Earlier this week the thought came to me that I have been living my life differently for nearly three years. This is not a post about the pandemic but it has come from realising that nearly three years have passed. In some ways it feels that it is time lost, yet when I stop to think, there have been so many moments that have enriched my life.
I have come up with a name for a new book, as I often do. Some exist for fleeting moments, others get as far as being created as a project on Dabble, and then there are those that eventually go the full way. It’s a whole spectrum of book inspiration and development.
A friend asked me today if I was still interested in wood. Wood is something I became intrigued by after I graduated a few years back with an interest in sense of belonging and the sociology of everyday life. I kept coming across people for whom wood was important in their lives, working with it in their gardens, as an artist, as an eco friendly entrepreneur with indoor plants, skilled craftsmen making bespoke musical instruments and unique chain-saw carved garden ornaments, biophillic design in architecture (bringing nature indoors), the list went on and I gained a new collection of books.
I am reminded of a wonderful mystery tour through the Kent countryside with my friend when we came across an amazing wood carver in the middle of the Garden of England countryside because we had got a bit lost and needed to ask the way. Sadly I don’t have any photos, hoping to have returned one day if I could ever have found it again. Now I tend to take regular photos as a record so I know where I have travelled.
Back to my book-to-be. The title – Three Years. It will capture my perspective on my own life over the past three years and also as I look forward towards a new decade-dawning age. There is no doubt that the next three years will be very different to the past ones and I am excited to see what develops. This morning I came across a short handwritten note about an artist, Louis Parsons, and what he calls Soulscaping. (His website is an interesting place to visit.)
In my note, I had written down the question “What is my aliveness” and the answers I had listed were dancing, nature and the sea (walking) and bringing people together for my workshops. These remain a good starting point for my focus going forward. Music is always there in the background since a very young age yet I have let it slip, not given the time to it or made an effort to follow it, whether that be listening to music, playing it or dancing, or going to live music events.
I no longer live by the sea but I live by some of the most beautiful wild countryside and I know there are ways that I can remain connected to the sea, through photos, memories, family and friends, and a long-awaited seaside holiday is calling. I had a dream to travel around the coast of the UK … that still remains yet in chunks and my latest thoughts are to travel to Berwick-upon-Tweed in the North East of England and meander down the Northumbrian and Yorkshire coast.
I am in the middle of reading Raynor Winn’s Landlines (I previously read The Salt Path) and I am in awe of Raynor and her husband’s courageous achievements. Both books are such an inspiring read about their long-distance walking and how it has helped with husband Moth’s serious illness. I’ve just looked online for any latest information and Raynor is giving a talk at the Tring Book Festival which has virtual online tickets for the event on Saturday, 28 January 2023.
Perhaps I should finish where this all started with the title of this blog post, Magic happens when … I came across some writing that I did back in 2020 in response to a question about when I had taken action in uncertainty and what I had learnt from it, which I share with you now.
“Magic happens when you step outside the world you know to venture into the many worlds of opportunity and delight that await.”
That’s my focus for the next three years, which will also be when my book-to-be will be finished!
What plans do you have for the next three years?
What do you really want to experience, be, do or achieve?
I have another book title and prompt for more writing in the future … “Nothing” … a simple word that can mean so much and is in waiting for another blog post.
Yesterday I felt as if I was somehow being sent a message when a book about life stories led to a person’s history involving flowers. Today I was reflecting on the benefits of gardens and what a difference they make to our lives in so many different ways and the book title Garden Power just popped into my mind. So for now it is a new book project and I will see where it takes me. It might end up getting shelved for a year or so while it bubbles in the background of my mind.
I have my own life stories about gardens from my childhood and life experiences but I really want to delve deeper and go wider. To think about the impact of nature in our lives, the benefits of being surrounded by living plants, birds and animals – our own private – or not so private – space across a spectrum from wild to manicured.
To also consider what it is like to not have a garden especially during the lockdowns of 2020. I myself was able to venture into vegetable growing for the first time since my twenties and it was the film location for a spot of TikTok dancing. I also made friends with a little Robin and listened to the early morning birdsong.
Let me hasten to add, I am not a gardener but I do love gardens. This has much to do with my mum who was an avid gardener, spending many hours of toil to bring the joys of a colourful array of flowers to long summer days.
Even when I was in hospital with leukaemia I recall the simple pleasure of being able to walk out into a private garden by the Macmillan ward, tended to by volunteers, and look up to the sky, hear the birdsong and breathe in the fresh air. Magic in a world that had shrunk unexpectedly. Returning home, a bouquet of flowers greeted me.
For now, I will ponder on the title and another one that has come to me … The Everyday Life of Flowers. What stories would you tell?
I recently took the opportunity, while on a holiday road trip, to visit Hornsea, a small seaside town on the beautiful Yorkshire coastline in England. The following piece of writing emerged (unedited).
“Waves have the power to entrance and refresh, to bring us close in to nature. They devour our stressful feelings and bring an inner depth of awe into our world. The fresh salty air, the constant yet rhythmic movement that rises and falls and moves in and out of our lives.
Braving the waters, there is nothing like being swept up and down within the gentleness of a calm yet revolving sea. To allow oneself to drift within its soothing hug before returning refreshed to the damp pillowed sandy and pebbly shore.
To catch first sight of the waves crashing against the shore is heaven embodied. It draws me in. As each rise swells to a crashing crescendo nothing else matters. This is life. This is all that is needed to wipe the worries away.
Waves are forever there despite them being far away. Their energy may lay dormant within us until we allow ourselves to be within their power, within their being, whether through our own visionary imagination or immersing ourselves in seascapes that effervesce with the sense of the sea, providing a source of sea therapy that is open to all who wish to offer themselves to it.
Sea therapy is for all, regardless of whether you are by the sea, if you have had personal experience of it, it stays within waiting to be given the key to open up your dreams of a life blessed by the sea.”
Not so long ago I moved away from the sea and now live next door to the Peak District National Park with its stunning mountainous scenery. I knew that I would miss the sea yet I have learnt that by remaining connected through my interests, friends, photos, projects and writing, I can still feel the benefits of that connection, that sense of belonging. A while ago I discovered reference to some research that backed this up, that if you have personally experienced being by the sea then the benefits can still remain with you. I now know personally that I can tap into this feeling whenever I choose and when I am able to visit the seaside it is the most amazing feeling and something that I will forever look forward to.
I didn’t realise until I was writing this post that the Peak District was the first National Park, created in 1951 (there is much history behind this which makes me realise how lucky we are to have the freedom to explore such a wonderful area). By the end of the decade the Lake District, Snowdonia, Dartmoor, the Pembrokeshire Coast, North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales, Exmoor, Northumberland and Brecon Beacons had also become national parks. https://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/learning-about/about-the-national-park/our-history.
On a day trip last week-end, I ended up at a wonderful place by the coast in North Wales. I had set off for the seaside and a much needed drive along the coast. I was not disappointed and captured photos of some beautiful places, some of which I will share in other posts.
Shortly before making our way home, we came across a small group of goats heading somewhat purposefully along the broad pavement. They were all headed in the same direction and it was difficult to see their faces. When they came to the corner they all stopped and just stood there, as if waiting to cross the road but not making a decision to do so. Cars slowed to give them space but they remained static as we passed by.
It was strange seeing them there, I didn’t expect to see mountain goats wandering about town. Except they didn’t seem to be wandering and I was intrigued by what they had in mind.
My initial feeling of surprise was mixed with wonder, it was a good feeling and I really wanted to savour the moment. Yet it was touched with wariness and caution – I didn’t want to get out and take a photo and I didn’t wish to disturb their perhaps perplexed focus on the road, an open but risky barrier to whatever their goal may have been.
As I relax on a Saturday morning I enjoy reflecting back on my photos and seeing where they lead me. The images of the goats have led me to reflect on dealing with the unexpected.
Sometimes things happen in a moment of communication, it may be a letter, email, knock on the door, telephone call or a random connection with a stranger while out and about. Something that stops us in our tracks, that interrupts our expected and comfortable path, even if that is an unknown path, such as my spontaneous road trips when I may get lost … as had happened when I discovered the goats! Oftentimes I have a vague aim in mind but I am willing to be drawn off-track especially if it may offer opportunities for intriguing discovery.
The things that can really knock us off track can be those that are totally unexpected or those that we didn’t see coming in quite the way that they did. It is at these times it is so important for our own self-care to just stop and pause, allow ourselves to take things in, like the mountain goats at the road junction. To stop and allow ourselves to just breathe and do what we need to do in that moment before we make a choice.
When faced with a junction in your life, take the time that you need to either make a choice or wait until the time is right for you to make that choice. It is your own life to live and even when we feel that we have no choice, or there is nothing that we can do, if we give ourselves the moments we need to just take things in, ponder the options we know about and allow time for those options we may not be aware of to reveal themselves, we will be better placed to make the decision that is right for us.
Sometimes we don’t have to make a decision even if others are pressurising us to do things we don’t want to do. We may eventually have to make a choice but the timing of that is our choice, it’s our life and our path. No-one knows another person’s world. No-one. They may think they do but we are unique with our own roots that lead to such a beautiful array of essences within the world.
This past week has been such a mix of emotions and I have been so privileged to spend time doing something that is so important to me. My younger self would never have imagined that I would still be finding new and valuable learning paths that have the potential to make so much difference to people’s lives.
So it’s the start of another week-end, a journey of opportunity.
As we passed the mountain goats we wondered if they would be OK, would they be stuck where they were. We went off our own route and stopped to ask the way, being rewarded by a beautiful late afternoon seascape and connecting with local people who helpfully pointed us in the right direction.
We continued on our way and joyfully came across the goats once more, this time having made their way to a new spot where they felt comfortable to spread out and wander into the much quieter road. They looked content, they had found their way even if that was just for now. And that’s OK.
SPRING OF HOPE
Standing proud yet somewhat sombre, a single bloom of a daffodil signifies for me the start of Spring, the time when the daylight lingers longer. It is a symbol of brighter things to come.
There seem to be a number of different meanings attributed to the daffodil – from these I choose Hope, Rebirth and Rejuvenation. Perhaps this is because I associate Spring with when my mum used to spring clean our whole home from top to bottom. I don’t know how she managed it being a working mum with three children to look after but our home was always spotless and tidy yet at the same time a comfortable home with an array of ornaments.
I was fortunate to grow up with hope for the future. I had positive experiences at school that instilled in me a desire to seek out opportunities in the world of work. I wonder how much that good experience has led to my enjoying a lifetime of learning which has enriched my life.
I never realised before today that there is a Daffodil Society set up originally in 1898 as The Midland Daffodil Society in Birmingham to promote the breeding of daffodils and they usually hold an annual show in Warwick. For me, I have always loved the simplicity of a bunch of daffodils and the golden joyfulness they bring when a jug of water brings them to life, standing proud together.
When I decided to take a photo of the single daffodil in bloom outside my back door, I didn’t realise it was going to take me on this path to a famous poem by William Wordsworth written in 1804 and inspired by a walk with his sister Dorothy around Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater in the Lake District. This painting by J M W Turner in 1819 is of the same area.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
By William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the milky way, They stretched in never-ending line Along the margin of a bay: Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: A poet could not but be gay, In such a jocund company: I gazed—and gazed—but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.
At a time when we may not all be able to walk with the daffodils, I felt the need to search out a virtual walk. I was not disappointed. I found a beautiful and peaceful visit to the daffodils at Gunby Hall and Gardens set in the midst of the Lincolnshire countryside. (You will find Gunby Hall and Gardens on Facebook where there are a number of different videos of their gardens which I am looking forward to enjoying.)
Today, feeling somewhat reflective, I decided to revisit my blog and discovered an unpublished draft that shared the link to a guest blog post I wrote last summer. I was really pleased to be invited by Suzanne of Raising Midlife Vibrations to do this and the post ended up being my journey through writing. Whilst I am rather late in sharing this, I do believe that sometimes this happens for a reason – yet to be revealed! If you find this post helpful at this time I would love to hear from you. The link to my post is below and I thoroughly recommend you take time to explore Suzanne’s wonderful blog.
I am excited to report that the second art book I have created with Scottish artist Stewart Morrison has just been self-published using my Waves and Pebbles Publishing imprint. If you are lucky enough to come across Stewart in the historic Artists’ Town of Kirkcudbright you will have a chance to buy one of the first copies. You may also come across Stewart as he starts to revisit some of his favourite places nearby.
It has been quite a journey and the book is very special. The idea originally came from Stewart in January as an idea for a follow up to our first book that was about a collaborative art project involving Stewart creating art inspired by the beautiful Thanet coast where I live. By March we were well into the third draft of the book on Scotland with friends offering to provide written contributions. Then lockdown struck and there was uncertainty.
I was much relieved when Stewart agreed to continue and it has provided a welcome focus. The book covers an artist’s journey in mind, starting in Kirkcudbright, travelling up the west coast and down the east coast before returning across country to Kirkcudbright. I decided to work out how long the journey was and surprised to discover it was around 2,500 miles and 100 hours of car travel – so it is my dream journey when I can take off for a few months and have a very extended holiday. Perhaps a working one doing life story writing workshops along the way! It was lovely to discover such a variety of places, each with their own character. The book includes Stewart’s art over the past five years and written memories of his own going back over 50 years to his childhood. Friends have shared special poems and memories of the places that the journey takes us to, roughly 20 East and 20 West coastal communities.
I hope you may get a chance to see a copy soon. I have a small supply myself for when I am getting out and about more near Broadstairs in Kent, England and we have plans to publish an online version. In the meantime, I am including a few photos here. If you have any questions either for myself or Stewart, please let me know in the comments or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
My own experience in life is that inspiration is something I get from a variety of sources. To list but a few: specific people, exploring and learning, discovering possibilities through curiosity, reading books, different experiences, connections with people and with nature. By being curious about life and opening up opportunities, new worlds appear, clusters of community, leading me to explore even more to find out what else may enrich my life.
When I feel inspired, I feel good and life takes on a fresh field of wonder. I am given the tools to follow my dreams and instincts, to bring to life what is within me, what it is I really wish to do.
So this brings me to motivation. Throughout my adult life I have always considered that I am self-motivated. I believe that this self-motivation comes from the inspiration that I absorb. As a child, my parents inspired me through their hard work to provide a lovely home and garden that they both enjoyed and were proud of. This motivated me as an adult to always seek to be employed in work that I found fulfilling and to continue to improve myself. My love of learning was nurtured by an enjoyable school life. My English teacher at secondary school took me from a low level of achieving to gaining the top grade in my ‘O’ level exams (now replaced by GCSE).
When I worked as a Research and Personal Assistant to the Group Historian at The British Petroleum Company, the man who wrote the first volume of the company’s history, I was inspired by the process of creating a book. I was privileged to be involved at all stages through to coding the draft that was then transferred to a black box for Cambridge University Press. This was in the early days when offices didn’t have computers and it was a big event when we changed over from electric typewriters to dedicated word processors. I still recall now going for the week-long training where I worked in the City of London.
Whilst working in this role I was inspired by this kind, generous and supportive man who brought out the best in people. In a business world where some staff were deemed inferior, he erased the barriers that existed within the system. I was invited to join a lunch with the Chairman in his own dining room on the top floor of the office tower block and experienced first hand how people’s perception and behaviour towards me could change just because I was seen to be eligible to join an elite group. Yet the person I worked for embraced everyone, their uniqueness, their contribution, and he developed the strengths of those in his team and helped them overcome their weaknesses. Whenever I think of who has been the biggest inspiration to me in all my working life, I think of him.
This question has led me on a journey through my memories of life. Important memories that are part of my identity and from which I gain a sense of belonging. Yet now I have to stop and think. Did I answer the question?
Reflecting back, inspiration is what I get from outside of me. Some people may ask the question “Can I get inspiration from within?” What I would say is that it is motivation to do the things that we really want to do that comes from within, and that this arises from the pool of inspiration that we have absorbed.
There are other ways in which we are motivated. We may want to save up for something special so we may do extra work to bring in more money. We may want to get fit and lose weight so we can look good for a special occasion. For me, this is a different kind of motivation that is external and is not so closely linked with inspiration. For me, the biggest and most long-lasting rewards in life are when you are inspired and self-motivated to take action towards your dreams, what you really, really want to do in your life that is not just for one end purpose.
So, if we think of saving up for something special, what would make that longer lasting and involve inspiration and self-motivation? For me, it would involve the creation of memories while on a holiday, taking the time to write a few journal entries along the way, taking plenty of photos from which each one could lead to a different story being told when shared with others over the years.
Losing weight to fit into a new outfit? Well it would be my personal journey, again documented with photos and little bits of writing. Being able to look back at events and times of our lives enables us to share these stories with others, and with our families, making new connections in the process and inspiring others to motivate themselves to take their own actions.
As a Waves and Pebbles Life Story Writing coach and facilitator, I inspire people to write (or draw) the little stories in their lives. Alongside that, using the Life Wheel and exploration of life values, I enable them to take self-motivated inspired action towards their dreams.
Writing and creativity has therapeutic benefits and takes us on a journey of self-communication. When people come together and share their stories, this is when magic can happen.
Kay Underdown is a Life Story Writing, Sense of Belonging and Life Wheel Coach and Facilitator. She provides one-to-one telephone coaching using the Life Wheel and is currently developing and planning online sessions, groups and workshops. Kay is a member of the Sue Stone Foundation and is an accredited coach with The Coaching Academy.
In 2019 Kay published her first book “Life Happens, Live Happy” which is available on Amazon, and is writing her second book “Writing Back to Happiness”, based on her own approach of combining life coaching with writing and sharing stories about life. She graduated with a BSc (Hons) Social Science degree as a mature student in 2017, her dissertation being on sense of belonging in relation to people, place, memories and nature.
Kay is collaborating with Scottish artist Stewart Morrison who is based in the historic Artists’ Town of Scotland, Kirkcudbright, where Kay met him on a roadtrip around the UK with her daughter in 2017. The first book as a result of a project that emerged as a result of their mutual interests was “Drawn by the Sea” self-published in 2019 and containing art inspired by the Thanet Coast. The second book “Drawn by the Sea: Scottish Coastal Communities” will be self-published this year and contains a selection of art, taking the reader on a pictorial journey around the coast of Scotland.
For all enquiries about Kay’s work, including any related to the above books or prints of Stewart’s art: