“Pancakes!” How to start writing for wellbeing with the little random stories about life

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This post is for everyone who’d like to have a go at writing for their own interest and enjoyment but hasn’t known how to start.  The following is a suggested way forward, take from it what you will.  A little bit more about me and my book-writing at the bottom.

Morning pages

A method taken from Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way”, this is what got me started on using writing in my own life.  Either first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, when you are able to have some private space and time to yourself (I know this isn’t always possible but try to if you can).  All you need is some blank A4 paper and a pen.  Make sure you are sitting comfortably, take a few moments to concentrate on your breathing, notice any feelings of tension and just allow yourself to relax and let go as you breathe.  Once you feel ready to start writing, put pen to paper and just write whatever comes.  Don’t stop to think if it is right or wrong, or to correct anything, just allow your pen to wander across the page.  If you can’t think of anything to write, then just write “I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write” and keep repeating it until your own words slip onto the page.  Keep going until you have filled three pages of A4 paper.  This method gets you used to just writing without censoring anything, without thinking about whether it is being written in the right way or not.  Try doing it once a day for a few days and continue if you wish.  You may be surprised at what ends up on the page … the one thing there should not be is crossings out!  Once you have mastered this, you are ready to go onto the next stage.

Timed writing

This is something that I learnt while attending a creative writing class.  I now use this method regularly at our weekly writing group meetings.  Set a timer for 5 minutes (I use a colourful triple egg-timer but you can set your phone alarm, stopwatch etc.)  You can decide on a topic, anything of your choice.  This morning my friend in Scotland asked me for a writing prompt and I ended up saying “Pancakes” because we had a conversation the other day about them and it just popped back into my head.  So if you would like to use this same topic I would love to hear your stories if you would like to share them with me.  You may start off thinking about Pancakes but end up in a totally different place … that doesn’t matter and is entirely what is so fascinating about the process.  So … once you have your topic write it at the top of your page.  Then just start the timer for 5 minutes and start writing.  Don’t correct yourself, just write.  It is a good idea to have tried writing “morning pages” a few times so you get used to writing without correcting yourself or worrying about grammar, spelling or punctuation.  This is about bringing out stories from you, your life, memories, thoughts today, hopes for the future without being judged or criticised.  To use writing to communicate with yourself and as a way of sharing your stories with others.

Start a journal

Find a scrapbook, photo album, large notebook or whatever you might have to hand, it may be an old diary or just plain A4 paper that you can keep in a file, and choose a time each day to write about your daily life.  This can be very practical, just putting down the facts, or you can choose to go deeper and write about your internal thoughts and feelings.  You can add sketches, stick in cut out pictures that you like, anything you feel like that says something about your day.  You can decide to do this daily or whenever you feel like it so that there is no pressure, it is something to enjoy.  Let it take you wherever you wish, you can talk about past memories, what is happening now or your dreams for the future.  You can add complete pieces of writing such as that done as morning pages or timed writing.  You can stick an envelope in the journal and use this as a pocket for this writing or you can extract quotes, writing these into your journal.  Enjoy!

Life Happens, Live Happy … and start a blog!

However you are feeling in this moment, writing can take you on a personal journey that may surprise you.  It has therapeutic benefits and is something you can do anywhere with very little resources.  In 2015 I was seriously ill with leukaemia.  Writing became my saviour, providing me with a focus during my treatment.  This current situation that the world finds itself in has brought that time back to me and made me realise that, although I have continued to write and have been running Life Story Writing groups in the community, there is something about blogging that really helped me as there was no pressure.  People could choose to read my posts if they wished and it was a really good feeling when I was able to connect with people across the world.  Life takes over and my blogging has been sporadic.  Eventually I wrote my book” Life Happens, Live Happy” which is the story behind this blog.  I have reduced the price on Amazon to £0.99p for the Kindle version (it is free for those those who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited).  I believe that there are things in it that may be of help to others during this time, especially to be inspired to start writing their own stories about life.

I am now writing a new book, “Writing back to Happiness”, this is a work-in-progress and a collaboration with my wonderful small writing group that I was meeting with each week until this situation unexpectedly happened.  It will explain how I use an empowering life coaching approach to inspire people to write the little random stories about their life and to share them with others, with the many diverse conversations that arise from this.

Keep well, keep safe and I express my gratitude for everyone out there that is supporting the world in roles that are essential to our health and wellbeing at this surreal time.  If you are struggling, and notice your mood dropping, it can help to focus on the little things that we are grateful for in our lives, listing these, writing them down, can help lift our mood when we may be struggling to cope with what life has thrown at us.  Life Happens, Live Happy … and connect with others through writing and sharing your stories about the little things in life that bring you joy.

 

Kay xxx

 

 

Writing back to Happiness

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.

Kay xx

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!

Beloved Bay

Version 2

Once again it has been a while since I blogged, no real excuses, it just hasn’t happened.  Last November a distant artist friend challenged me to 30 days of drawing lessons on Facebook.  My involvement was a bit of a disaster, I had every good intention but even though the time was there, it evaded me.  Yet for me, the challenge was worth it because I produced the above!  Believe me, this is far superior to anything I had produced before and it is now proudly framed and hanging in my downstairs cloakroom.  It was based on  a photo that I took whilst walking along my favourite bay.  Every time I enter the cloakroom, it reminds me of that beautiful place and how I love living by the sea.  It may not be a work of art but I enjoyed the process and it brings me joy whenever I enter the cloakroom.  Not only does it remind me of  the bay but I recall the kind offer of a friend to help me improve my drawing skills.  Do you have something you have painted or made that reminds you of something and makes it extra special?

The unfinished picture

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I was at the start of a challenge.  A challenge I had brought on myself one morning when I had asked a friend to encourage me to do something each day for 30 days to enhance my creativity, to get me doing some painting or drawing.

I am in no way an artist but I do enjoy the process of getting lost in time creating something, exploring different shapes but especially colours.  I feel that I experience ‘flow’ when I truly allow myself the time and space.  My thoughts drift in and out of the day, to and fro between the past and future, with everything in the now focussed on my creation.

I love taking photos but there is something different about taking a blank piece of paper that transforms in minutes with just pencil, pen, felt tips or paint.  It is very personal, not something I would usually share with the world.  But what I wanted to share was the story of my experience.  How this 30 day artist’s challenge on Facebook (because that is what happened!) really got me thinking about how little sketches captured a fragment of my life at a particular point in time.  Sometimes we may think that art is only for those who have the gift to create, but we are missing out on so much if we never venture into this special world.

Just by looking at this picture now, done back in November, there is so much that can spring from it personally for me.

Each little mark or object can be the starting point for a different story.  To start with, it reminds me of a long-distance friendship that has developed from a brief encounter on a road trip in the Summer.

The border lines marked at intervals remind me of the sharing of knowledge by a very talented artist, which led me to create viewfinders from cereal boxes to help get everything in the right place in the picture.

The fireplace is one of the features of the lovely home in which I am currently living and only in the past week found out more about its history and that the place where I sat drawing this picture used to be a hairdressing salon.

The little plaque above the fireplace was a gift from my dear mum and dad when they visited Las Vegas, and the little wooden plate below the wall lights another gift from them when they visited Austria.  This reminds me of fond memories of a holiday with my parents in Austria in the snow when I was just 16 years old, staying in Mayrhofen when I had the opportunity to learn to ski-bob and what fun that was.  I later went on a cheap coach trip to the same place and had a wonderful summer holiday, getting a chairlift up into the mountains.  I recall the magical feeling of being literally on top of a mountain, the amazing peace and sense of freedom.  This turned out to be the calm before the storm, realising that zig zags on the map of a real mountain equate to a very lengthy and exhausting ramble downhill which left us painfully achy the next morning!

All this from an unfinished picture, and that is just the start …

I must admit I didn’t complete the whole challenge but really think I have benefited from the experience.  I may share one or two more of my pictures if anyone is interested.  The one I am most proud of is one that is very childlike in nature – a painting done from a photo – but for me represents so much that is important to me.

All it takes is some blank paper and your choice of pencil, felt-tips, paints etc.  Have a go and see where it leads you, what stories come to your mind from what you create.  If you are used to writing as your medium for creation, see how this can bring a new layer to your life.  Go out into the world and see what draws you in, or sit in the comfort of your home and let the memories drift onto the page.

Puppydays – Isle of Sheppey seaside

I’m excited to be back on WordPress after spending yesterday helping my friend Artist Julie Bradshaw with her own blog (more on that in another post).  It’s given me the incentive to get back on here, I’ve really missed it.  There’s been a lot going on in my life keeping me busy, mainly getting back to university after my debilitating illness throughout 2015, trying to catch up on what I have missed and keeping up with working on my modules so that I can complete my second year and progress to my final year.  But … one of the most exciting, heartwarming and life changing things has been having the new addition to our family, Jasmine our chocolate labrador puppy.

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It had been a possible intention to do a separate blog, or create a YouTube channel, for my puppy and tell her story from when she was born throughout her early days and beyond.  But the reality is that when Jasmine arrived home, I can only liken it to having a new baby with all the routines and care of looking after a new life.  Jasmine is a joy to look after but much as I wanted to take lots of beautiful photos, most important is to enjoy and be with her and the camera sort of goes out the window a lot of the time (and has luckily escaped the clutches of Jasmine’s teeth!).  I have taken quite a few photos but they are not the ‘perfect’ puppy photos I had imagined – but then Jasmine to me is perfect in every photo because it is her.  So at various points I will share some of the earlier photos and I’m sure she will appear in future posts as we enjoy the summer together.

So for now, here are a few photos of our trip the other day to the seaside on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.  It was a glorious if slightly chilly day and there were surprisingly few people about.  I do enjoy finding these gems of places that are not so far away from my home and I wonder why I don’t visit more often.  I love the seaside and Jasmine really enjoyed her visit, despite having her nose to the ground most of the time.   But perhaps that’s a sure sign of happiness for a dog!

 

 

 

Embracing 60 – surprise party and the value of blogging

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I had no doubt I wanted to share this photo but I pondered the title.  Yes it was my sixtieth birthday recently.  I’d been very specific about my age when I was in hospital over the past year and they had me down at one stage as 60 – NO! I said, I’m not 60, I’m 59 – a big difference in my eyes, fiftties sounds younger, sixties sounds, well, old.

So here I am, 60 and proud of it.  It’s a fact, it’s a number.  But does it really mean anything?  I opened a card just the other day from a fairly new friend who had never known my age.  She couldn’t help adding a comment to the card that we had chatted, shared things and experiences together, laughed and more and she couldn’t believe I was the age I was and said it proves age is just a number.  I don’t know her age.  Somewhere between 30’s and 40’s.  Does it matter?  What matters is that we clicked, we get on well together, she always makes me smile.  She said I was an inspiration but she inspires me.  We inspire each other, what can be better than that – peer inspiration, the best.

After the difficult year I have had, I felt blessed to reach my 60th and even more so when a surprise birthday celebration was arranged by my close family.  I had an inkling that we were going to do something, I thought a small family meal out together somewhere.  I was urged to be ready in time and was frantically trying to get my Christmas gift of earrings from a friend through my ears that I had not done for nearly a year, didn’t even know if the holes would still be there.  Success and then I made my way out the door to be greeted by a huge white limousine.

It was a wonderful surprise and I sat sipping a taster of Champagne as I floated in the car to our destination.  It seemed unreal.  In my mind I kept thinking I knew where we were going as we took different turnings and changed my guess as we went past.  We ended up arriving at one of my favourite haunts some years back where we spent many happy times, a fairly local hotel where I had partied, had family brunches with Santa and enjoyed the therapeutic benefits of the health spa.  After capturing our family group outside the limo, I ventured inside, not prepared for the surprises that moment by moment dawned on me.  Some of my closest friends who had supported me so much during the past year were already seated in the lounge area, scattered so it took me a few minutes to take it in and tears of emotion and joy escaped my eyes.  It couldn’t have been more perfect.  How they had all managed to keep it from me at a time when we were wishing each other a Happy Christmas and not expecting to see each other until the New Year I do not know.  I never suspected such a surprise.  It brought a warm glow to my heart and I treasured every moment.

I have dwelt on this more than I intended and it is hard to express in words how I felt.  I had not felt able to make plans myself because I had not long had my last treatment of chemotherapy and was still recovering, and somehow it being the last of the cycle made it more difficult though I should have been pleased.  As I write this I have enjoyed a joyous Christmas at home and spent a couple of days away at a family party where most of my family were present and I met once again with the youngest member, just under a year old, my niece’s son.

I would never have imagined years ago that at age 60 (which always seemed so old when I recall my own parents reaching that age) that I would have a teenage daughter and be mid-way through a degree course at University.  I have a wonderful family, dear friends and a range of interests that keep me happy most of the time.  There are challenges ahead but there is so much to be thankful for.  I am returning to study in January and this will bring its own pressures which will again mean that my blogging will no doubt go on hold again, but it is not something that I want to let go of.  It is something that I want to return to again and again as there is something so special about it.  I have tinkered with different aspects of social media.  Each has its place, benefits and downfalls, but to me nothing gets near to what blogging can do.  It opens up a whole new world and the opportunities are endless.  Whenever I come on here I get lost in what I am doing and never feel that I have wasted my time.  There is always something that draws me in to read more and I know that it is always there for me if I need it.

i

The Strawberry Effect – an A to Z Poetry Challenge

Copyright 2010 Mr.TinDC, Flickr, CC-BY-ND, via Wylio

Copyright 2010 Mr.TinDC, Flickr, CC-BY-ND, via Wylio

The Strawberry Effect

Apples gleaming with a rosy hue
Bananas browning too soon in the queue
Cherries masquerading with damson delight
Darkening tastebuds with sourness so bright

Endless choice of shapes and flavour
Fondling fruit such strange behaviour
Gathering mounds of good intent
Healthy heroes the world has sent

Isles of green spring way ahead
Jolly leaves stay in their bed
King of mushrooms, sturdy and strong
Laughing lentils, where have they gone?

Melons milking their golden flesh
Nurturing nectar with a honey mesh
Oranges glow with dimpled desire
Peppers compete with radiant fire

Quarrelling cubes of hacked about fruit
Ready-to-eat but do they really suit?
Softening strawberries enticingly placed
Thoughts of the cream and the scones in haste

Under the rainbow hope is born
Visions of dreamy desserts forewarn
Wallowing weighty magical moments
X-rated – so bring back the Clements
Young and fruity and so divine
Zero degrees with a glass of wine

This poem was written this morning after this week discovering the blog of Blair King http://www.peoplethingsandlife.wordpress.com and reading her poem The Storm.  I loved the poem and then discovered Blair had set out to use the alphabet for the start of each line which I thought made her poem even more amazing.  So, I thought I’d have a go with the A to Z and somehow I ended up with this poem based around food shopping – no idea why!  Have a great day!  Kay  (and thanks Blair for the idea)