“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!

Life Happens, Live Happy … Now!

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!

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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.

Wishing you all the best for 2019.

Life Happens, Live Happy!  Click here to see some sample pages and to buy “Life Happens, Live Happy” by Kay Underdown

Valuing individuality

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I opened a package the other day, a new book that I’d ordered online.  As I flicked through I was disappointed to see that the title page was creased over, and if I opened it out it was badly creased and stuck out as it hadn’t been trimmed to fit in like all the other pages.

Then I thought … Does it really matter?

I started to think about our own unique differences that make us special, and when we come together there is a magic involved – communication – that creates a sense of belonging in a group that embraces difference and commonalities.

So one little ‘flawed’ book will now have a special place in my library, not least because it is The Little Book of Hygge, The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking from The Happiness Research Institute, Copenhagen.

 

Possessions, memories and how to approach clutterless living unique to you

Copyright 2015, Cajsa Lilliehook, Flickr, CC-BY-SA, via Wylio

Copyright 2015, Cajsa Lilliehook, Flickr, CC-BY-SA, via Wylio

Following on from my last post on Selfness, here is another piece of draft writing from the same book (self-development/coaching).

‘Clutterless < — > Tidyness

I have had a long struggle with ‘clutter’ – I hold on to things for too long that I may never need. I now recognise that there is little value in this, apart from saving a few pennies or pounds in the distant future at the expense of living a cluttered existence.  If there is too much clutter, housework takes too long and becomes an unwelcome chore.

There has been much written on being clutterfree but some of this can be over-the-top, and lead to having a de-personalised space which is great for a showhouse but is it really a home?

At one time, I felt rebellious about clutterbusting.  Having had to downsize, I had no option than to sell or dispose of many items, some of which I still have regrets about.  Thankfully I did not rid myself completely of some of the smaller boxes containing various bits and pieces.  I later went through these and as I picked up a piece, I would recall a special person or time in my life.  Having a poor memory for some things, these triggers are invaluable and I am so thankful that I still have them in my life.

The key is to achieve a balance between possessions and space, with each possession having a place.  This leads to being clutterless (as opposed to clutterfree), keeps the space tidy and results in a personalised environment that is special to you.

Periodically I enjoy spending time sifting through a selection of my possessions to check that I still want to keep them, or to organise them in a better way.  This works for me.  I have found that by decorating a room in a way that brings me pleasure, then choosing storage solutions that complement that environment, I am able to keep the things that I love in a way that adds to my contentment in my home.

My problem is that I still buy things and bring them into the home. I get pleasure from browsing in charity shops and strolling round boot fairs, disastrous for adding to clutter! But I enjoy it, and therefore my sifting has become a regular occurrence to keep balance within the home. The benefits are that this process can be done mindfully. (A topic for another post.)

Here are a few tips for becoming clutterless:

  • Spend random times – perhaps in the evenings or at week-ends – going through a shelf, drawer or cupboard.  What works for me, if I am not motivated but want to sort something out, is to set a timer for 20 minutes and make an agreement with myself that after 20 minutes I can be done.  Oftentimes I am by then enjoying myself and get lost in the task, carrying on longer and achieving more, with a sense of satisfaction from the end result.
  • Draw up your own criteria for keeping things.  My own is that an item either gives pleasure, is useful now or within the next year, has memories or some other reason that I can justify to myself for keeping it.  Books are my downfall – yet they are such treasures. Also clothes. I do hold on to a lot of clothes, even though I apply the sifting process, but if they are well-organised then I don’t see it as a problem.
  • Decide what storage you want and get it.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot.  There are lots of cheap shelving options out there, or colourful boxes and filing systems.  The choice is yours. I have a bed with wonderful drawers which take a surprising amount.
  • Question what you are keeping ‘because it may be of use some day’.  My experience is that it is the things with memories, special things that people have given me, that I have missed. Those without memories are soon forgotten, and if you don’t need them then the likelihood is that you will not miss them. Amongst my regrets are my food mixer and food processor that I had for many years. I was in for a shock when I saw the replacement cost. So, think twice before sifting too far!
  • Think about what you really enjoy in your life.  Consider your values and keep the things that enhance your life.  Let go of those you will never use and just leave you with feelings of guilt that you should have done something with them.

Accept your level of clutterlessness and enjoy.’

This piece was written a few years back.  If you have read my recent post on Clutter-busting, it will be clear that I have not completely solved the clutter problem.  It remains something which varies according to my health, energy and motivation.

At the risk of sounding a bit weird, a conversation and youtube watching session with my daughter on shopping hauls gave me the idea of playing around with my new computer videoing a garage book haul.  I took a block of ten books off my shelf unit in my garage and recorded myself going through them and talking about them and what I found interesting.  I was hoping that by doing this I would at least find something that I no longer wanted.  I was wrong … it just reinforced my choice to keep them.  And the potential youtube video?  It was a learning experience – for a start it was too slow, I was swinging to and fro on my chair – very distracting – and it seemed so false!  There’s certainly work to be done if I want to join my daughter in becoming a youtuber (something she wants to do but not yet and would be great if we could both get involved).

By the way, for those that have read my post on Clutter-busting, as part of my garage plan I was researching the cost of skips at the week-end only to find that local skip hire companies are exceptionally secretive about their fees meaning that a few phone calls were needed.  Well today I contacted some and was slightly horrified at the cost.  Then I looked at the van hire and somehow the skip seemed more appealing.  However, even just working out that plan got me motivated to make a start on sorting the garage out, even if it wasn’t according to the plan I devised. I’ve made a start on working through it.

As a last thought, I think being part of this blogging community is really helping to motivate and inspire me.  When it comes to the home, I particularly like Le Zoe Musings which has such beautiful photos which include a selection of closet solutions.  Blogging has opened up a whole new world to me at a time when the world might otherwise have seemed to be getting smaller.

Clutter-busting … I woke as if in a dream and came up with a plan on how to empty my garage in 4 easy steps

Copyright 2008, Shane Gorski, Flickr, CC-BY-ND, via Wylio

Copyright 2008, Shane Gorski, Flickr, CC-BY-ND, via Wylio

Suddenly I was awake and felt startled.  I had been dreaming – I can’t recall what about now but it felt very real.  Now it was light and I thought I had overslept.  We would be late for school.  I jumped up and looked outside.  No activity.  Gradually it dawned on me that it was Saturday.  Relief swept over me and I relaxed.

Isn’t it strange how, when you get up first thing in the morning, suddenly a problem that’s been hanging over you just suddenly pops into your mind and a potential solution materialises in your thoughts that had never occurred to you before?  This was what happened to me this morning so I quickly penned a bullet point plan in case it flew away as quickly as it had landed.

I have a garage-full of ‘stuff’ that needs to be sorted and have either not had the motivation, space, resources or energy to deal with it.  It has been there in the background on a ‘to do’ list.  Vague discussions with family about taking action one week-end and clearing it, and one attempt about two years ago when we were not quite ready to dispose of the jumbled child equipment and activities, has meant that it still looms behind the doorway.

It is a block to sorting out my life.  The remnants of the past.  Reminders of good times.  At the moment I am on a role.  Despite my inability to go very far, being at home has meant that things are gradually happening, I have had the time to focus, make those calls, and get things done.

My eyes have become clearer since being on the verge of becoming a compulsive hoarder a few years ago while suffering from depression.  I think I stopped in time.  I took stock of the pile of old books that was building before me from addictive visits to charity shops, second hand bookshops and boot fairs.  I became fired up to take them to a charity shop that supported a local church where there are memories of my mother.  I filled bag after bag and there was a feeling of satisfaction when I delivered them in bulk to the charity shop, knowing that they were going to a good cause that in addition had a link with my mum.

One of the problems is I don’t just want to chuck things away that someone else would benefit from but there is so much (though of no particular value now).  We did spend time a couple of years back re-organising the garage.  We got rid of the most useless and discovered the odd hidden treasure.  Nowadays I sort things into rubbish and charity piles and it goes nowhere near the garage (well, to be honest it’s piled too high now) but the boot of my car is full of items ready to go to charity or recycling that has still not got there.

So … the plan that popped into my head, which may seem very obvious but has never occurred to me before, is to hire a large van big enough to take everything and be able to sort it out inside.  We could then take it to a boot fair so that if it could be of use to anyone, then that is an opportunity.  Whatever is left can then either go to charity or be disposed of as recycling or rubbish.  I have tried selling a few bits online but for me it is a long process, with little reward, and not one that I particularly enjoy after the first feeling of novelty.

So, the plan to clear a garage full of stuff is:

1. Hire a large van for the week-end.
2. Transfer the stuff from the garage to the van, filtering out the obvious rubbish.
3. Go to a boot fair.
4. Remainder goes to (a) charity (b) recycling (c) rubbish

I had thought of a having a skip, but I couldn’t deal with creating a heap of rubbish from many past gifts and memories in such a way.  I have seen the delight at a boot fair when a child excitedly finds something that they really want at that moment and my plan encompasses this.  However, I will check out the cost of a skip compared with my plan above and make a decision.

So when my garage is empty? Well there are some things in the spare bedroom that we want to keep … and underneath the stairs … on top of my wardrobe … under the bed … in the garden … NO!!!! it’s not going to happen.  The garage started off as a place to create, floored and walled, with table and chairs.  We even decorated it out and had Christmas Dinner in it one year.  Maybe a new use will pop into my head that will inspire me.   Anything is possible if you focus and believe it can be done.

Take the rough ground: fighting the system – finding my own way (journal writing 2013 on starting University)

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

 

The following is a piece of journal writing that I found while sorting out papers from my first year at University.  I really did get myself into a bit of a state over how much reading I thought I needed to do and it was beginning to become something that would stop me enjoying what to me was a dream come true to be at University.  Sometimes we need to just step back and reflect on our feelings about things that are troubling us and get them in perspective.  I also discovered there’s a lot of support out there for students.

I have lots of happy memories from my first year at University in 2013/14 as a mature student.  The photo was taken on holiday in Devon, England during a wonderful walk on Dartmoor when we met up with these beautiful Dartmoor ponies.

 

‘FIGHTING AGAINST THE SYSTEM – FINDING MY WAY
Tuesday, 1 October 2013
Last week was walking on air, this week anxiety has crept in. I’m here to learn. I knew there would be lots of books. But I can’t read! Well, I can read – I know my abc – but I can’t read lots and recall. Yesterday got really stressed when I looked at the never-ending book lists that seemed to go on forever. And I have to read them all! It’s important! Of course I have to read them all – except the small number of optional – elst why would they be optional? I can feel myself dipping, lurching, wilting. And it’s only day 1 of week 1. Tasters and freshers over. This is reality. But I love to learn. It’s enthralling, exciting, inspiring. Yet how do I learn if I can’t read the books??

Today, my answer is, by being me. I’ve lived long enough and delved deep enough to know that I learn and create in unique ways. Probably that’s the key word, create. I am creative in mind. Is it no wonder that I can’t follow systems to the letter? Routine is dull, orders are dull. I need colour, variety, flexibility, spontaneity, adventure. I need to go wherever I feel in the moment. Even I know that’s not reality and I soon swing in with all the rest. Yet when the freedom to learn becomes rigidly fixed in my mind, that’s when I have to find my own way. I have the passion, commitment, desire, inquiring mind, ambition to follow through with my path in my own way. I just need to give myself permission in this world of self-study, self-responsibility, self-organisation to follow the path less travelled – in fact to take the rough ground whenever I feel as sometimes the most magnificent scenes come into our lives when we trust in life and our ability to survive and grow.’