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:
I’ve just discovered this unfinished post that I left hanging around in my WordPress blog waiting to be finished back in 2018. I had only just started the words but the title and photo are very relevant to me now, in June 2020 during the UK lockdown. This is now where I spend most of my time when I am outdoors.
I painted this picture back in 2018 when my artist friend Stewart suggested I go to the local beach and paint en plein air. Not being a painter, I was somewhat horrified at the suggestion, the thought of people watching my childlike attempts to paint. Yet I loved the essence of painting outdoors. So I set up a table in my garden, retrieved paints from the shed, a cheap canvas I had purchased with good intentions some while back and sat down to paint.
I became totally absorbed for what must have been a couple of hours. I enjoyed selecting and swirling around the colours and actually seeing my garden from a different perspective. By the end, it gave me a good feeling and now sits in my conservatory, a happy reminder of that time and maybe the picture will remain with me as a memory of where I lived whenever I may move on in the future.
It may not be a work of art, and I should have known when to stop as I decided to add more layers, but if you have never tried painting or drawing in your garden, or even indoors in your home (there is another blog on here when I started sketching my lounge) then I do urge you to have a go and see how it makes you feel and it is a wonderful way to capture memories.
Only this week I had a one to one art class for the first time on Zoom. I was amazed that I actually managed to draw some fruit that resembled in some way what it was. Using the Zoom platform worked really well. It took some thought beforehand how to arrange everything so my teacher could see what I was doing and I could watch her but it led to a very relaxed and enjoyable session. Towards the end we explored a fun way of mixing watercolours to result in a visual guide to the different shades that could be achieved.
During my lesson, I showed my new teacher a small piece of art I created that is very special to me. It is what I consider a childlike picture of a house on the beach, a depiction of a dream I had some years back of wanting to live by the sea (now achieved in 2017). The picture led her to talk to me about the genre of Naive Art, a term I had never heard of, that is described by the National Association of Naive Artists as “a simplistic charm and humorous vitality … created all over the world, by men and women from all walks of life, who have had no formal training” (www.britishnaives.co.uk). She also showed me a wonderful book of such art and I am now intrigued to discover more about it and maybe it is something that I can aspire to. Membership of the Association is by a submission process but there is a Facebook group which I believe is open to anyone to apply to join.
I have found the lockdown to be a time for reflection, an opportunity to explore different avenues and to focus on what is important to me. Having said that, it has not been the easiest time to concentrate or to be creative with my writing. I believe in taking this time day by day and realising what is most important in life. A time to live in a way that reflects your values.
Sending good wishes to everyone who reads this post and I hope you stay well and are able to find ways to live your life in a way that brings you contentment during this difficult time the world finds itself in.
Today it went through my mind that I was gaining some kind of pattern to my daily life. There is much advice that routine is good for us during this surreal time but a belief I have held for some while is that I don’t much like routines … to me it feels like too much predictability whereas I like to bring spontaneity into my life, to allow time for those creative moments. Yet without some kind of planning, at the moment those creative moments haven’t quite been happening. Slowly perhaps we are adapting to the changing nature of life that has been sprung upon us. For now, life as we knew it has seemingly been put on hold and people are affected in such contrasting ways across a whole spectrum of experience. So for now, I am enjoying accepting a different pattern into my life. One that is evolving yet can adapt and change as the rhythms of the day change with the weather and external commitments that spring from a different source that is changing the nature of how we live in this moment and maybe in the future to come.
Today, to go with this post, I wanted some kind of pattern, so I started with a photo that I love and thought I’d see where it went. I used Affinity Photo software on my iMac and just played around with it until I discovered something that I felt was right for this post. It is a photo of a place that I love that I don’t get to see at the moment but is held close to my heart. It’s so beautiful that it deserves a post of its own – Kingsgate Bay.
Yesterday when I submitted my first post for a while, which is something I seem to keep doing – one post then leaving it – I was congratulated by WordPress on my 100th post. Somehow if felt as if that had come at the right time, having realised this week that I really must return to the blogging world to help me deal with this current situation the world finds itself in. Blogging really helped me back in 2015, it will do so again.
When I started my blog in March 2015 my life had been confined since the beginning of January, I had gone through my own isolation in phases, first to the hospital grounds, then the ward, then my room and finally my bed before the reverse happened and I was able to return home. I had survived so far but I had to stay at home to guard myself from infection, still going through chemotherapy treatment till the end of the year. After a while I was able to start having trips out and taking my own photos that I would blog about. Eventually I returned to university which is when my blogging days went on pause for a while.
I had thought that I would revisit each of my 100 posts, one at a time, but a quick look back and I realise that it will be one month at a time. So my next post will be reflecting back on March 2015.
For now, sitting in my lounge, I am going to make my everyday late breakfast of porridge with bashed up almonds sprinkled on top with honey. Sometimes I sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar, sometimes I count out the almonds or use a mixture of milk and water to make my provisions last. I will sit and enjoy. The television is switched off, it is peaceful with a beautiful blue sky outside. Sometimes I wonder if I will wake in the morning and forget that all this is happening, forget that we are in lockdown. But somehow, even though I am able to sleep fairly well at night, if somewhat later than usual, I wake with the knowledge that ‘it’ is still there. This surreal situation that cannot be ignored and we know that people’s lives are changing forever, many sadly lost.
Yet those of us who are blessed to still be well in our homes I hope will be able to discover new ways to live a life that makes us feel good. Maybe not all the time, our moods are perhaps more than ever likely to wobble, but to be able to live a more simple life that gives us the time to connect more with those that we care about, even though at a distance, to spend time doing the things we really enjoy yet otherwise don’t allow ourselves the time to fit them in. And to discover new ways of living that enable us to gain a sense of achievement and fulfilment. For me, creativity is the key to this, playing with creativity in a way that suits us as individuals. Some people may already be artists, musicians, singers, writers, crafters and designers, for whom creativity comes naturally. For some, creativity is something that others do and is a whole new world to explore. Take little steps and discover something different that you enjoy doing. There is so much out there to learn and sometimes all you need is a pen and paper (see my post yesterday on writing).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
It is two years ago that I first visited Caffe Vista in the Summer of 2014. I made a spontaneous visit and discovered this great place in Tenby which drew me back this year. I was lucky on all occasions to get a seat on their small balcony. There is plenty of seating inside which is really nice and a variety of food which I have not yet sampled. I enjoyed a strawberry, raspberry and mango smoothie followed by a hot chocolate on my first visit of the day while I sat reflecting on the beauty of Tenby and thinking about life. I then returned for a strawberry, banana and yoghurt smoothie to take another break from ambling along by the beach and through the narrow streets. A lot has happened healthwise during the past two years and I felt blessed to be able to return. Next door to the cafe I noticed that there are some holiday apartments which enjoy the same views – what a wonderful place to stay!