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A tour of my writing desk

Tour of my new desk

A writers desk is one of the most important tools of the trade. 

Where you sit to write can have such an impact on your concentration, how comfortable you feel, and so much more. I thought I would give you a little tour of my new desk and also explain why I felt the need to change my desk recently. 

Why does where you’re sitting have such an impact on your writing? 

Well, there are lots of reasons. It is important to be comfortable, physically and emotionally, when you write. If your desk and chair aren’t the right height, if your back isn’t supported adequately, if the light isn’t right, if there is a draft… it will make it harder for you to sit and write for long periods of time.

Equally, if your desk isn’t in the right place it can make a difference. I know lots of writers like to have their desk against a window. I would love that too, to sit with the light streaming through, but I know myself well enough to know that I would spend all day daydreaming, so I have to have my desk against the wall. Considerations like this are important when you are running a business. As lovely as it would be to spend all day gazing out of the window, I really do need to get things done!

My old desk…

 When I was 40 my husband bought me all new office furniture. He had been saving because he knew that I was making do with hand-me-downs and charity shop finds. My business was just taking off and it was impacting how “professional” I felt. We did what so many do, and headed for IKEA and bought everything to match. 

I LOVED it! It felt clean and bright and had the professional feel I was craving. 

my old desk

Fast forward a few years and I have changed a lot, as has the nature of my business. I grew increasingly aware that my desk wasn’t serving my needs any more. It was too bright. It felt cold all year round. It had no personality, no soul. 

You can see on this photo that I tried everything to make it feel “better”. I bought desk pads so that the area I was writing on was darker and warmer, but I never quite achieved what I was craving.

I started looking for a wooden desk around Christmas time. I needed it to be exactly the same size as my existing desk and be in my budget. It was not an easy task. Then a couple of weeks ago I found it. It was on ebay so there was no quarantee that I would win it, but fortunately it was due to come up at 8:30am on a Saturday, so I had a good feeling about it. Better still, on that particular Saturday I had to be up at 5:30am to drive my son an hour and a half away to volunteer at a football tournament so I knew I would be up and awake!

I sat in the car park in Ludlow with my phone signal dipping in and out, praying that I would have enough signal to make the last minute offer I wanted to make. 

The relief I felt when I won it was immense. Then I had the worry about collecting it. It was about 45 minutes from my home and I wasn’t 100% sure it would fit in my car. 

The fates aligned though and as it happened, my lovely husband was doing a job in that area the following Friday and taking a van, he could collect it. It was all arranged and less than a week later I was sitting journaling at my new desk. It was perfect.

My new desk

It’s a work in progress

Today is the first day I have sat at my new desk to work, I have been setting it up and doing my journaling on it over the weekend, but it is perfect for my needs. One of the biggest issues with my old desk was that I had to have the legs extended so it was high enough for me and whatever I did, however carefully I measured, it always cockled, which is so distracting when you are writing by hand. This is a steady as a rock, the perfect height and just feels right.

It feels warm and welcoming and I couldn’t wait to get into my office this morning.

What do you think?

I thought I would give you a little video tour so you can really see it in its full glory. My new desk is a 1950s Abbess desk, and judging by the amount of chalk dust at the back of the drawers I think I can safely assume it was originally a teacher’s desk, as many of this make of desk were. I love it so much. I recorded a little video I hope you enjoy it.

Writing helps you release negative emotions

Negativity

Negative emotions can be very damaging

When we hold on to negative emotions the impact on our mental and physical health is huge. It is so easy to walk around carrying those heavy weights, ruminating on things which have upset or hurt us. 

It may be an argument you had with someone or a hurtful comment that was made in passing that has stuck in your head. Before you know it, it is eating away at you and you are obsessing. 

Before I continue I would like to qualify that actually I don’t believe any emotions are “negative” because they all serve to show us things and teach us about ourselves, but for ease of discussion I am going to call them negative in this article.

 

What are the physical consequences of carrying negative emotions?

Well, they are pretty significant. We know that people who tend to be more negative and who spend more time experiencing negative thoughts are more likely to have cardiovascular problems, digestive issues, degenerative brain diseases, they suffer more from stress, struggle with hormone imbalance, compromised immunity and they take longer to recover when they are sick. These sound like things we would like to avoid in an ideal world, don’t they?

How can writing help?

Well, since writing is proven to lower blood pressure, boost your immune system and reduce anxiety and depression, just by writing anything you will be improving many of the things on that list.

There are some specific writing activities which will help you go even deeper and allow you to really work through those difficult emotions that you are carrying around with you. 

 

change

Writing activities to release negative emotions

Write in your journal

When you write about how you are feeling it allows your unconscious mind to process events in a different way and may allow you to see things from another person’s perspective, or to be more objective when thinking about a situation. Write for as long as you can, and then write some more, and see what appears on the page. Don’t be afraid to be 100% honest, you can always burn or shred the paper afterwards, no one else ever needs to read what you write.

 Write a letter

Writing a letter to someone who has upset you or made you angry is incredibly therapeutic. The clever thing about this activity is that our brain can’t differentiate between a letter that you write and send and one you write and don’t send. Write everything out and destroy the letter. You will feel so much better for having got it off your chest and it will stop you from ruminating on all the things you should have said. 

Negativity

Where can you feel it in your body?

Often you will feel negative emotions in your body, either as a tightness in your stomach or perhaps in your shoulders. Take a moment to think about where you are feeling this emotion and then write about that and how it feels.

 Write a frustration list

This is the opposite of a gratitude list. Write a list of all the things that are annoying you, causing you grief or frustrating you in some way and get it all out of your head. Then turn it around and write a gratitude list. 

 

It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but 5-10 minutes writing out your emotions could change your whole attitude. It could help you move through some tough emotions. Because emotions are transient. They don’t last for ever. But they can feel like they do when something really upsets or angers you. You go round and round and round and after a while it’s hard to get off the merry-go-round of negativity. As you go round next time, grab a pen and a piece of paper and try one of the techniques above and see how your mood can shift and those negative feelings move on and past and you can start to see the blue sky appearing from behind the big black clouds again.

Give it a try. You won’t regret it.

National Reading Month

National Reading Month

March is National Reading Month.

 A whole month to celebrate the magic that is reading, and of course the month which contains World Book Day, a day either loved or hated by children and parents alike. 

As an ex-teacher and self proclaimed bibliophile, I am fascinated by how people engage with books. Probably my favourite thing about teaching was seeing that magical moment when something just clicks and a child suddenly has confidence reading. This usually happens around the age of 6 or 7 years old. Seeing the joy in their face when they realise they can read whole pages of words without having to sound them out is pure magic. 

Sadly, for many children this is around the age their interest in reading peaks.

Statistically children read more books a year in Y3, which is 7 and 8 year olds, than at any other time in their lives, around 37 books a year. Of course it is also around this age that most children move onto longer and more complex books, but the average reading age in the UK is only 9 years old and 18% of people said they never read, when surveyed. 

I’m not going to pretend that there haven’t been times when I haven’t read as much as I do now. When my children were younger I perhaps read three or four books a year but I have always had a book on the go. I appreciate that some people are unable to read, for whatever reason, but these statistics include audiobooks.

When people say that they don’t read, it makes me sad. Reading is one of the greatest joys in my life. Sitting in a comfy chair or in bed, with a good book and a cuppa is one of my favourite things in the whole world. Extra points if it’s raining and double points if Im in a caravan or conservatory with the rain on the roof.

Reading is breathing in…

When it comes to reading, I agree with Pam Allyn; “Reading is breathing in and writing is breathing out”.

Obviously my work is based around the power of writing, but it is so much more than that, because I do believe that to be a writer you have to be a reader. We see it all the time in young people. Those who read and are read to, have wider vocabularies and a better grasp of grammar and sentence structure than those who show no interest in reading. Without both we can’t survive.

 

Reading

How can you celebrate National Reading Month?

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Visit your local library – So many libraries are struggling to stay open and they are such an incredible resource. Why not pop along to yours and find out about all the resources and services they offer now. They are definitely not just a place to borrow books any more.

2. Start, or join, a Book Club – Book Clubs are a great way to enjoy books with other book lovers. If you enjoy reading a particular type of book, why not start a book club specifically for that type of book? You will always find other people with similar taste if you ask around. Remember Book Clubs can be run online now so you don’t have to just find people in your area.

3. Start a Bookstagram account – If you really enjoy reading, Instagram has an incredibly friendly community of fellow booklovers. People share book reviews and photos of the books they are reading. It’s a wonderful way of making other bookish friends. (If you decide to do this, look me up and let’s be friends: @katebeddow).

4. Visit the home of a famous local author – Most parts of the world have houses you can visit which have connections to famous authors. Why not have a day out and find out more about an author who lived near you?

5. Find a local book event – Perhaps there is a book signing at a local bookshop, an event at your local library, or a talk being given by an author locally. Have a quick google search and see what you can find.

6. Read a book – I know it seems obvious, but this is the single most important thing you can do during National Reading Month!

Reading

Any reading counts!

There is no judgment about what you read. If you want to read a magazine, newspaper, graphic novel, classical novel, romance, thriller, murder mystery, historical fiction, fantasy… then read that! Honestly, it isn’t about what you are reading, it is about keeping those reading muscles flexed. If you enjoy reading children’s books (I know I do!), read those, read a recipe book or a car manual, it really doesn’t matter. The benefits of reading are extensive; increased empathy, reduced stress, prevents cognitive decline, increased vocabulary, improved empathy and improved readiness for sleep to name just a few.

To say nothing of the joy it brings when you find a book or a series that really captures your imagination and draws you in. There is no better feeling than finding a book you don’t want to put down. 

How will you celebrate National Reading Month? I hope I have given you some inspiration, and also some reasons why it’s a good idea to embrace the joy of reading.

Are you a Word Witch?

Are you a Word Witch?

Are you a witch?

 This might seem like a controversial question, and your reaction will very much depend upon your upbringing and belief system. Over the years we have been lead to believe that witches are evil, that they dabble with devil worship, or worse, and they need to be destroyed – literally. Although the last woman to be executed for witchcraft in the UK was Janet Horne in 1727, the last woman to be convicted and imprisoned for witchcraft was considerably more recent, in 1944). It is impossible to know exactly how many women, and  men, were convicted of witchcraft over the years, but the number is definitely in the tens of thousands. 

 

So why were these people accused? Well, often the women accused used herbs and natural remedies to heal. They were also often the village midwife. It is easy to see then how easy it would be for people to have a grudge against them. Perhaps someone lost a baby, or their partner, after they had visited this woman for help. Suddenly it is all her fault that they died and they want revenge. That’s just one of many scenarios. Often these women were intelligent and even well read (which of course was not good for women’s delicate disposition), which made them a threat to the dominant patriarchal society at the time. They may have used the power of words to aid healing, it cannot be a coincidence that spelling and spell sound so similar, even though they apparently have different origins as words. 

Of course just being an outspoken woman was reason enough to be persecuted. Women were not supposed to have an opinion and definitely not voice it. We only need to look at the likes of Anne Lister, and how local society reacted to a woman having not only a position of power but using her voice. It was not something that went unnoticed and lead to her being beaten and verbally attacked in the streets many times. 

What then is a Word Witch?

Well, that’s me, and it might just be you? 

All my life I have used writing and words to comfort myself, to work out any problems I had and to self heal. More than that though, I truly believe that you can change your life with the power of words. 

Whether you are journaling and working through your current emotions, future challenges or past tragedies, or you are saying affirmations in a mirror the words we speak have tremendous power. We know that choosing the right words when we talk to others can have a dramatic effect on their response, the way we talk to ourselves can too.

Word witch

In the world of business choice of words is vital, particularly in advertising and marketing campaigns, and of course legal contracts.

We know that the words we choose can actually have a physical impact on the structure of water, (if you aren’t familiar with the work of Dr Emoto you must check out his work with water crystals and emotions)so if our bodies are 60% water then it only makes sense that we should choose the words we speak to ourselves with care too. This is why affirmations are such a powerful tool when we are trying to heal physically or emotionally, but also to empower ourselves. These are definitely a big part of my word witch toolkit. 

Word witches

Word Witches

These days of course women are allowed to have a voice, they are taught to read and right and, as time has gone on, we have realised that many of the ancient herbal remedies and healing practices can be proven scientifically to work. As more and more people are looking for natural ways to stay healthy, there has been a renewed interest in holistic healing practices and more and more people are turning to earth based, deity free belief systems. The reasons for this are undoubtedly many, I know I have my ideas, but there are many solitary witches around the world now.

The wonderful thing about being a witch, is that you can pretty much make it whatever you want it to be. There are no rules. Most witches have a deep love of nature and enjoy being outdoors, but some witches love cooking things up in their kitchen, others love the rituals associated with the practice.

I love the magic of words. 

Whether it is the power of words to transport you to another place and time through story or poetry, to help you remember, to work through things and help you forget, or even to heal. I believe words are one of the most powerful forces on the planet and for that reason the term word witch sits with me very well. 

 

I love the acronym, Woman In Total Control of Herself. This is a true witch for me. A woman who knows her own mind, who loves and respoects the world and others and who lives life to the full.

So, what do you think? Could you be a word witch too? 

 

(I am very aware that there are still countries where you can be tried and convicted of witchcraft. Sending love to all those living in those areas.)

National Storytelling Week

National Storytelling Week

National Storytelling Week

Next Monday (30th January 2023) sees the start of National Storytelling Week, a week devoted to celebrating the art of story telling. Children in schools will focus on stories and do lessons around key stories and people of all walks of life with take time to think about the power of storytelling.

We know how powerful storytelling is; whether it is the power to send a small child to sleep or to keep a tribes traditions alive. It is through telling stories that we are able to impart wisdom, share lessons that have been learnt through the generations and, perhaps most importantly, how we stay alive. While ever someone is telling our story we will always be here. Our energy and our wisdom will continue, long past our physical existence. 

 

When we allow our story to be told we not only keep ourselves alive in the hearts of others, but we also ensure that others, who may have a similar story, don’t feel alone. When children listen to stories about other people feeling scared, alone, upset, they realise, often unconsciously, that the way they feel is ok and other people sometimes feel that way too. When someone who is grieving or seriously ill reads or listens to someone else telling their experiences of that, or a similar situation, they feel seen and understood in a way no other experience can. 

Storytelling as a healing process

Of course writing your story, or any story, is an incredibly healing process in itself. Even if that story is never shared with anyone else, writing down your experiences or imaginings can be a powerful and therapeutic process. 

I read articles every day about celebrities who have written autobiographies or musicians who have written a particularly personal album, and the dramatic impact it has had on them. 

You really can change your life with the power of words.

 

writing for storytelling

How can you celebrate National Storytelling week?

 

1. Read a story you have been wanting to read for a long time.

We all have stories that on some level we know we want to read, but it might be a bit long, or not a very uplifting story. Perhaps you just haven’t got around to buying or borrowing a copy yet. Get that book and read it this week. Your future self will thank you. 

2. Talk to someone from an older generation and discover part of their story

It can be easy to assume that the older generation don’t have anything interesting to say, especially when we are younger. We often assume that because they don’t go out very often now that that has always been their life. In reality of course they were once a vibrant twenty year old or an adventurous 30 year old. Why not find time this week to invite someone to have a cuppa and some cake and talk to them about their youth. I guarantee you will find out something magical. 

A few months ago my mother in law had a get together for the jubilee and invited a few friends and family members and her neighbour and good friend, Doris. Doris is almost 96 years old and the most amazing lady you can imagine. She is always immaculately turned out and incredibly well spoken. I have always had a soft spot for her, but life is busy with two children and everything else I juggle and I don’t spend as much time with her as I would like. This particular day she dropped a couple of bombshells into the conversation; “When I saw Richard Burton in Stratford” and “It reminds me of when I went to Vegas!”. Because there were so many people in the room she didn’t elaborate, but I was desperate to ask her more about it”. Maybe that will be what I do during National Storytelling Week.

writing for storytelling

3. Write your story

Think back on a particularly positive period in your life, perhaps a holiday or trip, a particular job you have done or when something significant happened. Grab a pen and paper or your laptop or phone, and start writing about that time. Write down everything you can remember from that time; your feelings about what was happening, what you remember seeing, eating, watching onTV… Make it as detailed as you can. You may never write any more or you might be inspired to write a full memoir or autobiography. Whatever you decide the benefits of revisiting a time in your life when you were really happy are immense.

4. Read a story to someone else

If you are a parent chances are this is part of your day or week anyway, but if you don’t have children or they are grown up, you probably don’t often read aloud. We experience stories very differently when we read them out loud, and the person listening also has a profoundly different experience. My parents often experience books this way. My Dad has a problem with one of his eyes so he finds it tiring to read for long enough to read a book. So they find books they both enjoy and my Mum reads them out loud to him. It is a really lovely routine and they both get different benefits. 

5. Watch a film about a famous storyteller

There are some wonderful films about many of our most cherished writers. From “Shadowlands” to “Miss Potter” and “Goodbye Christopher Robin”. Why not take the time to watch one of these wonderful films this week and remind yourself about the magical lives many of our favourite authors lived.

 

Keep those stories alive

However you decide to celebrate National Storytelling Week, I hope you will find the experience of immersing yourself in stories an enjoyable one. It is something I love to do all year round, not just for one week a year. Stories have power and can truly change the world so let’s make sure that future generations value them too.

 

 

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