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Does what you are saying strike a chord?

Journaling for exam stress blog

Last week I gave a talk for a local children’s cancer charity. It was at a fundraising lunch and, as I always do, I walked in and looked around the room, taking in as much as I could about the audience I was about to address. I don’t know whether this is a throwback to my teaching days, when I used to assess what mood the children were in before I approached the subject I was teaching, or whether it is just an instinctive thing I do in life generally, probably a bit of both. I just find it helpful to know who I am talking to before I begin.

I had been asked to talk about storytelling, I wanted to pitch what I was saying just right, so that I wasn’t just talking to a room full of hungry, bored people.

I started talking about my Grandad Joe. I had taken his flat cap and one of his woodworking tools as props. I explained how when my Dad had lost his Dad quite suddenly he had asked all my other grandparents to write their life stories and how I had with me a document, which was 20 sides of A4, typed, containing the first 26 years of Grandad Joe’s life. I went on to explain that there also exists a similar document for my Grandma and that they then wrote an even longer document about their life together.

 TThese writings are so precious to our family because they contain information and stories that we would never have discussed, despite being a very close family and spending a lot of time together talking about all manner of things. I then encouraged everyone to consider writing their life stories as a legacy document for their families. I asked them how much they would value such documents written by their grandparents and explained that if they had grandchildren, they might not realise how precious these stories are yet, but in the future they would treasure these memories.

The response was wonderful. Why? Well, they understood what I was saying. This theme is universally understood, but also because it was a room full of lovely people, mostly of retirement age. Most of whom had grandchildren so could relate not just to my perspective as a grandchild, but they could also see the value of sharing their lives with future generations and keeping their memories and stories alive.

When we speak it is so important to connect with the people we are speaking to, whether that is one to one or to a huge audience. The same is true when we write. Whether we are sending a text message to a loved one, or writing a book, it is important to think about who we are writing for and make sure we use the right language to engage them. We must think about the subjects we talk about and ensure that our words cannot be misinterpreted. It is important that what we are saying and how we are phrasing it conveys the intended meaning, and that that is what our reader absorbs.

When you write do you write for yourself or for others?

I know I do both. My journaling and note making is just for me. As long as I know what I am saying that’s all that matters. When I journal it is more about the process of getting things out of my head and organising them so they make sense and I can work through all the emotions and thoughts I am experiencing. When I am writing for others I have to be aware of who I am writing for. When I was a primary school teacher it was vital that I only used words and phrases that were easily understood and appropriate for the age group I was working with at the time.

Writing for adults is no different.

If you are writing for a national newspaper in the UK you should write as though you are writing for a 7-9 year old as it is believed that that is the reading level of most newspaper readers. Writing here I dare to extend that quite a lot because many people reading on Substack are themselves writers, so they have a good grasp of language. Even so, you want your writing to be accessible, and if you make it too complicated, and use too many unnecessarily long words, you will lose your reader.

Are you striking a chord with your writing? Perhaps you give talks and have strategies for keeping your audience engaged, I would love to hear your tips and experiences.

Don’t be afraid to change

Are you afraid to change your life?

Change can be really scary. None of us likes the unknown, familiar is always more comforting. Unfortunately “everything you want is on the other side of fear”, as Jack Canfield said.

I love change. 

I know that is strange, and I should qualify that I love change that I instigate. I think that is a distinction that needs to be made when we talk about change. When change happens to us, rather than us taking the reins, it isn’t as easy to accept. 

From being very young I have loved changing my environment, I love changing my hair and my look, and I have always been able to change my circumstances if something felt wrong or wasn’t making me happy. I firmly believe that we change continually throughout our lives and as a result many other aspects of our lives must change too. 

I have changed university courses because the first one I started didn’t feel right. I have moved house, ended relationships and had many different careers over the years because as I changed and grew, things just didn’t feel right anymore.

When I started teaching I thought I would be a teacher all my life, like my mum, and in a way I will always be a teacher, but it wasn’t the right career for me once I became ill. Over the years I have had many businesses and they have all taught me so much. Some have taught me practical business skills, some have taught me techniques and they have all taught me a lot about myself and what I need to be happy. 

I have been afraid

When I was younger I was very aware of what other people’s perceptions were. Teaching is a respected profession, and when I left there were so many questions. People couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to go back. 

When I started working as a therapist I felt a joy I had never experienced before. Helping people feel better, physically and mentally is the greatest gift. 

I always dreamed of writing, but as I wrote about in a recent blog for Booksmith Academy, I didn’t believe a career in writing for for people like me. As for writing therapy, there was no way for me to choose that career straight from school, because it didn’t exist!

change

It is always better to be brave and make a change, than to stay put and be miserable. My latest big change is not about my career, I have never been more passionate about anything I have ever done. I had no idea everything I love could be combined so perfectly into a job. No, this change is about my own writing. As you may know, I have been writing my memoir, and I really believed that was going to be my first book. I am more than half way through my second draft, so it has been a considerable committment. I realise now that, for now at least, this book was just for my own therapeutic purposes. One long writing therapy project. 

So, this week I have started my new book. I’m not going to share what it’s about yet, but it is something I am incredibly passionate about and I am so excited to be starting this new writing project and will take you on this adventure with me. 

I have put years of my life into my memoir, but it doesn’t excite me anymore, and although I can’t rule out publishing it one day, it doesn’t feel right at the moment. So, I am making a change and, as I have always done, starting something new. Something that combines all my passions and makes my heart sing. 

If there is an aspect of your life that doesn’t feel right anymore, it might be a job, a location, a friendship, even a relationship, you have two choices: you can be brave and make a change, or you can stay still and face the consequences. What choice will you make?

Build a Daily Writing Routine That Aligns with Your Unique Needs

Journaling for exam stress blog

Routine is key with any new habit

 

Writing is like any new habit, you need tobe consistent to see the benefits. Making your writing part of your daily routine is a great way to be more consistent, more productive and achieve better results. 

Although the commonly held belief is that it takes 21 days to form a habit, that has been disproved, it is now understood that it depends on many different factors and can be anything from 18 days to almost a year. This makes finding a routine that works for you even more important. 

There is no point in me telling you that the best time to write is in the morning if you have small children who wake you up at the crack of dawn. Equally if I suggest you write in the evening and you work nights, that might not work for you. So instead of getting preachy about the best times to write and I am going to help you think about your life and find the best routine for your unique needs.

Things to think about when trying to start writing…

Do you have a regular routine? 

Some people have a very rigid routine, they get up at the same time every day, leave for work at the same time, get home at the same time etc. Others have no semblence of a routine and that can make creating a writing habit more challenging, but not impossible. The key is finding a trigger that will remind you to write.

If you always get up and do certain jobs, maybe empty the dishwasher, make a coffee, walk the dog then sit down to work, could you write while you have your coffee? Maybe you could leave your journal out on your desk so it is the first thing you do before you start work?

If you are starting a journaling habit you don’t need hours, just 5-10 mins is more than enough to have an impact. If you are writing a book, then you may need to find longer stretches of time, but be realistic about the demands on your time. 

When my children were little people kept suggesting I got up an hour earlier to meditate and journal. My son was already waking me up at 4:30am so the last thing I needed was to be waking up any earlier. So I started making my “self care time” the hour after the children went to bed. I would journal, meditate and then sleep. It has to work for you and your life.

What time works best for you?

Are you an early bird or a night owl? Perhaps your most creative time is the middle of the day? Understanding your own energetic and creative fluctuations is important when you are thinking about creating a writing routine. If you work best in the morning, perhaps you can write before everyone wakes up. If you find it easier to create later at night, maybe your writing time will be when everyone has gone to bed? 

For women, you may notice that you are feeling more creative around the mid-point in your cycle. Perhaps what will work best for you is writing for hours during this week and just doing little bits for the rest of the month? Pay attention to how you feel throughout the month. There is no point fighting nature.

change

Be realistic

There is no point in creating a routine that involves you writing for 2 hours a day in the evening, if your evening is often disrupted by helping the children with homework, housework, calls from your parents because they need help… 

Write down everything that impacts your ability to write and then create a writing routine around those factors.

Eliminate distractions

Leave your phone in another room or put it on silent and face down. Tell everyone this is your writing time and only to disturb you in an emergency. Shut down all other windows on your screen, or write on paper. Give yourself the best possible chance to focus.

Don’t be too rigid

Life is always going to happen, if something comes up which stops you from writing, try to find an alternative time to write or just accept that it happens sometimes. DON’T LET IT UNDO ALL YOUR GOOD WORK! Miss that session but get back in the saddle ready to focus for your next session.

Find the best space to write

If you don’t have an office, create a little area where you can write. Perhaps you have a bureau or kitchen table where you like writing. If you can’t have a permanent writing space, create a writing kit in a bag that you can easily take with you wherever you are writing that day. Make sure you make your writing space somewhere you want to spend time. Have a candle you light when you start writing, create a writing playlist, maybe have a photo you love out to inspire you. Make sure you are using stationery you like if you are writing by hand, or that your screen is at the right height if you are working on a laptop/computer. Think about what chair you are sitting on because you may be sitting there for a while, you want to be comfy. Create a really appealing writing space, however permanent it may be, that way you will want to escape to your writing every chance you get!

Track your progress

Make a note of how many days you have managed to journal, or how many words you have written each day if you are writing a book. When you reach a milestone, perhaps 50 days journaling in a row or reaching 50000 words, celebrate your achievement. Perhaps you go to your favourite cafe for a coffee and a cake, or you buy yourself a book related candle for your writing space. Whatever it is that makes you happy. Acknowledging your achievements will help you stay enthusiastic and spur you on to keep going with your writing habit.

 

Most importantly, enjoy yourself! 

If you don’t make your writing time something you look forward to you won’t keep it up. Your writing time should be something you treasure, creating a routine that works for you is so important because it will stop you from constantly fighting against your own intentions. If you create a routine that doesn’t suit your life, you will waste so much energy being frustrated because you aren’t finding time to write. Find the write routine and it will be effortless and enjoyable. 

Get in touch and let me know when you write and what your routine looks like.

 

 

Find out more about writing routines:

I wrote the blog Daily Rituals to Change your Life a while ago, If you want to know why routine is important for our wellbeing this is a great starting point.

I love listening to the Writer’s Routine podcast, if you enjoy finding out about other writer’s habits, why not give it a listen?

The Joy of an Artist Date

Artist Date

 What is an artist date?

Artist dates are a concept created by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. The idea is that once a week you take yourself somewhere that will inspire you. Perhaps you go for a walk in nature, to a museum, go people watching in a cafe.

Here is what Julia Cameron has to say about artist dates:

 An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, you inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against interlopers. You do not take anyone on this artist date but you and your inner artist, a.k.a. your creative child.  

For many people the thought of going somewhere alone is scary, so my suggestion would be to start with somewhere familiar, somewhere you feel really comfortable. Once you have achieved that, you can start to stretch your comfort zone a little. 

What are the benefits of an artist date?

When you are thinking about your writing life it is important to ensure that you are feeding your writer, whether that is reading or going on an artist date. You must make sure that you are putting as much in as you are taking out, otherwise your writing will become lifeless and empty.

You might be wondering how you are doing to make time to  go out for two hours a week, every week. 

artist date

We’re all busy, and, as with all habits, it may not be possible every week, but if you put it in your diary, and make it a priority, you might surprise yourself. As a writer you set time aside for your writing, that is important to you, whether it is writing a book, journaling or writing blogs and newsletters. You probably also make time to read, remember one of my favourite quotes from Pam Allyn: 

Reading is like breathing in, and writing is like breathing out.

Well, it can also be argued that your artist dates are an important part of that breathing in. Their purpose is to inspire you and give you food for thought, to enrich, and enhance your writing. So, really, artist dates and reading are like breathing in, and writing is like breathing out! 

Artist dates are also a great way to step away from whatever you are currently writing and give your brain time to breathe. When we allow ourselves to relax and shift our focus away from our writing it is amazing how inspiration flows. 

artist date

What sort of places can you visit for an artist date?

Well, the obvious places are things like museums, art galleries, bookshops, cafes etc. But you can go literally anywhere. If you are writing a book about a particular location or time in history for example you might want to visit somewhere relevant. Perhaps there is a famous writer’s house or museum near where you live that you could visit to soak in some of their genius. You might want to visit the seaside or a woodland. 

You might decide to take yourself to a cafe with a book of poems, or go to the cinema to watch a film that you have heard good things about. It really doesn’t matter where you go, there is inspiration everywhere.

The important thing is that you value your writing enough to commit to taking this time away to feed your inspiration and allow yourself to be the best writer you can be. 

If you are looking for some writing inspiration and a group of friendly, supportive writers, why not join A little word told me… this group is for enthusiastic amateurs. If you are a professional writer or write for business, over at Booksmith Academy (the book writing business which I run with my sister, Jen) we are just starting a fabulous new budget membership to support you with your writing. You can find out more about InkWell Scribes on the Booksmith Academy website. 

 

 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click the link and buy the product/service associated I will receive a small payment in return. The product/service will not cost you any more. I never recommend anything I have not experienced myself. I always appreciate any purchases made using my links as they enable me to continue writing and helping more people. 

 

Have we got New Year wrong?

New Year is almost a month away now, but have we got it wrong?

Every year I feel this sense of excitement and anticipation about the coming new year. I don’t believe that making resolutions is helpful, but I do like to do some planning for the coming year, to journal about things I would like to achieve and I always write a kind of bucket list of things I want to achieve this year.

Then January comes around and by the time I have got the kids back to school it is time for my son and husband’s birthdays, then I take my daughter back to University and before I know it, it is almost February and I have done a fraction of the things I intended to do. None of my new habits have really had a look in, I have achieved very little. 

What’s more, I know I am not alone in this. I constantly see blog posts, Youtube videos and social media posts saying the same thing. So, my question is, have we got New Year wrong?

On Thursday it is Imbolc. For those of you not familiar with this festival it is a Celtic/Pagan festival marking the end of Winter and the start of the growing season. The half way point between the winter soltice and the vernal equinox. It celebrates the returning light. 

This for me feels like the perfect time for me to start my year. It is getting lighter, the spring bulbs are beginning to burst into life and my body begins to feel a little less like hibernating!

Human hibernation?

A few years ago I read the brilliant book, Wintering by Katherine May.  Ridiculously, this was the first time I had heard someone openly discussing something that I had felt for a long time. In winter we need more rest, we need to hibernate. 

I thought it was just because I am a fire sign and always feel energised by the sunshine and warm weather. I have always hated being cold and find it much harder to be productive if I am cold.

human hibernation

The image above is how I feel during the winter months. I just want to be cosy and warm and drink hot drinks and read good books until it ends. As the days get longer and the garden begins to burst back into life I begin to wake up again and my productivity and creativity slowly returns. 

Of course, the fact that we are much more likely to be ill during the winter months, we are more likely to eat comfort food and we don’t get outside as much, all contributes to this feeling of hibernation. We are often forced to maintain our daily routines, and if we don’t have to, we feel we should. Even though scientists have proven that we need more sleep during the winter. It is a time of year filled with parties and socialising, which tires us out even more. Then we get bombarded by the “New year, new you” brigade and it is overwhelming.

snowdrop

My new New Year

I would like to propose that if you struggle with January, as many people do, that we call Imbolc, the 1st February, our new year. We accept that we need January to recover and cope with the dark, cold weather, and we start our intentions and productivity schedule in February. Release any guilt you may hae around January lacking focus and productivity and embrace it for what it is, a necessary period of hibernation for those of us in the colder climes of the northern hemisphere.

So, Happy New Year and I hope that 2024 is a wonderfully happy and productive year for you, and that you achieve everything that will make you feel truly fulfilled. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this, so please do get in touch, I think there are a lot of people who are beating themselves up for feeling this way, and actually it is perfectly natural and normal.

 

 Reading recommendations:

Human hibernation

Life is a rollercoaster

 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click the link and buy the product/service associated I will receive a small payment in return. The product/service will not cost you any more. I never recommend anything I have not experienced myself. I always appreciate any purchases made using my links as they enable me to continue writing and helping more people. 

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!

You can't teach an old dog new tricks

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”

All my life I have heard people using this phrase, usually in defence of someone’s bad behaviour or as an excuse for not doing something that they don’t want to do.

For a long time even science seemed to back up this theory. It really seemed that if someone was a certain way, or had certain habits once they were fully grown, it was impossible for them to change. 

Deep down though we knew that this was hogwash, because people did change, every day. Is it easy? Not usually. But nothing worth doing every is. 

We now know that you can change the way you think and even how you think, thanks to a magical thing called neuroplasticity.

What is neuroplasticity?

I know, neuroplasticity sounds like mumbo jumbo but it is just the process of re-routing the neural pathways in your brain so that you respond in a different way to a situation.

Wikipedia defines it as: 

“Neuroplasticity, also known as neural plasticity, or brain plasticity, is the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization. It is when the brain is rewired to function in some way that differs from how it previously functioned.”

By its very definition, neuroplasticity means you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks.

Why am I talking about this though? 

Well, there are two times when I am quoted this most often, one is when I talk about a daily writing habit, and the other is when I talk about mental health.

Why should you write every day?

There is considerable evidence that writing, even for ten minutes, every day, has so many physical and mental health benefits. It boosts your immune system, lowers blood pressure, eases anxiety and depression and even helps with asthma and cancer. With a list of benefits like that, why wouldn’t you make the effort to write? It’s only ten minutes. Everyone has ten minutes. Yet people tell me all the time that they can’t find the time, they can’t journal. Ultimately though we make time for the things we think are important. 

writing

If you are someone who believes they don’t have time to write every day, be honest with yourself. Is it that you can’t find the time? Perhaps you don’t want to write, and that’s fine. But if you do want to add writing to your daily routine, sit down and make it happen. Within a few weeks of making the effort you will be doing it without having to even think about it. 

gratitude

A new habit is one thing but changing the way you think isn’t quite so easy!

Well, actually it is. It’s the same principle. You just have to train your brain to respond in a different way to the way it always has. It sounds difficult but if you want to make the change, you can. Whether it is training yourself to take a deep breath before you respond to a situation or trying to be more positive, you can do it. 

 

A great way to teach yourself to be more positive is by starting a gratitude journal. Every day write out 5-10 things you are grateful for and eventually your brain will start to notice the positive aspects of life more than the negative. The research around gratitude can be found here. If you want to learn more about gratitude, why not take a look at my blog: “Can gratitude really change your life?”.

It is said that it takes 21 days to create a new habit, that isn’t long in the scheme of your life. Surely it is worth taking the time to learn something new and change your life for the better?

How do I start journaling?

How do I start journaling?

Journaling is a hot topic at the moment…

…but how do you start?

Well, before we look at how you start journaling, let’s look at why you should start. 

Here are just a few of the reasons: 

  • It increases confidence
  • Strengthens your immune system
  • Boosts creativity
  • Improves your memory
  • Helps you achieve your goals
  • Improves mental health
  • Increases emotional intelligence
  • and so much more.

All this sounds good doesn’t it? That’s a lot of benefit for just a few minutes writing a day. But how do you access all these magical benefits? Well, it is easier than you might think. 

I write a diary isn’t that the same thing?

Well, no, it isn’t. When you write a diary you write down all the things you have done in a day. You might include how you are feeling, physically and emotionally, but it is an account of a section of your life. Journaling is different. You might not write about anything that is happening to you, or you might. You will more than likely talk about how you are feeling, but it isn’t the same style of writing.

Journaling is a process

When you sit down to journal the idea is that you write and write without filtering what you write. You don’t worry about what you write, what other people would think if they read it, what your handwriting is like, spelling and grammar, you just write. 

When you write in this way your brain accesses information in a different way and you stop writing things that you are aware of and begin to access things in your unconscious mind.

Journaling

But I don’t know how to start!

That’s ok. There are tools that can help you to get started. Many people use journal prompts when they first start journaling. You can find lots of examples of journal prompts if you do a quick search online or you can create your own. Prompts such as: How am I feeling today? and What am I most angry about right now? can be useful prompts to get you started.

You could also join my journaling membership, A little word told me… , and I will guide you on your journaling way.

Journaling

Ways to start

  • Prompt journaling – using a prewritten prompt to get you started.
  • Gratitude journaling – writing a list of all the things you are grateful for everyday (try to write at least 5 things every day).
  • Reflective journaling – writing about all your thoughts and feelings and getting them out onto the page so you can process them.
  • Creative journaling – which involves art techniques along side written entries to encourage creativity.
  • Bullet journaling – this is a way to organise yourself where you create lists and use specific symbols to categorise items.

 

The key to successful journaling, for me, is carrying on writing when you feel like you have nothing else to write. Don’t stop writing, even if you have to say; I don’t know what to write, I can’t believe I’m writing this nonesense, I don’t think this is going to work, what a load of rubbish…” for a few lines. Once you get past this stage, that is when the magic happens. That is when you break down the wall between your conscious writing and real self discovery.

Are you going to give journaling a go? Let me know how you get on. I love hearing about people’s experience with this powerful technique. 

 Read more about the benefits of journaling: 

Journaling to preserve memories

Journaling for adults with ADHD

Journaling Through Challenging Times

Journaling for exam stress blog

Challenging times are inevitable. They are part of life, without those challenges we wouldn’t fully appreciate the good times. 

Often people assume that because I have such a vast toolbox of mental health strategies that I must be happy and stress free all the time. The reality of course is that I am human. I am no more immune to the stresses of life than anyone else. I do have lots of “go to” techniques that help me move through those emotions, perhaps quicker than some people, but I am not immune. 

Let’s be honest here, the reason I learned all these techiques in the first place was to deal with my own depression and anxiety. I struggled terribly throughout my twenties and just as I thought I was getting a grasp on things perimenopause came along and reminded me that these are issues that never completely go away.

I realised at this point that I had very cleverly constructed a life for myself where I was surrounded by loving and thoughtful people, I had created a career for myself that brings me joy and I am fortunate that I have a happy marriage and wonderful children. This is a fairly dangerous bubble to live in though because it means that it is easy to get comfortable in here and then every so often something, or someone, comes along with a large pin and pops it. Whether it is an unexpected bill, like the car needing work or an appliance around the house breaking, or an unavoidable issue with someone in my life it tips me off my comfy equilibrium and I have to deal with it like anyone else. 

How does journaling help?

Well, journaling is the perfect way to work through all those thoughts that fly around your head as soon as those challenging issues rear their ugly heads. Whether it is helping you to work through the solution to a problem or processing the emotions you are feeling about a friendship or family member causing you pain, journaling is a powerful and insightful technique. 

change

How do you journal to navigate challenging times?

This is the big question, isn’t it? Well, it is so simple you won’t believe it. 

  • Just write.
  • Grab a pen or pencil and a notebook or some paper, start writing and keep writing. Write until you have nothing else to say, and then write some more. If you run out of things to write, just write “I don’t know what to write” until something else comes into your head, it always does. 
  • Write about how you are feeling.
  • DO NOT FILTER! Write everything that comes into your head. This is important. Just allow a stream of consciousness onto the page. If you are worried someone will read it, destroy it after you have written it. It is the writing that is important, you never need to read what you have written. 

Do I have to write by hand?

No. You can type or even dictate if you struggle to write by hand. However, there has been research to show that writing by hand connects parts of your brain that aren’t connected through other forms of communication. If you can manage to type without filtering though by all means type and of course, if you are unable to write by hand then use whatever method you usually use to record things.

I have worked through so many challenging times over the years by writing things down. As a teenager I used to pour my heart out into letters to my many penfriends, I have kept diaries and journals and even when I write articles like this I am using a similar process. I write in a very intuitive way and rarely filter what I write. It is such a powerful method and it really does help you make sense of situations and often even give solutions that you weren’t consciously aware of. If you haven’t tried journaling before, I urge you to give it a go, particularly if you are having a difficult time at the moment.

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.

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