Notes From Sarah's Pen

Doodling

I love doodling, getting lost in the shapes and patterns I create.
I never go into a doodle with any plan in mind, I just make some marks on the paper to start and then just keep going. Often I’ll set the rule that I can only use the paper and pens that are available on my desk which adds another layer of creativity to the discipline.

I never set a time deadline on a doodle and sometimes I might return to one over several days until I feel I’ve finished it.

I had a clear out a couple weeks ago. I never do them as ‘keepers’, they’re just a tool for focusing or quieting my mind so they’re very much about the process rather than the product.

Sometimes I spend 5 minutes, sometimes a couple of hours, it really depends, but I never feel like it’s a waste of time, it’s just one of the tools I use. Getting into the flow of a doodle is relaxing and refreshing and it reminds me that I can lose myself in absorbing work and produce something pleasing by the end.

I don’t have a problem with destroying stuff at the end either. I’m close to the point where I’m going to get rid of a pile of notebooks I’ve filled over the last few years. I’ll take a day to go through them to see if there’s anything I haven’t used that might resonate with me now and then I’ll pop them in the recycling because they’ll have done their job.

I like the process verses product idea because it allows me to play without putting any pressure on what I’m doing. How about you, do you spend time on process to allow to explore ideas?

Digital Nomad

This week I’m doing something I’d like to do more of, I’m working while traveling. It might seem an odd aspiration, but I’d love to be a true digital nomad and be able to work from anywhere with a half-decent wi-fi connection.
Of course, one of the great things about being a writer is that I don’t need a wi-fi connection all the time (in fact many writers would argue that it’s great not to have the distraction of access to the internet when you’re writing). I’ll happily put ‘xxxxx [find info]’, into a piece I’m writing if I don’t have immediate access to a bit of information. Admittedly that doesn’t always mean I need the internet, it could be something from a book or a note I’ve previously written but don’t have with me, but you get the picture, I don’t feel that I can’t write the bulk of something just because I don’t have every fact at my fingertips.
Basically, as long as I can get internet access when I absolutely need to file an article or find some information I can keep working pretty consistently.
Because I’m travelling, I’m currently using an A5 sketchbook to work in, so I can write, sketch and stick bits and bobs all in one place. I also have a pencil case filled with writing pens, drawing fine liners and pencils, water colour coloured pencils and one of those dinky paintbrushes that you can fill with water. I don’t sketch nearly as much as I should, so my drawings are pretty rough, but I’m hoping to get better through practice over the coming weeks.
The other thing I’m working on at the moment is getting better at drafting straight onto my computer. I usually draft with a good old pen and paper, but I’d like to be able to work more digitally sometimes, so I’m making myself do it while I’m out of my usual routines (we’ll see how it goes, it’s not the first time I’ve tried it).
The great thing I do have at the moment is time to be exploring these things and I’m enjoying the process of doing a few things differently this summer, whether it changes how I work in the long run I don’t know, but I’m glad to be giving myself permission to have a bit of a play with possibilities…

Making My Own Path

And so the day came. I gave up my job.

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I decided at the end of last August that I wasn’t going to spend another Festival Season in Edinburgh working in hospitality. I want to be able to enjoy the experience of just being able to potter about and see shows, meet friends, do some writing and travelling without having to have work rotas at the back of my mind.

I also want to devote some time to ‘just’ being a poet. This largely involves a lot of walking, gardening, thinking and writing. It needs a lot of energy too.

I’ve given myself three months of concerted being a poet over the summer, before I think about ‘what’s next?’

It’s not going to be some airy fairy three months though. I have projects I want to complete and ideas I want to explore and I’ve set myself targets so that I know I’m moving in the right direction.

I hope the weather’s decent because I’m planning to spend a fair bit of time outside. I don’t mind being outside in the rain - I’ve always lived in fairly rainy places - I just prefer being out and about when it’s nice.

Obviously the big thing I’m looking forward to this summer is being able to choose to live and work slowly and with intention. I know this is going to make a big difference to my physical and mental health. Being able to choose when and how long to be outside is an exciting prospect.

Forward planning…

I’ve spent a bit of time this week setting my goals and intentions fot the next six months (where did the first half of the year go?)

Are you thinking about tweaking or refining your goals for the rest of the year?

Go on an adventure...

Go on an adventure…
It doesn’t have to be an epic, super-expensive thing, just a little bit outside your comfort zone.
I’m currently thinking about World Wide Knit In Public Day, a day when you shamelessly show off your craft out in the wild.
While I’m quite happy knitting in public, this year I’m thinking about walking and knitting and creating a piece responding to the environment I walk in.
It will take some planning so that I make sure I have the right equipment with me on the day and that I can safely walk and knit (yes, sometimes both at the same time), without putting myself and others in danger.
It’ll certainly take me out of my comfort zone, but I’m hoping it’ll be a lot of fun.
Obviously, I have a lot more planning to do before the 8th of June, choosing the route and thinking about how I’m going to record the journey in knitting, but that’s all part of the fun.
Going on adventures, (the carefully planned, or the more spontaneous), is one of the things I really enjoy, how about you?

Staring out of the window

How often do you just daydream a few minutes away, staring out of the window or into your coffee? How many times do you pull yourself out of it feeling a bit guilty that you’re wasting your time?
Good news… Unless you’re doing something that requires your full concentration (like driving), you’re doing yourself a favour. There are lots of positives to just looking up at the sky.
Letting your brain meander off its usual tracks can help you solve tricky problems or come up with ideas it wouldn’t throw up if you just sit there worrying away at something. Giving it a bit of a free flow, so it can ping about in different ways and access bits it wouldn’t usually use enables it to make new connections.
You relax, stop getting frustrated that you can’t see a way through and suddenly, the perfect solution pops into your head (and you beat yourself up and go “that’s soooo obvious, why didn’t I see that?)
You get much more creative ideas because your mind can wander through all the ‘stuff’ stored in the box rooms and pull together a packet of knowledge you already have or ideas about where you could look for more information. Sometimes it’s not about knowing the answer yourself, it’s about asking the right question to set you on the journey to finding the answer.
So, when will you let yourself look up at the sky and just float away?

Menopause Fatigue

Menopause fatigue sucks. You get what you think was a good night's sleep, but you wake up feeling like you haven't slept for a week and that it will take all your energy just to move your heavy body from A to about two steps away from A, never mind all the way to B.

I started my periods ways back at the beginning of the 1980s and raging hormones were always part of the story, so you'd think I'd be used to hormones blah after 44 years, but I was optimistically hoping that getting on for three years after my last period they might have sorted themselves out by now.

In fairness, the symptoms are decreasing, I'm no longer getting panic attacks, I only get the odd hot flush and a very occasional hirmone issue, so I'm hoping that in the next three to four years I'll have shaken the whole thing off 🤞

In the meantime I'll keep on keeping on, eating well, exercising, drinking plenty of water and managing my energy when I need to.

How has the menopause hit you?

Noticing...

As you're reading this you can safely bet that I'm outside looking at nature waking up everywhere.

I love spring, all the shouty blossoms and colours after the drabness of winter.

I'm watching the seeds I've planted over the last few weeks beginning to sprout and getting very excited about the flowers and veggies thise tiny plants will bring forth in a few months (hopefully).

And I'm feeling re-energised too and I'm looking forward to lots of new projects growing and fruiting over the spring and summer.

Are you geeling more energised now that spring has sprung?

hashtag#slowliving hashtag#spring hashtag#energy hashtag#newdirections

Making Room For Progress

Every year I make a vision board and every year I leave some blank space on it, on purpose, for the projects that I didn't see coming. This year was no exception.

I keep my vision board as the lock screen and home screen on my phone, so that it's always there and even if I'm not consciously looking at it I think it's still getting into my head.

The current one expresses my desire to have the time, money and space to be able to shine some light onto helping mid-life women (like me), do less with more... Less stuff with more time, slowing down in a positive way to get more out of life.

The gap was left, when I made the board last June (I plan the 12 months from July to June, more on that another time though), because I wasn't entirely sure how I was going to make that happen because I had a busy management job that was taking up most of my energy and headspace, I had a lack of funds, and honestly a lack of confidence (hello Imposter Syndrome).

So, I gave up the job that was sapping my energy, got a different, less hours and less stress job and did my level best to save some money.

With the headspace won back from no longer managing a shop and staff and the time won back from less working hours and less busy work (aka time wasting), I started getting my head doen to doing what I wanted to do, returning to writing.

I know I want to tell stories to inspire mid-life women to thrive by doing less with more:
* less things with more time
*less busy work and more stuff that matters
*Less convenience food and more cooking from scratch
*Less quantity, more quality

And so Snailing (https://lnkd.in/eS6tFkx9) It was born, so that I can share slow living inspirations as I start to make the changes in my own life.

Progress isn't easy

I've given myself quite a job to do with a lot of learning, a lot of changes, and a lot of hard work to make it happen, but...

I'm buzzing! I'm feeling energised by the whole thing and I know that it's exactly what I should be doing, not just for myself, but for other women too.

I'm starting with my wardrobe

Which has been annoying me for some time. Too much stuff in it, most of which I don't wear/wouldn't wear any more. So I'm working on creating a capsule wardrobe. You can follow that journey on my Instagram (@fromsarahspen).

As I go off to decide on my spring wardrobe, what could you do to make room fro progress?

Taking The Time

I've slowed work down recently.

On purpose.

I've been slightly going at things like a headless chicken for a while and I've needed to get more focused and that takes time. And so I've taken it.

Thankfully I haven't had to go right back to figuring out what I want to do, that would have been a long-winded affair. I just need to figure out how I'm going to do it.

So I'm spending a lot of time reading, researching and asking questions (apologies if you get me dropping into your inbox with random questions).

And I'm doing lots of writing and journalling because if I don't take notes I will forget what I've done and any good ideas I've had along the way.

I've also paused sending things out to competitions and submission callouts for poetry. I've got a lot of stuff waiting on decisions and I want to hear back from some of them before I put anything else out there.

Constant rejection, even when its subjective, is exhausting and pretty demoralising and so, whilst I could keep ploughing on, I'm taking a breath and taking the poetry publication pressure off myself for a while.

And having taken a break from freelance journalisim and content creation for a short while, I'm getting back on that horse, but it takes time to get that started up again.

And so, you'll see me posting a lot on my socials about 'research', 'reading' and 'planning' over the next few weeks as I spend time working on my business.

Exciting times ahead for me.

Do you take regular time out to work on where you're going?

Make Your Own Luck

I didn't get shortlisted for a poetry prize this week (another 2 quid in the rejection jar, yay!) But, I did get picked to do a fantastic open mic late last week ("was that really you I saw on Loud Poets socials?"), and I'm having some interesting conversations about a festival in the summer where it looks like I'll be performing 3 sets.

By my reckoning that's 2 wins out of 3 and it's all down to me 'making my own luck'. If I hadn't put myself forward, it's pretty unlikely that any of those oppprtunities would have come to me. By sending stuff to competitions and for publication, and by applying for performance spots I might not always get picked, but I am showing that I'm ready and that I believe my work is as good as anything else out there.

Yes, I might not always get through the gate, but I'm pretty sure that the gatekeepers are going to be getting to know who I am and that I have something to offer.

I'm enjoying what I'm doing, I'm getting better with every new project I do and I know there are people out there who like my work (not just my loved ones either).

So, I'll carry on making my own luck because no one's going to hand it to me on a plate (nor should they...)

Put Yourself Out There

I made a decision back in December to make 2024 the year I put my poetry 'out there', not just performing at open mics, but by sending it to magazines and competitions.

And I've done it, slowly at first, but now at least once a week.

I've not had any success yet, but there's a tidy sum in my 'rejection jar' (£2 in every time I get a rejection, slap up feast when I get accepted using the proceeds of the pot).

On top of that, I'm dipping my toes back into the networking pond because people need to know what you do and where they can find you, right?

I find networking exhausting even when I'm mostly listening, but I know that I need to do it because the likelihood of people just stumbling on my work is pretty remote.

These musings are just another way of putting myself out there. They're not uber-crafted, seo optimised, groundbreaking, they're just part of me telling the story of a journey through the world.

They're short and pithy, designed to make readers go "hmm, that's a thought", rather than "oh wow, I must do that right now!" Not a call to action, but an invitation to motion, to make a small positive change.

And so, I'll leave you now to go and put myself out there a little bit more, because - don't forget - you have to be in it to get a rejection...

Prepare For Change

Toodle oo February!

I know some of you were a bit surprised by my feeling like February is a bit ‘meh’. I’m not suggesting that it’s awful, I’ve had quite a nice February. I just feel like it’s not quite winter, it’s not quite spring. It’s a liminal space, a time of potential and a time to explore.

So as February shuffles off and I do my review of what I’ve achieved and what I want to do in March I’m really looking forward to change.

The days are getting longer, the weather’s getting warmer, the world is waking up and I’m feeling good.

It’s taken a full two months of hard rest followed by hard work to get me back to firing on all cylinders after I made lots of tweaks at the end of 2023 to enable me to spend more time focusing on creativity and writing in particular.

As I head into March I’m looking forward to more writing, more performing, more time in the garden and more time exploring how to get my poetry pamphlet into the world.
I’m also keeping everything crossed that March is the month when I get to spend the mounting pile of pennies in my Rejection Jar. Still, you have to be submitting work for it to be rejected so, go me, more of that please.

So, with spring truly springing, what are you looking forward to in March?

Keep Looking For The Sparkle...

February has been cast as something of a 'meh' month, not quite winter not quite spring, all a bit 'what's it for?' It feels easy to fall into a bit of a funk and so this week I've been trying hard not to dull my sparkle.

I've worked hard to flip negative thoughts to positives, to look for the upside and to make an effort to smile. And while it's exhausting it really does help.

Accepting that some things just are the way they are has been another positive strategy. I want to go out in the garden and do some weeding and planting but it's just been too cold and wet so I've had to put that aside.

I also failed an exam this week. There was a time when I would have seen that as an absolute disaster, but now I know that I'll just go back, revise the bits I mucked up on, resit and be just fine. To be honest I knew I was probably pushing my luck attempting it this week, but if I'd passed I would have been thrilled, so I thought it was worth a punt, the world won't stop turning and I have not ruined the rest of my life by suffering this slight hiccough (both things I'm sure teenaged/20 something me thought in the past).

So, while February trundles towards its end, don't let your sparkle fade, spring is just around the corner (yay)...

Love Yourself...

Amongst all the celebrating the joys of love in later life with ma hubs, I've made a conscious effort this week to treat myself with love too. I don't know about you, but while I'm really good at lavishing the love on others I sometimes forget about me.

I do schedule time for myself but I'm far more likely to postpone or cancel these plans than I am to compromise on other appointments. And so in 2024 I'm making NOT messing with these plans a priority. I'm doing an artist date every week and it's my TOP PRIORITY.

If you've not heard of an artist date here's the lowdown. It's from Julia Cameron's book The Artists Way (and basically all her other books and programmes, it's one of the cores of the practice she advocates). Every week you make a date with yourself to do a thing on your own, no kids, no partner, no friends, just you choosing to do something that'll re-fill your cup. You can go to an art gallery, a toy shop, on a walk, whatever, but you do it alone so that you don't have to worry about or please anyone but yourself.

And it's great. I've gone on slow walks, whizzed through rooms in museums, browsed bookshops and ogled art materials. I've done long leisurely dates and quick dips into things. The important thing is to do it and not to overthink it.

And so, as I post this on Valentine's Day I say to you, while you celebrate your love for the significant others in your life don't forget to love yourself too.

Seek Out Sunshine...

Not actual sunshine obviously, I live in Scotland it's January and we're in the throws of a named storm again (Ingunn this time).

Anyway, as January closes the sunshine I was looking for was signs that I'm moving in the right direction, baby steps taken, small changes made, tasks completed.

And I've done it. Some of the steps have been super-tiny, the weaniest of positive changes. Some of them have been bigger - actually finishing the first draft of a poetry pamphlet, successfully making an artists book. Resting.

Resting has been by far the hardest thing, but I've been strict with myself and said no to things and put other things aside and I've managed it. Self-care is selfish and so it should be, but I'm glad I've given myself the slow starts, the early nights and the little pampering treats that I deserve.

And so I head into February with a plan in place. I may not be moving quickly, but I am moving steadily in the direction that's right for me and for now I'm happy sticking to the plan.

Indulge In Comforts

This week I've made a conscious effort to indulge in comforts, a bit of Classic Dr Who (Five), lots of reading, a couple of cheeky coffee shop stops and some hot chocolate (okay, with marshmallows, because indulgent, remember?)

I've worked hard for the last few weeks and I've ticked off a lot of tasks that I wanted to get done, but... But I have been conscious of the fact that I also wanted to rest in January and I've been very bad at that.

Rest shouldn't feel like it's time wasted because it really isn't. Without rest it's impossible to perform at the top of your game in the worky tasks that move you forward and make the money.

So this year I'm taking rest seriously and indulging in comforts for part of every week.

What are your top indulgent comforts? And, more importantly, when did you last take some time to enjoy them?

Appreciate Progress

I was slightly beating myself up the other day, thinking how we're halfway through January (how?), and I hadn't done nearly enough...

Anyway, when I actually sat down and looked at what I had achieved I'm actually nicely on track with my plans. I've actually done much more than I thought.

I'm very much on a slow and steady track at the moment because I was very much on the all engines at full at the end of 2023 and I needed to slow down and take some time to re-energise.

So, my spirit animal at the moment is the tortoise and I shall pootle along taking tiny steps towards reaching my goals for the year and I shall leave off beating myself up about not having achieved enough until I've actually reviwed the situation and got the facts in my hands...

I'm Back

I'm back from my Christmas and New Year break and finding my feet in my new work regime. It's all feeling a bit strange as I work out the right routine for my days, but I'm getting there and enjoying the process.

I'm very aware of not putting too much pressure on myself as I seek out new ways to grow.

I'm definitely enjoying the slower pace and the quieter days and I can feel my body and my brain loosening up.

I'm spending a lot of time reading and thinking, but it's paying off as ideas pop and roll around. There are A LOT of notes being made, sometimes of just a single word, but if I don't write them down they'll disappear before I have time to process them.

There's definitely a certain amount of wintering still going on, but I can see the promise of the days and weeks to come, so all is good...

Tick Tock

Timing is everything, and so I find myself coming to the mid-point of the temporary job I took to bridge the gap between quitting my last permanent job and taking some time to devote to my creative practice with nothing else in the way.

Since leaving my last job and the management role that was sapping way too much of my energy, I've been building up the time I'm spending on my creative practice day by day. I'm curled up on the sofa at home happily typing this into my phone. This in itself is a new creative experience for me because I usually draft everything longhand into notebooks before I transfer it to a computer, but I'm giving myself a new experience and I try to take advantage of little pockets of time to use for creativity (I'm listening to the oven heat up and am halfway through preparing a toad in the hole).

Having uninterrupted creative time is such a luxury and I can't wait to see where my creative adventures will take me. I'm setting no agenda and putting no pressure on myself or my abilities, I'm just going to go with the flow and see where I end up...

Let It Go

I quit my job the other week, a perfectly nice job that had given me some interesting opportunities... But... It was a real vampire of a thing and it had begun to sap my energy and my ability to do anything other than it. It was weighing me down. So, I quit. I've walked away from a management job, taken a cut in pay and taken on a temporary job for over the Christmas period because it was what I needed to do. And it was what I wanted to do.

My Line Manager was really surprised when I handed in my notice (probably not helped by the fact that I emailed her from a long-planned holiday with my resignation), she said it all seemed rather sudden. It really wasn't, not for me at least, it was exactly the right time for me. A terrible time for the company I worked for probably, leaving them at one of their busiest periods of the year, but that's just one of those things, there would probably never have been an optimal time to leave.

I knew I'd made the right decision, when I immediately felt the weight drop from my shoulders and the mist start disappearing from my mind. I started to sleep better and feel lighter and have the space in my head to be able to write and create.

I have no idea what comes next in the New Year and I've deliberately given myself some time when I'm not putting pressure on myself to do anything other than see what happens (and yes, I'm incredibly lucky that I can afford to do that, but I've been saving for a while so that I have a bit of a buffer).

And so I let it go in order to pick up something else. I'm excited to see what the something else is...

Always Curious

I've always been curious, wanting to find things out and to work out how to make things. Now that doesn't mean I'm very good at everything I try (playing the harmonica and crochet being two of the things that have out foxed me so far).

Yesterday I did a slow walk for the first time in absolutely ages. You basically walk vvvveeeeerrrrryyyyy ssssllllloooowwwwllllyyyy and notice things; that might be the sounds or the smells or the colours or shapes in an environment.

Me, I was interested in the footprints on the damp ground. I took lots of photos of these footprints overlapping at crossing points on the pavement. And my mind drifted to think about how these footprints were forming connections with each other and also how they were leaving a mark on the environment they passed through. Yes, the marks will fade as the water evaporates, but these people will still have left part of themselves in the bits of the city they've walked through. I find that intriguing. Why were those footsteps there? How did they experience the city? What have they taken with them from the experience and how will it change them?

I'm about to embark on a new adventure, I'm starting a temp job for over the Christmas period. I like this kind of experience, it's somewhere that I've never worked before, with a group of people I don't know and I know it's only going to last a few weeks. I'm still excited and curious, because I have no idea where this new adventure will take me... It'll be fun to find out though.

Connections

I've been thinking about the connections I've made in my life recently and how they feed off each other and me and bring ideas and questions to the surface.

This all came about, I think, because I left a job last week, at a time of my own choosing and very much with the intention of giving myself more time, energy and headspace to develop some of the ideas that are rolling around in my brain.

And the job that I left has a connection to this next step, because without it I wouldn't have been able to save the money to take the leap to take the time to have more time/headspace...

I've taken a temp job for a couple of weeks, but beyond the first week of January I'm a free agent and I'm happy with that.

Having let go of management responsibilities last week I already feel like I have more space in my brain for creativity, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

I'm excited to see where a bit more headspace will take me...

Turn Left...

Sometimes you make a choice that other people don't understand. Sometimes other people see the choices you make as a bit of a curve ball simply because they don't see the move you make coming, simply because they don't know everything about you.

Sometimes you have to be selfish and do the thing that's right for you at the time that's right for you. That doesn't mean that there's necessarily anything wrong with the thing you don't choose, it just means that the choice you do make is more right.

And you don't have to explain or justify the choice either, you just have to hope that people will understand that the choice you've made isn't about them, it's about you and if they find it difficult to accept then that's their problem.
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