I cut out and kept this list of questions written by Matt Haig in January 2016.
I came across this today and thought that they were a useful prompt for me as I develop my new writing habit.
How many times have I checked my phone today when I didn’t need to? Too many times. This phone is going out of my study tomorrow.
Have I learned something new today? Yes, my lovely boy showed me a wonderful video all about Casper David Friedrich. A 19th -century German Romantic landscape painter.
Have I helped someone? Yes, I took my sister to work today which saved her a trip on the train.
Have I eaten something that’s given me pleasure? Absolutely, I ate a piece of Love cake, which melted in my mouth, with memories of making it for my mum.
Am I getting the right amount of sleep and if not, is it affecting my mood? I woke early today sadly with a nightmare. Hoping to have better dreams tonight.
Have I spent longer facing a screen than outdoors with my loved ones? I have been outdoors quite a bit today, visiting a friend and walking the dog. I have spent time in front of a screen but with my family whilst watching a favourite family programme.
How much time have I spent procrastinating or doing pointless work, and how can I avoid doing it tomorrow? I did the piece of work I set out to do today. But it did take me a lot longer than necessary. Tomorrow, my forest app will be put into action. Maybe I can plant a tree or two?
As I walked, I had to step around the bodies. Standing still, faces bathed in a golden glow. Cameras out pointing to the sky. I glanced up, the clouds high, puffy and white against a deep blue sky. That blue sky that I love so much accompanied me on my journey.
I walked on a little further, crossing the busy junction continuing to dodge the statue bodies all looking up. Men, women, teenagers, workers and shoppers on one of the busiest junctions in London at Oxford Street yesterday the 6th October late afternoon.
As I crossed the road I stopped in the middle and turned and looked to my right.
I too was then transfixed by the wonder in the sky. My fellow humans had been sending me messages that I for a short time had ignored. ‘Sam, stop, pause and lookup.’
They were drawn to the energy from the evening sun as it lit like a beacon, low in the sky. We were all taking part in a collective moment of awe and wonder. The sunlight lit the busyness of the street, bouncing off the tops of buses and the bonnets of the cars and taxis. Each person knew that this was something special.
As I took in the view, felt the sun on my face, I too pulled out my camera to capture the glory of that moment. Then put away my phone and stood #savouring the moment.
Drinking it in, I could feel the sunshine warming my bones, topping up my energy. I had a moment when I wanted to talk to someone near me, but not wanting to break into the reverie they were experiencing, I stood still and shared the joy that they were feeling. There was a palpable sense of joy all around me.
As I crossed over and continued on my way, there was a lightness in my step and a smile on my face and the faces of others who had savoured the beauty that evening.
This moment fitted so beautifully into my week as on Tuesday I had led my late summer/early autumn masterclass which was all about savouring. The power of savouring that I experienced yesterday was pretty special.
So join me and use this hashtag and share moments of #savouring this autumn. I would love to share those moments with you.
I am interested in finding out how you are savouring life right now.
I joined a wonderful Kitchen table creative writing group last week. We had 3 prompts and had to write to a time limit of about 12 minutes.
This first piece was prompted by a recording of a leaf blower. I enjoyed writing this. I promise I am not a noisy neighbour!
“ Pete, this is it! You have used that leaf blower so many times this week. There cannot possibly be any leaves left in your garden to blow!
What is it with the blower, can’t you use a rake or a brush?
Yesterday, my book club friends came around and we had just fired up the BBQ and you started.
The day before we were all trying to enjoy the paddling pool and the waterslide and you started.
Sunday, when we were having a late night drinks party to watch the perseid meteor shower you started.
What exactly is going on?” screamed Sam over the hedge.
“Don’t stop there Sam, what about Saturday, when you had a mini sports day in your garden to celebrate the Olympics?
Or Friday when your teens had their very own rave till 3a.m.
Or maybe last Monday when your whole extended family came out to celebrate ‘freedom day’. There’s plenty more I could go on.” retorted Pete.
“What the heck”, Sam replied. “Are you trying to tell me that I make too much noise, that I’m the one who is at fault? That my social engagements are too much for you?” shouted Sam who had turned a lovely shade of puce.
“Yes, they are,” replied Pete.
And just too bloody noisy!”
That was it, Sam turned on her heel and stomped indoors. Her blood boiled just a little bit more as Pete switched on his leaf blower.
12 minutes, written on the prompt of anger and to the noise of a leaf blower.
I like the practice of writing non stop for a period of time. It allows my brain and body to get into sync and let the ideas flow.
This piece was written whilst I sat in the National Portrait Gallery in February 2017. I pulled this one out as I remember the day very well. It was cold out but warm inside. The art attendants were almost snoozing in the heat of the building. There a few people in the gallery, out of tourist season (when there was a tourist season) a couple trailed around giving a cursory glance at the paintings. I sat quietly, put pen to paper and let the thoughts flow onto the paper.
Here’s my wandering thoughts captured in time that day ending with a short poem.
Dark, grim, determined and resolute. Sure of what they know, what they do and what they have done.
Averted eyes, cast down make me think that they are scared to look the artist squarely in the eye as they are afraid that the artist will see into their deepest desires.
Was this the fashion of the time to avert our gaze? Is looking straight forward a challenge, a risk too far? By looking ahead you could be caught off guard, hit from behind by a glancing blow, a push or a shove.
This is how it feels now in this world. The feeling around makes you want to hunker down, hid away from the darkness which is rising in the west and is setting in the east. By looking down away from the challenges you do not see what changes you can make?
Who are these people before me/ The political thinkers of their time quickly forgotten except for the oil paintings which hang in this gallery for all to see.
Aahh, now I read the labels and see that they are not politicians but poets and philosophers.
Algernon Charles Swinbourne 1837 – 1909 Friend of rossetti and poet, a young man in the portrait with red curls and a piercing stare into the future, holding his head up and looking out. As a poet who wants to see the world and be ahead of the game.
John Stuart Mill – Philosopher 1817 – 1904 Looking down, an old man with thinning hair. His eyes almost black and downward looking. His mouth in a set determined line.
What did he think about when he died? What were the first thoughts that came to his head? When did he realise that the world was a bigger place than his family? did he just sit and think, learn and read or did he work in another way to earn his keep? What seasons did he prefer and why? Did he ever learn to swim. What would he make of the world today? Would he want to follow another path? Who knows, there are no right answers for time has taken both poet and philosopher to a different place. Poet and Philosopher together placed near but not near in thoughts and ideas, wealth and power, age, youth and fitness of thoughts, deeds and works.
I wrote this in a short burst in my writing group time in 2018. Now as I train to be a somatic coach, I recognise the beginnings of focusing and looking inwards. In the chapter – Writing as a practice, Goldberg talks about the need to practice whether you want to or not.
I’m taking this to heart and have built in a half an hour each day to write.
Only writing is writing.
Mind over matter
So many parts of me, all connected by sinew, tendon, cartilage, nerves and more. I ignore my body until it starts to hurt when it puts on the brakes and calls me out. Stop, stop, stop – a pounding migraine in my head, the throbbing pain in my neck and the sharp stabbing pain in my knee. Up until the pain arrives, I feel like I am invincible, bounding through time and space. Moving this way and that, tramping footpath, field and verge. I am oblivious to the stresses and strains I place on the tendons, nerves, cartilage and more.
As the red lights flash, I know the time has come to stop, take stock and be aware of the parts of me which make me whole. To get back to green, I use my mind.
It is a quiet pause in the day to slow down my breath, and be aware of everything around me – a chance to still my thoughts and focus on the senses which help navigate the days and nights.
My sight moves into the foreground, focussing on my palms, noticing the lines on the creases in my fingers, the curve of my nail and the joints in my hands.
My ears tune out the immediate sounds all around, hearing once again in the distance the blackbird on the fence as he calls to his mate, urging her to take care.
The smell of the washing as it hangs on the landing mingles with the fragrance of shower gel and deodorant … the morning smells of get up and go. And the taste of toothpaste in my mouth; the minty freshness which I inhale as I breathe deeply.
And my sixth sense suddenly switches on. I am aware of the energy surrounding me and in me which is all powerful and awe-inspiring.
As my body stills and quietens, I begin to listen to the shouts and calls from within. The knots in my shoulder begin to unwind as each breath loosens the tendons, relaxing the clenched muscles which in turn take oxygen to my furrowed brow.
I straighten and lengthen my calf, allowing my knee to relax and slip back into a more comfortable easy state. The release of pain cheers my brain and my breath quickens. As I bring myself back into the here and now, I use the sinew, tendon, cartilage, nerves and more and take a step forward into the day.