My Writing Diary – March 2019

I’ve decided to start a new feature here on the blog – my Writing Diary. I hope to post updates regularly…probably quarterly.

Helen Redfern’s weekly writing vlogs on YouTube have inspired me. I really enjoy seeing the insights into her writing projects as well as picking up tips. I’m now on the lookout for similar updates (videos or blog post) from other writers. If you know of any please do let me know.

I plan to share what I am working on, tools I’m using, what I’ve been learning and my writing goals.

My Writing Diary

My Writing Diary – March 2019

WIPs (Work in Progress)

  • Memoir – I’ve been working on a memoir based around the 11 years we spent in New Zealand, why we went in the first place and coming back to the UK. I started it just after we returned in August 2016. It’s gone in fits and starts so far. My word count is at 55,000 but I’ve been really struggling to revise it and move it on. Luckily I found a book that has helped (see Tools below). I am currently working on the outline and I’m planning to start again – adding in the relevant sections I’ve already written as I go.
  • FTG30 – I’ve been busy working on a month-long series for the blog and Instagram – Find the Good in Thirty Days. Each day will have a short activity to do in terms of feeling happier and/or healthier. I’ve really enjoyed planning out each day and the themes across the week. I’ll share more about this next week in advance of FTG30 starting on 1st April.
  • Weekly blog posts – I’ve been aiming to post to the blog weekly since the new year and it’s working well. This will increase a little in April with FTG30 (I am planning to post every 5 days).
  • Monthly FTGE newsletter – I aim to send the FTGE newsletter in the middle of each month. In this I share what I’ve been up to and an inspirational quote among other things. (Subscribers receive a free workbook to help Find the Good Everyday – if you’re keen to sign up you can do so here).

What I’ve Been Learning About Writing

  • Monthly Writers Group – I joined a local writers group last Autumn and try to get along each month. The usual format is a timed writing challenge (with a prompt) and then we take it in turns to share what we’ve come up with. It pushes me out of my comfort zone – with the prompts themselves and the sharing of my work and I enjoy listening to what the other members come up with.
  • Fast Draft Your Memoir – I want to read more books about the craft of writing. My most recent read was this one which I shared in my latest Reading Rituals post. This book is really helping me move my memoir forward.
  • I’d also love to add some courses (online or in person) into my learning throughout this year.

Tools I’m Using

  • Sharpies, post-it notes and index cards – these are my old faithfuls…I’ve used them for years for any sort of planning projects or studying. I’ve been using them a lot lately in the outline for my memoir. I also use little flag post-it’s to plan out my blog posts in my blog planner. I love the flexibility of switching things around plus bringing in my love of stationery always makes something more fun!
  • Scrivener – I’ve just downloaded Scrivener and signed up for the 30 day trial. It’s been recommended by a few people lately so I thought I’d give it a go. It’s writing software that helps you keep everything to do with your writing project (the research, photos, supporting documents, the outline and the actual draft) in one place. I’ve watched a few youtube tutorials and I’m working my way through the in-software tutorial as well. So far, so good – I’ve put my FTG30 project in there to work on as a practice run and hope to use it for my memoir new draft too.

Goals for Quarter 2

Looking forward to April, May and June I’d like to…

  • Participate in Camp NaNoWriMo (during April) to get a good chunk of the new draft of the memoir written
  • Get the new draft of the memoir completed and start revisions
  • Release FTG30 into the wild
  • Blog at least weekly and send monthly newsletters
  • Read at least one book on writing
  • Start looking at courses for writers for later in the year

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So that’s the first installment of My Writing Diary. If you’re a writer I’d love to know what you’re working on right now or if you have any useful tips to share!

Fast-Draft Your Memoir by Rachael Herron (Reading Rituals)

I have a new favourite writing book. It is Fast-Draft Your Memoir (Write Your Life Story in 45 Hours) by Rachael Herron. And I’d recommend it to anyone interested in writing – even if you’re not writing memoir.

Fast-Draft Your Memoir (Write Your Life Story in 45 Hours) by Rachael Herron - Reading Rituals

Fast-Draft Your Memoir by Rachael Herron

I really do love this book. I feel like I’ve learnt alot from it and it has already helped me to move my memoir (& my writing) forward.

I’ve been working on a memoir since 2016. It’s about emigrating to New Zealand, our life there and then the decision to return to the UK. I’ve got a chunk of words (over 50k!) sitting in a document and I got stuck. I didn’t know how to shape the spill of words (and emotion) into something that people would want to read. So I procrastinated. A lot. But I still felt hope that one day I’d be able to wrestle the story that’s inside of me (and partly typed out already) into something worth reading.

Reading Fast-Draft Your Memoir has been like a breath of fresh air. I feel inspired and motivated to carry on and finish getting my story out onto the page.

The book is jam-packed with wonderful pep talks, honesty about the hard bits of writing and lots of tips for planning, writing and revising your work.

The chapters on planning and revision are practical and give lots of advice and steps to work your way through. There are exercises all the way through the book that help to build a story, get it down on paper and then polish it up ready to shine.

I know this post sounds gushy but I really can’t help it. I know this book has changed the way I look at writing and how I will plan and revise my work going forward.

If you’re interested in writing – read this book!

More Information

Rachael’s website is filled with useful information for writers and memorists and is worth a visit.

Rachael also hosts a podcast called “How Do You Write?” and I’ve been gradually watching/listening to some of these whilst also reading Fast-Draft Your Memoir. She’s featured the revisions chapter on one of the podcasts so you could start there.

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Reading Rituals

Reading Rituals is my monthly post about all things reading. I usually discuss books I’ve been reading and talk about my reading habits. Click here to see all of my Reading Rituals posts.

2018 Statistics

I love a review and a chance for reflection so today I’m sharing some of my 2018 statistics.

Before I get started – Happy New Year to you! I hope that 2019 is treating you well so far. School went back this week and I am slowly trying to get into a routine that will enable me to work towards my goals.

2018 Statistics

2018 Statistics – Find the Good Everyday

Blog Posts Published – 62 (go me!)

Find the Good Everyday Newsletters Sent – 6

Instagram Posts Published – 222 (do you follow me on IG?)

Favourite Blog Posts I wrote in 2018 –

2018 Statistics – Running & Yoga

Total Kilometres Run – 359km (since May). This includes some walking as part of C25k and runs.

Number of Park Runs completed – 10! I reached my goal!

Times I said I didn’t enjoy running but did it anyway – a lot!

Number of Days I Practised Yoga – 365 (so that’s 730 since 1st January 2017)

Total Time Practising Yoga – 95 hours and 13 mins (averaging 15.65 mins per day)

Favourite Yoga experience – Yoga With Adriene LIVE at Ally Pally in London in September (you can read about my experience here)

Yoga Practices I Repeated Often (these are all available for free on Yoga with Adriene’s YouTube channel) –

2018 Statistics – Writing

Times I tidied my desk only for it to get messy again – countless!

Writing Groups Joined – 1

Writing Group Meetings Attended – 4 (held monthly)

Words Written – no idea! But a fair few….I want more in 2019

Notebooks Started – many

Notebooks Finished – almost as many

2018 Statistics – Self Care

Number of days I Recorded a Self Care activity – 365. Some of these were chosen retrospectively rather than planned in advance and that’s okay!

Number of Early Nights Tracked as a Self Care Activity – 17 (I thought this was more popular which is why I decided to count it!)

Favourite Self Care Activities this year included…

  • Reflexology
  • Cinema Dates with husband and friends
  • Lay-ins, naps and early nights
  • Making the time to watch my favourite TV shows (like Great British Bake-Off and Call the Midwife)
  • Special yoga activities (like live yoga and taking part in online retreats and series)

2018 Statistics – Miscellany

Times I Left the Country – once, for a week-long family holiday in Portugal

Times I coloured my Hair Purple – three times, initially in October and “top-ups” in November and December.

Number of Real Christmas Tree’s Won – one (I named him Colin) at the School Bazaar in the Raffle!

Cute dogs I met – so many and I want to meet MORE in 2019!

Books read – I didn’t keep track but I intend to next year!

Instagram accounts I found inspiring in 2018 (some new discoveries and some I’ve followed for a while) –

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I’m sure I could keep this random 2018 statistics list going forever – it’s a fun activity! Why not give it a go? What would make your list of 2018 statistics? And what do you do to reflect and review the year that’s been?

60 Day Goals / What I want to Achieve before 2019

A friend on Instagram talked about and posted her 60 day goals last week and it got me thinking. She explained that between 2nd November to 31st December is 60 days. And she was setting goals through to the end of the year.

This really resonated with me. 60 days felt long enough that I could make some progress but not so long for me to become overwhelmed. It’s also a crazy time of the year for social engagements and being “busy”. I love the idea of re-focusing on goals to ensure they don’t fall completely by the wayside until 2019!

I feel like I’ve gone a bit off course with some of the goals I set at the start of the year. My weight loss has gone backwards over the year and I’m keen to get back on track. I’ve not been dedicating enough time to writing and I want to make sure I fit it in amongst everything else going on as we head towards Christmas and the end of the year.

I was a day late getting started but I’m still calling them 60 day goals!

60 Day Goals

60 Day Goals / What I want to Achieve before 2019

Health & Fitness
  1. Reach 10 parks runs
    Saturday 3rd November was my 5th so 5 more to go!
  2. Aim to run 2-3 times per week
  3. Follow the Slimming World plan MOST of the time
    Allowing for Planned off-plan days – I have some social things planned where I intend to make the most out of them and enjoy them. But I won’t use that as an excuse to go completely off track!
Writing
  1. Work on my New Zealand story
    I want to average 30 minutes 5 times per week (or at least 2.5 hours each week).
  2. Blog at least once weekly and send 2 Find the Good Everyday newsletters
    It’s been a while since I sent the newsletter and I’m keen to get back in the routine. I’d love it if you signed up!
Self Care
  1. Yoga everyday
    I want to average more than 15 minutes per day
  2. Embrace and enjoy the season
    I’m thinking cozy nights, twinkle lights and feeling festive. This is my most “wooly” goal – it’s a reminder to not get so caught up in everything else that I don’t notice the magic of the season. 

I’m hoping these re-focused goals will provide the inspiration I need to finish the year strong. I’ve categorised them into my 3 main goals for the year but to be honest they all contribute to each other. For example: when I eat well and exercise I am more inclined to be focused on writing and usually come up with lots of ideas when I’m outside walking or running!

Are you joining in?

If you’re keen to join in why not start today? Or even on the 12th November when it will be 50 days until the end of 2018? I’d love to hear what your focus is for the remainder of the year.

What can you start or continue doing today that will make you happy on 31st December?

I’m planning to report back at the end of the year and let you know how I got on with these.

Wishing you all the best for the rest of 2018! And Good Luck with your goals!

Happy Mail Ideas for World Post Day

Happy World Post Day! Did you know that 9th October is World Post Day? I didn’t until last week when it popped up in an online group I’m in. To celebrate I want to share some Happy Mail Ideas and Tips with you.

Happy Mail Ideas for World Post Day

What is Happy Mail?

Happy Mail, to me, means sending something to someone designed to make them smile. Perhaps an unexpected letter to a friend, a postcard to family from a trip away, an envelope of little items to make the recipient happy!

I love sending happy mail and receiving it too! I’m a long time fan of proper thank you notes and I still enjoy sending paper Christmas cards each year. Both of these and other stationery related things appear on my 100 things that make me happy list!

Sending Happy Mail can be a great Random Act of Kindness (Kindness Day is coming up on 13th November).

Happy Mail Ideas

Disclaimer – please check the mail/post regulations for the country you are posting from and to before sending any of these items.

Why not send…?
  • Handwritten letter
  • Postcard
  • Bookmark (handmade or shop bought)
  • Photos
  • Favourite quote
  • Some stickers
  • Teabag (ideally individually wrapped!)
  • Small selection of sticky notes (a few rather than a thick pad)
  • Washi Tape (wrap it around a piece of card to keep it flat – rather than sending whole rolls)
  • Child’s painting or drawing (family members usually love these and it’s handy when you’re running out of room on the fridge!)
  • Ephemera
  • Article that the recipient will find interesting
  • Blank notelets for the recipient to send their own happy mail
  • Favourite recipe
  • Small pack of seeds
  • Poem (written by you or a well-known poet)

I’ve been lucky enough to receive some of the items above and happily sent some too!

Happy Mail Tips

  • Check out the cost of postage to your destination and plan your Happy Mail accordingly.
    Today I’ve posted something to Ireland for a World Post Day Swap. I checked Royal Mail to see how much a standard letter would cost (currently £1.55) and the dimensions and weight limits before I chose what to send.
  • Look for interesting stamps rather than printed postage labels.
    If you ask at the post counter they often have folders of stamps for different amounts. I’m hoping to get some special Harry Potter stamps when they come out soon!
  • Decorate your envelopes.
    Try some fancy lettering and perhaps add some washi tape or stickers to make the recipient smile as soon as they see your post.
  • Don’t overfill the envelope.
    A couple of small items or sometimes just a handwritten letter could be enough to make someone’s day.
  • Check out the bargain shops for cute and cost-effective stationery.
    Poundland currently have some lovely Winnie the Pooh stationery in.
  • Join a Swap.
    If you are keen to send and receive some happy mail why not join a swap? I’m part of a few groups on Facebook and there are often swaps happening. Stationery/Pen Pal groups are usually the best ones to look for.

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Do you like sending happy mail? Have you ever received any? Why not post a little something this week to celebrate World Post Day?

Inspiring Women – Happy International Women’s Day!

Today I want to share a list of inspiring women, a quote from each of them and what I think they all have in common. I have talked about most of these women on the blog before. Each of them has a message or has shared words that have really resonated with me.

This list doesn’t include the wonderfully inspiring women I am lucky to call family and friends and know in real life. If I could send flowers to each of them I would!

Happy International Women’s Day!

Inspiring Women

Inspiring Women

(note: these are in no particular order)

Adriene Mishler

“Present and Awake. Love yourself. Love your neighbour. Move from a place of connect. Present and Awake. May all Beings be Free and Happy.”

Adriene created Yoga with Adriene and offers free yoga for all via her YouTube channel. She comes across to me as something of an old soul – full of wisdom to share. I enjoy her sense of humour and think she is trying to help as many people as possible through sharing her love of Yoga.

I’ve previously written about Adriene in How I’m Building a Daily Yoga Practice and True – a 30 day Yoga journey.

Elise Joy

“I’d say we were “out of the woods,” but I have begun to realize that parenting is “The Woods.” The object is not to get out.” (quote source)

I read Elise’s blog years ago and discovered her through a love of scrapbooking. She shared stories on her blog as she moved around the US, got married and became a parent. I loved her honesty of her struggles with early motherhood and wish I could have been that eloquent with a newborn. She no longer regularly blogs but she has a podcast and shares her current projects on Instagram.

Elizabeth Gilbert

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”

I think I came by Elizabeth Gilbert in a strange order. I watched the movie Eat Pray Love. Then I read Big Magic and next I read Eat Pray Love followed by Committed. I love her style of writing. Her ‘Dear Ones’ letters (she shares on social media) are always emotive. I love that she is open about how life goes on past the happily ever after and all the things that come after it.

Julia Cameron

“In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to right now. The precise moment I was in was always the only safe place for me.”

The Artist’s Way has been a fantastic workbook for me. I am now working my way through Vein of Gold. I enjoy Julia Cameron’s writing and story telling. Some of her essays (particularly the one the quote above is from) really resonate with me and help me understand more about pain and grief.

I’ve mentioned Julia Cameron previously when I shared my thoughts on The Artist’s Way and also talked about my Vein of Gold Pilgrimage

Gretchen Rubin

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

I love  Gretchen’s books: The Happiness Project, Happier at Home and Better than Before. I truly believe that Better than Before has changed my life and I was excited to meet Gretchen briefly after listening her speak in London a few months ago.

I’ve written a blog post all about Better then Before and how I think it changed my life.

J.K. Rowling

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

She wrote Harry Potter. Which has so much to teach us about light and dark, integrity and growing up. J.K. Rowling has reportedly given a lot of her earnings away to charity. And she’s shared difficulties in her past that she has overcome.

A J.K Rowling quote features on my Reading Rituals Introduction.

So what do these inspiring women all have in common?

They:

  • Are creators
  • Are writers
  • Share their messages to help others
  • All earn money doing what they love
  • Are passionate about what they do
  • Have all shared personal battles and how they got through them
  • Strike me as being wise
  • All have a wonderful way of using words

There are countless other women I could add to this list but these are the ones I want to share today.

Who are your Inspiring Women?

My Vein of Gold Pilgrimage – one month in

Vein of Gold is a book by Julia Cameron which follows on from The Artist’s Way.

I worked through the Artist’s Way in early 2017. I feel I learnt so much from The Artist’s Way that I wanted to continue with the work I’d started.

The tagline for Vein of Gold is “a journey to your creative heart” and Cameron likens it to a pilgrimage. I’m part of an online cluster group working through the book and it’s activities. It’s a 30 week process and fairly involved. We started on the 7th January.

Vein of Gold Pilgrimage 1

Getting Started

The first week – which was familiarising ourselves with the main tools of our Vein of Gold pilgrimage was a breeze. I kept up with the group discussions, did my morning pages every day, started walking daily and took my artist’s date. It all felt so right and I was looking forward to the rest of the pilgrimage.

“As you begin to pay attention to your own stories and what they say about you, you will enter into the exciting process of becoming, as you should be, the author of your own life, the creator of your own possibilities.” – Mandy Aftel 

Stumbling Block

Enter week 2 when we started to read about Narrative Time Lines and writing our own. This involves splitting your life up into 5 year segments and spending time writing down your memories for each section.

Now as a previous scrapbooker and someone that is attempting to write a memoir you’d think this would be right up my alley wouldn’t you? I certainly did. So when I hit the stumbling block of procrastination I hit it hard. All good work in all areas of my life were thrown up in the air and allowed to fall carelessly at my feet. I got sick…stopped going to bed at a sensible time…stopped wanting to be an adult. When I resist something I can be as stubborn as a 2 year old!

It’s been tough. I’ve had to be gentle with myself. How interesting that just before this part of the book Julia Cameron asks you to make a creativity commitment to yourself. Part of which states:

“I, Katie, acknowledging a responsibility for spiritual balance, as the tools of this book raise and resolve issues and emotions, commit myself to adequate sleep, nutrition, exercise, solitude, and personal compassion.”

She knows. The woman knows.

Following the Commitment Contract she lists some Guidelines. Number 1 being:

“Be self-loving. Eat and sleep. Watch for overuse of caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and drugs. Any of these can block and impede your progress.”

That’s wisdom for life in general right there. You might argue that it’s common sense but it’s amazing how it’s so easy to forget in amongst all the procrastination.

I slowed down over January. Tried to stop overcommitting myself. Allowed myself some breathing room. Some of which involved laying on the couch under a blanket, watching the grey clouds blow by and day dreaming. I don’t often allow myself that privilege. But I welcomed it.

Raking up the past – is it good or bad?

It’s hard. Hard to come up against the things I’m not so proud of, remember the times when I was sad and angry and out of my depth. But it’s also uplifting.

I’m starting to see common threads – tenacity (not something I’d necessarily use to describe myself), grace (it still feels a little bit of a misnomer) and a mass of contradictions. It feels a little like I’m sat outside the snow-globe of my life peering in – waiting for the snow to settle to properly see what’s there.

I’ve slowly worked through my Time Line. Every couple of days I set a timer for 30 minutes and wrote all I could remember about a specific 5 year period of my life. Memories are such strange things. My mind has unusual links. I don’t remember things chronologically. It’s strange remembering things in these weird out-of-time orders and trying to work out what connects them all.

It’s been enlightening and I think it will continue to be so. I’m not finished. I need to go back and re-read, add anything else that comes up. And I think the next part of this journey is digging a little deeper in some areas.

One Month Into My Vein of Gold Pilgrimage

I think that this Narrative Time Line work is going to be so beneficial for my memoir and moving it onwards. It’s encouraging me to look at my life from different angles. I think looking back through my whole life will help me find insight to the time frame I am writing about.

Where to from here?

I shall carry on. It’s a long journey. I’ll take breaks when they are needed and I will try to constantly remind myself to take care of myself. I feel like it’s leading me somewhere. Helping me grow spiritually and holistically.

I hope to provide some other updates of my Vein of Gold pilgrimage as I work through it.

Have you read the Vein of Gold? Have you worked through it? I’d love to hear your insights.

How I want 2018 to look

2018 is here!

I want to talk about how I want 2018 to look. This is my second proper day back to routine after the Christmas break. Yesterday was spent re-filling the fruit bowl and fridge, doing laundry and other fun jobs! So although we are on the 5th day of the new year it feels a little like it’s just starting for me now!

The end of 2017 has been and gone. 12 months passed. And another 12 new months are ready ahead of us. I love the magic of this time of year. The anticipation of what this new year will bring. And at the same time looking back on the previous year.

Over December I worked my way through the rest of the Boho Berry Year End Review and I thought I’d share some more of the prompts with you. Previously I’ve shared Money and Time Well Spent in 2017 and what I will Start, Continue and Stop Doing in 2018. I’ve also shared my Word for the Year for 2018.

Taking part in the challenge really helped me get clearer on what I achieved in 2017 and how I want 2018 to look. And I’m excited to get started!

Setting Intentions for 2018

I used this prompt to come up with some short, snappy phrases that will help keep me on track through 2018. Each one helps me see how I want 2018 to look. They are not goals as such, more guiding words. I am planning to display them somewhere I will see them every day as a visual reminder.

  • Be Open
  • Natural Choices (where possible)
  • Keep it Simple
  • Create
  • Stay True to Myself

2018 will feel successful if I…

This was a simple list to come up with. These are the things I want to rock this year! I intend to write about my progress in these areas through the year.

  • reach my target at Slimming World
  • earn money as a writer
  • take good care of myself and my family
  • keep learning and growing

Top 3 Goals for 2018

The prompt above flowed well into this one. Learning and growing is important to me as well and I hope that achieving each of these goals will help me with that. Behind these 3 goals I will be creating SMART goals which are more measurable and specific.

  1. Be a Writer (& ideally get paid!)
  2. Reach target weight/size
  3. Take care of myself and my family

A new year, a new Bullet Journal

I’ve also set up a new Bullet Journal for 2018 and have been steadily working on setting it up to capture everything I need it to. I’ve created a one-pager to display how I want 2018 to look.

2018 1 pager

As you can see – it displays my word of the year, my values, my core desire feelings and my top 3 goals for the year.  I’m hoping this will be a visual reminder to keep on track with my goals. Getting it all on one page helps me see what the priorities are.

I have also kept a page near the start of my journal for my word of the year – I plan to use it to write down some of the quotes and phrases I shared in my blog post.

What now?

I’m going to spend this month working on my goals and my intentions for 2018 in more detail. I have a couple of goal workbooks to work on and hope to share more about them as I work with them.

I’ve set myself goals for January which fit into my top 3 goals – one of which is more planning for 2018!

I’m excited for what this year will bring – I am OPEN to possibilities!

Wishing you all the very best for 2018! And if you need some tips for building daily routines and good habits come back on Monday as I’ll be sharing my best tips!

My 2017 NaNoWriMo Takeaways

So the month of November is almost done and I have managed to complete my goal of writing a 50,000 word novel as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I’m ecstatic to have completed the task! I hit 50,000 words on Monday 27th November and managed to tie up the end of my story shortly afterwards. My final verified word count is 50,177. I really enjoyed taking part in NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo 2017 Winner Badge

Building a story

I did some initial story planning but when I sat down to start on the 1st November I had no idea where the story would take me. It’s a little crazy to think I’m now here a month later with a completed novel (it needs a LOT of editing but all in good time! Let’s celebrate the word count first!). I even have the possibility of 2 other spin off stories from characters in this book. My plan right now is to relax and enjoy Christmas but I hope to return to my story early next year to read it and start editing.

My 2017 NaNoWriMo Takeaways

My 2017
 NaNoWriMo
Takeaways

I thought I’d share some NaNoWriMo Takeaways from my second NaNo win.

1 Embrace Procrastination

I am such a good procrastinator. I could win an award in it. This month I did find myself procrastinating rather than sitting down to write. Luckily I usually ended up doing something else productive when I wasn’t writing. This resulted in getting a lot of other stuff done that I’ve been putting off for a while.

Over the course of November I cleared out and moved around my little boys room. I “spring” cleaned our bedroom and the bathroom. I finally dropped off some stuff to the charity shop that had formed a pile in the corner of our bedroom. And I ordered our Christmas card and started the Christmas shopping. I found that doing these tasks and keeping my hands busy often meant I could think about my story and sometimes I was even able to figure out where I was going next.

2 Try and get a head start

I made the decision before November rolled around that I wanted to try and get ahead of myself with my wordcount. I cleared my diary as much as possible that first week in November and I aimed for 2,000 – 2,500 words a day. This meant that I had a few days grace if anything happened during the course of the month. Luckily I was able to stay ahead of the suggested word count all the way through until I finished and won NaNoWriMo on 27th November.

3 Try and meet some other NaNoWriMo’s

I was determined to be social so I joined my local region on the NaNoWriMo website and also the local group’s Facebook page. I committed to attending at least one write in and ended up attending 4. As an introvert I am not a fan of meeting new people but I used some daring to force myself to do it. I met some lovely local writers and my times at the write-in’s were probably my most productive in terms of word count. On the third write-in I managed 3300 words in just under 2 hours. I was also chuffed that attending a local write-in got me a NaNo sticker which is now proudly displayed on my laptop cover!

4 Switch it up

I often find myself being a creature of habit. Sometimes this works in my favour and other times it doesn’t! When I found myself struggling with my story I ended up switching things up a bit. Rather than write in the morning I tried the afternoons and evenings. I also tried writing in different locations – at my desk, sitting on the couch, even on my bed.

5 Use Rewards

They work for me. As a Slimming World member I already knew I loved shiny stickers and certificates. I proudly displayed the NaNoWriMo Participant image as my Facebook profile during the month and I come up with a list of rewards for writing milestone. My rewards were:

  • 10k – Buy my favourite hand cream (done!)
  • 20k – Order a book (to read in December)…I’ve ordered Vein of Gold which is the follow up to The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
  • 30k – Buy a new dress/outfit (done!)
  • 40k – see Paddington 2 movie (all booked to see with a friend later this week)
  • 50k – book a beauty treatment (to do!)
6 Don’t let up on the self care

I made sure to continue setting myself daily self nurturing activities throughout NaNoWriMo. Time got tighter with the added writing time so some days I scheduled shorter activities. I even used the NaNo Write in’s as my daily self nurturing activities the 4 times I attended – I knew that attending them meant I would finish my writing early that day freeing up time later.

7 Use small snippets of time

I realised this November that I don’t need hours of free time to sit down and write. I can get a decent chunk of words written in 15-20 minutes if I’m tight on time. Plus it only takes a few of those to meet my daily word count.

One day I was out most of the day and heading straight from a meeting to the school pick up – I packed up the laptop just in case I had some spare time and ended up writing for 15 minutes in the car while I waited for school to kick out! The word sprints were great for this too. You can use the timer on the website to sprint by yourself or you can join others in a sprint.

8 Leave notes/a trail for next time you sit down to write

At the end of each day I made a note of what I wanted to happen next in my story. I didn’t always know how the story was going to end but I usually had a good idea of what would happen in the next moment. This was always a great starting point the next day when I sat down to write.

About a week before I finished, the ending of the story made itself known to me. I jotted down about 500 words of a summary of the rest of the story. This became really helpful when I started getting tired and less enthusiastic.

More NaNoWriMo Takeaways might come to me when I read and edit my novel but this is a good start for now. I’m sure I’ll be glad to have these tips to read next time I decide to have a go!

Did you take part in NaNoWriMo? How did you do? Do you have any tips for participating or your own NaNoWriMo Takeaways?

My Daily Gratitude Journal (+ tips to start your own)

This year I’ve been keeping a Daily Gratitude Journal. Nearly every day I’ve written down at least 1 thing I was grateful for on that particular day. On the few days I have missed I have completed the list the following day. Most days I write down 3 things.

My Daily Gratitude Journal

This is not my first experience of keeping a daily gratitude journal – I’ve developed the practice over the last 20 years or so. I’ve not always been consistent in my approach and I have fallen off the wagon several times. And yet I always come back to it…sitting down (usually at night, in bed, before I go to sleep) and taking time to think back over my day and highlight and record the things I am most grateful for.

Some of the entries are repeated a lot. Some are silly, some fun and some hold deep meaning to me.

Benefits of keeping my Daily Gratitude Journal

  • I feel happier overall
  • Helps me find the silver lining
  • Helps me not take things for granted
  • Keeps a record of daily life when I haven’t documented it in any other way
  • Really fun to read back – especially from years ago
  • Has become part of my bedtime ritual and helps signal that it’s time for rest
  • Helps me see progress when I read it back over time

When Daily Gratitude Has Kept Me Sane

The following are snippets from a gratitude log I kept in the notes app on my phone during May 2016. This was our last full month in New Zealand before moving back to the UK. It was a crazy-filled month – we were packing belongings for shipping, selling our car, leaving our jobs, and our dog (who was coming with us) had cancer. Every night when I crawled into bed I was exhausted and stressed. Taking the time to find one thing each day that I was thankful for kept me focused on the positive.

May 3rd 2016: We got our flights booked and paid for today. Yay. Leave 2nd June, arrive 1 month today on 3rd June. Scary and exciting.

May 10th 2016 (written on the 11th): We were all absolutely exhausted so went to bed early. I was in bed at 830pm and asleep by 930pm. Just what we all needed. 

May 25th 2016: My boys. I love them so much. All 3 of them. I am looking forward to some time out when this crazy time has passed to all hang out together and enjoy each other’s company.

May 31st 2016: Wow, the end of May. 31 days. Huge, life changing days. It’s been emotional and we got through it. The belongings left today. We are camping in a pretty empty house right now. Crazy. I’m glad I’ve kept up the daily gratitude log. It’s helped keep me sane. Much love xxx

My tips for keeping a Daily Gratitude Journal

  • Start small – aim to write one thing each day this week…if that works try the whole month and then consider making it a daily ritual in 2018
  • Use a dedicated diary and keep it somewhere you will see it
  • Or integrate it into a planner you already use to help you remember
  • If you’re not a fan of pen and paper use your notes app on your phone (or find an app!)
  • Set a daily reminder
  • Use the reminder as a ritual starting point to think back on your day
  • Try not to see it as a chore. It shouldn’t be one extra thing you have to do before bed but something you look forward to
  • When you’re having a bad day have a read through past entries
  • Try to list at least one thing EVERY day even if you’re having a really bad day
  • If you struggle with ideas use a prompt each day (there are specific journals available that list a question each day)
  • Try to come up with something different each day. If you’re grateful for a certain person in your life and they appear a lot on your daily list – list a different reason why they feature each day
  • See this as a snapshot of your life. It will be fun to look back on in years to come
  • If documenting gratitude at bedtime doesn’t work for you – try a different time of day – when you first wake up or at lunch time

If you’re not already keeping a Daily Gratitude Journal, why not start today? It feels great to know that when I say goodbye to this year I have a whole year-worth of gratitude that I can look back on in years to come.

If you already keep a gratitude journal I’d love to hear more about it. What are the benefits for you? Please leave a comment below or drop me a line.

Taking it Further

Gratitude is one of the prompts in my Find Your Happy journalling workbook. The workbook contains twenty one journalling prompts to help you find more happiness in your everyday. Each prompt is designed to take 10 minutes or less and will leave you with the warm fuzzies!