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Posts from the ‘Journalling’ Category

Seven ways to make a molehill out of your mountain

You will have noticed that I have not blogged here for a long time. I meant to but a small change in work circumstances in around April last year pushed me off track. Once I adjusted to the change in my routine it should have been a simple matter of  starting again. The trouble was by then I was out of the habit and it was going to take an effort to restart. Not much effort. About as much as climbing a molehill. But I made the classic mistake of enlarging that molehill in my mind. The more I ignored it the larger it loomed until it was so big a mountain in front of me that I wasn’t sure I even wanted to get over it. I thought probably I’d rather turn my back on it and ignore it. Except then it cast a shadow in front of me and I could never get away from the fact that I was not blogging. In my mind it became a big Should Do Time Eater that I resented and resisted. I totally lost sight of why I had wanted do it in the first place,

I am sure you have had issues like that in your life before, whether it’s the box of junk that has sat irritating you on the floor of your bedroom for eighteen years or the job you hate and know you should change. As you can see, I managed to reduce my mountain back down and produce this post so I thought I would share how you too can turn your mountain into a molehill:


View from Lattrig, Lake District

View from Lattrig, Lake District

1. Look at your mountain.

Where you put your attention is where you will get results. Stop walking around your mountain with your eyes on the ground. Look up at it and decide to take it on. Stick your tongue out at it to show it who is boss if you like but whatever you do, simply decide to pay it some attention.

2. Map your mountain.

As kids my Dad would insist that holidays involved a ‘little walk’ up a mountain. I would trail behind, longing to be left at the bottom with a good book.  It was standing joke that we never got to the destination as easily as we were promised. There was always a false horizon, a bend obscuring the next ( usually long) section of the walk or a barbed wire fence necessitating a detour. If you have a metaphorical mountain in your life, map it before you start to conquer it. That way you will be able to take the most direct route to the summit. By ‘map it’ I mean, fully understand what your mountain really exists of.  Take a time to journal, in words or visuals, what it really is that is forming this huge block in your path. I bet it’s not the obvious. I was telling myself, ” It is because my commute is longer than last year. I don’t have time to blog. I don’t even really have time to think about why I don’t want to blog any more.”

It took me exactly thirty-five minutes of  sitting in a cafe with my journal on the way home from work today to realise that actually what was preventing me was (a) a belief that I had nothing to say that was of interest because I had started to tell myself I was a boring insignificant person living an unremarkable life  and (b) the fact that I hated the fact that the WordPress theme I used for P•C•S required a photo for each post in particular dimension for the slider and I had to remember to regularly maintain which posts were ‘sticky’.  It looked great, it was a pain the butt to use and it made what should be a simple blog post feel like a major software issue.

3.  Get a sherpa.

Mountaineering is a whole lot easier with someone carrying your load and who has walked the path before. Your sherpa may be a friend, a family member, an online article, a podcaster you see as a mentor, a book, or a formal life coach. anyone or anything that can give you a boost to dealing with your mountain as you mapped it. You may have a team of Sherpas handing off one to the other as you proceed along the way.

For me in starting to write this post there were three guides who had had good motivating input into my life in the preceding days. I’ll tell you more about them in later post but for now check out Brooke Castillos’s book Self Coaching 101 as recommended to me by Lisa Call and Michael Hyatt’s podcast and blog. The combination of their simple teaching  lifted a burden from me and enabled me to get going towards that mountain.

4. Plan a recce to base camp.

Note you are not going to base camp yet. Just identify the first steps you need to take to get over your mountain and the equipment it will take for you to do that. For me, I decided it was to change my WordPress theme and so I needed to find the Filofax that had all my log in details and go and sit at the computer and do that one thing. Then schedule a good time and enough time. But soon.

5. Go to base camp.

Do not even think about the mountain. Take a little easy stroll to base camp and do that first step. Remind yourself that’s all you need do. That is the one goal for today. My task today was to log into word press and swap my theme out to a new one. I allocated one hour straight after dinner. It is a law of physics that it takes more energy to start an immobile object moving than it does for that object to continue moving. so yes, this is the hard part. So make it a small hard part and it becomes totally doable.

6.. Do not go the long way around.

Trust me. Don’t be a hero and climb the rock face if there is a gentle winding path. I recently ditched my ailing windows laptop and bought an iMac. I bought it because I wanted one and thats good enough reason but I partly justified it by telling myself it would motivate me to blog if I had a Thing of Technological Beauty on my desk. Ha! It just took me twenty minutes of searching manuals and help forums to work out how to add the • in P•C•S. (Alt key plus 8 if anyone cares). probably unnecessary effort.  On the good news side, once I got on to WordPress I realised that I didn’t need to check out a gazzilion new themes to find a nice simple one. I needed only to check the box in my existing theme set up that disabled the photo slider function. It took six months of constructing my mountain and summoning the energy for an expedition to get to that point and six seconds or less to execute.

7. Enjoy the challenge.

On my drive home tonight I heard David Suchet on the radio saying that the reason the generation who were young in World War Two tend to think of the war years as the best years of their life is that for the people at home there was great unity of purpose and of those on the front they were being tested and people needed to be challenged to be happy. On the way up your mountain you may encounter a rock fall or other unexpected hurdle. I for example have currently no idea why WordPress in my iMac will not let me upload pictures as I used to do.  You can treat such rock falls as trip-ending disasters. Or you can enjoy the extra excitement of scrambling over or around them. (I figured out, by playing around and not letting the B*(&(%* computer beat me,  that if I save a photo to my desktop it will load from there.) Now I feel triumphant in the face of all adversity!

And that was when I truly believed my mountain was climbable after all, and why I stayed at my desk and started writing this. Really, blogging was only a mountain in my thoughts. In reality it was a titchy little check box  on a computer screen and a couple of trackpad swipes. A molehill.

What are you making a mountain in your life? will you take the steps today to turn it into a molehill?


Hunting the perfect Journal ( and creating it in an Osterley)

My husband is a very patient man, but ( if you will excuse the cliche) in some ways he just doesn’t understand me. I was explaining, at length, over a Thai meal about how I was sorely distressed at not being able to find the One Perfect Journal. I have been using the same range for many years but it is not supporting my needs any more. Plus it is discontinued so I am forced to find a new one.

The One would be beautiful to look at ( thats Moleskines out at a stroke then). It would mysterously morph its paper so the next sheet magically met my need for pretty decorated lined/ simplecream ruled/ watercolour/ cartridge/ plain/ squared paper. It would contain my life thought in one place but would equally meet my need to categorise my life into ever smaller compartments. It would allow flexibility depending whether my mood was Serious Writer or Playful artist. It would hold myriad pens. It would have pockets and pull outs and do dah fripperies. The One would be bound for archive purposes but not bound to allow me to recategorise. It would be elegant and leather and yet affordable. It would be my constant companion with places to put quotes and research notes and my random thoughts and dreams and moans and I would always be able to find everything.It would be perfect for words and encouraging of sketching.

The One was not, I had established that morning, available at Paperchase, WH Smiths, Woods the Stationers, Waterstones or online. Not even at Diagon Alley. The ones instock had competing oros and cns all of which added up to distress and confusion. My husband took a bite of Toong Tong and said, “You should write a book about journals you know so much.” Oh yeah, good advice I’d love to do that…. But I cant find the perfect journal to write my notes in! He rearranged his face to show the look that means: I really am interested and I do want you to be happy but I have no idea what you are talking about. What is wrong with a Silvine exercise book?

But I know there are people out there who feel my pain and so for your benefit, I show you my solution.

First take an Osterley A5 Filofax. Not quite in the affordable bracket new, but mine was cheap on Adspot and when you take into account that (a) it is reusable and (b) I will pay lots of money for a perfect affordable journal, it will do me. In fact as I had it anyway and it was sadly underused, it is in fact free :)

Take one £5 letter set from Paperchase and use every bit of it cover included for added value. The back of the letter paper glued to Filofax own brand dividers is pretty and dividers allow categorisation.There are two styles of paper and the kraft version can be combined with the already curvacious folder to make pockets.

The envelopes can be tipped into contain secrets!

A Jill Bliss journal hacked apart provides pages for a common place section.

The Thoughts section is the main journal and has a range of paper including proper art papers and kraft papers. (Paperchase do a £3.50 journal which includes smooth and pretty thick ivory plain paper and also kraft paper which unglued and punched well). I have sections for notes and ideas for my next book idea, for my financial budgets, for my reading logs and for my monthly life plan reviews and a plastic envolope for general dodah thingies I might have a need to put into a pocket until I get to a glue stick.


In the back pocket is a bound Jill Bliss journal for those random research and follow up notes that come when I am reading or web browsing. (The last few pages deal with my research onto the WW2 activities for the Scots Guards, the cost of a double sink and a list if collage artists to follow up). Bound/ unbound. It makes me happy!

As you can see from that photo the Osterley has two pen loops cleverly out of the way of the tabs. I can fit tow Triplus Pens down the side of the notebook. But, ( and here is where I get arrogant and consider myself a genius) I have recreated this by using stick on velcro on cut up bits of the letter folder to add two Artists sketching pens. I did try flex penloops first but the shape at the bottom of the Pitt Artist pens means that they will not slide into the elastic. I have one more pen clipped inside the rings.


The pockets hold sticky notes spare velcro strips, the remainder of the letter pack (including the four sheets of stickers it included) and a pile of bookmarks. The addition of the velcroed pens did mean that they got inth ewya of a filofax today ruler so. A using Iclips magnetic calligraphy bookmarks as page markets with the ruler in the back for when drawing a straightline is necessary.

I have trialed this set up for three days now and it is magic! Already my journal is much more visual than when I used a bound lined journal. I feel I can write/ draw what I feel as and when it comes and if it turns out that if I am writing ideas relating to an art project ( current or future) I can take it out and put it in my studio binders. Previously I would not write it in the journal I carried with me because it was the ‘wrong place’ and so usually it got forgotton or the moment passed between thought and getting home to the studio journals.

At first I thought it was not perfect for two reasons. First, portablity. It is often said by filofax users than a full A5 feels like a brick. This does not. Its more like a house extension. But, when I think about it, the places I journal are home, work, parents house and a variety of cafes. All of which are within feet of my shelf or car at any time. So true portablity is not really an issue. And should I go roaming a selection of loose leaf pages tucked into a folder or ipad cover can come with and be inserted later. But what should I somehow come separated from my journal ; like when I go to the theatre, don’t think I would possibly need it sitting in the dark and then get inspired by a set design….Happens more than you would think! I can write on anything to hand, napkin, icecream receipt whatever, and punch or put in a pocket later. And actually, I can just about fit two pocket molekines in the front cover should I want to have a stand alone art element for sketching whilst out and about.

The second issue I struggled with more is archivabilty. Loose pages with treasury tags in a box? Blah. Not elegant or beautiful for back reading. Thermal binding? Spiral Binding. Ditto. Self binding with stab stitch with a beautiful cover like this one I found on Etsy? Oh yeah baby, and an extra tick for my journal supporting creativity in a different way.


So this is my journal and I shall be sticking to it now I have created it. Although it does not stop me wondering what it would be like to use a moleskine with this beautiful cover….

What are you using as a journal? Is it perfect for you?


Making Meaningful New Year’s Resolutions – Day Six


Yes! You are almost there with your long haul resolution setting! Today we are going to decide how to implement your resolution. In effect what we are doing with a Resolution is creating a new habit. Some would say that there is a certain amount of time that one must daily do your resolution to make it stick – I have read variously thirty, forty or even ninety days. However, not all Resolutions are going to be daily ones. So what we need to do is to set up a cue-action-reward sequence:

1. Many resolutions fail simply because people forget about doing it. Decide what is going to be your reminder. It could be a literal alarm on your phone. Or connect your new action with one you already do with which it is a natural fit. It might be that your Resolution requires some advance planning. Decide what is your cue for that.

2.Identify your reward. I am not necessarily suggesting that you have a treat each time you perform your Resolution ( although I am certainly not going to nag if you decide to be kind to yourself that way!) . Rather, the reward might be intrinsic to your resolution, but it is important that you stop and notice it. So, for example, if you resolve to workout three times a week, you may notice that your skin is better and your body more supple. Learn to observe and enjoy the reward.

Then today, take a step towards performing your Resolution for the first time.


Making Meaningful New Year’s Resolutions – Day Five


Today we are going to do what you have been longing to do. We are going to declare your Resolution.

But there are rules! Sorry, but I am not going to let this be as easy as you think.

1. First write your Resolution in a positive form. Do not include in your Resolution anything you are trying to get rid of. So not, I am going to stop playing on Facebook until two in the morning but rather Each evening I am going to go to bed at eleven and read for half an hour before getting a full nights sleep. Not I am going to eat less junk food but instead I am going to eat a healthy diet This is because you are going to be thinking about this resolution a lot. And you know that the more you think about NOT having Facebook or Big Macs the more you are going to crave them. One point of a good Resolution is to help you change your mindset by focusing on the good things

2. Then, incorporate into your Resolution the feelings and emotions you based them on. So now we might have I am going to ensure I feel full of energy by going to bed at eleven… or I am going to make myself proud of my body by eating a healthy diet.

3. Thirdly, incorporate ( still in a positive form) the way in which you will avoid the worst of the obstacles you identified. For example, let’s say that as soon as you set foot in your work cafeteria you are a sucker for the fish and chips. You might write, so that I can feel really proud of my body I will make a packed lunch each day as part of an overall healthy diet.

4. You will probably find that step three is already prompting you to be specific about your actions, but have another rewrite and make sure that your goal is as defined as possible so that you know that you have performed your resolution. What for example do you mean by a healthy diet? How will you measure that? maybe you want to rewrite to so that I can feel really proud of my body I will make a packed lunch each day as part of an overall helathy diet which incorporates five portions of fruits and veg a day.

5. counter check that your resolution is achievable and reaslistic. So if yor work team has a lunch meeting once a week that you must particpate in you may make your resolution to take a packed lunch four days a week.

when you have done taht give yourself a little reward for all your hard thinking work. Tomorrow we will look at how to implement your Resolution



Making Meaningful New Year’s Resolutions – Day Four


Yesterday you wrote about some ideas of how you could recreate the feelings you hankered after in your life. I want you to pick one of those actions to form the basis of your resolution.

But, before we begin to examine how you are going to put that action into practice we are going to journal about why you are not doing it already and why that feeling is lacking in your life. This might seem unduly negative but unless we understand how our resolution might be sabotaged we will not be able to stick to the Resolution in the coming weeks. We need to identify the possible obstacles.

So, today’s journaling is about just that:

Who in your life needs to be brought on board ( or removed from your life!) if this is to happen?

What excuses do you make that you need to change?

Is there something you will have to sacrifice to make this happen? Are you prepared to do that?

What current features of your life need to be adjusted?

What do you need to really believe and accept if you are to implement your Resolution?

What negative feelings or fears might crop up when you think about your potential Resolution?


You know what to do by now- twenty minutes nonstop.. off you go…!


Making Meaningful New Year’s Resolutions – Day Three


Now that you have done Day One and Day Two, lets begin to craft a resolution.

Yesterday you picked your top film features and journaled about how they made you feel. Take the one that is now the most important to you. Or, maybe when you looked at them, you found that they all lead to the same feeling. If so, that’s a good indication that you are on the right track in finding a Resolution that will be really meaningful to you.

I am going to take my hankering for a canal boat in Amsterdam as my example.

Take your journal and write, stream of consciousness style about how you could bring the feelings that your chosen film feature gave you into your current life. This is not necessarily the same as setting goals about how to achieve the actual film feature. Although you could write about that in passing if you like.

So, if you remember I said that the concept of living in a quirky painted house boat made me feel arty and unburdened. So I might write about how to recreate those feelings in my current life. I might resolve to dedicate a weekend a month to driving to a city with good galleries. Or I might resolve to buy fresh tulips each week so that when I see them it is a trigger to take an hours time out reading and journaling and not responding to the demands on my time that make me feel so burdened. if the actual film feature you chose is possible to implement right away then go ahead and work with that. If it is not, or if it will take time and is more an ongoing project than a resolution, work on finding an aletrantive that will give you the same feelings you seek.

Give this exercise some time.. Twenty to thirty minutes and try to keep writing without stopping to read or think. Then, when you run out of time or you are totally spent of ideas an possibilities, however wild, close your journal and leave it be until tomorrow.


Making Meaningful New Year’s Resolutions – Day Two


Today we are going to start to extract from your fantasy film some real yearnings which will eventually lead us to a good choice of Resolution.

The first step is to identify the top things from your film that are really calling you. If you could have one or two things what would it be? Don’t dismiss things because they seem impossible, because these are not necessarily going to be your actual Resolution. The features your choose will probably be the ones you carried on thinking about after you closed your journal yesterday.

When you have identified the important things ( three is probably a good number to focus on, but that’s up to you) I want you to journal about why you feel so drawn to them.

How do these film features make you feel?

What would they add to you life that you don’t have now?

What lack in your life are they fulfilling?

For example, lets say I had myself living in a house boat in Amsterdam with quirky painted furniture and fresh tulips in a milk bottle in a vase on the table. For me that would be a hankering to rekindle a holiday in just such a place. In fact the boat was cramped, with the world’s worst shower and far too hot in the middle of a heat wave. But I tend to forget that and so it was probably in my film because I remember the tranquility of watching ducks swim by my window, the lazy hours reading in the window sea and the copious pancake eating the proximity to art galleries. My picture of me on that boat makes me feel relaxed and still. It makes me feel uncluttered and unburdened. I remember that I had just recovered from an illness and the boat felt very renewing. I was surrounded by cultural institutions which is not the case where I live.

Get the idea?

Off you go then. Identify the whys and then close the journal.



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