Category Archives: Wellbeing

Good news, bad news – Writing for Wellbeing Workshop

Good news, bad news – Writing for Wellbeing Workshop
Good news, bad news – Writing for Wellbeing Workshop

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Bad news… due to the snow, my sold-out Introduction to Writing for Wellbeing workshop this Saturday (3rd March) has been cancelled.

Good news… it is being held instead on Saturday 7th April.

Bad news… not all those booked on can make the new date.

Good news… this means there are some spaces now available. All the details and booking contacts will be on the University of Kent website on Monday – click here or email to reserve a place.

Here’s what students have said about previous Writing for Wellbeing courses:

‘Sarah is thoughtful and funny and kind. She allows everyone time and space to think and to be heard.’

‘I’ve loved this course! It’s been surprising, inspiring, emotional but above all enjoyable.’

‘The course was inspirational, joyful and practical. I feel physically and mentally better for having done it.’

‘Sarah is fantastic, she is able to bring out the best in the student and at the same time make them feel relaxed and at ease.’

‘Sarah creates exactly the right supportive environment in which people can express themselves and surprise themselves.’

‘When’s the next course?’

Not surprisingly I get a rosy glow when I read comments like those above but actually all the good work happen through the magic created between the writer and their journal. I’m passionate about the benefits of journal writing, and more and more the research backs up my instincts, but it’s much easier than anyone thinks at first.

However, this isn’t about just getting a journal and writing down random thoughts. It’s about learning new journal techniques and structuring them in such a way that you do surprise yourself. It’s about working out the best tools for reflection, seeing things from new perspectives, and trying new ways of expression. It’s about creating a sustainable journal writing practice. And, as you can hopefully see from above, it’s enjoyable!

If you can’t make the new workshop date, 7th April,  the on-going Monday Writing for Wellbeing short course is full BUT we will be running more at Tonbridge so do email the centre to be put on the mailing list.

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And I’ll be running some more writing and yoga workshops this summer with Anna Robertshaw so you can get a double dose of goodness! More on these soon or you can follow us at Mat and Page on Facebook to be the first to hear. Meanwhile, here’s a teaser of our beautiful venue….

 

 

 

Owning a bookshop? That sounds like a nice thing to do….

Owning a bookshop? That sounds like a nice thing to do….
Owning a bookshop? That sounds like a nice thing to do….

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Amazing the number of people who want to be writers. Or will be, anyway, once they have a bit of time. I imagine it’s almost the same number as want to run a pub or cafe. Although I could never understand that one. Perhaps it was too many waitress and barmaid jobs as a teenager.

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A bookshop though… now you are talking! Or at least that was my dream until I read Shaun Bythell’s diary of being a bookseller in Wigtown, Scotland’s book town.

Admittedly some days sounded idyllic…

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But then you’ve got the customers….

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Not to mention the staff..

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I loved this book – it was funny, interesting, more warm that I think the author was hoping for, but…. it didn’t make me want to be a bookseller. Ho hum. You can buy the book in all sorts of places, of course, but of course, I’d recommend you buy it from Shaun himself here. You don’t have to go there, they have modern things such as the internet in bookshops now, and once you get the book delivered,  you can read all about the Wigtown post office too. Gems all.

And if it doesn’t convince you that running a bookshop is harder than it looks, all that sitting round and reading, well you can always run a bookshop in Wigtown for a holiday thanks to the enterprising Open Book scheme.

As for me, it’s back to the drawing board…

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Going out on a playdate….

Going out on a playdate….
Going out on a playdate….

Remember when you were six, and a friend would knock on your door to see if you wanted to play?

 

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That’s what Artists Dates should feel like! Although of course, it’s your own door you are knocking on. (And maybe sometimes slamming it shut? You are too busy, too important, too hard up, too scared, too….. Can you remember what that felt like? When you were told that little Jenny could NOT come out to play right now… Why on earth would you do that to yourself!)

Anyway, what’s exciting about this year’s artists dates is that my clever friend, Meg Sanders, has been joining me as part of a series she’s writing exploring creativity. You can find (and follow) it here. (and you can find Meg on twitter here, so you can be a real follower…)

Meg went right off the deep end, with a list of 100 things you fear (YAY, COME AND PLAY WITH ME, IT’S GOING TO BE FUN…) but I’ve been approaching it more gently. Well hell, it’s my list, I can do what I want.

So here’s the result of my first playdate – a vision board on Pinterest of the kind of 80 year old I want to be. It was a more surprising, more exciting and more inspiring exercise than I could ever have thought. I thoroughly recommend doing it yourself!

And do let me know if you decide to take your self on some playdates… the original list is here.

Below: for your amusement, please find a little snippet of my future self

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52 Artists Dates for 2018

52 Artists Dates for 2018

You are probably aware of the concept of the Artist Date. It was named and made famous by Julia Cameron in her book The Artists Way as a way creative people can fill up their well once a week.

The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore
something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly
“artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the
imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the
play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well
of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask
yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.

The Artist is, of course, YOU and as it’s you and your artist self going out on a date, it’s a rather joyous way of spending time on your own. I do this regularly now, and have got over completely the indecision of what I should do. I’m completely selfish in not allowing anyone to come along with me – this is just for me and artist-me!

Here are my list of 52 possible weekly dates for this year ahead (plus a couple more for good luck). I’d love to know what has worked for you, and what you might add to my list.

1. Write a list of 100 things that would terrify me to do (eg do a stand up comedy act)
2. Have a fancy cocktail in a bar on my own. This one is good!
3. Pick a letter – any letter – and go for a walk to take photographs of things beginning with that letter.
4. Bake bread
5. Swim in a river
6. Swim in a lido – this one?
7. Make a herb garden
8. Take my yoga mat to a park and practise under a tree
9. Buy five books from a charity shop, write a note in each and leave them for others to find
10. Go to a new café and enjoy an excellent breakfast
11. Pack a yummy picnic and a good book to go to a new park, roll out a rug and enjoy
12. Visit the RFL poetry library and choose five books at random to read
13. Make a list of London libraries – go to one I’ve never visited
14. Join in on a life-drawing class
15. Make the kind of dressing up box I wanted as a child
16. Take a selfie dressed as the main character of a book I’m reading
17. Make biscuits and give to friends
18. Go to a public lecture about a subject I know nothing about (not hard!)
19. Visit a cemetery I haven’t been to before and make notes
20. Write a fan letter. Send
21. Enjoy an afternoon watching TED talks
22. Go to a concert of a completely new music to me
23. Take a boat trip
24. Paint or draw a self portrait
25. Write a letter to someone I haven’t seen for ten years
26. Make a playlist of music I haven’t listened to for ten years
27. Plan a road trip round childhood haunts
28. Make a list of 100 things that make me happy
29. Make a miniature garden
30. Go to a candlelit concert at St Martins
31. Learn a poem by heart
32. Record myself reading poetry
33. Go on a guided walk
34. Go to a café and plot out a novel I’ll never write
35. Dance
36. Go foraging
37. Make a list of at least five strangers I speak to today
38. Plant seeds
39. Buy seeds (or visit a seed swap) and make beautiful seed packets to send to friends
40. Got to a chocolate shop and spend a long time choosing just five chocolates to buy
41. Have my own indoor fireworks show
42. Make a photo book of the photographs that make me happy
43. Get a tattoo
44. Go to a matinee
45. Create a vision board on Pinterest for me when I’m 80
46. Create a playlist to give to a friend
47. Buy a second hand book and create a Blackout poem
48. Go to 5 Rhythms dance
49. Go to a park and identify five trees – make a zine
50. Try on an outfit I’d never be able to afford
51. Sit in on a jury trial
52. Go to the opera – research fully beforehand
53. Go to a lunchtime talk at the National Gallery
54. Go to the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities
55. Find the perfect red lipstick
56. Go to Strawberry Hill
57. Take note of, and research, the statues I walk past every day
58. Go to a market – choose interesting looking items, make a still life. Photograph it.

Some new writing workshop dates….

Some new writing workshop dates….

It’s spring! So do you want to get a spring  in your writing life? Well, here are some dates for you…

Put some movement in your writing – Saturday 22nd April, Tunbridge Wells

There are still a few places left for the yoga and journal writing workshop this Saturday at the Freestyle Yoga  Project in the High Street, Tunbridge Wells. You can come and join Anna’s wonderful Mellow Yellow class at 1pm and then write with us from 2.15-4.15, or just come for the writing part at 2.15. More details are here, but it’s important to note that this workshop is ideal EVEN if you’ve never done either yoga or writing (or both) before – it’s about opening up your creativity, trying something new and playing both on the page and the mat!

 

Share a poem – Saturday 29th April and Sunday 30th April, Canterbury

I’m lucky enough to work with the amazing Poetry Exchange who have found a completely new way of introducing and talking about poetry. Book a FREE 45 minute spot with us (I’m with John Prebble on the Saturday, and Victoria Field will be there on the Sunday) at the Wise Words Festival in Canterbury and bring a poem that has been a friend to you to talk about.I promise it’ll be an enriching experience, and you get a special recording of your poem afterwards as a gift.

HURRY THOUGH because these spots do get booked up – click here for the booking info. If you’re not quite in time to catch your spot, you can listen to the podcast here. 

 

Retreat from the world and nourish your love of words, 10-5pm, Friday 5th May, Canterbury

Last year we were sold out for this workshop in the yurt, and this year places have been going fast. COME AND JOIN Fiona Bennett and I as we encourage you to play with words, write in completely new ways, get tons of new ideas, and just generally spoil your writing self.

The details are here, and all you need to bring is a pen and journal. A CPD certificate is available for this workshop.

Some comments from last year’s participants..

I’ve discovered a new voice that I didn’t even know I could write in. Inspirational.

 I’m coming away with so much potential new work.

 I feel like it’s been much longer than a day, I’ve travelled a long way inside myself and with words.

Three small things and the smirk I need right now

Three small things and the smirk I need right now

 

A friend of mine recently went on a Buddhist activist weekend, and came back with the best advice I’ve heard of coping with the world right now. DO SMALL THINGS, she was told. There’s no way you can change everything.

So I’ve taken this on board. My small thing at the moment is what I call the Polish Ladies and Tea Club. A group of Polish women come to my house weekly to drink tea, eat cake, and er, yes, learn English. They are teachers, shop managers, university students who are now all working as cleaners here. One of the problems we identified is that their hours don’t allow them to study English regularly so this is a chance to sit down and have some general conversation.

As always, the best things to do are the ones you enjoy yourself. And what this has done is to remember the joy of everyday words. Cup, I say, and then cupboard… is that because that’s where the cups board???? Oh my gosh, how bizarre that we never think of what’s behind these words. I’m not trained in teaching English as a foreign language, but as they are just ‘paying me’ in laughs and chocolate biscuits we are all happy. If anyone would like to try something similar, I’d be happy to let you have some of the exercises and games we’ve used so far. Or indeed to swap resources.

And then, other small things… well, I’m not sure I’d call reading a small thing, but we went away recently for a reading weekend. We put our phones away and got out our books instead. Apart from missing a call from my sister to say she was at the local pub, we didn’t miss them at all. Mind you, we were staying here in one of the Landmark Trust houses.. Fox Hall in West Sussex. It may look like a mansion but it was actually a bedsitting room.

So what did I read. Well, here’s a clue…

I’ve placed it by a labyrinth because Sarah Hilary is plot-master supreme – who even holds back certain mysteries (no spoilers) for the next Marnie Rome book. I could hardly bear it. If you see her on twitter or facebook please send her back to the manuscript. I can’t wait too long. I also read the most extraordinary biography of Shirley Jackson, A Rather Haunted Life. GET BOTH! I promise that you’ll never hear creaks in an old house in the same way ever again.

But despite being too frightened to go anywhere on my own one evening, I felt so relaxed and … yes, stilled at the end of the weekend.

And the third thing? Laughing of course. Helped by this sign I saw…

And then a friend of mine spotted my photo on instagram, and sent me her poem which made me laugh out loud… ENJOY! En-joy… In Joy… that’s not a small thing after all!

RUDE PLACES
by Susanna Clayson

I recently was entertained –
my mirth could barely be contained,
by a list of British places
with names so rude they redden faces.

One county stood out from the rest –
Northumberland was naughtiest.
With Lickar Moor, and Great Tosson
Bushygap, Flesh Shank and Sodom

Dorset has a Scratchy Bottom.
Shaggs, Piddle, Spanker and Weedon,
Nob End, Minge Lanes and Lower Swell
Cockintake, Twatt and Staines as well

Up north, I laughed at Cockermouth
And smirked at Sandy Balls down south
Beaver Close and Bachelor’s Bump.
Bishops Itchington, Great Trump!

Butt of Lewis, Cock of Arran
Hole of Horcum and Wetwang
Horneyman in Kent, near Thong
While Crotch Crescent is just plain wrong

But west to east or in the middle
Acock’s Green to Wyre Piddle
Fanny Barks wins the rudest prize
Tied with Fudgepack on Humberside

A year of artists dates

A year of artists dates
A year of artists dates

Last year I put up a post about artists dates, and listing 52 possible ‘dates’. It was based on Julia Cameron’s definition:

“a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.”

I was so pleased the post hit a nerve, and to hear what other people have been doing over the year. BUT I’ve just had possibly the best artists date of the year for me – going through my photos to see my own dates. Not least because it’s a reminder that what is fun for me may very well be your own personal hell, and that just doesn’t matter. It certainly has helped me focus on what spikes my attention as a creative person. So what have I done…

I’ve been to exhibitions I wouldn’t have gone to without this impetus – on my own, wandering round and spending hours in certain corners, often ignoring the publicised ‘greatest hits’ and finding new artists for myself.

 

I’ve made small corners of comfort – to daydream, hide books I love away in, DVDs that make happy.

Done quite a lot of this…

Laughed with beautiful new friends…

Played with flowers…

Walked…

Learnt new ways to tie scarves (a surprisingly popular artists date!)

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Made lots of discoveries…

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Mucked around outside and in nature (A LOT)…

 

Had my own perfume blended just for me…

Made visual images of favourite poems (here’s Edwin Morgan’s Strawberries)..

 

Pondered the important questions in life..

Written a bit and drank a bit….

The funny thing is I wouldn’t have remembered half of these things if I hadn’t have written this post, and looked out all these photographs. When I started my blog – WAY BACK IN 2004! – I saw it as my own writing journal, a place I could keep all the things I wanted to remember and work out for myself through writing what my world was like. And it still feels like this. Today I’ve realised all over again that I keep this blog because I really love doing it – finding out new techniques like the collage editor I’ve gone a bit overboard with, and other ways of getting information across. But then I’ve always been the one in the corner, sorting out how the latest gadget works. That’s the way I can really get my artist excited.

And for this year, I’ve been given a new resolution by someone I respect – so I hope I keep it up. It’s to record a weekly encounter with a stranger – a different one each week, I’m not going to start stalking… so here’s one from last year. Being challenged to table tennis in a gallery in Colchester…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resolutions for 2017 – a poem

Resolutions for 2017 – a poem

A Never-To-Do List

 

by Sarah Salway

 

This year, I’ll have my accounts ready
by the end of April, lose two stone;
not only will I run a half marathon
I’ll collect all my sponsorship money.
I won’t purchase new clothes
but adapt existing ones
to fit new trends, clean my oven,
my fridge will be sparkling too,
full of natural yoghurt, salads, tofu
and champagne I’ll keep for something special
not just open because there’s nothing else left.
The Gilmore Girls won’t be on permanent repeat –
in fact, I’ll watch only documentaries
and every time I click on Daily Mail Online
I’ll send a cheque to the charity
they hate the most. I’ll open my doors
to neighbours, smile at children,
meditate, be the person I always knew
I could be, not the one my mother feared,
I’ll buy no more books until I’ve read….
Wait. What?
I’ll go on orgies of book buying,
enter bookshops with my wallet wide open
and, even if I die pinned under toppling shelves,
let me always be reaching out
for just one more, last, story.

Try your hand at a herb haiku, a basil ballad and some parsley poetry…

Try your hand at a herb haiku, a basil ballad and some parsley poetry…

Come and indulge your senses with a Herbal Infused Poetry Workshop at the beautiful Physic Garden at Westgate Gardens, Canterbury

Saturday 24th September – 11-1pm

Costs £4 (including tea and cake)

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How could such sweet and wholesome hours be reckoned, but in herbs and flowers?

Andrew Marvell

I’m running a workshop in Canterbury designed around herbs – their history, their myths and all the remedies – sensible and gloriously silly – associated with them. Enjoy a morning writing and reading poetry with me, inspired by the Physic Garden. We’ll look at myths, make up new remedies, explore the senses and have fun through a series of practical exercises – all you will need to bring is a pen and paper. This workshop is suitable for all levels of writers, and is a chance to play on the page in the beautiful surroundings of Canterbury’s historic Westgate Gardens.

Because numbers are limited, booking is strongly advised, please visit http://www.westgateparks.co.uk/events/ or telephone the Canterbury Ticket shop on: 01227 787787. There may be some spaces available on the day.

Contact Sarah Salway, sarahsalway@gmail, for more information.

This event is funded through Canterbury City Council’s Westgate Parks ‘Parks for People’ HLF Project

To book your place , click here 

Sports(woman) Sunday

Sports(woman) Sunday
Sports(woman) Sunday

Look at this blog go …. all organised and snappy with the days of the week. FIrst of all there is a regular Friday writing exercise, and now a weekly Sports(woman) Sunday. This gives me the chance to talk more about women and sport, look at the opportunities and praise the wonderful. And there are so so so many. As always I’m doing this mostly for me – the chance to find out more and keep information in one place, but hopefully there will be something for others too. Let me know what sports work for you, or otherwise. Let me know your successes and hopes. And stories. But first of all – WALKING WOMEN!

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Now, as you might notice from  the dates in the poster above, the special Women Walking event as part of Somerset House’s Utopia 2016 festival, is nearly over but there are still things you can do, walking women you can follow, and inspiration to be taken. After all, here’s the quote used in the publicity:

The invisibility of women in what appears as a canon of walking is conspicuous; where they are included, it is often as an ‘exception’ to an unstated norm, represented by a single chapter in a book or even a footnote. Heddon and Turner (2012) ‘Walking Women: Shifting the Tales and Scales of Mobility’ Contemporay Theatre Review, Vol. 22(2), 2012, p. 225

I couldn’t resist that. When I went along to the exhibition, I tried out Jennie Savage‘s recorded walk – leaving Somerset House to follow her instructions through the headphones (turn left, now next right etc etc)IMG_1211

Listening to Jennie’s observations of a very different walk while carrying out my own was a strange experience. Apart from refusing to turn right, turn right, because that would have taken me into the Thames….

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…rather than being distracting, the dual narrative – Jennie’s and my own on the ground –  meant I noticed things I might not otherwise. First of all there was the tribe of other walkers – on every level.

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And then I started to make connections in the walk, mapping it if you like. For example, I came across this statue I’d never noticed before, perhaps because while I have walked these paths so many times before – it’s always been with a purpose. And if I’m honest, I’m usually late for that purpose so rushing.

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A fascinating man, W T Stead. I looked him up when I got home, and boy, is there a novel to be written about him! Not just professionally – although, apparently, ‘He was influential in demonstrating how the press could be used to influence public opinion and government policy, and advocated “Government by Journalism“.[4] He was also well known for his reportage on child welfare, social legislation and reformation of England’s criminal codes.’ But he also died on the Titanic, was obsessed by spiritualism, and knew much about the ‘dark underbelly’ of Victorian times. This plaque is a replica of one in New York.

But this information was all found out by letting my fingers ‘walk’ on the internet afterwards. On my actual walk, turn left, thinking about journalists, I also noticed these…

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So much news, so many empty boxes – funnily enough just at the moment, Jennie was talking through my headphones about passing a newsagents. And then back at Somerset House to return my headphones, paying a little more attention about where I was walking, I started thinking about how many people had climbed down these stairs to mark and smooth them so…

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Some of you may recognise them as the Stamp Stairs. I’ve gone up and down them many times, but not really looked at their history. And hey, this is where all newspapers in Britain had to be ‘stamped’ to indicate that the correct tax had been paid. So all newspapers in the country had to be brought to Somerset House to be individually stamped here until 1855, when the duty on newspapers was removed.

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News, news, news. Amazing what you pick up from walking. BUT… why walking women and not just walking?

I find this fascinating – this Canadian report of a discussion of the difficulties and challenges in planning a gendered city  shows some of the reasons. After all, a ‘streetwalker’ might be an historic term, but it is telling one. Because there’s no doubt that men and women experience walking in any space – city or countryside – in very different ways, and to be honest, much of the current literature is about men walking.

A major inspiration for me is the writer and walker, Linda Cracknell. She knows how to walk – read her books! Recently on Facebook, she talked about women walking and camping on their own, with particular reference to a wonderful experience she had had. Oh, I replied, I’d love to have the courage to do that. And so apparently did many other women. So Linda wrote this beautiful piece giving advice about just how and why women can become more adventurous solo walkers:

Going solo

So that’s something for me in the future. But in the meantime, I might follow another of the great ideas (from Amy Sharrocks) in the Walking Women event – to buy a bus ticket and see where I go, and then walk back…

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And I’ve ordered this book… I promise it is not just for the ‘Chip Walk’ although….

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