Thursday, June 27, 2013

Naked Blogging - Continued

In my last entry I wrote about The Bloggess and the idea of Naked Blogging. If you've not read it I recommend you do - especially as I've provided such a handy link for you to follow. As soon as you're done come back and read this one.

Right, so this is my Naked Blog entry. This is the story of how and why I came to write Wise At Any Age, which you can buy by following this link:

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

A person's life is not made up of sequential incidents and experiences. All of our stories overlap and within that overlap there are tangents and offshoots and different trouser legs. You can go back along your life and try to figure out where something started and eventually you get to the point where you were born and you realise you won't know the end until you die. And then you'll be dead and you can't write it down. 

For that reason I've decided to start where I am now by sharing just a small selection of things I have come to learn through my experience (There are a lot more included in Wise at Any Age).

1. Life really is what you make it, and other cliches - When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That means when life gives you something sour and potentially unpleasant you can either whinge or you can take it and make a delicious refreshing drink. You don't have to make lemonade. You could make lemon meringue pie; you could make lemon tarts; you could make lemon chicken. Your choice. 

2. There is nothing wrong with feeling emotions: It's O.K. to be scared. It's O.K. to get angry. It's O.K. to feel sad. It's O.K. to grieve. It's normal, actually. If you didn't have these feelings I'd be worried. What's not O.K. is ignoring them or reacting to them mindlessly. And no one is happy 100% of the time. 

3. There are no rules. Life is messy and accidental and there is no single 'right' way to go about living yours. 

4. I don't know who said it - the interweb is notorious for mis-labelling quotes - but I couldn't put it better: Don't worry so much about what other people think. Those who matter don't mind and those who mind don't matter. 

5. It's O.K. to ask for help! Asking for help doesn't automatically mean you lack competency or that you're incapable or needy. It means you accept that you can't always do everything on your own. 

And here's a big one:

6. You deserve your own love, compassion and respect more than anyone else on the planet. 

Disclaimer: My story is not unique in that a lot of people have had the experiences I've had. But the way I experienced it is mine but what I learned from it is universally beneficial. It's also not over so I know I will continue to learn a great many things as I continue to have a great many experiences. This is something I demonstrated with an animation I did in 2012 called '27 Things'. You can go watch it on my website. 

I was a really happy, well-adjusted kid. I was born and raised in the same house, I have loving parents and a loving brother. I grew up in a great neighbourhood with some brilliant friends, some of whom I am lucky enough to still have in my life. 

When I entered Junior High I could be what one might describe as 'naive'. My upbringing hadn't been sheltered, exactly, but it was safe from a lot of the realities of the world. To be honest, I love my parents for that more than they could possibly know. 

As it was, my naiveté left me ill-prepared for the cruelty of junior high (Middle school for the Americans and ages 13-15 for UK readers) and the relentless verbal bullying for which girls seem to have such a great talent. My coping skills weren't great and I experienced my first bouts of depression. 

I am a born survivor; We all are. I'm stubborn and solution focused. It took a year and a half but I realised that the girls who tormented me were cowards. It was really, really difficult, but facing up to them by asking them why they were calling me names stopped them in their tracks. 

Standing up to them was a challenge but it helped a lot. The bullying lessened considerably and I gained back some confidence. It didn't, however, remove my need to control my feelings. I turned to self harm when I felt unable to cope. 

High school was a grand improvement. Most of my high school career was at the Alternative High School in Calgary. This was classroom structure self-directed learning and I was really good at it. So good that I was one of two graduates who never went onto the Step Program. The Step Program, or simply "Step", was a corrective program for students who fell behind with their studies.

More of that stubbornness, really. I made up my mind not to get on Step, to take control of my learning and to graduate on time with the highest marks I could manage. I was very focused. Unfortunately one day there was a paperwork mix-up when a student with a similar name to mine was put on Step. For a few days I thought I was on Step because of this miscommunication. There was a lot of confusing back and forth but eventually it was resolved.

Despite this I woke up the morning after it was resolved and my heart felt like it was sitting in my throat. My chest was tight and my breathing shallow. I felt like my pulse was racing, even though it wasn't when I checked. My appetite - which is usually really, really good - was gone because I had constant butterflies in my stomach. 

I had developed Panic Disorder. A disorder is when something is misfiring. In my case my brain was reacting to perceived triggers: It was signalling to my body that I should be in fight or flight all the time, even when there was nothing to warrant it. 

After a few sleepless nights I went to my doctor and he sent me to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with Panic Disorder and, the common cold of mental illness, Depression. He suggested medication but I had watched plenty of friends go down that route and I didn't want to experience the same sluggishness and flattening of my personality. I knew it was all in my head and I figured it would eventually go away. At the time I was seventeen. 

My anxiety remained with me, 24/7 for the next three years. Sometimes it would turn into a full blown anxiety attack but mostly it was just there, softly, under my skin and in my head and fluttering in my heart. I accepted it as part of who I was.

Two years later several major things happened in my life:

1. I decided to set up a not-for-profit oranisation that would provide sustainable safe spaces for queer, transgendered/sexual and questioning youth.

2. I planned a trip to Australia - my first holiday completely paid for and planned by myself.

3. I got my first tattoo, of a bull, as a reminder of my strength an as a promise to never self harm again.

4. I started dating someone.

Items 1 to 3 were all very empowering and significant. I was making adult decisions in a way I hadn't done before. I was growing up. I was doing things for me.

One day my anxiety wasn't there. The constant 24/7 anxiety had gone away and the feeling of relief it gave me was absolutely incredible.

I attributed this change to number 4. I did not see the empowering decisions I was making as influencing my emotions and ability to cope. It was not something I put up to my personal growth but something I assumed was because of someone new in my life with whom I felt a special connection.

Despite this budding relationship I still went off to Australia on my own, where I had a brilliant time, met a lot of amazing people and found a huge amount of energy to bring back and apply to the development of the not-for-profit organisation.

My anxiety was not gone but it had lessened significantly. I was feeling really good. I was finding an amazing community of people, I was in a seemingly loving relationship and I was confident in my independence because I'd been to Australia and back on my own.

It doesn't matter how sensible or rational or together you might be, toxic people aren't always easy to spot at first glance. When I felt anxious I attributed the anxiety to my inability to make and keep my partner happy. I felt, if they were happy, then my anxiety would go away. When my anxiety increased I worked harder to make them happier. I also stopped writing. I painted occasionally but not very much and only to make things for my partner. I didn't travel. I hardly read.

It never occurred to me that my anxiety might be a tool - a compounding of fear that had turned into a boiling frothy nest of anxiousness - trying to tell me to PAY ATTENTION. I did everything I could to make it go away, except for actually listening to it.

I also started self harming again - something I'd not done since I was a teenager. At twenty-two a stressful situation would turn me into an angst ridden ball of anxiety and it was only getting worse.

I was isolated. My friends and family had little time or patience for me. They found me whiney, obnoxiously negative and quite bitter. I didn't like being with myself and I honestly couldn't blame anyone else for not wanting to be either. was whiney, negative and bitter.

In the week between Christmas 2007 and New Year 2008 the cold weather had set in and cabin fever was taking its toll. I was confined to the house as I was on holiday from work. My constant anxiety became crippling. I couldn't eat anything: even liquids wouldn't stay down. I couldn't sleep. The nights, which were long anyway because of the time of year, stretched on and on like some sort of torturous time chamber.

I tried all my usual stuff - taking baths, drinking hot lemon drinks for colds, taking muscle relaxants and other drowsy-making meds, making a bed on the floor in the hall or in the living room, watching TV, listening to music - nothing worked. The anxiety reached a point of no distraction and after four sleepless nights I took the decision to be hospitalised.

For the first time in my life I was given medication for the anxiety I was experiencing. I was given 2mg of Lorazepam and finally it began to recede.

I continued to take 1 to 2mgs of Lorazepam every night for the next six months. It was the only thing between me and oblivion but it's considered a highly addictive drug. When I'd been at the hospital they made it very clear that I would need to see my doctor about long term treatment options and it was probably a really good idea for me to see a psychologist.

My mum found me a psychologist and told me that she would cover the costs as often and for as long as I needed. This was one time when I was not going to refuse her offer of help. I agreed to it because I wanted a solution - I did not want to rely on medication for the rest of my life and I knew that what I was suffering from was not a biological misfiring but a cognitive pattern of negativity.

Before I continue I want to make is perfectly clear that medication has a valid place and that it's so important to be properly diagnosed and treated for any mental illness. In my case I'd had all my levels checked and the only thing that popped up was a vitamin D deficiency, which really wasn't an explanation for the severity of the chronic anxiety I was suffering.

Just a few weeks after my hospitalisation I began to see my psychologist, who I continue to see to this day. Her support has been invaluable and the support of my family and friends has also attributed to my recovery. And what a recovery it has been! 

In the initial stages after my breakdown in January 2008, my recovery was slow and steady. I was building a foundation for change which was tested in June of 2008 when my relationship ended abruptly and unpleasantly. The experience of heartbreak is nearly impossible to explain. At the time I didn't recognise how unhealthy my relationship had been so my initial devastation was quite intense. My anxiety went through the roof and for three days I barely ate, hardly slept and was either crying or catatonic.

But something else was going on. Something really, truly amazing. For the first time in my life I was experiencing something really bad and I was just going with it. I didn't want to harm myself.

This was  huge.  (As you can see by my choice of text size and format)

I couldn't sleep or eat but I knew it wouldn't last forever. I was still reliant on medication (At this point I was taking Lorazepam and an anti-depressant in an attempt to wean me from one to the other.) but I didn't feel like it was the only thing helping me function.

It was largely my faith in my own resilience, the trust I had that nothing was permanent - good bad or otherwise - and that I wasn't and never would be alone. I had lots of support but I also had the shared experience of everyone who had ever had their heart broken.

I also realised that the only person you should ever be willing to do absolutely anything for is yourself. 

And I was willing to do anything for myself.

I began to like myself again. I began doing the things I enjoyed. I wrote, I painted, I drew and I booked a trip to Palm Springs. I began planning to move to London for six months. I remembered how to value myself - something I'd been really good at until I was thirteen.

By the end of July 2008 I was no longer taking antidepressants OR Lorazepam. I went three months without Lorazepam and even then, I only took it as and when I needed it. I also gained a lot of weight - which had been a constant struggle for me because anxiety often killed my appetite. I went from 102lbs (7st) to 135lbs (9.6st) in about six weeks.

I still had difficult moments - really bad anxiety, really rough sleepless nights - but I wasn't afraid of them any more and I wasn't afraid of myself and what I might do. I had learned how to love myself. I learned that loving yourself is about loving everything - your talents, habits, experiences, and thoughts - no matter how you might define or classify them.

I'm still learning a lot. I'm always growing and changing and discovering. I am not perfect and I am not always capable but I have faith in my ability.

In 2013 I am celebrating a huge accomplishment. I have gone two years without taking Lorazepam.

I have come so far since my breakdown in 2008, including experiencing long periods of time where I am so content with my life that I can honestly think, if I were to die right now, that would be O.K. because I am living a life I love and loving it - even the difficult bits - simply because life is worth it.

A lot of people ask me if I wish things had been different. 

I love myself. I have an incredibly supportive family and wonderful, genuine friends. I have fantastic life living in London. I travel a lot. I am working as a designer, a job I absolutely love and enjoy doing every single day. I draw, paint, sculpt, and animate.  I'm studying Psychology. I write regularly and I've just published my first book, a dream from the age of five which is now a reality.

So no, I don't wish anything in my life had been different because if it was then I wouldn't be who I am today

Thank you. I realise this was a very long entry and I appreciate that you have taken the time to read it all.

Get your copy of Wise at Any Age

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Naked Blogging - An introduction

I love writing. For me, writing is akin to breathing. It's just a natural part of my day to day existence and without it I am like a sad goldfish flopping on a dry surface gasping for water that I can't get to because I have fins instead of fingers. That was a really dramatic simile, but you get the idea.

I write for a lot of reasons - self expression, self exploration, self sustainment. I keep a journal for my most private of private things, this blog for thoughts and musings, and I write books as an outlet for my imagination and all the awesome, fun characters I have been making up since I was a kid. Writing is natural for me.

But writing this story has been one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do. This is my third attempt at starting it in the blog, the fifth 'draft' of it I've done on a computer and probably the tenth time I've written about it in general.

"But what, exactly, is 'it' that you are agonising about writing?" you may be asking. I mean, you probably aren't asking that because that's very specific wording, but something along those lines is running through you head - and I'm getting to it - I promise. I'm just building some tension here and I want you to have some more background first.

Early in 2012 I was twigged onto a great blog by The Bloggess AKA Jenny Lawson. She actually has several blogs, columns and regular article contributions throughout the interweb, as well as a fabulous book. I was told she was funny and interesting and that I could learn a lot from her.

I took a toodle over to her site and yes, she is funny (or at least I find her funny, you may not, but that's the glorious thing about life - we're all really different) and her entries definitely hold my interest. I am also learning a lot from her posts, mostly about how odd she is, but also about being honest and how much people appreciate that. Jenny has an anxiety disorder and suffers from depression but she lives an amazing life and she makes people laugh.

I know how annoying it can be when people are super honest. It can be socially awkward - like if someone starts talking about their colonoscopy within the first ten minutes of meeting you. It can also be super tiresome - like when someone's facebook status updates are always along the lines of 'I'm wasting away in a wasteland of miserable because I'm the miserable mayor of miserable town'.

My opinion is that people don't love you for all the miserable crap you've been through. I've never heard anyone say, "I love So-and-So because they always have some sad tale of ultra woe!' - I'm sure there ARE people who do say this and quite frankly they can all flock together, but I digress.

What makes a person interesting, wonderful and delightful is how they made it through the crap. I look up to and admire Pema Chodron because she shares the wisdom she gained from the experiences she's had. Eckhart Tolle is adored for the same reasons. So was Gandhi, so is Byron Katie, so is Nelson Mandella. They've been there, done that and rather than whinging about life being unfair they've shared how life is what you choose to make it, not in-spite of the challenging bits but because of what we learn and how we grow from the challenging bits.

But here lies my dilemma. The value of your experience and what you have learned is often measured by what you have gone through. As a young person, the credit of your wisdom is difficult to prove because it's assumed that a) if you've had fewer experiences then b) you have less wisdom. By that reasoning, when you get to be in your sixties and seventies you should be pretty sage and wise because you've had so many experiences to learn from.

Well, I think that's crap. I think there are plenty of people who might live to one hundred and not have a bloody clue. I also think there are people who, by the age of ten, have some incredible insights. You can have the same experience over and over and over, but until you learn the lesson that experience is trying to teach you, you won't be any wiser. 

So this is why this entry is important to me because it's about how my experience has shaped a lot of my choices, beliefs and ideas. It's why I chose to write my book, 'Wise at Any Age' - a handbook for cultivating wisdom (which you can buy now!)

I want to help creative people tap into and express their creativity. I want help people get over their procrastination. I want to help people stop making excuses and start making beautiful, amazing contributions to the world. The best way to help people in these ways is to share my story; my wonderful, beautiful, messed up, occasionally confusing, but very valuable story, and continue living a fantastic life - lead by example and all that biz-niz.

The Bloggess calls it 'Naked Blogging'. The idea is, if you know where someone is coming from then the value of their experience is that much more obvious. I can't really argue with that. As with the aforementioned Famous-People-Who-Have-Survived-Adveristy-And-Are-Better-For-It, knowing that we can be totally awesome not in spite of our experiences, but because of our experiences, is extremely powerful.

So I'm going to take the plunge and do a Naked Blog. A blog about why I came to write 'Wise at Any Age' and why I believe in helping people realise their own potential. That being said, this particular entry has gone on long enough. Thank you for getting this far.

Get your copy of 'Wise at Any Age'

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Official 'Wise at any Age' Launch video!

On Friday, June 21st I celebrated the launch of Wise at any Age with a little London Square dancing - Soho, Leicester and Trafalgar. I was joined by a fantastic group of silent disco supporters who also helped by handing out cards promoting my book and making the entire event super, ridiculously fun. 

This is the evidence of an evening well spent in Central London. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wise at Any Age book launch!

My official book launch celebration is tomorrow! 

I will be doing a bit of London Square dancing - as in dancing around in various squares of London. Namely, Soho, Leicester and Trafalgar Square! 

If you'd like to come join the fun either as a dancer or as spectator the details are on my Facebook page.

And if you'd like to buy a copy of my book? 

Well, exciting news! You now can! 

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

There are so many people to thank and there is a page at the back of the book where I mention a select few of those who have given me support through this particular project. This hasn't just been a two year and eight month project of writing and editing and illustrating and designing and editing some more. This has been my entire life of being encouraged to be creative and express myself through words and do whatever I set my mind to.

It's wonderful that I have a book to offer the world but if I'm completely honest, if I just had the one copy - my first proof - that would be enough because that in itself is an astounding thing to hold. I still can hardly believe this is really happening and I am excited to be sharing it with so many people! 

This book began as an article about overcoming mental illness through creativity. It has evolved into something quite different: a toolkit for anyone, regardless of age, who wants to cultivate wisdom. 

It is the creation of inspiration from conversations with friends and family, young and old, who have taught me incredible things and made me open my eyes more and more to the reality of the world we live in. It is the accumulation of lessons learned from difficult people who challenge my ideas, test my limits and show me where I still have work to do. Ultimately it is a reminder that we are never too young, or too old, to gain wisdom. 

Wisdom is not about how long we have lived. It is not about how many experiences we've had. 

It is about the lessons we have learned. 

One of the greatest lessons of my life has been the importance of living it fully. Life doesn't start tomorrow or next week or in a month or when we get the 'right' job or the 'perfect' partner. So if you want something for your life, make it happen.

Believe me. It's worth it. 

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Monday, June 17, 2013

How to Get Published

Step one:

Write a lot. Write the novel you always wanted. Write it during National Novel Writing Month. Write it while commuting on a train. Write it on rainy Sunday mornings. Write it during your lunch break. Write it after dinner. But whatever you do, finish writing it before you move on to step two.

Step two:
Edit the first three chapters.

You can edit more of it if you want but most agents want a sample, not the whole work, and they want the beginning because they want it to grab their attention. So edit the first three chapters as much as you can to get them super polished. Find a friend to edit them, if it helps, and be critical. Think about what you enjoy reading. Think about what makes you keep turning pages and apply it to what you've written. Make sure there's tension and intrigue and please, please, please make sure there are no spelling mistakes.

Step three:
Research agents.

Most agents will be based in major city centres, like London or New York. If they're not, be wary. An agent's job is to sell your product and that means moving within the publishing world. Most publishing houses are based in major city centres so you want your agent based there too.

You also want an agent that works with your genre so make sure you identify the authors they've worked with in the past and the sort of books they're looking for.

Also - you should never have to pay an agent to read your stuff. If it says they charge to read a manuscript, don't even consider them.

*You can go directly to publishers if you want but the majority of publishing houses don't accept unsolicited manuscripts or manuscripts without an agent. 

Step four:
Check the submission guidelines.

Some agents want a covering letter that includes a synopsis, miniature biography, word count, and a bit about your experience as an author/writer. Some agents want a covering letter with the title, word count and whether or not you've completed the novel.

Some agents want the first three chapters and a full page synopsis. Some agents want the first chapter or even just the first 500 words. Some want a synopsis like that you'd find on the dust jacket of a book. Others prefer a chapter breakdown, full list of characters and full chapter summary.

Some agents won't care how many other agents you've submitted a manuscript to. Others will be fine if it's just one or two others. Others still won't read your manuscript if they're not the only agency you're considering.

More agents accept online submissions these days, but there are still many that will require you to include a Postage Paid envelope so they can return your manuscript to you.

Step five:
Prep your manuscript for submission.

Follow the aforementioned guidelines and get your manuscript up to snuff for the agent(s) you'll be sending it to. Include everything they've asked for to the exact specifications they've used. Agents are very busy and they won't have time for a manuscript that isn't easy to process.

Step six:
Set it free.

Send your work out into the world. Most agents will get back to you within two or three months. They should have the expected turn around time on their website. It might be an idea to create a spreadsheet of the dates of your submissions. Follow-up when the allotted time has passed if you've not yet heard from them.

Step seven:
Start collecting rejection letters.

Read them. Review their feedback and apply any changes you can to your manuscript. Save them if you want or burn them if you like - that's up to you. But you will get rejected. You'll get rejected over and over and over and over again. Remember: When you get a rejection letter it means someone has looked at your work. It means someone has taken the time to consider it. It means your work is out there, doing something, instead of sitting on your computer or in journals or worse yet, still in your head completely unwritten.

Step eight:

Do it again. Keep writing, keeping researching agents, keep submitting manuscripts and keep collecting rejection letters. Persistence paid off. The most successful people on the planet, the people who are content in their day to day lives because they have build a life they love, worked bloody hard at it. They went out and made it happen. And there is absolutely nothing about them that is different from you.

If all that fails or if you're tired of waiting, publish it yourself. 

No excuses.

If you want something you'll make it happen. 

Wise at Any Age will be available to purchase on Thursday the 20th of June!

Thursday, June 13, 2013


I've made the few revisions necessary to the proof of my book. I have to say I am absolutely glowing with joy. I keep taking the proof out and just looking at it, flipping the pages, feeling it solidly in my hand. It's like holding a wish - only it's not a wish. It's real.

Now when people ask me 'What do you do?" and I tell them I'm a Creative Specialist I can say,
"Well, I do graphic design, painting, sculpture, a bit of animation and I'm a published author."


That sounds amazing. 

I'm a published author. 

I've always been a writer. But now I'm an author. 

As soon as the next proof arrives, and as long as I'm totally happy with the result, you can hold your very own copy of 'Wise at Any Age', Kaitlyn S. C. Hatch's first published book. Details coming sooner than you think.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Ineffable - Something that cannot be described in words. 

Since I can remember I have written. I have filled over 40 journals since the age of six. I have completed seven manuscripts, including one last November during National Novel Writing Month. I have always been and always will be a writer. 

Telling me to keep writing is like reminding me to breath. 

To be a published author has been my dream. It has been the only thing I've consistently wanted since the age of five. 

Today the proof copy of my first published book was waiting for me when I got home. 

Follow your dreams. Turn them into goals. Make them real. 

The feeling is ineffable but you'll know it when it happens to you. 

Holding my very first published book for the very first time

No idea how amazing it is to see my name on the spine

Fully illustrated and laid out with much care over the past few months

I'm extremely happy with the cover - which I redesigned about
a dozen times before landing on this. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

General update post!

Apparently I'm on a roll when it comes to shoes. I bought this lovely pair for myself whilst in Canada back in April. I put them in a drawer and promised to spend some of the time in Japan coming up with inspiration for a design. I'm quite chuffed with the outcome.

Got a little ego boost this past weekend when one of my clients sent me this shiny testimonial:

"Kaitlyn created my twitter header and background. What seemed like a small project was actually a thoughtful and an incredibly helpful process of defining me and my brand, assisted by a very original and clever questionnaire I had to fill as an initial briefing. It made me think of so many different aspects of visual imagery and subtleties of design that one small art project became a proactive exercise in empowering my brand."

This was from the organiser of 'Ladies Who Impress'. The next event is coming up on June 17th and will feature Jenny Dawson, the founder of Rubies in the Rubble, Katherine Grainger, a British rower who won Gold at the 2012 London Olympics and Xiaolu Guo, a writer, filmmaker and storyteller. You can get tickets through the website. 

And the epub research for 'Wise at Any Age' is coming along nicely thanks to I'm still flip flopping on whether to publish what I have right now or wait until I can launch both the ebook and print version at the same time.  

Generally I think the decision will boil down to just how easy/fast it is to turn what I currently have into ePub material. Regardless, watch this space for news on the release of my book! 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Pretty designs inspired by Japan!

I was on a very tight budget whilst in Japan so I wanted to make sure that when I did make a purchase of something to bring back it was something really uniquely Japanese. I discovered Tabi footwear, better known as 'ninja shoes' to those in the west, and purchased some to give to our dear friend who was house sitting in our absence. Before giving them to her I took the inspiration I gained on the trip to give them a unique design.

They were received with glee.