Winter wonderland inspiration, 5 ways to get through the darkness of January

To boost your creativity and motivation…

As I write this, it is famously ‘Blue Monday’ in the UK, a notion that I don’t actually subscribe to as it sometimes falls on my Birthday (next Monday, I’ve escaped it this year) and whoever came up with this idea, I really don’t know exactly what they were trying to achieve, other than perhaps permission to be miserable? And who wants to be that?

I think we have enough reason to potentially be miserable don’t you, without another reminder thank you very much!

Ok, rant over BUT what I can identify with is the people among us who seem to suffer more from the dark days of Winter, and become enveloped in the gloominess, at least weather-wise out there, the ones that suffer from Seasonal Affected Disorder.

Then add on what we are all going through right now, and it would be very easy to say, ‘ok I think I’ll just hibernate until the Spring arrives, bringing sunshine, and way more of us vaccinated’!

But unfortunately, life’s never that simple is it? We are not dormice, or hedgehogs, we are humans that need to get on with things, and so this Winter whilst still in the middle of a pandemic, we need to dig deeper than ever before to find our energy reserves, to keep fuelling a positive, hopeful mindset and actively search for more inspiration and motivation.

And if you are someone that gains that fundamental resource from other people, face to face connection, hobby groups, socialising, events like the theatre and concerts, then it is genuinely more difficult whilst in this position, where it has all been taken away from us, for a 3rd time in a year.

So, what do we do about it, as creatives, how can we keep inspired and motivated?

  1. Develop a plan to feel more in control of your direction.

Sometimes, as creatives, this is not our strong point! It can feel too formulaic, and a little scary, but trust me, spending some time thinking the next 3 months through can really boost your confidence, knowing on a deeper level and getting to grips with the direction you are heading in, rather than simply ideas floating in your head. And this doesn’t have to be perfectly laid out on an excel spreadsheet!

In fact, thinking how you work best and playing to those strengths makes a big difference to how bought in to this process you will be. So, for example, using coloured pens and mind-mapping it out over the seasons works best for me, and then from that will stem a more detailed 3-month plan.

My latest seasonal mind-map

In these unpredictable times, working on a 3-month basis is far less daunting and more realistic, who knows where we will be in 3 months’ time? Longer term goals can still be noted, and put on a shelf to be at the ready when you are.

Also, if you don’t know where to start, there are tons of free planning resources out there, such as these from @josephinebrooks, the queen of ‘Make a Plan, Make it happen’ podcast

2.Throw in some new challenges, and be open to new opportunities.

I think this is especially important right now, in a World that has shrunk and become duller in our everyday life, it’s important to keep your creativity spark, and that can always be reignited by daring yourself to try new things.

As creative people develop a certain style in their work and become more confident and comfortable, it’s easy to slip into the stream of just doing those things, but what got you to that point of success in the first place was your curiosity and courage to try.

This is where the magic lies, and we have to keep nurturing it in order to not just play it safe and grow in our creative approach and work.

If you continue doing the same thing for too long, then the passion for our work dwindles and you become bored doing the same old thing. To keep our curious energy alive, especially right now, you may be thinking it would take a monumental effort to challenge yourself at this time, but without trying, we will never know what is possible.

I know in a world that feels out of control right now, it may be more tempting to keep small, hunker down and protect ourselves, but it is rising to the challenges where we really grow, in our spirit, confidence and skills.

Opportunities to do this are everywhere when you look and are open to them.

Take last week for example, I was sent an opportunity from a friend about a self-care art project run by Artworks. I took a look and learned more about the work they do and was even more intrigued. For the project you had to put together an artistic selfcare proposal, plus send your CV and an Art portfolio.

It sounded great and I thought I could adapt the guiding word work I’ve done recently to this and put forward a proposal. However, the deadline was the very next day.

Now, I could have easily passed this up, it was short notice, it was something I had no experience of doing before, I had no Art portfolio, or a recent CV for that matter and so it was going to take some work.

But I also knew the project, and the people behind it, matched my values and were doing something that was great, for the benefit of others during the pandemic, and so I got to work and handed it in, just in time.

I’m under no illusion that they’ve probably had many entries, and therefore I am unlikely to get it, BUT what it did for me was several things, all of which were beneficial and a great learning opportunity for me:

  • Challenged me to have a go at something completely new.
  • Helped me to sum up the idea within perimeters – similar what I used to do with propositions when I worked in Marketing, and so it rejuvenated an old skill.
  • Made me update my visual CV, something I created a while a go with the help of @nickyraby.
  • Made me create an Art portfolio – again, something I’ve never done before.
  • Now I have some templates ready to adapt, if an opportunity like this comes up again.
  • I’ve created a new connection with a place I believe in and has similar values to my own, and have expressed an interest in collaborating, despite whether I win this opportunity or not.

There are many places to seek out opportunities and challenges, here are a just a few:

  • Magazine competitions – e.g., Writers News
  • Instagram hashtag challenges
  • Skills competitions such as the 30-Day Sketchbook Challenge that runs throughout January, but you can join up anytime.
  • Simple prompts based on unique days, see here for some ideas from my friend Clair @asocialnature.
  • Sign up to a virtual hobby group or class, such as @mockingbirdmakes ‘Creative Conversations with Shannon’ or join her Small Business Huddle for a friendly supportive networking group, every Thursday at 10.15am – 11am
  • Follow ‘How-to’ videos on YouTube, see here for an example from my favourite artist John Harrison.
  • Join a virtual choir if singing or music is your thing.

3. Actively seek new ways to be inspired.

This is somewhat harder than it used to be, due to some of our old avenues of inspiration being closed off, such as art galleries, exhibitions, our hobby groups, shops to understand what the trends are BUT that just means we have to become more inventive, and find new places to be inspired.

As I’m sure you know, digital platforms have grown immensely during lockdown, with some areas particularly taking off – and all are massive sources of inspiration, you just have to be careful you are not sitting there, all hours of the day, soaking it up.

Choose where you spend your time wisely. Pick accounts (e.g., Instagram) that pique your interest, match your values, and then get the most benefit, focus on what you are learning, take notes, connect with people, collaborate even, to get the most value from this time.

One that has really taken off during this last year are Facebook Groups:

Public Facebook groups are largely free, but you have to request to join (usually by just answering a few questions) and seem to have grown ten-fold over night! These are where you can become part of a specialised community, share your wares, take part in challenges, seek advice and are also a place to be accountable, if you wish, with regular prompts by the facilitators. Many also do Live interviews, which you can learn a lot from. Here are some of my favourites for small businesses and creatives:

Your Story Matters

Holly and Community

Women Who Choose Higher

Psychologies Connected Community

30 Day Sketchbook Challenge

4. Get outside, for your sanity and creativity.

All the above you may have noticed are things that you can do whilst in the confines and safety of your own homes.

But the one thing I can practically guarantee will bring more inspiration and mental wellness than any of the above, is to get outside and embrace all that Winter has to offer, and I know that can be a challenge in the UK with storms, rain, and sometimes endless fog days but now and again we do get some sunshine and also SNOW!

This happened in Yorkshire last week, and my walks took on a whole new magical entity, taking trips into a Narnia like kingdom! It really was mesmerising.

I can’t tell you what a huge mood-boosting experience it was, the sun on my face and the air so fresh, it cleansed my mind and soul all in one.

I took my friend into the woods too, and all I could hear were ‘Oooos, Ahhhs and Wows’ as we turned each corner.

I took so many pictures that day, fully engrossed in the view before me, which I’ve now uploaded on to my @soothedbynature account. When we are getting so few experiences to see new things at the moment, the changing of the seasons is the pure visual tonic we need to top us up.

I know everyone’s exercise space is different. You may live in a town or city, but it’s about the adventure and the possibility of seeing new things. For that hour’s exercise, so long as we do it safely, we can walk anywhere we choose, so enjoy that moment of freedom and explore, find the unique images, and use them in your work.

I know of a few accounts – @jfprod, @seasidekate amongst many others that take images of such unusual things on their walks, and they always inspire me, because they have captured something unique. And there are ones that bring us hope that we can visit new places and go on holidays again, @elenapellecchia58 certainly keeps that dream alive for me with her beautiful images of her home village in Tuscany!

5. Keep listening and learning.

On the days when those walks are simply about getting the dog out, being blasted by the rain and wind and not going flying in the mud, then it’s using that head space to learn that inspires me, and makes the walk more bearable!

I don my wellies, gloves and bobble hat and plug myself into a good podcast. You will know from my past posts that this has become a bit of an addiction, but they are so good, and genuinely inspiring and sometimes life-changing conversations that we are getting to listen in on, and for FREE!

You can check out my previous post here on my favourites, but I have some more recent selections too, here they are below….

This week also saw the return of Holly Tucker’s Conversations of Inspiration, which I must admit I’ve been keeping an eye out for as it is one of my absolute favourites!

This week’s conversation was with sports presenter Jake Humphries where growing up in Norfolk, Jake’s childhood was not an easy one after suffering severe bullying at school. After failing his exams and being fired from McDonalds, someone took a chance on Jake and changed the course of this life forever.

In this conversation, Jake shares his belief that people must take 100% responsibility in life – as well as his family motto to ‘never sit in the comfy chair’ – and how these philosophies have been pivotal in his journey to one of the leading broadcasters in the UK. 

It’s such a valuable conversation, culminating in the ‘Letter to my younger self’ part of the format of Holly’s podcast and always a complete tear-jerker! Tissues at the ready!

As well as podcasts, I always keep a look out for new books and there’s a few on my ‘want’ list currently, not least Fearne Cotton’s ‘Speak Your Truth’ which I can’t wait to read. Hoping the birthday fairies may help me out there!

And finally speaking of my birthday, I’ve also added this wreathe kit from Bloomindales to my list, rather than receiving a bunch of flowers, much as I love those, I’d rather have the double joy of learning to make something myself, which I can then pop on the front door to create some extra, much-needed cheeriness.

So, I hope that has given you some ideas to keep your inspiration and motivation topped up on your creative projects throughout the chilliness and darkness of Winter.

My plan is to also use my wintery photos as stimulus for a poem next week, as it’s my turn on the Yorkshire Writers Lunch Blog – which I might add is another great source of inspiration for writers too so do check it out.

Until next time, go on a 1-hour adventure, but stay safe and take care.

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps, Another thing you could get involved with if you are looking for ways to fill your time is to join the RSBP big garden bird watch taking place this weekend 29th – 31st January – great to get the kids involved with too!

2 Comments on “Winter wonderland inspiration, 5 ways to get through the darkness of January

  1. Pingback: 47 Years Young – How understanding your lived experiences brings inner strength to tackle anything. – The Curious Creative Club

  2. Pingback: 100 lessons from the land of a Creative Blogger… on my 100th Blog post!

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