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!

How my guiding words will work for me in 2021

And how you can make them work hard for you too…

Hi everyone, how’s it going after yet another momentous week in this crazy world? I feel like a month has gone by since my last post, and yet it’s zoomed by as well.

It’s been a case of getting back into the realms of an online learning routine for the kids, being back at home now, and re-opening The Thomas Family Café, which last time round was the bane of my life BUT thankfully already my guiding words are flying into my head to help me out and keep me calm!

This is always a good sign that you have picked the right guiding words, when you start to think about them subconsciously to help navigate day to day life and this is what I want to talk to you about today.

But first I want to explain how I came to choose mine, and why this year I’ve picked not just one, but two.

The first direction I was heading in during my process, (which you can read about on last week’s blog here if you are still trying to choose), was based on how I was working towards the end of last year, the word ‘Action’ kept floating to the surface.

I’d begun to get into a pattern of working really hard, striving to make every spare minute count, in a World that was increasingly unpredictable. My head was in that place of; ‘You need to crack on as much as possible now, because the ‘time’ could be taken away from you again, at any given moment’.

When I worked through the process, and from reflecting a lot on last year (see here for that Blog post), I realised I’d done a hell of a lot, and of course there’s a sense of satisfaction in that, that I could get on with it and get lots done when I had to, BUT the revelation was that a lot of the ‘doing’ was in response to what I’d gone through.

For those who have come on board recently, the first half of 2020 for me was spent in Chemo treatment, where if you think a global pandemic takes away control in your life, then being in a chemo routine, is whole other level! The hardest part of treatment was relinquishing control to the doctors and knowing that despite the head being willing, physically I felt so crap, there was very little I could do, other than rest and watch TV, which for someone who loves to be busy, was torture at first, until I surrendered to it.

What it did mean during the days I felt well, I went into this manic thing of; ‘Right, I’ve got get loads done before I go back downhill again’, the treatment was every 2 weeks, so this was a constant yo-yo, almost like I was living in 2 different bodies. Eventually I realised what I was doing, but also the adrenaline rush and distraction of interesting projects, kept me going.

Having this purpose and drive when I was well was key for me mentally BUT I also knew that eventually it would catch up with me physically, and from September onwards I was pretty knackered!

So, instead I went through the process and asked myself the key questions, including ‘How did I want to feel in 2021?’, and my new word started to filter through, which was ‘Balanced’ but to make that more active and present, it then became ‘Balance’.

Much of 2020 was still spent rushing around, despite lockdown, whether it be to hospital apts, school pick-ups or to my daughters swimming sessions and timings fitted in around that such as different mealtimes for half the family, and re-organising our accountability group WOW Wednesdays to really help support members in lockdown.

My close friends are often shocked at how much I fit in during a day, but I was starting to feel exhausted by it all, something needed to give. I also realised that I don’t often deep ‘breathe’ and I think I even hold it without realising. I wanted to add in a word that not only reminded me to do that (I know, madness!), but to also be in the ‘present’ not always ‘future’ thinking on the next task, which I do ALL the time!

Plus, as you know, I’m a big believer on looking for the signs out there, and in a past post I talked about listening to Brene Brown’s podcast ‘Unlocking us’ with Gabby Riviera which slapped me around the face with a wake-up call when they started talking about her book ‘Juliet take’s a breath’. I always take note of these messages put out into the universe!

Defining your words

The most important part for me once you’re close to choosing your word/s is looking at how you personally define the meanings, because then you can unlock further how they will work for you across different areas of your life. The best words for me are ones that work in multiple ways and are multi-faceted

I first begin at looking at the dictionary definitions:

Balance: ‘An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady’

Bam! The ending of that definition sealed it for me! Yes, please to remaining upright and steady, that was EXACTLY what I needed!

Balance for me also means pausing to weigh things up, and it’s a feeling of calm and contentment, less heart-racing more liquid warmth running through my body. Balance feels very physical for me and as I’m so often ‘in my head’, thinking of ideas, plans, projects, you name it, this word feels perfect for reconnecting with my body and making it strong again, after a year of having everything thrown at it.

Breathe: Take air into the lungs and then expel it, especially as a regular physiological response

And also, Breather: To stop and pause, to take a small rest

The first is interesting to me as it also indicates letting go, you take in what you need (i.e., oxygen) and expel what you don’t need (carbon dioxide), it gives a sense of letting go to live in a more balanced way.

Breathe, also indicates to stop, and take a breath / breather, which is all about pausing, recognising how you are breathing in the present moment and asking yourself, what do you need right now? Check in with your body, do you need a 10-minute rest?

So that is how I define my words ‘Balance and Breathe’, but now how will I use them in everyday life?

I really enjoy this part because this is when the coloured pens come out and I start thinking deeper about my words’ job! And that is to work hard and perhaps differently across as many areas of my life to have the most effect.

One example of the Wheel of Life, provided by White Apple Thinking

To help with this, you could use a simple ‘Wheel of life’ (see pic) and ask yourself how your words will relate to each area. So, for example, how can I use ‘balance’ and ‘breathe’ in the ‘money’ section?

I then get to work mind-mapping it out, so if I get stuck at all throughout the year, I can come back and refer to it.

This is the fun bit – mind-mapping it all out so you can see where it’s going to have the most impact

Simply thinking this all through and writing it down has a big effect because it feels like more of a commitment.

In essence, your word choices are gifts to yourself, creating an inner coach to help you navigate the year. You need to spend time getting to know them well.

And once you focus on them, get to the heart of what they mean for you and create a relationship with them, you will find they start to show up for you naturally, subconsciously, when you need them the most – just like your best friends getting in touch to check in with you.

I’ll give you an example, after I’d done my mind-mapping exercise, the next day I had a few things on, and time was over-running. I had a choice to either, drop off something at my Mum’s, and potentially miss the start of a workshop I‘d signed up to (Josephine Brooks, online planning workshop), or let my mum know I’d be up later on, stay home, have a decent lunch, do the workshop and then do the errand.

Now I know that sounds really simple, but ‘old’ me would not have wanted to let my mum down when she was expecting me, and would have whizzed over to do it, and rushed a sandwich whilst trying to catch up on the training.

BUT unexpectedly a question flew into my head:

‘Will going now tip the ‘Balance’ of my energy today?.’

Quickly followed by; ‘Am I giving myself enough ‘breathing’ space?’

I was so shocked I wrote these down, and committed them to memory for future use! But the point is it made me really stop and think, rather than just doing what I would have normally done. I listened to the question’s advice, and changed the time, thoroughly enjoyed the workshop, and nobody died!

In the end I joined the workshop, on time and took lots of notes, feeling motivated and relaxed

And that’s the beauty of this inner work and using things like guiding words because it really can be THAT simple, but the simple most consistent things, have the most effect and impact into changing habits for the better, and for good.

So here are a few other ways in which my words will show up for me (not all or I’d be here all day) in 4 areas of my life:

Wellbeing:

  • Strike a better balance between busyness and stillness, quit the rush
  • Pause for a breather, deep breathe at least 3 times a day, and done in the outdoors is even better

Work:

  • Balance the work throughout the year into 3-month plans, be more realistic when setting goals.
  • Create breathing space in-between tasks, pause, stretch, have a drink of water, feed into creative energy

Fun & Recreation

  • Balance work with play, i.e., the doing with experimenting, and protect Saturday ‘family’ nights
  • Breathe in ‘new’ air/inspiration, a reminder to go on new adventures, different places to walk, new skills to try

Money

  • Balance my ‘free’ work and support with projects that will take me forwards business-wise, be specific about how much money I want to earn
  • Be more conscious with spending, pause and ask, ‘Does this support what I need long-term?’ to bear in mind the goals I have around training (which costs money!).

Just doing this short exercise I can see that ‘breathe’ can also mean ‘pause’ for me, and so is already showing up in different ways which is helpful and increases its value on a day-to-day basis.

The final stage…making your words visible!

Now that I’ve mind-mapped this all out, the final stage is to make my words visible, for those moments when life gets in the way, although I do think when you’ve been doing this a while as I have, for the last 5 years, you become more aware, especially when you have done this deeper work.

However, it’s still good to do this, and builds in some creative time, which you know is what I’m all about, so get out the paints, pencils, whatever art material of choice and create a visual representation of you word. This could be simply writing in some beautiful typography, or you could create a picture that embodies your word that you can relate to.

Alternatively, if you’d prefer, create a vision board, with key images torn out of magazines, placing your word in the middle, and adding in some supporting words too if you find that helpful.

Recently, I’ve got more into using Canva, so I’ve created this, below, using a photo from the holiday we went on in Cornwall, because the sea, always makes me feel instantly calm and more balanced, I’ve always been a water baby, part of my Aquarian star-sign, I think!

But then I experimented with colours that in my mind relate to elements in nature (another passion of mine) and added more support words around the edges that relate again to how I want to feel and work and with a little reminder to practice what I preach by adding play in there!

This is what happens when you play in Canva!

Each square and what they represent, left to right:

Mountain Path – (Earth): This is about staying on the right path, feeling committed to my direction, sure of my decisions and aligned to my values, knowing it’s a long game and a step-by-step journey

Sky (Air)Breathing life into my passions and connections by speaking about them, it’s about learning and exploring, the wind carrying my ideas forward, and thinking bigger – blue-sky thinking and giving them a voice and boosting belief

Sea (Water)This is where I get most of my energy, by being curious and creative, it’s where I feel most at home, trusting my intuition and going with the flow of my creative rhythm, just like the consistency and ease of the tide

Sun (Fire)This is a reminder to not always be so focussed, to relax and find my sparks of joy, be playful and present and shine in my own quirky way and not ‘dull’ myself to fit in

I hope my example gives you some inspiration of how you can take your words further if you wish to and if you need any more ideas of how people have done this, have a look on Pinterest, or join Susannah Conway’s Facebook group, called ‘Find Your Word 2021’ as many people have put their versions on there.

And finally, Talk about it! It’s a great fun exercise to do with the family and get the kids involved. Plus, it helps you ‘own’ your word/s fully by talking to other people about it and even better to get friends involved and sharing their words too – you can then check in with each other and see how it’s going throughout the year. As you know when we share, it helps us to become accountable, and we often do better in achieving our intentions.

Or if it feels a little scary sharing it with friends, share it with me and this community instead, via my Facebook page or on my Instagram, where I‘ll be sharing a post to promote this blog post.

The only other thing to do is to make time to check in with your choice/s now and again to make sure they still feel right. As we know life and circumstances change all the time, so make sure your word/s still fit well for where you are heading or how you want to feel.

Your word/s are for you and you only so don’t be afraid to change them, at any point.

I hope this has helped to show you how your guiding words can have a real impact on your life, this is not a surface level thing to just tick because everyone else is doing it, it’s a powerful practice that can really help you move forwards if you take the time to integrate your words properly, and if they do show up in mysterious ways, I would love to know about it, so please do share in the comments!

Until next time…enjoy your daily walk (they are helping to keep me sane!), and then stay warm and cosy and safe.

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

how to choose your guiding word and optimise its power

Hi Everyone, how are you doing?

Firstly, Happy New Year! We really have made it into 2021, kind of surreal and a sense of relief for myself and many I think!

If you watched the fireworks and lights display over London on New Year’s Eve, I’m sure you felt very moved as it took us through the journey of 2020, it made me feel hugely emotional that we had all gotten through it, just, by the skin of our teeth and the bit at the end with David Attenborough telling us to look after the planet more, well he’s just my absolute hero.

The last few days have been spent removing the tree and the accompanying 10 thousand needles (I know we’ll be finding them for days despite vacuuming constantly!), going on snowy walks and sledging (it’s so pretty here at the moment) and eating comfort food as the cold really sets in, in front of the fire.

BUT, that Christmas lazy lull is starting to leave me and I can feel my mind buzzing to start cracking on with a plan and for me that always starts with choosing my guiding word/s for the year.

Now I know this practice is beginning to lose it’s uniqueness, years ago it was a well-guarded secret that slowly eased it’s way round the internet, spreading it’s magic, and now it seems the whole world and his dog are doing it, but don’t let that put you off.

Because of Covid and much of our social connection is via social media, the guiding word practice has spread like wild-fire, BUT that’s because it is good, and valuable and so when you can cut through the noise of everyone shouting about what theirs is, for those who are newbies, there are some really good tips to help you find yours, not least here of course!

Writer and teacher, @susannahconway also does a great free 5-day email course to guide you through choosing your word, click here to sign up.

I’ve been writing about choosing a guiding word since starting this Blog, right now heading into its 3rd year, and this ritual for me actually started 5 years ago when I learned all about it, initially from Mindset and Empowerment Coach @gabrielletreanor.   

So firstly let me explain, what on Earth is this ‘guiding word / word of the year’ thing that everyone is harping on about and do I really need one?

A guiding word serves as a regular reminder in our daily lives to help us reach desired outcomes, goals or simply how we want to feel / be. You can use the word to focus on one particular area of your life that you’d like to improve, or it can be a more over-arching theme that can relate to all aspects within your life.

“For me, words are a form of action, capable of influencing change. Their articulation represents a complete, lived experience.”
—Ingrid Bengis

As a writer, I’ve always believed there is a great power in words and never more so when choosing just one! It’s a practice I really enjoy doing, I like to dig deep and find one that fits just right and that can take time, but there’s no need to hurry it, I know from experience that the right word will come to me and you eventually.

So, what are the benefits of this seemingly simple practice, can choosing a word really make such a difference? Absolutely YES and here’s why:-

  • It encourages you to think deeply about the direction you want to take this year, or changes big or small you want to make, how often do we take time out of the busyness of doing and think about the bigger picture or long-term aims?

This can be a fun way to start, that can then lead on to more specific intention setting for the year.

  • It can help you make decisions when you are swamped and overwhelmed e.g. which decision is keeping true to your word and direction? For example, if you chose ‘align’ to create more harmonious projects that sit together better, does it then make sense to agree to a tempting, shiny new project that jars with the work you are already doing?
  • On those days when we’re just not feeling it or finding life challenging, your word can pick you back up, support and re-energise you, reminding you of where you are going and carrying you away from the negatives of that day, a chance to re-set
  • When used well, you’ll find your word spreading across all areas of your life and having a wider positive impact
  • Focus and purpose are key elements for humans in terms of well-being, when we have things to aim for that feel good, it naturally releases endorphins and encourages us to repeat these actions, eventually turning it into positive behaviour change, it just take practice and your word can help you to commit.

So now you know the benefits, where do you start, without searching through the entire Oxford Dictionary?

Firstly, you need to examine what you want the word to do. ‘Words of the Year’ are usually chosen to motivate you and use as a way of helping to change something for the better or to work towards.

So, for example, if you spend all day rushing around looking after everyone else, then the word ‘self-care’ may be an option but if you’ve already built that into your life, then it’s not really going to challenge or inspire you, more just a reminder to continue to do the same.

I go about choosing a word in the following way:

Step 1 – The important questions

  • What do I want to improve on or change? This could come from a little evaluation work of last year such as; what went well and not so well and what do I want to stop, start, continue doing?
  • Have you got anything big coming up this year that could have an impact on your word choice? e.g. getting married, moving overseas, job change etc
  • On an ideal day, how do I want to feel? E.g. rested, calm, full of beans, inspired, content, motivated, organised, joyous? It maybe that you choose a ‘feeling’ word rather than an action one.
  • What kind of word do I ‘need’ to help me feel this way? For example will you choose an active or passive word – do I need bolstering with a word like ‘Action’ or a nudge to go slower such as ‘Restore’?
  • Do I need encouragement to go inwards or outwards? Such as, do I need to work on my own self-awareness, perhaps looking after my health more or would I benefit from connecting or collaborating with others?

These are all important questions to ask yourself and uncover the truth of what you really need from your word – it should be your Ally, working hard like your own mini PA / Cheerleader in the background, so take your time to work through these questions, write the answers down in a notebook.

Step 2 – The long list and the short list

  • Next, it’s time to jot down some ideas, some words may already stand out from the notes you’ve taken above. Create a simple long list of words at first and then leave it for a while, ideally overnight.
  • Then come back to your list and highlight the ones that instantly feel good, don’t overthink it, use your gut instinct and get busy with your highlighter! Cross out one’s that you now think no longer work.
  • Don’t immediately get rid of words left behind that are somewhere in the middle, these may become supporting words later on.
  • Now go and make a cup of tea, you need refreshments to get to the serious business of narrowing it down! This part reminds me of choosing your children’s names! It feels that personal and important and you have to love it!
  • Finally narrow it down to just 6, or further if you can.

Step 3 – The chosen 1! (or 2 or 3!)

Then go on to asking yourself the following questions for each one…

  • What does each word mean to me – how do I define it? Some words may have several meanings, make sure you explore them all, to make sure they still feel aligned to what you want them to do. For example ‘Present’ can mean 3 things: Present as in, in the moment, as in gift or as in to present something to someone on a stage – all 3 meanings may be useful, but in different ways?
  • Can my word stretch to be useful across all areas of my life – this is really important I find to embed it fully and to have maximum impact, (unless it is very important to you to address just one aspect of your life right now).

I generally mind-map it out with the word at the centre, and all aspects it links to shooting off from it, that way I can see for myself how it will integrate into all areas.

  • Does the word challenge & excite me? This may be more for the writers out there but I’m finding myself increasingly trying to find a less ‘generic’ word, the one I chose one year was incredibly useful, but the word itself didn’t thrill me and it bugged me a little!
  • Say your words out loud  – this is a bit like when you have a puppy and you check out a potential name as if you are calling it out on a walk! You have to feel good about it, and saying it out loud can test that! Maybe on your own though as your family may thing you’re a bit odd!

By now, this should have helped to single out the most appropriate word on your list, but if not, just sit with your reduced selections for a few days and one will soon rise to the top!

Step 4 – Optimise your words’ power!

So, hurrah! Congratulations, you have your word! Now it’s time to empower it, put it to work in a way that suits you best and will make you sit up and take notice!

Ask yourself:

  • How can I make this really work for me, for example as a visual person and artist, once I’ve chosen my word, it gets made into a piece of artwork that goes on my fridge, so I see it every single day. I’ll also be writing it on my blackboard in the cabin!

Other ideas you can use:

  • Write it in your journal with examples of your day that relate to it or create a front cover with your word on too – like how we used to back books in school!
  • Seek out podcasts and books along your word theme and build your learning
  • Create a caricature of your word, for example Suzy Shine, Magic Maggie or Freddie Freedom  – have fun with it
  • Get some personalised jewellery with your word engraved – I’ve even seen some tags you can now put on Apple Watch or Fitbit straps
  • Find house accessories with you word on, like cushions or decorative pieces, eg Joy, Believe, Happy, Magic are all often used
  • Have fun on Aps like Canva or Pinterest to create some visual designs for your word –this is where I’ve got carried away this year! You can use these as images for your devices like phones and laptops – another way to say hello to you on a regular basis!
  • Create a wooden sign, carve in the word yourself or if you’d like to treat yourself and buy one, @modocreative do beautiful ones like the ‘Curious’ one I got for the Cabin, above.
  • Make a Vision Board with your word in the centre and supporting words and pictures around it, that encompass how your guiding word makes you feel. You can use your own images, pages from magazines, jut have fun sticking away!
  • Talk about it! It’s a great fun exercise to do with the family and get the kids involved. Plus, it helps you ‘own’ your word fully by talking to other people about it and even better to get friends involved and sharing their words too – you can then check in with each other and see how it’s going throughout the year. As you know when we share and become accountable, we often do better in achieving our intentions
  • If some of the other remaining words feel too important to miss out, have them as supporting words instead
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to change it, or have a few…yes this breaks the rules slightly but it big life changes happen, your word may no longer be appropriate, or you may want to create one every 6 months or even one every month, rather than a year, it doesn’t matter – this is about something that will really work for YOU, no-one else, so just go for it!

So as this is already a long post, (I could talk about this for hours), next week (maybe a mid-week drop in as a bonus!), I’ll talk more about how I chose my own personal words for this year and how I intend to use them to their fullest, here’s a sneak peek on the work I’ve been doing on mine behind the scenes – I blame my addiction to Canva for taking this a bit further this year, BUT I know it will be incredibly useful for me to visualise it like this…

I’ll explain all about my choices and how the words, images and colours have come together to work for me.

BALANCE is my main guiding word for 2021 and is supported with BREATHE, they both feel really good!

Until next time…I hope you have fun coming up with yours and I’d love to know your choices AND how you will put them to task in your life.

TC, stay home and keep staying safe…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps Don’t forget for more daily tips and inspiration I mainly hang out on Instagram @thecuriouscreativeclub , I’d love to join you there x

The power of play and trying new things

Hey everyone, how was your Christmas?

Hopefully a good one despite it being vastly different for many? I know I for one just appreciated having both sets of grandparents round for dinner, the last time that happened was back in February! We had a really fun day, watching re-runs of passed family holidays when the kids were little, taking it in turns to open presents and of course a huge feast of a dinner, that left us all feeling satisfyingly comatose!

Last time I wrote all about celebrating your achievements and this time I was going to talk about the lessons from 2020, but I’ve changed my mind, because I think we need a bit of light relief, and the lessons can link into my plans for 2021, which I’m still formulating!

So instead I’m going to talk about the power of play, and experimentation. Now despite me encouraging this a lot to my readers, it’s something that’s fallen a little down the priority list in the last few months, mainly due to the busyness and challenges of life, but none the less I think I’ve missed it.

Now that the kids are home for a good few weeks and maybe longer due to a staggered return to school, it’s highlighted how much we need this as a family, and we’ve found some new creative ways to encourage this a bit more.

First up, my son got a dartboard from the grandparents! It’s been an absolute hit in our household, both kids getting involved and the grandparents on Christmas day too!

This has encouraged us to make the ‘play-room’ what it used to be known as when the kids were small,  into more of a games-room now that they are older, and our main present to our son was a gaming chair, which he’s been after for a while.

If you are anything like me, you’ll agree that most ‘gaming’ chairs are big, dark and ugly cumbersome things, BUT this one I have to say I like, it has LED lights whizzing round it for a start, plus speakers within it for music and games etc, it’s pretty cool I have to admit!

My son has a bit of a thing for lighting too, and he also requested LED light strips, which are now in place under the cupboards, and around the TV too. The overall effect, is perfect for a 12 year old boy, and the rest of us like it too.

Lighting seems to have been a bit of a theme this Christmas, as I also requested some for the Cabin, from Cable & Cotton, we’d bought some similar for my daughter last year, and they stretch across the beam in her bedroom, giving it a lovely warm glow.

It took me ages to pick the colours, they have such a great choice! But now they are up and shining bright in the cabin, I absolutely love them and they make the space even more special, in fact I’m writing this from here right now!

Having the twinkly lights on the tree and even on the branch I’ve decorated in the kitchen, somehow makes everything feel better don’t you think? I don’t know if it’s just because we head into the darker winter nights in the UK, or there’s just something very childlike and playful about it, but bright colours and light, and even the flickering flames of the stove make me feel nostalgic, hopeful and cosy over the colder months.

I also requested a lino-cutting set for Christmas, from The Everyday Creative, as this is something I’ve always wanted to have a go at, and this plus reading an article in Red Magazine have got me thinking about planning out a new ‘Play’ list (see what I did there!) for 2021.

This is partly as Emma Gannon and her Life Coach, Selina Barker in her podcast ‘Ctrl Alt Delete’ discuss how to make sure ‘down-time’ happens, planning these positive self-care moments into our diary. Which is another tactic I know only too well, but I’m not so great at doing this regularly myself!

They also talk about colour-coding your diary, so that you can see instantly, where the focus is over your week, and if it’s highlighting any strikingly obvious imbalances, such as lack of self-care. This is something I definitely need to do more of, and prioritise a ‘play’ or ‘self-care’ colour to use in there (off to use my new Xmas fine-liners!).

The Red magazine article had 3 writers try out different creative hobbies – I’m really pleased to see this showing up more in mainstream titles – one benefit of Covid I think is that people are now recognising how beneficial creative activities are for mental wellbeing – especially during a pandemic, and the 3 activities they chose were all things I’d love to do more of or begin.

The first was poetry therapy, I love the idea of this, and I really enjoy the challenge of creating poems. We sometimes do this via Zoom in the local writing group I belong to, or I often find myself creating one in the middle of the night if I can’t sleep. This last year I was lucky to have one of my poems published for a council pandemic project, maybe this year I should challenge myself to enter a competition?

The next one was Pottery, which I can’t believe I have actually never done! So that is going on my list! It will be interesting to see if it’s something I could get to grips with easily, or if it will wobble all over the place! Even so, it sounds like fun and I think could be quite therapeutic, using your hands to create in this way.

And finally, the 3rd writer tried bird-spotting – this is probably the one I’ve done the most, given I grew up with a keen ornithologist father, and I regularly spot birds on my walk with the dog – there is something very satisfying identifying the species, and it certainly makes walks more mindful.

So, my challenge to you, and to myself, is to create a ‘play’ list, of creative activities that you are curious about, and will permit yourself to try and experiment with, without any self-judgement, and definitely NOT to become an expert at overnight.

I want you to allow yourself to be able to laugh at your attempts (if they go wrong at any point), and not overthink what you are doing but just enjoy the moment and noticing how it makes you feel?

The added bonus, especially when we get to the point of being able to re-join classes and workshops, is that we will meet new people and possibly form new connections at the same time, which we have all sadly missed this year.

So, I’m going to commit to trying / doing more experimenting, once a month, throughout 2021, and I’ll report back on how it went! Here are my initial rough and ready thoughts, so you can see what I mean, along with whether these are new activities or ones I’m doing more of – I’m trying a mix to challenge myself!;

ActivityExperience
PotteryNew
Poetry writingMore of
Embroidery / needleworkNew
GlassworkNew
Short storiesMore of
Calligraphy / Text ARTNew
Acrylic paintingMore of
Photography challenges, e.g., Insta challengesMore of
Floristry / decorative displaysMore of
Silver Jewellery makingNew
Video lives – interviews on InstagramMore of, but me hosting
Lino printingNew

Over to You…

So, what do you think? Does this feel like a terrifying stretch to commit to? Or something that you think will really benefit your life, perhaps giving yourself a target of a certain amount of different things to try like I have? I hope it’s the latter, but remember we are not aiming for perfection here, at all, remember my motto: Practice makes progress – NOT perfect! It’s about the pure fun and experience of having a go, and hopefully with a little pride thrown in that you did it!

But how do you start?

If you are stuck on where on earth to start, check out The Curious Cave page for resources, or simply google and check out the many YouTube Videos out there now giving free tutorials you can easily follow, step by step.

Schedule the time into your diary, to make sure it happens! And do not feel guilty about taking the time out for you: self-care is health-care remember!

Create an Action Board of ideas you could try (simply tear out of magazines images or words that link to the activities you want to try and/ or how you want to feel whilst doing them, for ultimate impact – the ‘why’ you want to do this) and keep it somewhere highly visible, so that it remains important to you and doesn’t fall down the priority list.

Don’t underestimate your environment – do these activities somewhere playful or inspiring, not overlooking a sink full of dishes or somewhere noisy and distracting – this is quality, enjoyable time-out for you, so set up your space to encourage this feeling, not put you on edge.

After the year we’ve had we deserve more fun in 2021, make it your purpose to intentionally seek it out; your heart, soul and mind will thank you for it.

I’d love to know what kinds of activities you pick and how you get on, do let me know.

Until next time… wishing you a happier and healthy New Year, with a big virtual hug from me for getting through the unforeseeable, crazy, devastating year that was 2020.

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps Don’t forget you can follow me for more creative tips and inspiration on Instagram, @thecuriouscreative or on My Facebook page too: The Curious Creative Club

Main image: As always, curiosity is at the very heart of creativity!

My top 20 0f 2020-focussing on the good stuff

Hi everyone, how are you doing? After another doom and gloom announcement from the powers that be, I think we are all doing a lot of reflecting on 2020, and hoping that better times are ahead in 2021. With yesterday being the shortest, darkest day of the year in the UK, I am praying that the light will soon return, slowly but surely, from now on.

But, until we are further down the vaccination process, it’s going to be a while before full confidence is restored, so once again it’s about digging in with our new-found confidant, resilience and hanging on in there by focussing as much as possible on the positives and building in consistent gratitude practice.

And it seems there are a lot of people out there doing the same! There are many resources available to help you with this, some of which I’ve newly discovered, and I’ve found them useful when reflecting on my year too, so I’m just going to list them here, so you can dip into them, as and when you wish:

Gabrielle Treanor’s Podcast ‘Pressing Pause’ – Episode 75 – How to find the gold dust in the mud pit that was 2020 – (I mean great title right?!)

Gabrielle goes through 15 reflective questions, to help you locate the golden nuggets, and it helps to just journal your responses out, many of these are similar to the questions I asked in the last BLOG I did which you can find here.

Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft – Happier Podcast – Find a ritual to Exorcise 2020

Exactly what it says above, ideas from Gretchen, Elizabeth and their listeners on how to bid farewell to 2020 in a symbolic way.

Black Bee Creative Business Page on Facebook – Steph Cronin’s interview with Lisa Walker of White Apple Thinking

Great interview and lots of tips on how to set intentions for the New year.

Katy Murray – Coach on Instagram – @katycatalyst

Katy provides a few New Year reset audio, just sign up with email and she provides regular prompts on her Instagram page and stories too.

Susannah Conway – Unravel your year 2021 – @susannahconway

The queen of reflection, Susannah has been way ahead of the curve for years on reflection practice. This is for people who really want to put the effort in and learn the lessons, it’s a free download, but takes some energy and commitment to complete, but it is worth it, especially for those wanting to make some big changes, it helps you to get to the root of why and helps you move forward.

So now you’ve got an array of resources to help you, but what’s the benefit? What’s the point I hear you ask, especially after the incredibly hard and awful year we’ve had?

Because once again it’s all about mindset, and channelling any extra gifts to ourselves we can find right now to get us through these dark winter months and emerge into the Spring light with purpose and hope, knowing that we have proved we can all get through just about anything.

I suppose it’s about re-looking at that evidence, in all it’s entirety so that it builds the value in your own mind and your personal belief, that yes, you can do this, despite every amount of crap that can be thrown at you.

It’s very easy to forget the little wins, or even some of the bigger ones, when we are dealing with challenges we’ve never experienced before.

Our focus at that time, when we are in the thick of it, is not on how well we are doing, quite often it’s on the opposite, how scared of failure we are, or that we are no good enough or ‘coping’ well enough.

We can be in pure fear of what’s to come, that it’s out of our control or our heads are in a spin with all the changes. Quite frankly during the storm, we are in survival mode, there’s no room for inner acknowledgement or pats on the back.

It’s not our priority at that moment, to sit down and figure out how great we are, our energy is taken up just getting through it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an important element of life in general or working on our businesses.

How else can we process what we’ve learned or work out which direction we want to take next? It’s an essential part of the process, for building confidence and self-belief, because looking back on our achievements, the proof is in the pudding, right there in all its shining glory.

Plus, this year is one for the history books, yes? How amazing will it be to look back on this in years to come and remember how we got through this pandemic, the craziest year that was 2020, one for future generations to hear about, that’s for sure.

So, on that note, here is my TOP 20 achievements of 2020, some real wow moments, some tiny but important steps forward for me personally, based on my work and creative projects mainly. These are to not only record them for myself, but to give you an idea of what I mean if you’d like a little guidance.

  1. First up, this is my 89th Blog from when I started in January 2019 and I’m on track to get to 90, my target by the end of the year, the number of visitors and views have both grown, so a big thank you to you the readers, for continuing to come back here, and hopefully enjoy what I do, I whole-heartedly appreciate it
  2. In lockdown I started my none-fiction book, working title ‘Creative by Nature’ as a nod to my first creative Instagram account @soothedbynature and also because this is what I preach to everyone – that everyone has at least one creative bone in their body!
  3. I’ve been lucky enough to be interviewed for 3 podcasts this year, on all kinds of subjects from childhood resilience to creativity to connection to my career, all incredible interesting chats with great hosts, you can find the links to those episodes, here
  4. I‘ve been curious in my artistic style and it’s paid off, needlefelt pictures and my new ‘grasses’ designs have started to sell, yeah!
  5. Created partnerships with 3 new local retailers to sell my art cards, people who respect and felt a synergy with and also some framed pieces at a new local pop-up shop that may become more permanent
  6. Technical knowledge (my nemesis) has increased thanks to me taking some time to figure it out via a WordPress Workshop and therefore improving my website, still no perfect, but big strides forward!
  7. I’ve been an eco-panel member for Psychologies Magazine, testing eco products and feeding back via video, which in turn prepared me for the next adventure….
  8. Where I was interviewed by a total hero of mine, Suzy Walker, Editor-in-chief at Psychologies magazine live on Facebook with only 2 days to get my head around it! Pretty terrifying but also a real wow moment, that then lead to…
  9. Doing 10 Instagram Lives via Psychologies Magazine platform, all about Creativity and setting challenges, which again was a completely new thing for me, but I loved having to think on my feet and adapt and that I inspired readers to have a go at creative projects and that has led to….
  10. A larger following on Instagram and the Blog, not huge, but more inline with the target I set myself at the beginning of the year and with quality followers who have a passion for creativity too.
  11. Had a poem I wrote featured in a local pandemic project that will go into the Council’s archive for future generations to learn about what people did at that time!
  12. Had a letter featured in Writing Magazine’s letters page, a secret mini ambition for a while
  13. I’ve continued to support small businesses and champion everything they do, because it’s a passion of mine and links to the work that I do with our accountability group – WOW Wednesdays (WWs)
  14. We’ve continued WWs, throughout lockdown and it’s been a godsend for us all, to stay social and supportive over zoom calls and we even had a socially distanced walk at Yorkshire Sculpture Park! I also had a strategy session with fellow WOW member Michelle, it felt great to get all my ideas down onto one single strategy doc that will be eternally useful!
  15. Due to Covid we’ve had to move the premises for WOW physical meetings, settled into our new home @theflexcollective and sorted out all the plans and launch to make it into a paid membership going forwards, to keep it sustainable and valuable for members
  16. Together with my husband, we built the smallest, but best little creative cabin in town! I absolutely loved making it my own creative space and whenever I go in it just makes me so happy!
  17. I’ve spent a lot of time learning and absorbing! From all the brilliant podcasts and coaches that give their time freely, and small courses or memberships here and there, it blows my mind the knowledge you can gain. I find wellbeing and mindset topics fascinating, as you can imagine, so all of this has really helped me, and therefore you, in getting those words of wisdom across, so that we can all benefit
  18. I’ve started to learn to coach, with some friends of mine and I love helping people on a more one to one level. It’s taught me to trust my instincts, and listen to the whispers and signs out there, it’s made me feel much surer of myself
  19. I’ve dealt with severe distractions, from the kids being home in full lock-down and being together in the house for 18 months now with my husband, and we haven’t killed each other yet, that in itself is a big achievement! For an amusing take on that, that I’m sure many will relate to, check out my previous blog here from the Summer
  20. And finally I’ve survived everything life has thrown at me, and us, this year, and still managed to be productive, from my Uncles sad passing, to chemo treatment throughout Covid and all that entails, including losing my hair and feeling horrendous, recovering from Sepsis, on my birthday no less!, my sister working all hours on the frontline at our local hospital, radiotherapy, my husband being out of work, both my Mum and Step-dad having Covid and him being hospitalised, the dog getting Sepsis too, and that’s before all the other challenges family and friends have had where we’ve supported them, it has been a hell of a year, but we are here, still smiling and very, very grateful for (touch-wood) current good health.

So that’s the ‘creative business / project’ stuff that’s kept me ging throughout treatment and lockdown, but what else? Well of course it’s the simple things isn’t it. Because in the end that’s what’s important, so here’s a little selection of that too:

  • Walks with family and friends, especially when I was finally out of ‘prison / shielding’!
  • Spending time in the garden, under the new pergola eating dinner, or toasting marshmallows over a firepit in the evening and watching the stars
  • Finally getting to go away in the Summer for a family holiday in Cornwall and just drink in those sea views and feel the sunshine
  • Being ‘allowed’ to sit back in friend’s gardens, bliss!
  • Family ‘Come-dine with me’ competitions!
  • My daughter spending days on a ‘friends’ type quiz for the husbands’ birthday
  • Baking and consuming, so much cake, especially banana loaf!
  • Cuddles and walks with the dog
  • Warm Summer night sunset walks up the lane (the only place I was allowed by my doctors when shielding)
  • Clapping for the NHS on a Thursday night
  • My hair growing back and no longer looking like a fluffy chicken
  • Re-joining writing group
  • Sketching in those sunny spring months outside
  • Good TV series binging, ‘Normal People, The Fall, This is us’ to name just a few
  • The Meerkat Movies virtual Take That concert!
  • My own bed after 5 days in hospital
  • Painting the cabin whilst listening to podcasts
  • My first G&T after 6 months of treatment!
  • Having the picc line taken out of my arm and finishing chemo
  • My friend Nigel doing fabulous portrait of my sister and another artist friend Linda drawing my chemo nurse, as part of the NHS portraits project
  • The kids working hard, virtually throughout lockdown, whilst missing their friends
  • Creating lots of little surprises for my daughter’s 15th birthday last week, including a surprise zoom with her mates, she was expecting a quiz with the grandparents!

So that’s the good stuff that happened in my 2020, but the next important part are the lessons we learn from this year, the whole shebang, caboodle; good, bad, indifferent, boring, inspiring, exciting, frustrating, upsetting, amusing, heart-warming…. that will help guide us going forwards…so the next blog will be all about that!

Until then, have the best Christmas possible in the circumstances, yes, it’s not the same, but there is also always someone worse off than us, let’s count our lucky stars, and enjoy the special moments, because this Christmas will be one we remember for a long, long time, so make it memorable for good reasons, not just what we are all missing,

Take Care, stay safe,

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

P.s For those thinking about joining our local accountability group, WOW Wednesdays, the special offer of the founding membership price is still on until the 31st of December, find out more all about it here.