Making the most of ‘normal’ life to kick-start your creative dream

Hi there, I’ve been missing in action a bit since my last post where I finished off all guns blazing, determined that Chemo wouldn’t completely effect my life and then reality check, boom – here come the side effects!

I’ve been waiting to find a few hours where I feel ‘normal’ but it’s yet to happen so I’m trying to push myself to get on with it, before it all drives me slightly mad. I am hoping for the elusive ‘4 days of feeling good’ this week before the next treatment on Friday, so you may see a flurry of activity from me then,…we’ll see.

But, first of all, can I just say a huge thank you to the many people who read my last post and sent such lovely encouraging comments. I was well and truly overwhelmed by the response and also so glad that you appreciated the way I wrote it, i.e. with positivity and a dash of humour which was exactly the way I intended it to come across.

As I get used to this new way of life, it’s naturally drawn me back to my word of this year ‘Value’ which has now taken on a whole new meaning whilst I’m having treatment. I’ve never under-valued my life and always felt very lucky and grateful for the opportunities that were coming my way.

But I think when something like this happens and you’re going through chemo treatment, you don’t appreciate the real basic, normal aspects of life (explained later) that get cruelly snatched away from you, albeit temporarily, in order to make sure you live a long life!

So, if you are putting off starting a creative hobby, business or just joining a creative group, because ‘normal’ life gets in the way, then there are lessons to be taken from the path I’m on the moment, and really value where you are at and that ‘normal’ life is a gift of an opportunity, without I hope sounding preachy.

  • Take advantage of the energy you have to do your thing

If at this present moment in time you are feeling good and energised, I can’t stress enough, to take full advantage of that. We don’t appreciate feeling ‘well’ enough or make the most of using that to channel our work or creative goals.

I’m completely guilty of this, it’s very easy to get stuck in a rut, humans are drawn to a regular routine, and often the path of least resistance but when that wellness and energy is taken away from you, you wish you’d done more with that time.

However if energy is lacking both physically or mentally it’s worth addressing this and consider what you really want to do, not just feel able to do.

For example; If your dream is to paint your favourite view on a hillside, requiring to carry your equipment up there, stand up most of the day, be able to stand the potential weather elements etc could you do that or would your physical fitness hold you back? And if that is the case, could you change that by getting some hill walking practice sessions in first?

Similarly, is your mind up to a challenge, or do you find it difficult to get rid of that negative voice chipping away at your confidence? Does it make you stop before you even start and completely put you off?

This is not an easy one to tackle and you may need help to re-programme that inner critic, by speaking to a good friend, coach or mentor. If the investment gets you out of that stagnation and moving forward closer to your dream, then it is completely worth it.

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There are many creative ladies in our WOW group and we all support each other, especially when the inner critic kicks in

  • Carve out the time to get it done

Life is busier than ever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build in some time for yourself. It’s all about priorities. You are just as important as every member of your family and if there is an imbalance of time devoted to other members and yourself then it needs addressing, or you’ll forever feel resentful and wonder ‘what if?’.

Many people I know now schedule their creative time or self-care time into their planner or diary, just like they do everything else, because it is that important.

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It may be good to spend some time examining why it is so important to you – getting your thoughts down on paper makes it more real and actionable. Have it somewhere easy to hand to go back to when you need some extra encouragement.

If you find planning in time overwhelming then start off small and build up. Have a think about when the best time would be to do something, for example if you need complete peace and quiet, consider getting up 1 hour early one day, make a coffee and enjoy the peace whilst you create or if you are good at multi-tasking, whilst the kids are doing their homework on a Sunday on the kitchen table, set up stall next to them so you can do your creative activity whilst still answering the odd homework question.

  • Value your freedom to get out there and take the opportunities

This is the biggest dramatic change for me in this whole treatment process, more so even than how I feel physically. Because of the treatment I’m having and the type of cancer I have, i.e. a blood one (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) I am likely to soon become what is called Neutropenic, which basically means I’ll have no immune defence to viruses and bacteria. This means for at least the 6 months I’m on treatment that I can’t go to any public places for fear of getting an infection, which can then be pretty dangerous.

So that is the likes of supermarkets, cinemas, concerts, shopping centres, shops, restaurants, leisure centres, libraries etc etc. Bear in mind, most of the time I am out and about, at these places and all the creative groups I attend, I effectively feel like I’m now in jail and have a huge case of FOMO!

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My last concert before the week before treatment, James Morrison at Sheffield 

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I love eating out! This is going to be hard!!!

I never anticipated that having cancer would effect my freedom so much, just knowing I can’t go to these places is a huge mental battle for me. I have a new level of respect for all people going through this and find myself trying to think of places I can go, but other than walks in the fresh air (typical that it’s winter!), driving about and visiting friends ‘infection-free-only’ houses, there really aren’t many options. And I know it’s to keep me safe but it doesn’t make it any easier.

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Me in my ‘infection free’ car , although I’m not sure it is the state my kids leave the car in!

So, all those simple places to visit that we take for granted, my message is; DON’T! We are incredibly lucky to live in a western society where these simple pleasures are on our doorstep. My life prior to this was full of making the most of these opportunities; I’d go to art festivals, author events, art demos and workshops, craft markets, writing groups and photography workshops – all to get a huge fix of creativity that would inspire my work and meet like-minded people.

I’m going to miss art demos and festivals!

Plus, of course I’d run my own writing workshops and our bi-monthly WOW Wednesday, local community accountability group, both of which I can’t currently do, although I’m hoping to join our WWs via Face Time!

So, if you can, and want to, then do. Get out and use that freedom, take your wares to a public craft event to sell, check out trends on the high-street, extend your skills by attending workshops – don’t think, oh I’ll get around to doing that next year! You can just never tell what might happen.

  • Know that you can be a role-model via your creativity

As a creative person, I’ve no doubt you’ll also have creative friends, colleagues or social media creative people that you hold in high esteem. I also have no doubt that many of you think, how do they do it, I wish I could be like them, I wish I could really go for it / make it into a business, etc etc.

I myself have many of these people and many of these thoughts BUT also don’t underestimate the fact that other creatives will look at you in the same way and because of this, you too have the potential to be a good creative role model and by that I just mean, YOU ARE DOING IT, not just saying it! – you are actively pursuing your dream.

Creative people usually by their very nature start off timidly and seek reassurance, each person taking that leap encourages other people to do the same.

You don’t have to have the most amazing Instagram account or shop, the mere fact that you ARE USING YOUR TALENT is impressive enough, because creativity is unique. What you do is special and even if you don’t know that yet, many people around you will believe it is.

To me, (and feel free to slap me if you don’t agree on this) NOT using your talent or skill is a crime and a huge waste of what could be a key ingredient of living a full-filling life.

Look at it this way, if our children hear us going on and on about wanting to write or paint or play the piano but we don’t have the courage/time/impetus to do it, what do you think that is teaching them?

We tell kids all the time, they can do or be anything they want in life if they put in the hard work, but if we can’t be bothered to do that for ourselves for something we tell them that we are really passionate about, then what message is that sending to them?

We need to lead by example and make our kids and others proud of us in the process. Nothing makes me feel more a-glow than when my children say ‘Wow, that’s really good mum!’ when I show them a piece of art work or read them something I’ve written.

To go one step further, if you felt comfortable doing so, I’d say pass on that skill or talent you have via workshops, and spread the creative joy and well-being benefits further. It’s a very easy way that we can help people, through doing something we love.

  • Appreciate your support team

I couldn’t get by at the moment without my support team; my family, close friends, new friends, far-away friends and social media friends are all cheering me through this and keeping me entertained!

It goes without saying to not only appreciate your support team but support them right back. Every creative I know needs encouragement, our work is incredibly personal and so it’s scary putting our work out there for the world to see but the more you do it the more confident you will get and you’ll grow the audience who loves your work too. Plus, you learn from other immensely talented creatives out there too.

 I’ve been thoroughly spoiled with flowers, books and even a chemo care kit, all from my lovely friends and family…

The word ‘value’ means so much more to me now, and whilst I can’t fully practice what I preach on all the above, I hope sharing these insights, when the basics are taken away from you, boosts and encourages you all to follow those creative dreams whole-heartedly in the here and now!

Make the most of your passion, health, time, freedom and support team to get you going, I promise you wont regret it.

Please do let me know if this has resonated with you or has helped to get you started on your creative journey at all in the comments below and until next time, hopefully on one of those good ‘4 days!’ ….

Juliet, aka The Curious Creative x

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heading into un-chartered waters…

Warning this may make uncomfortable reading for some

I’ll apologise now, this isn’t my usual chirpy creative post, much as I wish it could be just another ‘normal’ post but I figured writing all this down may help me process what is going on, help it sink in and may help others too, so here goes…

For the last 7 weeks I’ve been having a myriad of health tests, and on Monday (4th November) I get the ‘official’ results . Patience has most definitely never been my virtue….for example I always have to finish an art piece in one go, when really I should leave it and go back to it, so this waiting in limbo has been a big test culminating in as much distraction as possible.

But you can’t distract yourself 24hrs a day and the 99% suspected outcome is laying heavily on my mind, so let me give you a little background, if purely to raise some awareness out there too.

Around 5 months ago I found a smallish painless lump on my left collarbone, I was seeing a physio at the time for a problem with my right shoulder and mentioned it to him as I thought I may have pulled a muscle or something. He said it wasn’t a muscle and to keep an eye on it.

And then I promptly forgot. Which is hard to believe but I genuinely did, we had lots going on at the time; we went on holiday at Spring Bank half term and then in July my husband lost his job, which came as a shock. Then we were into school Summer holidays, away again twice and just generally very busy.

Then 7 weeks ago, for some reason on a Monday morning I woke up and just instantly remembered, went to find the lump and realised it was bigger and so immediately booked in at the doctors. Then life pretty much went like this:

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Looking fetching in my CT smock!

10 days later appointment at ENT Barnsley hospital. Instant biopsy. Next day Ultrasound. Wait. Wait meant to be 1 week, turned into 3 weeks as biopsy was sent on to Sheffield. Back to ENT for results; ‘Inconclusive’ and would need a larger biopsy done under general anaesthetic and they’d book me in for a CT scan too. The following week in for Pre-op assessment on Tuesday. CT Scan on the Wednesday which went slightly wrong as the dye went into my bicep rather than vein! Instantly look like Popeye on one arm and it bloody hurt! Manage to get CT done via other arm. Later that day they call me and say they think they can get a better biopsy via a different consultant, can I come in tomorrow? We arrive a little dubious and wonder why the same thing I had done before will now suddenly work. But then I meet Dr Cooke, the radiologist doing the biopsy, who explained more to me in 5 minutes than anyone else over the previous 6 weeks.

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My very painful Popeye arm!

On the CT scan they had found 3 other enlarged lymph nodes, one under my arm and 2 smaller ones that had merged behind my heart as well as the largest one on my neck (which was now 3cm x 2.5cm). The biopsy that day would be taken under my arm as it was denser tissue and therefore achieve a better result.

Myself and my husband had researched extensively via Dr Google and had a best guess what it could be and Dr Cooke confirmed what we thought, that he was 99% sure it was some kind of lymphoma (hodgkins and non-hodgkins of which there are 60 types in total) but the prognosis was good because of my age, I was fit (yes I’ll take that thank you very much!) and everything is above my diaphragm which is also a good sign.

So now we are just once again waiting for the ‘official’ results back from Sheffield and then we can get on with a PET scan and then a treatment plan.

So as you can imagine, life is a bit of a whirlwind of hearing nothing and then lots of tests to then waiting again….meanwhile the lump on my neck is growing and I’m trying to get to grips with this slightly surreal new world we now belong to.

And I’m fine, honestly, this is not a doom and gloom story, but it is all very strange, particularly as I don’t feel ‘ill’ , although looking back I think there have been some signs, but ones I wouldn’t have attributed to this in a million years.

This is partly why I’m writing this, especially as October is a key cancer awareness month, mainly for breast cancer. But I do think it is also important to take a look at lymphoma too, particularly as it can effect all ages and is actually the 7th most prevalent cancer in the UK and yet you rarely hear about it.

So here are a few facts around the symptoms provided by Lymphoma Action, which have been a great source of information for me, not at all to scare you but to just be aware that if any of these show up, to head to your doctors and not forget about it like I did.

Out of everything this could have been, the Lymphoma suspicion is not the worst one, and is highly treatable and so I am immensely grateful for that. Dr Google had a far less rosy picture for other options such as a lump arising from spreading from another form of cancer such as lung or bowel and so I thank my lucky stars that my prognosis is good and I recognise that for others it’s a far more difficult and challenging journey.

We know that cancer now effects 1 in 2 people in their lifetime and that is a very scary statistic, just looking around other family members and friends though, I know that to be true.

But as I wade into these un-chartered waters, I’m learning things left, right and centre about myself:

  • At the young age of 45 (I still consider that to be young) I am not as invincible as I thought, despite being fairly fit, never smoked, eating well and not a big drinker. It seems sometimes there is no rhyme or reason, no matter how hard I search for one.
  • I’m a bit mad at this so-called healthy- looking-ish body for letting me down so badly
  • I am rubbish with having no control. I knew this, but throw in a team of busy doctors and a stretched NHS, there is absolutely nothing I can do to make those results come back quicker, other than pleading a little.
  • I’m living a life in limbo and this does not sit well with me. Not only this but with my husband out of work and other ill family and friends, I feel like we’re currently in a weird universe vacuum where time stands still.
  • This is causing me to procrastinate with my projects, even more than I normally do. I’m doing bits but my mind is elsewhere, popping back to my phone and checking it hasn’t rung
  • The realisation is setting in that this is going to be my life for the foreseeable future, even when I start treatment, it will be unknown territory, blood tests, treatment, scans to see if it’s working, waiting for results, continue/ stop /start something else…..I’m going to have to get my head around this
  • The treatment side of things is scaring me, particularly as I am NOT GOOD at being ill, stopping still and looking after myself, but again it’s the unknown, I’m sure I’ll be ok once I get going
  • But there are also some positives; my family and friends have rallied and everyone is being amazing, even people I hardly know. It certainly makes you feel very loved and that’s a lovely feeling.
  • My husband’s walking the dog, doing the early swim runs with my daughter and more house-work – that definitely can be no bad thing!
  • I haven’t completely lost my sense of humour, and this helps the most – although the Popeye jokes went on for just a little too long…
  • I think I’ve got out of cooking Christmas dinner – that’s reason enough to celebrate!

So, what is helping me in all this?

Research

For me personally it was never any good to tell me not to research. I’m obsessed with all things medical anyway, from my first ever job working for a medical charity and endless episodes of 24hrs in A&E but armed with some knowledge meant the Doctors’s suspicions did not come as some huge shocking surprise and already I understood a lot of the terminology.

If you do research though, look at reputable sites only, cancer charity sites such as Cancer Research UK and Macmillan are a good start.

But if you are of a nervous disposition who gets easily terrified then I wouldn’t recommend this route.

Distraction

Boy did I need this in those first long 3 weeks of virtual silence. I did every creative class or event possible and met friends whenever I could, otherwise you will literally drive yourself crazy. I even cleaned the house -desperate times!

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Communication

Don’t feel like you can’t be proactive and call the hospital when you’ve waited passed the time they said results would be back. I wouldn’t have known my biopsy had been sent on to another hospital if I hadn’t called several times.

Extended Family and friends

It goes without saying to talk about how you are feeling, I’m not especially great with this, preferring to make sure everyone else is ok about things, and just get on with doing my normal things and routine, but eventually I got better at it, even if it was just to say ‘FFS when are they going to call me?’ out loud.

Telling my Mum was really hard, not least because her brother, my uncle is also on his own cancer path and is very poorly and so I feel like my poor mum is stuck in the middle of both of us, but I knew I had to eventually or she would literally kill me anyway! She says she’s currently in denial, her way of dealing with it for now I think and like me she’s not overly fussy, which is a good thing for me.

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This one has been on a mission to text me everyday and has definitely kept me amused and entertained over 7 very long weeks!

Also, there are different friend’s personality types that can help, some will be reliably texting you every day just to check in. Others have helped in getting you’re ‘news’ out to your wider circle which is a big help; some will ask you difficult questions but then may also be the ones to make you lol with their hilarious stories, All have value.

But if there are people who may rub you up the wrong way – for me it’s making too much fuss or being overly flippant believing it could all just be fine (when you know damn well it’s not), then steer clear, it’s their own way of dealing with it, but you won’t have the energy for that right now.

People who have gone before

And by this I mean all those million’s of people who have had their own cancer journeys, there are so many unbelievably inspiring stories out there such as case studies on charity websites but also the likes of Insta-famous BowelBabe, aka Deborah James who I was following before all this just because she is truly amazing in all the work she’s done to raise awareness of bowel cancer, despite being very ill at times with stage 4 of the disease. I’ve just read her book F.U Cancer which is full of humour but also realistic in what to expect.

F*** You Cancer: How to face the big C, live your life and still be yourself (Paperback)

Fresh air and walks

Staying still or pacing the house does not help me. Since leaving corporate life 3 years ago, walking in nature has become such a vital part of my week to keep me grounded, fit and inspired in my creative work so when I’ve got to fever pitch in overthinking whilst waiting for news I’ve taken myself out to just breathe, walk and have a word with myself!

And finally my husband, children, and the dog….and most definitely cake!

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Telling my children was tough, but I stayed strong because ultimately I know if they see that I’m ok they will be less worried.  I was honest, they’re 11 &13 and so were old enough to understand. I told them lymphoma is a form of cancer but a really well treated one and whilst obviously they are not jumping for joy, I hope that’s put their minds at rest.

I’ve put in a request for lots of cups of tea which they’ve signed up to, and I may even get tidier bedrooms, yeah right! I know I’ll get lots of hugs from my son who’s a softie anyway, and the odd one or fist-bump from my teenage daughter!

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My husband’s been great, researching just as much as me so I felt we were in it together from the start. He also knows not to overly fuss over me but has stepped up his game in trying to be funny and I appreciate his efforts – he’s the type who laughs at his own jokes! That, some cooking, and the dog walks in the rain have really helped!

And then there’s Barley, my ever-happy bouncy cockapoo who jumps on the bed every morning and licks my face until I protest, – she’s the biggest cuddly teddy bear and you just can’t be miserable around her.

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Barley cuddles help, and cake! I’m going to be huge the rate I’m downing cake on a daily basis!

So that’s it for now, my landscape has changed but this blog won’t, I may mention how things are going now and again or maybe a PS at the end of a post, but I’m not going to change the content to be all about this, or I will have no escape, and you know how much my creative endeavours mean to me so I need that to be very much my focus….I’ve already thought if I end up having chemo I might take all my art gear in and encourage others having treatment to have a go!

If there are any readers going through similar things I’d love to hear from you or if you have any family or friends going through this and you think this post may help, please do share, I’d really love that.

Until next time, keeping my positive pants on for tomorrow and attempting to be brave for whenever the first treatment will be…

UPDATE: So on Monday I got diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma which is the rarer of the 2 possibilities, Non-Hodgkins is a lot more common. I have more scans and tests this week and next and then the plan is to start chemo on 15th November. There’s lots to take in and a 3-6 month journey ahead but at least now know and can get on with it. 

Take care,

Juliet, aka The Curious Creative x

P.s The next WOW Wednesday is coming up on 6th November, 9.30am at Miriam’s Kitchen Table, Kirkburton and as always everyone is welcome anytime, we constantly grow and evolve, so why not become part of our community accountability group? It’s FREE to join and there’s delicious crunches, cakes and much needed coffee to purchase (plus free re-fill)

Special places = Special writing

Last week on Wednesday I needed some serious distraction (more on that later) and after dropping my daughter off at swimming I could tell it was going to be a nice sunset so I decided to head to one of the most iconic places in Huddersfield, Castle Hill that stands tall and overlooks the whole town.

I haven’t actually been up close for years, it used to be a place I’d drive to in times of trouble when I was in my twenties. There’s something about going to somewhere, still and solid, and just taking a breathe whilst taking in the view.

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I drove up there, just at the point when the sun was starting to dip and walked around Victoria Tower taking in the silhouetted tower along with a few dog walkers and couples, the wind whipping my face.

I walked passed the steep grassy banks where as kids, we once lined up at the top and ran down on a school trip, replicating battle charges and then along the edges of the path that looked out to where the sun was setting to the far left of the town, over Saddleworth Moor in the distance.

After returning home, I posted the main image above on my @soothedbynature Instagram account and one of my regular followers commented that I’d broken her heart with the picture! I was mortified! But basically, it’s because this area used to be her home and she lives elsewhere due to her marriage ending and so sometimes my pictures are such a source of nostalgia for her they bring back some deep personal memories.

I immediately replied to her and she reassured me that it was just a reminder of the past, times changing and the years rolling by but that didn’t mean to say the here and now is not wonderful and that she still loves my posts, PHEW!

However, this got me thinking, in particular as this is an area I’m also covering in my new course that starts this week; ‘Writing from Personal Experience’ about how places can have such a strong pull for us and have a huge place in our heart.

For example, being from this town we have 3 local iconic landmarks, Castle Hill being the main one but also Emley Moor Mast standing at 330 metres can be seen for miles and also the Holme Moss Mast, reigns high above Holmfirth.

I have fond memories of all of these places, Emley Moor mast is always the beacon of home when travelling home from the South.

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My son ‘holding up’ the mast on Yorkshire Day last year!

A BBC news article here, describes it as one of England’s iconic sites that show’s you are nearly home.

In the article, Vikki Brown comments: “I suppose it is a bit of a constant in a mad world, and, crazy as it might sound, it feels as though there’s an invisible string that tethers me to it.”

I know exactly how she feels, when there is so much uncertainty around us, and particularly in my own life at the moment.

I’m also one of the few people that have been up the 7-minute lift journey to the very top as I used to work for NTL Telecommunications who used to own the tower, and what a great view it is from the top!

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Holme Moss at sunset 

In 2014 the Tour De France came to Yorkshire and the highlight of Stage 2 of the Yorkshire Grand Depart was reaching the top of Holme Moss. It was a highly anticipated event for locals and we camped near the night before in order to get a good position to watch on the road. Thousands of people queued for hours to watch the cyclists speed through in just a few minutes but the atmosphere was electric and well worth all the waiting!

It made me wonder as a ‘wannabe published author one day’ whether Authors tend to put familiar places known to them within their stories, whether they just naturally creep in because you can see in your mind these places and describe them accurately and authentically.

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I asked Clare Mackintosh (one of my favourite authors above who I luckily met at one of her events 3 years ago) whether this is true of her books. I knew in her first novel, ‘I let you go’ the famous beach in the book was one she knew well but was unsure on other locations in her subsequent novels.

She told me, ‘I Let You Go’ is partly set in a location based on Three Cliffs Bay, and I did lots of location research on the London Underground for ‘I See You’. ‘Let Me Lie’ is Beachy Head based, but I’ve never been there. After the End has the richest setting I think, not just because of the Chicago research trip I did, but because the memory of being in intensive care is so incredibly strong, so I could write it with authenticity.’

I think this is the key really, for me it would almost be a waste not to use that bank of memories we associate with place in a story or a novel because whatever the emotion connected to the place; whether that could be a fondness for your home town, a regular place of work, or even the intense experience of Intensive Care the  colours, sounds, smells and atmosphere naturally gets ingrained into our subconscious without even having to think about it. The richness of these places then shows through in our writing, making it all the more special and hopefully brings the reader along with us.

This has happened with my own writing recently, writing short stories from personal experience, such as an exercise I did for homework for one of my writing groups a few weeks back. I chose to write about how it felt as a girl aged 9 going to The Working Men’s Club, every Saturday night with my parents, back in the early 1980s – it took no time at all to pen the piece and recall all those tiny details such as the smoke-filled rooms, the yellowing wallpaper, the style of clothes, the banter, the drink I’d choose, the ‘turn’ on the stage….you get the idea.

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Yes this is me, at The Club, being forced into a picture by my parents looking cute but with a pint and a cigarette – I don’t know why they did this, but it became some weird tradition, lol!

Likewise with the novel I’m writing, ‘The Key to Everything’, there are various locations in there that are amalgamations of where I live and surrounding villages, in particular the protagonist joins a local art therapy group, the experience of which is largely based on the local group I attend.

Also, when writing about a counselling session in the story, outside where the therapist’s office is set, I’d described a village High-street that I knew, without even realising it!

So, I guess my message is to not shy away from this, don’t be afraid to tap into these places and experiences because your heart and soul will go into your writing and the reader will hopefully vividly see the environment and feel he emotion you want them to feel, it’s just another way of writing from our own personal experience, even within a fictional story.

If you need some extra inspiration to think about this, try these following small tasks to get you going:

  • Pull out some old photos, those faded ones from albums and think about where they were taken. Write a paragraph about them, how old were you, where were you, what were you doing there, can you remember how you felt, what could you see, smell, touch?
  • Think about some ‘Firsts’, such as can you remember the first time you went to a swimming pool, the cinema, a nice restaurant, a birthday party, a fun fair, camping, to school, had your bedroom decorated, had your ears pierced, visited A&E, your new home as an adult etc.
  • Think about the jobs you’ve done over your lifetime, describe the environment they were set in, for example an office, a building site, a chefs kitchen, a hospital, a library, a school, a laboratory, a car showroom, and describe them in detail without necessarily saying what they are so that the reader can work it out for themselves. What kind of characters could you place in these situations?
  • Visualise some places that make you uncomfortable or scared, perfect for a Halloween story, where have you felt fear before? E.g. a late night walk home, a church grave yard, an old elevator, a hospital operating theatre, a derelict building, a turbulent plane journey, on the edge of a cliff…now create a scary story around this place.
  • Finally list places that bring you joy to visit, that could be holiday destinations, events such as concerts or wedding venues, your favourite coffee shop or bar, a restaurant you had a first date at, a place of worship, describe the emotion behind why it’s your favourite place, what happened there?

These are just a few simple, fun ideas that will soon get your memories associated with place, flowing and you can then use in your writing.

Speaking of Writing from Personal Experience, my workshop on this subject starts tomorrow and I can’t wait!

I’ve had a few reasons to jot down and process some personal experiences myself of late and it has helped, even if it’s just to empty your head of lots of thoughts!

Next week there may not be a Blog post, although I’m hoping to get one out early on Sunday, but I’m having various health tests done next week so I’ll just have to see how it goes but hopefully definitely back the week after….

If you try any of the ideas above then please let me know and I hope it brings back some fond memories of places that you love.

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

P.S It’s another WOW Wednesday session this week (23rd Oct), 9.30-11.30ish at Miriam’s Kitchen Table in Kirkburton, for more information, click on the link, remember it’s FREE and newcomers are ALWAYS welcome!

 

When plates are spinning, you can’t always be an octopus

Weird title right? Well that’s pretty much where my head is right now so this will be a slighty later, and shorter piece than normal, because I’ve got to get back to those plates.

Essentially what I want to do here is always be honest with my readers and as well as giving you tips and advice on this creative journey I’m also sharing when I drop the ball and struggle just as much as the next person.

There’s something very cathartic in being this way, I know some of my readers personally of course but most of you I don’t, and there’s a weird freedom in that, I can be truly myself. And it’s not that I’m not true to my friends, I am, but probably a slightly rosier version, I think to put on a brave front, mainly because I want to focus on the positive, but I also throw in a healthy dose of reality that stays inside my head.

I know I’m being cryptic here and I will fill you in more next week when I have a clearer picture, but in the meantime back to those ever-rotating plates!

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My friend Claire from @myhousecandy always puts on a fantastic spread in her gorgeous house for Macmillan, this year she raised £500 in just a few hours!

So, this last few weeks have been busy ones, creative business wise. I’ve done 2 Macmillan events (one above), selling my art cards which was really good and they sold well and helped to support such a worthy charity, but it also prompted the need to get on with that ‘C’ word designing (Christmas that is) so I’ve done a few new designs, frantically needle-felting and trying not to stab myself!

I’m really not sure about the robin! My friend said it looked like it had a Donald Trump wig on! 

I also acquired a needle felt commission from one of the events (see below) which I’m really proud of, given that I’d only ever done 2 before! The lady was really pleased with it so that’s a win and I definitely want to do more.

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Next, with my new writing workshop launch date looming, I’ve been writing the promo content for that. This one is all about writing from personal experience which I’ve been doing a lot of lately and know how useful it can be to process life events.

I’ve put together a series of fun tasks which I can’t wait to deliver next week. These workshops have been such an interesting project for me, no two are the same and everyone writes so differently, I find it fascinating. I’m so glad I kicked my original self-doubt about it all into the gutter and bit the bullet.

Following feedback from my previous course, I’m now so much more confident that I can do this and add value to people’s lives – giving them an outlet, permission and support to really use their creative minds!

And finally WOW Wednesdays is continuing to thrive and grow and we have new plans and ideas for that too as well as continuing with the 4 (yes it’s a little extreme) writing groups I now belong to and 2 arts and crafts ones too.

This is all ticking away as much as possible but it’s the major life stuff that’s having an impact, and on sleep too and that’s what is making it difficult so I’m trying, not easy, to slow down a little as my family and friends keep telling me to, but in all honesty, my creative projects are what keep me sane and so I’m immensely grateful that it’s such a big part of my life at a time when I really need that distraction.

Anyway I’m going to get back to it, but for all those who are out there, dealing with life’s challenges, be kind to yourself and do what’s best for you and if that involves a little creative time here and there, you blumming (Yorkshire term sorry) do it and don’t feel remotely selfish for doing so.

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In this mad world we need to look after ourselves and as the great Suzy Reading says in her book ‘Self-Care Revolution’ , ‘Self-Care is Health Care’, whether that be getting out for a stomp around some woods, picking up a good book infront of a cosy fire, having an extra hour in bed, going to see a good film at the cinema, or just writing down how you feel in a journal, it’s all so important and NEVER feel guilty about it!

And finally, did you know this is my 40th blog post since I launched at the beginning of the year?! I’ve managed one each week (apart from one holiday) which is what I challenged myself to do right at the beginning! If you are a regular reader and you’ve enjoyed my posts, PLEASE leave a comment in the box below, it helps get this blog noticed and I will do a little happy dance! Thank you

Until next time…I’ll be seeking calmer waters like the ones in the main picture!

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps if you would like to find out more about my new writing course ‘Writing From Personal Experience’, please click here

PPS The next WOW Wednesday is on the 23rd October, we’d love to see you there and remember it is FREE to come along!

 

 

A little poetry practice, to soothe the soul…

Hi there, this week is going to be a little bit different, because quite frankly life is so bananas at the moment (not in the best way), it is difficult to fully focus, so what do I do when the shit hits the fan?

You know my answer to this by now right? I get creative, and transport myself to another land for a few hours; so, I thought after all this time I may as well share a little bit of my creative writing work, but please be kind!

Last week we had homework from one of my writing groups to write about things that bring us joy, which was an apt distraction, so I thought I’d write a poem for a change as I haven’t done one for a long time.

Once I’d finished it, it reminded me how much I enjoy writing poetry. It’s something, dare I say it without cursing myself, that I find quite easy to do. Normally I write rhyming poetry, but I fancied a challenge and so used the last line each time to bring the verses together and unite the whole poem.

Here are my steps for bringing a poem together:

  • Normally, I quickly get the basics of the story (yes poetry is story telling too) down and then go back and refine it, examining it line by line and looking for ways to improve it and bring it to life visually to the reader.
  • I try to use all the senses, metaphors and unusual description if I can, to give it some extra punch.
  • I also add in action if I want to add some movement into the poem which was a key part of this particular one.
  • Next, I’ll read it aloud, to show me any clunky bits that don’t work.
  • I then generally show it to one of my children, to check they understand what it’s about and I’m not being too cryptic and then finally…
  • I’ll read it aloud in class and hope it gets a good reaction! Thankfully this one did which is probably why I’m daring to share it!

So here it is for you to read and then I’ll talk more about it after…

I wait and watch…
Caramel conkers scatter the path, part-birthed from their spiny jackets

Crop fields hacked into shredded wheat bales, stand tall for giant’s breakfasts

The woodland peels away to burnished golds, latte leaves pour from varnished branches

And I wait and watch the slow rising mist disperse over sunken fields

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Hot Berries, tiny as jewels decorate glossy, emerald prickle bushes

Whilst a frozen blanket of crocheted decay, crunches underfoot

Ominous skies of stratus grey lay heavily burdened by the promise of snow

And I wait and watch for the first falling to paint the fields clean

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Birdsong returns with frenetic force, speed dating in sweet melody

Golden trumpets announce the arrival of Spring, rising up from grassy banks

Cherry blossoms stand proud, scenting the street as their confetti spirals on cool breezes

And I wait and watch for pale skies to be sliced by wings of swooping swallows

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Lambs grow from skinny legged younglings into sturdy curious creatures, keen to come close

Bees and butterflies flock to fragrant nectar, flaunting hypnotic patterns that dazzle and dance

Spectacular sunsets sink into valleys spilling amber, violets and sugar pink across the horizon

And I wait and watch the molten glow, rooted to this earth, barely breathing in awe

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Copyright: Juliet Thomas

As you know, if you follow this blog’s images and especially my Instagram page @soothedbynature, you’ll know that nature and the seasons is a big part of my life, routine and enjoyment on a daily basis.

I get a lot of inspiration from the photos I take (like above) and that is why I loved writing this poem so much, trying to capture my passion for what I discover and also that sense of awe I have for this ‘bigger than us’ world out there, watching and waiting for each season and taking it all in.

I did a slight twist on the order of the seasons on purpose, for one, we are at the beginning of Autumn in the UK and I wanted to start with the slowing down of that Season.

Autumn is the Season we associate with change and so it seemed the best place to start, to give that sense of magical movement and transformation from one season to the next.

Plus, I wanted to finish on the sight that probably transfixes me the most, a Summer sunset, that always, without fail, leaves me reaching for my camera.

For me, poetry is not about sticking to any kind of stanza rules or verse structure, the essential thing is that it comes from the heart and the reader can relate to it and picture the scene before them.

And ANYONE can do it, poetry is accessible to all and a much simpler and quicker process than writing a short story or novel that require so much more planning, characterisation and plot structure.

Essentially, poetry can be just a collection of your thoughts and doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s about creating emotion and description in a very short piece and as such allows you to focus on the really important key words, like a short sharp lesson in editing!

So why not give it a try? It’s such a simple way to get creative, enjoy that flow-state it brings to our busy minds and the more you practice the better you get. Also, you don’t have to pick a complicated subject, it can be about literally anything.

Why not start with a list like we did in our writing group of the small things and moments  that bring you the most joy and go from there?

And if you get more confident, poems can make great little ‘free’ creative gifts for family and friends too, especially if you write it out in nice handwriting or decorate with a few drawings.

If you have a go, do let me know how you got on; how did it make you feel, was it a challenge, what did you choose to write about, are you pleased with what you produced, did you dare to share?

Wishing you a creative,calm and poetic week!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

P.s The next WOW Wednesday is this week on the 9th of October, 9.30am at Miriam’s Kitchen Table, Kirkburton, Huddersfield. WOW Wednesdays are free and open to everyone with new members coming along to every meeting so why not give us a try? We’d love to see you there, click on the link above to find out more.

 

Why accountability is key to personal growth

As our local community accountability group, ‘WOW Wednesday’ grows, I wanted to talk to you about how this is working for the diverse range of people that have joined the group, (23 and counting!).

The group came about, primarily for four reasons;

  • I wanted to help people similar to myself who worked from home, predominantly on their own or who ran their own businesses, in the process of studying for that long held dream, or simply those who had some goals that they wanted to push along with and needed some help.
  • I wanted it to be something different to what is already on offer out there; an ACCOUNTABILITY group, not networking focussed, although this does happen naturally within the group. We have many networking groups in the local area, that charge a fee to join. I wanted this to be free, open to everyone and involve action – moving forward every time we meet.
  • I wanted to hold it in a café that shares the same ethos as me, to support the local community. Miriam’s café has a large dose of community spirit, she sells third party local products, facilitates workshops (including my writing ones) and most importantly serves delicious locally roasted, Darkwoods coffee and makes the best brunches, lunches and home-made cakes. Holding it here supports her business too.
  • I run this group with my accountability buddy Clair and this is an extension of what we already do between ourselves, if the worst happened and no one showed up, we could at least just have an accountability meeting ourselves, and some nice coffee and cake while we were at it!

The lovely Miriam in the centre, delicious cakes on the left and the unique ambience she’s created in her cafe @miriamskitchentable by partnering with local businesses to sell their products, she even sells my cards there too!

The group only started in June and already is coming together as a formidable force, taking the opportunity to connect with like-minded people and simply get stuff done. We started off with 10 people turning up, a surprise to say the least and it has just grown each week from there with new members joining every 2 weeks.

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The reason it works I think is for several reasons;

  • We are all in the same boat, despite having completely different backgrounds, businesses or interests, we can all identify with the challenges we face
  • We can bounce ideas off each other, working on your own can be pretty isolating, it’s good to talk to others about your plans and gain feedback
  • There are no airs and graces with this group, we are very open, supportive and usually at least one member of the group has the answer to a particular problem.
  • They all can see how accountability is working for them. By nailing down 3 key things they want to achieve in their business / work /craft and 1 life goal and confirming that aloud to the rest of the group, they are much more likely to achieve it…..even if it is the night before a meeting (that’s usually me!)
  • We have a Whats App group for those moments of weakness or celebrations in-between meetings. The group often shares interesting links to information or events too.
  • We know that time is precious, so there’s no strict rules about attendance, we know there are other things out there that suck up time, so we’ll see them at a future meeting instead.

So why am I telling you all this, firstly it’s all about working out how you work best and a great way of doing this is by doing the test that Gretchen Rubin invented called the 4 tendencies (detailed in her book too; The Four Tendencies).

The Four Tendencies The Indispensable Personality Profiles That... 9781473663701

It’s all about how we rise to expectations, both internal and external in order to achieve what we want to. There are 4 different tendencies; Upholders, Questioners, Obligers and Rebels and you can find out which you are by doing this short quiz;

https://quiz.gretchenrubin.com/

According to Gretchen, in a nutshell, this is how the types are broken down in response to both internal and external expectation:

  • Upholders want to know what should be done.
  • Questioners want justifications.
  • Obligers need accountability.
  • Rebels want freedom to do something their own way.

She goes on to say; ‘Knowing our Tendency can help us set up situations in the ways that make it more likely that we’ll achieve our aims. We can make better decisions, meet deadlines, meet our promises to ourselves, suffer less stress, and engage more deeply with others.

Just as important, knowing other people’s Tendencies helps us to work with them more effectively. Managers, doctors, teachers, spouses, and parents already use the framework to help people reduce conflict and make significant, lasting change.’

Unsurprisingly, it’s Obligers that come out top in terms of percentage of the types, with many people finding it hard to let others down (meeting outside expectations, more than your own inner ones) but this is where bringing in accountability can actually help you lean in to your type and make your tendency work for you.

And don’t forget this isn’t a hard and fast rule, there will be situations where you might find yourself becoming more of a questioner for example, but overall, I think it’s a useful indication in understanding how you work best.

With permission from our members, I want to just use a few examples of how our WOW group is working for people in completely different ways, so you can see if this might be something that would work for you or you could also set up a similar group in your local area.

So as I said when we first started we had no clue who might turn up and what their motivations were and so we are a very eclectic mix, but that just makes it all the more interesting and gives us a very wide skill bank to call upon for support!

Here are some examples of the diverse people we have in the group who are all at different stages of their businesses / goals and life aspirations!

Michelle is a very busy, driven businesswoman who is juggling some really important aspects of her business right now, for example applying for funding to take her successful social media app further. She brings a wealth of knowledge to the group, such as growth strategy. I think she enjoys offering her skills and support, knowing she can help us, as well as the sense of satisfaction that she’s getting from regularly achieving her goals and moving her business forward.

Kelly is studying to become a Counsellor and so is using this group to keep on track with her assignments and planning but also observing what things to put in place when she does fully qualify and can then set up her own practice.

Chris has had his own business making fibre glass products for years but in his words ‘is not business-minded’! His first goal on his list was to buy a whiteboard for his workshop to write things on instead of keeping them in his head, he’s come on leaps and bounds since joining!

Emma is an artist and a single mum of 2 girls, juggling working part-time, trying to run her own business aswell as managing some health conditions so she has it all going on! She can’t always make the meetings but still finds it useful to have a supportive group to tap into and we love her gorgeous artwork!

Stef is right at the beginning of her business journey, having literally just set it up and so is trying to balance all the logistics and planning! It’s an exciting but also slightly daunting time so we are happy to help spread the word about her brand-new business.

Jac has a recycled furniture business with her husband and is also a talented pyrography artist. She admits she finds it hard to set goals and is with the support of this group is hoping that this will improve.

Tamara has an essential oils business and does oil based treatments too (she brings her lovely oils to the group too!), she’s a mum to 4 young children and has an interesting challenge in that she’s probably returning to the States next year, so is in a bit of a dilemma as to how far she wants to take the business over here in the UK, and of course we’re helping her with that!

New member Anna, I met through one of my writing workshops and has come to the group to try and figure out what creative direction she wants to go in and so is right at the beginning of her journey.

And finally, Wendy, who comes to the group, not because she needs pushing but actually the opposite. She is constantly trying to reign herself in. She has a busy working life, as a psychotherapist, well-being expert and mindfulness practitioner and when she switches into work mode becomes completely engrossed, Wendy uses the group to set herself targets to limit her working hours as part of her own well-being practice and she regularly gives us wise advice in return!

This is just a third of our group members but hopefully it shows you the diverse range of businesses, personal challenges and what kind of support is helping them by being part of the group. I firmly believe it is the diversity of skills and personalities that really makes this group work.

Just a few of our lovely WOW members, the group has grown to 23 and counting!

Tamara put it best in the first ever meeting, she said;

 ‘I want to stand next to tall people in order to become taller!’

I think this is a great message, we learn and rise up by supporting and connecting with others and I couldn’t be prouder of this group. We all grow and show up in different ways (hence the leaves pic!) and it’s great to see people shining in their own unique way. They are a kind, creative and generous bunch who have taught me so much in just 3 months and I know that this will continue!

Being accountable definitely works for me, as proved last year when I worked with Gabrielle Treanor when she was training to be a life coach.

It seems I like to overly please (Obliger tendency!) and so I went above and beyond what I said I would complete, i.e. 8k words written on my novel instead of 5k and on other writing goals I had too – it’s funny how sometimes you value other people’s recognition of what you’ve got done more than your own, maybe it feels more valid somehow?

When searching for some positive quotes on accountability, I came across this, which I really like;

Accountability eliminates the time and effort you spend on distracting activities and other unproductive behaviour. When you make people accountable for their actions, you’re effectively teaching them to value their work. When done right, accountability can increase skills and confidence.’

Taken from Cedarville.edu/studentleadership@Cedarville.edu

I think this highlights the positivity of accountability rather than the old school connotation we may have from our educational days, for example; ‘You must be accountable for your actions!’ if you did something bad or got into trouble.

So, what do you think? Is this something that could really help you with your creative dreams, business goals or even just getting some life plans sorted out? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you do think this could work for you I highly recommend finding a like-minded friend who you can trust to push you a little and just commit to reporting what you’ve managed to get done each week, and of course celebrate those wins, big or small.

Do let me know how you get on!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

 

 

 

Can planning free up more space for your ideas?

Main image – Getting my pine cones in a row this Autumn…

This week I’ll admit, for once I didn’t have a clue what I was going to write until Sunday night, which is rare more me, ideas usually spring up by at least mid-week.

I wondered if this was a sign that I should have written that ‘Ideas for Blog themes’ list that’s been on my ‘To Do’ list for a while and therefore it was my own fault for failing to plan for those ‘brain fog’ days? Maybe I’d gotten too comfortable trusting myself that the ideas would come?

So that got me thinking about planning, which apart from the ‘themes’, I’ve actually been doing a lot of in other areas of The Curious Creative Club. I decided that my spidery notes in my journal were not good enough and I needed to get more effective on scheduling time in for different pieces of work.

So, last week, I did a full-on schedule for my week, hour by hour, I even colour coded it into the following areas:

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Pink =  Self Care, Exercise (inc dog walks), Friend Catch-ups, nights out and photography time

Green = The Curious Creative Club; admin tasks, Blog posts, Social Media and business workshops / learning

Blue = Writing; my own writing, the book, planning and delivering my writing courses and writing groups that I belong to

Yellow = Art; art-work time, groups and workshops I got to, Art events I exhibit or run stalls at and finally Art admin – going to the printers and delivery etc

Orange = Housework, day to day chores, food shopping and Mum Taxi!

This technique enabled me to see where most of my time goes, and to ensure there was a spread of colours across my week like a rainbow! Needless to say, the over-riding glow was orange, BUT it did cover everything else fairly evenly too.

Since then I’ve broken it down further and bought a book for daily plans, because the small journal I have just wasn’t cutting it anymore, not enough space for my long action lists!

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So, did it work? Well I didn’t complete all the tasks on there, it was a little ambitious and didn’t account for any ad-hoc things coming up, but it did keep me more on track and I had a better idea of the key things that I needed get done that week. Plus, the simple act of writing it down and using colour really works for me, more like a colourful visual map of my week, that sinks into my brain better.

After doing all this I was feeling a little more in control and it even spilled out into creating a weekly menu too – mainly to stop the kids asking what was for tea as soon as they walked through the door, I mean my son even texted me from the bus one night for goodness sake! Thankfully it’s working, apart from when it’s something they don’t absolutely love!

Next, thanks to using @ruthpounwhite’s ‘Back to Business’ free email challenge, I had access to her 3-month planner template, which just makes you step back a little and look ahead at what the key things are that you need to get done over the next few months…..and that got me thinking about the ‘C’ word which you’ll be surprised to know I am fearful of and hate thinking about it until at least Halloween has gone by. I have a friend who sends me text messages counting down to Christmas from about week 14, – it literally drives me insane, so of course she does it all the more!

Usually creative makers love the run up to this time of year, it’s one of their busiest and most lucrative seasons and they have probably been planning for it 6 months ago, but I am notoriously bad at it, despite selling lots of Christmas cards last year (all very rushed and last minute!).

So, I’m trying to embrace it all a little sooner by doing some research on trends, which I actually find fascinating, to help inspire ideas for my card collection this year.

For those who leave it as late as me, there are some useful resources out there; here are my tips if you want to quickly dream up a new collection of creative goods!

  • Listen to the Elevate Your Curiosity podcast by Joanne Griffin, a retail specialist and designer who talks lots about upcoming trends, way in advance! You can also follow her @arnoldandbird on Instagram and Pinterest, where she shows examples of her suggested themes on her boards.
  • Pinterest itself is great for having a browse on what is out there already, and helps you to discover what you are drawn to. I’d also suggest creating a board yourself, specifically for your next project that you can easily refer back to and narrow down what appeals to you most, before getting completely lost in the Pinterest Universe!
  • Get out on to the high street and local artisan and craft shops, see what’s out there, note key themes and colours. Retail is always ahead of the game, working on their current themes many months prior. Whilst you don’t want to copy, obviously your designs should ideally be unique to make you stand out from the crowd, there may be elements of themes you can use that gives it that current edge.
  • Ask you friends, colleagues, family for their thoughts – what is their preference – this is particularly useful regarding pricing too.

Just some of the ideas I’ve been gathering from Pinterest for my next Christmas card collection

If you have great ideas already then draft them up and test them out on your customers – you could easily use Instagram stories for this using their ‘poll’ gif.

Planning can not only help you be one step ahead of the competition, but also help you to tap into all your ‘planner’ customers; you know the ones who get giddy and organised at least 3 months in advance? It gives you a longer stretch to sell, which means you maximise your seasonal designs over a longer period of time and hopefully make more money.

Also, when you have more than one creative project on the go, like me, planning is practically essential, or you’ll just end up never quite finishing one thing and spinning quickly into the other.

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Some of the new designs I’ve been working on…

For example, I’m currently working on a regular update to my card collection, the Christmas card collection, pulling together my new Writing Course which begins in October and planning ahead for new elements of our accountability group – WOW Wednesdays.

Using Ruth’s 3-month planner has helped me to see the key weeks where each element slots in and what I need to do before and after the main activity.

Not surprisingly, planning has other benefits too as cited in Andrew Macleod’s book, ‘A positive psychology perspective on quality of life.’

He states, ‘Individual well-being has been linked to having an approach to life that is goal-based. That is, those who have a goal-based orientation and a tendency towards planning report a higher sense of well-being.’

This makes sense to me, planning certainly get’s rid of that sheer panic that you’ve forgotten to do something major or that you’ve run out of time and can’t get that perfect piece of art to the printers on time. Essentially when you have a plan, you feel more in control. For me, it also breeds a little more self-confidence, like you officially know what you are doing, because you have a plan! It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The one exception to pre-planning? Capturing the moment with photography, nature has a way of saying, ‘I’m here, lets do this!’

And whilst some creatives may feel it flies in the face of that ‘free-spirit’ feeling and that you can’t plan in when the creative lightening will strike, I do think that just getting down even a rough plan, does free up your brain for the really important stuff, the thing you love to do – create!

After all you can only hold so much in your head at any one time, right?

Plus, if you get all the nitty-gritty bits down on paper / computer or your phone, whichever works best for you, and schedule in the time for your creative projects, then you’re left with far more space for ideas and time to paint, write, knit, compose music or whatever floats your creative boat!

It’s those delightful chunky slabs of time, i.e more than that 15 minutes before you pick the kids up from school, or that half hour after dinner when you feel like you should do something but you’re too shattered, that are really important to us.

If you plan it in, it’s far more likely to happen.

So, maybe the saying could be true; If you fail to plan, you plan to fail?

It’s certainly worth a try with only 3 months left until the end of 2019, and a whole host of things I want to get done.

This year has been so great, in terms of the Blog and what I’ve done with The Curious Creative Club in just 9 months since I launched and I’ve run with all kinds of ideas and opportunities that have felt completely right for the direction I want to go but as new things come in and more and more ideas escalate, it’s definitely time to nail down a more forward thinking plan.

I’ve even taken a leaf out of Ruth’s book, and started to park my ideas, finally understanding that I won’t get to them immediately this year, no matter how much I want to! I’ve put them into a list for 2020, I’m actually reigning myself in which is major progress!

Plus of course my fellow WOW Wednesday accountability buddies help enormously with looking forward and planning ahead. For anyone interested in joining us, please click here. The next meeting is this week on the 25th September 9.30am at Miriam’s Kitchen Table, Kirkburton.

And if you live too far away to come along, why not set up your own? It’s so easy and a brilliant way to meet like-minded people who support each other in their businesses, passions or goals. If you do set one up then please do let me know, I would make my day!

I hope that this has been helpful in getting you to think how you would work best, are you a planner, like I’m learning to be, or do you fly by the seat of your pants and it still works out OR are you thinking it might be time for a change?

Let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Until next time….

Juliet, The Curious Creative Club x

P.s In the spirit of encouraging people to talk more and take more action on climate change, please see a post I did below on Friday and if you want to find out more, please click here.

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Creating a Vision Board to keep sight of what you want

First of all, I just wanted to update you a little on last week, where I wrote my most personal blog yet. Although it was scary, I’ve had so much lovely feedback from it (thank you!) and it felt good to open up about writing from personal experience. If you missed it and want to catch up, it’s here.

Plus, I did what I said I’d do too – read out-loud a personal short story at a new writers group called the Writers League at my local bookshop Read, my heart was hammering as I did it but I survived and that’s the main thing!

So, onto this week’s topic of Vision Boards! This came about as myself and friend Clair went along to @writerstogether’s first Vision Board workshop in the lovely Art in the Mill in Knaresborough last week.

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I’ve always wanted to have a go at doing a Vision Board and so when I saw this course advertised, which also promised coaching on the ‘law of attraction’ and how to find clarity on your focus, I jumped at the chance.

The workshop was run by Francesca Hepton, a writer and writing mentor with an added interest in complimentary therapies (of @francescahepton) and Susanna Lewis (of @a_yorkshire_girl), a well-being blogger, speaker and writer who have come together to create Writers Together.

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Francesca and Susanna, our teachers for the day!

After a quick introduction, the group, around 8 of us, were guided through a mediation which involved us walking along a beach to meet someone at a campfire who then passed us a box, inside the box was a gift and a few words but we weren’t told what.

After the mediation finished, we were then asked the following questions; who was by the fire, what colour was the box and any ribbon etc, what was in the box and what words did you see? You had to go with your first instant thought and not try to change it.

Francesca then analysed our results! So, for me it was my husband by the fire (although I suspect that is because I associate him with fire-pits and bbqs!), the box given to me was white leather, with no ribbon, inside was a very ornate, antique style old gold or bronze bangle style bracelet with an oval green stone in the middle and the only word I saw was ‘follow’.

I found doing this exercise so interesting! Francesca straight away asked if I believed in magic to which said yes (especially in terms of signs and higher powers in force in this world!) and she said I need to find a similar bracelet to keep with me as a talisman. She also told me that green means ambition, magic and jealousy but she didn’t think I was jealous – my husband being by the fire was a good sign – phew! She said my message was more about ambition, magic and bringing a more financial aspect into what I’ve been doing. The word ‘follow’ was simply a sign to follow my dreams and keep going.

It’s true that I‘ve been thinking about this as mostly what I do with The Curious Creative Club is free, other than my writing workshops and whilst this venture is definitely not about money for me, I consider the more people I can help to live a creative life as the meter of success, it would still be nice to earn a little from it too.

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The rest of the group had really interesting results too, with quite a few not having anything in their box. Clair had pictured a man carrying a backpack by the fire, like a traveller she had seen many of when she was younger and went travelling around the world. Francesca honed in on that aspect and implied that she missing travelling and that sense or freedom and space.

Following the mediation Susanna talked a little about the law of attraction and how switching how you think can make something positive happen. She used parking spaces as an example! Often when we turn up to a car park we are thinking ‘I’m never going to find a place!’ and then often don’t, whereas if you flip that and think, ‘I will find a space today’, you will! It’s an interesting concept and one I’ll definitely give a try!

Our default as a species is to think more negatively, such as if one thing goes wrong in the morning, you are destined for a bad day. Essentially, it’s all about focusing more positively about what you want in life and then it’s more likely to happen.

Next she went on to talk about the vision boards and how to do them, a whole host of magazines sat in the centre of the table and we each had a small canvas board to stick things on to.

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Participants getting busy with their scissors!

Susanna recommended writing key words down first to give you an idea of elements to focus on, on your board, so for example we might want to consider aspects that came out of the meditation.

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I cut everything out and laid it all out before sticking down

I love messing about with magazine images and words so I had clear ideas of the kinds of things I wanted and quickly went to work cutting away!

Whilst there were definite goals I wanted to place on there in terms of creativity, I also considered adding a few financial goals too, but more in terms of aspirational future things that would mean more to me than money.

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Therefore, on went a Summer House (which we’ve been talking about could be partly a creative space for me) and also a picture of a high cliff overlooking the sea – my absolutely dream is to have a cottage with a sea view at some point that I can escape to, to write or use as a creative retreat for customers. The fact it had a puffin on there too I realised later was quite significant, not only do I remember these a lot from my childhood holidays with my Dad bird watching, but also of course ‘Puffin’ is a book publisher!

I was also naturally drawn to magical imagery and words, which I think I would have chosen even if it hadn’t come out of the mediation, my favourite image on there is the lady in pink levitating in the forest – that feels like me to a tee!

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A rainbow had to feature too, with the idea being in the article I took it from, that everything is in the palm of your hands – again a good message to remind myself of.

I had things linked to my house, the ‘calm and cozy’ wording is how I always like to feel, the neat and tidy pink chair is how I wish my living room would remain, without kids and a the dog diving all over it!

I then chose things that linked to my dreams as a writer; a journal to remind me to make it more personal sometimes, ‘Book Reviews’ – to remind me to get to that point with mine, a key, because that is the name of my book – ‘The key to everything’ and also the cover of Psychologies magazine who I would love to work with more in the future.

I also found an image of Allison Sadler with ,her Rebel Club T-shirt on – a woman I know from Instagram with qualities I deeply admire and I love all that she represents – fun, feisty and fabulous, which is why she is also on there – a reminder to not take myself too seriously.

Finally, I added healthy soups and fruit on there as I need to get back to some healthy eating habits!

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So, you get the idea, Vision Boards need to be extremely personal, and each piece needs to really mean something to you. The images don’t necessarily need to be literal either, for example a plug doesn’t mean ‘turn the plug off’ as it might to someone, it is to remind me to stop and re-energise sometimes as often I keep going until I drop.

Whilst doing our boards and chatting, we realised something else too, that the way we display our images says a lot about us; mine has as much on as possible, with no space at all and lots overlapping – if that’s not a metaphor for my life I don’t know what is!

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My board also naturally had similar colours that I love and bring instant calm and sanctuary to me, deep sea blues, teals, turquoise and forest greens, star-fish pinks and even an energising orange is in there too – this also mirrors my Living Room and office, all colours I’m clearly drawn to!

As an artist who loves colour, it felt important that it wasn’t garish or dull and would have a theme that would sit harmoniously in it’s environment, which will be most likely be my office.

Other participants boards were completely different, many had lots of purposeful space, so they would include some space in their lives. Others were more focused on one specific aspect of their life such as health, there was a real mixture!

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Clair’s board, all about travel, exploring and space

Susanna also talked about how important it was that your vision board isn’t hidden away, it needs to be somewhere where you see it on a regular basis or as you walk passed for it to have the biggest impact.

My summary is that doing a Vision Board is a really fun and useful exercise and one that can give you real clarity on what’s important to you over say the next 6 months. I think its crucial to keep revisiting it and change or update it accordingly if situations change – this is a living breathing entity, just like your work and dreams.

And if you get a taste for it, you can always do more than one, I quickly ran out of space and could have done more, so it might be that you have a vision board for different areas of your life, such as health, creative hobbies, work, family, holidays, money etc, Susanna knows of a client who has a whole wall full!

Just before I left the workshop, I had a few realisations; firstly was the fact I had picked up a piece of bright green sea glass from the beach in Conwy a few weeks ago and I was going to show it to a friend who makes sea glass jewellery to see if she could do anything with it – maybe this is the green stone bracelet to use as a talisman?

And secondly one about the word ‘magic’ that made my hairs stand on end (this often happens to me!).

About 3 weeks prior to the workshop I’d read an article about an old-style bus that had been refurbished into a place to stay and was close to a place I’m desperate to visit, Hay on Wye. It looked amazing and I quickly sent the link to Clair and Kelly saying ‘we have to go to this and can we use it as a business retreat?!’ And what was that bus called? The Magic Bus. Now if that’s not a sign to go to it, I don’t know what is!

This is why I believe in magical signs!

Let me know how you get on if you give this a go and make your own vision board and send a picture to me via my Instagram account @thecuriouscreativeclub. I’d love to see how they look!

Until next time…wishing you a magical week!

Juliet, the curious creative x

P.s To find out more about Writers Together’s events, click here

 

Can fear spark a deeper level of creativity?

Okay, health warning, this is quite a deep subject but one I think is pretty important and it came to me over a general chat catching up with two friends last week.

I’ve worked out lately that I’m really crap with uncertainty and this is what I was talking about to them. I’m not a huge forward planner, month by month is enough, but I like to know roughly what I’m doing, when I’m doing it and tend to look forwards rather than backwards, full steam ahead; that is until life throws you a curve ball.

There’s a flummox of uncertainty around us at the moment, in a few different areas, which isn’t hugely disastrous, I don’t want to be overly dramatic, BUT It is an unusual circumstance for us to be in and so it’s putting us a bit in limbo, a little stuck. As I said I like to keep moving forward so I’m not used to this inertia and waiting to see what happens.

Thankfully we are not the types to panic, in general, I tend to not get very upset in life and you’re far more likely to get me crying over an episode of 24hrs in A&E than actually attending A&E with a family member, which is a little bit weird I know!

As a complete Empath, I tend to feel what others feel, rather than feeling upset if something happens directly to me, when that happens, I go into practical mode and problem solve.

However, I had a bit of a light-bulb moment in our discussion, one of my friends is training to be a counsellor and so is rather intuitive and knowledgeable about this stuff. Talking it through, I realised feeling this anxiety over uncertainty, likely stems from my childhood (usually the case huh?!). Back then I was not in control, my parents were and there was nothing I could do about some pretty turbulent times aged 11-18.

Speaking to my friend, I told her that people sometimes think I’m odd, because I don’t show emotion when explaining what happened in those times, and to be fair that is genuinely a dramatic story, it would make a great book.

I was so determined to not let that period in my life affect me, that I packaged it all up very neatly in multiple boxes with extra secure padlocks and piled them up in a deep bunker so that it’s practically impossible to access it.

As an adult now, I mostly feel fully in control of my destiny, to the extent of being part of a family who also get a say in our direction, but in no way do we lead ourselves into the path of danger or uncertainty, purposely.

When I explained how I’d ‘coped’ with my childhood experiences she gently smiled and said that sometimes, despite it being painful we have to re-visit them, reassess how we feel about what happened now we are further down the line and look them in the eye, so they don’t feel so dark and threatening, before once again returning to normal life.

This is something that I very rarely do, unless something triggers a memory of that time, I certainly don’t go seeking it out. She’d had a similar situation recently, which was comforting to know as she too has had very challenging times but now that she had the tools from her training, she knew what to do; looked it in the eye, talked it through, dealt with it accordingly and moved on.

I then explained that talking about it never bothers me (mainly I think because I feel so distanced from that bunker), but writing about it does. As a writer you’d think that would be the first place I’d start and not so long ago I realised I often write about what I’ve done, achieved or notes to do in my diary but rarely go deeper, never explain how I feel at the time.

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To me writing about it feels too real, if you write it down, it’s history on a page, it happened, and do I truly want to have that as part of my story?

Yet, duh, of course it is part of my story, not writing it down doesn’t mean it never happened.

So, I’ve come up with a solution, to see if tackling uncertainty (old and new) head-on helps, instead of trying to squash it down and wonder why I’m not feeling at my best.

I’ve decided to write things down but with a difference, to write as a character, as a 3rd party, creating the distance to not let it become too overwhelming.

Examining this idea, I realised I’ve done this before, back in my Uni days I wrote one of our final pieces for my degree, which had to be about a personal experience.

My article centred on the divorce of my parents, and all that happened over a few years, but I started off writing it as if I was looking down, watching the girl I once was, sat in a garden, cross-legged making daisy chains which bizarrely made it enjoyable and therefore I did a ‘good’ job of getting the story across without being over emotional, yet it was still very real.

I must’ve done a pretty convincing job because my tutor called me in after giving me the top mark and questioned, ‘Did this really happen?’ and when I answered yes, then asked, ‘Well how did you turn out to be so normal then?’ Hmmm I beg to differ, but it was funny at the time!

It taught me the lesson of how powerful personal experience writing can be and yet I’ve rarely done it since. I was 21 when I wrote it, had escaped my small Yorkshire home-town and a house full of memories to the seafront and buzz of Plymouth, maybe that was the story I just had to get out at the time, in order to truly put it to bed.

Last week I went back to my various writing groups and I know this new knowledge will help me access those less joyful experiences and tap into a deeper creativity, but it does require an element of courage when letting other people hear your work!

For example, I’ve got homework to do on ‘settings’ for one group and I’ve chosen my experiences at a young age of going into what felt like the ‘adult’ world of the Working Men’s Club on a Saturday night with my parents and recognising the differences between them, even back then.

For Yorkshire Writers Lunch, I’ve put my name down to do a post on November the 4th and have written a very personal story around Bonfire night and what that date means to me now.

I think getting the feel and atmosphere of the story across becomes even more essential with personal stories, because they mean more to you, you want the reader to feel as you did. Ultimately that’s the magical possibility of a good story.

The question is, will I be brave enough to read it out and test the waters at my local bookshop, Read’s new writing group that I’m also joining this week? I hope so.

As ever, when I have light-bulb moments like these it leads on to a catalogue of ideas and so the next logical step for me is to pass on knowledge and share experience and so, in the early hours of this morning (as we returned to my daughter’s swim training), I planned a whole new writing course in my head, around this very topic!

The ‘Playing with Writing’ workshops I’ve done this year have gone so well as an introduction to people to creative writing, to help them generate ideas and look for stories in every-day life.

Doing them has taught me even more about the value of people doing something creative, to take some time out for themselves and produce something personal to them. It feels good to be on the right track and I want to do more!

So, this is what I’m going to focus on; ‘Writing from Personal Experience’ to delve deeper into this topic and give participants the tools and tips to get going with new exercises and as before, in a safe, small, supportive group.

I’ll keep you posted when I’ve created the workshop and what the dates will be @miriamskitchentable, I’m hoping to start in October.

September is such an exciting time for me, that new sense of possibility and changing of seasons – home-made soups and jam, cosy fires and candles; I’m all about the Hygge season!

To beat the uncertainty, I’m forging on, keeping busy and inspired by the wonderful creative community around me and doing what fills me with joy the most, my creative projects – it really is the best medicine in tricky times. Maybe that’s also why I love the seasons so much, they are naturally predictable, certain, always moving through.

Another exciting focus this week will be the next WOW Wednesday, and for those who want to know all about that, I’ve recently updated the page here, we’d love to see you there.

Next week I’ll fill you in on how my bonfire story is received by the group at Read and also what the Vision Board Workshop is like that I’m going to tomorrow, run by @writerstogether – I can’t wait!

I hope that this post has made you think and consider using your own personal experiences to challenge you more in your creative projects, I’d love to hear how you get on in the comments!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps The main picture is from a dusk walk the other evening, inspired by listening to @tiffany.francis , author of recently published Dark Skies on the In The Moment podcast this week. Nothing like a September sunset to keep you looking on the bright side.

That New Term feeling, on to the next mountain…

September is here! I’m feeling the new term vibe and want to make the most of the last few months of the year. Are you ready too, for the next chapter, mentally and physically? 

Pre-note – So I totally failed in getting this out last Monday, because as predicted, the last-minute Welsh Holiday was full-on action! It was great fun, with lots of family memories made and Conwy was a great base to stay but in-between the packed days and the seagull nightclub that seemed to start every night at around 4am on our roof, I think what I’m about to say below will be even more relevant!

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We had a great week of adventure in North Wales; Snowdon (hubs and daughter climbed, me and son on train!), underground mine challenge, zip world, walks, beaches and castles…to name but a few – Barley loved it!

Time to get our brains back into gear…..

Anyone else out there feeling a little beat and energy sapped from the Summer School Holidays? If not, I salute you! But I for one, and many other creatives and small business owners I know are sinking a little in overwhelm, trying to keep your ideas and business momentum going whilst trying to keep everybody happy over the holidays is not an easy task! Yet there is only so much you can do in-between the constant nagging / bickering of children and trying to keep the house from looking like it’s been burgled on a daily basis.

But it’s good to know that we are not alone, there is an army of parents out there just trying to keep calm and carry on and now we can see the start of a new term beginning to glow warmly within touching distance, we’re almost there!

I know I’ve been feeling like this, starting to resent the shackles of parenthood (I know I’m being slightly dramatic here and I love them dearly, obviously!) that’s keeping me away from my creative groups and passions and that last push ‘To Do list for the next 3 months that I want to just get down, so I feel like I have a plan!,

I can feel that edginess kicking in, my patience wearing a little thinner at the millions of requests per day of ‘What are we doing today?’ or ‘What can we eat?’ or just simply ‘Muuuuum, he/she’s annoying me!’ – seriously why is everyone permanently hungry?

Plus, I have to admit, as they get older it’s harder to entertain them or prize them off things like X Box and phones, which then means that we are on constant trips out, trying to fill the day!

Since we returned from Mallorca, I feel like I’ve been wading in mud, my legs don’t seem to be working and my brain is most definitely NOT IN GEAR! I can’t work out if it’s a parental fatigue virus or genuinely my head has forgotten how to think deeper and has gone into shut-down!

And I know it’s not just me, my friend Clair has been juggling her business, working at 7am for a few hours, then trying to ‘be present’ with the kids (we all start off the holidays with that ‘ideal’ don’t we?!) Then, she’s sorting the house and working into the evening to try and catch up! It’s crazy!

No-one can keep that up over a whole six weeks without feeling the pressure and like it’s a permanent plate-spin! Yet this is what people who work from home or have their own business have to do to survive the 6-week summer system! Whoever invented that needs a serious talking to!

Even Holly Tucker MBE (of Holly & Co and previously of Not on the High Street) has been feeling the burn, but in a different way – you know that time when you actually stop working and then the adrenaline seeps out of your body and it feels like your battery is well and truly flat?

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Well, she posted about it this last week on Instagram @hollytucker and so many others feel the same way too, wondering why they are not bouncing with joy on their long-awaited Summer holiday that they’ve worked so hard for and instead would happily prefer to crawl into bed and just sleep!

Normally I’m buzzing for September, and in many ways, I am, not least to go to the supermarket a lot less but I also feel like my body needs to catch up with what my head wants to do and I’m feeling anxious and frustrated because it’s not!

The energy required to get my ideas flowing and get some serious planning work done is just not there, no matter how many lattes I consume. Part of me is feeling like I’m heading into procrastination territory, which is my least favourite state of mind and another part is gradually putting things in place, so all is not completely lost.

I’m trying to focus on this positive bit, that I am making moves towards getting my butt back in gear, albeit annoyingly slowly and without completely realising it – I’m trying to recognise that as a good thing and that I’m not completely flailing around in goo.

So, what have I been doing to encourage some self-motivation and get back into the right frame of mind? Maybe these small things can encourage you and prompt some ideas for a re-boot too?

  • Trying something new, that is both creative and planning related – I’ve booked in with some fellow Instagramers that have recently changed direction and are offering some new workshops, to help you focus. I’ll be taking part in the Vision Board Workshop, run by @writerstogether on the 10th of September in the hope that doing something visible will help me hone in on the key things I want to get done by the end of this year (as I think this is how I work best). I’ll tell you all about this in a future blog post.
  • I’ve booked on for a free half-hour coaching session with Gabrielle Treanor – she offered some free sessions last week to work on one thing in September, so I snapped up the opportunity – I worked with Gabrielle briefly last year as a case study when she was training and she really helped me with achieving my word-count goal so I’m hoping she can help steer me a little again. Being accountable really works for me, it’s that people pleasing thing!
  • I’ve just found out about a great new challenge from Ruth Poundwhite, a business coach and mentor whom I follow regularly on Instagram and listen to her podcast – Creatively Human. Upon returning to her 3rd podcast season launched this week, she’s also launched a ‘Back to Business Challenge’, which she says is all about gently getting you back into the swing of things after Summer and free up your time and energy too AND it won’t require loads of time or reading, but will lead to some powerful realisations and, hopefully, actions – which all sounds pretty perfect to me and as it’s free, so what have we got to lose (click on the link in her instagram profile @ruthpoundwhite if you’re interested in joining in too.)
  • I’m making sure I keep inspired, not only will I be returning to my writing and art groups and generally just getting back into the swing of things but I’m also going to one of my favourite events – Staithes Art Festival next weekend. I went for the first time last year, it’s an amazing collection of artists, all exhibiting in local cottages in the tiny picturesque coastal village of Staithes. Not only did I come away with a much-loved piece of art for my office but also photos that I then used as references to paint. See here for more info if you’d like to check it out for yourself.

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My painting of Staithes village and the piece of artwork I bought, called ‘The Habbit’ – a cross between a rabbit and a hare that I love and now sits in my office.

  • As usual I’ve been taking a lot of new photos over the Summer, for my Instagram accounts such as @soothedbynature, a whole heap of nature treasures that only come out to play in Summer and many images taken on holiday too. I’m always looking for that unusual angle or view point, enjoying the challenge of capturing something different to my normal walking routine. I’ve already found some favourites that I want to recreate as a painting and transform into greeting cards

Just a few pictures I took on our welsh holiday….it helps when the scenery is this amazing!

  • I’ve set myself some deadlines, the first being to have a stall for my cards at a friend’s local charity event and also to book myself in for the next slot for the Yorkshire Writer’s Lunch Blog – I find I work better with a few self-imposed deadlines.
  • I’ve been carrying on with reading inspiration, this holiday I’ve been reading The Holiday by T.M Logan, an intriguing story of four best friends from Uni going on holiday with their families to a villa to try and recapture their close relationships and of course it ends up being much more complicated and entwined than that. Nothing inspires me more in my novel writing than reading great new Summer debuts, because one day, that could be me.

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  • Finally, a friend who now lives in Australia came over here this Summer to look after her poorly Dad who sadly passed away a few weeks ago. She was tasked with emptying the family home and putting it up for sale which involved a lot of sorting out. She came across many art books, brand new paints, materials and a beautiful ink Italic set in a wooden box – all of which she has gifted to me (which almost made me cry). She wanted to make sure she gave them to someone who would really appreciate them and make good use of them – you can’t get a much better incentive than that to crack on with some new artwork.

I’ll keep you posted on how the above help me over the coming months. I feel like I’ve achieved more than I’d hoped over the first part of the year, which is maybe why I now feel unsettled as I came to a grinding halt for the Summer holidays as family life took over. I’d gotten used to the creative momentum, the knock-on effects of a stream of ideas and opportunities and I’ve realised it’s that pattern that gives me the energy and excitement to continue and when that’s paused it’s a little harder to get going again, a little fear of the unknown I suppose.

But I will, and especially with creative like-minds around me and the WOW Wednesday gang, which by the way will start again on Wednesday the 11th of September if you’d like to come along (9.30am at Miriam’s Kitchen Table, Kirkburton).

Do let me know how you get going again and motivated with your creative projects / business, after a relaxing / refereeing Summer in the comments below…

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x