Keep on reading, if you want to write

Hello everyone! I’ve just returned from our family Summer holiday and it was a big one – 13 family members all under one roof to celebrate a 50th and a 16th birthday! It’s been four years since it was my mum’s 70th and we all went away for that, so it’s been a while. I’m more used to the relative quiet of a family of 4 so it took a little adjustment to get used to the noise level and different generations!

However, there was also lots of singing, drinking, dancing, eating, swimming, and screaming laughter at the various competitions and races – the lilo one especially, don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a long time!!

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Last night pool party lilo pile-on!!

The villa itself was stunning, only a few years old, stylish and modern, yet quiet and nestled in farmland in-between Inca, San Pablo and Alcúdia in Mallorca, with a lovely outside eating area, large pool with a jacuzzi corner, football and volleyball pitch and most important for me, a hammock – now that was pure luxury for me!

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Eden Son Frare, our gorgeous villa in Inca and chilling in the hammock!

As you know, a big part of holidays for me is reading, the joyous hours and hours of it whilst baking in the sun, only pausing for the odd ice-pop or Desperado (finally found a beer I like!), and oh yeah lunch, although I could easily forget that when I’m in so deep.

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I could get used to this!

Usually my summer holiday coincides perfectly with one of my favourite author’s release date of their new book, and this year was no exception, Lisa Jewell’s new book, The Family Upstairs came out on the 8th of August and I couldn’t wait to dive in!

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The book of the Summer for me, just brilliant!

Lisa is a gem of an experienced author, has been writing since 1999 following her debut of Ralph’s Party and now has 17 books under her belt. She’s one of the few authors that changed track from her original women’s fiction books to what she’s now better known for, writing psychological thrillers.

I loved her books before, but the change to this style even more so and what has always been central to her success, in my view, is her rich, fulfilling characters that draw you into her books, because you can’t help but care about them or want to know more about what makes them tick – even the bad / evil ones.

As a writer myself, I not only enjoy her books as a ‘normal’ reader, and I get addicted to the story becoming fully immersed just like other readers but for me it’s also like an invaluable, free lesson in how to write amazing books and create intriguing personalities, with real true depth.

So, this is what I want to talk about this week; how keeping up with reading can inspire your writing and why it is so important in you quest to become a writer, whether that be published or not – I’ve yet to find a writer how doesn’t want to produce their ‘best’ work and reading can really help.

So, here are my reasons of why I find it so important and a much-valued assistant to my writing;

1. Seeing books on shelves, new titles popping up on my kindle and that anticipation of one of my favourite author’s book coming out, re-kindles my love of reading, other than writing and art, nothing switches my mind off more than getting stuck deep into a story and quite frankly it’s the only thing that gets me to sleep.

Being passionate for a new story is what it’s all about for us as writers, it’s what           makes us give chase in the first place.

2. Reading offers up that the dream is possible, yes of course not everyone gets published, and not everyone wants to be, but for us chasing that dream, there is proof that it is possible, in the palm of our hands, amongst the pages, because others have done it.

As writers, most of us are too scared to even call ourselves that, so we need every extra dose of self-belief we can get, others have gone before us and climbed that ‘route to published author’ mountain, maybe we can too.

3. It opens you up to a huge array of style, vocabulary, ideas, plotting, genres….to name but a few and the best way to learn this is by soaking it up in a story that you are much more likely to remember than in a ‘how to write’ book.

What you read is a great lesson and as a writer you are more likely to read it as one, taking note without even realising as you go along of what works, what jars a little, what delights and surprises you and ultimately keeps you turning the pages.

4. It give’s you a great insight into characterisation and the techniques authors use to make you feel a certain way about them, and that might not always be good versus bad, it’s the little personality traits, or quirks that helps us to identify with characters, warm to them and makes us care what happens in their journey. It’s an incredible skill to have and one worth learning about to help you create the many levels, back-stories, and mannerisms characters can have.

5. It teaches you about story arcs, where the drama happens, which parts are helpful, quieter back-stories or hints of what’s to come – how do they build the crescendo to keep you hungry for more?

For me a major part is the ending – it doesn’t have to be what I expect but it needs to be realistic and plausible, otherwise it can quickly descend from an amazing book, to an ok book, and who wants to be just ok?

6. It can give you good audience insight, especially if you are part of a book club or social media community talking about it. Did others feel the same way as you did about the story? What other things did they enjoy different to you? Who were their favourite characters?

How readers react emotionally to stories is a powerful thing, if people love the book, they are likely to shout from the rooftops about it – I certainly do, and then they soon become an army of fans, passionate about the story and the experience it’s given them, and wanting to read future titles.

7. This can go one step further – learning how authors build their reader communities is also an important lesson to understand in this new era of how books are promoted. These days you can easily communicate with authors, via social media or at signing events and talks. These can be invaluable for writers, to understand how authors got to where they are now, (clue – it rarely just magically happensnot many have an easy route, they work hard and persevere just like we are doing now).

Again, their stories are inspirational, and many are incredibly forthcoming and helpful in response to questions or just chatting via social media, because they were once where we are now.

Authors often ask questions of readers for research too or ask you to choose a name of a character as part of a competition, or sign you up to emails so you are the first to know of any events they are doing – make sure you take these opportunities to give you an understanding of how all this works so that you are then prepared for this part of the process when you reach that point.

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An example of a an Instagram post from Clare Mackintosh who is very engaging on social media

8. Finally, reading can help just relax you from a hard days writing, or you may even find the solution to a problem in your writing via the story you are reading – how the author tackled a certain aspect that could be useful to you. It could even be as simple as just an alternative word that describes something better that you could use too.

Plus, if you’re anything like me that finds it hard to stop your brain whirring with more ideas, it might just help you get a better night’s sleep, so what’s not to love? The key of course is finding those great books that will keep you coming back for more and with billions of titles to choose from, that is probably the hardest part.

Many writing advisories suggest reading widely, stretching the genres you normally go for, I’m not very good at that part, I tend to go for what I know I will love, but I do occasionally try alternatives and it does make me appreciate different styles when I do.

On that note, here is my list of what I’ve read this year (I’m not a mega speedy reader by the way!), in preference order, just in-case you are looking for some reading inspiration – but remember the genre I generally go for are psychological thrillers, although not all of these are.

1.The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewel

2.Where the Forest Meets the stars – Glendy Vanderah

3.Ordinary people – Diana Evans

4.After the end – Clare Mackintosh

5.The Rumour – Lesley Kara

6.Before I let you go – Kelly Rimmer

7.Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty

8.Do not disturb – Claire Douglas

9.The last thing she told me – Linda Green

10.Then she vanishes – Claire Douglas (not quite finished yet)

The next book I want to read is The Holiday by T.M Logan as it’s about 3 families staying in a villa with a twist, kind of like we just did! Sounds right up my street!

I hope this helps you with your writing journey. After reading Lisa’s book, I’m certainly back on a mission with my own and as always, I have that new term feeling for September…but first we’re having a weeks’ trip to North Wales with the dog before we all have to get back into the school/swim routine.

Hopefully I’ll be able to write a blog post for next week, unless I get stuck up Snowdon or lost in the underground caves! Something tells me this holiday will not involve me lounging around in a hammock!

So, happy reading and do let me know how reading helps your writing and your favourites this year, I’m always on the look-out for great books!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

P.s Don’t forget to share your summer adventures via #mycurioussummer on Instagram and also follow my Instagram page @mycuriouscreativeclub for frequent tips about creativity or things I think you’ll find useful of interesting

Savouring the Summer slow-down and a little reflection

This week I’ve realised that despite being on school summer holidays, I’m still managing to carve out some creative time and find moments of inspiration too, in-between the shouts of ‘Mum, what’s for lunch?! and Mum, what are we doing today and Mum can I have my 50th ice-cream of the day?’

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I’m enjoying the slightly slower pace and no deadlines of getting out of bed (apart from swim mornings of course). It’s been a time for reflection too, on all kinds of things.

It’s making me re-think the story I tell myself of being crazy-busy, spinning all the plates is good and equals me being more productive, I think that may be a big fat lie!

I have been busy with the kids during the day, but not as rushed and it’s made me appreciate the time that I do have on an evening, when my daughter’s at swimming training, to focus on what I need to get done. Plus of course my fellow WOW Wednesday members also help to keep me on track.

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Amazing time at Britain’s Got Talent Champion of Champions and the beautiful highland cattle at Emley Show

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The awesome gardens, grounds and inside the house at Chatsworth provide new photographic opportunities.

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So, in-between family trips to; Britain’s Got Talent Champion of Champions (we got free audience tickets via Applause.com) at Wembley Arena, Chatsworth House on the way back, The Lion King at the cinema (amazing, I cried lots!) and Emley Show, I managed to get some word-count down on the book, teach myself how to draw certain flowers, launch  #mycurioussummer ,take some good new nature pics for @soothedbynature and run another WOW Wednesday meeting.

The meeting was brilliant yet again, despite being fewer people there as many members are on holiday and we put the world to rights, talked through and celebrated our wins and shared both struggles and some hilarious stories.

During the meeting we also talked about reflection, some members reflect regularly, others feel like they need to do it more. I realise I do write lists and reflect on ‘action’, i.e what I do or what we’ve done as a family, but I rarely dig deeper and note down how ‘I feel’, I generally battle on through stuff and I’ve realised I might actually benefit from acknowledging this more rather than bottling it all up and forging ahead.

Plus, guess what, it was an excuse for another type of journal, the bonus being that I got it free on my Waterstones points! Win!

Some of my recent Summer nature shots, butterflies are my favourites, they make you work hard before fluttering off!

I also had one full-on procrastination evening, when I should have been writing and instead decided that I’d make a big list of all what had gone on this year so far in terms of The Curious Creative Club and just life in general.

It’s been a full on crazy and somewhat unpredictable year so far in just 7 months and I didn’t want to forget it all by the time I normally do this at the end of the year.

Reflecting was interesting though and made me feel proud of what I’ve achieved so far this year with this website and all the other things I’ve been doing. It’s easy to forget everything when you are in the thick of it, so it’s important to pause and take stock now and again.

And in doing so, it makes you think about what’s next on the horizon, what you would still like to do and set new goals for the final 3 months of the year. I can feel a new excitement brewing, that sense I get when it’s the pre-new term of September and so my naturally enquiring mind has been researching without me even knowing it:

I’ve listened to some great podcasts: Ruth Poundwhite has been doing a great project in July called The Everyday Difference where she’s interviewed lots of creatives and inspiring people which she has sent through on a daily email as part of the project to people who have signed up. As part of this she’s also done some podcasts with some of her interviewees as well as her usual solo episodes where she always delivers good practical advice. I can highly recommend listening to her podcast ‘Creatively Human’.

I’ve bought some new books: So firstly, I got ‘10 Step Drawing Flowers’ by Mary Woodin along with some new colouring pencils and a small drawing pad which was a complete impulse buy after a stressful argument with my teenage daughter! But now I’m glad I bought it, because it’s such an easy book to use and do some simple, small drawing exercises when I’m out and about.

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Next I finally got a copy of ‘Company of one’ by Paul Jarvis which I’ve wanted for a while as it’s often recommended by lots of people I follow and is all about how staying small can be really good for your business and offers a different kind of growth. I really think this is going to be my kind of book as the testimonial on the front from Carl Newport says; ‘A must read for any entrepreneur who prioritises a rich-life over riches’ which certainly resonates with the life I want to lead. This will be one of my reads on holiday along with my new fiction read, ‘The Family Upstairs’ by Lisa Jewell (one of my favourite authors) which I can’t wait to get stuck into too.

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Finally, I’ve started researching about mentoring / coaching prospects again, this keeps coming up for me and I can see me getting to it one day! I think it’s because it’s another way of helping people and working one to one, I think it’s possible to make even more of a difference. This may go on my list for next year but in the meantime, I got some great advice below.

I discovered Nicola from @alifemoreinspired via @ruthpoundwhite interview on her podcast ‘Creatively Human’ . I realised we shared a lot of experience and so I reached out and asked her thoughts on training and experience required to become a creative coach or mentor, which is what she does now.

Nicola was lovely and after I told her a bit about my background and what I’ve been doing this year, she came back and said ‘Your experience is enough. Seriously with all the things you do and have done, you are in a position to help people.’

Just Nicola saying that made me feel so much more confident which is crazy isn’t it that we don’t necessarily think that about ourselves?

I’m so grateful that she responded to my questions this week and once again it just proves that the connections I keep making on this journey are so valuable, inspiring and key to moving forward, gaining confidence or looking at things differently.

So, that’s all for this week, I hope it’s given you food for thought on working a little differently, a little slower but still effective and inspired you to reflect on all your achievements so far this year – I bet it will be a bigger list than you anticipated and that deserves a summer cocktail at the very least!

Also, don’t forget to keep letting me know about your adventures, big or small via the #mycurioussummer on Instagram and I’ll share my favourites each week – I’d also be really grateful if you would share this via your Instagram stories so that we really get this going, together, thank you.

Next week I’ll be on a big family holiday (13 of us!) in a Mallorcan villa, I’m not sure if it will be that restful but it will certainly be interesting, so after 32 blog posts this year completed (this in itself surprises me!) I’m taking one week off (plenty to read whilst I’m gone!).

I hope you are all enjoying your Summer holidays and I’ll be back in 2 weeks with some more creative revelations! (I hope!).

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

P.s Psychologies Magazine have now begun their Eco Awards that I’m part of, reviewing Eco products as part of a panel of 25. It’s a great way of finding out about everyday greener beauty and health products, so check it out via the September edition of the magazine or online at psychologies.co.uk/real-eco

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They’ve also started sending out subscription issues plastic free! Yeah!! 

Wanted! – Your Curious Adventures Captured

New photography project announcement!

Hi Everyone, well it’s been the craziest of Summers so far weather-wise hasn’t it?! In the last week I watched a lightening show at 3am dance across our hall landing, on Thursday, the hotest day of the year in the UK, we nearly cooked and died taking the very unwise decision to do a family bike ride, because the lake was shut due to green algae – we’d wanted to hire a pedalo! And then today I got pelted with rain on my dog walk but I actually quite enjoyed the cooler temperature – us Brits are never happy are we?

Anyway, since writing the photography Blog a few posts back, I’ve been floating an idea in my head to do a photography hashtag project over the Summer, wherever you may live, in the hope that we can all share what we’ve gotten up to.

I’m going to call it My Curious Summer, to give it a fairly wide remit but ultimately I want you to share your adventures, whatever they may be, from a simple walk somewhere different to your usual place to the holiday of a lifetime and everything in-between.

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Be curious, try different ways of capturing images and don’t forget the kids can join in too, just reference it as their image on your account if they don’t have an account of their own.

The photos don’t need to be edited ‘perfect’ Instagram shots either, they can be just snippets of every-day life, it’s all about just being curious and sharing what you discover and obviously be as creative as you like.

Below are some more ideas of what to capture to help you join in:

  • The day you got lost on a car journey, only to discover a lovely new place or view
  • Your toddler leading you to a new caterpillar he/she has discovered in the garden
  • A new restaurant that you’ve tried with your partner that made the evening because the food was delicious / atmosphere fantastic
  • Camping for the first time
  • Reading a book / magazine that taught you something new or you enjoyed something different about it
  • Visiting a new place with your family /friends e.g a castle, a harbour, a concert or show
  • Joining in on a new creative class / workshop
  • Trying Lobster or something more unusual to what you normally eat for the first time
  • Trying something new for a holiday, eg hiring a campervan and driving without a plan
  • A memory box / family treasure you’d forgotten about and found in a loft clear-out
  • Cloud-gazing and spotting something unusual in the pattern of clouds
  • Something new that you’ve discovered about yourself

These are just a few ideas, I’m sure you’ll have many more!

So please join in and just remember when you post to just add #mycurioussummer in your hashtags.

Each week I’ll choose my 4 favourites of the week and showcase your pictures and accounts in a post.

So, I’ll be announcing the project on my Instagram Account on Monday morning as I’m doing something a little different over the next few days myself ; we’ve managed to get tickets to be in the audience of Britain’s Got Talent Champion of Champions programme on Sunday night, so it’s a quick trip to London for us for a few days!

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#mycurioussummer will then begin on the 1st of August and run until Monday the 2nd of September, and at the end I’ll pick my absolute favourite photo and there may even be a little prize, which I’ll work out later!

I really hope that you join in and have fun with it! I’m so excited to see what great photos you share!

This is your opportunity to show your Curious Creative side, which is what The Curious Creative Club is all about.

Good Luck and have fun!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps I really hope I’m hitting the right note with creative content that you enjoy and inspires you too, please do put your thoughts in the comments, so I can learn along with you on our creative journey! Thank you

 

The most inspiring evening – Holly Tucker interviews Mark Constantine for her Podcast Live

If you’ve been reading my Blog for a while, you’ll know by now that I am a huge fan of Holly Tucker’s podcast ‘Conversations of Inspiration.’

Holly Tucker MBE founded ‘Not on the Highstreet’ 13 years ago and is now the UK Ambassador to Creative Small Businesses. She also runs Holly &Co – her own business that not only sells unique products and is a community workspace and café, but is also an enigmatic force for the good in terms of supporting small business and start-ups.

Her aim is to empower people to start up their own businesses, to love what they do, do what they love and cheer-lead them along the way.

Her and her team shine a light on the remarkable creatives, small business owners and Artisans who are the backbone of our societies and encourage customers to change their buying behaviour by supporting local independents more. So, as a fellow creative and supporter of small businesses – what’s not to love?

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Miriam and Clair pose by the event sign and just look at that huge organ – great venue!

And then of course there is the Podcast, where she interviews some incredible founders of businesses, such as this powerful list of entrepreneurs: Ella Mills of Deliciously Ella, Jo Malone, Emily Coxhead of The Happy News, Wilfred Emmanuel, founder of The Black Farmer, Freddie Garland of Freddie’s Flowers, Illustrator Veronica Dearly, Joanne Hawker of March Meet the Maker, Ash Bishop, founder of the Brilliant Signs Company, The Body Coach – Joe Wicks, Chrissie Rucker of the White Company, Alex Monroe Jewellery and the Levi Roots founder of Reggae Reggae Sauce, to name but a few.

With growing number of listeners, it’s not just me who loves this podcast. So, when I saw that she was doing some live recording events, and one in Manchester, I jumped at the opportunity and took fellow fans Clair and Miriam with me!

When I booked the tickets, I didn’t know who the conversation would be with. We later found out it was with Mark Constantine, founder of LUSH!

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The evening itself was everything I expected it to be and more, held at the beautiful Venue of Manchester Cathedral and decorated with huge colourful quotes taken from the podcast interviews, a Ginspiration bar, pop-up shop and Holly’s giant motto ‘Love what you do, Do what you love.’ lit up on the stage.

Once we’d settled into our seats (with a large Gin!) we discovered our goodie bags, a lovely tote bag, chipotle sauce and Lush goodies as well as a postcard to enter for 100 minutes mentoring with Holly.

The evening then began with an energetic performance by a fabulous choir of ‘Ain’t no mountain high enough’ before Holly came on in a flurry of colourful kaftan, welcomed us to the evening and proceeded to give us her top tips for starting a business, wise words which we all drank in !

Here are just a few of Holly’s top tips and what resonated with me:

  • Anyone can be an entrepreneur; everyone has a unique talent to turn into a business.
  • Purpose is the fuel on this journey through life – you need a bigger reason than yourself or money. Being socially responsible is key.
  • No such thing as work/life balance – it’s just life – build your bricks together – create the scaffolding for your business and family dreams, together, to then create ‘your good life’.
  • Failure brings about the greatest success – failure shows you the way by showing you what isn’t the way! Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

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Next up was Holly’s guest Mark Constantine. I had no idea of his story and didn’t know that much about LUSH to be honest, so I listened intently to his story of how LUSH came about and how he’d built resilience and a slightly rebellious streak due to a challenging up-bringing.

To give you a very brief run down, Mark had a difficult childhood, with a Stepdad who would be physically abusive towards him, so by age 16, Mark left the family home and became homeless.

He got a job working in a barbers but it didn’t pay enough to cover accommodation as well as food and clothes. He learned about hair and starting to make products in his humble flat which he then showed to his friend Anita Roddick, who of course founded The Body Shop. She was impressed and he was soon supplying products to the Body Shop and training up the staff on the products.

Eventually Anita became ill and sold to retail giant Loreal to make back some money they were already losing on a partnership with a local business man, much to Mark’s dismay, he couldn’t understand why she would sell out to what he believed to be an unethical company and they had numerous fights about it, but at that point Mark didn’t know she was ill. He now sites his lowest point being when she died, despite a sometimes-rocky relationship, they were good friends and she had a huge impact on his life.

Mark then went on to start ‘Cosmetics to Go’ a mail order beauty and cosmetics company, they were hugely successful, but the mailing costs and packaging too high and eventually the company went bust, leaving him with just 200k. By this point he was married to Mo and had 3 children to support, but rather than play it safe and pay debts and mortgages off, he bought another property (that unfortunately he then had to re-sell as part of it was tumbling into the sea!) and then with just 40k started LUSH.

At this point there was a bit of an intake of breath in wonderment from the audience! What astounded us all was the bravery of that decision, the willingness to take huge risks and believe in yourself so much that you make what could easily have been a disastrous decision – to me it seems that once you’ve had that low point of being homeless or losing so much money, Mark decided to just go for it, because he knew from his past experience that he’d survived those dark times – he was incredibly inspiring and it really hit home to me to take more risk and think big – because otherwise you’ll never know just how far you can go if you’re not tested?

Yes, the stakes are higher, but so could the rewards potentially be.

LUSH is now a huge business with 928 stores worldwide and is constantly reinventing and innovating, the latest vision is Naked Lush – stores where products have no packaging at all, and you use your phone to scan and identify what it is!

Great natural products and customer experience is at the centre of its business model, as is supporting charities and social projects and making sure the staff are fully involved in the company, with part-ownership and huge enthusiasm for all things LUSH.

The final part of the story was also incredible, his close friend Jeff did a family tree for Mark for his 60th birthday and unbeknown to him, he’d found his father, who had walked out when Mark was really young, still alive, and based in South Africa, which he let Mark know….by text!

Mark wasted no time and took his family on a plane as soon as he could which turned out to be a good decision. He met his dad and showed him a scent he’d created that reminded him of his dad, he called it ‘Dear John’ and his dad loved it.

pr dear john father's day gift

That smoky, coffee, comforting scent is even more poignant now because he sadly died just 6 weeks after he met him. Thankfully Mark got to meet two half-sisters and at the funeral he sat in-between them, thankful to have finally met his dad and his new siblings.

It was a really emotional ending to the story he brought to us that night and then he read out the finale part to all Holly’s podcast Interviews – a letter to his younger self, which again was an incredibly humbling letter given the journey he’d been on.

Here are a few of Mark’s comments that really hit home:

  • ‘Fear is the enemy to entrepreneurship.’
  • ‘Don’t sell half your business to the dodgey business man down the road.’ 
  • ‘Why wouldn’t businesses try and be a force for good in the world?’
  • ‘I’d like to think the high street shop experience can restore your faith in humans.’
  • If you believe something is fundamentally wrong, then stop doing it (on his experience of stopping using Facebook)
  • My most creative years are aged 55-75, where you’ve done all the things you need to do and now you can start doing the things you really want to do

Then followed a closing performance of the choir and a thank you from Holly as well as some local entrepreneurs bravely doing a pitch for their own businesses to the audience

We left feeling thoroughly wowed, exhilarated and re-energised for our own businesses which resulted in little sleep that night and me writing a very long To Do list the next day!

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She might be a huge success and an MBE no less but she still responds personally to Instagram comments and is always encouraging and supportive – a woman after my own heart.

My only regret was not getting chance to speak to Holly, she had a queue a mile long and we had a train to catch, but I passed on a card to her assistant and entered the mentoring competition so you never know, I might get some time with her yet, but even if I don’t, I know the podcast will continue to inspire me weekly with it’s encouraging interviews, so if you haven’t listened yet, search ‘Conversations of Inspiration‘ on your podcast provider and give it a try, I know there will be golden nuggets of advice in there that you’ll find incredibly useful and of course the Manchester Live one, where you can hear Mark Constantine’s story first hand, is out today (Monday 22nd July)!

I hope you enjoy it and find it as inspiring as I did, let me know what you think if you do have a listen!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps slight disclaimer….this is my interpretation of the interview and hopefully I’ve got everything right but please listen to the podcast for the full version!

How Photography can lead to creative joy

 

Last week I dared myself to enter the BBC Countryfile photo competition, partly just to try but also to make me look for the unusual a little bit more when I’m taking my photographs every day. Whilst on that mission, it made me think about how much photography means to me and what an integral part it now plays in my life.

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One of the photographs I entered, these beautiful burnet moths.

These days, it’s instinctive, my eye is trained for those angles or seeing things in a frame and it becomes a physical need almost to reach for my camera, I rarely second guess it, if I see it, it gets captured as if I’m permanently on the hunt for that deeply pleasing image or wanting to retain the visual memory I’m seeing in-front of my eyes!

It has become second nature to me and something that I find incredibly satisfying, the only frustration being if my target flies off, or the sun goes in spoiling the light.

I’ve always been into taking photos, mainly of my family, events, the dog etc, but never as obsessively as this and it’s all because my daily routine has changed and brought me back home, to nature.

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My son’s reaction to the beautiful sunset over Holme Moss last Summer (i.e it’s good!!)

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Bluebell as a kitten, smiling for the camera and a happy Barley of course, who gets a lot of the credit for my journey back into photography

Since getting the dog 3 years ago, it’s thrown me back into my childhood, where I spent more hours in the woods, climbing trees and swinging over rivers than I did at home, often returning covered in mud, much to my Mum’s dismay!

I was a true Tom Boy and learned everything about nature; birds, bugs, creatures and seasons from my Dad. Friends and family find it odd that I can name virtually all the birds I see, spot a buzzard from miles away, see a vole trying to cross a road or a fox sneaking over a wall that they never see.

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From gulls spotted over head on Miami Beach to the striking caterpillars of Yorkshire, I’m always on the look out!

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I didn’t realise it at the time, but from a young age that was my training in being highly vigilant and observant, and it’s come back to me in full force now that I’m back to daily walks in the countryside. I spy the tiniest of ladybirds, caterpillars and  moths, always on the look out for what each season brings. I look up and find the squirrels nests or see jays swooping from branch to branch and in those moments, when I’m looking and truly seeing, that is all I’m thinking about.

Adding photography into those moments and that sense of being in the moment is heightened. Some people believe that by taking the photo, you are removing yourself from being fully present, hiding behind a lens but I think it is the opposite.

To me it bringing more clarity and focus, you’re zooming in and seeing, feeling the detail, wondering how a bee goes about its day, waiting for a red-crested grebe to re-surface so you can capture it’s unique silhouette out on the water, understanding the value of patience to get that perfect butterfly shot.

You’re constantly noticing the little things such as the way the light falls on an image and if you are out there often enough, you really start to recognise how the land changes through the seasons, the pattern and natural order of things and that makes you feel more grounded as a human being, part of the bigger picture. These are the benefits I’ve discovered, and why I always come back from these walks with a sense of calm and readiness for the rest of the day – it’s simply my booster tonic.

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From the way the light streams through to my favourite bench in the woods to cow parsley silhouetted against a perfect blue sky….these are the sights that make my soul sing.

Yesterday I met up with an old friend who has also taken up photography as a means to making sure he keeps fit and gets out for a walk every day ! You can see his lovely work here @richard.coomber

Such has his love grown for photography, as a way of making his walks far more interesting, that he’s even now bought a macro lens and is, in his words, getting ‘slightly obsessed with it’, claiming it’s now taking over his life!

And I can fully understand that, because it is so fully absorbing, you could easily get lost in it for hours! For those of us who then share their photos online or even just print them off and put them in the album, just by looking back at them or looking again when you are editing them and uploading, you get a double / triple dose of the joy and satisfaction you originally received when taking them. Plus, it doesn’t even cost anything, it’s just a natural endorphin-enducing activity!

But don’t just take my word for it, science also backs this up, for example in one particular article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Following the first extensive investigation in this matter, conducted by PhD’s Kristin DiehlGal Zauberman, and  it concluded:

“We show that, relative to not taking photos, photography can heighten enjoyment of positive experiences by increasing engagement.”

The researchers conducted a series of nine experiments involving over 2,000 participants. They were asked to participate in an activity (like taking a bus tour or eating in a food court) and were either instructed to take photos during the activity or not. In a survey afterwards, almost every participant who was asked to take photographs, reported higher levels of enjoyment.

Photography also opens doors into other creative hobbies (hence the main photo!). For me it’s not just the taking of the pictures that enables me to use my creativity every day, constantly searching for something visually new and unique to post on my @soothedbynature Instagram account, it also gets me thinking how to caption it, thus making me use my writing creative ideas too.

Sometimes that may be linked to how I’m feeling emotionally or what’s going on in my life at the time. Other times it may be linked to what’s going on in the outside world such as awareness days, big events or the seasons changing, again I try and switch it up each time so my followers don’t get bored!

The only downside to photography is when you become too self-critical or judgemental of yourself, there’s a great article about that here and how you can start to recognise your thought pattern and learn from it on the National Geographic website.

Plus of course there’s ‘comparisonitits’ but the great thing about photography is that you’ll start to find you own style and favourite subjects, for example Sarah Mason who I took a photography retreat course with, loves taking pictures of children and families, but in quite a dark and light style which really conveys emotion, click here for examples of her work to see what I mean.

So my advice for anyone who wants to start doing something creative is that photography is a great place to start. It’s so easily accessible, everyone has a phone with a camera and that’s really all you need at the start and you can get really good results.

You don’t need to wait for the paint to dry or to spend hours writing a master-piece but quite often photography can lead on to and inspire these other creative avenues too. I use my photos plenty of times as a reference for a painting or drawing.

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My little ink sketch of this photo last week!

As with anything you start though, don’t expect to be an expert overnight, the joy is in the learning and the ability to laugh at yourself if something doesn’t quite work. The brilliance of photography is that it is instant and will take 2 seconds, or maybe a minute at the start, to rectify something or improve it.

For those wanting to get even more creative with editing or erasing things like annoying blue spots, there are lots of free Aps on the market, I use Snapseed which is really simple to use.

Don’t forget photography doesn’t have to be a lonesome pass-time either, grab a friend and create a challenge between yourselves, or take the kids over the summer holidays and do a six-week photography project on a topic of their choice.

This is another creative way to fill those weeks, get them outside in fresh air and will make a fab diary for you to look back on in years to come. You could also print off their favourite photos they’ve taken and put in a frame in their room – giving them a sense of pride of what they achieved, and of course it will bring them added joy just looking at it.

So, what’s stopping you? Get out there, be curious, stop and smell the roses so to speak and notice what sights make your spirit soar then capture it and bank it for a future happiness hit. It’s the perfect time of year to start with so much to see and the weather being kinder. It can literally be anything too, not necessarily my favourite subject!

It could be boats or buildings, cats or Thai food, the colour red or interesting doors (as above!), or you can even create interesting flat-lays to photograph to really challenge your imagination. The list is endless so take your time to find out what your passion is, what you’re naturally drawn to, what fills you with joy and you’ll love it all the more.

Do let me know how you get on, share your photos with me and happy snapping over the Summer!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative

Ps I’m going to see Holly Tucker’s ‘Conversations of Inspiration’ Live podcast event this week in Manchester with some friends! So excited, will tell you all about it next time!

PPs Writing this has given me an idea for a Summer photo # project challenge via my @soothedbynature Instagram account, please follow and watch out for updates, likely to start on the 1st of August.

 

Who’s cheering you on? And are you backing them too?

 

Holmfirth Artweek

This week it’s Holmfirth Art Week, a huge festival locally that has raised almost £1Million in funds for Macmillan Cancer and has been going since 1967.

It attracts 400 exhibiting artists, over 2000 pieces of artwork and approximately 10,000 visitors and spreads out from the Civic Hall, where the main exhibition is, to 32 fringe venues across the centre of Holmfirth, bringing a creative buzz to the picturesque town.

Shelley Art group (that I’m part of) were lucky to be invited to use the Market Hall as part of the fringe festival again so we’ve all been busy prepping new Artwork to exhibit and wares to sell on our tables.

It’s a busy time of year for all involved and this year felt particularly rushed and challenging due to me having a current eye virus that isn’t going away any time soon, much to my annoyance! It’s made it difficult to paint for long periods of time, it’s very sore!

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My pictures all up ready for Holmfirth Art Week!

However, what I want to really talk to you about and ask this week is; Who is on your team as a creative? Do you cheer them back and acknowledge their support? Or do you feel you’re not getting enough support and want to build a team to give you the best chance and gain confidence?

Let me explain with just my ‘Art’ hobby as an example. Two and a half years ago, I didn’t ‘do art’ as such, I doodled now and again but nothing of any substance and I certainly didn’t sit down to have a go properly at home.

All that changed when I got chatting to a friend, Fiona, (we’ll call her Team Member (TM) no.1).

She was part of Shelley Art Group and a committee member and encouraged me to go along. I had big reservations and was a bundle of nerves on that first night, see ‘Art’ for that story….and although the rest of the members were ridiculously talented, it didn’t matter, because they welcomed me in and have given me golden snippets of advice ever since, we’ll call them Team Member no 2, as there are many in the group!

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Just two of the very talented members of Shelley Art Group, Kathryn and Sybil

Next came the demonstrators, amazing artists like Pippa Ashworth, Paul Talbot-Greaves and John Harrison to name but a few who taught me brand new skills (I was never trained in Art) and ways of looking at things and different materials to try. Their passion shone through too and inspired me to try new things = TMs 3.

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John Harrison giving us some perspective on perspective! This was so tricky!

As I slowly developed and improved, so did the compliments from family (TMs 4); my husband’s sage nodding graduated to ‘Yeah that’s not bad’ and eventually ‘I prefer that one’ – If you knew him you’d know this is high praise indeed! And he stopped shaking his head when paintings appeared on our walls!

Thankfully my kids are a bit more effervescent and are my biggest fans.

This is my daughter’s favourite picture on the left below as it ‘looks exactly like the path to the woods’ and I’m not allowed to sell it!, and my son’s favourite picture is the Staithes village one on the right.

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He likes art too and this week has decided he wants to do Abstract Art, and this is the result – watch this space he now wants to set up an Instagram account over the Summer with posts of his Art!

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Pretty cool for an 11 year old!

Other experts then joined my Team (TMs 5), the staff at Calder Graphic’s in Huddersfield, advising me on paints, pens, brushes and paper – I didn’t have a clue! They also do great demo events too, bonus!

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TMs 6, are my customers, just a few at the first group exhibition I tried, and I was thrilled when a stranger bought a painting, my first true sale!

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That first sale, I never thought it would be my little rainbow tree!

This year I sold almost £200 worth of work at the group’s exhibition, (slightly ecstatic about that!) which shows just how far I’ve come and that experimenting in different styles is paying off.

Also my long suffering friends (TMs 7), which I’d bombarded with photos of my pictures, were cheering me on from the side-lines and coming along to see my work, boosting my confidence and enabling me to start taking it all a bit more seriously, maybe I could do something with this?

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My angel squad put up with a lot of picture bombardment!

By the first Holmfirth Art Week we attended last year, I dared to have some of my artwork made into printed cards, not having a clue what would look good; border or no border, portrait or landscape –  here came in Jean from Holmfirth Colour Print to the rescue, with her years of experience, she transformed my pictures into professional looking cards, with titles and contact information on the back too – they looked brilliant! I’ll never forget that first collection – I could now officially play shop, even the husband was impressed!

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Jean to the rescue, so glad she’s on my team!

Jean (TM8 of course), continues to print all my cards and larger prints and she does an amazing job, I even created a personal Christmas card this year and got her to print that too!

Which then brings me on to my sellers (TMs 9) – Firstly Liz, at The Watering Can. On a whim one blustery day I took my cards up to her newly opened florist and dared to ask to sell my cards in her shop (I am rubbish at sales talk btw). Thankfully she agreed as she loved them and continues to sell them now, the perfect accompaniment to her gorgeous bouquets and plants!

My bird collection on display at Miriams and available to buy!

And now I have a second seller! Miriam, an inspiring lady who hosts my writing workshops and WOW Wednesday group at her lovely community café, who supplies me with many lattes and lunches, great chat and brunches (there’s a poem in that I’m sure!) – much needed fuel for creatives, and now sells my ‘Bird Collection’ cards too.

Next up, key Team Member (10!), is Chris from Springfield Hobbies, in Denby Dale – a life-saver local business in framing and stringing pictures and finding the perfect mount too to use on my pictures – the difference it makes is huge and such good value for money!

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What a difference a decent mount makes! Thanks Chris!

And finally my star striker (Shirt 11), is my accountability buddy Clair, who’s been instrumental on all my paths this year (writing especially, and there’s a whole other squad for that mountain I’m climbing!).

Clair works for herself as a social media manager @asocialnature  and we set up this accountability idea between ourselves, to basically make sure we stopped talking and start doing!

Thankfully, it’s working, as each Friday we reel off on text all that we’ve accomplished that week and tell each other they’re doing great!

This may sound a tad cheesy but not only does it help us to reflect on the week, rather than getting lost in the detail but it also serves us well creating a list for the end of the year to fully look back on and see what we’ve achieved.

And of course this then extended into the idea of WOW Wednesday’s (our bi-monthly community accountability group) which is working so incredibly well I can’t stop grinning or talking about it and now we have a whole extra team (17 people in total so far attending after just 3 meetings!) supporting and cheering us and everybody else on! (Probably the loudest members of my team, in a good way! TMs12)

So as you can see the point I’m getting to is that in just this relatively short artistic journey of a few years, there are literally at least a 100 people helping me along in all kinds of aspects that are essential for me to be able to do what I do, especially if you also factor in artists I follow on social media and my followers too who send me lovely comments

Yes, it is me that creates the designs and produces the artwork, but without Chris and Jean and Calder Graphics, they wouldn’t look as good.

Without my supporters, followers, sellers and accountability buddy believing in me and liking my work, I could easily have given up and not had the courage to put myself out there and dare to call myself a ‘newbie artist’ (I think it will be at least another 10 years before I can say just ‘artist’ but that seems to be the norm!).

Without my family supporting me with childcare , I couldn’t have gone to art club or set up at exhibitions and my husband may have moved out over lack of table space and living in a virtual gallery surrounded by pictures he’s mostly unsure of!

And most importantly, without Fiona encouraging me to go to Shelley Art Group, me feeling very welcome there, and learning from the immensely talented members, this journey wouldn’t have even begun in the first place, and what a journey I would have missed out on.

These days I can’t believe I haven’t taken art up sooner, if only I’d known its restorative powers and realised the true gift of creating something from scratch with just an idea and materials and what joy that would bring.

Nothing, is more meditative, absorbing and truly relaxing for me. It is the only thing, (other than perhaps reading a gripping story) that can switch off my energetic brain and in a world that is crazy busy and never still; it’s a magical and much needed find.

So, my advice is this:

  • if you are wanting to try and start a creative hobby, look for your team. Start slowly, ask questions and you will find those key members that will lead you to the next step and to build connections.
  • Do your research well; seek the clubs, the Instagram accounts, your friend’s cousin’s talented brother, the YouTube videos that can teach you new skills without even leaving the house – they are all vital ingredients to become the best you can be at your chosen craft!
  • Further down the line, when you’ve gained the skills and confidence, hunt the opportunities, dare to share and you’ll find a whole other new audience to join your team and before you know it you’ll have a mini tribe who appreciate your efforts and like and follow what you do.

And so, as our group enjoys getting together and being a part of Holmfirth Art Week, connected by their passion and love for what they do, I want to say a huge thank you to all those who have been a part of my art journey, and will continue to be.

I’m still at the very beginning, still got an awful lot to learn, still very much a newbie but I’m enjoying every new direction it is taking me and will be forever grateful of this whole inspiring, arty world I’ve discovered.

I wish you well with your journey’s too, and if you’re at the very beginning, I hope this has helped and encouraged you to find your biggest supporters, teachers and advisers – and remember –

We rise by lifting others, so make sure you back your team members too.

Do let me know in the comments below how you get on and Good Luck!!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps Incase you are wondering the main picture is me holding up my team above and shinin a light on them! A particularly dodgey art piece by me but remember the fun is in the process, and who doesn’t like paintings rainbows?!

PPs Whilst I haven’t mentioned any podcasts above (shock or what?!) because they don’t directly link with my art work, they are of course still important on this creative journey in general. This week Holly Tucker talks to another favourite woman I admire who also multi-tasks between lots of creative projects – Fearne Cotton – it is well worth a listen on ‘Conversations of Inspiration!’

Myself, Clair and Miriam are going to the live version of the podcast in Manchester next week, I CANNOT wait and will be reporting back!

Create the opportunities for your kids to grow and shine

Hi everyone, I can’t believe we are now into July!! It’s going so fast!

This week I’m slightly exhausted but buzzing from helping out and then watching the fantastic Rebel show this weekend at Lawrence Batley Theatre.

Both our children performed, and watching almost 200 others on the stage too is an incredibly emotional experience, because we know all the work that’s gone into it from the teachers, the organisers, the helpers and all the parents getting the kids to rehearsals and also the costumes (which is a task in itself!).

There was a child who’d had surgery on his arm just 2 days before and was dosed up on pain killers, a boy who was missing his uncle’s wedding and so many kids (many tiny ones) doing their absolute best in such hot conditions back stage, I’m amazed they all didn’t melt let alone give such energetic performances.

I helped out back stage on Saturday and it’s chaos, many kids have quick changes into their next act, everyone’s running around, the atmosphere electric and there are some hairy moments, but out front in the audience you’d never know the whirlwind going on behind the scenes!

We then took our turn in the audience yesterday and loved every minute, particularly the ‘Bring on Tomorrow’ song from Fame which my son was in (I love that song, I was filling up!) and then the whole finale of Spice Girls songs medley, started off by a girl singing an a capella version of Viva Forever, now also downloaded onto my play-list!

Both our kids have now been involved with Rebel for over 5 years now and we’ve watched them grow in confidence and really love being involved in such a huge family of children and teachers who are so passionate about what they do and it really shows when you get to see for yourself what they do in class.

All the effort it sometimes takes as parents, shipping them about from activity to activity is so worth it when you see what they learn from these classes, important qualities such as respect, encouragement, enthusiasm and shear hard work to master the steps, a song or a scene and making sure they work together to make it the best it can be.

And, of course it takes a lot of guts to get up on stage in-front of a packed audience! (I wouldn’t dare!).

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‘It’s not always about being the best but doing your best’

Rebel’s motto brings out the best in all the children and encourages them to work hard for their dreams.

Anyway, this is not just a post about just this weekend, but more about how I feel it’s so important to encourage creative pass-times for children, whether that be singing, dancing, acting, cooking, art, reading or writing stories. It’s in these kinds of environments that children can share their ideas and imagination, figure out problems and try things out without any worries of getting something wrong, it’s all a big experiment and finding out what works and learning from that.

In a world where our constant challenge as parents is how to limit screen time, this can be a weapon in our armour, but something they equally enjoy too.

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Simple things like making pizza and choosing toppings gets them involved in something different to the usual form of entertainment.

So, what’s the science behind it? Let’s take a look at art as an example (taken from this article on parents.com)

Fostering creativity won’t just increase your child’s chances of becoming the next Picasso. You’re also helping him develop mentally, socially, and emotionally, says Ecklund-Flores. Creating art may boost young children’s ability to analyse and problem-solve in myriad ways, according to Mary Ann F. Kohl, author of Primary Art: It’s the Process, Not the Product.

As kids manipulate a paintbrush, their fine motor skills improve. By counting pieces and colours, they learn the basics of math. When children experiment with materials, they dabble in science. Most important perhaps, when kids feel good while they are creating, art helps boost self-confidence. And children who feel able to experiment and to make mistakes feel free to invent new ways of thinking, which extends well beyond the craft room.

And that’s just the start, there are so many benefits to children being creative I can’t shout loudly enough about it! So instead I’ve broken down what I think the key benefits are below;

  • It teaches them to be expressive and use their emotions

In particular, in classes such as acting, dancing and singing, it’s all about conveying that emotion to the audience, so they’re initial way of interpreting it ends up being bolder and more expansive, guided and encouraged by their teachers. It teaches them to dare to go there, without fear of being laughed at, or to un-tap what they really want to do, for example, throw a joke into a dramatic piece because that is part of their personality.

This really worked for me ‘shy’ daughter when she was young because she soon realised that all the kids were doing this, it was normal, and therefore nobody laughed or thought it unusual, they’re a part of something that is enjoyable and fun – they end up not taking themselves so seriously or worrying about what others may think.

  • Mistakes are ok – paint for the bin

Mistakes, in art for example, are more than ok, it’s how we learn. If they’ve never used watercolour or acrylic paint before, they’ll have no idea how differently they behave, but that’s all part of the experiment and working out what each type of material’s magic quality is.

‘Paint for the bin’ was the best piece of artistic advice I’ve ever been given, and may help when dealing with nervous children, let them experiment, knowing it’s just for them to see what happens and will head for the bin and then when they’ve learned how paint or pencils or pastel works on paper and thought about what picture they’d really like to create, they’ll be even more chuffed with they’re final results.

  • It builds resilience and encourages teamwork
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den building

A great example of this is letting children work together in a team to build a den in the woods. They have to gather wood, work out the best place to put it and start laying the pieces. It will take time and patience to work out what goes where, what will balance, and then what will fall down (hopefully not on their heads) and they’ll have to re-do.

Then there’s added personal touches to make it their own; will they add a carved logo, a leafed roof, a bunker to hide in, a secret door, a club flag on a branch? All part of the fun and letting their imagination run wild.

  • A huge sense of pride

Whether it’s finishing that den, after hours of work and knowing it’s yours and our friends, putting your beautiful picture in a frame in your room, playing an instrumental piece and getting all the notes correct, overcoming stage-fright, remembering all of your lines, or the thrill and exhilaration of being on stage, the list is endless, and I’m sure for teenagers especially, those feelings and memories will last a whole lot longer than how many Instagram post likes they got that day (although they may share that sense of pride on there, which I think is allowed!)

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The post my daughter shared in costume for her first number, filtered and pouting of course because that’s what teenagers do!

  • An extra conversation topic, for all the family

This is not to be underestimated! How many parents out there of children, I’d say aged 9 and above, struggle to get any conversation out of them about their day or life in general?

At a certain age school becomes a boring topic for our children, there’s not usually much new to say, unless a teacher got locked in the loo, so it’s useful to have something new to discuss and be excited about!

The show is pretty much all we’ve talked about for the last few weeks, their excitement, their nerves, the costumes, the snacks to take (food is always in there somewhere), the hairstyles, the timings, etc etc you get the picture….but that excitement is catching, gets the whole family involved and means it becomes a great family memory to be talked about in years to come.

  • It can discover talent and lead to amazing opportunities

Not every child is great at sport and yet so much emphasis is put into this at school and at home. Wouldn’t it be great if creative opportunities and skills got an equal look-in too?

Not every child is going to find their place in a sporting team or hobby and it’s important that we don’t close off other opportunities to them.

If they show an interest in creative subjects or even if they don’t at first (mainly because it’s something that’s never been thought of before), it’s key that we open up these avenues, because it might be just what they need.

I know a girl that seems incredibly quiet and shy and yet she is an amazing artist, who presents her skills online and even does tutorials, but you would never guess that she would have the confidence to do that – it’s her passion in art that gives her that confidence – it’s her super power.

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One of Katie’s amazing portraits, see her Instagram account here

Through his love of his Rebel classes in musical theatre, drama and singing, and working hard, my son has been signed up to Rebel’s casting agency and has had some brilliant opportunities, working as an extra on Emmerdale, Peaky Blinders, Shop Smart Save Money, a film – Walk Like a Panther and this year toured with Opera North’s ‘The Magic Flute’ production – all amazing experiences with memories he’ll treasure forever and he wouldn’t have gotten those opportunities, had we not found and encouraged his creative passions.

The Rebel Team have then nurtured that interest and given him all the confidence and skills he needed to love what he does and keep improving.

My daughter’s the sporty one, swimming for Borough of Kirklees swimming club 6 days a week – she found her lane and is committed like crazy to be getting up all hours to swim but she still also does Rebel, loving the dancing aspect, learning the routines and enjoying her creative expression through dance.

I’m so glad that my son found his super-power too and that they both absolutely love what they do – ultimately that’s what it’s all about.

  • Sing, loud, anywhere, and especially in the car

Ok, that’s not a benefit, it’s a command! But my point is, use up dead time to do something creative and singing is a really easy one. I’ve yet to find a child who hate’s music.

When my kids are grumpy or arguing in the back seat, the only thing that works, for us all including my stress levels, is to put the music on loud and sing our hearts out – you just can’t feel grumpy or cross after that!

It works equally in the kitchen when waiting for dinner or in the background when they are doing homework – it’s a far more chilled environment for them, providing they can still concentrate of course!

  • Finally, doing anything creative is relaxing and mindful

Children these days have a lot to think about, they’re minds are mostly ‘switched on’ learning at school, homework, multi-tasking between TV and other screens and it can leave them either ‘wired’ or over-tired.

Obviously getting outside and doing exercise either at home or via a hobby is equally important in all of this and for creativity too but then if you can also encourage some creativity at least a few times each week it will really help them switch off their minds, relax and slow-down and foster a better night’s sleep too.

Reading rates for children at home are down significantly as they become more drawn to Aps and YouTube as a source of entertainment but again I couldn’t shout this from the roof tops louder – reading is sooooo important for your children and has a whole host of benefits which are aptly described here via a LifeHacks.org and although written for adults is also pertinent for children too.

Also, Clare Mackintosh shared a really useful link on her post today too about how to encourage children to read more, see here.

And what better way to end a day than to drift off on the imagination of someone’s story creation and picture it in your own unique way?

On that note, guess how fabulous Clare Mackintosh’s new book ‘After the end’ is?

Answer – very! Lead by example, have books around the house and go grab a book and read! Ok, bossiness over but hopefully you get my point?

I hope you’ve found this interesting and food for thought, as always I’d love your feedback as it really helps me to know if I’m hitting the mark or not, please do comment below and let me know your thoughts, thank you.

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

P.s I have just two spaces left for my next writing workshop on Wednesday 10th of July, click here to find out more and register your interest.

PPs – Don’t forget the next WOW Wednesday is this week! Click here for more info on this fab local catch-up!

Focusing on the good stuff!

Hello! This is a bit of a strange subject this week but it’s on the back of a pretty horrendous week to be honest and quite frankly my head’s a shed so instead of trying to delve into a theme when my brain’s not quite with it and working, instead I’m focusing on all the positives going on and what I’m looking forward to in the next few weeks in the hope of channelling some positive vibes!

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New Creative Experiences

Once again, my curiosity has taken me off in different directions to learn something new…for myself, but I also like to have a go and experiment so I can share my experiences with you guys too, here’s what I’ve been up to!

Pyrography Art

Last week I had a go at something new and as usual I loved it! It was a pyrography class, which is basically using a really hot wire instrument to burn marks into wood to create a design or piece of art.

Jac, from @positiveearthfurntiure and a pyrography artist herself has recently set up the workshop  as an offshoot of their recycling furniture business.

She talked us through how it worked, demonstrating the technique and making it look easy, and then it was our turn to have a go! It took practise to work out the pressure to apply and how to work with the grain of the wood but we managed to produce some pretty good stuff I think and it was really good fun!

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Some of Jac’s work                   My attempt!

Working with Essential Oils

Thanks to meeting Tamara at our WOW Wednesday group, I had the opportunity to go to one of her new events to learn all about essential oils and how to use them.

Tamara works with doTERRA oils, one of the few that are a higher quality percentage of essential oil compared to many high-street options.

She talked us through the various oils and how they linked into different feelings of well-being, such as calming, tension relief, restful, sharpening focus, uplifting, respiratory support, protective and grounding.

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We then got to create our own blend of oils depending on how we wanted to feel which was fascinating as everyone likes different smells! Finally, we used our blend to be taught a hand massage, to release the fragrance and feel very relaxed!

The oils can also help with a whole range of health conditions so I then mixed a blend including respiratory oils for my son to see if it will help with his really bad hay-fever.

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It was a great evening and really interesting to see how much oils can potentially help rather than always reaching for medicines that don’t always work and they smell…..divine, I couldn’t stop sniffing my wrists!!

You can find out more about Tamara’s business at her Instagram account – @missbeatyscupboard

My Current Creative Projects

I’m pleased to say that setting up the WOW Wednesday events is not only working for the participants who are coming along, but it’s also working for me, kicking my butt into gear on writing my book! WOW Wednesday is basically a bi-monthly event where a group of local creatives, business owners, entrepreneurs and people who are training, get together and talk trough our aims for the next few weeks in order to be accountable to someone and therefore more likely to do it!

We’re only a couple of meetings in but so far it’s working really well with everyone getting on and tackling their tasks! And it got me back to writing, which I’d been procrastinating about like mad so that’s a major win in my eyes!

The next meeting will be Wednesday 3rd July, 9.30am at Miriam’s Kitchen Table if you would like to join, we have an array of talented people and very different businesses!

Holmfirth Art Week

One of my tasks on my accountability list is Holmfirth Art Week! This is a huge event locally and many people come to visit. Our Shelley Art Group are once again exhibiting in the market hall as part of the fringe festival and so I really need to crack on a get some pieces ready!

It’s such a great community event, the only problem being I hardly even make any money because I end up spending loads on the art pieces I love dotted across the venues of the whole exhibition!

I help out manning our venue too and I love it, chatting to local people and visitors and leave the week feeling re-inspired and wowed by the sheer amount of talented artists in our area! Cue, there will be talk of wanting to set up an Etsy shop again!

Writing

Once again, I’ll be trying to meet a target of 2000 words by the next WOW meeting, which really isn’t a lot so I have no excuse! I’m determined to get this first draft finished by the time the kids break up, come on Juliet…Focus!

I also have Writing Group homework to do, and I’m thinking of joining the Huddersfield Authors Circle as I know they have a wealth of talent that may be able to offer me some advice and give me constructive feedback, I need all the help I can get!

Photography

Despite all the crazy rain we’ve had across the country and definitely in Yorkshire, Summer is bursting up all around us in the countryside.

I’ve been really enjoying the bright colours on offer; bright blue skies, fluffy clouds, sunny buttercups, fuscia foxgloves, cornflower forget-me-knots, tangerine sunsets and the serene stretches of fields of green – it really is a feast for the eyes out there at the moment and brings a new excitement to capturing images!

 

I’ve recently found out about the Countryfile Calendar Photography Competition for 2020 and the theme this year is beauty and the beast, to be interpreted however you like!

You can enter up to 3 photos and the deadline is 12th July for anyone wanting to have a go.

I’ve been out there practising and getting some really nice comments on my @soothedbynature Instagram account so I’m definitely going to challenge myself and enter.

I received this lovely comment this week, which made my day as that’s exactly what I want my pictures to do, soothe you!

“I love your account. Such lovely pictures and very soothing to look at. One of my fave Insta accounts!” – @thisalicelife

What else is coming up?

Clare Mackintosh’s new book launch! If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Clare who’s written 3 previous thriller-type books and one based on her life in the Cotswolds. I had the privilege to meet her years ago (see here for that story) and not only is she an amazing author but also a very down to earth, inspiring woman who takes the time to engage with her readers.

For those who know her story, you’ll also know that very sadly, she lost one of her twin babies to meningitis, before she became an author.

Her new book ‘After the end’ sounds like it’s going to be a truly heart-breaking read but also one that makes you think about life and the decision the central characters have to make.

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It’s out on Tuesday 25th June and I am literally holding my breathe on countdown because I know it will be all-consuming,  ground-breaking and emotional, I cannot wait.

Conversations of Inspiration by Holly Tucker – Live in Manchester!

‘Conversations of Inspiration’ is simply my absolutely favourite podcast out there for creatives and new business start-ups.

Holly Tucker (co-founder of Not on the High Street, owner of Holly&Co AND UK Small businesses ambassador) interviews amazing people about how they started their businesses, their background growing up and always finishes with them reading a letter to their younger self – often a very emotional letter – I’ve been known to cry on dog-walks listening to it!

Her interview style is passionate, warm and encouraging and she is such a pleasure to listen to, as are her truly remarkable guests – Levi Roots (of Reggae Reggae Sauce fame) was a recent one and wow what a story, see here.

I honestly can’t recommend this podcast enough! Every creative needs Holly in their life, someone who really believes that creatives and small businesses can change the world and will be fighting your corner all the way.

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Just one of the many inspiring quotes I’ve noted down from the podcast!

As a super fan, myself and two friends are going to see a Live version of the podcast in Manchester in July, I know I’ll be coming back buzzing and I’ll be telling you all about it afterwards.

So, that’s all for this week, whilst I wade through current struggles and emerge hopefully more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed next week.

There’s always light out of the dark times yes? Just like the beautiful sunset above, captured by my husband as he climbed the 3rd mountain, Snowdon on his National 3 peaks challenge last weekend!

Hope you all have a creatively inspiring and enlightening week!

Until the next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

What’s wowed you lately?

This week I have to talk about last week, which was pretty amazing in many ways.

It was a week of extremes, fresh back from holiday, we had a lot on straight away; the kids back to school, I went to see Take That on Tuesday night, the daughter then went on her school French Trip on Thursday night and we had a wedding to go to this weekend……and in the middle of all that was our first WOW Wednesday… but more on that later, so let’s go back.

Last Monday I was straight into writing my Blog post and fighting with piles of washing, walking the dog – all the usual stuff but despite feeling worn out already, I didn’t sleep that well that night and woke feeling groggy and a bit odd on Tuesday. I went to writing group that morning and soon got stuck into the tasks and catching up with everyone.

The warm up task was interesting, based on the TV programme 63 UP, we had to write about what our lives were like at age 7,14,21,28,35 etc. I realised a lot of these particular years were really pivotal times for me and it was a little bit scary opening up about these to people who I still hadn’t known for a very long time, but it was also nice to write about just the little things too like getting my first flat and painting it all kinds of colours or having berry fights with the boys on my street (I was a total tomboy when I was little).

Then another task was to watch a dance on TV that won the competition. However, I didn’t like this task! This has happened to me before upon listening to a particular piece of music, but basically the dance was very extreme and dark, a boy tied by bands trying to escape, in executed, very jerky choreography. The music accompanying was equally dark as was the staging, costume and lighting. I found myself looking out of the window trying to avoid it, it was such a strange feeling but kind of reaffirms that I definitely think I’m a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) which doesn’t mean that you break down at the slightest thing, it’s more to do with the environment around you and how you react to it,  click here for the test and more on this….it’s really interesting.

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Image taken from –  the documentary Sensitive – The Untold Story

Anyway, I digress, but I’m just trying to give you a picture of my week and how crazily up and down it was. Next on the agenda was Take That at the John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield…in the absolutely pouring rain. But I went with my angel friends (my closest and one of my oldest friendship groups) and nothing would dampen our spirits seeing the boys! As usual it was a fantastic show, really nostalgic for all of us as we grew up with Take That (I’ve seen them 4 times) and we danced, sang and generally just loved it.

TT Fans forever!:-)

In the group, I’m the events organiser, I find these things and then get everyone to come, we’re all so busy these days, but It’s so important to me, making these amazing memories with my buddies for us to look back on when we’re old and grey in a nursing home! (our ideal scenario being all together!).

Looking around at these girls I’ve known for at least 20 years, I’m so proud of us all, we’ve done so much together and with our families and they mean the world to me.

So, next up was our first WOW Wednesday event, fairly tired from the night before and a little stressed as my son missed the school bus so I was running around, I quickly made a few notes in the car and headed on in to Miriam’s, the café where I do my writing workshops too, expecting 2 maybe 3 people to be there. In reality, 9 people showed up and I was blown away!

I very quickly had to get my brain in gear! We settled around the table with coffee and fuelled with enthusiasm talked passionately about our small businesses, what some of our challenges were and what we hoped to get from this group whilst I scribbled down each person’s background. What was really brilliant was that everyone was so different!

We had the following businesses sat at the table, fibre glass products, sea glass jewellery, pet rehabilitation, therapy and training, An Ap product and business consultant, counselling, a designer, essential oils products, a computer business, and a lady who worked for Utility Warehouse (saving people money on their utility bills) – see what I mean? I don’t think they could have been more different!

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I found listening to their stories about how they’d come to be running their own businesses fascinating and completely inspiring and what was really interesting was that despite how different they all were, we all had similar issues and challenges and things we wanted to stretch ourselves to achieve. I can 100 % say that I know we are going to be able to help each other with our wide range of skills and supportive outlook!

One lady put it really well;

‘We need to stand next to tall people in order to make ourselves taller.’

I couldn’t agree more and I know personally I’m going to get so much benefit out of this group, not least us all motivating each other long to complete our first actions. We set 3 work goals and 1 life goal to aim to try and complete by the next time we meet in 2 weeks time – I’ll let you know how we get on!

The next few days were spent capturing all that I’d learned and getting it out to people, I don’t want this group to be extra lots of work but I felt it was important for us all to have that background knowledge of each other so we can independently contact one another if we want to and also to detail our first tasks.

I’m so pleased that I put into action this little nugget of an idea, not having a clue if it would work or not, and it just goes to prove that sometimes you just have to jump in with both feet without knowing what the result will be or whether it will be a success or not.

And you can’t dispute the fact that helping others and creating connections with other people in a similar boat gives you a huge boost and just makes you feel good that you could be helping to make a little difference – that’s really what it’s all about for me.

The only downside to this busy week has been that by Thursday, after packing my daughter off on her French school trip (she tried to pack Alexa for goodness sake, thinking she could get Capital Radio in France in their room!), I needed a lay down, my head was banging with a migraine and the delights of tinnitus were full volume (which is really starting to annoy me!).

So, Friday I took it easier, less screens, pilates and a coffee catching up with a friend in the afternoon. Then it was back to busy, a wedding reception do in North Yorkshire and we stayed over at the beautiful West Layton Manor, recently renovated by its new owners and it was just gorgeously decorated! Flowers and free sherry in our room, an honesty bar and cheese just brought out to accompany our pre-getting ready gin, what’s not to love?! The owner Mark, really put excellent service at the top of the list!

The wedding itself was even better than we imagined, we are friends of the bride’s parents so didn’t know a huge amount of people but when we walked in, a friend from my old work was there, cue screaming and hugs then the drinks and dancing went up a notch! It was great to see her and just like old times, the one thing I miss about my old work is the people, they were a good bunch!

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So, what’s my point in all of this, I hear you ask?! What’s wowed me most this week? People, it’s as simple as that; a whole mixture this week of people I have great connections with, my old bunch of friends who know me inside and out and I have a lifetime of memories with, newish friends (writing group) who I’m getting to know more and inspire my writing in different directions, a friend who I miss from work, always have a laugh with and we’ll always stay in touch and finally the new group of people I met at our 1st WOW Wednesday. One was a friend already, some I knew of via Insta, one I knew from school but mainly just a group of people joined by a mission to support each other and get stuff done! And even hearing simple stories, seeing dreams come to fruition – like the owner of West Layton Manor, who’s only been there 4 months and already turned it into the most beautiful place to stay.

Connections are everything, we learn so much from other people, go on adventures together, create fun memories and ultimately realise we all have the same challenges, we are a communal species after all. Plus, it’s so important to still see people when you work from home or on your own, otherwise you can go a bit stir crazy.

Sharing ideas, skills and knowledge or asking for people’s opinions is such an important factor in helping you to move forward, or reaffirm that you’re on the right track and give you more confidence. A fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference and give you a real boost and who knows you might just make some new friends too.

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Remember, one striving for the sky is beautiful, but a whole bunch together, even better!

What’s wowed you this week? I’d love to know and if this has inspired you at all, why not bite the bullet and set up a community accountability group in your local area? At the very least you’ll meet new people, have a good chat and it’s a good excuse for sneaky cake or breakfast! If you do decide to give it a go, please do let me know!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

For anyone wanting to join our little WOW Wednesday group, the next one will be on Weds 19th June, 9.30am at Miriam’s Kitchen Table in Kirkburton, Huddersfield, it’s free and fun, come along!

Also, I’m really trying to grow my Insta pages, @soothedbynature – sharing a little bit of nature (like the daisies pics above) from my dog walks and also of course @thecuriouscreativeclub , where you’ll get regular snippets from me and from others too on all things creative and inspiring…..I hope to see you there, thank you x

And finally, if anyone fancies joining Gale Barker’s Creative Writing Group – We meet weekly at Gale’s house (I go on a Tuesday (10am – 12pm) but other sessions are available –  Weds – 7-9pm and Thursday 10am-12.

Gale is a retired creative writing teacher from Kirklees college and now delivers her expertise through tasks and prompts to get you thinking creatively – and her husband Andrew delivers the tea and biscuits! – £8 per session. Great for sparking new ideas in a small comfortable group.