Main image from Pinterest: DJ Fairhurst
This week I thought I’d talk about how us creatives or small business owners attempt to work at home, whilst we are all stuck in lock-down, in this ‘new normal’.
I love this lot but suddenly the house feels very crowded!
I don’t know about you, but having everyone at home, all trying to do their thing has shifted the boundaries of where I normally set up camp to do my work and it’s sending me a little stir crazy to say the least… let me explain…
My usual working spaces, the office now occupied by the husband and the kitchen is like grand central station these days!
So, in ’normal’ life, when the husband worked in an external office and the kids went to school, I’d generally be either in the nice warm kitchen, the tidy, bright office upstairs or occasionally I’d pop to a café (Gosh I miss those!) to work for a change of scenery and some low background noise – all of which were very peaceful, calm and uninterrupted places to work.
These days the house is more like spaghetti junction, with constant noise, involving cries of ‘Where’s the laptop / phone charger?’ ‘What time’s lunch?’ and ‘What’s for dinner?’, doors slamming, feet stomping and the constant movement goes something like this:
The husband squirrels away in the office from 9ish, but sends texts like ‘coffee emoji, + 3 biscuits SVP’ (i.e silvous plait) like that some how makes it a nicer request to be interrupted lol! Every 2 hours, if not sooner, he’ll race down in-between calls and you’ll either hear the fridge, biscuit barrel or various giant crisp packets being raided, before charging back upstairs again.
At lunch he’ll run out with the dog, as I’m still not allowed to go too far, the dog now knows this routine and gets ridiculously excited barking her head off, which husband encourages because he has ruined her since being at home. He’ll put in his lunch request before running out of the door.
Next is the 14 yr old daughter, who we increasingly have to drag out of bed. If she gets dressed or brushes her teeth pre-lunch, it’s a bonus and I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve nagged her. She’ll sit in her PJs doing her work at her desk, very neatly but surrounded by the chaos of her room, a room flattened by a tornado would look less disastrous and I’ve stopped poking my head through the door as it literally makes my heart race.
Whilst her work will be generally ‘perfect’ there are common-sense (not her forte) exceptions, usually involving English, History or Computing and she’ll make her way downstairs calling ‘Muuuuum I need your help!’ which could take anything from 2 minutes to 2 days, I’m not joking.
At this point I count to 100 in my head and know that any work I had planned for myself has just flown out of the window.
For extra fun, whilst I’m trying to help and trying not to get to that hysteria point, you know where you don’t know whether to laugh or cry? She’ll then start making her new fave thing of iced coffee, smashing boulders of ice she’s made in the freezer or obliterating fruit in the blender for a smoothie, with the same trail of destruction as her bedroom but with added stickiness.
Lunch will be invariably be a bagel with cheese and a magnum ice-cream, that the husband keeps buying on the online shop, much to my dismay – we are not on a constant beach holiday FFS!
Every now and again she’ll also run down informing everyone to ‘Stay out of the hall!’ whilst she does her land-work fitness ‘zoom’ call with her swimming club – god forbid anyone who walks through in the background or you’ll be met with the death stare.
Finally, there’s the 12 year old son who gets up ‘on time’ talks you through his work for the day and then proceeds to get on Face Time with his mate for most of the day so they can do it together.
This would be fine if he didn’t walk around the house on this ‘constant’ call and you occasionally forget when you are perhaps strongly suggesting (aka shouting) that he should not leave banana skins or magnum sticks on the Playroom (aka his giant office) floor and you come across to ‘friend’ as the most evil, witch of a parent in the world.
Said son, when he’s finished his work then sends bombarding text messages requesting ‘permission’ to go on his Xbox and eventually I wearily give in, just so I can carry on / start what I’m meant to be doing.
In between all this, the dog and cats will fight for space / attention on your lap / across your laptop if you do actually manage to sit down for longer than 2 minutes.
And then just when you get in the flow and think finally I might achieve something today and half the household has gone out on a bike-ride so the noise level reduces to bearable, you then realise it’s 6pm and you need to start dinner….
I should imagine I am not alone and that this will be the hilarious lock-down scenario being played out amongst families up and down the country!
I’d love to say I’ve got it nailed, but alas I haven’t and this is why I was working last night, a Saturday, until 12.30am (I was in the zone) on something and why on a Sunday I reclaim the office and hide away to write this Blog with no interruptions because it is not a school / work day!
In my mind the husband can deal with the pesky kids (I’m joking but still) on a weekend when I’ve been at their beck and call all week!
So, whilst I’d love to be able to help bring calm to your working week, we are all just winging it right now aren’t we?
But I do have a few tips for you that will hopefully help in the lock-down scenario, here goes;
The one bit of schoolwork I do enjoy, Art!
It’s not all crazy, as a family we’ve done some fun things, like this ‘Come dine with me’ challenge, we’ve all cooked dishes for each other, a great way to teach the kids to cook!
So those are my top tips for now, but also know that I am on a mission to try and get a Summerhouse in the garden that I can escape to and it become The Curious Creative Club HQ!
I’ve wanted one for ages and Author Sam Bunch’s outdoor office is awesome and is making me very jealous, so I am campaigning with the husband as he’s treated himself to his new escape, a road bike, and I need mine!
Above, author Sam Bunch’s garden office and right my little Summerhouse plan!
I’ve even created a Pinterest Board and drawn out plans, hoping that the power of visualisation will make it happen! Here’s hoping!!
Author Lucy Clarke’s Beach Hut, who wouldn’t want to write here with a view like that!
And if it doesn’t happen I may just drive to the beach and live in a beach hut….now that really is my ultimate dream – just like author Lucy Clarke has, check out her Instagram if you really do want to picture the perfect author life!
You have to have a dream right?
Until next time…
Keep going, find your nook at home and hide, smile, breathe, we can do this!
Juliet, The Curious Creative x
This week is Mental Health Awareness week, so I just wanted to talk about ways to help you feel more motivated in your creative work in the current circumstances, when you just might not be feeling it right now. It all starts with a big dose of kindness.
The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness, and something we could all do with focusing on right now. Here is the MHAW definition of kindness and its beneficial attributes to our mental health:
Kindness and Mental Health
Kindness is defined by doing something towards yourself and others, motivated by genuine desire to make a positive difference. We know from the research that kindness and our mental health are deeply connected. The research shows that kindness is an antidote to isolation and creates a sense of belonging.
It helps reduce stress, brings a fresh perspective and deepens friendships. Kindness to ourselves can prevent shame from corroding our sense of identity and help boost our self-esteem. Kindness can even improve feelings of confidence and optimism.
I know that some people out there are finding it hard to get going creatively, you may be feeling lethargic and just not bothered at the moment. Be reassured, it seems to be quite a natural response to what is happening out there, and I know some of my friends have been feeling this way.
I also know that for some people, that also comes with a lot of guilt and disappointment in themselves, but there are other ways to pave the way back to feeling yourself again, rather than beating yourself up about it.
We are now about to start our 9th week in lock-down in the UK and I’m noticing patience is starting to wear a little thin, myself included, and frustration in all its guises is raising it’s ugly head. It’s now more than ever think that we need to be kind to ourselves.
Sometimes you just need to take yourself out and see the bluebells!
To me, there are a few ways to approach this head on and give yourself a boost to help slowly motivate you get back into action. Not all are exclusive, you may find a good mix of all these works best for you.
So, what do I mean by this? Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed more of the people that I follow have been putting out some really key ‘free’ resources out there to help everyone and especially creatives or those who have or are wanting to set up a small business in relation to what they do.
Inspirational creatives, business owners, influencers (the real ones!) and coaches have really upped their game in response to the Covid pandemic which is fantastic but it’s also quite hard to navigate your way through all what is available, there’s so much out there!
So, I thought I’d share what I’ve found especially useful during this last few months and hope in-turn that it helps and supports what you are doing too.
Business / Creative Inspiration
Nicky has a multi-profile business with years of experience and over a 1000 people who she has worked with as a coach. She’s a writer, actor, speaker, mum to 2 young children and podcaster of the top 100 business podcast, ‘Dreaming and Doing’. You’ll have heard me talk about her before but this is specifically how she has upped her game recently and what I have found useful:
I’ve followed Eleanor for a while on Instagram and have always been impressed by the deeper conversation posts on creativity, but then we got talking and Eleanor wanted to interview me for her YouTube channel and Podcast (to be launched soon) about the theme of connection and we could have literally talked all day long I think!
Another multi-passionate ‘Aquarian’ creative (like me), Eleanor is an Art Tutor, Creativity Consultant, hosts a virtual meeting on Zoom of creatives to ask the big questions every Wednesday 1pm-2.30pm and also created the Rising Soul Membership giving members the opportunity to reflect and create in their lives with a monthly creativity package for a small fee of £12 a month.
Why do I like/rate them? I don’t think you can fail but to be inspired by Eleanor’s passion, enthusiasm, wisdom, ideas and top tips of how to ‘liberate your inner artist’ on Insta stories and posts. All are welcome to join in the Wednesday group which I loved being a part of last week.
Holly Tucker – founder of Not on the high-street and Holly & Co
Holly has always been an advocate for supporting small businesses and believes that everyone should ‘Do what they love and love what they do!’. I’ve been a fan for a long time, but this situation has elevated her into stratospheric support to so many! During this time she’s launched the following, with the support of her team of course:
Why do I like/rate her? Ridiculously passionate about what she does, honest, and stands beside you despite her huge successes, she makes you feel like she’s one of you and we’re all in it together, a unique skill to have.
Lucy Atkins – best-selling Author
Lucy has been working with Psychologies magazine and running Insta lives on how to write a novel every Friday via the @psychologiesmagazine Insta page 1.30pm -2pm.
If you are interested in tackling that novel idea, Lucy offers great advice on all things fiction writing, from keeping readers turning the page to how to write that CPD (Crap first draft!), I’ve really enjoyed listening to these!
Why do I like/rate her? Firstly a very talented author whose books I’ve enjoyed and she breaks down writing into easily understandable steps whilst explaining the pitfalls too. Lucy is on Instagram @lucyatkinswriter.
Connection / Well-being
The video interview I did back in April, just one of the daily live videos Suzy does, interviewing all kinds of experts and coaches, each day at 1pm to help us get through this
Psychologies Magazine Facebook Group– name has changed to Psychologies Connected Communities
This has really grown over the last few weeks and now has almost 4k members. Psychologies have been popping in asking questions, seeing how everyone is, posting useful blog posts and their FB Live interviews that Suzy Walker, Editor-in-chief has been hosting daily at 1pm.
I was lucky to be interviewed a few weeks ago on how I’m getting through this with creativity and if you’d like to watch that it’s here.
There are all kinds of interviews, from chats with coaches, to gardeners to how to talk to children about what is going on, so do have a look and see what could be useful for you right now. Find the group here.
Members can also pop their own inspiring ideas, thoughts or blog posts on their too and it’s a useful place to become more visible in what you do to an engaged audience.
Positive Earth Community
Another Facebook Group run by my friend Jac, that shares ideas, services or products that are aimed towards looking after our planet, ourselves and each other. Many people during this time are looking at ways of living more sustainably and environmentally friendly so this is a good place to start.
They’ve also recently done creative photo challenges to have a daily focus for members and keep spirits up, such as nature images of a certain colour or things we are grateful for.
The orange and pink pictures I did for the Positive Earth FB Group colour challenge!
I’m hosting the challenge for the next two weeks so if you fancy joining in click here and sign up.
Just one of the many inspiring quotes, highlighted by @nickyraby from the ‘Becoming’ documentary on Netflix
The Michelle Obama Documentary on Netflix
If you haven’t watched this yet, then I can’t recommend highly enough that you do! It blew me away and got me raring to go again! Michelle talks about her experiences in the White House but it’s mainly about her life, growing up, what’s important to her, the book tour and the reaction to her and how her mission to have an impact on young people is her main focus right now.
It is such an inspirational watch, made me sit up and take notice as a woman, how we can make this a better world and that we ALL have something to offer.
The last baby girl kid born on the farm this season, how cute?
Cannon Hall Farm Facebook Lives
This is a local famous farm, in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, near to us that has been featured regularly on BBC TV’s Spring Watch, but the Lives are accessible to all and they have viewers from all over the world!
Farmer Rob and brother Farmer Dave basically take you around their huge farm that is normally being visited by thousands at this time of year. They show you all the animals, the babies, what their jobs are for the day and give you an insight into life at the farm in these very strange times.
They start every morning around 7.30amish and can be filming for up to 2 hrs, on Sunday morning they had 5.5k viewers! I tune in most mornings and it sets me in a positive frame of mind for the day, this morning they showed their baby Highland calf that was born last night, I mean what’s not to love?
I know I’m a bit animal mad but it’s also about the passion the farmers have for their job and their connection with the viewers that makes it extra special and watching helps to support the farm too – it helps them get more seen and will hopefully lead to more TV episodes in the future. Click here to see the Lives.
So, I hope that gives you a few new ideas to focus on if you’re finding yourself stuck in a bit of a creative rut. Even if you’re not ready to leap back into action yet, spending time learning or being inspired by others, can really help and feel like you’re moving in the right direction. Do let me know what you think and if they are useful to you.
And finally if all else fails, I find an inspiring quote or two, helps, and these in particular are pretty relevant right now.
Of course, there are many more resources and people out there doing great work, so if you have any suggestions for me, please comment below as I’m always on the look out for new inspiration too!
And if you are finding it increasingly difficult right now, please reach out, there is always someone to help and listen, just click here for all kinds of support through the Mental Health Awareness Week website.
Until next time, take care, walk in the beautiful countryside if you can, breathe, count to 10, whatever you need to do to keep going but most of all stay safe…
Juliet, The Curious Creative x
P.s Don’t forget you can always head over to The Curious Cave too, for many more inspirational resources from me!
Hi everyone, how are you doing? Hopefully still well and staying safe.
Weirdly, I actually feel quite grateful this week for being one of the 12 weekers, as it seems the less confusing and the safer situation to be in, given Boris’s most recent and fairly confusing announcement.
Thank goodness I am allowed out for a few short walks
Last week I was climbing the walls a little but since I’ve started a new creative project and done some vision and planning work, I’ve decided to flip how I feel about still being at home and see it as a sign to make some major progress on the work I want to do.
Which leads me on to my topic today. I want to talk to you all about perfectionism and how contrary to popular belief, it’s not necessarily the skill you need to take up creative activities.
I hear so often from people who feel they are not good enough to join an art club or to pen a short story and it instantly makes me feel sad, because you are not meant to be an expert from day one.
Can you imagine if a medical student was asked to perform an operation on their first day of Uni, or if someone was asked to swim the channel after their first swimming lesson? It would be madness!
Yet for some truly bizarre reason when it comes to creative activities, and especially ones we have perhaps had some experience of before at school like art and writing, we expect to be instant Picasso’s working on our first painting or best-selling authors as we type up our story, oh and we’ll take the movie rights too please! It makes no sense whatsoever why we put this immense pressure on ourselves.
For a start, in school, we were following what was asked of us, the curriculum, not necessarily topics that we wanted to do or would choose to follow. Using the examples of art and writing, the scope is so incredibly wide, you can start literally anywhere and on something that really fires your imagination and sparks your interest. I hear all the time, ‘oh I’m useless at art’, yet the scope of ‘art’ is huge!
Lesley’s creative iced biscuits!
I heard this recently from my friend Lesley when I interviewed her for this Blog, she talked about her love of making cakes and buns. She sent through pictures of beautifully designed iced biscuits and I immediately messaged her and said, ‘If this is not art, I don’t know what is!’
Too often we have pigeon-holed ‘art’ to mean what we did at school and have believed every word out of an art teacher’s mouth who said we were no good at it and set that opinion in stone in our heads.
I challenge you to challenge this steadfast belief you may have in your own mind and take a closer look at what styles and types are now on offer in the art-world these days.
Jake’s first attempts at hydro-dipping!
From calligraphy to pottery, from hydro-dipping (which my son does) to ink sketching, from watercolour landscapes to bubble painting, from lino-printing to pastel portraits…..I could write a list of thousands of styles and defy anyone to say they would hate every single one if they had a go!
As I preach all the time; Creativity is about the process, enjoying what you are doing ‘in the moment’ and not worrying too much about the outcome.
But I also realise this can be really tricky for those people out there who are more ‘perfectionist’ types and so I think also ‘Practice makes progress’ rather than ‘perfect’ can be more useful for those who seek a good result.
And there will be those who not only want to improve their skills as a hobby but also those who may want to take things further and make a small business out of what they do and want to make sure they make significant progress to get there.
This is where the practice comes in, just like when your music teacher would nag you when you were learning the violin / clarinet /piano/trumpet as a child! I know mine did! Back then I would get ‘Practice makes permanent!’ and there’s an element of truth in that too.
Happy with my photo, not as happy with my imperfect drawing – does it matter? No, because I thoroughly enjoyed sketching it out in the sunshine
But my point is each time you dare to have a go, you will learn new things about yourself and your creative activity of choice. Even if there are elements you may not be happy with, it will have taught you something for your next attempt. As the great Levi Roots said on the ‘Conversations of Inspiration’ podcast with Holly Tucker;
‘There’s no such word as failure, failure is just feedback!’ Levi Roots
When I first heard this, I was like ‘Yes!!! That is soooooo true!’ And it absolutely is!
Failure is only defined by how we allow it to feel, or how we allow others to make us feel. If instead we flip it and just see it as a valuable lesson for next time and worth-while feedback, then it feels so much better in our soul and allows us to not catastrophise and move on.
The more you practice, the more confidence you will gain and in turn the more you will want to keep going, because it simply feels good.
Every time you have a go, it’s a new experience, a new chance to practice what you’ve learned and develop your skills and so you progress and move forward in your creative journey.
Practicing is the only way to do this, without it, you’re standing still. The danger of perfectionism is that it stops you doing this vital work, the important practice, for fear of it not being a perfect result.
Think about when we have children for example, we can’t predict if we are going to be the best parent, it’s a complete leap of faith because without making the jump, we will never become it. It’s the same with writing, you may want to become a ‘writer’ and the only way to do that is to write, whatever that may look like at the beginning, really doesn’t matter.
Can you imagine if we judged our own parent skills from week 2 when we are knee-deep in nappies, sleep-deprived and getting by on biscuits for breakfast? As parents we learn as we go along and trust that eventually we will have some understanding of what we are doing! We need that same faith in the process as creatives.
I’m really enjoying ink sketching because you have to just go for it, there’s no second chances!
So, if by this point, I’ve convinced you to be brave and dip your toe/ leap on in, let’s take the example of writing, look at how you might begin and try different styles on for size.
It’s important to see how they fit with your personality, your interests and your current lifestyle to give you the best chance of carrying on; here are some examples of what I mean.
|Personality / interest/ lifestyle||Writing Style to start with||Feedback -Did I love / hate it
How could I take it further or What could I try next?
|I have a vivid imagination||Short stories, character development, consider other worlds! Let your imagination run riot|
|I’m time poor / have little patience, but want to have a go||Poetry, Haikus (a very short form of poetry), Social Media content or captions are a great place to start|
|History fascinates me||Research and then write your own historical fiction / none-fiction|
|I have/ had an interesting life and want to share it||Journal writing, personal experience articles, blogging|
|I have an idea for a story that’s been following me around for years||Don’t delay! Get the first draft down and do not worry about the quality of your writing|
|I have a passion for nature but don’t know where to start||Describe your favourite creatures/season/weather and explain why, create a scrapbook with pictures and treasures and descriptive writing|
|I enjoy making up stories for my children at bedtime||Again, don’t delay, write them down, even if you do nothing with them, they’ll provide great memories for your family|
|I love reading crime fiction / gripping twisty books||Use your experience of what you’ve read and enjoyed, could you have a go yourself? Start with a short story|
|I’ve done well in my career and now considered ‘an expert’||They always say write about what you know – could this experience be shared on business articles on Linked In for example?|
|I miss my friends and family during these uncertain times||Write letters to the ones you love, everyone loves to receive a letter, make them unique, what do you miss about them? Think about your fond memories with that person.|
|I need to be inspired / need a kick up the b**||Think about some motivating words to help you get going and mind-map it out, e.g. a word of the year to keep coming back to and help you with your writing. Make sure it is visible in your house.
Or you could create a vision board, specifically for your writing dreams using pictures and inspiring words of where you want to get to.
|I have a health condition that means little physical energy to get my writing going||This is where scheduling your time is key. Create a plan on a day by day basis. If you feel good in the morning, plan how much you would like to do amongst other tasks. Even just 10 minutes a day will make a real difference and give you a sense of achievement.|
|I’m a perfectionist and can’t stop self-editing my work!||Find strategies that work for you. If necessary, create separate documents each day so that you can’t go back and automatically look at what you wrote before.
Set yourself a timer to work to, short bursts of time and / a word count too. Perfectionists like to have goals to work towards. This way you’ll concentrate more, you won’t have the time to look back.
Hopefully the above will encourage you to get started – you could write a similar list for yourself on any other creative activity, if writing doesn’t float your boat.
The end column is then for you to fill in, so you can learn which styles suit you and work out where you want to go next. This means if you don’t enjoy something you tried, it doesn’t mean that you should then give up completely on that activity, it just means that particular style wasn’t right for you and so try another type, thereby learning from the feedback, and not getting hung up on ‘failure’! See what I did there?
Similarly, you are never going to write a ‘perfect first draft’ of a novel, and so don’t set yourself up for that crazy expectation! Be realistic, I once read a quote by Terry Pratchett that says;
Meaning just get it written down for yourself, so you understand it outside of your head, the next draft is then you refining your story for others.
I’ve been following Lucy Atkin’s tutorials on Psychologies Magazine’s Instagram (Fridays 1.30pm) and she talked about this on last week’s episode, she refers to that first draft as the ‘Crap First Draft’ and to never take it too seriously or over-worry about it.
It was a refreshing reminder and gives you permission to let your brain wonder and go down avenues you weren’t expecting as you write without the constraints of it having to be technically or grammatically perfect.
Just write and keep writing until you get the whole messy elements of the story down, you don’t even have to have an ending if it doesn’t come to you immediately, you can figure that out on the next draft.
Finally, now is the time to do this, not in 6 / 12 months’ time when life is a bit more ‘perfect’ – if ever the universe is trying to tell us something, it’s now!
Life is messy, it’s complicated and hard right now, I know all too well how tricky it can get BUT that is not a reason / excuse to not do what deep down you know you really want to do.
Don’t waste this precious time and in some cases this ‘extra’ time we have – we might not ever get this again and you could end up kicking yourself if you do.
Remember, Practice makes Progress! When I started this Blog and Website, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, I’m now almost a year and a half and 61 posts in, and writing it fills me with joy, you too can have a piece of that and we all need some extra joy right now.
If this has inspired you, please do comment and share, I love hearing from my readers, even more so now as I crave human connection! Also please do tell me what other topics around creativity you’d like to see on here, I love researching into this topic, I learn too and I want to be useful, I want to help you find the perfect creative activity for you or give you the confidence to start.
Until next time…
Juliet, The Curious Creative x
I decided to write this piece a while ago, for when I’d finished my treatment, but I’ve realised I’ve now hit a new wave of lock-down lethargy, I’m feeling all the emotions and just want to break out and drive to the sea! What I’d give right now for some fish n chips wrapped and seasoned in paper, sat overlooking the big expanse of the ocean.
My last isolation lift selfie before chemo and with my lovely nurses, Debbie and Rachel at the end
It’s probably due to a rubbish night’s sleep last night but in essence, none of us have the answers do we? We’re all just getting through this as best we can.
As you know, partial lock-down started for me back in November, due to chemo treatment making me more susceptible to any infection and so I’ve had to be extra careful anyway. Then, 6 weeks ago I was put on the ‘severe high risk’ list and so it stepped up a level.
Thankfully, my kind consultant agreed to at least let me out up the country lane by our house, for a 20-minute walk, which I generally do at sunset when no-one else is around. For someone who has always appreciated nature, before all this went on daily-dog walks and is a self-confessed nature geek, this was vitally important for my sanity!
Just to breathe in fresh country-air, chat to the lambs (yes I actually do), nod at the alpacas, feed the horses some sweet long grass, listen to the birds nattering noisily on the telephone wire and watch the sun melt into the horizon at sunset, makes all the difference to me.
This and having a daily focus are what counts and what I highly recommend to make life a whole lot easier and less stressful, especially if you do have creative interests you can be getting on with.
I think it must be incredibly hard if you don’t have interests or a work focus, I’m not sure I could get myself motivated by just another ground-hog day of household chores and feeding the army that must live in our house because the fridge is under constant-siege, if I didn’t have my creative focus.
So, this is my go-to list of what I’ve been up to, once I’ve felt well enough after each treatment and why it has worked for me:
It’s been lovely sketching outside in the sunshine!
Getting some colour into the garden
I’ve been documenting what has been going on, mainly to look back on in years to come so I don’t forget those small details we did as a family to get through it, and I’ve also started doing one of the creative writing classes I normally do via Zoom and it’s nice to be challenged with prompts again and catch up with everyone.
I also posted my poem that I did for Yorkshire Writer’s Lunch Blog last week that coincided with my last treatment, it’s here if you’d like to read it.
For those who are thinking of bigger projects, I’ve been following author Lucy Atkin’s Live sessions on Psychologies Insta account where she’s been giving her tips and advice on writing a novel. These sessions have been really useful, and you can follow along too, they take place at 1.30pm on a Friday, here.
I can’t say I’m fully back to writing my novel yet, I still need some extra memory power for that, but I can feel it coming thanks to Lucy’s inspiration! In the meantime, I have started another project which is top secret for now, but it is keeping me busy which is a good thing!
I’ve just finished Magpie Lane, by Lucy Atkins, mentioned above and I absolutely loved getting absorbed into the educational community of Oxford and an unusual, fascinating story that kept me guessing with intriguing characters right up until the end.
I’m also a big magazine reader, and my subscriptions popping into my letter box feel like a real treat right now. Psychologies Magazine has lots of feel-good articles and interviews to help you look after your well-being during this time, Country Living Magazine is awash with colour, gorgeous countryside views and inspiring creative business interviews and Writing Magazine helps to keep writers focused in these strange times as well as how to adapt your submissions during the ‘new normal’.
For those wanting to learn more about something you are interested in trying or to just learn more about creativity in general, again now is a great time to do just that whilst we have this rare extra time. There are some great books listed on my Curious Cave page that you can learn from and by further inspired by, my absolute favourite being ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert, a great place to start.
My children love YouTube for entertainment, but I use it to learn too. It’s a fantastic resource particularly to learn art skills as you can simply follow along the steps and pause if you need to. We will be using this for my son’s art project, he’s wanting to try hydra-dipping with spray paints, and I haven’t a clue so YouTube to the rescue!
I’ve used this myself for Brusho painting techniques and Line and Wash skills too, John Harrison who is an excellent line and wash artist has started doing demo videos too during lock-down.
If you’ve followed for a while you will know I’m a podcast fanatic! It’s the only thing for me that makes cleaning and tidying bearable! There are so many available, both entertaining, useful and educational and best of all most are free, so if you are new to this and want a head-start, check out my Top 13 Recommendations.
I miss my creative groups so much and have done since I started treatment, but now at least more and more, we are getting together virtually.
Virtual catchups with friends really help too when we all need a rant or to lift each other’s spirits, thank goodness for the tech!
The kids are doing Tik-Toks, bike-rides, games and hosting family zoom quizzes and are generally being good, so far, around the schooling structure of the day. They had a camp out at Easter in the garden and we played cards by firelight and toasted marshmallows. My son and I gazed at the stars on the clear night and spotted their names using the Sky Safari Ap, Venus shining bright.
The husband and I are well into watching Homeland, a little late to the party I know but at least we have several series to watch to keep us going a while.
And finally, it goes without saying that keeping healthy at home; eating well, trying to get a good night’s sleep, as well as trying to keep a sense of humour when we are stuck together this much is really important!
And the best therapy of all, is simply cuddles with the dog, you can’t exactly be fed up with this face around who is always happy to see you!
So, I’d love to know how you are getting through this, are you a flurry of activity or are you yet to find your mojo? We’re all dealing with this differently and so it doesn’t really matter how, so long as we get to know the things that can light us up and help us feel better.
It may even be worthwhile writing a list of the things you enjoy the most and will take you out of any dark corners you find yourself in, a kind of Self-Care SOS list for when you need it. I’d love to know what’s on yours.
Until next time…stay home, stay safe, yada yada lol, you know the drill!
Juliet, The Curious Creative x
Well I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but it is now just 5 days to go to my very last Chemo treatment!
I’m anxious, excited, emotional, relieved and exhausted, all in one big bundle. It’s been a long time coming and I can’t believe how much as changed in both my world and the big one out there since my diagnosis in early November.
Our last holiday in Wales at the end of August, a beautiful sunny week and I was completely oblivious of what was to come.
In just two months, my neck went from the left hand photo to the second black and white photo, by the time I started treatment it was easily the size of a golf ball but more eliptical. Looking back at the previous photo, I can now tell it was there and probably had been for some time, the skin is flattened out above the collarbone, compared to the right because of the swelling that was growing underneathe.
On one of my many chemo insomnia fuelled nights, before my 10th session I think, I made the bad decision to try and work out a load of statistics to do with my treatment, lets just say it did not help me get back to sleep!
When I wrote my piece after my interim scan, many were surprised by the sheer number of staff involved in what it takes to get someone through cancer treatment, and so I thought I’d also write all these medical stats down, to give you the real picture, this is what it takes to get someone to the end of a relatively short (in Chemo and Cancer terms) journey, compared to some.
The Lymphoma Cancers; Hodgkin’s like mine and Non Hodgkin’s are considered in the medical profession to be the ‘good’ cancers, if there is such a thing, in that the treatment is so effective, and I know that to be true in my case judging by how quickly my main lump of the 5, on my collarbone shrank away. It was pretty astonishing.
But what they try to not fully disclose (as it would scare the pants off you!) is that this is probably because Lymphoma cancers can be very fast growing, and so they have to get on top of it fast, by hammering you with these very powerful but toxic chemo drugs every 2 weeks in order for it to be successful.
Many other cancers require treatment every 3 weeks and I’m not sure which I’d prefer, whether to get through it faster, albeit the side-effects are pretty awful, or to have another week’s respite in-between.
I am going to talk more about this roller coaster journey and the lessons I’ve learned next time, after my last treatment, simply because I don’t want to tempt fate – remember I did get admitted into hospital on my Birthday morning for 5 days, for that joyous experience of Neutropenic Sepsis – I mean what are the chances?
So here are some fun numbers to get your head around, I can’t even imagine how much it would cost but I am hugely grateful for our amazing NHS system, along with the care of all the staff involved which money just couldn’t buy.
Chemo Journey Medical Statistics, in the rough order they occur
1 lump on my collarbone, measuring 2 x 2 cm initially
Initial Apts – 2 GP, 2 ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) at Barnsley Hospital, 2 Diagnosis Appointments with Haematology
Biopsies: 2 Core needle biopsies – 1 on my neck, 1 under my arm
Scans & X-rays – 1 Ultrasound scan, 1 CT Scan, 1 MRI, 3 PET Scans, 3 chest X-rays (to check picc line in right place and also when I was poorly to check for infection)
5 Lumps found in total – Neck, under arm and 3 in my chest. By this point the one on my neck was 4 x 4cm
7 long excrusiating weeks from first GP appointment to confirmed diagnosis.
Stage (how they stage your cancer) – 2B – which means, more than one lump, but above the diaphragm, and with symptoms (the B part). This then determines your treatment.
Function Tests – 1 heart, 1 lung, (to see what your baseline is as the drugs can effect your heart and lung function further down the line)
Picc Line (a tube they put in your arm to administer the drugs) – 1 put in and then taken out – many arm swinging episodes when it was blocked!
1 wig chosen (but thankfully not needed for a while, infact I didn’t shave my hair to a grade 4 until my 10th chemo session, and only because my husband told me I looked like a baby orangutan!)
36 Chemo related apts – which is 12 sessions x 3 apts for each which are: picc line dressing change, blood tests and consultant apt to check you are ok for next session and the actual Chemo Session itself (usually 2-3 hrs).
4 Different types of chemo drugs that have incredibly toxic sounding names such as Vinblastine and Doxorubicin, even the sight of these names now makes me feel sick.
At least 30 at home self-injecting medication that you do into your stomach (this is to increase your neutrophil white cell count to make sure you’re OK for next chemo)
4 cannulations and 14 injections during my hospital stay of 5 days
1 All Clear PET Scan result, after just 4 sessions of chemo! Unfortunately, you still have to carry on to the end of 12 sessions to mop up any individual rogue cells.
Weight – Lost 10 pounds whilst on Chemo
And finally, I’ve lost count on the following:
So, I don’t know about you but when you add it all up, I think it’s a mountain of care and medicine, but I guess that’s what it takes to blast your body free of cancer.
I’m a bit of a loss as to how I’m feeling right now, I go from elation it’s all over to ’oh crap this is going to be a new normal’, where fear now plays a part in my life, which to be honest, it never did before.
By that I mean, back to the anxious waiting of appointments and follow up scans, checking it’s not returning and the other fear of what if get a secondary cancer, of something else, which can happen
By going through this you add a whole new bunch of statistics into your life, not least that you are currently under threat from Covid-19 now too.
The worst part about it happening now? I can’t even celebrate as I’d wish to, thanks to the other bloody C word!
I’m putting off ringing the bell until after my final PET scan (that fate thing again) and hopefully by then I’ll be able to take my family and a few friends with me as well as give my chemo nurses a great big hug.
I can’t wait to get back out for drinks with this one after the toughest year ever and back out proper walking with Barley, I need to get my fitness levels back up!
For me there’s another 6 weeks of lock down at least, but I‘m praying that we get to the end of this awful pandemic asap, and I can tiptoe into the outside World again, a place I haven’t been fully since November last year. It’s going to be a very strange experience.
In the meantime, I’ve got to stay well for just 5 more days, get the last treatment done and get my picc line taken out which will be fab – I’ll be able to finally have a shower without the plastic cover on!
The many stages of hair and reducing eyebrows I’ve been through, but I’m not brave enough to show you the bald/fluffy chicken look!
I will also be growing my hair in the privacy of my home and garden and trying to at least get a cute pixie crop rather than my current fluffy baby chick look by the time I’m allowed back into society!
This is the picture that encapsulates what I want to get back to, wind-swept, carefree and healthy looking, it’s going to take a while but I’ll get there…
This coming Friday, my poem will be published for the Yorkshire Writer’s Lunch Blog, that coincides with that last chemo session, and so it’s all about my chemo journey, I’ll pop it on this Blog too.
Until next time, I hope you are well, staying home and staying safe, there’s a whole bunch of us on the 12 weeks full lock down, and you are helping to keep us very safe too, so thank you!
Take care, Juliet, The Curious Creative x
Ps Last week I did another Blog for Psychologies online Life Labs series, all about how ink sketching can improve your well-being, it’s here if you would like a read
PPs – For anyone wanting to know more about Hodgkin’s or Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, you can find the best up to date information here at Lymphoma Action
PPPs – If you are in need of a good novel to read, I can highly recommend Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins, who is also currently doing Insta Lives on Psychologies Magazine’s Insta on how to write a novel that are proving very useful!
Magpie Lane is keeping me entertained in the small hours when I can’t sleep! Completely gripping and really unusual, I love it!
Hi everyone, how are you all doing? I’m not gonna lie, I’m struggling today, it seems the further on this chemo journey, the side-effects kick in faster and harder, so yesterday and today I’m pretty physically floored.
So instead of writing a full on Blog post, I’m just popping int to say Hi and to share the post I wrote for Psychologies Magazine, Life Labs series last week, all about how poetry can really help you to process what is going on whilst practicing your creative skills and getting into that joyful state we call ‘flow’.
‘Flow’ basically means that we get so focused and lost in an activity that we fully relax and let go of the endless mind-chatter that goes on, especially in worrying times like this – and that’s got to bring us more joy right?
This post has gone down really well so far, so for those who haven’t seen it yet, I hope you enjoy it too and that it inspires you to put pen to paper. Click here to read.
These few days after chemo are the hardest part for me, when I feel too ill to physically do any creative activities, I find it so hard to just not do anything!
Yesterday trying to just get a bit of fresh air, Barley thankfully entertains me too!
So please to everyone out there in the midst of staying at home, although I know it’s not great, please do make the most of it too. You’ll never get this slower pace of life back, it’s such an opportunity for those who are wanting to try something new, in-between the regular day to day stuff like home-schooling and working.
I’m not saying it’s easy, especially with little ones but I know there will be windows of time that we didn’t have prior to this, even if it’s just your commute time or school drop-offs.
I know that this whole experience will be much more tolerable for me when I feel well enough to get back on my creative train, start planning again and put this whole 6 months of treatment behind me, the frustration will be for me will be if I have to stay at home for many more weeks because I’m ‘vulnerable’ – can I just say I bldy hate that word!!
Before all this I was anything but ‘vulnerable’, I was a 45 yr old woman with lots of energy, who’d finally found her creative niches in life, one who loved sharing everything I’d learned and one who has so many plans and ideas that they wake me up and keep me awake at night.
Mentally, for the most part, I’m still that person and more in many ways (following the insomnia nights and many planning sessions in my head!) but now I just need to nail this physically, get back to the strong person I was and not feel as weak as a kitten some days, so that I can get on with what I love doing.
My consultant lets me go for the odd 15 min walk up the lane near our house, so I at least get to see trees, sunsets and the lambs now and again!
And for that I need my dog walks back please, to get my legs going again and build up some fitness! I’m desperate to see the bluebells, the squirrels, hear the birds and the river and and feel the sun and wind on my face… see I feel another poem coming on already!
In fact, if poetry really is your thing, here is a previous post I did too, including the seasonal poem I wrote back then…I can’t wait to get back to my walks in the woods – it really is what my body and soul needs right now…
Until next time, stay home, stay safe and show me your creative endeavors (it will cheer me up!)
Juliet, The Curious Creative x
Speaking to the host of The Midlife Manifesto podcast – Lesley Ellis
Hi, how are you all doing? Hopefully ok as we enter our 3rd week of ‘staying at home’ in the UK. I do think that despite the horrific numbers, there has a been a significant shift in acceptance this week and a boost in creativity as people look for enjoyable, productive and different ways to filling their time. Creative thinking is not just about crafting, painting or writing etc, it can also be about finding solutions to problems and trying something new when your planned path hits a big fork in the road.
I hope that the positive out of all this is that we will remember and continue the ‘new’ things we did, whether that be spending time doing family quizzes on Zoom, camping in the garden, cooking new dishes or just not being as hung up on ‘routine’ as we normally are. It’s been a joy to see so many photos or posts of people finding inventive ways to pass the time and simply ‘have fun’ – since when has that ever been on the list of normal life? And yet now we are prioritising exactly that, which HAS to be a real plus point in all of this.
My daughter made us all swap clothes for ‘clap for carers’ this week and we’re going to continue every Thursday, I’m in her swimming gear in case you are wondering!
Which brings me nicely on to my Blog interview today, with my lovely friend, Lesley Ellis. I know Lesley through a mutual friend and have always been drawn to her infectious smile, unusual stories and adventurous spirit. When I caught up with her last year, she was considering doing a podcast and so I told her to go for it and put her in touch with Alex the producer at ABS Media who I knew did Two Norther Lasses podcast.
Over the last few months, she’s been interviewing her guests, getting everything ready and finally The Midlife Manifesto, with Lesley and friends has been launched into the podcast world! Woohoo!
I wanted to talk to Lesley about how she got to this point, tap into her enthusiastic approach to life and discover what we can learn from her ‘yes I can do that’ attitude, so here we go…
(laughs) No there’s a few things, so I’m a Property Investor, the TV Mum from BBC’s ‘Back in Time for Tea’ series (2018), wife to Jonny and Mum of 3 (and 2 dogs!) and now a Podcast Host!
Lesley and her family, all dressed up for BBC’s ‘Back in time for tea’
Note: Just to explain, the ‘Back in Time for Tea’ series with the Ellis’s and hosted by Sarah Cox was all about ‘going back in time’, quite literally for several months – their house was changed several times to fit the era and they ‘lived’ the life a family at that time, meals, dress, work, occasions, everything! It was really popular; such an interesting series and Lesley was involved in a lot of the publicity surrounding the show. To hear more about this, listen to Lesley’s interview with Two Northern Lasses here.
When I was involved in all the BITFT promotion, we did a lot of radio interviews and I really enjoyed doing them. I made some good connections and people kept asking me to come back to talk about other things such as the cleaning products I make for myself and also another passion of mine, cycling (Lesley is a member of the Queensbury Queens of the Mountain Cycling Club).
I found the TV Live interviews terrifying, but radio is my happy place. When I was younger, I was in a band called The Groove and spent time in the studio, so radio feels nostalgic and more natural to me.
As for the topic for the podcast, I literally woke up one morning and the idea was right there, already fully formed. We both then spoke about Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic theory coming into play here!
I wanted to create a podcast that was all about sharing women’s inspirational stories linked to the midlife stage to get across that this can be such a positive time in your life, not necessarily the negative portrayal sometimes in the media. Now more than ever there are huge opportunities out there for women to really go for it, whether that be to change your career, start a business, take on a challenge, move to another country etc, the list is endless and I want to dispel the myth that it’s all down hill from your 40’s and 50’s and encourage my listeners by hearing these transformational stories.
I sent my idea out to friends on FB asking who would be interested in sharing their stories and hey presto, many replied so I now had to do it!
What has your experience been like of doing the interviews so far?
Way more than I imagined, I’ve been blown away and sometimes moved to tears! I’m surprised how vulnerable people have been prepared to be, it’s been amazing. I suggested it was probably because they are friends and so she has that deeper level of connection and trusted her to be able to tell the story in the right way.
Little Lesley, with the same twinkle in her eye as she does now!
Growing up, who influenced you? Who do you think nurtured your adventurous spirit?
I hold myself back and procrastinate a lot (I’m in shock at this point!). When I was little, I was a real introvert and liked to be on my own. I played piano from age 4 and would spend hours at Pudsey library reading books. From age 5 I wrote poems and made tunes up in my head. My Dad was a musician too playing piano and guitar, but he never quite lived up his potential and became a credit controller instead, maybe that spurred me on?
At age 10 I also had a good friend who was like Bonnie Langford, really outgoing and confident and I think she rubbed off on me and brought me out of myself. These days I’m more an extrovert (ENFP on the Myers Briggs scale), (since Corona isolation I’ve spoken to Lesley and she’s finding it hard to not be out and around lots of people as I think many extroverts are).
The next conversation follows on from discussions we’ve had in the past!
Why do you consider yourself not creative? And do you accept after reading Big Magic and our conversations that actually you are?
Because I can’t draw for toffee! I suppose I see that as a bit of a failing because I was good at all subjects at school other than art – teachers and my parents reinforced the idea that art was not for me and I couldn’t do it! (inward sigh, teachers and parents have so much to answer for in this area!).
I’m also a perfectionist and if anything hit a hurdle and didn’t look good in my eyes, I’d stop doing it!
We then talked about my theory of ‘process not perfectionism’ and also that Lesley is actually very creative because she used to write songs, still sings and loves music, cooks, bakes (even had her own catering business at one point!), used to like icing biscuits (how is that not art in itself?) and now of course does the podcast, creating all the interviews and marketing materials for it! – CASE CLOSED, and let this be a lesson to everybody who thinks they are not creative!
Pure artistic talent right there! Lesley’s iced biscuits and buns!
What other hobbies do you do in your spare time?
I normally cycle with the club, but I’ve been injured since Summer. They’re a great bunch and we do all kinds of challenges such as the Newcastle to Edinburgh, coast to castles route. I would like to start song-writing again too.
How do you talk to yourself? Is there an inner critic in there?
I’m much better as I’ve got older and become more interested in self-development, I’m more self-aware now. I believe the biggest value we can have is kindness, so I’ve decided to turn that inwards. When I was younger it was a lot different, I remember going on a social marketing 3-day course and walking into a big room where everyone was chatting and I was so shy, my internal dialogue was awful, i.e., ‘What’s wrong with you? Why are you so pathetic?’ and so I tried to change it to ‘ok this is not your comfort zone but smile and go and sit in that corner!’.
Do you have any self-care rituals you practice regularly?
I do but I’m inconsistent! In an ideal world, I’d get up early, write in journal, meditate and go on my indoor bike. I’m also a migraine sufferer and so I should follow my routine to help that such as drink water first thing, take supplements and drink celery juice – I try but I’m a bit rubbish at it!
Your children are growing up fast ( ages 16,18 & 20) and will embark on working life soon, what advice do you give to them?
I’ve always said open as many doors as possible, G.C.S.Es are just the way to get to ‘A’ Levels, then ‘A’ levels are to just open the door to Uni, after Uni, that route finishes and it’s all about creating as many opportunities as possible and keeping your options open. I want them to follow their heart, do something they love, that lights you up and makes a difference to yourself, helps you grow and don’t let life get in the way.
And finally, Lesley, what advice would you give to your younger self?
I’d tell myself to not settle for 2nd best, I’m capable of doing anything I want to do, fate does not dictate where you end up, you need that relentless energy to get up and try again. Failure is just a sign to get up and carry on. You can follow signs from the universe, but you also must have the commitment to carry on and not stop.
Fantastic advice I’d say! And with that I have absolutely no doubt that The Midlife Manifesto is going to be a huge success!
I’ve been lucky enough to be one of Lesley’s guests, talking about how past tricky life experiences don’t have to define you. I too was one of the guests who had to take a deep breath and get vulnerable but I knew my story could help others and so it was a no-brainer to share it! Lesley was of course the hostess with the mostess and despite difficult topics, made it thoroughly enjoyable!
Lesley launched my episode on Friday last week, click here for the link and check out all her other fascinating, heart-warming, amazing conversations with her other friends too. This podcast is definitely one to add to your list!
So following this, and the live Facebook interview I did with Suzy Walker, Editor in Chief at Psychologies magazine, all about how creativity can get us through crisis times (click here if you missed it), it has been a very memorable and rewarding week!
Following these amazing experiences, the ideas hotel / big magic in my head has been well and truly open for business, and sleep has gone out of the window! But I do have a whole host of new things I want to do to support people on their creative journeys and with now just 18, YES 18 days to go until my treatment finishes, I can’t tell you how excited I am to be soon kicking chemo side effects to the curb, getting my full energy back (fingers crossed) and cracking on with some fab new projects…watch this space!
Until next time, stay at home, stay safe, get creating and please share with me either in the comments below or via #seekingsparklesofjoy on Instagram.
This is the hashtag I’ve created to help us look for the positives during this tough time, on both of my Instagram accounts: @thecuriouscreativeclub and @soothedbynature (perfect for a daily dose of nature, which we could all do with right now!) and I’d love you to join in and share lots of happy posts.
Juliet, The Curious Creative x
Hi everyone, today I’m excited to tell you that I had the huge privilege of speaking to the brilliant Suzy Walker, Editor of Psychologies magazine about all aspects of creativity and its benefits via a live video on their Facebook page and group – Psychologies Connected Community.
Click here to watch!
As you know I’m a massive fan of the magazine so it was fabulous to have the opportunity to do this today, as we all find new ways of connecting in these scary times.
The best treat you can order to land on your doorstep right now!
As well as the magazine’s own Facebook page, they have re-launched Psychologies Connected Community which is a great source of inspiring content; from live videos every day with experts, to bloggers and members sharing their creative skills, thoughts and ideas to help us all get through these unprecedented times, I highly recommend joining.
In that vain, I thought it would be a good time to share some previous Blog posts of mine that will help both you and your families get creative during this time at home and even more so through the Easter holidays.
There’s so many things out there to try, what have you got to lose? Making Easter cards for friends and family who you can’t visit at the moment would be a simple way to start and brighten their day at the same time. Many artists and creatives are doing free tutorials on You Tube now if you want to try some new techniques.
Plus, it doesn’t have to cost lots of money, if any, and it’s something that the whole family can enjoy doing together with less competitiveness than say sports activities and board games (if your children and husband are like mine!)
Remember process not perfection! I loved doing these doodle pieces just as much as a big painting!
Taking part in creative activities is so beneficial to your mental well-being, just taking time to solely focus on what you are doing, get in the ‘flow’ state and away from the constant news bombardment, is such a welcome relief to what is going on in the world, I guarantee you will feel calmer and happier for doing it.
So here are my links below under the topics of their main theme, to help you get started on your creative journey;
The ‘why’ it’s so good for you selection
The ‘how’ to encourage ideas to flow
The ‘what’ creative activities to do with your children
Don’t forget you can also find lots of inspiration on my resource page – The Curious Cave, filled with books, magazines, podcasts, creative groups and lots of social connections
I hope you find these useful and inspires you to give something new a try. We’ve never had such a gift of time to slow down a little, reassess how we spend our time and just have a go at doing things differently. Do let me know how you get on in the comments and share any pictures on my Facebook Page too.
I hope that one positive that comes out of this, is that we all understand the power and difference to your life, taking part in creative activities can make and it becomes something we do as a natural part of our lives equal to physical activities – then my work will be done!
Keep calm, stay home and create…
Keeping curious and safe…
Juliet, The Curious Creative x
Ps I also work with Psychologies as one of their 25 Real Eco panel members, testing environmentally products for the magazine. It’s a really interesting project to challenge how we choose everyday items and make sure that we do consider taking care of the planet in our choices. Click here for more information.
Main image courtesy of Alex Mullen, podcast producer, owner of Abs media UK Ltd
This week’s Blog is all about starting a podcast yourself, digging into the knowledge of the Two Northern Lasses, who started their very own last year.
But first I wanted to just check in and see how everyone is doing? How’s it all going?
Have you joined any of the millions of creative projects out there online currently? Or is it all too much and making you feel overwhelmed / guilty that you haven’t got the time to add that to the list of getting through this; working from home, playing teacher as best you can and keeping up with the constant washing and cooking / feeding – is it me or is everyone actually eating like food is about to disappear and they are in survival mode?
I have to say my daughter’s brownies were delicious though!
Of course, having a little peace time (preferably in a nice quiet room away from tasks and dare I say it the rest of your house-hold!) to either just chill or read or doodle a little can make all the difference in helping you to get through these tough times BUT only if it helps rather than just adding to your ever-growing ‘to-do list’ ! We all don’t need this extra pressure!
I have a bit of a doodling addiction!
I’ve found it really interesting getting my subscriptions through of various magazines over recent days, some of which haven’t even mentioned corona virus yet due to the lead times they have but Writing Magazine’s Editor Jonathan Telfer does and I found his opening letter refreshing.
I’d anticipated him to say now is the chance to get on with your book and writing projects, as many online writing businesses or social accounts are saying but no, instead he took a more intuitive approach and recognised that now might not be the right time with what is going on and how we are all feeling.
‘We’re all stressed, we’re all under pressure. If writing helps, and it may well do, all the better, but don’t beat yourself up about achieving some kind of target. All you need right now is to get through this.’
Sound advice I agree with, cut yourself some slack in these difficult times!
I’m also finding it interesting that I’m getting bombarded from well-meaning friends with creative projects, exercise programmes or quotes around keeping going.
I can’t keep up with all the messages and links I’m being sent but I actually feel like I‘m at a bit of an advantage in all of this – I worked out long ago how to keep myself entertained and busy since being in isolation on treatment anyway, and whilst I am really missing my nature walks, the rest of this, i.e not going to shops, cinemas, leisure centres, concerts, creative groups, supermarkets, anywhere public basically, I’ve learned to cope with.
However, that’s not to say I won’t be going wild after all this is over, but it is going to be so strange when I am allowed fully back into the big wide world!
The kids are appreciating the simple things, even just a walk up the lane by our house
It just goes to show that people are realising how difficult this is over the long term, and it’s giving people an insight into what living with cancer, auto-immune diseases and life-limiting conditions is like, which on one hand is a good thing to bring more kindness and understanding to what some people have to go through and also not taking ‘normal’ life for granted moving forward.
Connecting with conversations…
And now to the rest of this Blog, chatting to the lovely Michelle and Jayne, aka the Two Northern Lasses, hosts of the very same podcast, following on from my Blog last week all about my top podcast recommendations.
I originally met Michelle and Jayne though our Wow Wednesdays local accountability group, in-fact Michelle came along to the very first one back in June last year!
Funnily enough, they both often mention in meetings that they don’t see themselves as creative personally, despite being involved in businesses that require many creative skills I think!
Jayne owns Flex Marketing managing all the things that most people associate with being in marketing and more recently is about to launch The Flex Collective, a flexible and collaborative working space in a local village south of Huddersfield – which will be much needed when social distancing finally ends!
And Michelle has developed My SMART App, helping small businesses to create content for social media. She’s also a growth consultant, helping businesses with their sales and marketing.
Since joining Wow, they’ve also come together to start the podcast, Two Northern Lasses which again I think in itself is a creative project; planning their brand for it, the theme, their guests and the questions and style of interviews; creativity plays a part in all of these aspects.
So, I decided to ask them, as very busy business women, what made them decide to take the leap into the podcasting world?
1) So, Jayne and Michelle, what made you want to do a podcast in the first place?
Jayne – Michelle did! We’ve both gone from corporate careers to self-employed/entrepreneurship and over the course of 2019 met people who genuinely want to support each other out in all kinds of businesses. With our combined skills in sales/strategy and marketing we felt we could do this too and thought a podcast would be a good way to get this out to an ever increasing audience and enable us to help people that we wouldn’t necessarily meet on the networking circuit.
Michelle – I’d been listening to lots of podcasts, mainly US ones, the business type ones were all a bit too serious, I was looking for something that had bit of humour, genius me thought – I can do that, let’s rope Jayne in, she likes a laugh!
2) How did you decide the topic you would cover?
Jayne – Business was the obvious choice but we wanted to get across that real people with real lives and a sense of humour exist in business too. We set out to inspire people who either were or wanted to be self-employed in a kind of ‘if we can do It, you can too’ type message.
Since then it has evolved into being more about careers in general and our overall message is now really, ‘Go do what you want and if you get it wrong or you want to change things then that is ok and you should do it’.
Michelle – After the first 3 episodes we wanted to settle on a format, so we split into 3 segments – starting with a chat between the 2 of us, then into a chat with a guest – finishing with the ‘Our Moments’ game.
What we’ve found now having talked to our listeners is that they like the fun bits but also like the stories and the reality that change can often be good even if not planned?
3) How did you come up with the name?
When Michelle originally came up with the idea, she wanted to call it Two Yorkshire Lasses until Jayne pointed out that even though she had lived in Yorkshire for over 25 years, she originally comes from Darwen in Lancashire so we switched Yorkshire to Northern. A lot of people might not be able to tell the differences between a Yorkshire and Lancashire accent but there are definitely quite a few (although Jayne’s is a bit of a mix of the two now) but we are confident we both are definitely Northern!
4) Was it daunting starting out?
Jayne – We were both really nervous when we did the first recording as it wasn’t something either of us had done before and we obviously had no idea whether people would want to listen to us waffling on but once we realised that it was just a chat that happened to be recorded (and that if we messed up it could be edited) we soon settled in and we actually say this now to our guests who might be nervous about coming on. When we put the first few out we were also sitting watching the listener numbers (actually we still do!)
Michelle – as above, not nervous at all now and just really enjoy it.
5) What’s your favourite thing about doing it?
Jayne – We have a really good laugh recording it and getting feedback from people is really heart warming – we all suffer from imposter syndrome so to have people say they love listening to us is amazing. My favourite thing is when people say they feel like they are in the room with us and want to join in – I love that!
Michelle – We get lots of lovely texts, the ones we get from ‘strangers’ are the best as we know it’s not family and friends.
6) What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered by doing the podcast – that can be something you’ve learned about yourself or one of your guests, or both.
Jayne – I suppose for me personally I have discovered that I can actually engage with strangers. I am actually quite a shy person so I don’t do this normally unless I am drunk and then you can’t get rid of me so when we have had guests that I haven’t known beforehand I have worried that I wouldn’t have much to say. It may be because of the type of guest we get on, they are very much like us in mindset etc.
Michelle – I always fancied being a radio presenter although never pursued, I suppose this is the nearest thing to it in my world.
7) What advice would you give to anyone starting out and wanting to do their own podcast?
Jayne – Just get on with it – what have you got to lose?
Practically though, there are groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that help each other out – we got a producer straight off but a lot of people don’t do this, there are loads of ways to record and put the podcast out there, it is just finding what is right for you. Neither of us are massively techy so Producer Alex is the way to go for us – he is part of our team 100%!
Michelle – for us it’s a hobby but as Jayne says Alex does the techie bit and there are loads of forums/groups with other podcasters/producers willing to advise. Some like to record a whole series before releasing, we just jumped right in and released the 3 episodes we’d recorded in a few hours. We are fortunate that between us Jayne and I have the skills to put it out on social media too, so we have very little overheads.
So, there you have it, if being a radio presenter or having your own show has ever been your dream or if you just love talking to people and digging deep into interesting lives and stories, starting a podcast is an exciting thing to try!
It’s something myself and Clair, my ‘Wow Wednesday’ partner keep thinking about and following the Two Northern Lasses and hearing how much fun they have, makes it even more appealing.
My friend Lesley Ellis has just started hers and I’ve been lucky enough to be interviewed on both hers, The Midlife Manifesto (which launched last week, my episode will be on later) and Two Northern Lasses and although a little nerve-wracking, was mostly a fun experience once I’d nailed my ‘erms’ which I realise I use a lot!
I’ll keep you posted when these episodes are out but in the meantime add them both to your podcast list because they are great fun and inspiring listens! And yes I am biased!
I also just wanted to say a quick Thank You to everyone reading this Blog, I’m aware I’ve collected quite a few new readers in the last few weeks via some Facebook Groups where I’ve been sharing the links and I really appreciate everyone who takes the time to read my posts and it means the world to me when someone follows, comments or shares!
I am now on countdown to my last Chemo session which feels amazing so long as CV stays away! From the launch of this post, I have 24 days left to go to that last session, hopefully on the 1st of May, I’m crossing literally everything!
Until next time, stay home and stay safe as always…
Juliet, The Curious Creative x
Ps For those who are bored on lock-down and do actually want a creative challenge, The 30 Day Sketchbook Challenge recently started on Facebook and is running all April, just search and either catch up or just join in as and when you want to.
And Writers online always have their coffee break challenges going on, a great source of quick inspiration for creating stories
PPs For anyone wanting to read about my Chemo journey, here are the links:
Focusing on the little things to get me through these 12 weeks! Sunshine and ice-creams help!
Hi everyone, how are you all doing?
We are heading into week 2 of ‘stay home stay safe’ in the UK and I vary from being completely fine with it (being one of the ones who have to stay home for 12 weeks) during the day but then at night my brain goes into total overdrive and I just want to run away to the seaside!
So, I have to keep having words with myself and I have a very specific deadline to just get to and get through – the 1st of May, which fingers crossed, will be my last treatment day!
Anyway, as many of you will have a lot of time to fill, this week I thought I’d write about podcasts, which for anyone new to listening to these, can be a game changer in terms of entertainment, knowledge and so much more.
For those uninitiated, a podcast is simply a digital audio file that you can listen to from your phone or computer and is typically a series of episodes. Think of it as someone hosting their very own radio interviews or talk-show on a subject that is of interest to them.
I think I first started listening to them a few years ago when I came across Gabrielle Treanor on Instagram and she’d started doing one called ‘Pressing Pause’ all about helping over-thinkers (i.e me) and I found her fairly short but interesting podcasts both manageable and thought-provoking.
I asked her recently a question for this Blog; What is your favourite thing about doing the Podcast and what have you learned about yourself from doing it?
This was Gabrielle’s response:
‘My favourite thing about doing my podcast is its intimate nature. When I record it, I imagine I’m talking to one person sat on my couch with me. I feel a connection when I listen to podcasts because it’s a lone voice talking to me and I hope that those who listen to my podcast feel the same.
What I’ve learned about myself is that I have a calming voice! I had no idea until I launched the podcast and the feedback that keeps coming back to me is that the sound of my voice, as well as what I actually say, helps listeners to feel calmer. Which surprises me but I’m very grateful for it!’
This is spot on regarding her voice, definitely one of the most calming ones out there in podcast land! I also like what she says about the personal nature of podcasts, especially when it is just one host. The more skilled the host, I find it really feels like a conversation between just you and them.
Having being hooked on to Gabrielle’s podcast, I soon started searching for more, and before I knew it I had a whole playlist on my phone that I’d subscribed to and could listen to at any time, for free – shock!.
I am someone who hates the monotony of house work and even more so at this point, I mean really, all the family home constantly accessing the fridge and cupboards and leaving a trail of crumbs that any rat would think was a 3-course feast? What is even the point of wiping surfaces down 10 times a day?
Now don’t get me wrong, I still don’t love it, but at least if I can listen to a podcast episode at the same time, I at least feel like I’m learning something or having a chuckle at some of the interviews. These menial tasks then don’t feel like such a waste of time and totally appeal to my multi-tasking, multi-hyphen brain.
Similarly, I actually enjoy driving, but when you do as many trips as we do in a week with the kids activities in ‘normal’ life, then again it becomes dead time that is a large chunk of your day, so now I listen to podcasts instead on my drives, to make the best use of the time.
I’m now known as a bit of a podcast addict, and it’s why I list my favourites over on The Curious Cave resource section of my website, but more on that later.
And it’s not just me, the podcast industry has doubled over the last five years, with a staggering over 800,000 podcasts now available in 100 languages and over 30 million episodes available to listen to according to @podbible. It is literally one giant library of entertainment.
According to thepodcasthost.com, 11% of the UK listen to an average of up to 7 podcasts per week and this is set to continue to grow.
Also, there is a slightly higher split between men, 56% and women listeners – 44% and unsurprisingly, younger people listen a lot more, perhaps being more comfortable with the technology (not that it is at all difficult). I think it will be interesting to see the take up during this unprecedented time when people are looking for new things to do.
I’m normally not that great at introducing new habits into my daily routine, but podcasts seem to be quenching my thirst for knowledge and have slotted into my life perfectly.
So, for those wanting to have a listen, what are the benefits?
They are now so popular, magazines have started creating their own recommendation pages of what to listen to and new launches, just like they do for books. Psychologies Magazine produce their own podcasts and have also started a feature page this month and Good Housekeeping do too, so look out for ones they recommend if you are unsure where to begin.
As you can imagine I’ve amassed several favourites by now, so below are my Top 5 (I’ve deliberately made it a mixture of subjects) and then some more I’m really enjoying in no particular order!
My Top Podcasts to listen to
Please bear in mind the ones below are mainly linked to creativity, business, psychology and well-being as these are my main interests in relation to what I do;
So, if these subjects float your boat, this should give you a good starting point and I’d love to know your thoughts on these and any others you would recommend to add to my ever-growing list!
I find the world of podcasting really interesting and so I’m going to do a few Blogs about podcasts.
Next week, I’ll be looking at what it’s like to launch your own podcast with insights from Michelle and Jayne on how they’ve found it and what they love about creating episodes for their Two Northern Lasses podcast.
Also, next week, on April the 3rd is the launch of my friend Lesley’s brand-new podcast – The Midlife Manifesto which I was interviewed for a few week’s back. Lesley has interviewed a lot of her friends about a whole host of topics but mainly it’s about sharing interesting life stories and I know it’s going to be great, so do add this to your list too when it launches!
Lesley has such an interesting take on life that I also interviewed her for the Blog and that will come in a few weeks’ time too.
To me, podcasting is another great creative outlet, essentially creating your very own radio show and it’s something myself and Clair (my partner in WOW Wednesdays) have thought about doing, if we can fit it in amongst all the other creative things we do! But for now, we’ll just keep enjoying listening and hope you do too!
Until next time…stay home, stay safe and entertain yourself with podcasts!
Juliet, The Curious Creative x
P.s Whilst we are all staying safe at home, don’t forget to join in on my Instagram challenge, #seekingsparklesofjoy so we can all keep focusing on the little things that light us up!
PP.s If you enjoy my Blog posts please do leave a comment, I’d really appreciate it at this moment in time whilst on full lockdown! Thank you xx