The results are in….

Hi Everyone,

I just wanted to update everyone that’s been following along on my Hodgkins Lymphoma journey, because the interim scan results are in and it’s great news – all the tumours (I had 5) have been well and truly zapped by the chemo and have gone!

The PET scan shows I have no evidence of cancer there, although it can’t fully pick up some cells that may be lying dormant…. which is why you have to continue with the full treatment to the end. What it does mean is that we can drop one of the medicines, Bleomycin, which can have some nasty effects on your lungs, so the sooner it goes the better and the rumour is that this knocks off some of the nasty side effects too…here’s hoping!

So, since I told you all about my diagnosis and the start of the journey, pre-chemo beginning, I haven’t filled you in on how it’s gone so far and I thought it might be useful for others out there to hear what it’s really like, especially those who may be starting their own chemo journey soon.

Firstly, let’s start with the positives; the people, all the medical and volunteer staff involved in my care have been amazing, and there are a lot of people!

Here are the team;  Haematology specialist nurse – talks you through all the treatment, organises key scans and referrals for additional holistic treatment, financial help, wig appointments and is there to answer any questions, no matter how bizarre, all the time, the picc line nurses  who insert a fine tube that goes in through your arm and up around into your chest and stays in until full treatment is finished and make sure you treatment gets in without any pain and keep the line infection free; the chemo nurse team – these are the guys that keep you calm, comfortable and entertained on treatment day, administer the treatment and look out for any reactions and do all the blood tests prior to treatment too; the volunteers on the unit keep you topped up with tea, toast, and lunch; the doctors; consultants and more junior doctors who review you after each cycle, check all your blood results and make sure you are ok for your next treatment and if not give you meds to get you there! And finally, the therapists at a place called The Well Centre (in Barnsley), who give you 6 holistic treatments to supplement chemo and make you feel a little more human, for free!

As you can see it’s a lot of people and that doesn’t even include the staff that do the various scans and tests you need along the way. When you add up all those who help to get you well, it makes you incredibly proud of the NHS. So many people complain about it going wrong, and yes, some appointments that should take an hour can take half a day instead, but overall, I couldn’t have asked for better service and care.

Now onto the harder parts, I‘m not going to lie, chemotherapy is one of the hardest physical and mental things I’ve ever been through.

I was partly prepared; I have family who have been through it but boy is it a complete roller-coaster. And I’m lucky, the treatment I have, called ABVD is one of the most effective treatments out there for Hodgkins, and quick in terms of results – it’s only taken me 2 months to get to this point of success but part of me suspects that’s because it is such aggressive, full-on treatment.

My treatment plan runs every 2 weeks, I have chemo on a Friday and the side-effects mainly hit me in that first week from Sunday to Friday. On the first 2 days I’m mainly buzzing on the steroids that they give you prior to chemo, which have had some interesting, enlightening moments – not least finally coming up with an ending for my book!

The reality of side-effects though is that you don’t have much control over them because you can’t take many medications to quash them, such as paracetamol and nurofen because they artificially bring your temperature down, and you need to keep an eye on that for infection purposes. One relief I have had is that is hasn’t made me sick – the drugs they give you for that, have worked for me, thank goodness!

My main bug-bears are constant aching (kind of like flu), loss of appetite, intense headaches, restlessness,  horrible taste-buds where food just tastes gross, hot flushes, ridiculous tiredness and insomnia – essentially I’m going to need some cosmetic surgery after this because I look like I haven’t slept for a month!

But the good thing is, I get a week’s reprieve before it all starts again. In the 2nd week I feel far more human, still tired, but much more my self and able to do stuff, rather than trying not to have a fight with myself, forcing myself to eat or just laying in a zombie-like state watching TV! The challenge on the 2nd week, is trying to fit in as much fun as possible, in-between the next round of appointments.

The mental battle throughout this is just as hard, trying not to be miserable when feeling rubbish and trying not to be angry about the fact that there are few places I can go when I do actually feel well enough to get out.

There are several times already when I have been neutropenic (where your blood white-cell count dips too low, making our immune system practically none-existent) which has required me to take extra injections at home and meaning I have to be extra careful to not expose myself to any bugs out there – i.e. become even more of a hermit!

The next challenge is the hair battle. I’ve been weirdly lucky to keep it for longer than I thought, I normally goes after the 2nd treatment and I’ve just had number 5. I cut it shorter into a bob (like the main picture) a while back to prepare and it’s lasted a while like this but now it is really thinning on top and I know I’m going to have to be brave at some point soon and shave it off, but I’m scared to death about doing that.

From normally long, to wig choosing, to lots coming out on each wash, to my current half-scalf look – the hair loss is a trial in itself!

It’s hard enough not feeling yourself and feeling ill but your hair is so much part of your identity and I know that when I have to face myself eventually with no hair in the mirror, it’s going to be shocking and to me, it will just look awful.

I’ve got hats, scarves, the wig etc so I’ll have to get used to them. I know it’s temporary and I know it will grow back, but that will take months and I just think it’s the cruellest thing for people with cancer to go through, on top of everything else.

So, whilst of course I am so happy the treatment is working and all this is not in vain, I’m also very aware that I’m not even half way through yet – I have 7 more sessions to go, there are still more challenges and side-effects to overcome, follow-up appointments and what I can only imagine for anyone going through this to be that eternal fear – will it come back?,  before I can finally begin to get ‘me’ fully back – but I am writing this on my bad week so I’m sure I’ll feel more positive again next week – see what I mean about it being a roller-coaster?

What I am immensely grateful for is the other huge team around me of family and friends that are sending supportive messages, helping out with the kids, calling in to keep me distracted, dropping in flowers and other lovely gifts and telling me all their news (because it’s way more interesting than mine!) – it all helps to keep me motivated so thank you!

 

Just some of the lovely gifts I’ve received, including handmade jewellery from my friend Rachael of Pippi Silver, green fluorite earrings from Gale Barker who runs the writing group I go to and my friend Gemma wrote to my heroine Author,  Clare Mackintosh, who then sent me this lovely note! Feeling very spoilt! 

A little bit of sketching is helping to keep me calm!

In the meantime, on my good days, I am trying to be as productive as possible and last week went especially well. I went back to one of my writing classes (it’s in a house so allowed!) and used my chemo-fog brain, continuing when I got home to do my ‘homework’, met up with some Wow Wednesday members for lunch and brainstorming about the upcoming Vision-board Workshop we are doing, got out in the sunshine with the dog, wrote two small writing competition entries and my first blog post of the year on my writing goals, took part in some of the #30daysketchbookchallenge, mind-mapped out my guiding words of the year (blog to follow on that next week) and finally met the lovely Sam Bunch for brunch at the weekend!

 

Sam wrote the fabulous Collecting Conversations book a while ago and so I connected with her via Instagram and it was so nice to meet up with her in real life! She was up here promoting her new book – Menopause – The Hot Topic at Read Bookshop in Holmfirth and the event went down a storm with 40 women! We could have literally talked all day long about every topic under the sun – don’t you just love it when that happens?

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Our fabulous WOW Wednesday group just keeps growing and growing!

Today I, a little-shakily from lack of sleep, headed back to our Wow Wednesday group, I begged the doctors and they’ve said I can go so long as I’m careful. Last time we had 6 new members and today another 2 new ladies! It’s going great-guns and I don’t want to miss out – it may just require a power nap in the afternoon to recover from lots of inspiring chat!

So, I’m hanging on to these positive days and it certainly helps you focus when you have a small window of opportunity to crack on with what you want to do. This weekend it’s my birthday coming up so I’m hoping for nice weather to get out into some fresh air with the family and a few other lovely things planned, so come on weather gods, play nice!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps for those who don’t know my diagnosis story and want links to symptoms and support, please read my initial blog post here

 

 

Write; Lets get back to it!

Hi everyone!! Firstly, Happy New Year! 2020 blimey, it seems to be going really fast already! Hope you all had a nice relaxing Christmas. Mine was all good, a humongous Christmas dinner cooked by my Mum and the hubs, visiting friends and generally lazing about playing board games with the kids.

And then all too soon it was back to it, with chemo round 4 on Jan 3rd and after just kind of getting used to the side effects, this one knocked me for six with a whole set of new symptoms, including insomnia! Likes to keep you on your toes it seems.

Finally after a good night’s sleep I was back out in the fresh air!

Anyway, I’ve finally got sorted with sleeping tablets before I really do go insane and have no eyes/energy left but the one upshot of all this, (always a positive to be found you see if you dig deep enough!), was that I finally came up with the ending from my novel, which has been evading me for many months!

This came from learning to add my own novel to my kindle, so on those dark, windy nights, wide awake, listening to seriously the loudest owl ever in this parts, I managed to re-read my own book over a few nights and get back into it.

I’ve now got to get it typed up whilst feeling good again, quickly before I forget it! I also created a whole list of intentions for this year which is a dichotomy of actions pre and post, end of treatment, trying not to be too unrealistic, but I can’t help but just write them all down and hope that I achieve at least 2/3 of them! I think it’s because I love a list!

Just on that, and I know I will be speaking for many creative writers and makers on here, the big question is, have you got your stationary sorted? It’s pretty much the first rule of the New year isn’t it?

We cannot possibly begin without, fresh, white, untainted, beautiful paper to write all our hopes and dreams on?

Well I certainly can’t anyway! So, in my arsenal of stationary products are the following:

  • New family 2020 calendar, where all our stuff, appointments, shopping lists etc goes on and I spend at least a few hours of writing it all very neatly until the rest of the family destroys it!
  • My Planner – myself and fellow ‘Wow Wednesday’ members are currently in a cult of planners where we all have the same one from Paperchase because it has so many sections – oh the possibilities, for us to get excited about! Here’s where we drill down the details on a day to day basis and get those lists ticked!
  • My Project book, so this is where, if you have a multi-portfolio business or set of hobbies like me, planning comes into its own, with tabbed sections for each hobby / project, to get the over-all big picture and strategies for the year down. A place to brainstorm all those ideas, mind-map and really plan! I also use this for the writing classes I attend.
  • Dr Chatterjee’s new book – ‘Feel better in 5’, obviously not a typical note book as such but it has a daily checklist at the back to tick off my 3 daily, 5 minute ‘health snacks’, so I will be using this regularly – I’ll explain more on this later.

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New stationary at the ready!

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Members of the WOW Team; Clair, Rachael, Kelly, Anna and Rachael… planning 2020 in style!

Now all my tools are ready….and in pristine condition, I feel better putting all my ideas into solid places and can start putting them into action!

I have so many plans that I’m excited about, it would take too long to write about everything, so I’m going to split them up over a few Blog posts instead.

For today’s blog I’m focusing on my first creative passion – Writing! Here goes…

  • The Book, I know I’ve started to sound like a broken record BUT now that I have the fire in my belly again from re-reading it, I have to get to working on the second draft and finish the book enough to edge it close to send to professionals one day… and that starts with finishing the first draft and getting the ending nailed on.
  • The Blog, Is now a year old!! This will continue every 2 weeks for now and I’m so happy with how this has been received since it started. I’m currently on 3,672 visitors to the blog and website, which blows me away! And I’ve no idea if that is good or not in blogging terms but I don’t really care, it’s grown organically with just links from my socials and maybe at some point I’ll learn a little more strategy to widen and increase my audience, but I’m in no rush for that, and my biggest thrill is when somebody makes a comment or recommends it to a friend to read.

This year I want to continue to improve my content, hope it is striking a chord and most importantly encourages people to take the leap and get creative – that is my number one aim in all of this and always will be! I’d also like to do some more local creatives interviews in March like last year, so if you have an interesting creative story to tell, please do get in touch.

  • My Writing Workshops, As soon as I am able to get back out into public places, a new list of dates will go up to deliver my new writing course ‘Writing from Personal Experience’ which I’d just started before my diagnosis! The feedback from the first one was great, so I can’t wait to continue with this as it’s such a buzz for me to see the light-bulbs go on with the encouraging tasks I create! So do watch this space on that one if you too would like to join in.

Whilst I can’t deliver these in public at the moment, I do have a secret potential plan, but not going to say too much on that yet until I investigate more and can trust this body to reserve some energy to do it!

  • Refresh the Website, It’s important to keep all my content fresh on the website not just the blog, so I want to keep checking in with things like The Curious Cave and add in new resources on a regular basis. I also need to book in some technical wizardry with a WordPress expert friend and finally get a shop on here for my art!
  • Writing Classes, I’ve cleared it with my doctors to go back to one of these as it’s held in a house, so I’m starting back at that tomorrow and going every 2 weeks when I’m well enough, which fills me with so much joy I can’t tell you!

For anyone procrastinating about joining such a class, please just do it, because honestly you’ll regret it further down the line and just waste a whole load of time that could be the boost you need and give you some really valuable experience not to mention a whole dose of confidence!

I guarantee going to a class is like writing medicine and will unlock so many creative ideas in your head – there are NO downsides to this, seriously what is the worst that can happen? Everybody starts at the beginning, so it really does not matter if you write only 2 sentences in a class! The point is you will have started, and it will only grow from there.

Again, as soon as my treatment public-jail-time is up, I will be back on it with the other 3 writing groups I belong to, in-fact I suspect my family will be wondering where I am half the time!

  • Writing Competitions, This was one area on my New years list last year which didn’t get ticked! And it’s not because I don’t have the ideas or the comps aren’t out there, there are tons! I think it’s because you have to follow a few more rules, such as packaging it up all nice and formally with grammar and word-count checks, payment to enter and deadline dates! I know I’m probably making a big deal of this and I just need to get over myself and stop procrastinating but I have found one very easy comp which I like via twitter with a great prize so I’m going to start with that – baby steps and all!

For anyone who is brave and more disciplined than me then have a look at Writers online, the digital arm of Writers News who publish a great variety of competitions all the time.

  • Writing Courses, This is something I always look at periodically, particularly to help with the book and there are many courses out there, but some obviously cost money so in the meantime, a fellow writing friend has tracked this one down, which is free from Writer’s HQ and happens to start on my late Nana’s birthday so I’m taking it as a sign! It’s all about creating juicy, believable characters so will be a good sense check against the one’s I’ve created in my own novel.

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Another good place to start if you are a beginner, is Future Learn, which is part of the Open University. It’s online and a lot of courses are free like this one Start Writing Fiction which has just started on the 6th Jan and runs for 8 weeks (they sometimes let you join late if it’s only just started and catch up) but they start new ones all the time, just use the search tab to see what appeals to you.

  • Word of the Year, Yep, it’s that time of year again and for once I haven’t had to trawl my brain for one. As we head into a new decade with renewed hope after quite frankly a disastrous year for us, family and friends, it came to me once again in the early hours on steroid induced insomnia! I’ll be writing a post and a workshop about this soon and all the benefits I personally get from having a word to focus on, that hopefully you’ll identify with too.

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Ironically, looking back I don’t think the word I chose last year could have been any more appropriate, although little did I know it when I chose it! It was ‘Value’, at the centre, with all areas of life streaming from that, such as health, myself, freedom, money, relationships, planet etc – it certainly became very central to our lives! If you want to find out how I came up with last year’s word click here.

  • Social Content, despite having 4 Insta accounts (@thecuriouscreativeclub and @soothedbynature mainly), 2 Facebook accounts (The Curious Creative Club and my personal one), Linked In and Pinterest (both newish), I still love thinking about the content for them all and using strong creative images. Instagram as you probably know is by far my favourite, but I need to get better at Linked In and Twitter (rarely use!) this year to see if this will drive some interest to the Blog.

So, I think that is more or less a wrap on my writing intentions! I do have lofty ideas of pitching some magazine articles too, but know that will take away from my main focus which needs to be The Book, so I am trying to be good and not overload my time!

Plus, this is just one arm of The Curious Creative Club! I have big art ambitions and WOW Wednesday plans too but I’ll tell you all about them in a few blogs time!

Oh, and finally in the spirit of trying to keep healthy, calm and energised in-between treatments, I’ve recently bought Dr Chatterjee’s new book ‘Feel better in 5’ which I’m really excited about purely because of the simplicity of it!

I’ve been a big fan of his for ages, in particular his weekly podcast ‘Feel Better, Live More which has brilliant guests interviewed on health and lifestyle in general in a very relatable way, but this book is literally perfect for me and anyone else who believes they don’t have the time or inclination to devote hours of the day to the gym, or a meditation class or to cook a perfect healthy meal with a zillion different ingredients.

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The book is split into 3 areas; Mind, Body and Heart (in the connection sense rather than physical) and all you have to do is pick 3 what he calls ‘health snacks’, one from each area, that are just 5 minutes long and commit to doing them 5 days a week for 6 weeks until they become a habit. There’s a menu of about 30 options, (many creative exercises), all very simple and easy to do and he offers lots of advice and case studies of how to make them stick.

So that’s just 15 minutes of something just for you, each day, to make you feel healthier and happier – what’s not to love?

On that note, I wish you a very healthy, happy and curiously creative year and please do share any of your creative intentions below, I’d love to hear what you are all up to!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

P.s Our first Wow Wednesday meeting of the decade went down a storm last week with 5 new members! To discover more, hit the link and the next meeting is Wednesday the 22nd of January. We’ve got lots of exciting in-between sessions planned too where members share their skills and expertise so why not give us a try? Don’t forget it’s FREE!

The ability to learn is our super-power – my favourites of 2019!

Note 1st; Apologies for the lateness of this one, I wrote it and then just needed to finish it off with pics but then Christmas Eve happened and I ended up half the day at hospital as I have a cold, therefore next chemo pushed back a week and lots of drugs to take….but on the plus side I now get to enjoy an extra week of Christmas without feeling pants…..so all is rosy!  

 A sunny day on Christmas day so I managed to get out for a walk, woohoo!

Now back to the blog…

Since I began my journey with The Curious Creative Club, I knew from the very beginning that I was still very much a novice in this arena with an awful lot to learn. Yes, I practiced my own creative hobbies of writing, photography and art, but so do many others, and by no means does this make me an expert!

Thankfully I’ve always loved to learn, from a very young age. My Mum says that as a child I was exhausting! Not in a physical sense but because I asked hundreds of questions a day.

I simply love learning, and it’s why I seek out nuggets of wisdom everywhere I go, whether that be at a book shop, through a magazine subscription, an art workshop or listening to an enlightening conversation on a podcast.

In the quest to improve my knowledge on all things creative, my curiosity has stepped up a gear; discovering new trends, new ideas and strategies that can help me take The Curious Creative Club forward.

Learning from other more experienced creatives and business people, I know is key to my development and that of this little business venture. Plus, we really have no excuse not to make the most of the age we live in, as a motivational speaker and podcast host of ‘Rise’, Rachel Hollis often comments; The wealth of free courses on the Internet means we are open to so much more, it’s just whether we choose to access that huge resource; if you want to grow, you’d be a fool not to –  I couldn’t agree more!

The wonderful thing about the human mind is the ability to continually learn and with the likes of Google, Alexa (you really can ask that woman anything – I could have really done with her as a child!), social media and more books than ever on the planet, gaining that extra knowledge is seconds away, right at your fingertips, so long as you stay curious.

Of course, the beauty is that you then pass on your knowledge too, sprinkling it with enthusiasm and joy so that the creative community expands even further.

Despite being someone that can flit from one thing to another and get easily distracted, I have tried to absorb what’s out there, more than ever this year.

So, today’s post is a review of the amazing things I’ve listened to, visited and read  that have been useful in giving me creative inspiration and knowledge.

I’ll talk through the books I’ve read and people I follow via podcasts, events (and on social media too – visit The Curious Cave for that part), so that you can also check them out, if you like and see if they resonate with you and could also help support you on your creative journey.

Here are my Top recommendations for each section, with some commentary on my Top 3 selections;

Firstly, Creative / business Books:

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Just a few of the great reads that have inspired me this year

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth writes beautifully about creativity and her thoughts on its very existence – you won’t fail to be encouraged to try something new and to be swept up in her enigmatic voice.

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Meeting the lovely Sara Tasker at a talk all about her book, Hashtag Authentic

Hashtag Authentic – Sara Tasker

Sara is the first person to write about her experience of Instagram, her story behind her hugely successful account @me_and_orla and shares all the hints and tips she’s learned along the way, a must for anyone starting out with a new Instagram account.

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Collecting Conversations – Sam Bunch

This was a surprise read for me based on a recommendation from my local bookshop and I’m glad I listened, part auto-biographical and part intensive research – Sam talks about the key events and issues in women’s lives, through many different age decades, with really interesting and relatable results – great for writing research too!

Other great reads to consider;

Conscious Creativity – Phillipa Stanton

On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King

The Multi-hyphen Method – Emma Gannon

Hegarty on Creativity – John Hegarty

Company of One – Paul Jarvis

The Joy of Watercolour – Emma Block

Reading Books: Because if you are a writer, you also need to read!

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The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewel

A complex intertwining thriller where the house is as much a character as the cast. I loved this book and devoured it on holiday in 3 days, whilst simultaneously ignoring my family, oops! Lisa’s books always deliver on the character’s and the release date always fall in the Summer holidays – the only downside? A year in-between! My favourite author who just gets better and better.

Where the forest meets the stars – Glenda Vanderah

A beautiful story that keeps you guessing and almost believing the child character’s interpretation of the world before reality comes crashing down. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Big Sexy Love – Kirsty Greenwood

A debut, modern-day Bridget-jones type tale with a tragic undertone but some truly laugh out very loud moments! Great comedy timing and strong characters throughout who left you feeling uplifted. I’ll definitely be looking out for Kirsty’s next book.

This is going to hurt – Adam Kay

I have to also comment on Adam’s debut because it was such an amazing book, filled with both humour and heartbreak from the true reality of a junior doctor working un-godly hours in the NHS. You will laugh and cry and forever remember this book!

Other fab reads this year;

The Holiday – T M Logan

Ordinary People – Diana Evans

My name is Leon – Kit De Wal

Also note the last book on this list I discovered thanks to the Clare Mackintosh Book Group on Facebook (Author of I let You Go, Let me Lie etc); a good resource to find your next read and try different styles to the normal genre you go for.

2019 Events / Workshops I’ve been on:

Conversations of Inspiration  – Live at Manchester with Mark Constantine

A truly memorable evening delivered from my favourite podcaster and small business advocate; we had a brilliant evening listening to her interview Mark Constantine of Lush, click here for my full review of that evening.

Sarah Masons Photography Workshop

Here I learned how to use my DSLR camera properly, within a small group in a beautiful barn in Hebden Bridge. Sarah took us through the steps slowly which was good for me and the surroundings provided lots of photo opportunities.

Vision Board Workshop – Yorkshire Writers

Another really interesting event that helped us home in our individual goals that we wanted to focus on for the next 6 months. For a more in-depth review on this, click here.

Other workshops that inspire my creativity;

Acrylic Painting Workshop at Art Group

Weekly Creative Writing group

My favourite Podcasts this year

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Conversations of Inspiration – Holly Tucker

You just can’t fail to be inspired by Holly’s in-depth interviews of people who have started from nothing, sometimes struggled but then have forged their path into hugely successful businesses! Holly is so warm and is a true small-business advocate who genuinely cares and lends her advice regularly whilst remaining humble about her own success, and that is why I’m drawn to her style and strength. To get an overview of her year of interviews, check out her 2 Christmas specials out now, full of wisdom from her lovely guests.

Fearne Cotton – Happy Place

Equally as genuine as Holly above and doesn’t shy away from the deeper complexities of life such as struggles with mental health, addiction etc that some of her guests have been through. There is always something to take away and learn from this podcast!

Creatively Human – Ruth Poundwhite

Another inspirational woman who tells it like it is, but also has the courage to adapt to changing situations, she’s not afraid of a challenge! Ruth has a quiet determination about where she feels she wants to be and she takes you along the ride with her whilst talking about unique ways of working, for example if you are more of an introvert like her. I find her podcasts truly fascinating and come away thinking deeper about my little venture and where I want to take it!

Other amazing podcasts I’ve listened to this year:

Dreaming and Doing – Nicky Raby

Elevate your curiosity – Joanne Griffin

Dream and Do – Nicola Rae Wickham

Letters from a hopeful creative – Sara Tasker and Jen Carrington

Rise – Rachel Hollis

So, I hope this has been helpful to see just a glimpse of what is out there and of course there are more listed on my resource page – The Curious Cave.

I believe as much as the doing is important, so is the learning and researching, for example if you want to be a writer, it makes sense to read as much as possible – evaluate other’s author’s styles and see what appeals to you. If you want to share beautiful images on Instagram, then look at other’s accounts, see what works, but also understand how you can be different and use your own style and voice to stand out.

As I’ve said many times before I want this to be a sharing space too, so if you have examples of great podcasters you listen to or a book that really spoke to you this year on a creative level, then please don’t be shy and share in the comments below for us all to benefit!

And finally, this is the last Blog post of this year!! So, thank you for following along and keeping me company, I really appreciate all your support and comments.

I wish you all a lovely Christmas time, spending it with your loved ones and come New Year I hope we’ll all be raring to go once again!

I’ll be sharing my list of new intentions for 2020 (I love this time of the year for that – that re-fresh feeling) and where I want to take The Curious Creative Club over the next 12 months.

After a uniquely crazy, up and down 2019, I’m looking forward to delving into a new decade and the year that I’m focusing on getting fully well and back to my best, fingers crossed!

Happy New Year to you all!

Until next time….

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Reflecting on 2019 – What ‘firsts’ are you celebrating this year?

As we come to the end of the year, I begin to reflect on what’s gone on and whether I’ve made the most of it or not. To help with this, I keep a record of key moments throughout the year, especially if it’s been an eventful one.

It’s easy to forget about the big wins and the smaller successes when life is really busy, so jotting it down makes it easier to look back on. If you are a regular reader, you’ll know that this year has been especially crazy, probably the one of most dramatic years of my life to be honest and that is not me dramatizing either!

It’s been filled with exciting high points and devastating low points with only a smidgen of normality in-between!

So, today I’m going to focus on the incredible high points, and in particular the ‘firsts’ I’ve managed to achieve this year.

‘Firsts’ for me are important because they make you strive for the ‘new’, the things you’ve never tried before and the things you are really curious about, because then it makes you dare to do them and your life becomes all the richer for the new experiences.

You may be thinking, what is the point of looking back and reflecting, I haven’t time for that! But it does have huge benefits I promise you, especially if like me, you don’t have a great memory!

Here are the plus points:

  • It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘busy’ of your creative business / hobby. Stopping and taking time to reflect gives a deeper understanding of how far you’ve come and will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside!
  • Think about the moments that terrified you, for example trying a new style of work or delivering a talk on your skills.

Now, remember how you felt afterwards? Elated, buzzing, relieved? I’m sure you will have felt proud that you did it! Even if it didn’t go as well as planned, you were brave enough to try and that is a huge step forwards that you can now learn from

  • If you are your own worst self-critic, like many creatives are, you may be the kind of person who focuses on the negative, for example if something didn’t quite work out or you missed an opportunity, then it may surprise you to see a written list of all that you have achieved, which should then give you a confidence boost and help to shift to a more positive mindset.
  • Share how far you’ve come with your friends and family, blow that trumpet, you deserve it! Especially to the ones who may not truly ‘get’ what you do, it may just help them understand it all more. And talk to any willing apprentices too, hearing your story will encourage other creatives to try new things too and put themselves out there making the creative community bigger and stronger!
  • Use your list to set new challenges for the next year. Maybe you never thought that you’d achieve all that you have? Now that you know you can, it can guide your goals for next year, increase your appetite for challenge and set the bar a little higher, though not too high to scare the pants off you, obviously!

Now that you know the advantages of looking back, below is my list of firsts, to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, to then make your own, and some lessons I’ve learned along the way.

There are other things I’ve done of course, but these are true ‘firsts’ and as this was the year I set up The Curious Creative Club, there have been quite a lot. If you too are thinking of moving from creative hobby to something a little entrepreneurial, I’m hoping this may help you.

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The Curious Creative Club

My ‘middle of the night’ idea of how to create a blog and website by combining my 3 creative interests came to fruition this year and launched in January, but there were many ‘firsts’ to make it happen as I literally didn’t have a clue what I was doing and started from scratch with no professional help! This is how it evolved:

  • Setting up my website – I chose WordPress and then taught myself how to use it. Yes, ok it is a fairly simple process, but for me it was still a challenge, albeit a fun one. Choosing the template and design, creating the content and branding, working out social media buttons and links I really enjoyed, but I’ve yet to master a ‘shopping’ page, next year!
  • Blogging content – to date I’ve written 44 blogs which I’m really proud of to be honest! When I started out, the idea was to do content once a week which up until recent health issues, I’ve done, but the surprising part was that only once did I struggle to think what to write! I’ve always been an ideas person and thankfully each week something would guide me to the content, but as it’s all based on creativity, rather than say a lifestyle blog, the content subject is narrower, so it just goes to show there is a lot to talk about around creativity! I was also invited to share one of my posts on Woman Ready Blog which was lovely!
  • Blog interviews – again this was something new to me, but I really enjoyed it and will definitely be doing more. In March I did a series of 4 interviews with local creatives and it was great to hear local success stories that I knew would inspire others. Feedback from the interviewees was lovely and gave me the satisfaction of supporting my creative community.
  • Social media – whilst this isn’t completely new to me, making sure that this content aligned with The CCC website and supported the blog was really important. I set up Instagram, a Facebook page , a Pinterest page and more recently LinkedIn.

Instagram was especially challenging because I almost wanted it to be magazine like, rather than a perfectly curated, visually appealing account like my other @soothedbynature account. I thought this might not work as it goes against the grain of normal Instagram accounts, but so far it is growing (currently 475 followers) and works well to facilitate other news like the WOW events and my workshops.

  • Writing Workshops – This was something I really wanted to do and after putting my proposal to local café owner Miriam, who loves her café to be used as a community and creative hub, we went ahead and have delivered 5 workshops this year! I started off with ‘Playing with Writing’ for beginners and then recently developed ‘Writing from Personal Experience’ and both have been received so well with fabulous feedback!

Creating these has been the biggest lesson for me so far in this journey. I am not a writing teacher, and yet all that was needed really was the belief that I could do it!

I had the ideas for tasks, I rehearsed (in the woods on dog walks) and knew my stuff more than I thought I did. These workshops gave me so much confidence and pure joy, watching my participants come alive with creative ideas right in-front of me. It was like watching the light-bulbs go on in their eyes – so rewarding! I can’t wait to get back to doing them, once pesky chemo is over with.

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  • Setting up WOW Wednesdays; another ‘middle of the night’ idea. This stemmed from visiting networking groups HD8 network and Business Brunch Club – and whilst I appreciate what they do in terms of networking opportunities, I quickly realised these kinds of groups weren’t quite right for me – I wanted to create something of more personal value and usefulness, that didn’t cost money, to help individuals who worked from home, had their own business or were studying and had goals to reach too. In addition to this, I’d worked with Miriam from a local café who hosted my writing workshops and she was struggling to get people in on Wednesdays and so our local accountability group WOW Wednesdays was born!

Hands down, this is the idea that I’m most proud of this year. I had no clue how it would go but 9 people showed up on the first one back in June and now we have 25 members, who are such amazing people they inspire me at every meeting. This little community means the world to me and it makes me feel quite emotional talking about them. It’s a complete diverse range of people who share their stories, skills and support to all the other members and there is literally nothing that they can’t help with.

They are simply my dream team who in just a few months have grown so much themselves in all sorts of ways but especially confidence in their own work and abilities and at the end of this I‘ll share some of their firsts too!

  • Eco product testing for Psychologies magazine! This was a lovely surprise opportunity with a magazine I’ve loved for years, following one of my photos being chosen as the winner of their monthly competition in the magazine. They also chose me to be in their profile section which was great exposure too!

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So far I’ve tested a yoga mat, deodorant, tea bags, chocolate, candle, face cream, hand balm, shampoo bar and each time I’ve done a minute video review for their website – something I’ve never done before! Testing the products has been a real eye opener on how much more we need to focus on the products we use to help our planet, for more info on the product reviews click here.

  • Events to learn from; Along with my partner in crime, Clair, we’ve attended Holly Tucker’s live podcast event in Manchester, Yorkshire Writer’s Vision Board Workshop and Sarah Tasker’s (of Hashtag Authentic book and podcast) talk, all of which were incredibly inspiring and educational. I can’t recommend enough to go along to these kinds of events, especially if you are stuck in a creative rut, you’ll walk away with ideas sparking I promise!

We loved taking part in the vision board workshop!

Other Creative firsts for me this year:

Writing; This year I joined 2 new writing groups, Write at Read bookshop in Holmfirth and the Huddersfield Authors Circle, the latter’s first task was to write about Huddersfield in the 1800s, completely out of my comfort zone! I stared at my notebook in sheer panic and didn’t write for 15 minutes, which has never happened to me before, but I got there eventually and the group really liked my piece! Phew!

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Art; trying new things again such as pyrography, acrylic painting and perspective work at Demos delivered by Shelley Art Group, and also becoming Calder Arts ‘Artist of the Week’ on their Instagram – great exposure again! I’ve also started selling my art cards in Miriam’s Kitchen Table.

Some recent shots for my@soothedbynature insta account

Photography; In April I attended Sarah Mason’s DSLR Workshop which was such a fab day learning how to use my proper camera! Since then I think my photos on @soothedbynature have improved and I’m getting more engagement with lovely comments lately. My goal is to get to 500 followers on SBN, currently at 497 so I’m really close! I also entered the Countryfile photography competition and want to enter more next year.

So that’s a run down on my year, or in reality 9 months before all the health investigations and diagnosis so all in all I’m really pleased with how The Curious Creative Club is going and I’m so grateful for everyone’s support.

There’s so much more I want to do and what I’ve learned is that the more you do, the more opportunities and ideas spring up, one thing most definitely leads to another!

In the New Year I’ll be talking about my plans and wishes for 2020 of where I want to go with The CCC, and when I’m fully better (hopefully by end of April), there will be no stopping me!

In the meantime, here are some of my WOW members firsts for this year to hopefully inspire you further!

‘Delivering my Pocket Vision Workshop, a great experience that boosted my confidence at a time when I needed it’ Zoe
‘Going from ‘How can I grow my business to how can I fit all these clients in, in a year!’ Clair
‘Letting people read my creative writing and sharing it at writing groups has really helped my confidence grow as a writer!’ Carrie
‘My first pyrography workshop! So pleased I did it!’ Jac   

As always, I’d love you to share your ‘firsts’ too in the comments below and do get writing those lists of achievements, I’m willing to bet it will be a lot longer thank you think!

Happy reflecting! Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

P.S At the moment I’ll be posting every two weeks to coincide with when I’m at my best after treatment, if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to write about or share insight on, please do get in touch as I want this blog to be as helpful and as useful as possible! Thank you xx

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Carve out the time to get it done

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m going to miss art demos and festivals!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Appreciate your support team

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

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

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

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

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

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

Juliet, aka The Curious Creative x

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heading into un-chartered waters…

Warning this may make uncomfortable reading for some

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Looking fetching in my CT smock!

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

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My very painful Popeye arm!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what is helping me in all this?

Research

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

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

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

Distraction

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

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Communication

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

Extended Family and friends

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

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

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

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

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

People who have gone before

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

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

Fresh air and walks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care,

Juliet, aka The Curious Creative x

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

Special places = Special writing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Holme Moss at sunset 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

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

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

 

 

A little poetry practice, to soothe the soul…

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

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

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

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

Here are my steps for bringing a poem together:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whilst a frozen blanket of crocheted decay, crunches underfoot

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

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

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Birdsong returns with frenetic force, speed dating in sweet melody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Copyright: Juliet Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you a creative,calm and poetic week!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

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

 

Why accountability is key to personal growth

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

The group came about, primarily for four reasons;

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

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

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

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The reason it works I think is for several reasons;

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

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

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

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

https://quiz.gretchenrubin.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taken from Cedarville.edu/studentleadership@Cedarville.edu

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

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

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

Do let me know how you get on!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x