What’s wowed you lately?

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

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

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

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

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

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Image taken from –  the documentary Sensitive – The Untold Story

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

TT Fans forever!:-)

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

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

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

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

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

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

One lady put it really well;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

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

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

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

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

Sometimes, doing nothing, is just what you need…

Hi everyone, I’m back from a really relaxing week away with the family where my only thoughts were pretty much; Which book do I read? Which cocktail shall I order? and I should probably apply more sun-cream which was just what I needed after a busy few months.

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There’s nothing like really slowing down and altering your daily routine to truly enjoy the little things and just reduce the swarm of thoughts buzzing around your head.

I read two great books, revelled in my addiction to just staring at the sea view, and dared myself to swim out to Monkey’s rock in the bay by our hotel, despite it being incredibly rocky to actually just get in the sea, Tenerife being a volcanic island and all!

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Monkey’s rock in the distance to the left, because it looks like King Kong laying down!

I tiptoed in not wanting to cut my feet until a local man said I had to get in and swim on my back, despite it being only a foot and a half of water! It worked though and I slowly edged my way into the deeper water. There’s something pretty awesome about swimming in the sea, I’ve always loved it, it’s where I feel truly free and I think I may have been a mermaid in a past life, although I’m a warm-sea-swimmer only!

The kids did a million handstands in the pool, went to the teen lounge and giggled together in a conspiratory way that they rarely do at home but on holiday they rely on each other for daft entertainment, whilst me and the husband bake ourselves in the sun, moving only occasionally to cool off, sip a shandy or eat!

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When we have such a busy schedule at home, I really appreciate the chance to do absolutely nothing and re-charge, it was just what we needed. Having dinner, playing cards in the evening and listening to the live music in the bar became our only routine – no alarms, no homework to nag about, no places to be by a set time, just the choice of where to eat and what to wear….bliss!

One of my absolute favourite things about these laid-back holidays is that it gives me quality time to read, rather than five minutes before bed when I fall asleep after a few pages. However, I get so into a good book that I don’t often hear people speak to me, including my kids!

I get lost in another world, loving the stories but also analysing their writing, what makes them different, why does it make me thirsty for more, which character do I love the most and why? – as a fellow writer, it’s a double whammy for me, total enjoyment and rapture at the story-line and a lesson in great writing all at the same time.

The added bonus when I’m so engrossed is it also reignites my passion to finish my own book. I hear whispers becoming louder each day – ‘You can do this you know… this could be you.’ and I start daring to dream again, imaging my book complete, with a proper cover even, and then ultimately standing proudly on the shelf of a bookstore. Once again, the dream takes shape and moulds itself into a hard copy, a physical possibility and I start to get excited at the prospect of writing it all over again.

And that is why creatively, these chilled out holidays, where my brain can rest from day to day responsibility, where I don’t have to clock-watch and think who do I need to pick up or when can I fit in the dog walk, when I can truly empty the day to day logistics out of my head, become worth their weight in gold.

It gives me the space to really enjoy someone else’s creative talents, which then in-turn completely inspires me. But of course, I need to put the work in, it’s not going to magically happen over-night.

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The first book I read was, Ordinary People by Diana Evans – a very honest account of two fictional couple’s relationships, the struggles they faced and the impact of children, a real, warts and all, quite emotional read and it was written beautifully. It’s the kind of writing that makes me want to do better, try harder and craft every sentence into something memorable.

Another book had this impact on me a few years back, called The Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winnman and also Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderahs that I read earlier this year.

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I love it when writing is completely different to what you imagine, and the realisation sinks in that you are going to get on very well together as companions over the next week or so.

My point is it’s great when you read something that is not necessarily your usual genre that you like and you learn something from it as a result. All these books have in common a wide variety of vocabulary and it’s something you really have to focus on to get right and not slip into your usual general style and language of writing – but also that’s what re-drafts are for as you realise these little mistakes when you read it all over again!

I think the thing I’ve learned most his holiday about my writing, especially upon reading my first draft again is how much more showing rather than telling in my story I need to do.

For anyone unsure of what that means, there’s a great explanation here but essentially, by showing you are allowing the reader to deduce information themselves rather than you telling them directly what is happening or how someone is feeling.

The second book I finished was completely different, ‘Collecting Conversations’ by Sam Bunch – something I’ve been picking up and down for a while as it’s that kind of book, and could easily hang around your coffee table, (making it look very chic too!).

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Sam wrote the book after her Mum died and she found 30 years’ worth of diaries that had just a sentence entry each day! Sam realised that these small musings on life in general made up a whole picture of her Mum’s life. She talks about that difficult time and then underwent an experiment, interviewing 107 women from all walks of life and ages, about every day normal things in life and also the bigger questions we have.

It’s a fascinating, insightful book into the experiences, thoughts and emotions of women in today’s society, I guarantee you’ll find it really interesting and thought provoking. Sam’s now on with writing a similar book but this time having conversations with Men, I’ll definitely be picking that one up!

So, these books have certainly given me food for thought and a kick up the backside to get going again. I’m now back on Swim duty of a different kind, my daughter’s back training with peeling shoulders and without the fear of a shark about to bite her leg – that’s the drama you get with a 13 year old swimming in the sea – she literally freaked out as seaweed brushed her feet and she saw the black crabs scuttling up Monkey’s Rock ‘They’re’ Moving!!!!!!!’ she announced in a high-pitched wail! – I nearly choked on the waves laughing – but that of course makes fabulous memories and helps to feed the imagination too.

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I couldn’t resist a quick sketch of monkey’s rock!

My advice to my fellow creatives and writers, occasionally you need to take time out, have a week off, rest those brain cells that are constantly whirring with ideas, projects, colours, designs and send them on a retreat to just BE STILL, I promise your worn-out mind will thank you for it and the dream machine will once again whizz back into life….speaking of which, time to get back to my book, for once I’ve given myself a stricter deadline – 7 weeks to end of school term and to finish that blumming (yes that’s how we talk in Yorkshire), frustratingly scary yet exciting, first draft – See I’m even putting it in bold to make me do it!

I’ll let you know how I get on!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

P.s WOW Wednesdays start this week (June 5th) another exciting project I’ve come up with that myself and Clair from @asocialnature are running @miriamskitchentable to help people from the local community (and ourselves!) who work from home, run their own businesses, are studying or just have some life goals to work on, to basically have accountability buddies and help us all stay on track, move forward and celebrate our achievements!

Some more information will be going up on the website soon but for now, please click here if you live local to Huddersfield and would like to come along. They will be happening every 2 weeks at 9.30am and you can stay as little or as long as you like! They’re free too, we’d love to see you there!!

PP.s And finally there will be another ‘Playing with Writing’ workshop happening on Wednesday June the 12th at 7pm-9.30pm at Miriam’s too. If you’re even just the tiny bit curious about giving writing a go, please do come along, all my participants have loved it so far!

 

 

Collaborating to spread the joy of Creativity

Hi everyone! Hopefully when you are reading this, I’ll be reading my own book from a sunbed in Tenerife. My plan to get back into writing it and reaching that elusive first draft ending, is to download it as my read for my holiday and get stuck in, in-between sipping a few cocktails and applying sun-cream of course!

So, whilst I’m away I’m attaching a link to a blog post I’ve be recently done for the lovely Lou Kirby who I met on a coaching workshop last year. Lou runs Woman Ready Blog (find her here and on Insta @womanreadyblog) and is a force for nature when it comes to talking about all things that effect women on a day to day basis and raises some really important issues on self-care and well-being too.

Her bio reads:

‘We doubt ourselves, we over-think, we hold ourselves back and wonder if we are good enough – isn’t it time to stop?

So many of us are guilty of the above and of putting ourselves way down the priority list. That’s why I set up Woman Ready – a global platform to help inspire, support and empower us to be the women we want to be but to also talk about the issues we face as women today.’

A woman after my own heart right?

As well as writing her own blog posts, Woman Ready Blog also showcases contributors who write on all kinds of subjects and so Lou asked me to send her a blog post of mine around creativity for her well-being section.

She chose the one entitled Why it’s never too late to pick up a pen, paintbrush, your dream’ to encourage her readers who may think they are too old to start the creativity journey to think otherwise!

And so, a new version of that post is here for you to read this week (click on the above link).

This was one of my earlier posts and now it’s a newer, shinier version! Plus, it follows on nicely from the one I posted last week and whilst Lou’s audience is predominantly women, my writing is for all those interested in starting creative pass-times so for my male readers, this is still very relevant!

Thank you, I hope you enjoy it and I’ll be thinking of new topics to write about from a well-rested brain taking in views of the sea and sunshine, a bit of a change from sunshine through tree branches!

Have a great week and until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

P.s In the spirit of collaboration, I’ve also got together with Clair from @asocialnature to create an accountability get together and support group for our local community!

It’s called WOW Wednesdays, is free and we will meet at Miriam’s Kitchen Table in kirkburton from Weds 5th June and then every 2weeks after that, at 9.30am. 

It’s for people who WFH, have their own business, are studying or just have some life goals they want to achieve and will keep on track better if they meet with other like-minded people who can offer support and encouragement. We’ll plan ahead, celebrate the wins, chat the small stuff and enjoy delicious cakes / breakfast and coffee – what’s not to love?

If this sounds like it’s for you, please just turn up, myself and Clair will always be there, we look forward to seeing you there! #excitingtimes!

 

 

 

Why creativity is crucial for mental health

Hi everyone, I just thought that this was an important subject to talk about in the wake of National Mental Health Week and following just one of those tricky weeks for me – see I told you it wasn’t always sunshine and roses!.

So I’ll set the scene; A busy weekend, following a very busy few weeks, = feeling slightly worn out, leading to a full-on Summer cold (I hate being ill!), add a splash of SATS for my 11 year old (which means a lift to school instead of bus as he does not want to be late) and a stressed out 13 year old daughter who think her maths homework needs to be in the following day, not the original date of Friday last week. Add in a logistics plan, set days before because hubs is out, son at tennis, daughter at swimming and I need to be a her French Trip meeting at school, so none of this allows for a last minute change of plan to do said homework.

Que huge, gigantic teenage strop on the way to swimming, me very much losing my patience and son plugging in his headphones to drown us out in the car. Summer cold escalates, I can barely speak by the time I pick her back up, not that I want to anyway, and the ironic ending to this story? She stays up late to do the homework, I drop her off at school the next morning and she finds out that it didn’t need to be in until next Wednesday after-all, the bldy joys of raising a teenager!

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So yes, this all felt extremely stressful in the midst of it that night when she refused to listen to anything I said and just became increasingly dramtatic ‘You don’t understand, she is the strictest teacher Mum!’ and I frankly felt pants from the onslaught.

However, let me be clear, I’m very aware of how lucky I am and how, and that even on bad days or weeks I can usually pull myself out of that stressed out cloud when everything has calmed down and I know that it’s just one of those days and tomorrow, I pray, will be better and hopefully she won’t still want to be put up for adoption, I mean seriously? She could win an Oscar!

I know that for a lot of people it is so much harder than a stupid argument with conditions like anxiety, depression and all kinds of mental health issues being scarily on the increase and much more common these days.

The area of positive psychology and mental well-being is an important subject to me not only as a mum of two children who are going up fast in a high-pressured world, but because I have many friends and family members who struggle with various mental health issues and I try to help them in any way I can.

But it does weirdly then effect me, because I worry about them, and if truth be told, I don’t fully understand it all, which is why I want to understand it more. These days I try more to just listen and not always ‘fix’, which is not easy when your natural instinct is to problem solve.

I’m sure a lot of this has more to do with how drastically our lifestyles have changed, especially over the last 20 years I’d say.

Life is so busy, so jam-packed, so looking-after-everyone- else or worrying what others think about us that often self-care, a little me-time or time to do anything creative is shoved so far down the list or, it’s not even on there at all.

I firmly believe that if people spent more time accessing creativity or at the very least doing my go-to-stress-buster, i.e going out for a walk amongst the trees, by water, listening to the birds, watching the squirrels dart up the trees, then it would help a little at least with mental well-being and feeling more positive.

I know it wouldn’t solve everything overnight, but we have to look for these small actions that when done regularly, can make a big difference.

Nature for me is not only my instant stress remedy but an important part of prevention too. It’s also a constant source of inspiration for my daily dose of creative photography for my @soothedbynature instagram account, my artwork and even writing too.

Many experts site doing something creative is like a form of active meditation, putting yourself in the ‘flow’ state and releasing those feel-good brain chemicals like dopamine.

Take this information provided by forbes.com

‘The average person has about 60,000 thoughts in a day. A creative act such as crafting can help focus the mind, and has even been compared to meditation due to its calming effects on the brain and body. Even just gardening or sewing releases dopamine, a natural anti-depressant.

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Creativity reduces anxiety, depression, and stress… And it can also help you process trauma. Studies have found that writing helps people manage their negative emotions in a productive way, and painting or drawing helps people express trauma or experiences that they find too difficult to put in to words.’

This all may sound pretty obvious, but what if you consider this as a health activity for your brain that you treat as important as those hours in the gym, or that hour on the tennis court or a whole day on the golf course?

Of course, exercise also helps with mental health too but creativity has a big part to play and has also been linked to helping with age-related diseases such as dementia.

I know that time is precious, and we are all busy but why not try just scheduling out 15 minutes a day to start with and see if you notice a difference in how you feel? I’m pretty certain that you would soon come to relish your creative time and notice the difference in your stress levels.

I know the positive impact it makes on my life, and I now crave that creative time and I can really feel the negative difference if I don’t get the opportunity in the week to be creative in some way.

Alternatively, if you’d rather spend longer and assign an evening to creativity whether at home or at a class, then just give is a go, don’t let fear hold you back, it’s the act of doing something creative that has instant benefits, not necessarily the result and the more you practice, the better you will get.

The benefit of joining a class is that not only do you learn from others, but you make new friends too – another huge plus for well-being when we are spending less and less time these days communicating face to face and being genuinely social – we are social creatures who seek out that sense of community afterall. That evening or day class could become very special to you and a new fundamental part of your life.

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However, if it’s difficult to get to a class, consider inviting some friends around and just play with paint over a cuppa, messing about with materials is the only way to learn and it doesn’t have to be a master piece, it’s about the fun and connection of trying something new.

Ok, hopefully by now I’ve convinced you this is worth doing, worth having a go, so here is a menu of quick 15 – 30 minute creative projects to get you started.

Activity How
Mandala or colouring books These are hugely popular and for good reason! Colouring in is incredibly therapeutic and something you can complete over time and pick up easily when you have a few spare minutes and the choice of designs now is huge!
Or create your own Alternatively create your own patterns and background drawings to then colour in later, check out some ideas from @yorkshiremermaid !
Create a new recipe or work from a cook book It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with cooking but creating food is incredibly relaxing when you take your time and there’s no hungry kids to feed!

Simple things like soups, biscuits, a new salad or omelette are quick to do, try the BBC Good Food Soup and Sides little recipe book for some simple ideas.

Create your own notebook A bit like backing books in school! Buy a simple plain notebook and card, decorations, even a wallpaper sample you like and cut it to size and stick to the front. If it’s personalised and appealing, you’re much more likely to use it!
Create a poem And we’re not talking ground-breaking literary perfection here! Just getting your brain thinking in a different way can heighten creative ideas.

Think of a childhood memory, a holiday, a family member you could describe, your idea of the perfect hobby shed; the list is endless. Remember it doesn’t have to rhyme or be technically correct!

Create a bucket list of creative projects you want to try Even doing a list can be creative – doodle it, use different colours for different ideas and then pin it somewhere you will see regularly and you’re more likely to take action.
Tweak your home interiors If you don’t want to buy anything new, have a change around, rearrange furniture, swap cushions and pictures, collect some spring flowers to arrange, or use up that tin of paint in the shed to paint a shelf or even do a stripey wall if you want to be really adventurous!.

Using your eye to create a new view is very satisfying and refreshing – you’ll love your home more too.

Paint for the bin (unless you produce a masterpiece of course!) If you’ve never tried watercolour painting it can feel intimidating but again it’s all about just experimenting.

Even better get a few friends round so you don’t take it too seriously and you can all have a go at just playing and seeing how the paint and paper behave together.

Paint a little further There are 1000s of YouTube videos available that teach you step by step the basics which you can watch at your own pace. You’ll be surprised at the results and gain confidence the more you do.
Become a Rockstar Ok that’s a little extreme, but listening to some new music can really get you in the mood creatively.

Alternatively sing loudly, pick up that old guitar or tinkle on the keyboard or do what I do when everyone’s out and bash on the drums (my son’s) – completely out of beat but boy does it feel good!

Sketch out in the garden, the park, your local woods or reservoir Combining fresh air and sketching is probably one of the best tonics. Start of slowly to gain confidence, a flower pot, a bench, a leaf and then build up.

Not only does it feel good, you’ll have a sketch book of memories to look back upon.

Soup, sketch, style, smile…..a creative half an hour can do so much for your mental health

So, I hope this helps to add some creative time into your week to reap some of the mental well-being benefits and enjoy trying something new. Ultimately if you’re as curious as this sheep in the main picture, you won’t go far wrong! As I continue along this blogging journey, I’m sure I’ll add in more ideas from time to time.

So, let me know if you do try any of these, I’m still a relatively new blogger so it really helps to know if I’m on the right track with the creative topics I’m writing about!

Thank you and until next time (and hopefully cold free!)

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

 

 

 

Guiding word of the year – How is yours going so far?

 

It’s my 20th blog post today! I can’t believe I’m already 20 posts in, this year is going so fast already – I know it’s a sign of my age that years are seeming to fly by and that scares me, I’m already thinking jeez I’m half way through my life and I’ve got so much left I want to do, time needs to slow down not speed up!

For this post I thought I’d check in with my word of the year which I wrote about right back at the beginning of this journey.

I chose the word ‘Value’ because I wanted it to work across a lot of areas in my life – that’s when our guiding word is at it’s most useful, and ironically valuable. And to make sure that really is the case, I like to mind-map it out and list all the ways it can be applied.

As we are getting closer to half way through the year, I want to see how I’ve progressed against my aspirations for 2019. And of course , my word of the year is very much part of that. Not only does this enable you to celebrate the little wins along the way, but it gives you a much clearer picture of what the next steps should be and where your energy needs to be directed for the rest of the year.

So here are the connections below I made to the word ‘Value’ and how I feel it is showing up in day to day life.

  • Self-Value

This is where I wanted to really work on my self-confidence. People who meet me, because I talk a lot, probably think I’m really confident but I’m not at all! I also think I lost some confidence towards the end of my corporate working life but what really helped was focussing on separating my perception of that and almost re-inventing myself. I started to use the old mantra, ‘She believed she could so she did’ and it’s made such a difference.

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When I put together the writing workshop, I was a little nervous but also knew that talking about writing and creativity was what I felt completely comfortable doing and I really believed I could help my participants. I soon realised that if I came across as confident and knowledgeable that it would install more trust from them and with the right encouragement and enthusiasm, they would also be confident enough to read out their work.

The workshops have boosted my own confidence so much, not least because I’ve had such lovely feedback, but because I really love doing them, and I think that shows through.

The buzz and uptake of the workshops has impacted at home too, the children and the hubs have been interested in what I’ve been doing and can see how hard I’ve worked on them, which again has made me feel more valued as a contributor to the family.

  • Business Values

This was something I wanted to work out for The Curious Creative Club, to make sure I kept the central values at the heart of everything I do. I settled on the words; Engage, Encourage, Enrich and Empower – for me these words link well with creativity and what I want to do and also are very easy to remember!

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  • Value my time

This is probably my biggest challenge and will continue to be with a very busy family life but I do feel now that I am more mindful of it. Plus, since doing the Myers Briggs personality test and realising that my introvert tendencies were actually a real thing, not made up in my head,  I now try and plan in quieter days in-between the crazy ones to give me chance to just be still and let my energy recover!

I’m also trying to get better at saying ‘No’ if it’s something I’m not that bothered about and slowly tackling that ‘people-pleasing’, but sometimes energy-sucking, default mode!

The final part of this is to reduce time on social media, easier said than done when this venture links to it in a lot of ways, but I’m at least trying to reduce the mindless scrolling aspect and setting timers on my screen-time.

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  • Value my support efforts

By this I mean continue to support my friends and family who need and want it but also to be careful not to either be taken for granted, or to realise that some people are happy to just coast along, stay stuck in the rut and it’s actually a waste of my effort when essentially it won’t make any difference anyway.

This is a really tricky one for me as I love helping people and it’s hard to accept that sometimes, you just can’t, because at the end of the day, they don’t want to help themselves.

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It frustrates me no-end when this is the case, I’m a firm believer of you only get one life and we need to make the most of it, i.e help yourself, get healthy, make changes if you’re unhappy, live a long full-filled life – BUT I also have to accept that not everyone thinks like me, people have big difficulties in their lives to overcome to get there, (and god knows I’ve had some in mine too, I’m reaping the good times at the moment whilst I can!) but they have to WANT to do it and they have to figure out a reason to do it too – and if they do, I’ll support them all the way.

  • Add Value to people’s lives

This is where I get the most satisfaction, and probably what I’ve naturally been drawn to the most so far this year. Through The CCC’s activities, like my workshops, Blog posts, social media shares, quotes and pictures and me just generally chatting to my local or social media community about what I’m trying to do, I genuinely feel like it’s making a positive difference and getting people to think a little more creatively, particularly in my workshops and I really want this to continue.

  • Value like-minded people, your inner community

Gosh I’ve met some amazing people this year so far, in real life and on the likes of Instagram or via the Blog and this is where I get inspired and topped up creatively and emotionally.

I value these people immensely and probably for the first time feel fully accepted and understood – basically they have ideas as whacky as mine and that’s so good to know! Others provide insights that amaze me on everything from business, to over-thinking and health. I learn so much from them, I’m literally like a sponge soaking up their experiences, ideas and general wisdom, it’s made my life much richer, and I’ll be forever grateful.

Just some of the many podcasts, campaigns, individuals and Insta accounts that inspire me on a daily basis; see The Curious Cave for a full list!

  • Value Family Time

As the kids get older, one 11, one 13, I’m becoming acutely aware that we’re only going to have them around for a few more years and then they’ll be off, which makes me feel A) Very old and B) Very nostalgic – why can’t they be babies again?!

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When they were so cute and actually liked each other!

I think particularly this year, with my son going off and touring with Opera North, he suddenly felt very grown up and later this year my daughter moves from middle school to High School and it will be choosing GCSE’s time as well as even more swimming comps of course!

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So, we cram in as many memory-making things as we can in-between all the other activities, hoping that these will last me a lifetime for when I’m crying into my gin when they’ve flown the nest! Thank god I’ve still got the dog!

Speaking of which I need to mention her as it’s her 3rd birthday this week! She is the one that gets me out on walks most days, which then inspires all my content for @soothedbynature Instagram account, keeps me fit and gives the best cuddles, she is literally our 3rd child!

Happy Birthday Barley!!

  • Value the Planet

I’ve still got lots to do on this and work out ways we can as a family reduce our impact on the environment. I have done some small things and I have an exciting little project coming up, being an Eco product tester on a magazine panel (will spill more when I can, watch this space!). I’m hoping this will kick my butt into gear to do more in this area too.

  • Value Money

This simply means being a bit more mindful on spending in terms of food shopping, eating out and clothes, I’ve been clearing out lots of things to charity too.

Also, since I’ve been earning bits of money here and there it makes me appreciate it so much more than when I received a regular, well-paid income. This is money I have earned purely by myself, I have carved out a very small income but this makes me so proud! There’s something very special about creating your own way to make money.

When I set up the workshops or created pieces of art, I had absolutely no idea how it would go and the fact that people trust, believe and like what I do means the world to me!

  • Finally, Value your health!

I’ve always valued good health, but as I get older, not ancient I might add, but enough to notice a few more aches and pains, I’m trying to be more protective of it and also keep old injuries at bay by doing my shoulder exercises and Pilates as well as daily walks with the dog. I’m a firm believer of the phrase Suzy Reading uses in her book; ‘Self Care is Health Care’ and when we are running around looking after everyone else, it’s so important that you look after yourself too.

Walking the dog is when I get the time to clear my head, listen to uplifting podcasts and come up with ideas, surrounded by the glorious Yorkshire countryside, it’s literally self-care tonic in a bottle.

Now reducing my cake and coffee intake is another story, but something has to fuel all this creativity!

So that’s how it’s going for me so far, and I‘ve finally created my ‘Value’ sign that will now be put somewhere visible in the kitchen!

I’d love to know how you are using your guiding words, if you are checking in with it regularly and whether it’s helping, please let me know in the comments below!

Next week I’ll be returning from a girl’s weekend away for a friends 50th birthday, so I apologise now if my writing is all over the place on Monday! I will definitely be requiring a few rest days after that!

Have a great week and until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Checking in and celebrating achievements

After the challenges I wrote about last week when I was trying to do all things possible and invent extra time in the universe, the upshot has been an amazing week and this made me think about how it is so important, especially after crazy busy times like this to stop and take a pause to reflect on how things have gone.

Some of my art pieces that went into the exhibition last weekend

Often, as creatives we have intense periods of working time, building up to things like exhibitions, as above, or craft fairs, events and also seasonal peaks and troughs and it’s so easy in those quieter times to be straight on to thinking about the next thing and planning forward.

Of course, that is an important part of the process too, but equally important is to think about how far you’ve come since the beginning of the Year, how much you’ve grown in your creative field and the lessons learned along the way.

It’s not always the done thing in British terms, we’re not very good at celebrating our achievements, but if we don’t check in with those little wins, we miss out on seeing the overall bigger picture and understanding what the key things are to do next towards our big vision.

So here are some Top Tips for celebrating your achievements:

  • Get yourself an Accountability Buddy – This works brilliantly, trust me. As people often working on our own, it’s sometimes difficult to self- manage and like I say, record those wins for the week. I set this up with a friend and literally every week, on a Friday, we list our achievements on a text and congratulate each other on what we’ve done – having someone to sum up your week to makes you realise how much you’ve achieved in total and you spur each other on.
  • Then once a month, meet up with that friend, run through your main ones again and then do some goal setting for the next month – just saying it out loud to someone makes it way more real and you’re much more likely to do it, because you said you would – and so continues the circle of achievements.
  • Get yourself a nice journal, one that makes you excited to write in – For this it doesn’t have to be work / project related – any little wins in life are worth recording – to look back on when you’re old and grey and to also raise those feel-good levels that can help against a whole host of mental health issues.

Megan Hamer, in her book ‘Write yourself Happy’ sites research that says; If you write positively in a journal for just 3 months, even if you then stop, the effects of that positive action last at least another 3 months – how great is that?

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Just one of the many lovely journals I have dotted about my house!

  • Use your expertise, for free – so by this I mean, if something has really worked for you, share that knowledge, especially to people who are just starting out; For one, it makes you feel really good to help people, and two it solidifies in your mind that yes you feel qualified to help and by acknowledging this your confidence and self-belief will grow.
  • Join encouraging Facebook groups in your area of interest. These are often run by really inspiring and encouraging people who invite you to celebrate success of a weekly basis as well as supporting each other in the group. These are great places to find new creative friends and build relationships, as well as being able to ask specific questions that you need help with and access areas of expertise.

Two great examples of this are: Creatively Human run by Ruth Poundwhite who does a podcast under the same name and also Exciting Emails by Vix Meldrew. Both extremely supportive and you discover new things that you hadn’t even thought of! Others are listed in The Curious Cave.

  • Tell your friends and family – this can be a tricky one if they don’t necessarily ‘get’ what you are doing or trying to achieve. I get mixed reactions, although mostly positive, some, especially my older family members just don’t understand me doing a million projects (ok slight exaggeration but it feels like it sometimes!) and why can’t I just focus on the one thing of writing a book, which is what I initially started out doing?

But the reason I say tell them, is because slowly, the people who are not quite fully onboard will start to take your ideas and vision more seriously, and that can only be a good thing for your own self-belief and make what you are trying to do feel more like a ‘real’ entity, plus they will be more understanding if you need some support (e.g childcare whilst you are selling at an event), if they are bought into your dream too.

So now I’ll fill you in on my week, in three stages because I fully believe that you reap what you sow and karma has a big part to play in that if you help and support people along your own journey, then the good times come right back to you.

This is also how I talk to my son about his daily achievements and learnings, it’s a great way of celebrating all your successes as a family;

1) What did I do for others this week (over and above the normal mum / wife /dog/ life duties!)

  • Promoted several local businesses and individuals via my social media accounts and conversations to help them with their business, plus they are people who have creative passions and a great sense of community themselves and this deserves to be shouted about!
  • Used my local picture framer to string and mount all my art, talked to him about his own ‘coin art’ and offered him marketing advice on setting up a name for his art, other ideas for his collection and Instagram account to get his name out there.
  • Donated a voucher for my workshop as a raffle prize for the art exhibition
  • Delivered another creative writing workshop, helping others to access their creative side and have fun with it.
  • Went along to the creative writing group I belong to – i.e. supporting her business
  • Helped out at the exhibition, raffle, washing up, setting tables etc etc

2) What have others done for me?

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The amazing green goddess salad from Miriam’s

  • Three ladies came to my workshop and gave me fabulous feedback and we had a great time
  • My friend Clair posted a blog post piece of creative writing that she started via a task on my workshop and it has received lots of great comments, plus she acknowledged my workshop being the inspiration which is lovely! This is her story if you fancy a read!
  • My family have put up with pictures strewn across the house, bits of bubble wrap everywhere and very little housework done in the run up to the exhibition!
  • Inspired me – Sam Bunch – Collecting conversations book, Gale at writing group, Miriam on new business ideas, my fellow artists with their amazing work, to name but a few…
  • Made me laugh – my son especially this week with the ‘out of context’ words he uses sometimes and my mum with the best reply text ever when I told her I’d sold my ‘Castle Hill’ picture which she thought was ‘wonky’ – her response text was – ‘Some people like wanky castles’ – I nearly spat my wine out at the pub having dinner!
  • Fed me extremely well and healthily – The picture of the green goddess salad above, it is sooooo tasty!
  • Made my abs work (and hurt the following day!) to get into bikini shape – courtesy of my Pilates teacher, Kim!
  • I’ve been invited to be on the panel of something very exciting, but I can’t reveal all yet!
  • And finally I had my best art exhibition yet, people bought 5/7 of my main pictures, 4 smaller pictures on my table and over 40 cards, plus so many people came up to me with lovely comments about my work which has given me lots more confidence as I’m still a relative newbie compared to the other immensely talented members!

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Just one of the many amazing pieces of art available at the exhibition, this one from fellow member Karen Bedford

3) And finally…..What have I learned?

  • That hard work, albeit tiring, pays off
  • That pulling together with people who really understand your vision, makes a huge difference
  • That I need to plan more in advance! (story of my life) – Things always take longer than you think
  • To not order paper bags in a rush and pay a big delivery charge to get quicker, when in-fact they are tiny and only useful for a small amount of my cards!
  • That promotion across platforms works – you need to tell people and then tell them some more so they are aware of what is happening – it builds momentum and you take them along in your excitement of what’s to come
  • To listen to your body and rest when it’s knackered (easier said than done, but I have booked in a spa session this week!)
  • To finish things off – record those sales, note what worked, plan the next stage – that’s what I’m up to this week.
  • Finally; To always be grateful for the support and opportunities, say Thank you, a lot, make sure people know how appreciated they are.

Hopefully you’ll find something that resonates with you in these tips, and I’d love to know what works for you. Writing this and having conversations with other creative friends has made me now want to set up a local accountability and achievements group…. Another idea to add to the list!

Have a great inspiring, celebratory week and hopefully next week I will have caught up and be on time!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

P.s The featured image is the starting of a painting of the church we got married in, 15 years ago today, now that’s an achievement to celebrate this week!!

When Life gets in the way of Creative Routine

Ok, the truth is this last week I’ve been feeling the pressure, with the children being off for two weeks over Easter and keeping them entertained and fed (seriously how can two children eat so much?), I feel like I’ve been pulled in all directions.

We’ve been to feed my friends lambs – by far my favourite part of the holidays, the skate park, swim camp and comps, had J’s belated birthday sleepover, a BBQ, friends round for lunch, quad-biking for the hubs’s birthday, filming for J, and also family Escape Room challenges – that seriously taxed our problem solving skills – to name but a few and I’ve spent way more time than I’m happy with in supermarkets!

On school holidays, we pack it in and make the most of the time off, so it’s partly self-inflicted but when you have a daughter who swims 6 days a week and misses out a lot in social terms, I always feel we need to stack up some fun memories, so that her childhood is not all about the pool and personal bests.

Added to this, I have actual deadlines, a bit of a rarity for me, other than the producing of this Blog on a Monday, and the kids logistical timings of the million activities they do, and of course my daily dog walks, the rest of the time I can manage flexibly to suit what my focus is that week, normally.

It would have all been fine, had our Art Group Exhibition been on the usual weekend in March, but no, it’s this coming weekend instead, so in-between the Easter holidays juggling and ridiculous amounts of washing (again how can two small people wear so many clothes?), I’ve been trying to cram in creative time to put together a collection.

Now, some things have worked out ok, the simple ideas always work out the best, don’t they? These I have been able to complete whilst on Swim duty with the daughter, the little birds have been particularly satisfying to do, albeit incredibly fiddly and I’ve gone a bit cross-eyed doing them! I do like their chirpy, colourful characters though, each with little unique differences, I think they work nicely as a mini-collection.

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With other pieces, some have worked out better than I thought would, others worse, because I hadn’t fully thought them through, was rushing and needed to get it all to the printers, but all in all I have a nice collection of new artwork to make into art cards for my sales table at least.

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The tulip pot is bugging me, the middle tulip’s falling petal on the left!

Then there’s the bigger pieces to actually display on an Exhibition Board; I’ve decided to focus on the ‘line and wash’ theme that I really like doing, mixing two older pieces with two new pieces. The first one I did at home, not rushing and I’m pretty happy with it, apart from a few little tweaks and corrections to the sky, it’s almost done.

It’s a house that is opposite us, owned by the famed local artist Susan Brown no less, I’m not sure what she would think of my efforts! It’s rare that you ever see her and I imagine her painting away in her studio, lost in her own world, I’d love to go and talk to her about her art but I’ve been told she keeps herself to herself so have never dared, she seems a bit of an enigma!

The house used to be a pub, called The Crown and sits boldly, slightly angular to the main road. It’s an impressive building and because of the way it’s positioned, often has interesting shadows cast across it from the building on the other side of the crossroads. I’ve always wanted to paint it and I’m pleased I’ve finally had a go, it’s great practice more than anything and the more interesting the building the greater the challenge.

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The second one, I did quickly at Art Club, a challenge we were given to paint an iconic Huddersfield building in a limited colour palette, so I chose one of the most iconic of all, Castle Hill, where as a child I went with school, climbing to the top of the tower and running down the ditches as fast as we could, collapsing in a heap at the bottom.

I really like in it’s unfinished state, and I’m worrying if I dabble with it, it may not work BUT I still have issues with the sky…..you’ll learn that skies and particularly clouds seem to be my nemesis, so I know I need to go back to it, it’s currently staring at me from the kitchen dresser, nagging me to do those tweaks. I will get to it this week, because ultimately I have that deadline to get all my work to the village hall by Saturday afternoon!

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Castle Hill always speaks ‘home’ to me

So, there’s the art stuff going on, the hubs is away for 3 days this week with work, que more logistical planning with the kids and I’ve also got another ‘Playing With Writing’ workshop on Wednesday that I need to prepare for!  But despite all this, and feeling a tad exhausted, it’s sometimes good to get a kick up the *ss to get stuff done, even if it does mean your energy levels slump a little.

And it’s surprising when that time can be – you don’t have to have a perfect 3-hour session in a studio or kitchen all laid out nicely, art can be done on your knee at a swimming gala, with felt tip pens spilling all over the floor, although you do get some odd looks.

You can find the time if you have to, and a deadline is looming, it’s just about using your time wisely and not sinking in to the overwhelm. Last week I had the bare-bones of a collection, now it’s done – as a wise man once said:

 ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’ – Nelson Mandela   

I’ve always loved that quote!

Take this blog post for example, I began it last night at 9.40pm, after a full day of swim gala duty and my niece’s 16th birthday meal. I was tired from a full-on day of energy-zapping heat, but as usually is the case – once I start writing these, it’s then difficult to stop and a challenge to get to bed!

However, although I find ways to get done what I need to do, I have to be careful, I’m more aware than ever as I get older of trying to listen to my body and rest when I need to (despite feeling about 25 in my head!). It’s a challenge to do this, especially if I’m in the zone, but it’s essential to make sure you stay fully fit and no totally exhausted, and once I hit the sheets, there’s no place I’d rather be – getting up again is another story, I’m definitely a night owl!

Also being on the introvert side of the scale, after years of wondering why I felt a little odd sometimes in large groups, and why I’d feel completely shattered after a full day of socialising, I’m now beginning, finally to set aside some quiet time after intense busy periods like this, to re-energise and feel human again.

It’s been quite a revelation actually to learn this about myself and it’s answered so many questions I’ve had growing up and given me the confidence to just accept that’s why I am like I am; why I crave those daily walks, just me and the dog, why ‘too noisy’ environments literally make me feel physically on edge, why reading a book in peace and quiet with a coffee is my idea of bliss and the more I learn about introversion, the more it fits and I don’t feel weird anymore.

Anyway, I’m digressing now but my main point of this Blog post (there is one I promise!) is to try not to feel overwhelmed if you’re nearing a deadline or life is getting in the way, it can be done, slowly, chipping away at whatever you need to do, until before you know it, you’ve finished and you can feel immensely proud of yourself!

Yes, the house may look like it’s been inhabited by a family of meerkats, destroying everything in their path, the fridge may be well and truly bare (Cheerios and milk is all you need in our house to survive!), and you know you’ll have to get to that at some point, but park it, mentally I mean, until you’ve accomplished what you want to achieve, the stuff you dream about.

The world won’t end if the house is a tip (My son’s just read this sentence and said ‘Exactly! so stop nagging us! Hahapractice what you preach Mum! ) BUT you would feel really disappointed if you didn’t give your passion it’s full attention, and get your talent out there. I’ve never met anyone whose passion is ‘house-work’ yet.

So, this week, the kids are back, peace, on a noise level and snack-consuming front, has resumed, as has the washing machine.

Day 1 has been quite productive, I walked the dog and took pictures of bluebells (my fave), all my pieces of art work are now at the printers, I delivered a birthday present and card to my friend’s daughter who also turns 16 today, I found the one, last-remaining meal in the fridge for tea (win!), got my son to drama class and finished this Blog post, albeit a little later than usual (always relish the wins I say). Have I completely got the house back in order? No. Does it really matter? No.

I’ve a busy week ahead but it’s all planned out in my journal, I’m beginning to feel some semblance of control again, and breathe….

Now all I need is to sell some of my pieces on Sunday, fingers-crossed – wish me luck!!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative 

P.s I’ve another amazing book to tell you about, found by my lovely local book shop Read in Holmfirth, called Collecting Conversations – 100 women sharing everyday thoughts by Sam Bunch.

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Read popped it on their Insta page and I knew instantly that I’d love it, the illustrations alone are gorgeous. I spent Saturday evening getting stuck in and so far it’s a moving tale about Sam’s experience of losing both her parents quite close together. After her mother’s death, she finds 30 year’s worth of daily diaries in the loft, simple short sentences that together sum up life as a whole.

Sam then has an idea to interview 100 women, of all ages and backgrounds, about all kinds of common life topics in memory of her Mum; it’s an incredible insight into normal life, and I know I’m going to find it fascinating and also useful as a writer, for examples of different dialogue. Here’s a link to Sam’s Insta if you want to find out more and I will of course be adding this to The Curious Cave section soon!

Creative Country Walks; How to get the kids more interested

Creative outdoor activities with the kids this Easter

Hi everyone, hope you’re all enjoying the Easter holidays! It’s the second week of the school holidays now in the UK and thankfully the weather has been unusually good to us so far but as the cost of keeping the kids entertained rises and the fact that it is a two-week holiday, why not mix in some ‘free’ creative activities too.

Longer Spring days are an ideal opportunity to get out and about for a country walk and whilst you may get some initial ‘groans’, especially if you have teenage kids, there are ways to make it more enticing.

Firstly, the slight bribery of an ice-cream or some of that Easter Egg at the end will always help! But here are some other ways to make the whole process of getting them out for a walk more interesting and fun for those with little legs!

Here are my top tips.

For the really little ones, Age 8 and under:

  • Get them to carry a small basket or bucket and either give the a list of things to look out for to collect, or let them decide themselves, making it into a treasure hunt where they can use the items later, for example, a fern leaf, unusual pebbles in a stream, a feather, acorns, a dandelion clock, an interesting stick, pine cones, etc
  • Encourage them to smell flowers and describe to you what they smell like.
  • Are there lambs or cows in a field, birds tweeting in the trees? How many are there, ask them to count them and once they return home, make a pie chart with pictures  to record what they saw.
  • If you’re in a wood, stop for a moment and look up, what do you see? The tree branches swaying? Clouds gathering, squirrels jumping between the branches, a bird singing very loudly? What type is it? Can you spot a birds nest?

 

There’s so much to see out there at the moment, up high, on the woodland floor and out in the fields too, and you can’t beat some lamb spotting for little ones!

All the suggestions above are about children (and you) using your senses fully and therefore making it a more mindful experience, and to take your time, the slower you are, the more you’ll see!

When you get home, you can then use the items collected in lots of creative ways, for example;

  • Set them out in a display on the table, let them change it around until they are happy with it. Let them take a photo of the display.
  • Now, they could either use the items in an artistic way, such as a painting, or drawing which creates a great memory of the day for them to put up I their room or kitchen or,
  • They could use some of the words they’ve used to describe the items and create a poem or description or
  • Even better, combine the two, a piece of art with the writing underneath
  • They could also keep their items in a display bowl in their bedrooms, a treasured collection to keep going back to and a lovely memory of the day.

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Colourful leaf displays always look really good and easy for little fingers to create

Another great game to play for little ones in the woods is spotting characters faces and shapes in trees or bankings. For example, we have ones that I call ‘Eyes of the woods!’  ‘Screaming pig face’, ‘Monster foot’ and ‘Baby elephant’, see below!

Spot the characters and then encourage them to make up stories about them, and then add in creatures too like squirrels, badgers, an army of ants, blue jays and robins – children can really let their imagination run wild and make up some brilliantly creative stories .

For the older ones…

I’d say it’s always worth going somewhere where older ones and teenagers can explore more physically, such as climbing trees, or making their way across a river; older children like to be more daring!

And whilst I’d normally say leave the phones at home – there are ways you can use them creatively on walks too, such as setting them a photography challenge or using them for geo -caching (basically modern-day orienteering, search for the apps).

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Here are some other ideas;

  • Big kids still like to be like little kids sometimes, it’s just about re-phrasing it to sound cool! For example, you could change ‘Hide and Seek’ into a ‘Hunger Games’ challenge instead! Just have a clear finishing time and meeting place or you may never see them again! A little freedom is great for older kids and it does them good to explore on their own, providing it’s a safe place that you know well of course.
  • Challenge them to take abstract pictures of walls or old buildings whilst you’re out, they can either blow these up as printed paper images to work on, or copy the patterns by drawing them out – the idea being that they use these then as a back drop for some graffiti images (google for ideas of designs ). They can then paint their designs paint over the top – (tip – rather than buy messy spray paint, you can actually by felt-tip style brushes, that give a painted effect with less mess!).
  • If you have children that are already into art, to give them a new challenge, pick up ‘natural’ objects to paint with as something different that creates unique textures it’s a really fun way to paint! For example, collect teasels, grasses, feathers, leaves and bark to make prints from or literally use as a paint brush to make different marks, Pippa Ashworth is a great artist who uses these techniques, to create an individual style in her paintings.
  • Finally, if all else fails, rope swings, den building and climbing trees always works a treat, providing they don’t get stuck!

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This is the stuff of childhood dreams I think, it’s so good for them to get out and play creatively in nature and good for your soul and sanity too.   

And finally, don’t forget the beach!…

If you are lucky enough to get to the coast this holiday, here are some other creative ways to play on the Sand, see photos below provided by my friend Clair from @asocialnature. You can basically use the beach like a giant canvas!

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Mermaid tales and pebble towers, there are always great creative materials to be found on the beach!

I hope this has given you a few new creative ideas to make getting outside with the kids more fun, and less hard work for you parents, grandparents and carers, with the added bonus of when you get home, you’ll have had some fresh air and calming scenery, they will have hopefully burned off some energy, and you might just get half an hours peace and a well-earned cuppa and cake!

Please do let me know in the comments if you try any of these suggestions, and let me know how you get on!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative

P.S I have just 2 places left on my next Playing with Writing workshop if you live close to Huddersfield and would like a fun-filled, creative evening out, on Wednesday 1st May, click here for further information.

Why Curiosity is key for me…

Hello and Happy Easter to you all, I thought it might now be the time to introduce myself a bit more, now that I’m further along this blogging road and explain how The Curious Creative Club all came about.

So, this is me, when I’m a bit more dressed up , a rare kid-free trip to Wimbledon no less! However, 80% of the year I’m wrapped up in many layers and a bright bobble hat, out every day walking my crazy Cockapoo, Barley! I live in a beautiful ‘out in the sticks’ West Yorkshire village on the outskirts of Huddersfield with my Husband and two children, my 3rd child Barley, 2 cats – Bluebell and Jasmine, 2 fish (only ones left!) and a shrimp called Burt, who takes his ‘cleaning the tank’ job very seriously.

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My crazy family, love em!

Just 3 years ago my life was very different, working part-time for a large financial provider as a Campaign Manager in Marketing, where I’d worked for 11 and a half years. The job suited our circumstances at the time, but I was invariably stressed from trying to cram a full-time job into part-time hours and feeling like I wasn’t ever doing enough. I’d then come home, attempt to switch hats to ‘mum-mode’ and feel exhausted from it all.

As the kids were growing up, they both had big commitments too, one following her passion, swimming for her local club, and training 6 days a week in the National Performance Squad, the other following his acting dream with various classes, auditions and casting jobs; it was getting increasingly impossible to deliver everybody where they needed to be! My husband was also starting to work more and more away in London, so on a family holiday the decision was finally made, something had to give!

I left in May 2016 and was sad to leave my work family, many of which had been with me through major stages of my life but the truth was I no longer enjoyed my job. Financial services is so highly regulated, there is little room for creativity.

This was my chance too for me to follow my long-held dream, to become an Author, cliche I know, but it had been something I’d wanted to do since childhood, see Writing for more on this! The slight issue was, we also decided to get a puppy that Summer, little did I know how much time of the day she’d take up!

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However, she did open up another creative avenue, walking with her in all weathers, I rediscovered my love of nature and started to document the seasons, taking pictures and setting up my @soothedbynature Instagram account, see Photography.

I began to really love the daily routine of this little dose of creativity, searching for something new to show my followers, it made the process of my walk more mindful somehow and I’d come back feeling refreshed, chilled and felt fitter too!

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My favourite time of the year, when the bluebells are out in the woods!

It was a strange thing but after leaving work, creative opportunities kept coming up left, right and centre, it was like they were seeking me out as a reward for feeling stifled all those years!

Next came Art. Now, I’d always loved art at school and still liked doodling but never thought of myself as an artist by any means. By chance, a friend invited me to come along to her local art club, just five minutes down the road from me, I never even knew it existed!

Nervously, I went along and despite feeling hugely intimidated by the raft of talent amongst the members, I’ve slowly improved by learning from them and the various experts that come along to demonstrate, I now no longer cringe at my results! See Art for the full story of my artistic journey, but the upshot? I now sell my Art cards at a local florists and see it as another string to my creative bow, which just shows what you can do if you are willing to try and learn.

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I still love a good little doodle though, it doesn’t all have to be perfect!

What I began to realise after leaving work, was that I no longer had to focus on just one thing, despite my Mum, family and various others telling me I needed to focus on one thing at a time, on a daily basis!

I finally have the confidence to say No, that way just doesn’t work for me. I think so many people are still stuck on the view that in order to be successful you need to have a single ‘focus’, It has taken me years to finally not feel guilty about not following a set path and no longer feel the need to constantly explain myself, this is me, like it or lump it!

Yes, of course I want to finish the book, and that is my biggest source of procrastination in all my creative endeavours, mainly because it’s just blumming hard and I have a rubbish memory for what I’ve already written!

But also, I need a wide variety of projects to keep me interested, motivated and inspired! By having a portfolio of creative projects, I meet and mix with new people, I work to how I feel creatively that day and quite frankly since realising this, I am so much happier and have lifted that massive pressure I (and others) were putting on me.

As I was getting more and more into different things, more ideas would spring up, to the point that I got to the stage where I was dreaming ideas and they were waking me up! Great for the creative process, not so great for the eye-bags!

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For more on light-bulb moments and how Elizabeth Gilbert interprets where ideas come from, read Big Magic, it’s a truly amazing book!

It was one of those ‘light-bulb’ moments last year when I had the idea for this website, a way in which to tie all my interests together and also help other people – something I’ve done in various ways throughout my career, working for a charity, in community project work, and also just in life in general – I’m always the one trying to help those less fortunate than myself or coming up with solutions for friends, it’s inbuilt, part of my Mediator* personality type I think!

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I also always knew that life is too short and we don’t get another opportunity to live our best life, something that became all too clear when a close friend died suddenly a couple of years ago; a man who was fighting fit, full of life and lived it to the max with his wife, yet became suddenly ill with an inoperable brain tumour at Christmas; he died just 2 months later. To me it’s such an injustice when that happens to someone who does actually make the most of life, and it made me even more determined to live mine to the full too, because you just really never know when your number is up.

So, my idea for The Curious Creative Club was born, and I continued to work on my 3 creative passions whilst also encouraging other people to live a more creative existence, knowing that by doing so, it would enrich their lives and open them up to a whole new social community – another ingredient, essential to happiness in a world where we have less and less face to face interaction.

Originally I wanted it to just be The Curious Creative, but that name was taken and actually calling it a Club is more beneficial to the ethos of what I wanted to do, it makes us feel like we are all in this together, learning and sharing from each other.

Through setting this venture up, I’ve made some great new friends and connections too, not least Miriam Leece who owns a local eatery called Miriam’s Kitchen Table. She’s incredibly creative too and we soon got chatting about ideas. Miriam really wants her cafe to become a community hub, somewhere to gather and become an important part of local life.

We decided that I would put together a writing workshop and run it at her lovely place, and so far it’s been a great success, people have loved it and I’ve got just as much out of it as them, seeing how people interpret challenges differently and then come up with some great stories, writing very creatively which they sometimes didn’t believe was possible.

It’s been such a rewarding part of this whole vision I have for The CCC, seeing people literally light up, just from having a few hours to themselves and a chance to indulge in a creative experience, it’s definitely an area I want to grow.

As well as the worskshops and setting up the website, I also wanted to Blog weekly, and I am absolutely loving it! When I was starting out in my career after Uni where I completed a BA Hons degree in Public Relations and Language Studies, the one thing I really wanted to do was write for a magazine and I spent a month doing work experience at IPC magazines in London. It was an amazing experience, I loved it, but I just didn’t have the funds to move and make a life in London, so I ended up working for a local charity instead.

The beauty of writing this Blog, is that it’s like I’ve returned to that initial desire and created my own mini-magazine, which essentially is what Blogs are but with the added bonus that there is no Editor to convince that you’re idea is a goer, it’s all entirely up to you!

Of course, not everyone will love your work, but hopefully the people interested in the topic you are presenting to them, will start to like and follow along. You are creating your own unique audience, of people who ‘get’ your subject and want to learn and talk about it, and that feels very special.

If you’ve read one of my past posts ‘Reset to Reflect’ you’ll know I have big plans for The Curious Creative Club and 3 and a half months in, I’m really happy with how it is going so far.

I’m still learning the technological things (so please bear with me as that is most definitely not my forte!) and I’m surprising myself with just how much I have to say on the glorious subject of creativity, but I just think it is so important in this world that is engulfed by technology (but let’s be fair it has it’s benefits, bringing you this Blog for one!) that we still know how to play, use our hands, communicate with people and look after ourselves in a way that doesn’t involve tapping on screens.

I really hope that my posts are resonating with you and that now you know even more about me, you understand the vision I have for the Club and hope you will join in the conversation.

I also want to continue to bring other resources to help you with your creative journey, which you can always access in The Curious Cave – there is so much great inspiration and support out there, which continually inspires me too and below is one of the greats, Stephen Hawkins, whose curious personality made sure he always asked important questions.

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So, this is me, still learning, still got a long way to go, but that is what being endlessly curious is all about, you’re always moving forward, discovering new things, new ideas and new ways of fulfilling your dreams and so long as my curiosity never wanes, I know I’ll be content and I don’t think there’s any danger of that happening any time soon!

Next week, I think I’ll be talking about ‘Fractals’ – a new curious word I’ve discovered that has a big impact on my creative projects….and is slightly addictive!

Until next time,

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps Since I am a technically lacking, I’ve only recently realised the comment box below wasn’t switched on, it now works (Yeah!) so please do leave your comments so I know I’m heading in the right direction with my posts and please also suggest any ideas you have of creative topics you’d like me to delve into more – I love a challenge! Thank you.

PPs As I said above, I’m classed as a ‘Mediator’ personality type which is part of the Myers Briggs 16 personality free test, If you’ve never done this before, it’s really fun, I found it an absolute revelation as it was my personality to a tee!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Underneath fear lies great opportunities

The last four weeks of Blog posts, where I’ve probed deep into the psyche of our local creatives, have been truly fascinating and inspiring and it has just made me even more determined to encourage people to try living a more creative life, because I know first-hand, and now from lots of other people’s experiences, the huge well-being and self-worth benefits it can bring.

But that also comes with a responsibility to really try and get under the skin of what holds people back, and it’s all about looking at the positives and the negatives, similar to the light in the picture above (which I learned all about last week…more on this later!)

What I learned from the interviews I did, was that there were a couple of common themes that came through:

  • All were brave enough to ‘give it a go’ without any knowledge of how it would work out
  • All experienced a mixture of fear and self-doubt along the way
  • They didn’t let that stop them from pursuing their creative dreams

And it’s that last quality that I really want to dig into deeper to find out what is stopping you giving it a go and turning that around.

These qualities also applied to the creative writing workshop I delivered this week, where I had four lovely ladies attending. Each had a different wish-list re their writing and what they wanted to achieve from the workshop, but a really common theme was that they felt they just couldn’t write ‘creatively’.

This was mainly because they were used to writing in a very formal or factual way via their careers, a legal secretary, an architect and a HR Director. The other lady, a free-lance Social Media Manager did get the opportunity to write creatively, but only for her clients, not herself.

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What this really boils down to is some niggling personal fears, by saying that they didn’t feel they could do it, it sets out that stall of protection and that feeling of ‘Please don’t expect too much of me.’

Of course, I gladly, and gently proved all these ladies wrong, by setting the small boundaries of a task to give them some direction, rather than a scary, overwhelming blank page and saying off you go, and they were all soon squirrelling away, writing furiously and concentrating hard, whilst also laughing at some surprising directions their creatively starved brains were taking them!

It sounds easy, and to be honest in some ways it is, but if you look at the endless list of mind chatter that may be building up and holding you back, it becomes a giant brick wall that soon confirms to you;

‘Don’t be so ridiculous, you can’t do this!’

Here are some examples in the table below, with some suggestions at to what you can do to squash your negative fiend and move forward!

The Fear Fiend – what the voice is saying Flipping Fear on it’s head
Mr Grumpy or Mrs Petulant Art, English, Craft teacher said you will never become an artist/ author/ designer so don’t waste your life trying, it’s just not your path, sorry (if you were lucky!). It could be 5,10,30 years since you’ve left school, so why are you still listening to a voice from the past who has no clue who you are as a human being these days?

 

However, their negativity can be quite galvanising – go and bloody show them!

I’m the elder sister, brother in the family, I’m expected to be sensible, I need to pick a sensible, and valuable (in terms of money) career that my siblings will look up to and my parents will be proud of.

 

Other interests will just stop me being focused on my work / looking after my family/ keeping the house clean.

Position in the family can have a really big impact on directions you choose from a very young age.

 

This may take some re-education with your family as to what you feel is valuable in your life and you should be allowed to make your own decisions.

 

Or probably the more truthful angle, may be to accept that your family may never ‘get it’ and that’s ok so long as you don’t let it effect / spoil the joy of what you want to do. Everyone is different and you may have to just accept that it’s not for them, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be for you!

 

Similarly, the role you play in your social circle for example – My friends expect me to be out every weekend or doing social activities with them, they won’t understand if I want to spend my free time on creative interests. Depending on your role within your group, friends may find it difficult to accept your new direction, they could prefer it to all stay the same and as a result you to continue to feel dissatisfied.

 

There are two ways here – you can either take them on the adventure with you (if they are willing, eg go to workshops together etc, a different way of spending time together) or you may have to accept that you need to find some new friendship groups to explore a direction in creativity (a writing group for example) and generate support and that feeling of community elsewhere (which we all need as creatives often working on our own).

I was brave and had a go, but I’m so untalented it was embarrassing, why am I even bothering, I’ll never be any good? This is easy, why on earth are you being so hard on yourself?

If your 6-year-old son came home with a mediocre picture, would you tell him to never, ever draw again? No of course not!

So why are you expecting to be Picasso or JK Rowling from the first try?

It takes practice, practice and more practice to even start to feel comfortable and happy with what you produce, but you have to TRUST the process, each time you give it a go, you learn, from mistakes, from parts you like, treat it like you are in training and enjoy those little wins and improvements and learn to laugh at those initial mistakes, it’s meant to be fun remember?

I don’t have time to do this, I’ve so much on looking after everyone else, working, etc etc Ok no 1, you deserve to have time to yourself, Self -care isn’t being selfish, you’re not saying ‘Me, first, you’re just saying, Me aswell’ as the great Suzy Reading says in her brilliant book on this, ‘The Self-care Revolution.’

No 2. Time is all about priorities, of course there’s never enough time in the day which is why you either have to ask for a little help, or schedule the time in, if it’s important enough to you, you WILL find the time and the best bit? You’ll come back to all the other stuff in a much better and more capable frame of mind.

I’d really like to try something but feel overwhelmed by it all, I really don’t know where to even begin? For me, mind-mapping works wonders, write how you want to feel in the centre of the page and then write around the edge all your ideas, as many as possible, then on an inner circle write which ones you’d like to research first and schedule time in to do that.

In order to get going you need to feel excited by what you want to do, so you need to find out more and pin down where that ‘buzzy’ feeling lies. Breaking down the steps makes it feel more manageable and less overwhelming.

I don’t really want to start on my own, but I’m too scared to walk into a room with a bunch of people I don’t even know? Firstly I’d say try and find out about groups from people you know that you can go along with to give you that added bit of support. If that’s not available to you, I’d suggest emailing the group leader and explain that you’re nervous.

 

I’ve yet to find a group that hasn’t welcomed me with open arms but just having someone else there, especially the leader who will more than likely pair you up with someone else, just means that you’ll have someone on your side from the get-go who understands how you are feeling. And the main point to remember is that everyone will have felt exactly the same way when they started.

Now, just to prove before you think otherwise, I am not completely fear-less.

Last week I faced a technological fear, I’m not the best when it comes to buttons and dials and I tend to just press anything with disastrous consquences but I really wanted to learn how to use my DSLR Camera that’s been hiding in the drawers for years because, you guessed it, I pressed a few wrong buttons and my photos suddenly looked very weird!

I found the Sarah Mason photography retreat, not far from lovely Hebden Bridge and asked for it for my birthday, husband duly obliged (win win in his book!).

But just to prove the fear can attack at any time, I downloaded the manual (which we’d lost!) the night before in true last-minute prep style and instantly panicked, it was 200 pages long for goodness sake! I sent a stressed email to Sarah and her reply was music to me ears, ‘It’s fine, we’ll figure it out, just get here and relax!’

Yes please, I’ll take that after 2 weeks with no hot water (if you’ve not seen my stories on Insta you may not know the pain this has caused me!).

So, I arrived after rushing around getting the kids to school, dog quickly walked and  following some teeny, tiny roads via Sat Nav, extremely ready to relax!

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To say the venue was awesome was an understatement! Added to this Suzi, Sarah’s wife was busily cooking breakfast pastries whilst Sarah welcomed us and talked us through the day, I melted into the surroundings, taking in the amazing view from the huge windows overlooking the valley below, and munching on croissants – all thoughts of nightmare plumbers banished!

The upshot? I loved it!! Some bits were challenging, the group of four retreatees bonded over fiddling and balancing and asking never-ending questions, but once we got the basics, thanks to Sarah’s calm persona and patience, we all were eager to get down to our mini-challenges, and express our creativity.

It was such a lovely group and the food delicious; I’d highly recommend Sarah’s retreats any day and it’s given me a renewed vigour for my photography passion, I’ve even been passing on what I learned to Jake, and he’s loving it too.

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So, yes it can be scary, especially if it’s your kind of nemesis, (ie technology for me!) but the benefits far out-weigh that initial anxiety and to me the biggest fear of all in life, will ALWAYS be……REGRET!

So now I ask you, what are you waiting for? I KNOW you can do it.

I’d love to hear if any of this has been helpful for you, and what creative activities you are planning to try, please pop your thoughts in the comments below.

Thank you and until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

P.s you’ll start to see more DSLR photography from me, once I’ve bought the cable, that enables me to upload the photos…..which of course we’ve lost! Wires are also my kryptonite!