Madness, Musings and creating a Magical Christmas

Hi everyone, how are you doing? I’m sure you may be wondering where I’ve been the past few weeks, this is the longest break I’ve actually had since starting the Blog in January 2019, and it’s been weird, but at the same time I really needed it, because the s*** really hit the fan, which I didn’t think was possible, given the year we’ve had already, but yup someone decided they needed to raise the game for us!

This one gave us a fright!

So, without going into too much detail, the dog got really ill, with sepsis and was in vet hospital for 5 days, during the half term holidays. Anyone who knows me, knows the dog is like my 3rd child so it was incredibly stressful. To keep busy we did some major decluttering and cooking, just to keep busy in-between regular vet updates!

We’d just got her home and then the following weekend, my Step-dad got symptoms and tested positive for Covid, he gradually got more and more ill, and then went into hospital, has been seriously ill, but finally turned a corner earlier this week and yesterday came home. My Mum also got it, but thankfully, she had it mild, phew.

So as you can imagine it’s been a scary time, all that coupled with a bit of extra treatment for me, has filled my time and head-space and I completely lost my mojo for a while, but I can feel it slowly returning…thank goodness for that!

So, today I want to talk to you about a few things really as I’ve been pondering several elements of creativity and direction in this pretty stressful time, and listening to several great podcasts, that have got me thinking.

Is a tight, specific style important?

Firstly, I listened to one of our lovely WOW Members Yvonne Robinson from @_lovetodesign_ , who was interviewed by Emma Isaacs for her Creative Ways’ podcast. Also, on the podcast was Richard Tillotson from @mungoandshoddy and so the interviews were split over 2 episodes – double the wisdom for me to consume hurrah!

All 3 artists used to work for Tiger Print, years ago that is now part of Hallmark and it was really interesting listening to their individual journeys and similar experiences. They also talked a lot about their own personal artistic style and this got me thinking as they are all successful in what they do, so is this a key element of success – developing a specific style of art that is easily recognised and identifiable to them?  

I wondered this because I really don’t have a specific artistic style yet and could this be something that may hold me back?  Are customers accepting of an artist who is still at the experimental stage, or does it dilute who my typical customer may be? Is my audience too wide or am I overthinking it and its all fine? I don’t know the answer, so I’d be interested in your thoughts!

Plus, if you throw in the fact that I don’t really include any sentiment or words into my cards apart from the odd few, does that also narrow the appeal? Yvonne said that she felt it was the image that draws people to the card, but it’s the sentiment that connects with the customer and encourages them to purchase.

I do think there is a lot in this and this is where their experience and training comes in, which is way more than mine in terms of art at least, and I do want to combine my images with words – especially as you know I love words and am a writer at heart. For me it’s simply not knowing how to use ‘In design’ packages to combine these, but I have started using Canva Pro to have a go at this, which has helped me create some new Wellbeing Wisdom postcards, which was such fun to do, so my plan is to experiment more, and add more words to some designs (I’ll show you soon as would love to know what you think).

I suppose what I do do, is try to create little collections of different styles, based on either subject or the medium I’ve used. And this lends itself to my curious nature that is still very much learning at this point. It keeps me interested, inspired to improve and to try new things without the fear of failure and just play around with new materials. Some work, some don’t and that’s ok, I learn with each experiment.

Do we need to take more breaks from Social Media?

This is another thing I’ve been querying this week, based on both the experience of not having the mental energy for it over the past few weeks with everything going on, and also listening to Ruth Poundwhite’s ‘Creatively Human’ podcast interview with @helenredfernwriter who talked about re-focussing her energy back to her writing and making that the primary focus rather than social media, particularly Instagram, as it was beginning to take over. She’s now created strategies that work to avoid this happening again.

I have to say I’ve been feeling this too, but I think it’s been made more apparent because my time has been squeezed by 2-3hrs a day and so less and less time to get done what I wanted to. Plus, my Instagram is something I’ve been putting a lot of effort into, in a bid to get to the golden 1k followers.

This isn’t a large figure I know, but I made it my target a while ago and have made good progress recently but as everyone does, I get frustrated by the follow – unfollow game that some people play. So, I think it’s partly a bit of apathy with it all too.

That’s not to say I’ll be coming off completely, but I am going to schedule some days off, and slow down the input a little, and take heed of Helen’s advice.

Helen’s work on her website is also really interesting, she has lots of avenues where she expels her knowledge on all aspects of writing, including many struggles which is so refreshing to see, rather than just the shiny experiences of ‘Look at me I wrote a book in 3 months in lockdown!’- that just makes any potential novelist / author feel rubbish.

Knowing there are people out there that face the same challenges as us, who are happy to share, really helps, and fills you with that writing community spirit, that we’re all in this together.

My letter this month in Writing Magazine

Also driving this is getting back to the heart of what I do, and that is writing, so it was important for me to get back in the saddle, and write this.  I also re-joined my writing class on zoom last night which felt good, and a letter I wrote to Writing Magazine was published in this month’s edition, in which I talk about the none-fiction book I’m writing – which makes me feel more accountability to crack on with it!

And then there’s Christmas…

I’m not going to lie, this month so far, plus the on / off news about whether we will be in or out of lockdown, has not instilled me with anticipation of Christmas joy.

I’ve been snapping some pictures of holly to get me in the Christmas spirit!

No, it has taken things finally getting better and having to prepare for my next @psychologiesmagazine Insta Live (coming up Monday 23rd November) to kick me into some festive action! It’s not so much the festivities, but more the knowledge of the time it’s going to steal from my work, when I’ve just lost 3 weeks and feel like I’m playing catch up. 

I realise this sounds very bar-humbug and of course there are lots of things I love about it: decorating the tree and the house with as much light and colour as possible, usually creating new xmas designs for my cards (although not this year), drinking mulled wine and amaretto on ice, eating copious slices of Christmas cake (My mum bakes me one every year and I’m the only one who likes it – result!) with wensleydale cheese, after-eights and matchmakers!, the tradition of me giving the kids Xmas pyjamas the night before, big woolly jumpers and slippers, usually sparkly on Christmas day, the kids demanding that we play monopoly, the fire on whilst the wind whistles outside, the dog going nuts with all the Christmas wrapping, and watching my absolute favourite Xmas movie – The Holiday, are just a few of my highlights.

I’m looking forward to researching some
Christmas ideas , this star is gorgeous!

I also find the run up to Xmas a period of reflection, and this year for us and for many it’s felt like 10 years of dramatic events rolled into one and it’s a lot to take in. This year my Uncle won’t be here and I know that will hit our family hard, he was such a jolly character, and loved being around all his family at Christmas time.

But it’s also really important to reflect on what we have all come through, some really huge things, as well as the successes creative-project-wise that I need to acknowledge and be thankful for – make that all important list of what we’ve achieved, because it helps to shape the next plans and direction for 2021. I’ll be doing some more of this in a post in the run up towards the end of the year.

So, this weekend will be Christmas research, to inspire myself, and the listeners of the live on Monday. I want it to be a fun and uplifting experience because who knows what the government will decide next week, so we need all the enthusiasm and creativity we can muster to make this Christmas as magical as possible.

You never know, using our creative skills and thinking outside the box may just make this a unique and special Christmas. It will certainly be one we won’t forget in a hurry that’s for sure and I know that this year we’ll all appreciate our loved ones a little bit more.

As we get into this extra busy period, and I want to re-commit to the book / books (there’s still the never-ending novel too!) I’m going to space out my long blog posts to every 2 weeks and then I’ll pop in in-between with updates like the link to the Live and recommendations of things I’ve been listening to or reading which I hope you will find as useful and inspirational as I do.

So I hope your preparations for Christmas have begun and that you’re not feeling the pressure too much, this year we need to just chill I think, make some good memories with our families and add in some big doses of self-care, we deserve it after surviving 2020!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps main image taken from one I created in Canva for my wellbeing range and apt for World kindness day last week!

Trusting the creative energy cycle – action to take in the moments you are stuck

Hi everyone, how are you doing?

It’s been a busy week at this end and a slightly late Blog Post due to an accident last night, my daughter dropped a glass on the floor and a piece bounced into her big toe, sliced her nail in half and cut the end of her toe! So, trip to A&E and a large comical bandage on for a week but she’s fine, just a little shocked at the time!

This last week I’ve been heeding my own advice given in my last post with lots of walks catching up with friends, as a family we are making yummy autumnal dishes and I’m really getting my creative game on. As I said last time, there is something very special about this Season that makes you want to get fully involved and enjoy all it has to offer.

It seemed only right, given all this natural inspiration and energy coming in droves, that this is what I should talk about during my @psychologiesmagazine live yesterday. It was my 9th ‘Gain Creative Confidence’ session and I really enjoy chatting to the magazine’s readers about all things creative, much like I do here really.

The cosy jumpers are out in full force!
Another reason why I love Autumn!

Recently I’ve added all the links to these sessions on to my website, so if you ever want an extra boost of creativity with some challenges too, head on over there and watch the half-hour sessions and you’ll find yesterday’s session here.

My excitement for Autumn got me thinking about how my creative energy really ebbs and flows and it’s only now, now that I’ve been doing this a good few years, that I finally trust in this natural internal process, rather than trying to force it to happen. Nothing challenges the creative mind more than staring at a blank piece of paper when you are just not feeling it and getting increasingly frustrated and mad at yourself.

In a way I’m lucky I realise in that I regularly have several different kinds of creative projects on the go, that all require different elements of process. So, that means if the artistic ideas aren’t flowing, maybe doing some research for a writing project, or getting clear on the next 3-month’s plan for my Art cards is the more appropriate thing to do.

It’s easy to slip into self-destruction mode, get annoyed and think right I’m not going to do anything creative then, and occasionally stomp off in a huff, when actually there are many micro-steps that could be taken, that will still make you feel like you are moving forwards – and that’s the key to not feeling stuck and completely exasperated.

Plus, whilst some of these tasks may feel uninspiring or even boring, this is a key part of the process too, because it is often when we feel bored, that the brain recognises this and takes action, and you’ll suddenly find an idea pops into your head when you least expect it, and hey presto, the ideas part of the journey begins again.

So, today I’m going to talk about some other parts of the process that are essential when working creatively, that you may not realise, but can absolutely make you feel like you are moving forwards, before the ‘making of the thing’ part, if you see what I mean.

What I want you to recognise is that there is real value in this, and that it is not wasted time or energy, even if it feels a little uncomfortable / annoying at the time, it all helps to build up to the bigger picture.

Whether you are right at the beginning of your creative journey and have no idea where to start or feeling stuck in the middle of one, these tips will all help to get you moving again.

Research & Prompts

If the work you are doing is visual, but you don’t know exactly where to start, play about with colours and textures, or different materials and tools to find out your preferences, what did you really enjoy, what did you really not? For example, I really don’t like the feel of pastels or charcoal, so prefer not to use these. Eliminating what you don’t like can help you focus in on the creative work you are drawn to and want to continue.

It’s hard to work from just your own mind, especially at the beginning, so another tip is to look at what others do and either work your own spin on it, or discover current trends (especially if you are wanting to sell your products). An ideal place to look is Pinterest, where so many artists pin their work and lots of demos too, so it’s a great place to start if you are still learning. Just search something that you are interested in, for example ‘Leaf Art’ and research away…

For projects like photography, it’s a case of pinpointing a subject that you are passionate about, getting really curious about it and exploring its many facets.

Also, think about the places you find yourself in, especially if you are busy and don’t have time to go to somewhere specially. What images could you take in these places? What kind of style / mood interests you? Where could you share your work? You don’t necessarily need a fancy camera; it’s about creating an approach that it is recognisably you with your content and images and you can be really quirky and individual with it.

In terms of writing, I recommend seeking out prompts if you are well and truly stuck. Often all we need is a little direction to get going, and it could set us off on a course we’d never even thought of before.

Writing Magazine offer such prompts regularly over on their Writer’s Online site and again Pinterest also hold this kind of inspiration so worth a look there too. Another option is to join a writing class, many of which have gone online at the moment, like the one I belong to.

What I love about this is you’ve really no idea what will come up and what you will be set to work on, so it truly is a creative challenge. Often the work you start in class can lead to a bigger writing project in your own time, and you get to learn from your fellow classmates too.

Planning

Get serious, and realistic about how much time you have to commit to creative projects, planning this properly avoids frustration and resentment down the line, and by scheduling it in, encourages you to really value it, especially if that time isn’t a huge amount.

You want to make the best of that time and planning it in gives you something to look forward to in your week. If it’s in your diary, it’s far more likely to happen rather than getting shoved down to the bottom of your never-ending list.

It might even be that you need to do some long-term planning if you want to change what you are doing. Ask yourself what projects really fill you with joy? What direction would you go in if you had no constraints? Do I need to earn money from what I’m doing? What is the big dream and what steps, and plans can I put in place to get closer to it?

Ruth Poundwhite, a coach who specialises in working with creative and introverted clients often suggests having a ‘business meeting’ with yourself, so that you work on the bigger picture of what you are doing rather than just ‘in’ it. It’s great advice and can really help you reflect on what you’ve already achieved and then clarify the direction you want to go in.

And if this brings up dreams of wanting to turn your skills into an actual business then the next step is really important and in some cases more important than anything else as it directs everything that you then do, providing a set of guidelines to stop indecision and make everything a whole lot easier!

Values, Ethos, Mission Statements

I could write a whole book on this subject as it’s my background when I worked in corporate land but essentially, it’s about getting crystal clear on:

>what you want to do

>why you want to do it (what is driving you?)

>who you are as a personal brand (because creative work is the epitome of ‘personal’ work – putting your heart and soul on that piece of paper, therefore you are creating a personal brand too)

>What are your key values and how does that link in harmony to what you do?  

> How you want to get all those messages across to the outside world.

This requires some big honest questions of yourself and it can take time to figure this all out, so the other piece of advice may seem contradictory BUT if this doesn’t come easy to you then JUST START anyway, and there is no doubt that later down the line, when you are putting yourself out there, creating connections and learning at the rate of knots, the answers will come to you and you’ll slowly but surely piece together all this important stuff.

And even if you don’t fully get there, this is when you then access the wealth of online support/ workshops / courses out there to help you. This area has grown so much in lock-down and is so much easier to access, even on a tight budget with many courses being free.

As the great Nicola Rae Wickham of @alifemoreinspired (and another Coach who’s Root and Rise membership I’m part of) says all the time ‘Imperfection for the win’, which basically means that showing up imperfectly is better than not at all because the World needs and wants what you are offering, you just don’t know it yet!

Nicola also says ‘Clarity loves action’ which I absolutely love and is so true, to get that much-desired clarity, you need to act!

Ask yourself questions, practice, experiment, make mistakes, learn, it all counts to moving forwards, don’t wait until everything is perfectly in place because the honest truth is it never will be, fully.

Yes, it takes some courage, and possibly a step out of your comfort zone, especially if you are a perfectionist, but that courage will boost your confidence and will feel amazing that you are choosing to do something rather than stagnating.

So, my point is, all the above steps are important to the whole picture, especially if you are wanting to move up a level and make a small business out of your creativity.

There are more elements of course and I may talk about marketing in my next post, as there is a lot to cover on that topic alone, but getting these fundamentals in place all helps hugely as to how you then talk to potential customers about yourself and your products. Because you are starting on a much surer footing that has been thought out and questioned, you’ve put in the important preparation work.

And by still taking some small steps, they soon add up and you can be proud that you’re heading in the right direction, and not stuck, and isn’t that much better than sitting staring at that blank page wondering when the creative magic will strike again?

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Inspiration Corner

What has been inspiring me this week…

Listening

Podcast – On Brand With – Deborah Ogden interviews Wendy Nicholas

Deborah kicks off her new series of the fabulous ‘On Brand With’ with my good friend and WOW Wednesday member Wendy Nicholas, a formidable force in the field of well-being and I couldn’t wait to listen! Together they had a great discussion about how culture plays out in corporate business and how leaders need to lead by example, taking their well-being equally seriously in order for it to filter down to their teams, plus of course lots of advice about how to cope in this surreal experience of a pandemic. I cannot recommend this highly enough – go listen to Wendy’s soothing tones!

Podcast – Elevate your Curiosity – Joanne Griffiths of @arnoldandbird – Retail Mentor and Designer

Joanne is back with a new season and I love her short insightful episodes that focus on upcoming product trends and this week the podcast focuses on 3 key packaging trends, useful for all kind of makers!

Watching – Autumn Watch – BBC 2

By now I think you know I love Autumn and I love the BBC’s Seasonal ‘Watch’ programmes, which is right now highlighting the Autumnal beauty all across the country, including the Old Moor RSPB reserve in South Yorkshire. Follow along online too @bbcspringwatch.  

Learning from – Creativity mogul and all-round inspirational fireball!

Keeley, owner of @bloomindaleflorist who I mentioned last week has been delivering so much content on social media recently, including a fabulous live on Friday on how to create a pumpkin flower display which I had a go at myself this weekend! She’s a firm believer, like me, in working together in and celebrating her local community and has used her many pivoting ideas to not only help her own business but her entire industry, how cool and inspirational is that?!

Seasonal Self-Care for the Soul

Hi how are you doing? Hanging in there with this new tier system? Or feeling fed up with it all?

I have to say I’m kind of in the middle, some days ok and I’m happy to be at home as the seasons start to change to then really wanting to just go out, out and have a really good night with my friends.

So today I’m going to talk about building that resilience as the nights draw in and making sure that we can still find joy in our homes and seasonal activities.

I want to avoid us all feeling somewhat trapped in this situation as we hit what’s coming to be known as the ‘6 month wall’ and have that feeling of impending doom as we head on in to winter.

The good news is that new seasons bring an extra layer of new creative things we can try and you can really sink into this time, drawing comfort from the fact that in this ever-evolving and different world we now belong to, some things do not change.

I think there is a real reassurance in this, and pulling yourself closer to what happens naturally throughout the year helps to distract and protect yourself from the horrible things that are happening.  And that’s not to say we should ignore what is going on completely, but we all need some respite and some moments of joy to get through this and face the next turn of events.

So, what kind of things am I talking about?

Well, all seasons have their merits and unique moments, from the crisp mornings of winter, the first snow on the ground and rituals of family Christmases, to the warming of the ground releasing shoots of spring flowers, chocolate eggs and baby lambs, to long Summer evenings, family BBQs, holidays by the sea and longed for British Sunshine, but it is Autumn that is my absolute favourite.

There’s something about swapping T-shirts for jumpers, pumps for boots, lighting fires and scented candles, essentially going inwards to find comfort in keeping cosy and nesting in a part-hibernation state.

In Autumn it feels more acceptable to do comforting things, to prepare for a cold winter, fill yourself with wholesome soups, warming curries and stews, steamed puddings and custard, creamy hot chocolate, it makes me hungry just writing this!

So today I want you to re-evaluate the creative self-care list we began at the start of lockdown and think about some seasonal additions for Autumn.

Ask yourself, what do you need more of? What is you body craving? What does your mind need to feel nurtured?

And then, what kind of Autumnal creative / well-being activities might help with this?

The aim of the game is to think pro-actively and plan important self-care time into our busy days, then it is far more likely to happen. Here are some suggestions to how you may be feeling right now:

  1. I’m feeling frustrated and bored of being at home

Believe me I’m feeling the same, but there are ways to feel better at home:

Fall in love with your house again by making simple changes

New seasons can give us the impetus to change things up at home and get your hygge vibe on and it doesn’t have to cost a small fortune. Simply moving furniture around can make a big difference but if that’s not an option, then smaller changes can work to refresh your space.

At this time of year, I switch floral cushions to more touchy-feely fabrics like fur to snuggle up with. The same goes for throws to create a cosy fluffy nest that often the children, and pets can’t resist! Next, I light soothing candles, changing the scent to more autumnal aromas like spicey orange and cinnamon, or fruity scents like fig and blackberry.

Finally, create some autumnal flower displays either yourself, or support your local florist, and order them in, they look beautiful in an Autumn scheme and why not treat yourself right now?

And of course, you can decorate the house for Halloween with the kids. Pumpkin carving is always a must in our house but there are lots more things you can do such as dangly spiders, haunting lanterns and window decorations and making your own Halloween treats, because let’s face it trick or treating isn’t going to be the same this year but that’s not to say it can’t still be fun, we just need to channel our imagination!

Declutter to ease frustrations

I fall straight into this category and I really need to do more. Last week I had a whole clear out of mine and my son’s wardrobes and although it took half of my day, I felt so much better afterwards! It’s a good time to do it too as we swap our clothes around for the colder coming months.

Switching over to cosy jumpers always makes me feel good!

I know it can be daunting having a to-do list for decluttering and sorting but even just doing one thing a week will help you chip away at it.

It’s all about moving forwards and not feeling stuck in the never-ending loop of little annoyances, and constant mind-chatter like ‘I should tackle this’ over and over again, driving you slowly mad.

Instead re-frame to ‘I could tackle this’ and just that small shift makes it a ‘want to do’ positive action rather than a bossy, ‘I’ve got to do’ command.

It makes you feel more in control, rather than weary from listening to the nagging Nancy in your head

2. I’m feeling so lethargic, and have zero energy or interest in doing anything

This is hard to dig yourself out of and largely depends on where it is stemming from, have you had a really busy time and your body needs to rest or are other things adding to your lack of energy? Either way, try some small changes to your routine or habits and you’ll soon notice the difference.

Be kind, nourish your body

Do the things that physically top you up such as making fresh, nourishing dishes, like soups and stews with plenty of seasonal, colourful veg or warming curries that include ginger, garlic and chillies – all great for your immune system.

At this time of year, I love making soups, they are so tasty and feel virtuous! Why not get creative and try making up some recipes of your own with different vegetables and stock? Or search for some easy feel-good recipes, here is one of my regular favourites ‘Sweet potato soup with coconut‘ from the BBC Good Food Soups and sides little book:

This soup has a kick and really warms you up after a chilly walk

Jamie Oliver’s curries are another simple option, these tend to be a Saturday night family dish with lamb rogan josh and chicken tikka masala being their favourites from his cookbook, ‘The Ministry of food’.

Hydrate!

Try and avoid lots of alcohol, as tempting as it is in lockdown, and whilst it may give you an initial boost, have more than a few glasses and you’ll feel sluggish and depressed. Alcohol is a depressant so will just make you feel worse in the long run, plus it plays havoc with sleep, leading to a restless night and a foggy head in the morning.

Instead keep hydrated with plenty of water, home heating soon dehydrates our bodies, so we need to replace more often than we think what we lose.

Also try a soothing cup of delicious golden milk’ at bedtime to aid a good night’s sleep

3. I really miss my friends and social connections

Almost a full year in (part-lockdown for me since November last year), this is really taking its toll. I miss my close friends and creative groups that I belong to and so making an effort in this area is top priority for me and my sanity!

Get outside walking with friends

Loneliness and feeling a lack of connection has been a huge issue in lock-down, and before Winter really kicks in, try and make the most of dry days and meet up with your friends / family, (if allowed depending on your tier) and with space for social distancing, until the bad weather forces us indoors even more.

We are lucky (I think) to have seasons in the UK, so make the most of taking in the Autumn views, and the beautiful array of colours at this time of year.

Us Brits in particular, really need to keep our vitamin D topped up as much as possible, which many of us are lacking in, to help keep our immune system strong.

According to healthline.com, ‘regular sun exposure is the most natural way to get enough vitamin D. To maintain healthy blood levels, aim to get 10–30 minutes of midday sunlight, several times per week. People with darker skin may need a little more than this. Your exposure time should depend on how sensitive your skin is to sunlight.’

A friend of mine, Jac from Positive Earth Community Facebook Group, has recently set up walk and talk sessions on a Monday to help keep people connected and combat loneliness, which is a great idea and so simple to do. It’s easy to get into a rut and think I can’t be bothered to make the effort, but we know that keeping connected, especially in these tough times is so important to keeping mentally well and positive, so make it a priority, not a maybe.

Keep in touch online

If getting outside is not an option, or you want to add to the above to top up your social fix, then thank goodness for this digital age. As much as it often gets a bad rap, I’m not sure where we would now be in lockdown if it weren’t for things like Social Media, Zoom and Kahoot quizzes to name but a few!

Added to that there have been many online creative courses launched and creative projects like hashtag challenges on Instagram, lots of which link into the seasons.

You can sign up for Instagram Queen, Sara Tasker’s, newsletter where she shares her recommendations of hashtags. This month she shared the following ones linked to Autumn or the situation:

#stayhomestaycreative #craftforthesoul #howdoesyourgardengrow #quietshadesofbrown #noticewonderconnect #bakefromscratch #timeonmyhands #quietinthewild #consciouscreativity #myfloraljoys

Why not join in and treat it as a mindful project to capture the beauty of the season?

And if you’ve really got going with your creative hobbies and want to take it further and perhaps sell your products, Facebook groups launched by experts are a brilliant source of advice and a superb way to make connections and collaborate.

The online world of the creative community has grown beyond all expectation and is easier than ever before to join. I’ve always found it to be a hugely supportive and encouraging space where ideas and advice are shared equally, leading to all kinds of exciting opportunities.

Here are just a small selection of both creative and well-being groups worth looking at:

Holly & Co-mmunity

Psychologies Connected Community

Creatively Human

Ask the Bookeeper UK

The Crafty Business Network

Find the good

4. I’m feeling uninspired, running out of ideas of things to do myself, or with the kids

Ok, Autumn is a great season to inspire creativity, not only do you have 2 events in Halloween and Bonfire night, but there is the changing landscape and colours that invite artists, photographers and writers alike to take note and immerse themselves in all this season has to offer.

Here are just some ideas, but as the holidays are coming up, I recommend sitting down and having a brainstorm with the kids to get them really involved.

For us normally, Halloween is a big deal (not me personally, I jump way too easily) but the kids and hubs LOVE it, usually taking themselves off to Alton Towers for Scare-fest. This year that might not happen, so instead our holiday plans look like this so far:

Come Dine with Me

We did this at the beginning of lock-down and it’s been forever talked about! So, it’s re-match time, we all need to make a starter and a main (we did main and puds last time) and we each vote for the winner.

Pumpkin carving – goes without saying really, but the hubs gets quite competitive with designs!

Halloween Night – latest plans involve a night treasure hunt in the woods with torches, I’ll be at home for this one or I’d probably have a heart attack!

Later on, it will be at least 2 scary movies and lots of nibbles, I’ll be hiding behind the cushion with a gin!

Boardgame Day – this genuinely drives me mad as it usually involves monopoly and they all race to buy up properties and bankrupt me, I’m a scrabble girl!

Art Day – this will be mainly for me and the boy, no doubt him making some scary character picture and me something with Autumn leaves, but I don’t care what he does because creative time is always a good time!

So, what else could you do? Here are a few suggestions…

  • Write your own horror story or seasonal poem
  • Paint prints with leaves or gather treasures for a seasonal table display (pinecones, feathers, fallen leaves, berries, grasses, acorns, ferns etc)
  • Get the kids to make leaf animals, by drawing on them with fine-liner pens
  • Go on an Autumnal photography shoot either on your own or with the family / dog etc, how can you take an interesting shot? Think young kids throwing leaves up into the air or a collection of acorns, gathered in their hands
  • Make a new knitted / crocheted throw / cushion cover in autumnal colours
  • Book onto a creative course, there are many still running in safe spaces, lots of wreathe making ones I’ve noticed
  • Get the kids involved in creating their own soup – they choose the veggies – and then they might just eat it!
  • Make Halloween buns for them to decorate
  • Design a treasure hunt in the dark at home, for them to collect Halloween sweets along the way
  • Light a fire outside (safely!) and tell ghost stories in the dark whilst toasting marshmallows on sticks and drinking hot chocolate
  • If you have any musical instruments or musical Aps, have a go at creating some spooky music and record it to play on Halloween walks
  • Grab some big pieces of paper and some old wellies, paint the souls of the boots, and get the kids to create their name in footprints on the paper
  • Bake seasonal goodies like parkin, bonfire toffee and honeycomb  

I could go on but then this blog post wouldn’t end! And now it’s time for you to think up some creative ideas of your own to look forward to and get excited about. One thing lockdown has taught us is to problem-solve and be inventive and it’s created many magical moments already because of this.

So, you never know, this Autumn and half-term holiday may just be your best and most-remembered yet.

Do let me know how you get on and whether this has inspired you,

Happy creating!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Inspiration Corner

Listening

This week I’ve listened to some more fantastic episodes of podcasts, I can’t tell you what a difference these make to my life, giving me so many light-bulb moments and plenty of laughter too.

Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast

This was such an amazing episode with twin sisters Emily and Amelia Nagoski explaining burn out and how to complete the stress cycle. This is just a must-listen and will leave you enlightened as to how humans process stress and emotions.

Table Manner

I absolutely love this podcast for its wit and humour and fabulous guests. Jesse Wear and her Mum Lennie have such great banter and you can’t help but chuckle along.

In particular, the Kylie, Chris and Rosie Ramsey and Michael Macintyre episodes can’t fail to cheer you up.

Project

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in a local creative lockdown project organised by @nicolawynhamcreates to collate creative work for the region’s archives to show future generations how we responded to the pandemic.

Nicola chose a poem that I wrote after finishing treatment in May, to include in the project and you can see a wide variety of contributions here.

Nicola is still also seeking work to add to the project so if you live in the Kirklees area, contact her via Instagram above.

Why technology can be Kryptonite to creatives!

Hi everyone, how are you all doing?

This week I’m going to talk about something that is a big fear and I don’t think I’m alone amongst the creative community in this, or at least I hope not!

I set up this website and Blog up almost 2 years ago now, and I completely winged my way through it, building the site over 3 days and kind of hoping for the best.  I’ve since wanted to do some proper training on WordPress because I knew I was probably missing some key elements to make it more effective and better design-wise.

But I am immensely fearful of anything either technology related or paperwork, it’s always been kind of a standing joke that I don’t like doing this stuff, but actually when I really think about it, it’s based in fear. It’s like that fear of pressing the BIG RED BUTTON, when there’s a notice right next to it saying, ‘Don’t Press this Button!’

I think I always believe there is a substantial possibility that if I press the wrong thing, everything will disappear into the ether and I’ll be filled with dread that it is lost forever, all my hard work, effectively down the drain.

With creative pieces, there are many fall back options, although of course it is possible to create a disaster, there is usually a way to ‘fix’ any mistakes, apart from if you work in permanent ink, but even then there are ways around it.

Writing is even easier, satisfyingly hitting delete to any sentence that doesn’t fill you with joy and even in photography there are ways of editing to instantly improve an image.

The lovely Flex Collective offices

An opportunity then came up last week, via a WordPress workshop @theflexcollective with Andrew Baker of Picture Engine, to finally ask the many annoying questions niggling away connected to glitches with my website that leave me growling at it on a regular basis, particularly since the new Block Editor came into play a few weeks ago!

The pink (like pink is a less scary colour than red?!) striped error message, when trying to publish Blogs or new pages was literally like a red-rag to a bull at one point, and as a person who likes to problem solve, it became a real thorn in my side!

Anyway, I digress but let’s just say I relished the opportunity to iron out all these little nightmares to have a sleek, smooth-working website that was easy to navigate and add to.

The same applies for me with paperwork and anything financial. When discussing how we were going to take forwards the WOW Wednesday group with a new membership structure that will probably require a bank account, I once again instantly felt my heckles rise, whilst the more business savvy members of the group find these an easy and simple thing to do, it makes me want to run for the hills. ‘What if I don’t get it right?’ What if I fill in something wrong? What if I miss something? What does it make me responsible for?’ – are just some of thoughts that circle like a swarm of angry, frustrated bees in my head.

And I genuinely don’t know where this comes from, other than maybe it’s just the antithesis to my creative brain. But then when I finally make myself face what needs to be done, once I’ve put aside the fear, I genuinely like the satisfaction of rising to the challenge and fixing the problem!

So, following the workshop, I quickly set about tackling some key tweaks to my website whilst I still had the gusto and a little more confidence, only to still be getting the blumming pink message! With a headache starting but not to be deterred, I contact team WordPress via the chat button.

I won’t bore you with the details but it took a good hour or so, flicking between chrome and incognito (which I didn’t even know existed!), emptying the browser cache which really did fill me with fear until I worked out my WP password (I’d not logged out since I’d started it, I can see Techies shaking their heads in despair at this as we speak!).

It was even harder doing all this via text chat, I think the person could sense my stress via the exclamation marks and I got the, ‘It’s ok we are in this together!’ message. We finally got there, and things are running smoother, thank goodness!

Thinking about it this also applies to the house, in terms of organising and sorting, sometimes it just feels too overwhelming and I’d much rather escape to my beautiful, clean, fresh creative cabin and shut the door to the house where there’s an endless list of jobs to be done!

Sometimes it’s easier to just escape to a clean desk!

And it’s not at surface level, I keep it relatively tidy, it’s the bigger ‘sorting’ jobs and re-organising of cupboards that just feels too much, like it’s at least a half-day task when I have lots of creative work to be done, sitting patiently in my planner – who wouldn’t rather work on that and all the shiny new possibilities rather than the boring bits of life?!

So, this extra ‘housework’ and organising tends to get done on a weekend, when I can’t fully focus on my work anyway when there’s mum taxi trips to be done and the constant feeding breaks me away anyway. I try to get as much done as possible so it frees me up both physically and mentally to ‘create’ and work the following week.

However there is one job I quite like when I get into it and that’s the big clothes switch around, from Summer to Autumn season, pulling all the jumpers out of storage and the summer tops and dresses are retired until Spring. I think it appeals to the ‘shopping’ addiction section of my brain, it’s like shopping again, realising you actually have about 101 jumpers, but thankfully without spending any money. I find myself even talking to myself – ‘Oooo I forgot I had this!’ much to my daughter’s amusement!

As I spent half the day swapping around, I then arranged them in colour-coordinated order to look like an enticing new rainbow in my wardrobe – immensely satisfying to the creative mind and so much easier to find stuff!

So my advice this week is that old adage of if something is wrong that needs fixing for you to move on more effectively, but you have a fear around doing it, then ‘Don’t put off until tomorrow, what you can do today.’

Easier said than done right? Ok let’s break this down a bit from what I’ve learned this last week:

  • If you can, seek a professional to help either via a workshop you can learn from or if you can afford it, by them doing the work for you, no-one is amazing at all aspects of life, recognise what your skills are and find ways around sorting the other stuff that needs doing, so you can get back quickly to what you do best.
  • If that’s not an option, then break down tasks into small parts, so they don’t overwhelm you – which to be honest I didn’t do the other day – I spent all day on my website, getting annoyed, with a headache and tired from getting up early – these are not good conditions to solve things in! Be kind to yourself and know when it is right to take a break and come back to it with a clear head. Little and often, will get the job done rather than complete in-action!
  • Don’t let things build up for as long as I did until it gets to be one humongous problem, set aside time on a weekly / monthly basis to do some technology / paperwork housekeeping, and stick to it, you’ll feel so much better ticking it off so you can get on with the more enjoyable things.
  • Remember FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real: what you are building up in your head is unlikely to be true, recognise this for what it is and talk your fear down, ask it to sit aside and have a coffee whilst you crack on with things!
  • Finally Incentivise! Once you have got these things off your list, celebrate your fabulousness in getting it done! You deserve it!

I can’t tell you how good it feels to have now got my website up to date and looking better, I still have one thing left to work out (WP Chat may hear from me again – poor them!), and some future things I want to do, but it’s a strong update and I know I won’t leave it so long this time, it will become part of my regular planning!

That being said, if you’ve not been over to my website for a while, you can check it out here. As well as this Blog, there are lots of other things on there, regarding my journey with creativity via art, writing and photography.

There’s also information about our brilliant local accountability group WOW Wednesdays on the home page (or under Meetings & Events) and the free resource section – The Curious Cave where I keep an ongoing list of all the things that inspire me and help me learn and finally you can check out my lives with @psychologiesmagazine if you fancy some creative chat and challenges and some podcast interviews I‘ve had the pleasure of doing too , via the new Lives & Interviews section.

I’m playing about with fonts and colours too, so please do let me know what you think, I want it to be easier to navigate so you can easily get to the support and resources you’re interested in.

If this post has made you think and you’re now heading to tackle those tricky things, please let me know what you’re up to and how you get on, and good luck!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Inspiration Corner

Reading

Country Living Magazine,

Nothing makes me feel cosier than curling up with this magazine during Autumn with a fire roaring and a glass of wine! This stylish, beautiful magazine really comes into its own at this time of year and I’ve been a long-time subscriber!

I love following the artisan’s stories, I mean how amazing is this wicker work with willow from Anna and the Willow? And also, Emma Mitchell’s pieces showing us how to create magical things from the treasures around us, I’m now on the hunt for gorgeous antique bottles to display my wood collections in like above.

Listening

Conversations of Inspiration with Holly Tucker – Interview with Annie Sloane

I listened to this just this morning and it’s a fascinating conversation learning about how Annie started out, her thoughts on creativity – she believes all people are creative, it’s about thinking out of the box (woman after my own heart!), colour and how paint is made – as an artist this fascinates me!

Walking

In the woods, Autumn is my favourite time of year and I love all the new colours to take photos of, here’s a selection from last week. And if you love nature as much as me, you can always find more posts like these on my @soothedbynature Instagram account.

Collaboration Inspiration – when passion and purpose collide

Hi Everyone, how are you doing this week?

Well, I’m happy to say that I’ve returned to firing on all cylinders, for now, and that’s largely down to working with some great people last week and so today I wanted to talk to you about working in collaboration to spark new inspiration, confidence and deeper connections.

It’s very tempting to stay holed up in the Cabin, but getting out and discussing actual ideas with real people is so beneficial to us as humans!

As creatives, and especially the introvert kind, most of our work I’d say and particularly during lock down, is done by ourselves, on our own at the kitchen table, in our offices or studios or on the sofa whilst half tuning into the TV and the dog nudging your laptop to get your attention.

And whilst that works to a point, in terms of less interruption of creative thought (apart from dog and TV and requests for coffee from you know who), answering just to ourselves and allowing us to go with the flow in terms of timings, there’s a lot to be said for working with others to push our comfort zone and open ourselves up to further opportunities.

So, what are the benefits of stepping out of our caves for a while in the search of fellow creatives, aka our tribe and discovering who’s out there in the big wide world?

  1. Increased connection – working alone can be lonely, and it’s easy to slip into unhelpful habits and become out of practice communicating with people on a regular basis, which we know deep down is good for us, particularly in a world that has lessened our physical connections with humans right now.

It’s about making the effort for our own mental health and that of others, and if you need any more convincing on this, just read my friend @wendyshowellnicholas insightful and poignant blog on the subject of loneliness to realise just how important it is that we connect on a human level.

  • Sharing of ideas – following on from above, what you specialise in may be just the thing that a friend of a friend is looking for or that new member on the business Facebook group you belong to that is just starting out and has a query that you know the answer to – well you may just be able to solve their problem and one day they will return the favour or refer you to a friend.

Trust me from experience, this happens more than you realise and can lead to great friendships as well as expanding your learning.

  • More opportunities – similar to the above but once you start collaborating with people and the project is a success, it builds awareness that you are a good person to work with and who knows it may lead down a completely different direction that you expected, but an exciting one that switches things up a bit and reignites that passion for what you do.
The sessions with Psychologies Magazine would never have happened without the initial opportunity to be interviewed for a Facebook live with Editor-in-Chief,
Suzy Walker
  • Builds confidence – working solely on your own can lead to that inner critic voice, that all creatives are so susceptible to, to becoming quite loud. However, that recognition of someone else saying you are good at what you do, slowly silences those misgivings and beliefs, giving you the confidence to keep going or try different things, and that sometimes is worth its weight in gold.
  • Help and support – When you are working on your own, the buck stops with you, how something pans out or grows, is all down to you and your sheer hard work. Working closely with someone else shares that burden, and you can support each other all the way. The key to this is being clear from the beginning on who is responsible for the different roles of a project and committing to being honest with each other on any issues that come up.
  • Increased awareness of your own skills – Collaborating with people can be a real-life lesson and bring greater awareness of what you are good at, but also where your skills do not lie! This is nothing to be worried about, it would be impossible for us all to be amazing at everything, but it’s something to bear in mind when choosing who to work with – it would be good to pick someone whose skills compliment yours to create a great partnership in which you value each other’s specialist qualities.

So, what are some creative examples of this?

  1. Well, you could be an illustrator and a friend has just finished writing their children’s book and are looking for someone to illustrate it. What you need here is a strong brief and an honest relationship, be as clear as possible what you friend is looking for, the timescales involved, whether this would be a paid upfront or commission project,  how feedback will be given and whether you have any other competition, before taking on this collaboration project.
  2. A friend works for a mental health charity and is looking for a speaker at a local event for young people. You are a trained creativity mentor and have spoken at large corporate events before and would love to help, for free. Whilst your friend may bite your hand off so to speak, there are some questions to ask to check whether this would be a good fit for both of you, such as would the material spoken about be tailored to this very different audience and do you have the time to prepare that? What follow-up options are available if a young person seeks further help after the event? Does the charity have a strong ethics and values profile that you are happy to be associated with, not just because it’s your friend?

And what’s the best way to seek collaboration in the first place? This is where it requires you to think a little out of the box and getting curious about collaboration opportunities that may not be blindingly obvious at first. It’s about using the power of your creative brain and mind-mapping out some ideas and asking what ‘could’ you do, rather than only trusting in what you do now.

Groups like our WOW Wednesdays bring together like-minded people and you soon learn what you have in common including similar directions you want to head in

But at the heart of it is connection – people will want to work with you based on a feeling and how well they know you and what you are about, which requires putting that knowledge out there, whether to friends, family, colleagues or people you connect with online.

This is about being consistent with your brand messaging and purpose, the more people who understand what drives you and what you are passionate about, the more you will come to mind when working on projects that match these topics, vision and values – you want to be the first person people think of as a spokesperson / creator on/of X.

And it’s about ensuring all that is either visible via the likes of your work being distributed or shown at things like exhibitions, through books or workshops, on your website or Blog or using social media, marketing, and PR.

OR the alternative or addition to this is to become ‘famous’ by word of mouth, by sheer fantastic reputation and recommendation by your customers – now we’d all like a bucket full of that please!

To give you some more examples of this, I want to share 3 collaboration projects I worked on last week…all interestingly stemming from our Accountability Group – WOW Wednesdays.

  1. Firstly, was working with Clair, of @asocialnature, my accountability partner and co-founder of WOW Wednesdays. Working with Clair goes a little against the advice of what I shared above in that I’d say 80% of our skills and personality, are very similar, in fact we are exactly the same personality type on the Myers Briggs scale, both INFP-A Mediators.  We also both have children the same age, with similar hobbies and we are both Aquarians!

Our central skill, training and passion is writing and it features heavily in both our work, as well as our love for social media. For Clair that is central to her business as a Social Media Manager.

We both love the outdoors and nature and enjoy photography. I’d say the only slight difference is that Clair is more comfortable technology wise although she swears only when she’s done it once, and maybe I’m more arty and visual, e.g. love playing with Canva and logos. She has more ‘business’ skills being further on in her journey than me, and I’m still at the many 4am ideas stage.

Last year Clair and I attended this vision board workshop together, a fab day and the ideas were flowing!

When we get together, particularly on our passion project of WOW Wednesdays, the ideas start flowing and we spur each other on and create a lot of excitement! So much so we’re now going to make sure we book in a day a month at the co-working space @theflexcollective for this purpose. There’s often been talk of us creating a podcast together, and I can see that happening if we can ever carve out some more time…(it’s on the list!).

But last week, it was all about creating a new Facebook Group for WOW Wednesdays and we had a great few hours working our way through it, setting up the group, adding all the content and creating the logo. All of this we are sharing in our first physical meeting since lockdown in the very Covid-safe facilities in its new home of The Flex Collective and we can’t wait to share what we’ve been up to.

This partnership works so well due to our shared ethos of what the group should be, we’ve been clear and in agreement all along about this and how it is evolving is no different.

  • Next up was the podcast interview I recorded with the Two Northern Lasses, aka Michelle and Jayne who are also WOW Wednesday members. They set up the podcast last year and although they’re now having to record interviews via Zoom, it is growing from strength to strength as a time where the world-wide podcast audience has grown massively during the pandemic.

Little did I know when we recorded it was actually World Podcast Day, and they were close to hitting their big number of 5000 listens, which made it extra exciting (They’ve hit that and some now by the way!).

We’d been trying to get this recorded for some time so it was great to finally manage it and we had a really fun conversation talking about my previous career, moving from corporate life to what I do now, our shared love of nature and dogs, my relationship with @psychologiesmagazine (another huge collaboration!), and my journey with creativity, that also helped me through my chemo treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Key to doing an interview like this, is feeling comfortable with the hosts and I like their very natural, down-to-earth style and banter with one another and so it was such an easy and enjoyable thing to do and we all had a much needed laugh in relation to a tough few weeks for small businesses and child-care issues due to Covid track and trace in schools!

And again, it’s about ensuring your values match – The Two Northern Lasses podcast is all about sharing inspiring local business and career stories, and I’m all for that and celebrating what people can achieve.

This is a good example too of sharing your story in interviews such as this, becoming more visible to allow a wider audience to get to know you and what you are about.

I know that people find how I dealt with the whole diagnosis and treatment of Hodgkin’s inspiring through the many messages I’ve received, and Michelle and Jayne touched on this and whilst that was lovely and appreciated, and I do hope it inspires people in similar positions, I am always keen to reiterate that it’s having a purpose and my creative projects that got me through and for me there was no other way, which I hope then strengthens the message of what I’m all about – i.e. that creativity for well-being, health and contentment works!

For anyone wanting to catch up on the interview, you can find it here.

  • And finally, I had another practice coaching session with Wendy (another WOW member – see the theme here? if in doubt set up your own group of people who you know you will connect with!).

A few months ago, we both contacted each other on the same day in some serendipitous moment that was clearly meant to be!

Wendy needed some help with some new directions she wanted to take her business in and I was desperate to go down the new channel of coaching to help people on a more one to one basis (Wendy is a highly trained Counsellor, psychotherapist, NLP master practitioner, coach, independent social worker, author, mindfulness teacher and passionate speaker and educator on many areas of wellbeing). Following an hour and half chat, we knew we could work together and support each other!

Wendy has helped me so much with techniques, suggestions, and feedback and although initially slightly nerve-wracking (for me!) we are both really enjoying the sessions, in particular the creative tasks I’ve been setting to help with mindset and direction and bring out the creative side that she didn’t fully know existed – you see it’s always in there and I love discovering it in people!

I feel like we both view the world in very similar ways and once again this has led to another idea coming up that I have always had on the back-burner, and psychic Wendy (as I’m now calling her as this keeps happening!) has contacted me with this very similar idea to work on in collaboration!

It’s top-secret, for now, but of course it ensured a 4am wake up call with a billion ideas for the title over the weekend! Will I ever sleep properly again is the question I’d love to know?!

Safe to say this new project has got me very excited as it’s something I’ve always wanted to do – which just goes to show, finding and connecting with ‘your people’ is sometimes all that’s needed to set the collaborative wheels in motion and maybe I was never meant to do it alone anyway?

So, that’s how the collaboration magic has worked for me this week and it truly does feel very special when it happens. If this is something that appeals to you or that you have experienced too, I’d love to hear all about it below in the comments, or via DM on my Instagram @thecuriouscreativeclub.

Until next week, keep safe

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps eagle eyed readers may have noticed that I’ve played around a little with the header and fonts, this is following what we’ve done with the FB Group we’ve been creating as I love that! So, I decided to make this one cleaner and easier to read the titles with a new font and background (still one of my photos though, above, blurred into the background!), I hope you like!

Inspiration Corner – What I’ve been up to this week

Reading

Writing Magazine

The November Issue and in particular the article by Helen Stockton on creative none-fiction was really interesting as I learned what classifies as this specific genre and the increased audience for it – basically this Blog and the book that I’m writing!

Listening

Make a plan, make it happen Podcast – Josephine Brooks

On the same topic as above, Josephine Brooks interviewed Emma Block, author of The Joy of Watercolour, this week for her podcast, on how to tap into the none-fiction market and how she became published, a really interesting discussion with plenty of tips for anybody interested in publishing a none-fiction book.   

Happy Place Podcast – Fearne Cotton

Last week Fearne interviewed Jay Shetty, a best-selling author and podcaster who at just 21 years old became a monk for 3 years, he talked about finding your purpose and my key take away was this:

“Purpose = passion + strength + compassion” – high five to that!

Watching

‘Life’ on BBC 1 / Streaming on iPlayer

I love it when I find a series, I become hooked on and I end up binge watching it I like a book I can’t put down! This is one of those series! 4 different families whose stories interlink and leave you thirsty for more! I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t like it!

Books

I’ve paused the Clare Mackintosh’s book club read, Blurred Lines as it’s just not pulling me in, yet, although the reviews are good, so I might persevere in a while. In the meantime, I’m trying ‘Ghosts’ by Dolly Alderton and I’ve got several new releases stacking up on my Kindle, I especially can’t wait for Jodi Picoult’s new book, ‘The Book of Two Ways’.